Semarang, Indonesia

Some of you familiar with Holland America Line (HAL) will know that they employ many Indonesian crew including all the cabin and dining room  stewards, many kitchen staff, sailors and Front Office staff as well as maintenance staff.  HAL runs a school in Jakarta for the cabin and dining staff and this school operates as a link between crew and their families, particularly after disasters such as the recent earthquake, tsunami and eruption of Mount Merapi, which each affected some families of the crew.  As so many crew are from Indonesia, a visit to an Indonesian port is an occasion for family reunions and some 1000 family members came to the ship during our port call in Semarang. One of my dining stewards was happy because he had not seen his one year old son for some six months.  He reported that the reunion went well, particularly after his numerous gifts were given.  Unfortunately I did not see any of this because I was on a day long tour to the World Heritage site at Borobudur. (photos) This ancient Buddhist temple predates Chartres, Notre Dame and Angkor Wat by a few hundred years.  It was covered with earth for centuries and was discovered and dug up in 1814 by Raffles.  A recent restoration was completed in 1983.   The bas reliefs are exquisite and the views of the countryside are nice. It is quite a bit smaller than Angkor Wat.  Mount Merapi had covered it with ash and it was cleaned only the day before our arrival.  Merapi had erupted again but the wind had shifted and the ash went another direction.  We were given masks to wear should we want them.  It was a long ride to and from the site but we had a police escort to clear the roads.  I am not sure the locals liked it, but a visit would have been impossible without the police assistance as traffic is terrible.  The scenery along the road was interesting and included small farms, lumber yards, markets and rice paddies. (photos) The ship has taken on a lot of local fruit for us to try and some of it is quite nice.  However, the ship is a durian free zone.  This very smelly fruit which you either love or hate, is forbidden in most indoor places in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and this is made evident with ubiquitous signs showing the fruit with an X through it.  We are now off to see dragons.   

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