Saturday, December 03, 2016

The Trip to Solo

Have been wanting to do this post for some time. It has been about two weeks now since our trip to Solo. Been catching up on work, mostly (with very little success).

How did this Solo trip came into being? The seeds of it seemed to be from the SEAMS School way back in 2015. We had many international participants from Indonesia and some of them get to know me by either being the organiser of the school or through the lectures that I have given. About a year later, one of them (Utama Alam Deta) wrote to me in January, asking me whether I'll be interested to be a speaker in their conference. Of course, I said yes (and at the time I wasn't sure where and when it is going to be held). Much later (in September), I got to know that the ICSAS 2016 conference (International Conference on Sciemce and Applied Sciemce 2016) will be on 19-20 November and will be held in Solo. Knowing the venue is in Solo or Surakarta, I got very excited. This is the place that I always hear when I was learning gamelan. There is this famous institute ISI (Institut Seni Indonesia, used to be STSI) and on their website was mentioned they are ranked 43rd in the QS Ranking for Performing Arts. I also knew Surakarta being the seat of the (18th century) royal dynasty of Mangkunegaran and its famous palace and kraton. It was just before the trip, that I got to know that Solo is also close to the ancient site of Borobudur (9th century). With my other half (and our youngest) was interested to come along, a working holiday came into mind. Booked the air tickets for myself and family, and took leave on 21-22 November for an extended stay.

We flew to Solo via Jakarta on the noon of 18 November using Lion Air. There were supposed to be direct flight to Solo from Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia but according to this site, probably this route has been cancelled. The flight to Jakarta took about two hours and our connecting flight to Solo is four hoursaway. We had to collect our baggage and took the free shuttle to a different terminal to check-in for the next flight. To our horror, when we collect our luggage we found one of our bags all wrapped up in plastic because of this:

Rather than being angry about it, we knew that this is much due to the poor quality of the cheap bag we bought. So if you are doing air travel, forget getting a cheap bag. We checked in the plastic wrapped bag for the next flight and hoped for the best. We arrived in Solo sometime in the evening and we were greeted by a student who had been waiting for us. As we arrived at the hotel, we were invited to join Prof. Cari & Prof. Suparmi for dinner at the hotel. Still fazed, we did so without yet checking in. Finally we got to rest about an hour later.

The ICSAS conference venue is in the Syariah Hotel, the place we are staying in. The conference began in the morning (just on level 12 above us) with an officiation ceremony. It started off with a traditional dance with a gamelan music background. The dancers had some trailing piece of cloth behind them which contained flowers and as they began their dance steps, the flowers are scattered all over the stage (see pics below).

The conference was officiated by the Deputy Rector of Universitas Sebelas Maret, Prof. Drs. Sutarno with some speech and the striking of the gong.

The talks in the morning are all the keynote talks. See program here and pic below. There are two sessions of the keynote talks, one before the coffee break, one after. My talk was shifted to before coffee because the other Malaysian speaker could not come.

The way they do the keynote talks is a bit different from the one I'm used to. They will call all the speakers to the platform in front and seated to face the audience. Each will take turn giving the talk and then the question and answer session is left to the very end after all the three talks (kinda like a forum). After both sessions ended, we break for lunch. I excused myself to catch up with some rest and also to attend to my family. I rejoined the conference alight later for one of the parallel sessions that has some theoretical physics talks. The type of theoretical physics that they do seems to be diverse. Sebelas Maret University seems to be on generalized/higher-dimensional versions of integrable quantum mechanical systems. The conference ended late evening and the next day is simply a social visit to Borobudur for the international speakers. At night, we had dinner with Prof. Jonathan Petruccelli,a keynote speaker from US.

After the dinner, we were given a tour of the Solo city at night by Prof. Cari and Prof. Suparmi, all the way to the campus of Sebelas Maret University. On the way to the campus, we chatted about a lot of things including my interest in gamelan and the ISI. Was then told the campus of ISI is just next door to Sebelas Maret University and he offered to let us see some performances going on there. Unfortunately when we arrived, the performance was already over. So Prof. Cari drove us back to the hotel. It was very kind of them to entertain us personally.

The next day was our trip to Borobudur. It's more than an hour drive there and on the way we passed by the Prambanan temple. Here are some pics:

Climbing up Borobudur was really challenging since I was not quite fit. I had some severe back pain after climbing down and I needed to rest before moving on.

On the way back, we passed through Jogjakarta and had a look at Universiti Gadjah Mada campus. Then we had lunch. On the way back, we went to Prambanan temple. Here are some pics.

The trip, I must say, was quite exhausting and I can't imagine that Prof. Cari and Prof. Suparmi (who were older than me) took the trouble to be with us the whole day. Am indebted to them. Later, we had our dinner somewhere in Solo.

The next day was mainly resting and our personal day to do some shopping. We went on our own to Kampung Batik Laweyan to buy some batik. This we do despite the offer of Prof. Cari to help us move around. But later he contacted us and we met at Paragon Mall for lunch. We went to the mall essentially to get us a bag to replace the broken one and also perhaps do more souvenir shopping. After lunch, we went to a Batik Keris store to do more batik and souvenir shopping. Between the two place, Batik Keris seems to have more variety (including souvenirs) and perhaps more mass-produced. Batik Laweyan store is smaller but we found interesting batik there. Later, we went to a local book store just to search for a book that my brother asked me to look for, but we couldn't find any. Got myself a book by Agus Purwanto there.

The next day was our last day there and I agreed to go to Sebelas Maret University to meet people there. Before Prof. Cari picked us up, we took a few photos at the hotel. The hotel is an Islamic-based hotel with no liquor served there and there is a musolla at each level.

At Sebelas Maret University, I met the Dean of the Fakultas Matematik dan Ilmu Pengetahuan Alam and we talked about possible mobility program. The dean, Prof. Ir Ari Handono Ramelan is also a physicist and was interested in visiting our Physics Department. Note that Prof. Cari is also a physicist and the Head of Master Degree Program of Physics while his wife Prof. Suparmi is a theoretical physicist.

I also met the Director of Graduate Program in Sebelas Maret University, Prof. M. Furqon Hidayatullah and we talked about similar ideas of mobility program. During the meet in his office with Prof. Cari and Prof. Ari, I also met Prof. Dr. Ir. Mthm Sri Budiastuti (Enviromnetal Science, specialising in Agrohydrology) and Dr. Harjana (in charge of finance - not in picture). As we talked, they started planning of a possible trip to UPM this coming February.

I also went to the Physics Department and to their (Faculty) Central Lab. The Head of Physics Department is Dr. Fahru Nurosyid. I was told about their internationalisation activities with younger staff being sent abroad as well as their journal Indonesion Journal of Applied Physics which is applying to be cited in the Indonesian citation centre of some sort.

Finally I met the theoretical physics group in Profs. Cari & Suparmi's office, who helped out a lot during the conference.

Overall, I can see they are serious in their efforts to be recognised and here are some words from their Rector and from my meet and they are well aware of UPM's progress. In factthey identified three areas that they would like to cooperate with; natural sciences, education (their earlier niche), and agriculture.

Finally before we took our flight to Jakarta, we spend some time at Profs. Cari & Suparmi's home and met their lovely daughter who is now in the final year of Medical Degree.

Prof. Cari & Prof Suparmi send us off to Solo airport and we said farewell there. For the flight from Jakarta to Solo, we did not need to check in our baggage again, which is conveneient. We finally arrived home after midnight.

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