A long weekend is coming and I hope that you have something planned already. If you haven't then I hope this blog post will spark the little adventurer in you to go out and explore places close to your hometown!

As much as I love traveling alone, making friends along the way is very much preferable! After spending 2 days in Prau and Dieng, I took a bus to Wonosobo, had Mie Ongklok for a quick breakfast and hopped on to another bus headed to Ambarawa. I didn't had any lessons of geography in high school, that was why I didn't know that a place named Ambarawa existed until last month! Even so, it turns out to the highlight of my solo trip to Central Java.
On a boat, exploring Rawa Pening with new friends.
With my carriers, I jumped off the bus and called Yoga, a couchsurfer that accepted my request to stay in his house for a night in Ambarawa. I have to be honest, I was quite nervous about meeting a stranger. It wasn't my first time traveling and couchsurfing, but I don't think I will ever be that gullible to trust a stranger that much.  Thankfully, Yoga was normal. He has a good sense of humour and he laughs a lot, so I guess that is still categorised as normal.

Yoga gave me an offer that I wouldn't say no to. He offered to drive me around Ambarawa and even drop me off at Semarang the next day. Without much hesitation I quickly said yes to the offer and we drove to my first mission in Ambarawa, the abandoned Fort Willem.
Walking to Fort Willem.
Yoga, taking Instagrammable photos at a heritage site centuries old!
Exploring the second floor.
What was an underground VOC fort is now a living space for families. I was shocked to this fact as well. I was expecting that such a heritage site would be well managed by the government for tourism purposes. Instead of that, I found people of all age living in each rooms with modern furnitures in it. I even saw cars and motorcycles parked on the first floor of the fort. I still have no clue about the start of this custom, but it seems like the building has been inhabited since decades ago!

The fort itself is a heaven to all photographers. It was very archaic with it's walls and pillars chipped away by time. Some would say that it should be preserved, but I actually like it this way. It gives you a feel of how old the fort really is. 
Second floor of Fort Willem.
Furnitures and sandals in front of a family's living space. This was probably my last photo from the second floor before we were told to go away by the people living there. Apparently, the 2nd floor was off limits to tourists.
One of the inhabitants of Fort Willem.

Traveling in rainy season was not a very clever idea.
Taking covers from the rain.
After being shooed away by a resident, we headed downstair only to find that the rain kept pouring harder. After a while of hiding under a tunnel, we decided to run back to the car to move to another destination. Unfortunately and carelessly, we left the car on a muddy ground, causing it to submerge deeper to the ground as the rain poured hard. 

Yoga and I tried everything, but as millennial, we are pretty much dependant on technology rather than muscle. After a few hours of digging and trying out a lot of different solutions, we finally gave up and asked help from local farmers. We started digging at 2 PM and finally able to move the car at 7 PM. We even had to hook the car to a pick up truck to pull it away from the wet soil.

In the middle of all that, a group of ducks passed by us in an orderly manner. I was very-very astonished! As a city boy, I had never seen anything like that before. I've seen it on TV, but never up close. That was why I ran after the ducks with my camera under my t-shirt to keep it dry from the rain. These photos below are not the best photos, but every time I look at it, I am still very much fascinated!

A group of ducks heading to the farm.
I wish that I could follow them even further, but I didn't want to risk getting my camera wet under the rain on a paddy field.
My first day in Ambarawa ended just like that. A quick visit to Fort Willem and a huge drama that took 4 hours of my traveling time. I don't mind. That's a part of traveling anyway, dealing with mishaps and making the most out of it instead of complaining over what could have been.

Unlike the weather on the first day, second day started with a bright sunny weather. That morning was my first encounter with Eci, Yoga's cheerful and Chinese but Javanese accented friend. After a quick breakfast, we drove to Rawa Pening, a place I've been dying  to visit since I saw it's photos on google!
Eci, Yoga and I, cruising Rawa Pening on a motor boat.
All the boats to explore Rawa Pening are docked at 'Bukit Cinta'. I know, such a cheesy name! An hour ride around the swamp costed us Rp 60k, which was totally worth it! I couldn't ask for a better view other than the picturesque Rawa Pening for my exploration that morning!

It was indeed a busy morning for the locals trying to make a living from the swamp. They were fishing, casting nets and taking home water hyacinth (eceng gondok); everything to be sold in the market for their weekly income. Some of these people are as old as 50 years. This is probably what the locals do once they retire from heavy work. 
Please don't fall off.
Seeking photo opportunities throughout the ride.
Clear and beautiful sky!
Collecting water hyacinth.
Our boat operator who used to live in Jakarta as a heavy worker.
Trying to make a living. Although, I don't think that his cigarette is helping at all.
Another fisherman that I saw. This one was quite a joker. He called himself an assassin just because he kills fishes for a living. 
He got a huge pile after he casted this net.
It was such a peaceful morning.
After an hour of fun-filled boat riding around the swamp, we pretty much didn't know what to do. If you arrive quite early in Ambarawa, it is very much possible to only explore Ambarawa for a day and move on to another district. Since we still have a few hours before leaving to Semarang, we took a quick trip to the Ambarawa Railway Museum. I was fortunate enough to witness one of the oldest steam locomotives in Indonesia operating!
It's coming!
First look of the steam locomotive.
Wood logs to be burned as fuel.
Soon after this visit, I parted with Eci while Yoga dropped me off in Semarang. I continued that day making a few more friends while enjoying my last day of exploring Central Java. All in all, Ambarawa is definitely worth a visit. Exploring Ambarawa for a day or two should be more than enough! 

This trip to Ambarawa made me realize that there are even more places to explore in Indonesia, some of which are not a popular tourist destination yet. Furthermore, I realise that we can all take part in promoting local destinations through each of our own exploration. This holiday season, don't be bumped out just because you can't travel abroad. Instead, be excited to explore the unexplored of Indonesia.

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Unknown said...

Gorgeous shots and writing as always Demas! The lake looked great.