Pandangbai to Paradise

I decided to stay one extra night in Ubud, bid farewell (or Ciao) to Raffaella, and leave in the morning for Padangbai- which is a coastal town closer to the Gilli islands, where I wanted to hit after that. Why hurry to get over to the Gillis?

Probably my biggest tactical mistake yet on this trip. See, the problem is that the Lonely Planet is for some reason terrified to really criticize a city or a country very much. I think they like to be politically correct. So they made Pandangbai seem kinda cool. Well, it wasn’t. Padangbai is kind of dumpy, although, there’s a nice beach just over the hill called Bloo Lagoon, which I walked to (about 15 min). It’s a bay so there are no waves, but people were snorkeling.

Anyway I also got screwed on my hotel. It was one of the ones recommended by Lonely Planet. First, it was kinda crappy, although definitely not the worst place I have seen. Second, for the first time this trip, the people running it weren’t that nice. And third, I didn’t do a good job negotiating the price. She said 200 and I immediately said 150, she said 180 and I said okay. I did get air con, but the place had no real window (a small area of thick glass letting light in), and the bathroom was hot and stinky!

Padangbai is definitely more “local” than any other place I’ve been. There’s also a mosque in town so you get that erie chanting/singing every so often. There’s really nothing interesting in the town, a few restaurants and a couple of bars. I ate dinner and walked back to my hotel, and I felt like one of the only tourists around (although I met this nice Dutch couple who were 18 and 19 years old and just finishing traveling for 5 months!). The bed was uncomfortable and I had the worst night sleep in a while.

The next day I took the “fast” boat over to Gilli Trawangan. They said “1 hour”, but it was actually about 2.5 hours with 2 other stops.

Anyway a lot of young people on the boat. I mean like 18, 19, 20. I heard a lot of American accents too. The people I sat by were teachers in Singapore, all from the US or Canada.

Finally arrived at the island, and as usual I didn’t have a place to stay. It was kinda fun walking down the main strip and comparing prices. I thought I was going to have to spend a lot on the island to get a room with air con, but it wasn’t bad. I ended up with a place right across from the beach for $25 (got him down from $30, ha).

So, this place is paradise. It’s Hawaii-esque. There are no cars or motorbikes allowed here, so they use horse & buggy! It’s strange and interesting. There are also no cops on the island! So it’s a bit anarchistic. Some of the shops sell “shroom shakes” and I’ve been offered marijuana more times here than the rest of my trip combined. (not sure why they openly sell shrooms but mj seems to be just from guys on the street).

Morning at Gilli Trawangan Island Beach

So the area is also pretty high-end with lots of dive companies, resorts, and classy bars and restaurants. I got sort of an American lunch (chicken sandwich and fries) and it was 6 bucks (pricey!).

And, with all this, it’s also a muslim area here, like the neighboring island of Lombok (and the rest of Indonesia). So the weird chanting from the mosque went on all afternoon! I don’t get it. They just pray all day every day? And why are the mics at all these mosques always distorted? Also, I don’t understand why they need to broadcast their chanting. Does everyone seriously need to hear it? Apparently, the muslim religion in this region is pretty mellow compared to the middle east. I mean, the mosque is right in the middle of all these places that sell alcohol, and they don’t cover up nearly as much as what you see in say, Saudi Arabia.

Another brilliant thing happened today- I tried my camera and it worked! I thank my friend Mary in Texas for that one. She responded to an email I sent and said to check it again, sometimes it takes a week to dry out…and BOOM I have my camera back!

The weather is amazing here. It’s super sunny, kinda hot but not ridiculous, and a little humid but not bad. I snorkeled a bit today (not much to see), and for dinner I went to this market and got some street food! It was kind of like a collection of food trucks. It was cheaper and better than the restaurants, I got lamb sate at one place and nasi goreng (fried rice, egg, chicken, some veg & spice) at another, for a total of $2.70. This street market is yet another cool thing that Lonely Planet fails to mention. I swear, I’m going to some day give them competition because I think they do a crappy job for the most part!

The island doesn’t really have internet. I tried a couple of places, and it worked a tiny bit but pages were taking 5 minutes to load, so it’s pretty pointless. I’m taking a 2:30 boat back to Bali tomorrow, and getting a shuttle to Legian. The plan is to grab a cheap place there for one night and then try to find something there or a little north in Seminyak for the next 10 nights to use as my temporary home.

Oh one last thing. United is insane with how you can use your miles. I was trying to find a way home from Manila. I checked it 3 nights ago and found a flight that went from Manila to Tokyo to SFO. Perfect! But, I wanted to wait and here back from my Philippino assistant who was going to get back to me on some of my questions on flights, things to do, and dates.

So the next day I got on united.com again and that flight was GONE! Now there was one that went from Manila to Tokyo to Seattle to SFO. It only added 2 hours or something onto the trip so not bad. But, I still hadn’t heard back from Miles (my assistant). So I waited another day. I finally got all the info I needed, and was ready to book on 5/15. Wrong! Now both flights are gone! Now they want me to go Manila to Guam to Tokyo to Seattle to SFO! It’s getting completely ridiculous at this point. I checked each leg of the original flight I wanted. Manila to Tokyo is available. Tokyo to SFO is available. The catch is I would have to use 60,000 miles and fly economy instead of 32,500 on economy or 60,000 business class. No idea why they stopped listing the original flight, since there is clearly room on the plane.

So United sucks, and I’m not sure when (or if!) I can ever get home. I’m not willing to fly to Guam at this point.

Ok, tomorrow I plan to get up early and walk around the permitter of the island. Supposed to be about 2 hours and I will be greeted with banana pancakes when I get back. 🙂