A Travellerspoint blog

Umalas...

...Balinese for "sore ass".

sunny 31 °C
View Southeast Asia on kmpossible's travel map.

Yesterday, Mike and I went riding at the Umalas Stables in Seminyak, Bali. We opted for the 2-hour package, which was a ride through the rice fields and out onto the beach. It was really fun...but I think we oversold ourselves going into it.

Mike emailed them last week to set up a ride, and when they asked what our riding experience was, he of course said "expert." I'm pretty sure they saw this as an opportunity to get their "special" horses out of the stable for a change...mine had ADD. We took off from the stables in single file, as I expected. It seems that the horses had done the trail before. When we got to the beach, the leader asked if we wanted to canter for a bit, and we said yes. So he took off, and my horse immediately started to buck. Yeeee haaaaw! Did I mention that we're riding on Hunt Seat saddles? Nothing really to hold onto except for your own ass, which by the end of the ride was raw and numb from all the bucking/cantering/kicking. He finally started to gallop full on...there was no controlling this horse. I've been out of the saddle for quite awhile now, but it's the sort of thing you don't really forget, like riding a bike. When presented with the option to canter, this horse could either 1) jump and buck in place or 2) run headlong down the beach like a maniac. It got scary when he started veering from side to side of his own accord. I looked over at just the right moment to see Mike's horse go from a full on gallop to a sliding stop in the sand! He was lucky to not go over the front.

Aside from the near trampling of a bunch of little kids on the beach, and almost falling off and getting dragged by my stirrup, it was all gravy. The beach was sprawling and beautiful with lots of palm trees and huge rough waves. There was a nice sea breeze to keep us cool.

On the return trip, we passed by an open bit of short green pasture with 2 wooden frames, one at either end. I realized that it was a soccer field when I saw the kids with their ball, shooing a cow from the middle! Watch out for the cow patties! Also along the way we saw lots of baby chickens, a pig, and lots of cows with their calves. Now I see why the hamburgers here are so terrible - the cows are VERY thin...I wonder if it's the heat? They seem to have plenty of pasture.

We arrived back at the lovely stables just in time for the blisters on my hiney and inner legs to burst - luckily I was mostly numb by that time. The stables were really quite impressive. The walk way to get to the horses pastures and stalls was all stone with several bridges over little koi ponds, lined with tropical flowers and trees. We passed by the surface tension pool next to the restaurant on our way to drop the horses at the washing station. They have the most beautiful stallion (named Zorro) I've ever seen. I'm not sure what breed he is, but he was pretty small, black as night, with feathers (long hair on the lower legs and around the hooves), and the longest mane and forelock...the hair was about 3 feet long! I'll try to get some pics up when I get to a spot with wifi...too slow here at the internet cafe! We had the option to take a dip in the pool and stay for dinner, but we were too wrecked, sore and tired, so we headed out to nearby Kuta for a lobster/snapper on the beach.

The Ganesha Restaurant was lovely...lots of tables out on the beach, so we sat near the water and watched the sun set while enjoying our meal. There are several huge restaurants nearby, so there are tables on the sand for as far as the eye can see. Also nearby is the Denpasar International Airport, where we flew in 2 weeks ago, and we watched the planes land and take off into the night.

I had to keep shifting my weight from cheek to cheek...ouch! ...we got out of there just in time to avoid being serenaded by the onsite 4-piece band...if I hear "No Woman, No Cry" one more time....

Posted by kmpossible 20:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

I think it's Sunday

Kuta is fun...but I'm glad I'm staying in Sanur!

sunny 35 °C
View Southeast Asia on kmpossible's travel map.

Wow, I'm still nursing a hangover I think. Can't seem to get my head to attach to my shoulders. Friday afternoon we went to Kuta, about 15 minutes from Sanur, for some dancing/drinking fun. ...but first things first...

I'm stoked on kiting...it's so much fun, I think someone may make it illegal soon because it's too much fun. I went out last Thursday on Mike's 12m Naish Helix as there wasn't a ton of wind, but there was enough to get me going. I did three runs over the course of about 2 1/2 hours in front of the Inna Grand Bali here in Sanur. They seem to have one of the best (and widest) beaches around for pumping up and launching kites, and the beach patrol keeps spotting us lugging our gear down the path - they come running up and tell us to kite in front of their hotel. Maybe it sells them some beach chair rental? ...we should be getting a cut, I think!

The first run was not pretty. I was a little too gung ho and kept diving the kite too hard, which resulted in several face plants in the water, finishing up with getting dragged a bit on the sea bottom, as it was low tide, and you can walk out about 100 yards in water that varys in depth from 6 inches to 4 feet. I was on the 6 inch part! Ouch!

Mike picked me up and wrung me out and told me to stop being such a sissy. (Not really, but he should have!) I hit the water so hard with my face that I thought water had gone into my eye sockets and out through my ears and nose...that hurts!

I attempted another run right away, and it was great. I eased up a bit on diving the kite, and ended up going down wind in several short bursts...I kept dropping my butt back into the water, but I was really getting the feel for how much to dive the kite given the wind conditions and where to put my feet/body. It doesn't look so difficult to do when you watch someone like Mike do it, but for me, it's been tough! I also have no board skills whatsoever, no skateboarding, surfing, wake boarding, nothing! I had a beach lesson in Vietnam from Mike, and I think that made all the difference. We put the board onto the sand and he stood in front of me while I sat behind the board with my feet in the straps. I grabbed his arm with both my hands and he simulated the kite pulling me, with varying levels of tension, so that I got a feel for how to really use my legs and hips to stay on top of the board. Before I was expecting the kite to do all that for me, I wasn't using my legs really at all, except for straightening my front leg and bending the back one. After that lesson, I've been getting some short rides in!!!

So the last run was freakin' awesome.

There are several man-made, stone retaining walls jutting out from the beach, which as a result becomes a series of several small beaches. You can't walk along the water all the way down the length of the beach, you have to walk up onto the sand and around these stone walkways. They're in place to stop the sand from eroding which would mean the end of the beach entirely. This has, to this point made me nervous. If I complete a run and end up beyond the first retainer wall, I have to land the kite on another part of the beach...most of which have lots of boats tied up or lots of people on them, or they are very very narrow, with no place to land at all!

So, after my first attempt on the third run, I was hauling ass across the water and I could hear Mike shouting "Keep going, keep going!" When I got over the shock of how fast I was going and the feeling of walking on water (!!!!), I glanced toward the beach to see where I was, and all I could see were tons of boats and people flying by! I was well beyond the first retainer wall, and almost at the second one. Our hotel is right behind the narrow beach between the 3rd and 4th walls. That's when panic hit. And I did my patented KimPlant, face first into the water. I was a bit worried about 1) wrecking Mike's kite if I crashed it onto the rocks, 2) entangling a bunch of little kids in my lines, 3) wrapping myself around a boat, 4) a combination of 1-3. I finally recovered enough to get to the end of the run, and ended up fine on the beach, despite the throngs of teeny brown kids who started swimming out toward me when I landed the kite in the water just off the beach. They're so curious about the gear...I don't think they've seen kiting here before. Lots of people were taking pictures of us and the kites. The lines are so sharp though when the kite is in the air, it could slice someone in half, or take their hand off...that's mostly what made me nervous.

I was completely exhausted after that, so I sat my happy ass on the beach while Mike walked back up and grabbed the other kite and gear off the beach...what a trooper! Thanks Mike! ...did I mention we have video??? =) The "kite cam" attaches to the kite and takes video of the kiter...pretty slick! It gets beautiful ariel shots of the beach and sea. We're not able to use the Mac right now as there's not wifi anywhere here, so we're paying for internet at an internet cafe - tough to post pics as it takes too long. We'll post pics and videos when we leave here, so you'll have to wait until probably August...sorry! You could talk me into emailing you a couple pics and short video clips if you ask nicely.

We treated ourselves to a night out after that fantastic run...well, the next evening. We went to Kuta for some dancing. Kuta is like most typical spring-break-type places - LAME! I say that because there are WAY too many people all over the place. The beach is packed, the water is packed, the streets are all lined with shops selling basically the same things...my basic nightmare. I prefer places that are quiet and laid back. The clubs were fun I suppose, but overrated. I'd never seen a "foam party", and hope to never see one again. It was one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen. The area where the foam party takes place is inside a nightclub, and it looks like a hockey rink, but there are waterfalls of soap suds flowing from several places overhead. Several things come to mind: Did people wash before entering this area? How do you keep the soap out of your eyes? Why would you want to get your self and your clothes covered with soap when you know you can't wash it off afterwards? ...you could spot people sitting at the bar looking like they were covered with shaving cream...it was gross.

I've never seen so much ass crack in my life...all the guys seem to be out in their boardies and no shirt, which is cool, but come on, crack kills! =) Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by coin slots...it was like Vegas. Well, no, more like Reno or Atlantic City. Anyway, the music wasn't that great, at Bounty (where the foam party was) or at Paddy's next door. Paddy's, however, had a funny performance by their so called "sexy dancers". They were 4 girls and 4 guys - all of whom were relatively cute, but the guys were all wearing speedos, and when they got out onto the stage, they were doing bodybuilding poses! LOL I've never seen that at a club before - it was hilarious. After they finished, the bartender got on stage and that was great. He was dancing with a metal drink shaker and doing all these tricks with it, such as rolling it all the way up one arm, across his back, and down the other arm. He had a little safety crew with him, and I wondered why until he lit up a liquor bottle full of fuel that had a wick coming out the neck. He was flipping the bottle all over the place! Then he lit up another one, and started flinging them around - he was really good! ...it made me miss my poi terribly.

So we headed to Deejay Cafe at 2am when they opened, and I was surprised that there wasn't anyone else there. That didn't stop me from getting my groove on! The music was fantastic - house and techno - and the place was huge, with the back wall completely covered from floor to ceiling with multicolored lights, kind of like an installation I saw at Burning Man, the Disorien installation. We ended up leaving at about 4:30am and walked back to our hotel. We were awoken at 7am by the hotel workers tearing out some cement near our room. WTF??? My head hurt so much I was unable to lift it from the pillow, which was made of stone, I think. On top of that, we had the WORST bed I've ever slept in. It was a piece of foam on top of a couple boards in the shape of a "+", so the mattress slipped down in between the boards. My butt was about 6 inches lower than my head, so my back was twisted up in the shape of an "s"...a lovely way to sleep when you're drunk/hungover. Ouch.

...by checkout at noon, I was very ready to get the hell out of Kuta. It's cool to check out, but definitely not my style. I'd rather be around lots of people when I choose, and the rest of the time be left to my peace and quiet, my isolated blanket in the sand, and my kiteboarding. Dancing in Kuta was fun, but there's definitely a ton of kids on the make, which is not my steeze either.

Did I mention that kiteboarding is just too much fun???

...it's ironic that I chose to title this blog "Kiteboarding Southeast Asia...con tequila por favor!"...you can't get a decent bottle of tequila here - it's quite sad. I've almost given up drinking completely (except for Friday night) because of the lack of Cazadores. Beer is too filling, and I can't bring myself to imbibe Jose...I'd rather beat myself over the head with my board than deal with a Cuervo hangover.

Posted by kmpossible 20:57 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

June 19, 2008

Ahhhhh…that’s better….

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

We’re now in Bali. Yay!

…looking back though, I feel compelled to tell you that the food in Vietnam is TERRIBLE! We tried everything, local, international, cheap, expensive, in the city and on the beach, and at best it was mediocre. I felt depleted when we left due to the lack of nutrients – every day, when the next meal time rolled around I started to feel sick to my stomach, and just the sight of noodles made me want to barf. Mostly because that’s ALL I had been eating on a regular basis.

Aside from the food, the city of Saigon is pretty cool. I enjoyed watching the thousands of mopeds whizzing by in all directions at all hours of the day and night, and in all weather conditions. I did not, however, enjoy the intermittent smell of the sewer. As you’re walking down the street, you’ll sometimes get a whiff of the sewer (I think)…it’s kind of like walking down Mission Street in San Francisco during a particularly hot day. Ya know, you can smell the bum’s piss baking on the sidewalks…gives the experience a certain je ne sais quoi, oui? It was also crazy to see raw meat displayed on little carts up and down the streets, right out there in the hot sun. Seems a bit like the E. coli special to me, but to each his or her own. One person’s lunch is another person’s food poisoning. Which brings me to water. I did actually have drinks with ice cubes in them, and did not get sick. I also brushed my teeth with the tap water in the city as well as at the beach, and did not get sick. I understand the reasons behind why it’s a good idea in some places to drink bottled, purified water, but I think the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, for one, has truly exploited the fear of getting sick. And by doing so, they sell millions of dollars worth of water to travelers and residents alike. Conspiracy theory? Maybe, but I have read articles about the poor quality of bottled water: Dasani particularly, is a Coca-Cola brand notorious for having carcinogens leached into it by the poor quality material from which the bottle is made. It was actually banned from the shelves in the UK as a result. This will conclude my rant on bottled water. =)

Another somewhat unsettling scent in the air in Saigon was that of the durian fruit. This is the fruit that looks like a huge puffer fish, and smells like the rotting corpse of one. There were piles of these things everywhere! Carts and street-side stands were cutting them and selling them to passers by. I had to hold my breath when passing them, a dire necessity as the trip wore on and I became more and more nauseated by the thought/sight of food. Although, nearing the conclusion of our stay in Saigon, I started to acclimate slightly to the smell…funny what you can get used to, eh?

An experiment Mike and I tried to do in our room was to sit like the Vietnamese. Almost anywhere you look on the streets, you’ll see someone crouching very low to the earth, feet flat on the ground and butt almost touching the ground behind the feet, arms folded over the knees or busy at some task. Imagine the lowest squat you can…that’s it. It’s impossible to do, well, for me anyway. I fell right on my butt on the hard tiled floor of our room. Sometimes during or after a yoga class I can do it, but I have to be warmed up and stretched out. These people have some strong joints, and good balance!

Back to Bali….oh lovely Bali, with edible food and lovely beaches all around, great waves (I’m learning to surf), and wind (!), I adore thee. We are staying at a hotel in Sanur (which is on the south east coast of Bali), right on the beach. In Bali, like Manila, most people seem to speak English. All along the beach where we’re staying are little booth-type shops selling beaded necklaces, sarongs, crocheted tops and bathing suits. The unfortunate thing is that some of the shopkeepers will gather at the intersection of a street and the beach path, and verbally accost you as you pass. Not only do they try to get you into their shop, they follow you down the path saying things like: “Manicure?”, “Hair braiding?”, “Do some shopping?” – it’s really annoying, and makes me want to avoid the shops even more. I might have looked around, but I can’t abide someone breathing down my neck as I shop. Grrr!

That said, I did actually go into a shop, because it looked like no one was there, and a huge shell pendant necklace caught my eye. And yes, I bought it – it cost 30,000 Rupiah, talked down (thanks, Mike!) from 50,000. Sounds like a lot, but in reality, it’s only about $3. The trick to haggling here it seems is to walk away, and you can pretty much get your price, and everything is negotiable! We got our room discounted because I was frowning and said “What? It doesn’t include breakfast?”. The manager knocked off another 10,000/day in exchange for our staying for 3 weeks.

Posted by kmpossible 18:19 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

June 23, 2008

How do I love Bali? Let me count the ways!

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

I just re-read my last entry...I was a bit bummed by the mosquitoes and the poor food and the lack of wind! Anyway, we're in Bali now, and things are better! This blog, so far, has been about traveling more than kiting, and this is where I hope that shifts a bit.

We found this fantastic little hotel on the north end of Sanur Beach in southeastern Bali. After being here only 5 days, we already have racked up 2 days of kiting. The wind was good last Saturday, and GREAT yesterday! I'm up and riding now, so it's a lot more fun than my previous attempts (if that's possible!). I'm really enjoying the process of learning to kiteboard...it seems like there's always something to learn or try, no matter what your skill level. Saturday I used Mike's 12meter kite, but yesterday I was fully powered on my 9m. There's a reef break off the beach about 150yards out, which I've never seen before. It's cool to see the waves break so far out there, and it's nice that those huge waves aren't crashing down on me as I'm trying to learn! This spot seems great for surfing or kiting. The wind is light today, and the waves are beautiful. If I weren't so wiped out from the last two days of kiting, I'd be out there working on my surfing skills, or as my friend Peter would call it, paddling out skills. =)

Sanur is true to it's entry in the Lonely Planet travel guide, which describes the area as quiet, and lacking night life. It's very quiet, and people are really friendly. Kuta is nearby, just incase we have the urge to go out drinking/dancing, which is coming up probably this Friday, depending on the wind forecast!

The food is a gazillion times better than it was in Vietnam, so I'm finally able to eat something. Actually, today is the first day since leaving Mui Ne that I haven't had a sour stomach: I had a lovely breakfast today of fluffy scrambled eggs and coffee on the beach.

I have another blog entry that I wrote a couple days ago, but it's on my laptop, and I'm writing this entry from an internet cafe. Hopefully I'll find wifi at the nearby hotel that's the size of Manhattan.

Until then!

Posted by kmpossible 20:42 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Friday, June 13, 2008

"Why yes, bugs and muesli happen to be my favorite breakfast food."

all seasons in one day 32 °C
View Southeast Asia on kmpossible's travel map.

Let me start by saying, I’m a bit disillusioned today. After our first two sun-soaked days here at Mui Ne Beach, the sun has left us.

I’ll start at the beginning. Mike and I took a 5-hour bus ride to get here. Yea, 5 HOURS on a bus…that’s what I was saying to myself too. When the bus arrived at Madame Cuc’s Hotel 64 in Saigon at 8am on Sunday last to pick us up, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it’s a “special sleeping bus”. It has only about 24 seats, all of which are like a barco lounger. You climb into your seat and recline back, or lie flat the entire way. And it’s air-conditioned!!! So we cruised across Vietnam to the beach in style.

We arrived at a hotel arranged by the girl at the front desk at the previous hotel, and were swept into our room. We got the cheap room with no AC, so by the time we got our bags inside, we were ready to get into the water! We took a quick wade in the ocean followed by lunch. A plate of swordfish, a little overcooked and dry, and a noodle plate with some shrimp, plus a couple freshly squeezed juice drinks. Afterwards, we went to the room to relax a bit and possibly take a nap. It’s tough work sitting on a bus reading and listening to music for 5 hours. =)

About 10 minutes after we lay down on the bed, the fan stopped working. And the room became like an oven. We sat there trying to figure out what to do, when I noticed a shadow go across the ceiling, which was made of thin corrugated plastic. (Over that roof was another, thatched roof.) I thought it was just a bird, but then I heard the clickety clack of tiny little toenails as several huge rats made their way across the roof again…they had a nest up there! Stunned into silence and sweating like a whore in church, I lay there frozen. Just then, I heard ‘scamper scamper, clicking of toenails, and a loud THUD and a SQUEEK!’ One of the rats had gotten into a skirmish with one of the other rats, and had fallen off the roof and into our bathroom. We were suddenly and surprisingly galvanized – we hurriedly packed our bags back up and checked out of what will forever be known as “The Rat Motel”.

We walked down the road to find another hotel, and came across a sign that said “70% off rooms”…we checked it out, and that’s where we continue to call home, at the Windchamps Resort and Kiting School. Sunday and Monday were windy, sunny, and hot, but we decided to catch some rays and rest a bit from our harrowing horizontal journey from Saigon instead of doing what we came here to do: KITE!

As our luck would have it (Baja Revisited?), there’s been no wind since then, and it’s now Friday. To add insult to injury (there have been injuries…more on that later) it’s been pissing down with rain since then, with a brief break yesterday, but no sun. Today it’s a little better, and the sun actually just came out. The whole time it’s been humid as hell though.

We actually pumped up our kites yesterday and got all our gear on as the wind was pretty good, but still no sun. Just as we tried to launch my kite, the wind died. Boo hoo! So we made the best of it and played in the water. Like most beaches around the world, there are lots of dogs here. One such beast trotted up to my kite like he owned the place and promptly proceeded to lift his leg on it! “Oh hell no!” I shouted and ran toward the mongrel. He only got a little squirt out. Lucky for me there was just enough wind to blow the piss onto the sand instead of landing on my kite. “Little bastard!” Mike’s kite was down wind a bit, which is exactly where the dog headed next. I thought surely he’ll realize that I’m watching and won’t make the attempt. I followed him just incase. Sure enough, he lifted his leg again!!!! This time I was much closer to him, so I sprinted across the sand and just as I came up behind him, I kicked the sand (full of lots of shards of shells) right at his boy-dog bits. He yelped and jumped about 4 feet in the air. “I hope you don’t sit down for a week!” I win – two to nothin’.

Last night we went to a more expensive restaurant than we’ve been frequenting to see if the food is any better – it’s mostly been crap. Not even OK, just crap! This place was no exception. We were greeted twice, first by the wait staff, who seated us near a 2-foot retainer wall, and second, by the biggest rat I’ve ever seen, who seated us again, at a table far away from whatever dead thing it was trying to eat on the other side of the wall. We were dressed in jeans and hoodies, not because it was chilly, but because we’re being eaten alive by mosquitoes in the night as we sleep (the aforementioned injuries!), despite our mosquito net! So we told the waiter we were moving to be in front of the fan…stupid Americans and their weather-inappropriate clothing!

The food came and seriously it was nothing noteworthy…we thought the fish would be incredibly fresh because this place is ON the water, but that’s been bad too. Over cooked and dry, and not much variety: shrimp, squid, swordfish. The three S’s of Mui Ne seafood. Well I’ve got three more for you: soggy, scorching and scratchy! …aw well, make it four: Scrabble! You’ll play a lot of it if you come to visit here this time of year! =)

So we tried also last night to stay awake past 7pm., a tough endeavor for us, but we managed, even after Mike took 2 Benadryl for the ungodly number of mosquito bites he has all over him. I’m not getting bitten as much, thankfully.

Upon waking this morning, we walked to our new favorite place for breakfast. They actually serve something that doesn’t come with a baguette, so we both ordered that: fruit bowl with yogurt and muesli, as well as some Vietnamese coffee. We shared that and an omelette two mornings ago, and it was great. The coffee came and we were chatting about what to do if the wind doesn’t pick up and it continues to rain. We’re thinking about heading to Bali for the rest of the month if things here don’t pick up, and maybe head back here later in the year when the rains have died down.

Breakfast arrived at the table, a lively bowl of local watermelon, pineapple, banana, yogurt and muesli. I sat admiring the simple yummieness (yes, it’s a word!) of it, and realized that there were tiny little bugs crawling on the muesli! Mike’s was the same, so we sent them back. I think the girl just opened a new box, scraped off the old stuff and poured on some fresh cereal, because when I got to the bottom of my bowl, there it was, the lonely carcass of one of the tiny bugs…probably drowned in yogurt. I was completely grossed out. I won’t be ordering the fruit bowl again, and would certainly think twice about going back there again.

Back at the hotel, there is a swarm of dragonflies buzzing over and around the pool area. I think it’s a sign…this is biblical. They carried away a small child. …not that I mind, but I think the parents did.

Enough is enough.

As the plague of dragonflies swarms around me blotting out the sun, I book a flight to Bali, and hope for some FREAKING WIND!

Posted by kmpossible 04:12 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 35) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 »