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Kathu the town under trees

Kathu is a small town in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The town locates on the south edge of the Kalahari desert. The nearby towns are Upington and Vryburg. The distances are huge to my surprise. More than 200 km in each direction. Founded in the late 1960s, Kathu is indeed a very young town. With a population of around 15000 inhabitants, the town is a mid-size town. It’s obvious that the city comes straight away from a drawing board because of the structured arrangement.

Only bushland and savannah dominate the surrounding countryside. The red sand and the dry vegetation gives the landscape a unique look. In contrast to the bushland, the town is the home of a camel thorn tree forest. It’s one of two forests in the world. Therefore, Kathu also called the “town under the trees”. So far, it’s not surprising to me that these trees are the town’s landmark. The Sishen golf course, one of South Africa’s top golf courts is part of the camel thorn tree forest.

The camel thorn trees with long and sharp thorns are under protection in South Africa. The trees are Kathu’s ecological treasure and creating a unique atmosphere for the town.

Even if the land around is flat nevertheless, the elevation of this area is 1100 m and more. Only a couple of hills are visible at some distance from the town. In the summertime, the temperature rises more than 30 degrees. While in the wintertime, the temperature drops far below 10 degrees. I had to defrost my car windscreen for many times.

It’s my first time in South Africa but my second time in Africa after Sudan. Obviously, things are very different here in the south.  Compared to what I saw before in the north of Africa.

Tuban six years later

Tuban six years later and so many things have changed since I arrived. So many new things I have learned in all over the time I spent here. So many things I have discovered compared to my first impression from Tuban when I arrived years ago. I visited all the amazing places around the town. I spend hours with my friends at the Waterfall Nglirip, the Cave Goa Ngerong, or the Jetty Pantai Boo.

The center of urban life is Alun Alun. Actually, that is the place in the middle of the town.  Many social activities take place here. Like night markets, public events and the Friday and Saturday nightlife. Here, I enjoyed many times the great Wayang Kulit performances. However, Tuban is a midsize town. Most important for the town is to going further and developing year by year.

Like everywhere in Indonesia Batik is also famous in Tuban. The traditional motifs are almost from sea creature and very dark with a lot of blue. As the usual practice in Indonesia, Friday is the Batik day. Even me on Fridays I always wear a Batik shirt.

Tuban is also the home of the Kwan Sing Bio temple. A Chinese temple and only a couple of minutes to walk from my house away. Many events like the Chinese New Year or anniversaries I enjoyed here.

Finally, I have to say thank you to all my friends I found here. To all of the guys who helped me, supported me and made my life comfortable. After almost six years I have to say goodbye. In one month I will leave Tuban and return home to Germany. Of course, I will keep all the nice moments from this extraordinary time in my memories. It was a great time full of great memories.

Bull racing in Pamekasan

Bull racing in Pamekasan is one of two places for bull racing on Madura island. It is my second time on the island. During my first time on Madura, I visited Bangkalan on the north coast. At this time, I’m on the way to Pamekasan on the south coast of the island.  Pamekasan is a city almost on the east end of Madura.  The access to the island by car is via the Bridge of Madura from Surabaya.

All the time in Indonesia I had a wish to visit the bull racing event. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to visit Madura during the bull racing season. Bull racing is a special thing only on Madura and well known in Indonesia, especially in East Java. However, for this year the bull racing event takes place in Pamekasan. Unexpected heavy traffic and a huge traffic jam extended my travel time dramatically. Madura has along the south coast only one road.

Bull racing, in Indonesia called Karapan sapi, is a public event on Madura island once per year.

It seems everybody from the city is on their feet. Parking was a little tricky. To find a parking slot close to the racing course isn’t easy. A crowd gathering on the way to the main gate. However, street marketers selling all possible stuff right and left the narrow road.

Rules are easy, teams racing against each other. Two bulls have one rider. The rider sitting on a frame pulled by the bulls. Two competitors running straight away down a two hundred meters run. Of course, the first is the winner. It’s funny to watch how people anticipate in the race.

It was hot, dusty and noisy on the racing course. After all, I have seen the famous bull racing from Madura island finally.

Kampung Warna Warni

Kampung Warna Warni promises fancy colors and fancy people. South of the city center of Malang in East Java Indonesia, a little village became attention by locals and tourists. Kampung Warna Warni is the name of the community.  Kampung Warna Warni means in Indonesian “Colourful Village”. For sure, that’s the right name for this wonderful place with all these fanciful colors.

Row upon row, the houses jostle each other on the slopes of the valley. A small river meanders through the valley. For a small fee, everybody can visit the place. Of course, the residents sell souvenirs, drinks and other odds and ends to the left and right.

All in all, a shiny puzzle of colours, red, blue, green and in between orange or purple. The colours are an expression of lifestyle. The artistically styled walls with animals or fantasy pictures looking amazing.

I learned from the locals, the village was a project of students from a university from Malang. With their intention, to turn a shabby grey place into a shiny colourful village. The village reminds me of Rio’s Favelas. It seems that some inspiration came from there. It’s incredible to see the small houses with small rooms and all in different flashy and garish tints. As much as possible, the villagers painted almost each and every little thing. However, the roofs, the walls and even the stairs all ornate painted.

A walk through the narrow streets takes two hours around. In fact, Kampung Warna-Warni is a great and nice idea. It’s not only for the outfit of the village but also for the villagers to get a small business. Despite all the facts, the village became a famous spot for people from Malang and for tourists from outside as well. Moreover, it’s open to everybody and welcomes everyone.

It is carnival in Tuban

As like every year it’s time for carnival in Tuban. Even after so long time, I spend in Tuban I still surprised and wondering about this tradition. For sure, it’s the same intention as in Germany. Uncountable people waiting next to the road for the carnival parade. Most people coming from Tuban but also from villages around the town.

Carnival in Tuban seems to be really a highlight for everyone, around today’s early afternoon. So many people sitting on the curbs, on the sidewalk and wherever a bit of free space is. The roadsides are completely occupied. I’m very early but it’s already difficult to find a good place for watching the carnival parade.

Carnival seems to be a worldwide thing. Even in South East Asia people celebrating the day of fun. Colourfully dressed people in an endless parade queue, fill the roads and moving down the roads.

Luckily, I found a place where I got a nice view. However, it’s already afternoon and the heat of the day is at the peak. I hope to overcome the crowds of people and the heat of the afternoon. It’s a persistent shove back and forth of people like waves in the ocean.

Starting from Alun Alun until the end of town, the parade route is probably 3 km long. What I miss during the parade are the princess and the prince couple. But I saw a lot of couples in front of some carriages imitating the princess and prince.

My favorite theme was the tribe from Kalimantan.  I’m really impressed by the well-prepared costumes. The Kalimantan style is a bit different from the other themes but that’s what I like. The music is surprisingly very widespread. From traditional gamelan until modern dubstep. Every style of music sounds out of the loudspeakers.

The Kwan Sing Bio Temple

The Kwan Sing Bio Temple is a Chinese temple in Tuban, East Java. The temple is one of the largest Chinese temples in South East Asia. Visited by thousands per year the Kwan Sing Bio temple Tuban is an important religious place. An important place in the history of Chinese religion and culture. Not only for Indonesia even more in South East Asia. Mostly Chinese from Indonesia visiting the temple. However, people from other countries around Indonesia. Visitors from Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and of course China all come together in Tuban.

As usual for Chinese culture, the dragon is a symbol everywhere around the world. But as we can see, here in Tuban not. The symbol of the Chinese temple in Tuban is a crab. The huge crab figure placed above the entrance is the icon and visible from afar. So far, the crab as the symbol comes from a legend. The legend says that a huge crab visited the temple by entering the temple from the shoreside.

A crab as an icon and the location on the Java Sea makes the temple very unique.

Besides the practice of religion, the temple also used for performances and other events. Each year the celebration of Chinese New Year in the Kwan Sing Bio temple as a major event indeed. But there is more. For instance Barongsai, Chinese puppet shows, fireworks, Kung Fu and other performances held here.

In fact, believers from different countries meet here in conjunction to celebrate their religion. However, the temple has a lot of unique things. But what makes the temple so unique? For sure, one thing is the location. Located just a few steps away from the shore with the main entrance in the direction to the Java Sea. That thing makes the temple very unique.

Singapore one of the Four Asian Tigers

Singapore, also called Lion City is one of the Four Asian Tigers. Together with South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, they are the Four Asian Tiger states. The city locates close to the equator. Singapore is one of the most important financial and trading places in Asia. All in all, Singapore is an island, a city, a state, and a country all in one.  The tropical country in South East Asia locates on the south end of the Malaysian peninsula. The Strait of Malacca separates Sumatra and Malaysia.

Moreover, a cosmopolitan city joined by traditional and modern styles. That is Singapore. Different cultures and multiple ethnics live in the city. Close to the equator the city has a tropical rainforest climate. Due to the rainy season from November to January the humidity is very high. The temperature within an average of 31 °C is quite constant all over the year.

Singapore, a mix of different cultures, a tropical garden and a shopping paradise. However, there is much more than just shopping.

Changi Airport connects the city with the rest of the world. Moreover, Changi airport is the hub between Europe, Australia and New Zealand. However,  another important economic factor is tourism. Since millions of tourists per year visit the city-state, tourism became a very strong economic factor.

Not all in Singapore are business and trading stuff. Clean and well maintained the city is a beauty. Many parks, trees and green areas wherever it is possible. The Botanic Gardens, the Garden by the Bays and others help to makes the city green. Not only Downtown and Chinatown but also Little India is a place to visit. Sentosa Island with all its attractions and beaches are worth a visit. The beautiful zoo is a highlight as well. Indeed it’s a gorgeous place.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens are a botanical paradise and an extraordinary place in Singapore.  Singapore calls itself a garden city and that is obviously true. The city close to the equator has a tropical climate. The everywhere lush green gives the city that unique outfit and such an enjoyable atmosphere.

Singapore is a city of superlatives. That is obviously, all over the city. In fact, Singapore Botanic Gardens is one of these superlatives. Singapore botanic gardens locate almost in the centre of the island. It is quite easy to come there. Either by MRT, bus or by taxi. Even walking is possible. Well organised is public transportation and everywhere present.

The gardens also linked to Sir Thomas Raffles. He was the founder of Singapore’s first botanical garden.

Singapore Botanic Gardens is more than one hundred fifty years old. With such a history, the gardens show today impressively its long evolution. Divided into several themes the Gardens spread over an 82 ha huge area. Some of the themes, for instance, are the rainforest garden, the ginger garden or the orchid garden. Another enjoyable place is Symphony Lake. But that is not the only lake. There are two more lakes.

However, the orchid garden is for sure a highlight of the botanic gardens. So many different blossom shapes and different colours are hard to imagine. Moreover, the pleasant smell is a fantastic experience.

Not all orchids like the tropical climate. Some orchids especially from higher regions like a more cooler climate. For that reason, there is a coolhouse with lower temperatures inside. The coolhouse simulates the environment for orchids from cooler tropical highlands regions.

One special thing about the gardens is the opening hours. The botanic gardens open until twelve o’clock in the night. What else, Singapore’s national flower is an orchid indeed.

Jakarta the capital of Indonesia

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia. The city locates on the main island of Java. The entire state of Indonesia consists of around seventeen thousand islands. However, Java is the most populated and industrialised island and the home of Jakarta. With ten million inhabitants and thirty million in the surrounding areas, Jakarta is the biggest city in south-east Asia.

The city is famous for its never-ending traffic jams.  Sometimes it takes more than three hours in a traffic jam just to drive 10 km by car. Motorcycles are everywhere on the roads. Nobody takes care of traffic rules. Because of a missing public transportation system the city has a chronical traffic problem.

The name of the city changed several times. During the colonalisation the name of the city was Batavia. Since independence, the city’s name is Jakarta.

The only interesting historical part of the city is the old town. In Indonesia called “Kota Tua”. That’s actually the old town square. Additionally, an assembly of a couple of houses from the Dutch colonial time surrounding the town square. Here, locates also the well known and nice furnished Café Batavia. The water channels and the bridges remind me a little about Amsterdam because of the same style.

However, Jakarta has a modern part as well. Skyscrapers shooting like mushrooms everywhere. Shopping centres offering international brands like allover in the world. But like in all modern styled cities, all is only glass and concrete.

Besides the main roads, the traditional way of life is still present. Small shops providing services of all kinds. During lunch and especially in the evening street kitchens open on each corner. To try the traditional local food, that’s the right place indeed. Even more and like everywhere in Asia here the real and lively Asian life takes place.