Malang old and new (East Java, Indonesia)

We’re both feeling much better after “enjoying” traveler’s bellies for a few days. We’ve stopped eating street food to let our stomachs settle and that seems to have done the trick. So we’re ready to walk.  

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We start with a walk to the train station to buy our tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Probolinggo. At first the process seems complicated and slow because there are people standing around waiting for the numbers to be called. So we take a number and realise there are literally 100 people ahead of us. I watch people filling in forms so do the same. Google told us we need to change train in Bima so it’s good that we saw the customer service area and take a ticket to go there too. We learn there is a direct train to Probolinggo tomorrow afternoon that only takes about 2.5 hours instead of the 4.5 hours that Google recommended. Customer service completes our form and sends us directly to a counter with just two people before us. Easy.  

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Tickets bought we can relax. Sort of. I mean, we are walking around a Javanese city dodging heavy traffic. This huge park in the photo is actually a roundabout. It’s peaceful despite being probably one of the busiest intersections in town. I could probably lay on the grass quite happily with my eyes closed soaking up the atmosphere. Instead we continue walking. Behind our hotel there are quiet back streets with modern houses. These are a stark contrast to the hovels that line the filthy creek here in town. Here, these houses are mansions though some are probably no bigger than the house I sold last year. How life has changed. Living in such a huge house seems so unnecessary to me now.

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The military museum is nearby so we go there. Entry is by donation. The collection is extensive but uncurated. There is just stuff everywhere: guns, trophies, flags, an old car and these random old computers. The computers make me think about my dad who worked on some of the first commercial computers way back early in his career. He told me stories about computers that took up whole rooms so I bet he remembers these old clunkers too. They even have punch card.

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Leaving the museum we walk down Ijen Boulevard. It is a famous road here in Malang because the style is so colonial. I feel like I am back in Orlando, which I visited with my sister in 2012. I almost expect to see American pickups driving past instead of the zippy scooters.

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It’s hot outside and there’s a reflexology shop on a side street so we indulge. Sure, we have an appointment for tonight but at 50,000IDR ($AU5) an hour it can’t hurt to have another. Well, it sure can hurt. The massage men had sting bony fingers that found every tender spot on my feet and calves. I do my best not to pull my feet away; flinching often. The masseuse doesn’t speak or understand English so no point asking for softer. Besides, it’s probably good for my muscles.

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After 10km walking we reach Toko Oen (actually only 1km from our hotel but we like to explore on foot). It’s a colonial institution that has seen better days and the food is (quite frankly) terrible and expensive. But hey, you can’t come to Indonesia and not try experience colonialism. It’s part of the story here.

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Hunger not satisfied we stop at the Houtenhand bar. We’ve been eyeing this cute place off since we arrived. It is hipster cool done to perfection. This is definitely the future of Java. It’s creative, ingenious and stylish. The bar would be popular in any global city, particularly because it is not overpriced. And I want to make a cassette tape lamp fitting at home too like the one I saw here.

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We end our old and new Malang day back at the park in the roundabout. The flowers are lit up now and cheerfully smile on us. It’s funny how the smallest thing can bring so much joy.

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