Saturday, January 14, 2017

Seabourn Encore: The Inaugural Cruise - Part VI (Going Local in Indonesia)

The Inaugural Cruise of the Seabourn Encore is not a terribly interesting one as far as ports to and, to be sure, the inaugural celebration has been – so far – quite muted.  But that is about to change (and will be the subject of another article).  But my purpose for being on this cruise was not to explore the ports, but rather the Seabourn Encore.  

Seabourn Encore in Celukan Bawang, Indonesia
However, I have ventured out in Semarang and Celukan Bawang, Indonesia for just a bit of local color and to stretch my legs. 


In Semarang, the first adventure was securing a taxi for a couple of hours, as the port was a distance from the town and the taxi union prevented Seabourn from providing buses for the transfer.  Very aggressive and wildly overpriced taxis were US$55 for two hours and more if you wanted someone who could actually speak some English and tell you where you were going and what you were seeing.

Umbrella Garden - Semarang, Indonesia
In a lesson of “Don’t focus on being right because you may wind up losing a once in a lifetime opportunity” I haggled the price down to $50 for an English speaking driver….and waited for Phase II of the ripoff to occur.  Regardless I was going to visit the true local market and have some local Indonesian food.

Our first stop was an old Dutch colonial building that has been converted into a restaurant of sorts.  It actually was quite beautiful, though I am not sure that the “original” stain glass was actually original based upon the terribly deteriorated condition of most all of the buildings in the area.



After a drive through rather freeform and free-flowing traffic we arrived at the local’s local market.  My driver (never did understand his name) ushered me into the clothing area of the market (where I did not want to be).  However, that morning my watch broke, so I was able to pick up a new watch for about US$15 that actually works and appears to truly be waterproof (at least to the depth of the forward whirlpool!)

The Semarang, Indonesia market might be small and dirty,
but the women were warm and friendly 


 
A young woman with a great smile
proudly shows off one of the chicken heads she was lopping off
a pile of unrefrigerated chickens in the 90+ degree heat
It was then off to the food “market” which was actually just a dirt street with corrugated metal or blue tarp roofs.  There were sufficient cats and rats around to let you know that this was not the place for a Seabourn Shopping with the Chef experience!  However, the woman in the market were incredibly friendly, though none spoke any English, and I was able to experience two new fruits to me:  Snake fruit and Srikaya or Sugar-Apple.


Snake Fruit
Snake fruit is actually quite delicious. It’s brown outer skin looks like snakeskin, but inside it is a soft somewhat sweet pulpy fruit with each section having a fairly large pit (or stone).

Srikaya looks like a tough, armoured, fruit, but is actually quite soft and with a little twist almost falls apart.  It is quite aromatic, but had too many seeds to make eating it enjoyable.



I did have a few lychees as well.

If you are kind finding smiles is easy



 I told the driver I did not want to buy any, but he bought some anyway.  I figured it was either for himself or it was going to be associated with Part II of the attempted ripoff.  Either way, it was fine as I was seeing what I wanted to see and he was the only way I was going to be able to see it.

After a bit more of a wander it was time to go for a local lunch.  I asked that I have lunch where he would have lunch and, to be sure, that is where we ate.  There were about a dozen semi-permanent food stalls with crowded wood slatted tables and benches outside of each.  Offerings ranged from ramen to chicken.  We ended up a  fish and (I think) beef place.

Going Local in Semerang, Indonesia
On the upper shelf were some small spicy-looking fish and below something that was akin to white bait and next to that was a pot with (I think) beef with a spicy sauce bubbling next to it.  Beer was not an option, so I was served the well-known “kiss of stomach death”:  ice tea with ice.



 The food was actually quite good, once I got over the fact that my spicy fish clearly has been sitting out for a very long time and the anticipated effects of the ice tea would still be hours away!

 After lunch my two hours was up (at least according to my trusty new watch…oh, and of course, my phone!) so it was time to head back to the ship.  And that is were Part II of the attempted ripoff had me driven in long, windy circles, trying to extend the time so I would have to pay more.  I commented a few times, “The port is over that way, isn’t it?” to which “Yes. Yes” was the reply each time.

Eventually we arrived back at the port.  The driver says the cost of the lunch and fruit is US$12 and we were 15 minutes over time.  Besides the fact I did not want the fruit two bags of fruit and a small lunch could not possibly cost $12 and, of course, we could have been on time.  Rather than getting into a fight with him – needing to be right – I figured 200,000 rupiah was about $15 (as I knew from my big watch purchase) and that probably would have been my tip regardless.  So I handed over the money, opened the taxi door and never looked back.  (Oh, I took the fruit, of course!)

The lesson here is if you keep calm and understand your options, you can get ripped off and still win.  Seriously, for only $65 I got a private car, saw what I wanted, had lunch and got safely back to the ship.

I did not get off the ship in Surabaya or Probolinggo, Indonesia as the only tours didn’t sound great and I did not want to spend hours in a bus getting there and back. In Celukan Bawang there apparently was a very nice beach and hotel about 45 minutes away, but that just doesn’t excite me when I have the Seabourn Encore to enjoy.  So off I went on foot.  After getting past the barrage of women hawking cloth and shirts, men selling jewelry and taxis and motorcycles vying for tours, things became a peaceful. 

The few that ventured as I did said there was nothing to see.  While there was nothing breathtaking, there were – yet again – little things that caught my eye.

Two exotic bird "stores" in Celukan Bawang, Indonesia
I fear these beautiful birds were probably illegally captured

A Love Bird
(I used to have one!)
Finding interesting architecture and shrines:



But a gentle father with his son was a sweet moment!




Tomorrw will be my second visit to Komodo Island.  This time it will be Seabourn Ventures program of kayaking and snorkeling on Pink Beach.  I've seen the Komodo dragons and am hungry to have other experiences.

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