Across Sunda Strait

IMG_5868October 2014, I had term break. Yay for long weekend. Lizzy and I planned to go to Sumatra. We had done some research and decided to go on Wednesday night and then back to Jakarta on Saturday night. She really wanted to see some other islands in Indonesia, but we had limited time and budget so we decided to go to Lampung. I heard from my friend that Pahawang island was a really nice place to snorkel and there was another beach that you could see dolphins. It sounded so cool.

We bought night bus ticket from Gambir train station Jakarta. It cost me Rp 135,000 to go to Lampung bus station. I had no idea where was it or how long it would take to get that island. We did not care, we hopped on the bus. The bus was full of passengers and turned off the lights since it was 10 p.m already. We lined up to go to Merak port and we got in a Japanese ferry. It was fancy and we could see around beautiful lights in the port.

IMG_5875We looked for a place to sleep. There was a big place covered with mat, full of people. We squeezed in the small empty area. We could not sleep, it was too cold and we didn’t have a pillow to lie our heads on. We saw one foreigner hugging his backpack. We were imagining scenarios as to why he was here. I told her he might be tourist like us, he might be going to that island too. We could share boat with him.

IMG_5951I was so excited to come and asked him but he said he was visiting his family here. It sounded weird but he might say it for his security. Then we slept until a man woke us up to pay for staying there and offered us a pillow to rent. We paid Rp 8,000 each. Hours later there was announcement that we should go back to our bus. We were lost in the parking place and we could not find the bus. We were confused because all buses looked the same, they started their engines and the gas fumes made me feel dizzy.

Finally we found our bus after I remembered the number. We sat down and slept again. The bus stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. I had no appetite to eat at that time. I asked lady next to me where the bus station was. She told me and gave direction to go to island. Awesome!

We arrived in Tanjung Karang around 8 am, tired and dirty. We went to a bank to get some cash and cleaned ourselves afterwards. We felt better and hopped on public transportation. The driver told us to get on another public transportation and we should return before 5 p.m. After we were dropped off we got on open truck to get to island. We paid Rp 20,000 for this. We could feel fresh air here, less crowded, less pollution, more trees and mountain to see.

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Finally we saw the sea! Yay, we were almost there. We had lunch at Ketapang and talked with the locals about going to Pahawang island. One guy named Hendra offered us a homestay and boat. We bargained with him then walked with us to his house. He owned some water sport stuff and had snorkeling gear for rent. He called his friend and the fast taxi boat took us to a floating fish farm. The taxi boat cost Rp 20,000 and we walked in fish farm. We met an old man who lived there. His name is Ujang, we called him Ua (uncle in Sundanese).

He cooked for us. Too bad we just had our lunch so we only ate a bit of his fried rice. He showed us to our room. It had a window in which we could see an island behind us and small hole to see fish swim below us in the sea. He had two sleeping mats. It was enough for us. He showed us his toilet behind the kitchen and a raft to go to the island. He gave us fish food and let us feed his food too. That was perfect.

We had nap and took the raft to the island when we woke up. It was hard to operate the raft at first but once we got use to, it was quiet easy. It was harder to park it in the mud. We walked through mangroves and saw a neighborhood. There were schools, houses, banana trees, coconut trees and monkey’s near Hansel and Gretel witch house because it looked like candy house. The owner painted pink and yellow. We walked to look for another home stay but we could not find one. It was 5 p.m so we thought we might walk back before dark. We saw an old man riding his bike and carrying a coconut. I wanted coconut. He told us to ask Mr. Holil who owned a coconut tree.

IMG_5993He took his knife and climbed coconut tree. He gave us 5 fresh coconuts. We kept saying thanks then stared at those coconut. He looked at us and offered to open them. We nodded our heads and we started to drink it. It was so fresh and yummy young coconut. We asked how much should we pay, he walked away. Okay then we said goodbye and went back to raft.

It was harder to push it through mud before we pulled string back to our floating home stay. It was sunset and the sky was extremely awesome. We arrived and put one coconut out for Ua. He was not there. After we showered, he came back and looking worried. He was looking for us on that island using his neighbor’s boat and motorcycle but we were not there. He was worried because we were girls in new place, and he thought we might have gotten lost or something.

We were sorry cause he was looking for us. Then we had dinner that he had already cooked for us. He turned on his television that hung on the wooden frame. It was creative of him to put his TV that way. He watched Indian series and shared about his life. When we sipped tea after dinner, Mr. Holil showed up and told him that he met us.

We were planning to rent boat from Hendra tomorrow to see around this place but Ua and Mr Holil offered their help instead. So we told Hendra to cancel our previous reservation. After Mr Holil went home, I offered coconut to Ua. He refused to drink it, he said it was forbidden to drink. Oops we drank it, I hope nothing bad will happened to us.

We slept early and woke up to go to toilet in the middle of night. We lied on raft and looked at millions stars above us. Awesome. I thought to myself it was a better place to stay than a regular home stay on the main island. The raft was shaking a bit, I imagined there was huge animal in the water trying to eat us or something dangerous coming from the dark forest on the island. It was Time for bed.

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In the morning, the water was so clear. There was nothing such like sea monster like I had thought last night. Lizzy and I made a birthday video for Megan. She celebrated her birthday on October 3rd. She is a diver, she would like our video. We had small cakes and had tea party (with fancy tea pot and cup-i had no idea why Ua had it in the middle of the sea) and sang happy birthday for her. We showed her around the floating home stay too. We were so thankful to be there, enjoying the sunrise and watching Ua’s fish and squids. We fed them before we ate them for lunch😛

Ua fed us again with fried rice, it was too spicy for Lizzy so she gave it away to fish. I said it was bad idea because they would die, so we went to kitchen and threw left over to small hole and all fish came over and ate it. Same thing…

IMG_5927Lizzy chose to run on the island and I chose to go snorkeling. We both had good time. Ua called us to have early lunch, steamed fish. Yummy! I guess he took one of the fish he had for us. We went to the island and Ua borrowed his friends motorcycle. Mr Holil was ready for us too. He led the way showing the nicest places there. Private property and beaches. I dipped myself in. it was warm water, so nice and relaxing and no one else swam except me. I took some pictures with Ua and Mr Holil, our host. We rode on motorbikes and went to another beautiful beach. It had three layers of gradated blue color, white sand and layered mountain as background. Mr Holil knew best places, Ua was happy too since he never went out from his floating home stay.

Glad to have day trip with them instead of snorkeling with Hendra. Mr Holil showed me home stays. They looked uncomfortable compare with Ua’s place. Yay making good decision and Lizzy agreed on that too. In the end of journey, Mr Holil invited us to go to his place. His wife cooked chicken and steamed rice for us. It was for Idul Adha celebration on Sunday. She made banana chip so thin and crunchy. It was delicious.

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We hiked to Mr Holil plantation. He took banana for us and showed us durian trees, duku trees and many more I could not remember all of them. Mr Holil found out that Lizzy and I were different. I love ocean and always dip myself to water. She did not want to get wet but looking forward to see plantation. I was not too excited to go there until I saw beach from his plantation. It was so beautiful. I love this place and people here are so kind.

We went back to Ua’s place and napped. We had dinner together and talked for our last night there. We just found out that we were the first guest to stay with him. He was glad to meet us, and so were we. He looked sad that we would be going home tomorrow morning.IMG_6050

In the morning Ua cooked breakfast for us. He packed souvenir for us, stinky beans. Lizzy and I did not like them but we knew someone who would. He peeled them and put them in the plastic bags as well as cakes and banana and cocoa in one box. He said Mr Holil gave me, I wanted to give you. Okay, now we have something to bring home. We gave Rp 400,000 for 2 nights staying and all meals.

He called Mr Holil to take us to Ketapang after he fried squid for me. He was so sweet and treated us like his own daughters. We met Hendra at his place and returned his snorkeling gear. He drove us to the bus station after we ate dinner in front of city hall and took us to buy banana chips in town. We were so thankful to those men. We waited for our bus. Lizzy almost forgot to bring her charger, luckily there was a guy who reminded her. We slept on the bus, hopped on ferry.

This time it was an Indonesian ferry. There was no place to sleep, just hard chairs. We chose to sleep on the floor. I told myself, “this too would pass.” I slept and I heard announcement to go back to the bus. In the bus we slept again after I wrote thank you letter to Lizzy for the best adventure in Pahawang island. She hopped off in Jakarta while I went to Bandung. The box that Ua gave me was so heavy. I took public transportation and hitch hiked home. There was a nice guy who gave me ride.

I gave all souvenirs to my friends and family, they wondered where did I go. Ua texted me made sure we got home safely. It was nice of him. Bless him and his family🙂

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