The Hendriks {Jakarta Sessions}

As an Asia Based family photographer, it is a true delight to have the privilege to travel around making images and telling stories, connecting hearts and weaving memories in all sorts of places. There are times when I think about the people that I get to meet and I’m nearly bent double with gratitude; all of these people who come into my life and teach me something about living: it’s a gift.

These days, as a Kuala Lumpur family photographer, I’m mostly shooting around KL, but a good handful of weeks ago, I was off to Jakarta, capturing wonderful, open hearted people there.

These guys I knew from ages ago. Our children used to run together (before they could all even walk!), chasing bugs, exploring, creating silly games. Mundane, quotidian but after school, when the sun bent low, and the cool air enfolded us, it felt like magic.

So, you can imagine my delight to get to come back, see this city where my family grew from three to four, and delight again, in watching these two gorgeous little ones play and tumble and discover. Bigger bodies, but same sweet hearts.

Wanna make some magic with me in KL? I’d love to photograph you family, and learn from you a little more about what it means to be a human.

a happy family in Jakarta, Indonesia by Kuala Lumpur Based family photographer Erica knecht
An n exuberant girl poses with her stuffed animals in Jakarta
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A cozy family together by Kuala Lumpur based photographer, Erica Knecht
Black and white portraits of a brother and sister by Kuala Lumper Photographer Erica Knecht
a funny portrait of a brother and sister by Kuala Lumpur based family photographer erica knecht
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a family cuddle on bed in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photographed by Kuala Lumpur family photographer Erica Knecht
a boy jumps on the bed captured by Kuala Lumpur family photographer That Wild Road
a black and white portrait of a little girl as shot by kuala lumpur family photographer erica knecht
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a family cuddle and play together in Jakarta, Indonesia as captured by Kuala Lumpur Family Photographer That Wild Road
A portrait of mother and daughter as shot by Kuala Lumpur based photographer Erica Knecht
A father and young sun wrestle together as captured by Kuala Lumpur family photographer Erica Knecht
A cuddles together as captured by Kuala Lumpur Family Photographer Erica Knecht
a brother and sister cuddle by asia family photographer erica knecht
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A silly portrait of father and son by Asia woman photographer Erica Knecht
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A moody portrait of a young girl by asia based female photographer Erica Knecht
a happy family hang out on their sofa in a beautifully styled room as captured by Kuala Lumpur based photographer Erica knecht
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It's Warming on Me

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{EDITED TO ADD: I kinda retract this statement. Shanghai and I are, I guess, locked in a pretty tumultuous and dramatic relationship, and she's kinda in the doghouse. So. There are times when I feel like, hey, maybe this place is alright, maybe we can make a happy home here. Notably, these days usually line up pretty nicely with days when I get my groceries delivered to my front door 18 hours after I order them, and I think, how can I ever give this up! Because, in reality, life here is in many ways much easier than life in Jakarta. However, Jakarta has something on me that Shanghai does not.  A softness exists there, a gentle tenderness, you can feel it even in the way the air warms without scorching, and the people smile and mean it, and everything is no problem, la. But it's hardness here, lines and edges, toughness and struggle. And I just really want to stay soft.}

 

I didn’t fall in love with Shanghai the last time we lived here. I was 25 when we moved, green to Asia, hotheaded, and rigid in my North American turn of mind. The spitting grated at me; the scrum of people where I expected a line; the tone of speaking that to my ear sounds agressive; the traffic, the cold, the damp, the rain; the follies of working in a local company did my head in. 

 

I was too shocked by the turn my life had taken. I never expected I’d live in Asia. I felt dwarfed by the skyscrapers and too conspicuous in wide, dusty boulevards, but forgotten in a crowd. 

 

All those years ago, I did’ have the coping mechanisms that I have now. I didn’t have perspective, I didn’t have support, or an awareness that different isn’t bad. I didn’t have the curiosity to move my mind into understanding cultural motivations for strange behaviour. 

 

I didn’t have the skills that are honed and chiseled out of the granite of ten plus years living oceans away from home.

 

I don’t yet love Shanghai in the way that I love Jakarta. I don’t yet feel that tightness close to tears when I watch the shadows moving across our living room walls. I’m not watching, as I was there, my children run around wild and naked in the late afternoon sun, sure that these are the golden years; these are the remembrances cast in amber that I’ll retrieve when I’m old and rocking on my porch. I’m not there yet.

 

But I’m starting to see the charms. The ease of life here is compelling. I can buy diapers from my office chair and they’re delivered to my door 18 hours later. The subway, while crowded, takes me everywhere. I can walk around the city, despite the heat, and be charmed by old buildings, middle aged men with round bellies exposed in the summer heat, a chicken in a doorway. I can stroll through the dappled light under a plane tree (which, doesn’t hold a candle to the dappled light under a frangipani tree, I’ll have you note.) The kids can run and play outdoors in a way they never could in Jakarta. My friend network is slowly expanding beyond, like, one person. I can realise, while already out in the city, that I’m cashless and my bank card is at home, but it doesn’t matter, because I can pay for a taxi with my phone, and the lady at the bodega accepts WeChat wallet. 

 

So, I’m getting there. Indonesia has my heart. But Shanghai, like an arranged marriage, is warming on me. 

24/52

 

"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016."

Stella: You're loving the sidewalks, the subway rides, the new friends, the playgrounds, the parks, and the noodle soup. Though you do think that the lobby of the hotel in Jakarta was better. And you miss reflexi, and manicurists that came to our house, and the fact that we used to live on top of a shopping mall. 

Hugo: Our days are quieter and slower, and I think you're missing your sister. After about six weeks of having her at home all the time, she's back at school and it's just us. Most days you ask me, even before we're done breakfast if you can "kick up Yaya." I always remind you that we will pick up Stella after your sleep, and you're always brutally disapointed.  

I think these two images exemplify perfectly my children's emotional state after this big move. Stella is launching headfirst into life in China. Hugo's first steps are a bit more tentative. And I embrace and celebrate both ways of being. 

Gili Trawangan {a Travelogue}

The Gili Islands are an iconic tropical paradise; you know, the stuff of idealises Instagram life and glossy travel magazines. The GIlis are a chain of three tiny islands dotted with coconut palms and banana trees and surrounded by white sand beaches nestled in the turquoise water of the Bali Sea. Populated by a community that eschews motorised vehicles in favour of horse drawn carriages or bicycles who live along side boatload after boatload of tourists, the pace of life here is necessarily slower than elsewhere on the Indonesia tourist circuit.  

Now, before you get your hopes up and dream of solitary hammock on a deserted beach, know that the Gilis are beautiful, and obviously, and beautiful places attract tourists. Lots of them. So, quiet they are not. Gili Tarawangan, especially is packed with tourists, boatloads of them coming in from Lombok or across the strait from Bali. And with tourists come noise, crowds, and inflated pricing. Still, if you stick to some of the lesser visited corners of the Gilis, you can still have a taste of that lonely hammock on a beach sort of life. We were able to find unpopulated beaches. (At six am. :/ Parents of early risers, unite.)

I had the good fortune to visit Gili Tarawangan with my family, along with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their kids. We stayed in an AirBnB, which is often my preferred way to travel with little ones. Our villa was spacious and open, with lots of room for the kids to spread out (and spread their toys everywhere, which is kind of our MO, we’re totally the worst.) Having another family with whom to share the cost of renting a vacation home made it a little bit more affordable for us. 

 

Gili Tarawangan (Gili T., as it’s commonly known) is widely understood to be the Party Island. Particularly down by the harbour, there’s no end of bars and restaurants with music pumping and beer flowing as soon as the revellers can roll out of bed. And while our party days are kinda dampened by two very early risers, I did like being located so close to restaurants and bars and little shops.

 

We elected to stay on the far end of the island, well away from the port (about 4 km by bike). This worked out really well for us; it was quiet, and we were away from most of the hubbub, but there are some lovely family friendly places close by where we could get some great food, and the kids loved the idea of going out to a restaurant by bike.

 

We initially thought that we’d do some self catering, cooking a few meals here and there ourselves. However the heat of mid-day often drained our motivation, as did the poor selection in the local grocery store. So, we were glad to have good restaurants close by. 

 

Where to Eat 

Wilsons's Retreat

I think we ate at Wilson's Retreat almost every day. The menu is super old school classical French (which is kinda hilar considering we’re in the middle of tropical South East Asia), but it’s reliable and good. There was always something for the kids to eat (steak frites!), and the manager took good care of us. We spent the majority of our last day here eating, drinking, and lounging by the pool, which was 100 percent enjoyable. If eating here in the evening, it’s advisable to load up on mosquito repellent. 

Case Vintage

The vibe and decor of Casa Vintage is super chill and super lovely. Situated right on the beach with beautiful sunset views, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy an evening meal. They do an amazing jerk chicken (only available in later afternoon / evening) and there’s nice, fresh falafel and soup for veggie lovers. 

Il Pirata 

We found a decent burger, a pretty yummy papaya salad, and a nice little pool open to restaurant guests at Il Pirata. Skip the fresh young coconuts, though. 

 

Little Italy

We went to Little Italy for gelato and it did not disappoint! Pretty yummy! They had a “blue” ice cream to satisfy Hugo, and diary-free options for me and Stella. They also have a wood fire oven where they make some yummy-looking pizzas.

Pasar Malam

The night market is not to be missed (unless you’re me and prefer to stay home and put the baby to bed then chill out with a movie? Because yeah, that’s totally what I prefer!) But! You’ll find some lovely grilled seafood, chicken, and fresh veggies here. The food is cooked to foreign tastes, so if you like it spicy, you’ll have to ask. Oh, and I hear that the matarbak manis here is delicious.

What To Do

If you’re coming to Gili T with kids, you’re coming to chill, I think. And you’ll find that in spades. There’s plenty of beach side restaurants and bars to check out where you’ll be able to enjoy a drink while the kids play in the sand. 

There’s pretty okay snorkelling right off the coast of the north end of the island, close to Wilsons. You’ll need reef shoes to walk out, but there is plenty to see.

If I could recommend, skip the glass bottomed boats. No seriously. Worst experience ever. I won’t go into detail, except to say that snorkelling with a boat full of people who do not know how to swim is not something that I’ll even do again. ;) 

Instead, I’d suggest trying to hire a local guild or fisherman to take you out in a boat to the good snorkel sports. Or just go directly off the island yourself.

There’s also horse riding, surfing, paddle boarding, and other water activities, various and sundry. 

What we seemed to like best was exploring the beaches in the early morning, going out to breakfast, then taking a little ocean swim and a little snorkel adventure, before relaxing most of the afternoon away.


Getting There

We flew from Jakarta to Lombok, which was a short flight, under two hours. Then, a car met us at the airport. The drive back west towards the Gilis was lovely. Two hours flew by to us, old hands used to the interminable traffic jams of Jakarta. We did stop halfway through our journey at a supermarket. This, I think, is advisable because products like fresh milk, jam, cereal, etc are not widely available in Gilis. 

This was a great trip. We came back to the city feeling remarkably calm and refreshed (which isn't always the case when we travel with little ones.) I would say, though, because of the number of vehicles involved in getting to Gili T., this isn't a long weekend sort of trip. I'd suggest staying a week. 

 

The Gilis {on film}

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The family and I spent an amazing five days in the Gili Islands. We went with our French cousins, with whom, side note, I'm loving spending time, and super loving how my kids are picking up the odd word of french here and there.  Everyone now is saying, On y va! whenever we're heading out the door.

I do want to write a proper travelogue on your time there, but alas, time is in short supply (well, perhaps more accurately, time management skills are in short supply), so we'll just settle for this collection of snapshots and a few nonsense words. FOR NOW. 

Have you been the the Gilis? They are phenomenal. Normally I'm going on and on and on about how wonderful Bali is (because, duh, it is) but these three little islands off Lombok are really something, let me tell you. There are not gas-powered vehicles permitted on the islands, so everything happens by bike or horse cart. (Also, how hilarious did I look, sweating near to death on a half broken bike with two small children strapped to me???) The lack of traffic, the nature of being stuck on an island, the afternoon heat, and the general vacation atmosphere really helped us slow down, and appreciate one another more than we remember to do at home. 

We did some snorkelling, some playing on the beach, a bit of exploring, I went for a run or two, and there was also lots of hanging around and just enjoying being together. 

I took a minimal camera kit with me (unusual for me! but lovely!) and here are some snaps with a little point and shoot camera that i'm slowly falling in love with (A nikon Tii, if you're into that kind of thing), but equally frustrated with because the shutter speed maxes out at 500 and, well, going from dark jungle shade to super bright light sandy beach is fairly challenging for this little dude. However, enough camera nerdery. 

Anyway, enjoy! And maybe one of those days I'll come up with a travelogue? Possibly? 

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