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Unspun‘s been in many hotels, even the ones he can’t afford. Usually he and a few of his cheapskate friends would go there for tea and ask to see the rooms. The Aman and other resorts and fallen prey to such cheapskatery.
But of all the hotels Unspun’s seen none has been so captivating and enchanting as the Argos in Cappadocia.
On a recent trip to Turkey the Unspuns and extended family members stayed at the Argos and it was simply the best hotel ever that Unspun’s lived in, let alone seen.
The Argos whispered of understated elegance, simplicity and elegance combined with an attention to detail that leaves you visually sated.
The Argos is located in Uchisar, a village in Capadocia that is known for its fairy chimneys and moonscape-like terrain, caused by wind erosion over thousands of years. The volcanic rock was also easy to dig into and for thousands of years, until recently, Hittites, Christians and Cappadocians have been hewing cave houses in the rocks.
Uchisar is a charming village with a couple of mosques, a plaza of sorts and topped by a huge rock called The Castle. The Argos is on the side of Uchisar that overlooks a volcanic mountain Mt Erciyes and Pigeon Valley.
If you are an amateur photographer like Unspun, you begin to get visually stimulated as you approach the Argos via a cobbled street among rustic looking houses. At the entrance to the reception vibrant yellow pumpkins lines the stairs and inside the decor of antiques, wooden floors and spacious yet cozy layout.
Our rooms were on the opposite side of the cobbled road. You enter through an old women door. A small antique window is on your left, you go up the stairs and you see a courtyard. On one side is a table of six inside a pergola. Drying corn cobs are hung from its arches.
Outside are a couple of rattan recliners, a huge sofa with brightly colored cushions and a small square fountain.
Go up again and there is another courtyard that overlooks Pigeon Valley and its many fairy chimneys. Our room was there. On entering the room you see the double bed in an alcoves cut into the mountain wall.
A corridor leads you to a sitting room with a view of Pigeon Valley and the courtyard below. Next to it is a bathroom, also hewn into the mountain face that makes you feel like you want to shower till you look like a prune.
When you walk around the hotel you are constantly surprised at virtually every corner with little touches – drying twigs piled on rocks here, small bunches of potted plants there, old horseshoes nailed to another wall, a burst of red flowers in volcanic rock pots elsewhere.
Then there is the patio where you have your breakfast. Being summer, the weather was perfect. Every morning there we would sit in the patio with Pigeon Valley laid out before us.
They would serve a Turkish breakfast – olives, tomatoes, cucumber, simit (a kind of bread), cheeses, jams. Then would come the omelets, coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice…you get the idea. And all the while there is this heartbreakingly beautiful scenery drenched in sunlight before you.
Pigeon Valley is also where you can go hot air ballooning. A hot air balloon trip starts at 4.30am when a driver picks you up from the hotel and takes you to their office where you have – surprise – a Turkish Breakfast (although not as good as the one at the Argos) before putting you on a balloon.
At just about when the sun rises, your balloon takes off – together with what seems a hundred or more of them. The tourism in Turkey is so hot, any destination attracts thousands of tourists at any one time.
Ballooning in that area is particularly a treat because the balloons hover over the moonscape like terrain and dip into the valleys, all alit in the glow of sunrise.
After that we couldn’t wait to get back to the Argos again, just to immerse ourselves in it earthy aesthetics and to discover new nooks and corners that continue to surprise the eyes.
Been a long time since Unspun played writer (as opposed to a mere blogger) and Tempo, the English version of the magazine, this week carried his travels and impressions in a 6-page spread from the ancient city of Mrauk U in Myanmar. Here it is:
For more photos of Sittwe and Mrau U, go here
For text of story, buy Tempo English, but if you’re too cheap or too far away, leave a comment and I’ll send you the text.
Yes, it is indeed shameful if even half of what the blogger, Mike Foster, says is true. As someone who’s adopted Jakarta and Indonesia as my home I feel duty bound to defend Jakarta and Indonesia. As have a few Indonesians who have seen the Twitter message.
I tend to agree with @crivenica and @heradiani in their Tweets that the Mike Foster does come across as an uptight tourist. Indonesia, after all, is a Third World country, only that the phrase has become unfashionable, being substituted by the more politically correct “Emerging Country” label. Foster comes across as uptight because in a city of more than 14 million people all he could see was the frightening and negative aspects of the city. He was unable for some reason, to peer beyond the negatives to see something, anything positive. perhaps his friend Andy is a really crummy tourist guide but one suspects that Foster is one who would rather whine than accept the fact that he is in a Third World country, accept the filth, contradictions, traffic congestion and contrasts as facts of life and get over it to enjoy his stay here.
Foster also makes the terrible mistake of equating Jakarta with Indonesia, which is unfortunate. Indonesia is so much, much more and different than Jakarta and if he were to go to Flores or a dozen other choice sites in Indonesia he would know what heartwrenching beauty Indonesia has in store for those who venture beyond the Big Durian.
Having said that, however, a lot of Foster’s complaints about Jakarta is legit. Us old Jakarta hands realize that Foster’s complaints are only some of the myriad aspects of the city that makes Jakarta Jakarta. Bu to a fresh pair of eyes, especially if they aren’t the adventurous types (and how many tourists are really adventurous?) Jakarta can come across as dirty, chaotic, unsafe and congested.
If Jakarta wants to attract the tourists, both to the city and to Indonesia, the authorities will have to acknowledge that the traffic, cleanliness and safety (or at least the perception of safety from a tourist’s viewpoint) are problems that need to be addressed. Like many other Twitterers, Unspun was inclined to use the argument of “but other countries are worse than Jakarta” but its a temptation best not given to as it i a false argument. So what if other countries are dirtier and worse off than us, we do not have control over what they do or do not do. We have control over, how our countries (adopted or native) functions and that’s what we should take responsibility for and try to change.
I just visited Indonesia some time ago, to visit my friend from the university. He’s an Indonesian, so during my vacation I decided to go to Indonesia for a vacation and visit him.
I must say that Indonesia is not a country worth visiting … sorry about this, Andy if you read my posting. For starter, Jakarta is very dirty, you’ll see trash and litter everywhere you go. I just can’t imagine a capital city with this poor level of cleanliness. I was fortunate to have Andy my friend to show me around Jakarta, in which rarely tourists are shown to. Areas that you may see quite clean and sophisticated are only in the downtown area. I only remembered the streets named Sudirman, Thamrin and Kuningan that are quite representative for a capital city. Any other areas you go, you’ll feel like that you’re in some third-world country with poor people and trash everywhere (I think Indonesia is still considered a third-world?)
I was lucky I have a friend in Jakarta, otherwise I wouldn’t dare goind around in public transportation. I was told to be careful when selecting cabs. I remembered there is only one company considered safe, called Blue Bird or something, with their cars painted in blue. I was told not to take just any cab since it wouldn’t be safe. I was told there are so many crimes occured involving taxi drivers. I certainly didn’t want to take the public busses. Wait until you see them yourselves, and I bet you wouldn’t want to ride in one either. The busses are so dirty, so packed with people and the vehicles themselves look as if they’re very poorly taken care of. I couldn’t even find a decent information of which bus should I take if I would want to go somewhere, and what is the fare. Those busses have someone (or sometimes two) called “conductor” hanging around in the door, collecting money from passengers. I was terrified to see them hanging like that in the door while the bus were driving quite fast. Well, yes they have now a network of public busses called TransJakarta if I’m not mistaken, but the network was not vast enough to cover the whole city.
Not to mention the streets from hell. The traffic in Jakarta beats the hell out of any traffic I’ve ever seen in the world.
Traffic jams everywhere. People driving with only one or two inches away from each other. The worse of all is the motorcycles. I even said to my friend that they are like motorcycles from hell. They squeezed their way to very small gaps between cars, sometimes even hit our rearview mirrors. They constantly cut your way, so my friend always to be extra careful with them and sometime he even had to hit the brake brutely to avoid collisions. What an experience … I must say. I sometimes jumped from my seat when suddenly a motorcycle speeding through our side of the cars with just few inches away, in a traffic jam, with their loud noises …. a hell indeed. Andy even told me that be very careful not to hit a motorcycle, since even that you’re not the one causing the collision, the car driver would be the one blamed and they could go rough on you asking for money. I said “what the hell …. what kind of people are they … we’re not living in the dark ages are we?” … and Andy could just shrugged with bitter smile.
Another important thing … be careful of the food. I got stomachache for 3 days because Andy took me to this food stall that he said very delicious. Well the food was alright … but I got diarrhea the next day. Well, if you go to this food stall, you wouldn’t be surprised why I got the diarrhea. It was a very small food stall, on a pedestrian. Just next to the pedestrian was this open sewer, and guess what … people threw away trash into that sewer. Not to mention flies everywhere and I could have sworn a saw a cockroach running around. My advice is to stick to the food from restaurants, clean restaurants. It’s a bit expensive, but at least your stomach would be safe.
I’ll continue with my experience in Indonesia …. more surprises coming from this unbelievable country … which I don’t intend to visit again, at least not in several years until they could improve to be a more civilized country.
Someone help Unspun here please.
Can anyone explain how a “senior” singer such as Eddy Silitonga, him of the cheesy mustache and unkempt haircut, is going to attract droves of tourists to Indonesia’s shores?
Does the Tourism Minister, in his infinite wisdom and impeccable taste, think that Eddy will appeal to would be tourists in 49 countries. Perhaps the Minister is looking for geriatric tourists, on the belief that the old geezers have more money to spend on Indonesian healthcare while visiting this fair archipelago.
Or perhaps, shudder of shudders, the Minister finds Eddy such a sexy singee that women in the four corners of the world would want to flock to Indonesia after they see and hear Eddy perform. Or is it that he bears an uncanny resemblance to the inimitable Roy Suryo?
And while we tax our little grey cells about Eddy we might want to spare some energy wondering the need for the Support Team, “which will monitor and support the logistics during the journey.”
The choice of advisors for this team for a fading singer is none other than top flight lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis and the inspector general of the National Police Agus Wantoro, who will “help the program succeed”.
What do they know about music? What do they know about tourism? What do advisors of the support team do in such trips? The mind boggles.
This story in The Jakarta Post:
Senior singer appointed as tourism envoy
The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 02/09/2010 3:25 PM | Business
Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik has appointed Eddy Silitonga, a senior Indonesian singer, Indonesian tourism envoy, traveling around the world to promote the country’s tourism.
The journey will include visits to 49 countries on five continents within nine months, the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
Silitonga’s program as a tourism envoy will basically cover three main activities: singing at the various places he visits such as cafes, restaurants and hotels; people-to-people contact with local communities and tourists; and organizing “Indonesian Art Nights” at all Indonesian embassies in the countries he will visit.
Two groups will support the program to be dubbed the “The Indonesian Team for Culture and Tourism Promotion by Eddy Silitonga”.
The first group will be called the “Journey Team” consisting of six people, including Eddi Silitonga, who will travel to the 49 countries. And the second group will be the “Support Team”, which will monitor and support the logistics during the journey.
Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent lawyer, and inspector general of the National Police Agus Wantoro, are advisors to the journey team to help the program succeed.
The program will be implemented from April 16, 2010 to January 10, 2011, Antara reported.
If you’ve been to Bandung lately you’ll know how bad the traffic gets during holidays. It’s mostly people from Jakarta but also an increasing number of tourists from Malaysia with an eye for bargains. This from The Jakarta Post
Yuli Tri Suwarni , The Jakarta Post , Bandung | Thu, 07/16/2009 1:36 PM | Supplement
Nuryahati Sailima, 24, of Selangor, Malaysia, did not mind at all that she had to wear a surgical mask for about an hour on an Air Asia flight that flew her from Kuala Lumpur to Bandung, the capital of West Java, last Friday.
The swine flu issue has prompted the Malaysian government to take precautionary steps by obliging its citizens to wear masks on plane trips. However, this did not hinder Nurhayati’s determination to bring her two-year-old daughter and her mother to visit Bandung.
“I want to go to Pasar Baru to look for cheap textiles,” said Nurhayati who spent three days in Bandung shopping and eating out.
Nurhayati was picked up by a tour guide from a local travel agent. Most Malaysians use the services of travel agents because they feel more secure.
Ahmad Zulkifli and his three friends, on the other hand, came to Bandung from Kuala Lumpur on their own. Zulkifli, 27, said that he had visited Bandung four times prior to this trip for the delicious food and shopping bargains.
“The textiles and garments here are equal to those in Singapore, while the prices are much lower,” said Zulkifli.
Pasar Baru, lines of distros and factory outlets on Jl. Juanda (Dago), Jl. Martadinata (Riau) as well as Jl. Setiabudi are the main places where Malaysian tourists spend most of their money. Jeans outlets also attract these tourists and make them feel at home. Read more here.
This (clip below) looks like another cultural time bomb for Malaysia.Perhaps the Malaysian government should just step aside, shut up and let Indonesia and and Malaysian bloggers set the relationship right.
Malaysian Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan, on the off chance that you even even get debriefed on blogs, please see the posting Now to Rasa Some Sayang (and here too) to see how much Indonesians and Malaysians admire about each others’ countries and peoples. And how much potential goodwill there can be between serumpun countries if only the politicians would take a reality check, get off their high horses, park their egos somewhere the sun don’t shine and stop living in denial.
Also read Bleu, an Indonesian expat living in Indonesia for perspective on serumpun sentiments here.
Interesting to see the different reactions to the Rasa Sayang(e) controversy both in Malaysia (see comments here) and in Indonesia (see comments here). On both sides of the Straits we have nationalism come to the fore, good sense go out the window, fear and loathing of the other.
But what should the real issue be in the Rasa Sayang(e) issue where different countries have many things in common like food, culture and sometimes even history?
Is the issue one of rights or of marketing savvy?
If it is one of rights then Indonesia wins hands down. Rasa Sayang(e), Unspun is willing to bet, almost certainly originated from Maluku, Negara Ku is probably a spinoff from Terang Bulan, Batik was probably developed and refined in Pekalongan long before Malaysia got its hands on it, Orang Utans are more plentiful in Indonesia, Sate Padang was probably being fanned on the fire longer than the satay in Kajang.
If, however, the issue is one of marketing savvy, then Indonesia losses big time to Malaysia. It falls flat in packaging its cultural icons so that they come to be associated with the country. This is nothing new.