It’s been six weeks since I left Vietnam and I have to say I miss the place more than I thought I would. Little things that I took for granted out there (I shall spare you the details and more than that shall spare myself the embarrassment ) … but the one that I miss the most if the LIFE on the streets on Saigon.

Walking down the streets one could get a pulse of the city..you could feel the vibe! The fast pace of the city on the streets – people always on the move, always on their bikes and the slow pace on the side where the elderly just watched life pass by.

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Amidst these crowded streets with bikers zipping by (or rather trying to zip by), if I stood on the footpaths for more than 10 minutes and watched them on their bikes, the one thing I always noticed was the mobile while they were on their motorbike. It was such a common sight that these days when I notice people in Jakarta on their bikes, I am surprised when I don’t see people with a mobile in one hand while on the bike (yes, I know that is a good thing)

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Mobiles while stopping on the side.

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And just next to this fast crazy traffic on the streets was the calm and slow pace on the footpaths.

I was always fascinated by the wonderful old faces that one saw on the streets – the contrast of the youth on the bikes and the elderly on the side.

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The famous ‘V Sign’

I saw this old lady nearly every week with her slight smile

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And this one who still had to make a living

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I always got to see such fascinating different faces – each with a different story to tell.

Some looked sad,

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And some not so sad

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But more often than not I got to see these happy faces which always left me happy and never sad!

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I MISS MY FASCINATING STREETS OF SAIGON!

THE STREETS OF SAIGON

First peek into Indonesia

After being here for 3 weeks I finally ventured out of Jakarta to explore this vast country. Since it was the first, I stayed close to Jakarta and joint a PhotoWalk group to BOGOR. Bogor is one of the larger cities of Indonesia – 60 kms away from Jakarta. It is most famous for it Botanica Garden – Kebun Raya Bogor. And thus that was chosen as the place to meet for the PhotoWalk and capture the greenery and beauty of the gardens and see it through our lens.

The day started of with meeting 6 complete strangers from different part of the world – UK, Romania, Canada and our friendly neighbour Nepal. And as usual within 15 minutes of meeting it was amasing as to how we all connected on being foreigners) in Indonesia and sharing experiences. The experiences varied from me, the complete newbie in town of 3 weeks to the oldest Romanian who has been living here for 11 years now. At some point we forgot that we were there for a PhotoWalk and needed to click away as well.

So as the morning progressed, we did manage to get some great shots of the stunning lotus flowers all over the gardens and the beautiful orchid garden. Incidentally, the botanical gardens at Bogor is the largest research center for orchids in Indonesia.

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But what was more exciting for me besides the greenery is that I got my first glimpse into the life of people of Indonesia, beyond the malls of Jakarta (which I had started to believe is all that the big cities had to offer). As we walked through the gardens, I saw families enjoying their Saturday picnic, old couples sitting out on the benches and reminising on old times probably, teenagers learning some form of martial art and school children coming there on study groups. What struck me the most was the school children who were so friendly and eager to greet us. As soon as they saw us, they would come charging towards us and rattle of the English that they knew – “Hello, how are you? What is your name. My name is…” It has been a while since I have seen such a friendly lot of kids – not one but all of them!

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As the morning progressed, luckily for me a few of the others were as enthusiastic as I was to explore the city a little more and we ventured out of the gardens onto the streets.

The first thing that struck me – how similar it is to India. One feels so at home here!

Streets lined with lots of stalls, selling anything and everything – from vegetables and fruits to rabbits! Incidentally I learnt that rabbits are very common as pets in Indonesia.

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People making coconut leave pouches to steam ‘Nasi’ (Rice) and sell it to the warangs – street food stalls.

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And selling lime juice for those needing a quick refreshment. I found the mechanism of storing the lemon juice very innovative and it did keep the juice quite cool in the bamboo.

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After all the walking we did venture into the local ‘Angkutan Kota’ – which when translated means small transportation for the village – which has more than 15 people stuffed into one when there is space for maybe only 6-7. Luckily we travelled on a Saturday in the afternoon, so had our share of space. Something that struck me as very thoughtful was the air freshener that they had hanging in the middle of the van.

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All the walking in the heat was exhausting and by the end of this, it was just the two of us left to explore the arts and crafts of Bogor.

Christine (a Canadian woman that I met in the morning) and me ventured into some of the small villages to find Pak Dase at his Wayang golek workshop where he has been making wonderful Jawa Puppets for over 35 years now. Like a lot of arts and crafts in India he told us that this was a dying art and only the foreigners were interested in the puppets and not the local Indonesians. Why am I not surprised to hear this? So similar to India and Vietnam actually.

Our last stop was at the gong factory where gamelan instruments are smelted over a charcoal fire and gongs are made by hand. It takes approximately 2 weeks to make one. Honestly this was a slight disappointment – maybe because I have seen so much of this in India and Nepal. But a great photo opportunity nonetheless!

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A fantastic day in Indonesia getting a sneak peek into the country. And to meet some great people from all over and share stories and exchange notes. A great example was Christine – never before had I thought I would be able to spend 8 hours with a complete stranger and still connect so well and plan our next trip together.

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I hope this is the start of one of the many beautiful experiences that I will have in Indonesia.