In Search of the Gamelan

My first encounter with the gamelan was in music college where we were required to learn to play the Javanese gamelan with Pak Sunardi Wisnosobruto, who incidentally wrote a book which I saw for sale at the Ganesha bookstore. When I came to Bali two years ago, what I saw and heard blew me away.  This time,  I had come in search of the instrument factories.  Learning to play would be futile as I had no instrument at home.

Found this place via the guidebook. It was just a short drive from the center of Klungkung where I visited peaceful Korta Gersa with its beautiful centuries-old wayang style paintings on the ceilings of the two structures.

Lining the small road were a few gamelan factories. None were very busy and there were just a couple of workers doing some metal polishing on a few bonang and gender keys. At one factory, a guy was melting some iron bars and pouring them into molds which he said would be opened the next day. There were completed instruments as well as some that were in various stages of crafting.

The factories were all inside family compounds which showed how much of it was a family enterprise handed down through generations.  Being inside was also an opportunity to see a real Balinese home with its separate sleeping quarters per family and its common areas and structures.

The next day, up in the far north was Sawan. We had just come mountain road tripping in Sembiran and Julah. The factory we visited was by the river paddies and was quite small. The workshop moved there 20 years ago after the original spot was abandoned due to disrepair. The elderly owner was turning a bonang in a furnace which when hot enough he  would remove to be hammered by two guys. The process would be repeated until it is the right shape. Hard work. Really hard work. Two other guys were working on what seemed to be a way of polishing the gongs and metal keys but scraping-off their outer layers with a sharp object until a gleaming layer appeared. 

Seeing how the gamelan was made gave me even more respect to the instrument and its makers as it was so labor intensive.  No wonder it was so expensive.  At the Sawan workshop, a single bonang costs USD 100.

Categories: Indonesia | Leave a comment

Hiking Cambodia (2011)

Day 0

ETD: 9:00 pm Manila (via Cebu Pacific)

ETA: 11:30pm Bangkok

-sleep in the airport

Day 01:

ETD: 8:30am Bangkok (via bus)

ETA: 11:30am Aranya Prathet-Poipet border crossing

ETD: 1:30pm Poipet

ETA: 4:30pm Siem Reap

Day 02:

ETD: 5:30am Siem Reap

ETA: 5:30pm Banlung

Day 03 – Day 08: Banlung, Virachey National Park

Day 09:

ETD: 7:00 am Banlung

ETA: 7:00pm Phnom Penh

Day 10-11: Phnom Penh

Day 12:

ETD: 1:00pm PP

ETA: 7:00pm HCMC

ETD: 12:30am (Day 12) HCMC

ETA: 3:030am (Day 12) Manila




Categories: ASIAN ITINERARIES | 1 Comment

Indonesia 2011

Day 00

ETD – 8:00pm (Manila)

ETA – 11:45pm (Jakarta)


Day 01: Jakarta

Day 02: Yogyakarta

ETD – 1:00pm (Jakarta via Garuda)

ETA – 2:00pm (Yogyakarta)



Day 03: Yogyakarta





Day 04:Bali

ETD – 8:00am  (Yogyakarta via Garuda)

ETA – 9:30am  (Bali)


Day 05 – 06: Bali

Day 07:

Party 1: ETD – 6:15pm (Jakarta via Air Asia)

ETA – 7:15pm (Jakarta)

ETD – 12:00am (Manila via Cebu Pacific)

Party 2: ETD – 6:55pm (Bandung via Air Asia)

ETA – 7:40 pm (Bandung)


Day 08-09: Bandung

Day 10: Jakarta

ETD: 12:00am (Manila via Cebu Pacific)

Categories: Indonesia | Leave a comment

Vietnam South to North IT (Dec 2010 – Jan 2011)

I am doing a trip from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi and taking-in a few sights along the way.  When I was in Vietnam, I only got to visit HCMC and the Mekong Delta as far as Chau Doc.  Anyone who wants to join me, here is my IT:

Dec 22: MNL-HCMC via Cebu Pacific (5J751)

Dec 23: HCMC-Danang via Vietnam Airlines (VN 328, 3:30pm flight) then bus to Hoi An (45-1 hour)

Dec 24/25: Hoi An

Dec 26-28: Hue (take sleeper train to Hanoi)

Dec 29-Jan 1 Hanoi (take sleeper train to Sapa via Lao Cai)

Jan 2-6 Sapa (include 2-day climb to Mt. Fansipan) (sleeper train to Hanoi via Lao Cai)

Jan 7   Hanoi-HCMC via Vietnam Airlines (VN 219, 1:30pm)

Jan 8: HCMC-MNL via Cebu Pacific (5J752)

Categories: ASIAN ITINERARIES, Vietnam | Tags: | Leave a comment

8 Days in Borneo

I had planned on originally going to the US for a month in July for some fitness conventions. But the cost and the amount of work I have to do to earn the money for it was enough to tire and stress me out already.  Time for Plan B — B for Borneo.  Yesterday, egged-on by really low rates at Air Asia, I finally booked a flight and managed to convince another friend to book one too 🙂

Here’s my IT:

Day 1 (July 24) ETD: 4:00pm Clark (AK6265)

ETA: 5:55pm Kota Kinabalu

Day 2 (July 25) ETD: 7:05am Kota Kinabalu (AK6092)

ETA: 7:50am Sandakan

Pick-up at airport for travel to Selingan (Turtle Islands)

Overnight at Selingan.

Day 3-4 (July 26-27) Return to Sandakan.

Go to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.

After lunch, depart for Kinabatangan River.  Spend 2 nights.

Day 5 (July 28)   Depart Kinabatangan for Gomantong Caves in Sukau.

After lunch, bus to Kinabalu National Park.


Day 6 (July 29)  Kinabalu National Park

After lunch, return to Kota Kinabalu

Day 7 (July 30) Kota Kinabalu

Day 8 (July 31) ETD: 2:40pm Kota Kinabalu (AK6264)

ETA: 3:35pm Clark

Categories: Malaysia, Sabah | Leave a comment

22-day Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand Trip in December

I will be on a 22-day backpacking trip to Southeast Asia starting in Vietnam and ending in Thailand. Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Vietnam

I usually travel alone but this time I thought of adding a twist–inviting strangers to come and join me.  I figured, it would make the trip more interesting plus of course, lower the cost.  As of now, I already have 1 confirmed participants who already bought his tickets and whom I have met. I can still accommodate 2 more.

Anyone interested to join me and a friend on a 22-day backpacking trip across South East Asia covering Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand?

If cannot make it on all 22 days, you can just join in any of the legs. The whole cost for the trip including transportation, accommodations, food, etc is US$1,000. Airfare is NOT included.

I am NOT a tour operator. I am just an ordinary 38-year old guy who loves to backpack here as well as abroad who  wants to share my passion for traveling. Plus, the more you are, the lower the cost.


Saigon, Vietnam


HCMC/Saigon, Vietnam – We will be landing at HCMC or more popularly referred to as Saigon by both locals and tourists.  We will stay at Pha Ngum Lao which is the backpacker district.  Saigon is a very dynamic city with beautiful French colonial architecture which contrasts with the frenzied happenings at the streets.

Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Vietnam – Located on the southern-central coast and just 5 hours from Saigon is this laid-back strip of beach.  Another area of interest are the unique topographical features such as the red sand dunes, the white sand dunes, and the “fairy” stream.

Mekong Delta, Vietnam – The towns of Can Tho and Chau Doc sit on the mighty Mekong River where we will visit


Chau Doc, Mekong Delta, Vietnam

floating houses and floating markets.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Travelling from Chau Doc on a speedboat, we cross the border to Cambodia. Phnom Penh’s tragic past is remembered in places such as the Tuol Seng museum and the Killing Fields.  These are in contrast to the peaceful beauty of the National Museum and the Royal Palace.

Siem Reap, Cambodia – Home to Angkor Wat, a magnificent architectural heritage.

Bangkok, Thailand – From the legendary nightlife of Silom Soi 2 to the interesting stroll around Ko Ratanokosin and Banglamphu which takes in the Grand Palace complex and its surrounding temples.  We end our adventure with a dinner cruise at the Chao Phraya River.

**For maximum flexibility, privacy, and enjoyment, we will organize our own tours.


Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand


You must be willing to see the sites beyond what the tourist brochures would like you to see.  Traveling is not merely seeing.  It is experiencing the whole drama of life, culture, and beliefs unfold around you.  You must enjoy riding on local transportation rather than the usual tourist coaches, eating at roadside stalls rather than fancy restaurants, and more importantly, willing to be up early in the morning and back to the accommodations late in the evening.


We will be staying at backpacker hostles/guesthouses. These are located in dynamic backpacking areas. We will share a rooms but we will have separate beds.

The rooms are very basic with a/c and small showers

You will have to book your own air fare.  My flight is Dec 18 MNL-SGN (CP 5J751) and Jan 10 BKK-MNL (CP 5J932)

All transportation will through public trains, buses , speed boats which are comfortable, safe, and with advanced bookings with legitimate companies such as Mekong Express, Huay Hin Cruises, Capitol Tours, Hour Lean.


December 18 – ETD: Manila, 11:00pm (Cebu Pacific 5J751)

Day 1: Dec 19: ETA: HCMC, Vietnam 12:30am (Vietnam is 1 hour ahead)
Day 2-3: Dec 20-21: HCMC
Day 4-6: Dec 22-24: Mui Ne, Vietname (beach and desert on the south-central coast)
Day 7 : Dec 25: Return to HCMC from Mui Ne, overnight
Day 8-9: Dec 26-27: Can Tho, Vietnam (Mekong Delta)
Day 10-11: Dec 28-29: Chau Doc, Vietnam (Mekong Delta)
Day 12-14: Dec 30-Jan 1: Phnom Penh, Cambodia (we will take a speedboat from Chau Doc to cross the border to Cambodia)
Day 15-18: Jan 2-5: Siem Reap, Cambodia (Angkor Wat and other temples)
Day 19-22: Jan 6-9: Bangkok, Thailand (we will take a bus from Siem Reap to cross the border to Thailand)

Jan 10: ETD: Bangkok, 12:35 am (check-in at airport on Jan 9 at 9:30pm) (Cebu Pacific 5J932)
ETA: Manila, 2:35 am


EXCLUDING air-fare, US$ 1,000 which includes everything! If you are a shopaholic, bring extra.  I will not be the one to handle your money.  You are responsible for keeping track of your expenses during the trip. The only time I will handle it is when we need to pay for the accommodations, transpo, etc.

If you are interested, please let me know asap. We can meet so I can discuss the trip in detail.

Categories: Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand | 6 Comments

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