The road to Jombang is hot and busy. There’s a constant rush of noise as I travel on the main road across Java’s north. Trucks filled with motorbikes and scooters travel east. There must be at least a thousand of them passing me in the few hours I travel here on this main road from Jakarta to Bali.
I make apoint of stopping every 40-50km to take a rest. Sometimes at the Alfamart or Indomaret where I can buy water or a cold drink. But on one ocassion I cannot wait until I see another shop so I pull over into the dusty gravel on the side of the road and take a rest as I listen to the road noise. And noisy is exactly what it is. Trucks whoosh by, their engines growling low under their excessive loads. Scooters and motorbikes vroom along beeping their horns to let each other know they are there. Chauffer driven cars try to overtake trucks in the narrow motorbike lane, honking loudly to tell everyone smaller than them to get out of the way. Becaks (pedicabs) loaded with people, livestock and crops move slowly, creating traffic jams behind them. Mini buses bounce past as men hang out of the windows calling out destinations. And large coaches overtake everything dangerously playing chicken with the oncoming traffic. It’s a caucophony of sound and a sight to behold. The constant need to pay attention and the heat in my helmet is tiring but it’s an amazing experience all the same.
I turn off the main road after a few hours and head towards Candi Jawi. This old Hindu-Buddhist temple is nestled in the middle of a town at the side of a large mountain. It’s just one structure but, like all places of worship seem to be, it is a place of tranquility.
Water lillies start to bloom in the small moat that surrounds the temple structure. I can imagine a time when this place was important to the local people. A time when the faithful came here to gather. They would have prayed and socialised here in the times before mechanisation, walking up and down the mountain for ceremonies and parties. I wonder whether the water lillies were here then too.
I continue to Jombang and find my hotel near the centre of town. It is under renovation but I am staying in the old section. From here I can walk around the streets and onto the main street. Along the way I pass the Hok Liong Kiong temple. I am finding that the Buddhist temples here on Java feel much more spiritual than the ones in Korea. They have the benefit of being older, given that many in Korea had to be rebuilt or restored because of the war. These ones here are also a different form of Buddhism with many shrines, candles and incence inside. I like it.
Out on the main street I find many warung makkan (food stalls) and kakilima (food karts). I have learned that the word bebek means duck and duck is one of my favorite proteins.
So I head for a cart that declares itself to sell nasi bebek (duck rice) and am not disappointed with the resulting meal. Duck is sligthly more expensive than chicken but price is relative and the whole meal still only costs me about $1.50. I follow it up with terung bulan which in it’s crispy form is a cross between a crepe and a waffle but in it’s standard form is more like a freshly cooked golden crumpet. Actually, let’s be honest, I follow it with a crispy terang bulan and then, later in the evening, head back out for a standard one. Served with chocolate sprinkles of course. In case you haven’t worked out; Indonesia for me is all about the food.