Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lombak Island

Karen thought it would be a good idea for us to take the Public or Discount ferry from Gili T to Lombak Island. You can clearly see the island from Gili but it was a lot farther away than you would think, as we were about to find out. We walked the half K up the beach road to the dock and bought our tickets, which at 10 IDR clock in at about a buck ten.
The boat was leaving right away. We could see the little ferry rocking back and forth in the surf and I was suddenly worried. This was not the sturdiest looking vessel I had ever seen. We were told it had a 25 person capacity. I was thinking it would be a little tight with 25 people but shouldn’t be too bad. Karen and I got on early and took a seat towards the front of the boat. We then watched with our concern growing, as goods and equipment were also loaded on the boat. We watched horrified as person after person got in or on the boat. At last count there were well over forty people stuffed inside, on top of and on the side of this rickety inboard motor boat.
“These are exactly the kind of boats you hear about sinking on the news” I said just as we pushed off. We sat patiently as the captain spent five minutes trying to get the engine to turn over. Finally the motor roared to life and lilting dangerously to the right, we sped off toward Lombak Island. The entire trip, luckily, only took 25 minutes.
We landed, luggage in tow, and attempted to get a taxi. A real taxi, not an animal powered one. This island was much bigger and had actual motorized vehicles on it. We hooked up with a British girl who was going to the same area as us, so we decided to share a taxi. I stood back in the shade while Karen and the Brit bartered intensely with the taxi driver. Eventually an acceptable price was agreed upon and we set off. It was a good thing we were not traveling by horse because the drive took an hour by car. On a positive note, it was one of the prettiest drives I have ever experienced. The entire ride was made up of winding roads through the mountains that had expansive panoramic views of mountain peaks and ocean below. Truly stunning.
The resort is nestled in a valley with oceanfront acreage. Literally in the middle of nowhere, there was not a lot for us to do except enjoy the ocean and the pool at the resort. We eventually got a little stir crazy and decided to take a taxi to the nearest town and try to drum up some excitement.
As soon as we got out of the taxi the sellers surrounded us. “look here boss!”, “Check it out boss.” They overwhelmed us. I immediately got claustrophobic and pushed my way passed them, trying to be as polite as possible. I know it is how they make their living, but the aggressive hard sell while competing with other sellers doing the same thing is a bit much for anyone to take. We escaped to a market where there was a live performance of Indonesian stick fighting going on with much fanfare surrounding it. We tried to see it from the ground but were not very successful. We decided to hop into one of the restaurants with balconies overlooking the grounds.
The view of the stick fighting was great, but the best surprise was the food. We dined on calamari rings and steak that was delicious. We left the restaurant bursting with fantastic surf and turf. The sellers were at it again and we fought our way through them and into a taxi to take us back to the resort. We found ourselves fairly stressed after the short little trip into town. It is too bad that such a wonderful place has to come with such an aggressive human element. Don’t get me wrong I understand that these people are just trying to make some money from the tourism, but I don’t know if I would ever return to this place due to their overbearing tactics.
Anyway, I am sitting at the pool bar looking out at the ocean as I write this and am thinking that maybe the sellers aren’t enough to keep me away from here after all. It is a truly beautiful place. Karen grows impatient with my blogging so I am going to sign off now and join her for a late afternoon cocktail on the beach.
Cheers for now,

Gili Trawangan Part 2

We checked out of our hotel the next morning and went directly to the resort where after a short delay checking in, we were in the pool and relaxing at full capacity for most of the afternoon. At some point in the afternoon we took another attempt at the beach but unfortunately it was the same situation. Sharp shells and sharp coral all over the place sucking every ounce of enjoyment out of the ocean, once again. We decided the only way to enjoy this ocean was to be underneath it and booked a scuba dive for the next day.
We pulled ourselves out of the pool at 7pm and decided it was time to eat. A couple of showers and a quick change later we were once again eating some BBQ on the beach. After eating we found ourselves a nice private table facing the ocean where we just enjoyed the sound of the water and the moon reflecting off of the waves until once again the days sun and fresh air took it’s toll and the best day we had had so far came to an end.
The second day at the resort began with a buffet breakfast followed by some more soaking in the beautiful pool bar. At one PM we were on a boat and heading out to a dive site with some other folks and a few guides to ensure everyone who was going our was going to come back. Due to my oversized lungs and air gluttony, I was given a steel tank that held more air than the aluminum tanks everyone else had. We went down as a group of five. Karen, myself, a couple of newlyweds and our guide. Once again the current was incredibly strong and we just let it take us where it wanted to. The dive was fun, if a little uninteresting. There wasn’t a lot to see at the location that was chosen for us. The dive lasted 39 minutes and I began to feel ill immediately upon resurfacing. This feeling was to last for quite awhile as fatigue and nausea stole my second day from me. I spent most of that day recovering in the hotel room.
Our third and final day at the resort was much better. I woke up feeling much better and embarked on a day of drinking at the pool. Karen joined me later and we met a fun group of people. Michael, Erik, Tommy and Pinkey. They were American, Swedish and Australian respectively. We stayed at the pool bar until they kicked us out and then we went across the street to the beach bar where there was a band playing. Karen and Tommy talked me into getting on stage with the band and singing “Sweet Home Alabama” with Tommy doing backing vocals. We then made our way to a Japanese restaurant where we had the best sashimi I have ever eaten. Karen and I lasted until midnight when we left the younger folk to their own devises and headed on back to our hotel. It was an even better day than our first day at the resort and a perfect end to Gili T, as in the morning we would be taking a ferry to Lombok island.

Gili Trawangan Part 1

After a good night’s sleep we were both bright eyed and bushy tailed The drive to the dock from our beach was much more peaceful than the trip from the airport to our beach, and I didn’t fear for my safety once. We purchased our tickets from the counter and then it was hurry up and wait for the fast boat to be ready for departure.
A couple of cups of coffee later, we were on our way to the boat. Karen and I were the first on board and secured seats at the back for the two hour water trip to Gili Trawangan , or Gili T as it is commonly referred to. We anchored a few meters from shore and had to jump into the surf up to or knees, holding our bags above our heads as we sloshed on to the beach.
It was hotter than a stove top in hell and we were sweating immediately. We made our way to a café next to the beach to get a drink and some lunch. This was the first of our unplanned days and we had no place to stay. After lunch, Karen suggested I stay put while she scouted out some possible accommodation for the evening. When it is as hot as it was on this particular day, Karen knows that I am liable to take the very first place we look at so we can dump our luggage and begin to relax. She rented a bicycle and took off, leaving me to a book and some cold beer. I would stay there for two hours.
Karen returned, red-faced and dripping with sweat. She had pedaled the length of the beach stopping at every hotel along the way, only to hear the same response. “sorry we full today”. We had made the mistake of arriving on the afternoon of a full moon party to be held on the beach that night. There was hope, however, as she had heard there were some vacancies in the other direction at a place called Ozzie Beach Bungalows. After a short breather, she made her way to the opposite end of the beach to look into this rumour. I bid her goodbye once again as she hopped on her squeaky bicycle and disappeared down the road.
Gili T is known for it’s quaintness and laid back nature. The first and most obvious aspect of this is the fact that there are no motorized vehicles on the island and even the taxis are horse drawn. The other thing that you notice right away are the sheer amount of beautiful people walking around half naked. I am talking about perfect little packages of well-tanned humanity. It doesn’t do a lot for the self esteem of a fat, old bastard like me to be surrounded by so many young, fit and attractive people. I suppose that is why the good Lord created alcohol.
I was well into my cups when Karen returned with the good news that there was indeed, room at the Inn. I finished my beer and hopped into a horse drawn buggy with our luggage and Karen following behind on her bicycle. Twenty minutes later we were shown to our bungalow. It was a comfortable bed and nice bathroom. The only problem, which we were to learn was an island wide scenario, was salt water showers. Oh, and the bathroom was actually outside.
We settled in quickly and hit the beach. There was much disappointment to follow as the beach, while pretty, was composed of a combination of rough sand and razor sharp pieces of coral. The difficulty of walking on the beach was further compounded by a vicious current that pushed you around like old Vietnamese women at a bread counter. This was bad news indeed. After tearing our feet up for a little while, we decided to call it quits and grab a drink at one of the many beachfront bars and café’s. Karen had to return the bike that she had rented for only three hours, so she left to do that, while I found a table and ordered a drink. No more than five minutes after sitting down and Karen leaving, the skies opened up and a massive wind hit the island. It rained heavily for an hour and Karen showed up in a horse taxi about twenty minutes into the storm. We waited out the weather at the café and then decided to check out the rest of the island.
Our age interfered with a long night of DJ’s on the beach for the full moon party and we ended up having a bit of bar-b-que and a few more drinks taking in the sunset. Karen used an internet café to book our remaining days on Gili T at a resort called Hotel Villa Ombak. We would have one night in our little bungalow and then enjoy the rest of our stay in relative luxury at a fairly affordable price. Once again the sun, travel and drink wore us down and we were in our room and ready for bed by ten PM. We slept peacefully through the raging Full Moon party that went until 5am the next morning. It is a sad state of affairs as just a few short years ago I would have been one of those stumbling sacks, walking zombie like off of the beach as the sunrise chased me to my bed. Old age is a hateful bitch.


Friday, May 20, 2011


The airport in Bali was much the same as Malaysia with the big difference being wait time at Customs and Immigration. We sailed right through and were out in the open air in mere minutes. No busses or trains for this leg of the trip, however, we just sauntered over to the taxi counter and paid a fee for a direct drive to our hotel room.
I spent my first twenty minutes on the streets of Bali fearing for my life. The taxi driver drove at such reckless and terrifying speeds that I gripped the “Oh Shit” handle with all my might. Speeding up to the rear bumper of cars in front of us only to slam on the brake at the last possible second, avoiding collision by millimeters. White knuckled and pale faced, we finally turned on to The 66 section of the beach front where we would be staying. Karen, consummately prepared as ever, had pre-booked us into the Tune Hotel, in an effort to minimize expense on this leg of the trip. Tune hotel advertises itself as a 5 star bed with a 1 star cost. The bed was quite nice. Of course, a bed was all there was. It was the smallest hotel room I had ever seen, just big enough to walk around the bed and enter the bathroom, which was just a swinging glass door. Fair enough, as we did not come to Bali to hang about the hotel room.
The beach was incredible. White soft sand as far as you can see. The waves were massive and there were many surfers out on the water taking advantage of the early breaks and long rides. Kicking off the flip-flops, Karen and I walked along the waters edge for a long time before settling into beach chairs and just taking in all of the sounds and scenery. The beach touts were out in droves all selling the same thing. Henna tattoo’s, cigarettes, bracelets and knick knacks. My polite nature kept them hanging on longer than normal and I had to harden up fairly quickly. It is harder to be a jerk when people are as friendly as the Balinese. In Hanoi it is very easy to tell someone to piss off, as they are generally nasty and indifferent. The sellers on this beach were all smiles and polite conversation. After the fourth or fifth occurrence where the exact same questions were asked about my place of birth, length of stay etc, It was beginning to ruin the enjoyment of the beach that I had travelled so far to get to. I adopted the hard look and stern “no” practice that kept them mostly at bay.
We spent the first day shopping, swimming, eating and drinking the local offerings. I was disappointed with nothing and had a great first day.
Day two in Bali had us a little more adventurous and we rented a motor bike and drove ourselves to Kuta beach, which is the touristy area. We stopped at a money changers and got ripped off through some magician like slight of hand, that was a lesson well learned. We watch them like a hawk now. The sand at the beach was rough and brown and not nearly as enjoyable as the beach where we were staying so we opted to sneak onto a resort and pretend to be guests. We spent the afternoon lounging in their pool bar and drinking Bing Tang beer. It was here we noticed our purse was about 300,000 IR less than it should have been. We worked out that we had been hustled and decided not to let it ruin our day. We left the resort and headed to The Hard Rock Café where we could only afford to order two draught beers due to our misfortune in dealing with the tricky money changers. I talked to the manager about possibly having The Props do a show there. We hopped on the bike and headed back to the good beach, where we showered and changed before going to the beach to watch the spectacular sunset. After another good meal in another good restaurant, we were once again exhausted and in need of a good night’s sleep, which we got in our tiny little hotel room. We had another early morning wake-up call as a taxi was coming at 7am to pick us up and take us to the high-speed water ferry that would be transporting us to Gili T. We have one more evening in Bali at the end of our trip and I am looking forward to it. Bali is a beautiful, chill place and a great way to spend a few days and a few dollars.


We departed early. I mean dairy farmer early. We entered our taxi at 5:45 am, still a little drunk from the night before. We make quick time to Noi Bai Airport and began the two and a half hour wait for our departure. We found ourselves in an Asian restaurant located on the top floor of International departures and cured our hangovers by proceeding to get drunk again. A few Tiger draughts and a bowl of Pho Tai Chin later we stumbled through security and immigration. We purchased some more cans of beer, sat down on uncomfortable metal seats and waited for the boarding call. We made our way across the tarmac and boarded the mid-sized plane. Karen and I got three seats to ourselves and were somewhat comfortable for the three hour flight to Malaysia.
We landed in Kuala Lampur and the first order of business, embarrassingly, was Mickey D’s where I had my first Big Mac in 11 months. Karen ordered the Big and Tastey while I got the Big Mac meal with an extra Big Mac thrown in for good measure. We were thoroughly underwhelmed by the cuisine served up at the golden arches and walked away Mcbloated and Mcnauseated.
We left the airport and made our way to the sky train, which would take us close to Central station where we could then walk to the MRT that would take us to our hotel for the evening. We landed at 1pm and after all the dicking around with transit, it was 4:30 by the time we arrived at our hotel. The hotel, which we splurged on a little for Karen’s birthday, was The Renaissance. It had a fantastic pool that we took advantage of before showering up and taking a walk around the city. After a long day of traveling and drinking we were bone tired and found ourselves in bed by ten pm the first night of our vacation. It was a very comfortable bed and a much needed night of sleep.
It was still pitch dark when out wake-up call shattered our peace and quiet and drove us from the cool comfort and calm of our bed and once again we found ourselves on foot heading for more public transport. It was back to the MRT which we took to Central Station and this time we decided on a bus, as it was early on a Sunday morning and therefore less traffic and it was a fraction of the price of yesterdays trip. I watched two episodes of Supernatural on my laptop and then we were back at the airport. McDonalds again, but this time for breakfast, which was much better than the dinner the previous day.
So here we are. Stanked up with airport au de toilette and awaiting the boarding call for our next three hour flight to Bali, I am wasting time by blogging for the first time in a very, very long time. I can’t wait to hit the sunshine and golden shores of Bali. The next entry shall be coming soon.