2011 South East Asia

2011 South East Asia #3 Bali – Sight seeing

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I over slept! I turned off the alarm on the phone! Then some other phone started to ring. The one in the hotel room. It was the lobby calling me to remind me that I had an excursion today. The driver was there too. I grabbed some clothes and more or less got dressed on my way down to the lobby. And there he was, the man I had struck a deal with the day before. Even though I was late he was smiling and very nice, I apologized and explained I had been drinking a bit the day before and he was okay with that. We we’re not that late and besides, he said, some of the places where better to see not to early in the morning anyway. Well, I don’t know, I have nothing to compare with. On the way I grabbed some food and off we went. The driver presented himself as Madée, or Madé, which was a quite common name on Bali obviously. The restaurant owner i  Sanur was also named Madé. I might be wrong on the spelling here.

The first top was a place called Mandala Suci Wenara Wana, maybe more commonly known as Ubud Monkey forest. Madé got me some mini bananas that I could feed to the monkeys which were quite cheeky and rather stole bananas than waited for them to be handed over. The temple it self was pretty cool. Built in lava stone some 1500+ years ago most of it was covered by green moss it was a quite spectacular sight to see. I tried to get some good pictures at some kind of bridge but found a tourist woman trying to sneak into all of my pictures there. Hrmf!

After have spent some time at the temple grounds we continued our trip through Bali. We went to see the famous rice terraces, or some of the famous rice terraces at least. They look more spectacular on the pictures I’ve seen, the same pictures that made me to want to go there. In reality they were not so great. Well, they look cool but not that cool. And the locals around where quite annoying trying to sell souvenirs to me at all costs. We left that place quite quickly. On our way away from the rice terraces we got stuck in one of Balis infamous “police controls”. My driver however managed to convince the officers that there was no point in doing this today, not at least with just one person in the car. And soon enough a large bus came around a corner and the police became very busy and let us go.

We made a stop in some village where there was a silver smith making very small and delicate silver jewelry. This was obvious a place meant for me to do some shopping but I did not really find anything to buy. But I got a nice guided tour of the jewelry shop. Next stop was a coffee & tea plantation which sparked my interest. First a small guided tour of the tea/coffee and spice garden, then some sampling of the various products they had. I think I tried something like 4 different kinds of coffee of which included coffee with chocolate in it. Then some different kinds of tea as well. After that, they took me to a cage where they had a Luwak (or Asian palm civet). Some kind of animal that eats coffee beans and poops them out. Then people collect their poop and makes the worlds most expensive coffee from it, Kopi Luwak. Needless to say, I bought a small jar of Kopi Luwak to impress my family with!

Next stop was not planned. But we passed through a village where there was a funeral going on. It meant that all people in the village followed the deceased to the grave yard in a long procession. Madé told me about their traditions during our wait. When the road was clear we drove towards the huge volcano that lurked in the distance. I don’t remember how long it took to drive there, but when we finally arrived at the so called view point for the volcano I realized it was just one of these places where you have to pay for a good spot to take a picture. What I mean is, there was a lof of restaurants built along the ledge of the mountain we were at and all restaurants had a great view of the volcano from their terraces. Well, I had a coke and enjoyed the view for a while before I decided it was time to leave the place. Obviously it is possible to walk to the volcano and climb to the summit and look down in the crater but that would take a full day and I’ve already spent half day so far.

Madé wanted to show me the Uluwatu temple so we started to go south again. Finally we arrived at the site and before entering I had to get a sarong so I would not offend the people worshiping in the temple. Luckily there was “sarongs-for-rent” just outside. I think I spent about an hour just walking around looking at stuff before Madé told me it was time to go to the amphitheatre for a show. It was not what I was used to, I can honestly say that. It was kind of noisy and a lot of screaming and drumming. A small pamphlet explained the story. During the show it was getting darker and soon it was pitch black. After the show Madé drove me to a beach where there was a lot of restaurants. I have no clue on where this was, but it wasn’t so far away from the hotel I think. Anyway, I had a very nice BBQ’ed seafood dinner there. This day kind of concluded what I wanted from Bali so back at the hotel I booked both a flight and a hotel on the next destination.

2011 South East Asia

2011 South East Asia #2 Bali – I’m not a surfer, obviously!

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After something like 12-13 hours in the air from Amsterdam a technical stop in Singapore was very welcome. Even though we were only let off the plane and into the adjacent building it was nice to stretch my legs for an hour or so. Then we were off for another 2-3 hours in the air before or so until we landed i Bali.

I landed in Denpasar around 9 pm, immigration took about 1 hour or so and then suddenly I was there, in Bali, the place I had dreamed off for some time. I got myself a taxi and hoped I would not be tricked on the price because I was newly arrived and also I was going for quite a bit. I was heading for a place called Sanur and the hotel Swastika Bungalows. Yeah, the name makes you feel skeptic but remember, the swastika has been widely used all over the world for more than just killing other people. Here, on Bali, it’s like a lucky charm, you can read more about swastiskas here! I arrived to the hotel some time around 11 pm or so and I didn’t get so much ripped off by the taxi driver as I had feared (I had checked before hand what it should cost me to get to Sanur from the airport and he only upped the price a bit).

Anyway, the day before my departure I sent them an e-mail telling them I would arrive late, probably around midnight or so, I got their reply when I was somewhere in the air so I had no chance to read it but they said they would wait for me. And there, at the entrance there was two people standing, waiting for me. One with a small tray with refreshments. And I swear to you, it was the best juice I’ve ever tasted! After checking in to the hotel they escorted me to my bungalow, lit some kind of “anti insect wire” that was slowly burning on my night stand. I have seen those before in Thailand and I know they are quite effective on keeping insects away from you when you sleep, if you can stand the smell. Lucky for me, I’m not the kind of person that insects like so much.

My bungalow then, it was a small palace I thought. The main room was spacious, then I opened the door to the bathroom and took a step out, into a small garden. The shower and bath tub was open air, but the toilet was inside a small “shack”. All surrounded by a wall the height of me plus some more for privacy. I went to bed almost directly. The following morning I found my way to the restaurant and have a delicious breakfast, then I explored the hotel area a bit. Found a nice swimming pool, went back to my bungalow and started to read a book on the porch. And suddenly it was evening and I had missed dinner. With several hours.

The guy in the reception told me there was some restaurants on the street that was still open so I went out for a walk. Found a place, simple, but very nice food. Got stuck talking with the owner for a good hour or two and then went back to the hotel to sleep. Second day I went down to the beach, but it was low tide so no swimming in the sea for me. Had a walk for an hour or so and then went back to the hotel. I finished my book and this time I had dinner at the hotel. I decided it was time to leave this place, even though it was nice and beautiful, I wanted to do something more. I had heard Bali was the place to go if you wanted to learn how to surf and Kuta Beach was the perfect place for that.

Once again I found myself inside a taxi and on my way to a new place. I had found a hotel in a place called Legian Beach I think. The hotel I had chosen was in no way as pleasant as Swastika Hotels and to be honest, it was a quite bad hotel. I don’t even remember the name of it. I just remember that the pool looked like it was full of Mountain Dew. But I didn’t go there to spend all my time at the hotel, I went there to learn how to surf so off to the beach I went. Worst mistake ever! As soon as I stepped onto the beach I was approach by probably 10-20 guys offering me surf lessons. Okay, I wanted to learn how to surf but I did not want to get almost molested doing it. So I did the only rational thing to do. I fled!

I walked in a fast pace along the beach constantly drawing the attention of more and more surfing teachers for every step. Finally I had enough, I found a opening in the wall diverting the beach from the city and quickly sneaked away. I’m very good at sneaking, so good that I managed to enter a cafe or restaurant so silently that no one noticed me there until I subtly cleared my throat to call for attention of the nearby waiter. I ordered some nice seafood and had a beer. Bintang. I started to talk to a french girl who came in soon after me. She was also there to learn to surf and had had her first 2 lessons already. I told her about my incident earlier and said that I maybe did not want to learn to surf after all. She lost interest as soon as I said that. Oh well, at least I had someone to talk to during my lunch.

I made a new try at the beach but the surfing teachers was to aggressive in their ways that I got turned off. I can see that it’s their way to support them self and maybe their families but doing it like that must also make them loose customers. I walked towards the town again and ended up at the memorial place for the Bali bombing in 2002. Then I found some bar in the nearby area and started talking to 3 guys from New Zealand I think it was. They asked me if I surfed, I said nay and then they lost interest in me. I guess surfing is the big thing here in Kuta Beach and if you don’t surf you’re not interesting. I guess I could have tried harder but my time on Bali was to precious to spend it on something I now felt maybe not was my thing. I started to walk in the general direction where my hotel was and came upon this small travel agency and thought I should try to see something more of Bali than Sanur and Kuta Beach. I came upon an agreement with the owner that he would take me around Bali during the next day and show me the best parts of Bali for something like 400.000 Indonesian Rupiah (should be something like €27). Now, this is a part where my memory get’s a bit cloudy so it might have been the double.

I went back to my hotel, had something to eat and then went down to a nearby bar for a beer or two. I think I ended up having like 20 beers, or at least it felt like that. I met some guys from Russia who had taken like 3 magic mushroom shots and now the stuff was kicking in. We had some odd discussions about life and other things. Then I guess it was time for me to sleep so I went back to the hotel and got ready for the night. Realized I could not find my phone. The horror I felt! So I went back to the bar and and asked them if they’ve seen my phone, they had not. I went back to my hotel and felt a bit sad because I thought I’ve lost my phone.

At 8 am the alarm clock in my phone went off. I had put it on my night stand. Phew!

2011 South East Asia

2011 South East Asia #1 The Prelude

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Since my wife Sofia is pregnant, 5th month or so, I think travelling is out of the question for now and some time forward. Until then, I guess I’ll have to resort to remembering things I’ve done in the past. And this is one such trip. I had 5 or 6 weeks off in the early 2011 and I choose to spend them in South Eastern Asia. On my own. Below is my travel plan.

I flew out from Gothenburg a cold day (it has to be a cold day, right), had a stop in Amsterdam and then I was on my way. A 16 hour flight to Bali with a technical stop in Singapore. I choose KLM since I’ve flown with them before and liked their service plus they offered fair prices for my “open jaw ticket” to Bali and home from Hong Kong.

I planned this trip as little as possible, the only thing I had in mind was things I wanted to see and do before my time was up. I booked all my flights and hotels, except for the first flight to Bali and the flight home from Hong Kong the day before I was going to fly. Well, I had also booked the 2 first nights in Bali at a hotel, because I did not feel like trying to find some place to stay the same day I arrived.

Disclaimer! Prices in this serie is based on my memory and with the current state of the world economics; I would take them with a pinch of salt. 😉