A Travellerspoint blog

A Case of the Randoms

sunny 29 °C
View Southeast Asia on kmpossible's travel map.

One evening in Saigon:
From a distance I saw a cart rolling down the middle of the street – I thought it was the Ice Cream Man. It had a little light over the top and some things hanging from hooks on either side of the light, which I thought were wrappers of some kind or napkins, perhaps. As it got closer, I saw that the things hanging looked like 1/2-sized IV bags…it was the Dried-Squid Cart!

Tonguester, Larry, Gordon, Franz and Annoying Bastard…new friends. Tonguester is a dog we’ve “adopted” in Bali. She lives at the end of our street, and has her tongue hanging out of her mouth all the time. It may be an injury or a birth defect, whatever the cause, it’s really cute. She doesn’t seem to mind it, and when the time comes, she can pull it back into her mouth if she wants to. A couple days ago, I found out that her real name is “Fifi”…I still prefer Tonguester. Larry is the lizard we keep seeing as we walk from our hotel to the street that leads down to the beach. He’s really quick, and a man of few words. I’ve actually never heard him talk. Then there’s Gordon, the gecko on our wall outside our room – he’s been trying to sell us insurance for 2 months now – tenacious little guy. He joined me for yoga on the patio the other day, and he’s got a great upward facing dog posture! Franz is the fly who always tickles me at the beach by crawling on my legs, and last but not least is Annoying Bastard, the rooster. He’s been following us since we left the US. I hear that I shouldn’t be upset about it because roosters are good luck. Whoever told me that must not live next door to a rooster.

Cat oven: literally, paint oven. We have seen these signs all over Bali and were like “What the hell? Who bakes cats?” Everyone knows they’re best sautéed. These signs are seen at auto body shops.

We were on TV! In Bali, anyway…during the Sanur Village Festival (Aug 6 – 10) we were interviewed by a camera crew doing a piece on tourism in Bali. We were on the beach, just setting our kites up. They filmed a short interview with Mike and I, then filmed me pumping up my kite – always a flattering thing to be doing on film.

On Gili Meno:
Sitting on the porch of our hut I heard the tinkling sounds of an ice cream truck. I immediately looked around for the squid truck, but saw none. I did, however, see a guy on a bicycle with a cooler bungee-strapped to the back. It really WAS the ice cream man!

Skype is fantastic! Use you computer’s internet connection to make phone calls – especially internationally. It’s cheap and very easy to set up/use. Go here for more information:
www.skype.com

Some books I’ve read while on the trip:
Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Quantum, A Guide for the Perplexed by Jim Al-Khalili
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins (THIS IS A MUST READ)
And now on to:
The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS by Elizabeth Pisani.
I would recommend all of them.

I’ve been meaning to write about all of this, and now that I’m sitting in front of the computer screen, I can’t think of the other 20 things. Figures.

Anyway, we’re getting ready to get on a plane to Thailand tomorrow evening (Aug 13th). I feel lucky to have been here during the Sanur Village Festival last week. There were so many people around and things going on. The people here are lovely. Even with the language barrier, we’ve made a lot of friends. Some people are easier to understand than others, but mostly it’s been a little difficult to have full conversations. Folks have really wanted to talk to us, and vice versa, but it’s hard to know if we were having the same conversation. Every day when we walk past our favorite watering hole, Picadilly’s, one of the bartenders will ask “Where are you going?!” In fact, I’d have to say that’s the most common question/statement I’ve heard here. In Balinese it’s a form of greeting to ask someone where they’re going, so a lot of times when we’re leaving the hotel, the front desk person will say “Where are you going?” instead of saying hello. (It was the same in Saigon, too.) Sometimes it catches me off daydreaming, and I realize I don’t have any idea where I’m going, and I have to stand there for a minute staring at the sky trying to think of a place I may be going that day.

Another thing that’s been eye-opening is people’s knowledge of politics here. When I say I’m American, several people have said “Oh, Obama!” I on the other hand have no idea who the politicians in Bali are…. Yes, Bali is smaller than the US, but people here - in general - seem to be more attentive to what’s happening in the world at large rather than just what’s happening at home.

I'm sad to say goodbye to Bali, but looking forward to meeting more new friends in Thailand.

Posted by kmpossible 23:13 Archived in Indonesia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

And we're BACK!

...from Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan

sunny 32 °C
View The Gilis & Southeast Asia on kmpossible's travel map.

Today we arrived back in Sanur from the Gilis, and while the trip was lovely, it's always nice to come home! We've been here so long now, it really does feel like home. While away, Mike and I stayed mostly on Gili Meno, the quietest of the three tiny islands off the northwest coast of Lombok. To get there, we hired the GiliCat for $120 round-trip; it's a super-fast boat with 900 horses under the hood. Actually they weren't really under anything, they just sort of hang off the back of the boat. It took us a mere hour to cross the Indian Ocean to our destination, though we were a bit worse for wear when we arrived.


The trip started at 7am when the van arrived at our hotel to pick us up, and we were whisked away to the port at Padang Bai here in Bali, an hour drive. We had a quick and disappointing croissant near the pier and then scooted on down to board the boat. We took off across a glassy bay and headed out into the extremely choppy waters of the Indian Ocean, or Indy, as I like to call her. One of the crew members gave us what I think were instructions on how to jump from the boat...eek! The command had to come from the ship's captain, and the command was "jump jump jump"! Phew! Glad he explained that one.

Indy was angry that day, and after 10 minutes of rising and falling with a bang back onto the water (we caught air several times), all the passengers had fallen silent. A French family was seated in the row at the back of the boat, where most of the action was, and being right in front of them, I could see that the 3 children who were playing video games and giggling when we pulled out of the bay were now white as ghosts. Surprisingly, no one was handing out barf bags. That was one of few thoughts circling my head throughout the duration of the trip. It went something like this: 'I feel a little sick. Wish I hadn't eaten that croissant. I don't have a barf bag, what if I have to get sick? Uuugh, I feel a little sick. What if we have to jump? I don't have a barf bag.'

So we arrive with everyone still in possession of their breakfasts, myself included. We didn't have to jump, which was good, too. Gili Trawangan is the drop off point for the Gilis - there are three, and Trawangan is the one to the left of the dot that is Meno, and Air is to the right between Meno and Lombok. To get from the GiliCat to the beach, we all had to pile out and into another lower, slimmer boat with one puny outboard motor and loose planks across the floor. All the luggage was piled in after us, and the small boat did a U-turn, and backed into the beach. I think the small boat was actually longer than the distance between the GiliCat and the beach – it was one of the more ridiculous things I’ve seen on this trip. It did however serve as much needed comic relief after our near-barfing experience.

We decided to vacate Trawangan as quickly as possible because it's touted as the "party island", and that means it's crawling with folks learning how to handle their first beer, or as Trawangan would have it, smoky smoky or mushrooms or some combination of those 3 things. So we chartered a boat to Meno and were there in less than 30 minutes, including price-negotiation time! Gili Meno is quite small, as I mentioned in the previous entry. There are no motor vehicles on the islands, although we did see 3 little boys riding the smallest ATV I’ve ever seen…it was really cute. The only form of overland transport is the cidomo or pony-drawn carriage. I estimate that 80% of these ponies are in good condition, the other 20% were really pathetic, under nourished, dirty sad little creatures. It was actually quite upsetting to see, and I boycotted the cidomo during our stay.

We stayed at the Royal Reef Resort. I’m not exactly sure what the official definition of “resort” is, but I have a feeling the term is used metaphorically in this instance. There were 8 bungalows on the beach, all with cold saltwater showers. The bungalows were on stilts, while the bathroom was on ground level, which meant there were about 5 really steep, slippery tile steps descending into the bathroom. Good thing I’m off the Cazadores, or I’d probably have slipped and fallen headlong into the toilet after a night of drinking! I was pleasantly surprised to find electricity and a working fan in the room. The price of the room included breakfast, which was very simple, but pretty good. Much to our dismay, our rooster followed us to Meno. There are about 10 chickens to every person on the island it seems – they’re EVERYWHERE! It seems there’s no escaping the rooster on this trip. Wasn’t that an Alice in Chains song? Anyway, here are some pics of Meno:
East_side_of_Meno.jpg
West_Side_of_Meno.jpg
Mike_West_..of_Meno.jpg
Mike_in_fr..ur_Room.jpg
Path_throu..of_Meno.jpg
Anyway, we took our new snorkeling masks and fins with us, and were all geared up for some snorkeling and lying around on the beach. Near our hotel on the east side of the island, jelly fish is what we found a lot of the first time out, and we both got stung quite a few times – Mike claims to have been stung by a Portuguese man-of-war. ;-) We found that the further north we went the less jelly fish there were, and on the west side, there were loads more fish to see, and we even got to swim with a sea turtle – it was huge! We saw lots of batfish and angelfish, and tons of blue fish and stripy colorful fish (not sure what they’re called). Unfortunately, on day 2, our waterproof camera/video camera went on the blink. (That’s the one we’ve been taking videos with from the kitecam.) We got one day’s worth of marine life photos & video, including an amazing chocolate chip cookie starfish. He looked like he was made of dough. How do I know it was a ‘he’ you ask? I checked!

Starfish.jpg

Heading home, we did the boat thing again, but in reverse. We spent one night in Trawangan so we wouldn’t have to get up so early to boat over from Meno and then catch the GiliCat. Trawangan is a bit of a nightmare. Everywhere you go people are lurking in dark corners asking you if you want “smoky smoky” or magic mushrooms. In fact, quite a few of the cafés there had boards in front advertising “magic mushrooms, guaranteed to blow your mind”. There was a really skeevy vibe to the place, and we were ecstatic to leave the next morning. While waiting for the boat to arrive, we saw the saddest pony I’ve ever seen. He was skin and bones, and the cart he was pulling had rubbed his withers raw, and they were bloody. The owner didn’t seem to notice or mind, though I noticed several other tourists pointing and balking. It made me quite sick to my stomach, and brought tears to my eyes. I had to move nearer the water to avoid seeing any more. On the light side though, the night before, we saw a momma cat giving birth! It was so cool! Some silly chick was taking pictures…one for a wall hanging? Eeeek.

Posted by kmpossible 06:30 Archived in Indonesia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

We’re taking a vacation from our vacation!

…onward, to Gili Meno, one of the Three Gems of Lombok.

sunny 32 °C
View Southeast Asia on kmpossible's travel map.

Actually this will be the second vacation from our vacation this month! Last week, it was Singapore for 3 days. We stayed in a big hotel right on the river, far far away from roosters and screaming children at 7am. We slept in and drank champagne, which we found at the tech mall! How fitting. We were shopping for a computer for Mike and low and behold: a wine bar! That’s our luck – go to shop for a computer, come out with 2 bottles of champagne. Of course we had to drink them both in one sitting, quite a feat considering we haven’t drank but a beer or two with dinner in the last 2 months. I was still hung over 2 days later when we flew back to Bali. Also during our stay in Singapore, we rode the Singapore Flyer, which is the largest Ferris wheel in the world! It was a fantastic view, and thankfully it didn’t go very fast, cuz I think I would’ve vomited….uuuugggggh, hang overs! Singapore is quite a metro town – the shopping centers are HUGE and you can find anything you want. They have a mall dedicated to electronics, one to home entertainment systems, one to makeup/perfume, one to clothes etc…it was slightly nightmarish in that I’m not a big shopper, but it was nice to know we could find the things we wanted while we were there.

We had sushi both nights while we were there. Two sushi restaurants flanked the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel where we were staying, so we tried them both. They were both fantastic, but our stomachs aren’t used to eating such rich foods, so we were both a bit green after dinner both nights.

IMGP0947.jpg
IMGP0944.jpg

Breakfast and lunch were anticlimactic and barely edible – we actually left two plates of “food” virtually untouched at breakfast the third day. We ate at the mall housing Cartier and MAC makeup, so we thought it would be safe…but no. The eggs were an unnatural color of yellow and tasted of plastic, and the sausages were white white white (made of so-called chicken, I assume) and tasted of bandaids. You know you’ve tasted one! Maybe when you were a kid? Anyway, it was a breakfast straight out of the microwave, for sure. Even the coffee tasted unnatural…we were soooo outta there!

Now back in Bali, we’ve enjoyed 4 days out kiting. You should see me!!! OMG it’s the most funnest fun thing ever. I’ve not only stopped (for the most part) doing my famous KimPlant, where I hit the water with my face so hard that water goes into my eyes and out my ears, but I’ve also started going upwind! Going upwind requires that you are able to think about your body position while you’re hauling ass across the ocean. Previously, I’ve been trying to not burst with adrenaline, but I’m getting more and more skill and confidence out there, and am able to think about my positioning. You have to pull your toes up and lean back onto your harness against the kite, which causes the back edge of your board to cut into the water and you start heading out to sea, across the wind instead of straight downwind. Yesterday, the 24th we got some great video footage from the kitecam and also from the beach.

Kim_Kiting_1.jpg

I think one of the best things about kiting here is that while you’re lugging your gear down to the beach, no one bugs you for “massage? Transport? Manicure?” Whole herds of Balinese women wait for tourists to walk by so they can follow them down the beach path and bug the crap out of them to buy more crap like what they’ve already got. “Sarong like the one you wear?” Why the hell would I want a sarong just like the one I already have? So that doesn’t happen to me when I’m carrying my kiting gear, but without it, they’re on you like shit on flies. Or like shit on…wait….aw hell, now how does that go? Oh yeah, like stink on shit! (Did I just have a Peter moment? …there was a kitchen sink in there somewhere wasn’t there? Did I mention I miss my friend Peter? He is a funny, funny man.)

So I started to say, we’re planning a vacation! Our destination: Gili Meno, Lombok. It’s a teency weency island just off the northwestern coast of Lombok, which is east of Bali. The Island Express will be shuttling us across the choppy Indian Ocean for about an hour to reach Gili Trawangan, another of the three islands. From there we’ll have to find a raft or slow moving whale to climb aboard to get to Gili Meno. Walking around the island takes approximately 1 hour, to give you an idea of the size of this place…we’re hoping to escape the rooster who darkens our door day and night. As I’m typing, it’s 5pm, and he’s still cock-a-doodle-do-ing! Here he is:

IMGP0806.jpg

I've no idea if there will be any wind on Meno because of it's location...I'll keep you posted! We’ll be there for 5 nights, and then back to Bali to climb a volcano and do more kiting – more on that another time. Oh yea...and I got a new bathing suit!
IMGP0818.jpg
And here's me with 4 miiiiiiillion Ruipah (cue sinister laugh)!
IMGP0869.jpg
And a couple pics of when Mike and I went horseback riding...when I posted that blog, our connection was too slow to handle photos.
IMGP0755.jpg
IMGP0792.jpg

Posted by kmpossible 03:44 Archived in Indonesia Comments (4)

Updated Itinerary

…just incase you’re wanting to come visit!

Bali: July - August 13

Thailand:
Koh Samui: August 14 - 27
Koh Samet: August 28 - September 8

San Francisco: September 9 - 22
Illinois: September 23 - 30

UK: October 1 - 23

Vietnam:
Saigon: October 24 - 27
Mui Ne Beach: October 28 - December 1 (Candy visits from Seattle!)

Philippines:
Boracay: December 2 - January 2
Palawan: January 3 - 30

Cambodia:
Phenom Penh: January 31 - February 15 (Vipassana 10-day silent meditation)
Angkor Wat: Febraury 16 - March 1

Posted by kmpossible 19:54 Comments (0)

I wouldn’t be caught dead…

…ridin’ no friggin JET SKI!!!

sunny 32 °C
View Southeast Asia on kmpossible's travel map.

Or maybe I would…it’s a long story. Let me start at the beginning.

You see, yesterday we rented a car and drove down the southeastern coast of Bali to scout out some fresh beaches for kiting. At one point Mike or I read somewhere that Nusa Dua was a kiting spot. I say, nay! As I’m walking out toward the beach, I can hear this horrible buzzing, which got louder as I got close to the water. Out on the pier, I could see dozens of jet skis, as far as the eye could see. They were all up and down the beach, and hauling ass. It was like there was a freeway right off the beach – it was awful. It seems to have killed all other forms of water sports there, including kiting – who wants to get run over by some half-drunk tourist idiot while they’re trying to swim? NOT ME! So instead of kiting, we ended up back in the car…onward in the search for some tasty waves or some flat water, or both! We ended up finding our next place to call home in our quest, so that’s good. We’ll be relocating tomorrow to the Little Pond Homestay…our current location includes a wakeup call every morning by 4 whiny, screaming little Balinese children at 7am every day and we’ve had enough.

Today there was great wind and we were graced by high tide, so we hit the water…myself, I hit the water several times with my face, in true form. The most notable was my second run, which ended in a tangle with – you guessed it – a JET SKI!!!! It could have been much, much worse. Luckily, no one was hurt, just scraped up a bit and very, very scared for a moment. I was almost at the end of my second long run (I’m getting so much better!) when I approached the jet ski, which was tethered to a buoy in the water. My first run I just hopped off the board and body-dragged across the line between it and the buoy. This time, I was a little more than one lines length away from it, when I crashed myself into the water, followed by the kite. Of course I got pulled down wind, and the kite went straight into, and then over the jet ski. Luckily Mike was there and swam out to untangle the lines, which had gone over and around the darn thing. I don’t know how I managed to haul my ass out of the water and grab the kite as it washed up and onto a huge piece of driftwood (it looked like a school bus). As I stood there pretty shaken up, a wave came up much higher than the ones preceding it, and knocked the log into me, knocking me over. I scrambled up and over to the kite and finally popped the leading edge.

In hindsight, it really wasn’t that bad, but there was an equipment malfunction in the midst of all this that caused me to freak out a bit. When the kite crashed, I tried to pull my safety – that’s the part that attaches the kite to the harness, which is in turn attached to your body. The safety was totally stuck, it wouldn’t move a bit. There was a bit of plastic attached to the line directly in front of the safety, which wouldn’t allow the safety to move. I’m glad this happened when it did for 2 reasons. 1) In this situation it would have been a much bigger mess if I had pulled the safety – the lines would have gotten really tangled around the tether and jet ski. 2) It reminded me that I should be checking my gear every time before going out into the water. Sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes you get complacent with issues of safety. For example, how many times have you gotten into your car and not even walked around it to see if all the tires are inflated? I was seriously guilty of that until very recently (last year) when I got 3 flats in the space of 2 weeks. Guess the cosmos was trying to tell me something. And again…ok, ok, I get the message!

So no one was hurt, and all my gear is intact. Phew! It was a great two runs, but that little fiasco zapped all my energy, so that was to be my last run of the day. We then drove to Seminyak to check out the shopping strip and see about real estate prices. Seems possible to buy a really nice property here for a reasonable price. I think we’re gonna take some tours later in the month with a couple agents just for fun!

Posted by kmpossible 19:52 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

(Entries 21 - 25 of 35) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 »