Posted in bukittinggi, indonesia, sumatra by moonwire on August 1, 2009

Time to leave Padang. At around 9 AM I caught a public minivan (the kind with the sliding door taken out and benches put on both sides)  to the North of the city. Rap music was blasting from the speaker in the back but so far so good. I’ve been in one with packed to the max but this time there were only a few people on board.

When I got to where I said I needed to go, there were ‘guides’ already waiting with other minivans. I was quite happy to have found my way out so quickly and easily. I paid my 20k rupiah (about 2 dollars) and was quickly whisked to a minivan. I sat and waited for about an hour til the van was full and off we went. I felt all smug for being able to do all this so easily.

Well, while we drove through the North end of town, the driver kept on stopping to pick up more people. The van had 7 passenger seats, but quickly there were 12 passengers sharing those 7 seats.

As if being crushed wasn’t bad enough, the driver was an absolute maniac. Speeding like no tomorrow (soon enough there won’t be a tomorrow for him), and zigzagging through traffic. I honestly felt very scared during this trip. Then when we got to the South of Bukittinggi, everybody got off and I was the only passenger who needed to go to the centre, ‘Kampung China’. The maniac driver then proceeded to tell me he wanted another 20K rupiah for the last part of the trip. I had had enough of that asshole so I said no and I got out. He then lowered his price to 15, still no. Then 10. Still no. I had had it with the ripping off. He told me a taxi would cost me at least 25K rupiah. I thought, but didn’t say it out loud, ‘I’ll pay 100K for a taxi rather than you trying to rip me off.’

I said I’d walk the last 2 kilometres, but I ended up taking a public minibus and I was charged 2K, just like the locals. How nice, for a change. I have spent 2 months in Indonesia and I’ve watched and talked to enough locals to have an idea how much things cost. I am seriously sick of getting ripped off or them trying to rip me off. I know that as a tourist I can expect to pay a little more, and I don’t even mind; we’re talking about a few cents here and there but don’t do it blatantly. Not putting up with it; ma’af, ya?

So I told the minibus driver to drop me off at Singgala hotel. I had read a nice review of it in the Lonely Planet guide and as I knew I’d get to Bukittinggi early in the day, I hadn’t booked a room in advance.  So I get there. I had to pee really bad, so I decided to take the room after I had given it a quick glance. I walked into the bathroom… revolting. I got out of the bathroom and saw that there was a colony of mozzies in the room. After having gotten over 70 bites those 2 nights in Padang, I had enough of that, too. I grabbed my bag and walked to the reception where I told the man, his name was ‘Fonzie’, a big lie and that I had to leave as I was supposed to meet friends at another hotel. He then proceeded to tell me he had already booked the room for me and I had to stay. I wasn’t in the mood to be f***ed with, said sorry, smiled and walked out. Now what?

I decided to walk around the neighbourhood to see if there was something better. Most places I saw were disgusting, but eventually I did. I found the Orchid hotel. My first room, with a shared, rather disgusting bathroom, wasn’t so great, but after a little accident with a broken key I was moved into a lovely room with a private balcony. The bathroom was smelly and it had a squat toilet and a barely there shower, but at least this room had a good vibe, and I didn’t need to share a disgusting bathroom anymore.

I didn’t do much there. I felt really bummed out and tired. I walked around town a few times and there wasn’t much going on. Yeah, it’s pretty there. Great views of Mt. Merapi, an active vulcano, it’s very green and not so hot as it’s high in the mountains, but I just wasn’t feeling the place. Great and cheap food, though. That was the highlight of my day. I spent a lot of time reading in my room and I quite enjoyed that, but three days was  enough for me there. The weather was bad, too. Lots of rain. Lots.

Another thing that got to me there were the mosques. Sure, I had heard them in Java and Lombok and even in Lovina. Yogya had its fair share but it wasn’t anything like in Bukittinggi. In Bukittinggi, there are a lot of mosques, all very close together. And the chatter would start just after 4 AM and it would be loud and continous for several hours. Bukittinggi is supposed to be ‘relaxed’. Well, I was so sleep deprived that I didn’t find it exactly relaxing to be woken up that early and then not being able to sleep anymore (and ear plugs are not sufficient). Forget about naps, too. No chance.

View of Mt. Merapi, as seen from the rooftop of the Orchid Hotel.

However, after my drive to Bukittinggi, I knew I wasn’t going to be in the same position for at least 15 hours (instead of 12) in order to get to Lake Toba, my original Sumatran destination. I started to feel burnt out from being on the move (after I left Lovina, I did 1 night Sanur, 4 nights Kuala Lumpur, 6 nights Yogyakarta, 2 nights Jakarta, 2 nights Padang, and then 3 nights Bukittinggi) plus, I didn’t realize it then but I do now, I was coming down with something.

Enough of the hassles. I went online and I booked a ticket with Air Asia from Padang to Kuala Lumpur (only international destination I could find with a direct flight from Padang). I booked a nice room at the Tune Hotel in downtown KL as I had heard their rooms are comfy and their HOT showers are fabulous, then fly to Phuket, Thailand for some much needed chilling out. I’ve had enough of cramped, hot, sweaty, smoggy, crazy cities for now.

One thing I’ve learnt is not to listen to other people when it comes to ‘cool places’. Yogyakarta didn’t really do it for me, neither did the Borobudur, and definitely not Bukittinggi. On the other hand, places like Padang and Jakarta, which aren’t usually favourably talked about, I liked a lot. Those are real places with real people and not overrun with tourists. With the exception of the beaches, I hate tourist attractions. I don’t care what anybody says, when I do visit Cambodia, you won’t be seeing me at Angkor Wat.

The next installment will be a more cheerful one. I’m in Hat Kata, Phuket now. Getting over my exhaustion and cold by indulging in some sunshine, beach and reading. Nothing going on here.  Not too many tourists. Lovely.

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Posted in indonesia, padang, sumatra by moonwire on July 31, 2009

My flight to Padang was delayed by almost 6 hours, so I basically spent most of my day at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport. There wasn’t all that much to do but there was a Starbucks and a good food place.

The flight itself was fine. It didn’t even take 2 hours to get there. Once the plane doors were open, I was out of the airport in 5 minutes (gotta love having only a carry on bag), and I found myself submerged in rain of biblical proportions. It was actually pretty cold, too. I expected it to be much hotter, being that close to the equator.

I got to my hotel in about 30 minutes. The hotel was okay. I did have to change rooms, from a double to 2x twin beds, but my second room was a lot nicer. Nice hardwood floors and a big wooden wardrobe (with no hangers – oh so Indonesian).

The big white building was my hotel; Hotel Nuansa.

My first night I didn’t do all that much. It was very rainy and windy so I ate at a little warung (tiny restaurant). The lady whipped up some fantastic nasi goreng (fried rice with a fried egg and prawn crackers). Padang food is supposed to be spicy and it definitely was. And cheap, too. My meal, with a drink, cost me 50 cents. Happy. After dinner I went back to my room as it was very stormy. I slept really well and woke up very early.

After brekkie, I decided to make a loop through the whole downtown core of Padang. I also wanted to check out the Batang Arau hotel. I had read that this hotel was situated near the harbour, in the old quarter of town. It used to be a bank, then converted into a very quirky hotel with four rooms. I had tried calling them from Jakarta but as my phone service died there, I didn’t think much of it when I was unable to reach them.

Lovely body art on display in the Old Quarter. Cantik!

My first mission however, was trying to find the Bukittinggi Wisata Express travel agent to book my ticket to Bukittinngi, a small town 2 hours north of Padang with stunning views of Mount Merapi (an active vulcano). I couldn’t find the agency for the life of me, but I did find a big mall with a lot of tiny little clothing stores selling loud t-shirts while blasting very loud, mostly cheesy punk rock music, from every corner.

As I couldn’t find the agency, I continued my walk into the old quarter. I did not encounter a single Westerner that day, but I felt like a celebrity. Everywhere I walked I heard ‘hellooo, misss’ and the occasional ‘hellooo, misterrr’. English sure isn’t widely spoken there.

Typical Indonesian street scene; dudes smoking and drinking at little roadside ‘restaurants’.

When I reached the Batang Arau hotel, it became clear why I hadn’t been able to reach them. They were closed. I peeked through the fence and it looked like it had been an amazing place. Too bad it’s no longer in business.

The now closed Batang Arau Hotel, which used to be an old (Dutch) bank building; ‘de Padangsche Spaarkas’.

Having said that, I could also understand why. Though personally, I enjoy just walking through towns, observing real life as opposed to touristy things, there isn’t all that much to draw the tourists in. Padang has gorgeous beaches surrounded by beautiful palm trees and there’s a promenade all along the beach with little outdoor restaurants. The only thing lacking is the customers. Just empty seats and tables. I also understand why. Though the beach has gorgeous sand and the water is warm, and there are great waves for surfing, there is so much litter on and around the beach, it’s shameful. No tourist wants to lie down between piles of empty cans and bottles and broken slippers. That’s one thing the people in Kuta/Legian (Bali) understand. Keep the beaches clean and the tourists will come.

Padang Beach; it must have been really nice many moons ago.

Kid at the one of many empty sea side restaurants.

I had a great day in Padang, though. I really enjoyed it. However, the issue of the travel agency was bothering me, so I called them. Out of business. No surprise, really.

Alley in the Old Quarter with the typical Padang ‘Minangkabau’ style pointy roofs.

Minangkabau style roofs are also used for modern buildings.

Having said that, I still had to get to Bukittinggi the next day, so I found the tourist office. Surprisingly, that hadn’t closed yet (still a matter of time). The man told me there are no more tourist buses to Bukittinggi. I would have to take local transport. He explained to me how to go about it and though it seemed a bit scary, I had no choice but to just do it. And I did. Sumatra style!

Padang’s old harbour. Despite the many wrecks and the shallow water, it is apparently still used.

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Posted in indonesia, jakarta, java by moonwire on July 29, 2009

I left Yogyakarta at 7 AM to catch a train to Jakarta. The ‘Argo’ (more luxury) trains were sold out, so I had to take a seat on the ‘bisnis’ train. Well, I didn’t expect ‘bisnis’ to be up to Western ‘bisnis’ class, but what I encountered then, I never expected. The seats were okay, but I wouldn’t call them exactly comfortable. They reminded me of the seats we used to have in Holland for the short distance trains.

But okay,  9 hours sitting on that would be do-able. Well, after about an hour into the ride, a whole bunch of people selling stuff embarked. Nasi goreng and chicken, drinks, cigarettes, fake wallets, mini sewing machines, teddy bears, slippers, toys. With the exception of the food, drinks and cigarettes, most sellers just threw the stuff onto your seat or lap so you’d have some time to grab some money. If you didn’t want it, they’d come back to pick up the crap. This went on for hours. At every station where we stopped, new ones came on. With the same stuff and the game started again. And it wasn’t just sellers getting on. I also saw drag queens doing bad music performers and a bunch of disabled people begging for money up and down the isles. The only thing missing were the goats and chickens.

Another curious thing is the habit of people to just throw their garbage out the window. Bottles, cups, cigarette butts, food left overs, newspapers. Off it goes, into the environment. The amount of garbage along the railroad is shocking.

The train is supposed to sell tickets for the seats, but it was obviously overbooked, or people booked a ticket without a seat. After an hour or two, people were sleeping in the isles and in front of the ‘kamar cecil’ (bathroom). Needless to say, after about 4 hours I was totally done with this. Luckily, the man who sat next to me arrived at his destination so I had 2 seats for myself and it was slightly more comfortable.

When we got into the outskirts of Jakarta, I noticed the people living next to the tracks. I had seen this in a documentary called ‘War Photographer’, about James Nachtwey. Severely shocking. People sleeping on dirty matresses in and on piles of garbage. Just horrible.

I arrived at Pasar Senen station at 5 pm. I took a cab to my guesthouse, which was situated in South Jakarta. After the bombings, I thought it would be better to hang out in a residential neighbourhood, rather than the touristy one. Well, it took me 2.5 hours in a continuous traffic jam to get there. When I finally got here, I was seriously surprised where I had ended up. It’s a huge house, with a swimming pool and it has just a few guest rooms. The people live upstairs. I wasn’t feeling it, and decided to move closer to the old city centre the next morning. I could just imagine trying to get to the airport from here. It might have taken me 4 or 5 hours.

I left the guesthouse at around 8 AM by cab. Even though I was once again stuck in traffic for an hour to get to Blok M where I would take the Transjakarta bus into the city, I was happy to be gone from that place. I can’t exactly say why I didn’t feel right there. The room was big and clean, there was a pool, but I just wasn’t able to relax (even though I did sleep very well). Also very strange, after I checked in, the people were nowhere to be found. I hadn’t eaten properly all day and was starving, but nothing to be had. The only one I saw around was a white dog (just a tad smaller than my dad’s best friend). He had one blue eye and one brown eye and he seemed to like me a lot. He creeped me out.

Anyways, after I hastily made my way out of the guesthouse, I arrived at Blok M. Blok M is a huge mall complex and bus terminal. When I bought my ticket, I asked the girl where I should get off for Jl. Jaksa, my next destination. She didn’t speak English but luckily a man who was also buying a ticket told me to just get the ticket. He was going in my direction and he said he’d tell me where to get off the bus. The bus ride was great. The Transjakarta buses are airconditioned , they have their own lanes and they don’t let too many people on at once, so it wasn’t crowded. When we got to the ‘Sarinah’ stop, the man told me to get off the bus and where to find Jl. Jaksa. I ended up taking an ojek, which is basically a very slow scooter with a bench in the back. It worked fine. I got on Jl. Jaksa and started looking for a guesthouse. This was also the first time in 2 days I encountered a tourist. I found a cheap guesthouse right away. It wasn’t exactly great; shared bathroom (cleanliness was obviously not their forte) but I was just so glad to be out of South Jakarta. Jl. Jaksa is a tiny street with lots of little restaurants, bars, guesthouses, used bookshops etc. I just put myself down at a place, read the newspaper, took advantage of the free wifi and drank tea. What a lovely afternoon.

After Ami was done with work, we met up. And it was really great meeting her. She was exactly how I expected her to be. And most surprising, to me at least, her English  is very very good. And not just because I’ve gotten used to hearing  ‘trrransport, trrransport, ya?’ but her accent is so good. She told me she learnt it from watching movies 🙂 We had some really great food (I forgot what it was called, but it was different pieces of tofu like things with spicy peanut sauce). Delicious. After dinner we went to a book store. It reminded me a bit of borders. Big store. Lots of English books as well. Didn’t end up buying anything but it sure was tempting.

Ami told me something very interesting that I didn’t know. Most Indonesian people don’t have a family name. When you see two names, those are just two given names. The last name is not a family name. Some people, like Soekarno, only have one name. Fascinating.

When I walked back from the Transjakarta bus station, I was simply amazed at what was happening in the streets. Lots and lots of little food stalls. People hanging out, talking, playing chess or guitar, eating, drinking. It was very very lively and for a moment I wished I had had another day in Jakarta to soak up more of this.

Though my stay in Jakarta didn’t start out so great I had a really good day in Jl. Jaksa and judging by the mood in the streets, I think Jakarta could actually be a great city to spend some more time in. ‘Maybe later, ya?’

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Posted in borobudur, indonesia, java, solo, yogyakarta by moonwire on July 20, 2009

I learnt another thing, going to Yogyakarta from Kuala Lumpur. Check your departure times. For whatever reason, I was convinced my flight left at 5 pm. Well, as it happened, I tried to print out my e-ticket at my hostel (something I never do) and then all of a sudden I realised my flight was at 3 and I would have to be at the airport in half an hour.

I quickly grabbed my bag, ran to the train station. Got the train to KL Sentral, got off, bought a ticket to the airport, got off, got the bus to LCC Terminal. I got there at around 2 pm. Line ups at immigration (of course) and honestly, I was pissing myself if I was going to make that flight. I arrived at the gate, just around boarding time. Then it was announced the flight had a two hour delay. Well, it was just enough to catch my breath and buy a sandwich and a drink. The flight itself was good. I arrived at my hotel, the Ministry of Coffee in Prawirotaman, at around 8 pm and when I was taken to my room, I was one happy camper. My room is simply amazing. It is very nicely decorated. It’s got a big bathroom with a tub and a fantastic shower and the best is that I have a private patio with a fish pond in front of it. The staff here is fantastic and so is the breakfast. Yes, it was more than I wanted to spend, but for 35 USD a night this is really something very special.

The first morning however, it wasn’t so great. I walked around the area and there wasn’t really much going on. It was also very hot and the air here was (is) very bad. I took it easy for the rest of the day, and at night I met up with Paul, the dutch guy I had met in Lovina already. We spent the next few days doing a few things as well as chilling out and enjoying some of the most incredible food at Via Via cafe down the street.

On Friday we went to Solo, if only to experience being on a train that locals use. The train ride was only about an hour. When we got out of the station, there was a local market and it was amazing. It was really run down and just looking at the flies buzzing around (and on) the meat took away any sense of wanting to eat something there, but the people were so curious and so friendly. They all wanted their picture taken and someone even asked if it was free to get their picture taken! It was such a different experience than I had expected. I had read that Solo was one of the least westernized and most conservative towns in Java. I certainly didn’t expect such a warm welcome. Just great. Even better, there were no tourists at all.

On Saturday we went to Malioboro street. Incredibly busy. Lots of food stalls (once again, no appetite), batik shops and stalls with just crap. It was lovely walking around there for a bit, but very tiring at the same time. So much going on. So busy and noisy. So much heat and smog.

On Sunday we went to the Borobudur. What a buddhist theme park it was. Bus loads of tourists, luckily mostly Indonesians, but it was hard to enjoy it for what it was with so many people. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t have to go back there ever again.

Then on Monday morning, we visited the Kraton, the Sultan of Yogyakarta’s palace. Kind of the same story. It’s nice to see, but I’m done with that kind of stuff rather quickly. I mostly enjoy the things around it, such as the people working there. Just observing what they do (or don’t, for that matter).

The funniest thing though was sitting in a becak, which is a bicycle with 2 (very small) seats in front. You get harassed to take one every other second here in Yogya. Well, after we visited the palace, we just wanted to sit down in the shade and have a ciggie. We paid a becak driver and sat down. He asked us where to take us. We said ‘nowhere and just rested in the becak, then we got out and continued our walk.

Yogyakarta was a lot of fun. There’s not all that many points of interest to me here, but just observing the local people’s lives is very interesting. This is the first time I’ve ever been to a so-called developing country’s big city. I’ve seen some things that make me feel really blessed for the life I have. My time here was just perfect;  a nice mixture of seeing stuff and just relaxing, enjoying the feel of the city, the good food and the company. Off to Jakarta tomorrow morning. I’ll be taking the train. It will be a 9 hour ride (at least). This could be interesting…

A ‘becak’ in Yogyakarta. There’s about 20 on every corner of every street and just as many inbetween.

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bye bye lovina, hello again sanur.

Posted in bali, indonesia, lovina, sanur by moonwire on July 12, 2009

My last week in Lovina was really fantastic. I met a Dutch guy at the Angsoka hotel,  Paul. He will stay in Lovina for 2 months and work as a teacher at a local school. When I met him at the pool, we started talking and we hung out for the rest of the week and it was a lot of fun. One morning we went into the village in the mountains on the motorbike and it was amazing. No tourists there, just local people. The views were stunning and the smell of dried cloves was all around. That’s what the real Bali is about, though Lovina was really pretty quiet the whole time I was there.

Roasting ‘babi guling’ (suckling pig) on Lovina Beach.

That night we went back into the village because some dude by the name of ‘Jimi Hendrix’ swindled us into going to a song and dance performance by a bunch of local kids. It sounded really good. He even let us read a testimonial by some woman who had been there before. Well, when they started I couldn’t believe my ears and eyes. It was so out of tune and void of any consistent rhythm and LOUD. The girls were yawning away and well, we were laughing away. Especially when they invited the guests to join in with the dancing. Only one woman hit the dance floor. Oh my god! She was wearing a longish yellow t-shirt, that resembled a bad nighty at best. You could see her big white underwear riding up her ass right through it. It was like a car crash. Didn’t want to look, but also couldn’t look away. Though the performance itself was pretty chaotic, it was great to see the kids from the village watching from the sidelines. And well, it was an evening I’ll never forget.

Sunset at Lovina Beach.

On Friday morning I had to leave Lovina in order to go to Sanur. I didn’t want to make the entire journey from Lovina to Denpasar airport in one stretch. As it turned out, it only took 3.5 hours to get to Sanur. The same amount of time it took me to get to Lovina from Ubud. So I got here really early. I had booked a room at the Swastika bungalows again. I couldn’t get the cheapo room I had before so I had to shell out for the privilege of having A/C (prefer a fan, actually), hot water, a telly with 13 horrible, cheesy channels.

It’s amazing how different Sanur is compared to 3 weeks ago. Three weeks ago it was very quiet. Hardly any people and now the place is packed. My neighbours, Australians, have 2 small kids and they scream and throw things and they all speak loud. I can hear every single word. Australian tourists are definitely not my faves in general. I never thought I would say it but the Dutch people are the least annoying in general. I must say I’m glad to leave Sanur tomorrow. I cannot imagine staying here for more than 2 days. I really think Lovina is a gem and I hope it will never become anything like Sanur in high season.

View from my balcony at the Swastika bungalows in Sanur.

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lovina (part 2)

Posted in bali, indonesia, lovina by moonwire on July 6, 2009

I’ve been almost 3 weeks in Lovina now, and though last week I had a bit of a feeling that I was beached out, it pretty quickly faded away. I’m loving it here. My days are simple. I wake up around 7 am, get brekkie, go to the pool til about noon, go to my room and chill out a bit, get lunch, go back to either the pool or the beach and watch the sunset at the beach. Back to my room to get dressed for dinner. After dinner a night swim at the pool (so lovely, nobody there, the pool has lights under water). Then go for a walk through town or stay at my bird cage and have a Bintang. By 10 pm it’s bed time.

At first I thought I want to go to the big temple, the hot springs, Singaraja… but hell no. I love doing nothing. I’m never bored.

I did only one thing and that was taking a cooking class. It was really cool. Putu, the chef, picked me up at my hotel at 8.30, we then went to the market to buy the ingredients for our dishes. We then hopped into a bemo, which is a small mini bus with benches on both sides. It’s what the locals use for their ‘public transport’. And yes, they take anything and everything on board with them. And while the bus maybe seats 8, you’ll find yourself squeezed in with 10 others and some livestock. You get the idea.

Putu looking for potatoes at the local market.

Anyway, after we got off the bemo, we walked through the village to Putu’s house. His wife was already busy preparing the garlic. So we decided on making nasi goring, vegetable curry, Balinese potato fritters and gado gado. It wasn’t hard at all. Only the grinding of the pepper, hot peppers and garlic took me some effort but it was a lot of fun. As soon as we had prepared all the basic pastes, we got cooking. Hmmm the smells. It turned out great and the food was yummy. It was a lot of fun.

Putu’s wife Sari, who had just fried the peanuts for the gado-gado sauce.

The finished product!

Balinese cooking princess at work.

Other than that, as I said I don’t do much. I met a Dutch guy here, Paul, who’s in Lovina (also staying at the Angsoka hotel) for 2 months and he does some part time teaching here (he’s a teacher in Holland). We’ve had great talks and shared some good food and drinks. It’s really nice to meet people like him. I just find it funny that he’s also Dutch. The other really cool people I met were also Dutch (the ones I met in Legian).

Yet another sunset at Lovina Beach.

So, that’s pretty much it. I’m off to Sanur for 1 night on Friday. The drive from Lovina all the way to the airport is just too long. Especially since I’ll arrive in Kuala Lumpur late at night. I’ll be in Kuala Lumpur for 4 nights, then I’m off to Yogyakarta. I had the greatest difficulty finding a hotel there. All booked. Then my friend Ami, who lives in Jakarta, told me that weekend is a long weekend for Indonesians and they flock to tourist places. I should have researched this better as I would have taken the train to Singapore and fly out from Singapore after the long weekend. But oh well. It’s done now. I only have 4 nights booked at the Ministry of Coffee in Yogya. It seems like a really really nice place, but it costs me my daily budget. I’ll have to think of another place to go in East Java before I head to Pangandaran, west of Yogya, on the coast for a few days of relaxing on the beach.

Oh yes, I do have a really nice tan.

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lovina (part 1)

Posted in bali, indonesia, lovina by moonwire on June 30, 2009

I left Ubud on Wednesday morning to go up to North Bali, Lovina Beach to be precise. Lovina is located about 10 km west of Bali’s second largest city, Singaraja. Though the drive was long, almost 4 hours (for 40 kilometres) and mostly through tiny villages and rice paddies, all this in a bumpy mini bus, it was stunning. Originally I wanted to make a stop in Bedugul to see  Mount and Lake Bratan, but when I got there, I was glad I hadn’t. It was definitely chilly up there. Though the scenery was stunning, there wouldn’t be any swimming in the lake. So we kept on going through the mountains, seeing many monkeys, driving through the clouds til we finally hit Singaraja. Then finally, after we drove through the city, the road was actually quite decent and the last 10 kilometres were a breeze.

I had booked a hotel from Sanur already, the Angsoka, which I found quickly. This town is so small, it really only consists of a few streets. There’s quite a few restaurants and hotels, but they are all pretty empty.

So, someone from the hotel took me to my room. I had to laugh a little because this hotel has some really nice bungalows and rooms and there was just one rice barn style bird cage. The bird cage was mine. For 5 bucks a night, I didn’t expect much, but it’s actually really cute. It’s about 2 by 2 metres. There’s a double bed and one little table, a fan and that’s it. In the back I have a tiny little patio with one (quite comfy) chair and a table. My bathroom is right next to it on the ground floor. It’s almost as big as my room, though I wish it was as nice. There’s only cold water, a flushing toilet (which I didn’t expect) , a mandi (a big bucket with a scoop to clean yourself after you do your business. They gave me a bog roll as well, but I’ve grown to love the mandi since I visited  Gili Meno.

My bird cage bungalow.

The pool is fabulous. Especially at night, when the underwater lights are on and nobody is there. I make great use of it. Especially since the beach isn’t all that appealing for sunbathing and swimming. When the tide is low, it’s very hard to swim and because the beach is made up from grey-ish black volcanic sand, it gets incredibly hot. I like walking on it. I just don’t like to go swimming there. There’s also too many people wanting to sell you all kinds of crap. From sarongs and clothing to bracelets and dolphin tours (dolphin ‘hunting’ is the big tourist thing here).

The Dolphin Monument at Lovina Beach.

So I basically spend my time at the pool; reading and swimming, going for walks before and after lunch and going back to the pool in the afternoon again. Then get some dinner, then back to the pool for some more swimming and the occasional Bintang.

I like it a lot here. It’s really chilled out and relaxed. No free wifi anywhere, though. You gotta buy pre-paid cards and the connection is flaky and it’s relatively expensive. I have decided I’m gonna stay here til I’m really bored of it though going to another beach town in Bali will be the same kind of deal.

There’s a lot of little warungs here with cheap, authentic food. That’s where the locals eat. I eat there, too. There’s usually just one big table and you just sit down. A dish like nasi goreng (fried rice with a fried egg and prawn crackers) is only about a dollar. And I’m pretty sure the dollar is only because I’m a tourist and therefore, chances are that I get over charged. It still amazes me that you can live here on 10 bucks a day, including a large beer.

Doing great here.  The sun always shines. The water in the pool is fresh and warm.  I have a nice tan. I’m happy here. The only problem is mosquitos. I wear long pants and long sleeves at night. Luckily it actually gets quite chilly here after the sun goes down.

Rice paddies off the main street in Lovina.

As for the food… never thought I’d say it, but I’m getting bored with nasi goreng and gado gado. Not that I don’t like it, but there’s not a lot variety.  However, just around the corner there’s a fabulous Thai restaurant,  Jasmine Kitchen run by a small group of very nice women. They have the big cushions and the low tables and they always play chill out tunes and there’s cats running around. I seriously had one of the best curries ever there. Their pad thai is also excellent. They also serve some really good Illy coffee and they always have the Jakarta post.  The service is immaculate and oh, they serve ginger tea with big pieces of real ginger (60 cents for a big pot). That place is a little gem, and because it’s in an alley and not on one of the main streets, it’s never busy (then again, the only place I’ve seen busy is the Sea Breeze Cafe. Though its location, right on the beach is fantastic, the food is pricy and mediocre.

‘Kuching kecil’ at Jasmine Kitchen.

In the next instalment of my exciting life here I’ll tell about the Balinese cooking class I took 🙂

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Posted in bali, indonesia, ubud by moonwire on June 23, 2009

I left Sanur on Sunday morning in order to go Ubud for a few days. The bus ride, about one hour, was beautiful. I did not have a room booked in advance, so after I got off the bus, near the Sacred Monkey Forest, I walked up Monkey Forest road and the first person who asked offered a room for 88,000 IDR, which is about 9 USD a night. I didn’t expect much, cause I had been used to paying at least double that, but when we got to the room, it was actually really nice. Big bamboo bed, wooden floors, big bathroom with a hot water shower, a private balcony with 2 chairs and a table and brekkie included (delivered to my patio).

So I took the room and I settled myself on the balcony with a book and felt all relaxed til I heard this kerfuffle in the tree in front of my balcony. There was this monkey sitting in it, looking at me. I actually felt a little scared (you know me and wildlife). Just a minute later, another one joined. Then I looked around and I saw all kinds of macaques sitting on the rooftops. I didn’t realise I had chosen a room that close to the Monkey Forest but it’s been great entertainment so far.

Kind of hard to see through a 28mm lens, but this is what I’m looking out on. In the mornings and late afternoons, the roof is filled with monkeys.

So here I am in Ubud. Only 3 days and I’m done with it already. It’s too busy. Too touristy.  The sidewalks are narrow and often broken up. Try moving along with the Japanese girls wearing their stupid umbrellas. Luckily, where I am is a good location. It’s at the end of the road, so it’s not so busy and there’s some really good restaurants just a 5 minute walk up the hill. I like my room a lot but that’s about it and I’ve managed to steal a wonky signal from the mediocre coffee shop across the road. There just isn’t all that much to see or do here, other than shopping (which I don’t do), eating (which I try not to do too much) and going for walks through the rice paddies (for which it is way too hot after 10 AM).

Another, probably rabid, stray dog in the Ubud market place.

Rice paddies in the middle of Ubud.

I did go into the Monkey Forest, but honestly, this was a big disappointment. It’s really a very small area, and though there’s some beautiful spots, the monkeys tend to congregate around the entrances where the people with the bananas come in. However, it was a lot of fun to watch those little bastards jumping on people’s backs when they smelled there were bananas hidden in the bags. They were quite aggressive about it, too. One wouldn’t let a woman go til she had given the monkey all her bananas. Only when he had devoured all of them, would he go away, probably looking for an other victim to rob.

I had already heard that these sweet looking creatures aren’t so sweet when they want your food so I hadn’t bought any for them. I also did go for a short walk out in the paddies, but the sun was too hot for my liking (it was also around noon, not a good time).

I basically spent a good amount of time on my balcony reading books and watching the monkeys. At night I did enjoy walking up and down the road as the day tourists were gone, the traffic was much lighter and it was actually a pretty chilled out place. But during the day… not so much.

I’m off to North Bali, to Lovina. It should be a lovely (and probably long) drive through the hills, which will also give me an idea if I want to go to Bedogul, close to Danau Bratan, volcano lakes. But secretly I hope that I will love it enough in Lovina to stay there for at least a week. After that, I might go back to the South of Bali and spend some time in Padangbai til I catch my flight out. We’ll see.

From what I understand, Lovina is a pretty laidback place but I’d be surprised if I found any wireless there. I know there is an internet café, so I’ll try to stay in touch as much as I can.

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Posted in bali, indonesia, sanur by moonwire on June 20, 2009

This is now my third time that I’ve entered Bali and this feeling of happiness hasn’t faded one bit as soon as I smell the air. Because Bali is Hindu and the ritual of the offerings (baskets made out of woven leaves, filled with rice, flowers, crackers and incense)  is very important, you’ll see and smell those little offerings everywhere. The dogs must be happy here, because on numerous occasions I’ve seen those manky little things rummaging through the baskets to get the crackers out. The Balinese don’t mind. To them, the gods have already received the offering, what’s left is just… left.

The Balinese are such beautiful people. Despite the poverty (and it’s hard to imagine when you spend time at lovely places surrounded by palm trees, flowers and swimming pools, the reality is that many live on $150 a month or even less), they move with so much grace, always smiling, polite and well dressed.

I got to the airport late at night and had already booked my hotel in advance. No matter how much I liked Legian, I wanted something a bit more quiet. Well, more quiet I got. I’m in Sanur, on the coast opposite of  Kuta/Legian, only a 20 minute ride from the airport. Lonely Planet has given it the moniker ‘snore’ and it’s right on. It’s very sleepy. Most tourists here are couples in their 40s and up. No partying at night, actually nothing going on at night, at all. It suits me fine.

I have a lovely room at the Swastika Bungalows, right off the main street. I have an outdoors bathroom with a tub/shower, a separate cold water shower, sink and toilet and a private patio with 2 chairs and a table. Though the room itself isn’t as charming as my gecko bungalow in Gili Meno, it’s big, comfy and kept very clean. Their ‘library’ even amazed me. I found a book by one of the most popular Indonesian writers, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. They had several books I was interested in, but okay, you take one, you leave one.

I don’t have much to write because I’ not doing much. I basically spend my morning at the pool, then go for lunch (and I’ve had some of the best Indo food here so far; satay ayam (bbq’d chicken on bamboo skewers), with rice cakes and veggies, served with peanut sauce and super delicious kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) with fresh hot chillies in it. Another good one was at an organic restaurant; a chickpea pizza with tomato and arugula. Not to mention the ‘nasi campur’ I had, from a little warung (stall with a few tables). I’m eating really well here and it’s yummy. The portions are generally small (according to American standards), which is perfect. I’ve lost a good amount of weight here, without depriving myself of anything.

Kids holding a kitten I found in the street.

After lunch I go to the beach, hang out for a while, or go for a walk. The beach in Sanur is great. In certain places even better than in Legian/Seminyak. However, swimming sucks in almost all places. If the tide is low, there’s barely any swimming possible as there’s the reef. In high tide, you can go about waist deep, because the reef is still there. There’s no waves. Nothing going on. Luckily, the Swastika Bungalows has 2 pools and it’s really nice. Not many people go ever in there, and the water is not heavily chlorinated and it gets warm as soon as the sun hits it.

I’m afraid there’s no stories to tell (or photos to show, as the only time I actually intended on taking some, I discovered I didn’t have an SD card in my camera). I am really just chilling out and enjoying every single bit of it. I’m off to Ubud tomorrow. I booked a flight out of Bali for July 11 so I’ll still have lots of time here. Tomorrow morning I’m leaving for Ubud, stay there for a day and see if I can get into the mountains easily, if not, I’ll continue on to the North and spend some time in Singaraja and Lovina. Ahh….This island is magic. And oh yes, I have a tan.

(Sanur: June 15 – June 21)

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gili meno (+ gili air)

Posted in gili meno, indonesia, lombok by moonwire on June 7, 2009

I left Gili Trawangan on Wednesday morning to take the island hopping boat to Gili Meno. I had booked  a room online at the Tao Kombo, but when I got here, they hadn’t read their email, yet. I soon understood why. There’s only one internet place on the island. It’s right inland, very small and the connection is horribly slow.

Anyway, the room I had booked, a sleeping platform (beruga) with bamboo blinds, basically, was not available. But there was a bungalow I could take if I wanted to. Strangely enough, the bungalow was the same price I expected to pay for the beruga, as I had to pay for 2 people even if I only needed space for myself. The bungalow is wonderful. It has a fairly large room with a queen size bed, mosquito net, a shelving unit, a little table with a lamp, a fan and the bathroom is in the back. Open! Really cool. It is very hippy-ish.

There’s also a gecko in the room. When I first saw her, I completely freaked out. I had been to the Tao Kombo bar and had had 2 Bintangs and I felt slightly tipsy. I had to go to the bathroom and as soon as I turned on the light, there were a bunch of little frogs jumping up and down, trying to make their way out. When I came back to the room, I saw this huge lizard on the wall. She’s about 20 cms long. I didn’t know what to do, but I was so freaked out, I went to the bar and said there’s a gecko in my room. They all laughed at me freaking out. She lives here and is apparently a sign for good luck.

I see her now and again. Usually not during the day, but at night she’s here. Though one morning she was on the wall very close to me and woke me up with her very loud barking. I must admit, it was slightly unsettling but I’ve grown to like her. I even bought a little necklace with a gecko, for good luck.

I haven’t done much here in Gili Meno. The Tao Kombo compound is wonderfully secluded in the jungle. It’s about a  300 meter walk to a very good beach but it’s lovely hearing all the birds and chickens that run freely here. There’s 5 bungalows and a few berugas scattered around a large garden and there’s a great bar with mellow tunes at night.

This place is so very different from Trawangan. It’s not at all built up. There’s one general store where you can buy pretty much all you need, but there’s no swanky restaurants, bars or clubs. There’s nothing going on here and it’s great. I took a walk all around the island a few times now and there’s long stretches of beach with nobody there. There’s little ‘warung’ (very basic little restaurants) scattered all along the coast, but mainly the east side, where I am.. I’ve had some really great food here; gado gado (veggies in peanut sauce), nasi and bami goring, a local dish with veggies in coconut milk (forgot the name). Very cheap, too. Today, my lunch (the local dish with rice) cost me less than $1.50. There’s lots of cool, cheap places to eat here. Most of them serve Indonesian food  and a few western dishes. I was surprised to see that French fries with mayo is often on the menu here.

I have decided to stay here til I have to go back to Bali on Thursday. I will take a daytrip to Gili Air (the last of the three ‘Gilis’) but won’t spend the night there. I love Meno so much, especially because it is so super chilled out. The people are nice and it’s way less commercialized than Trawangan. But I guess maybe 10 or 15 years ago, Trawangan must have been like this.

So really, no adventures from here. I basically eat, sleep, drink and chill out on the beach here. That’s all there is to do. Wonderful.

(gili meno: may 27 – june 4)

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