This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On the Move to Bali via Surabaya

It is hard to believe that we are running out of days in Indonesia. We have just over a week to get to Bali from where we are departnig Indonesia. We leave Kalimantan and take a 24 hour boat ride to Java. We get Economy class tickets which is pretty much large rooms with platforms for sleeping. We splurge and pay Rp 5000 (US $0.55) for mattresses. The boat has two food canteens and a small theater where they charge Rp 10,000 to watch a film. The boat also has lots of cockroaches everywhere. I see one walking in the food at one of the canteens and just can eat plain rice which is served from a well sealed container. Mika eats instant ramen.
Economy Class: If I just close my eyes for 24 hrs. I just might not see a cockroach
We find out later that this boat is continuing on to Bali, but Mika is not interested at all in staying another 24 hrs. on the Cockroach Cruise. So we get off in Surabaya. Surabaya is Indonesia's second largest city. We roll into the giant port passing boats docked from Hong Kong, Panama and North Korea. We stay the night at a decent, clean hotel. We will take a night bus to Bali tomorrow. With some time on our hands we decide to see some sights which ends up being a submarine and cigarette factory.
Surabaya prides itself on its huge port and maritime history so why not have a submarine monument. It is a short walk from our hotel, so we decide to have a look. Since I have never been inside a sub (and a Russian one at that) it is interesting enough. Our entrance ticket includes a military propaganda film about Indonesia's submarine fleet.

I hope the Indonesian crew spoke Russian
Notice the cigarette shaped pillars
The next day, we do not leave the hotel until checkout. So we have time for just one sight. I cannot think of anything better to do than visiting the factory and museum of an almost 100 year old cigarette company at the House of Sampoerna. Indonesia is a country of chain smokers. I am sure by now everyone is familiar with the 2 year old (and internet sensation) Indonesian chain smoker. After three months here, I do not find that story surprising. Disturbing yes, but surprising no. Inhaling secondhand smoke in Indonesia is as inevitable as eating white rice. So I figure that we should go see where they make the famous "kretek" (mixed tobacco and clove) cigarettes.

We pass a few displays about the history and cigarette production and go upstairs where there is a large window that looks down at a hand-roll production facility. We see on the floor 400 women here busy rolling and cutting cigarettes. These women roll an astounding 325 cigarettes or more kretek per day. The continual speed, pace and concentration of their work is so impressive and mesmerising to watch. And they do this, continually, eight hours a day without crystal meth.

There are another 2,500 women rolling cigarettes here that we cannot see. Many countries have banned clove cigarettes so all of these thousands of cigarettes are cranked out just for local consumption. Up until last year, visitors were allowed to go down to the floor and have a go at rolling their own smokes using the traditional equiptment, but unfortunately, this had stopped. Our guide says that it was too distracting to the workers.

Cigarettes and packaging specially produced for the president's office

The museum also gives free bus tours of Surabaya. We catch one that goes to the oldest Buddhist temple in Chinatown. We are the non-Indonesians on the tour and the guide does do a kind job of not ignoring us. But the tour is something like this:
First in English - There is an old building here on the left. On the right is a river. Next in Indonesian - somethingsomethingsomething then lots of laughter from the group.
I am not sure what we are missing, but it is free, so who's complaining.

Free is fun! The cigarette subsidized bus in Surabaya
After a late lunch of some great street food, we collect our luggage and go to the bus station to take our night bus to Denpassar, Bali and to spend our final days in Indonesia.

A: Kumai, Kalimantan; B: Surabaya, Java; C: Denpassar, Bali

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  1. Hi Jeff & Mika, You both look very good.
    I have news. My friend and her member start a coffee shop in Cambodia so she asked me to run this shop and teach Japanese to Children at night time.But I can not go to there now with many reasons.
    I asked Nozue-san to go to there instead of me.
    Anyway He frighted to there on the 21st of November. If you have a chance to pop in there, he will be happy!! Watch this site. the shop is there.
    Love Yuzawa Toshiko

  2. Hi Toshi,

    Sorry we won't be able to see the cafe. It sounds very interesting, but we are soon headed to South America.

    I hope things are good with you. Give my best to Nozue-san.