Category : Travel

31 Hours to Paradise

So I’m off to Bali today from San Diego, and writing this post from the Bangkok airport (which, I can’t seem to understand

17.5 Hours of This

how the wifi works, so I’m typing it up and posting later). It goes like this:

SAN–>LAX–>BKK–>DPS (Bali)

It’s 31 hours of travel, including layovers.

But first…

Why Bali?

Well…for many years now I have wanted to visit Asia, to see this “up and coming” (or already there in some ways) part of the world. China doesn’t hold a lot of interest to me, but many other parts of the continent do.

I think my reading of Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week a few years ago and more recently Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Non Conformity got me thinking about traveling and actually LIVING someplace not just quickly passing through.

Then there’s my friend Dan Andrews, who moved from San Diego to Manila to Bali, and has been loving Bali for the last year and running his businesses from there and kicking some major butt in the process! I’ve been a listener to his podcast for over a year, and him mentioning things about Bali on nearly every episode had some influence.

Then there’s my friend Mike who spent a good amount of time in Bali, doing business and surfing. His exact quote was “It’s the most spiritual place on earth, and I’m an atheist.” He describes the beauty as nothing like what you will see anywhere else in the world, and the way of life and people as something you have to experience.

Then there’s my friend Craig who has been to and surfed Bali and always has stories.

So this trip will be a combination of being a tourist, and living in the area. The plan after 30 days in Bali is a flight to Singapore. Then it’s unplanned, but most likely I will be spending a few days in Singapore, and taking the train through Malyasia and up to Thailand for at least 15 days (crazy tourist visa restrictions but there may be a way around it). I’d also like to visit the Philippines. So I’ll be a busy bee there on the second half of the trip!

So leading up to the flights today was INSANE, I moved out of my place and ran into every glitch you could possible dream up (that damn murphy and his stupid law!), and BARELY got everything moved out and in storage and to the SD airport. But, we’re good so far!

The flight from LAX (which, BTW, does NOT have wifi, I guess they are living in the stone ages!) to Bangkok was 17.5 hours. Longest flight I’ve ever been on! But, it’s a pretty first class airline- good leg room, good food, attentive staff but not too attentive, and lots of movies to choose from with a cool remote thing that you can also use for music and check out where the flight is and bunch of other stuff.

I got really lucky with my neighbor. She was a tiny Thai lady, she lives in LA but is from Thailand and going back to visit. She’s was super nice and pleasant and was okay with letting me have the window seat, which was my preference. Since I pretty much don’t sleep on planes, I used a sleep enhancement this time (ambien)- and wow was I glad I did! I slept for close to 6 hours, and actually woke up feeling pretty refreshed- or as much as one can be refreshed sleeping in a sitting position! Also, luckily, I didn’t have to pee much and when I did my neighbor didn’t even have to get out of her seat because she was so little!

So the security thing, as usual, is just stupid all over the world. Even though I went through security in San Diego, AND LA, to get to my gate of course in Bangkok I had to go through security yet again (just in case I cooked up some explosives on my flight over!). So the Thai version of the TSA is almost identical to ours- body scanner machines, shoes off, and they stole my water and the guy searched my bag.

Alright I’m over this layover, I forgot that it was 3 hours, and I can’t get on the internet, and I’m a little jet lagged…but still thrilled to almost be in BALI! Just a 4 hour flight till my arrival. Then I meet up with my friend Elisa at the baggage claim…and I’m sure that’s after all kinds of bureaucratic fun times getting a visa and going through yet more privacy violations!

I tried to learn hello and thank you in Thai but I give up. It’s REALLY hard to say it right. I’m just going with English for now while I’m in the airport.

Alright, flight is about to board, on to Indonesia…

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They Paved Paradise

First 2 days on the island of Bali were a little rough!

Landing in Bali and getting the tourist visa, meeting Elisa in baggage claim, and going through customs was all a piece of cake. (It’s super clear that the visa thing is just a another scam set up by governments to take your money as you enter the country).

The surprise was to find out that our apartment was 1 hour away from the airport! The taxi driver was honest though and the trip only cost $17.

I found this apartment online a few days before leaving San Diego on a site called airbnb.com. It was a reasonable deal and from the looks of it, not far from the airport or the beach. Also, it had good reviews on the site from several people.

The first problem was our driver couldn’t find the place. We got to the general area, but there was no address on the listing, so it was pretty confusing. We finally had the driver call the apartment owner, and we bumbled our way down this alley and finally found it.

It looked like the pictures- BUT, it was dirty! There were little ants everywhere and hair on the sheets! The place hadn’t been cleaned in at least a week. Kind of a weird place to start off the trip; there wasn’t much around there in terms of restaurants and shopping, and it was all locals, really poor, and lots of barking wild dogs around.

We braved our way a couple blocks to get some dinner at a little cafe, and the food was delicious! I think that meal was like 6 bucks for the two of us. Nice.

The next day we took a taxi down to Legian, which is just north of the crazy party town of Kuta. First stop was a lunch spot recommended by the Lonely Planet book. I got this dish that was a chicken curry with hardboiled eggs and this banana soaked rice or something that was sooooooooo good! I really savored every bite of that meal.

I think the next day and a half were pretty downhill from there. Without plans, we actually found a hotel close to everything and reasonably priced pretty easily. (I’m still getting used to negotiating everything- they said the room was 330,000 Rp (about $33), and I only got them down to 315,000. Anyway, the place was MUCH better than the last one, clean, had a nice pool, wifi, everything we needed.

We headed to Legian Beach, a few blocks away. The first thing that you can’t avoid is 50 million people trying to sell you crap where ever you go. It usually goes like this for me as I walk by the shops:

“Boss! BOSS! Over here boss! I have cheap price, what you want?”

And, if you even express a tiny bit of interest in something, suddenly you will be surrounded by 4 or 5 Balinese guys yelling at you to buy this or that! I was looking at a belt in this one place and the guy was just pointing at all the belts he had, and saying they were real leather, and going “how about this one? How about this one? I get you cheap price!” I was so turned off by his sales techniques that I started walking away and….he grabbed my hand! Someone needs to start teaching these guys how to sell, because about 99.99% of them have no clue that they are driving away far more customers than they are getting.

Anyway, we ended up sitting under an umbrella at Legian Beach, and they force you to buy a drink to sit there. Suddenly, we’re surrounded by several Balinese women with big hats on with their names on them. They all wanted to know our names, where we were from, if we were married….then of course they are offering all kinds of things to buy- pedicures, massages, junk. Our waiter (the bar owner) sat down with us and chatted. He seemed to love America, but he just kept blurting out celebrity names: “Arnold Schwartzenegger! Mike Tyson! Michael Jordan!” Pretty funny.

Our new friend Ketut at Legian Beach

Elisa ended up caving in to our sales ladies and getting a manicure, pedicure, and hair braid! You can’t say these women don’t work hard. 🙂

Got to sleep early that night and the next day, we had probably a little (or a lot?) more ambition than we should have- being that we were both still jetlagged from passing through like 14 time zones just a little earlier.

We had breakfast and took off on a walk to Kuta (about 20 min away). It’s HOT here of course, and through pouring sweat, we made it to Kuta. We walked down the main street, and……..OMG, it’s a carnival atmosphere, think Tijuana on steroids! Shop after shop, everyone’s trying to get you to come in. It’s SUPER annoying. Elisa got some sunglasses and we had like 8 guys around us pushing more glasses, t-shirts, yelling at me “boss, you need another pair, here!”

So Kuta pounded us down into a pulp. We took a walk along the coast, and there are tons of resorts, REALLY nice ones that remind me of the big island of Hawaii.
Buttttttttttt, Elisa got a blister, so we had to head back to our hotel. Cabbed it back, and for some really dumb reason decided to walk back to Kuta! That walk plus getting a little lost did us in. I think we were ready to kill the hawkers, and kill each other before getting out of there.

So, we were pretty anti-Kuta and decided to head down to Ulu Watu, on the south end of Bali.

We hired a driver for about $25 to stop at a few places along the way….whoa….huge difference just south of Kuta! Much more laid back, slow, peaceful, beautiful. Jambayan beach was the highlight, totally peaceful bay but no waves.

We arrived at Ula Watu this afternoon and checked into an AWESOME hotel. We were hoping to save a little money but ended up shelling out $33 for this amazing place, right near one of the best surf spots in the world- and some of the best ocean views I’ve ever seen.

Ulu Watu is freaking amazing!!!!!! Shops and restaurants on a cliff, aqua blue water, incredible surf breaks….this place is what “it’s all about”! And…the trip seems to have done a 180 degree turn around, with jetlag fading. 🙂

The view from a cafe above Ulu Watu

Tomorrow will probably head to the temple here and grab a surf board and paddle out for a beating. Haha.

(This post is 2 days behind because of lack of wifi here in Bali. 2 hotels in a row without wifi, so no pictures yet, will try to upload pics tonight!)

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Seminyak to Lovina

3 days in Seminyak, not really on purpose, but we hit a few road blocks, including Elisa’s day at the hospital (turned out to just be a sprained wrist).

I also was able to hook up with a couple of people living at the Tropical MBA house in Seminyak. This is Dan Andrews’ house where interns and employees of his company come to Bali and live there for a period of time to work with him. Anyway, one of them is American and the other from Austria. It was fun hearing their stories, and their thoughts on Bali after being here several months to a year. Their power was out that day so we met up at a coffee shop to get some wifi, then swung by the house. It’s nice but they have to deal with some 3rd world problems, like brown outs, slow internet, and motorbikes (which, it seems that almost everyone has a story about having an accident!).

The next day was the laziest day yet. Around mid-day we booked a 2-day tour for the following day, which headed up north to the rice fields, a hike on the volcano at Mt Batur, and overnight in Lovina in the north.

The first stop was at a place to get Luwak coffee. A Luwak is an animal that looks like a cross between a cat and a possum, and it eats these seeds that get passed through and pooped out and supposedly then have this special property that people make this really good coffee out of! So, we stopped to get some cat poop coffee, which I didn’t want but she was dying to try. They gave us samples of regular coffee, flavored coffee, and specialized teas that were all pretty tasty. The Luwak was just really strong. Elisa made it through about 1/2 a cup and I took a sip. Nobody died!

A couple of side tidbits. Many of the Balinese are really hard to understand. Most know a little English but that’s about it, and there’s a lot of conversations that sort of end with nobody sure if the message got through. Also, the taxi driver/hawkers are hilarious (but not on purpose). Here’s how it usually goes when you walk by a taxi driver who’s trying to sell his services:

“Yes? Taxi? Yes? Transport? Maybe? Tomorrow?”

Not many of them know when to back off.

The other thing is the cats and dogs here. The dogs mope around looking really sad and hopeless. There’s no life to them! They’re completely different from dogs back home. They seem unloved or something. The cats are super scrawny and walk around with angry scowls on their faces, and have these really scratchy, annoying meows.

Anyway, after the cat poo coffee, we went on a hike up to Mt Batur, overlooking Batur lake. It rained like crazy almost the whole time, we got soaked, my little windbreaker didn’t do anything, and my camera got wet and looks like it’s broken! Anyway, the volcano was pretty cool once we got to the top, (pics comment), and the story there was a big gust of wind at one point when our guide came and grabbed my arm and pulled me to “safety”! I let him bask in the glory of thinking he saved my life. The way down was even more wet, but my Keen sandals literally saved me from going down about 7 times. The difficulty level of the hike was moderate, took about 3.5 hours total.

Getting soaked on Mt Batur

Got to Lovina last night. The weather here is really nice. It’s a sleepy town with a little bit of tourism. I’m not sure what’s exciting about this place other than there is a beach with a statue of a dolphin. There’s also muslims here (last night you could here that weird chanting coming from a local mosque, kind of interesting). Other than that, the beaches are black sand and covered with trash, the water is rough but not really any waves.

Kind of looking forward to getting out of here today. Supposed to go visit some waterfalls and a few other things before heading back to Seminyak.

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Nusa Lembongan

So I got them down from the “discounted” price of 500,000r (about $50 US) to 300,000r to get a shuttle to the boat and a round trip fast boat to Lombongan. The guy told me “Shuttle will pick up from the hotel at 9:30 to 9:45 in the morning.” So I had a casual morning, found a place with wifi AND my favorite avocado-choco juice, so I chilled there for a while.

When I got back to the hotel about 9:10, the driver was waiting, looking for me, with a van full of other people! Had to pack quickly and motivate. I don’t think we were in any danger of missing the boat, and nobody seemed stressed out. There were 3 couples on the boat. One from Brazil, who lived in Perth, Australia, another from Western Australia, and a 3rd surfer couple I THINK from Australia also, although I noticed they put “BRITAIN” on the form to fill out for the boat. Anyway, it was fun talking with them and finding out what’s going on in their worlds, and what they’re all doing in Bali.

I also was starting to see that this island was probably kind of a romantic getaway, and the solo effort on my part could be a little strange perhaps.

After getting to the island and not having accommodations, I felt comfort in the fact that the surfer couple didn’t have anywhere to stay either! We told the driver we still were looking for somewhere to stay, and weren’t sure if they understood or not! So, a bunch of us piled in to this pickup truck with benches and a make shift roof, and they drove us down to where most of the hotels are. Funny, we were all commenting that you would be arrested for having this kind of setup back home, bunch of people piled in and no seatbelts, etc….even more funny was that these were one-lane dirt roads we had to take to get there.

We ended up at the Puri Nusa hotel, right on the beach. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much room to negotiate this time, and it was confusing as to what they had available…but, I ended up with a nice room with A/C for 20 bucks, so I’m not too sad about the deal. The couple ended up getting a room with 2 single beds and no A/C for 10 bucks. Not a bad deal if you can put up with a few odd things!

This is the prettiest place I’ve seen yet on this trip. Hopefully I can get my videos posted sometime! Really cool hillsides, gorgeous blue-green water. Not many places look like this.

The weather was awesome this afternoon! I took a walk down the small beach, and soon realized that this island is mostly meant for relaxing and taking in the beauty. They have snorkeling, which I may do tomorrow, and apparently surfing sometimes, but definitely no surf right now.

I considered getting a motor bike and cruising the island, but instead, I grabbed lunch, did some stuff online with the super-slow wifi, and went to my room and took a really long, nice nap. When I woke up, the wind was blowing, and it was sprinkling. I decided to just totally chill here and not worry about seeing the rest of the island. I was able to get a little work done online (although, I’m sooo not working on this trip so far that it’s to the point of hurting my business!), and do some research on Bali (finally!) and some of the history. (Amazingly, when the Dutch landed in 1906 to take over the country, thousands of Balinese fought them tooth and nail to keep their land, even though they were far overpowered and outnumbered by the Dutch military. Lots of Balinese blood was shed as the Dutch took over. Just more territorial/governmental nonsense!)

So tonight was kind of strange. There are very few tourists here. I’ve seen several couples, and some really young (like high school age) kids. I went to dinner next door and had banana leaf-wrapped fish which was….amazing! First fish I think I’ve had here in Bali. It seems I’m the only one here rolling solo, and now that it’s night, there’s no wifi, so I’m forced to entertain myself! Writing and reading it is.

Oh, another funny thing here on Bali. The locals ask you a lot of questions! I’ve probably been asked about 147 times when I arrived, how long I’m staying, and where I’m from. Yesterday, I was leaving my hotel room and a guy working on the grounds said hi, then said “where are you going?” Sometimes it’s because they want to sell you something, and other times it’s just sort of their way of connecting with the tourists I think. The kids are really friendly too, and seem even more fascinated by white people! It’s really cute.

Well this wind storm is still pretty strong, but if it eases up, I’ll probably do snorkeling tomorrow morning. Otherwise may do the motorbike thing, or maybe just waste another day in paradise! My return boat leaves at around 2pm, still not sure what I’m doing tomorrow. They’re going to start getting ready for their big new years holiday celebration on the 23rd probably starting tomorrow, so I need to figure out where I’m going to be and plop myself down for a few days- since on the 24th, everything closes down and you’re not even supposed to leave your hotel!

(I’m temporarily giving up on uploading pics/videos…hopefully have faster wifi soon!)

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Nusa Lombogan to Ubud

The last day on the Lombogongan island was windy and raining. The worst weather yet on this trip. I was going to snorkel but the conditions didn’t look good in the morning. So I rented a motorbike and cruised around a bit. First time in like 15 years or something riding a scooter I think, so I was a little cautious. I went around some of the more mellow streets, but it started raining, and I was going up this steep, wet, pothole-filled road and not feeling a lot of confidence, so I turned around and went to the beach for a little bit and hung out. Then the rain started coming down a little harder, so I went back to my hotel.

Definitely a learning experience. I may do the motorbike thing again, and it’s kinda fun, but I think the risk-reward ratio isn’t high enough for me to make a habit of it here.

So, from about 10:30-1:00, it was just a matter of waiting for the transport to the boat back to Bali. Another crazy truck ride back and the boat back was surprisingly smooth considering the rain.

I also temporarily “re-united” with my former travel partner Elisa and her and I and another girl from North Carolina got a taxi to Ubud from there. Lots of traffic but it was about an hour drive.

Ubud is the “spiritual center” of Bali, and where one of the big celebrations for their New Years (Nyuppi) takes place. It’s also been popularized by the book that like 99% of chicks have read “Eat, Pray, Love”, where part of it takes place.

I compare Ubud to an upscale part of Berkeley- (or OB if you’re in San Diego). Lots and lots of retail shops, many of them high-end.

I grabbed a hotel not too far from the main street, overlooking a rice field. I liked the feel of this place right from the start.

The next day I took off on a walk. I cleared the whole main strip in about 20 minutes! Kinda boring to me. So I took a turn off on another street and stopped to look at my book to see what else there is. This girl asked me if I knew how to get to the rice fields or something…I said I had no idea but that sounds good! So we took off together and found this path that led us out of town and into a rural area with row after row of amazing green rice fields. Raffaella is from Italy and knows English but doesn’t always understand my “American English”!

So the sign on the path said 2km, but we were walking for a while and not seeing a turn around point. We then stumbled upon this art store with a painter selling his “Egg Art”. The most amazing little paintings on these wooden eggs! The guy has almost no foot traffic, is probably the best artist in the world at painting eggs, and makes almost nothing. Anyway he was a really nice old man and we looked around his shop for a while, and for the first time we didn’t feel pressure to buy anything. Also, he was the first blue-eyed Balinese I’ve seen.

So the little walk down the path turned into a hike on rolling hills, and now we found ourselves on a narrow road with no sidewalks and cars and motorbikes whizzing by….and it was pretty hot and we were both getting really hungry! One of those days. We asked at several places on the road side how far it is back to Ubud. NOBODY understood English! The best we got was “Ubud!” With the finger pointed in the direction of town. It was pretty funny because we kept trying different ways to ask the same thing:

“How far?”
“How many kilometers?”
“How many meters?”
“How long?”

Nothing worked!

I think the grand total we walked was about 3 hours. I got a little sunburned…the Nora Goreng I had for lunch when we got back never tasted so good! I added an Avocado-Choco juice just for good measure too. 🙂

That night I went with Raffaella to this ceremonial dance presentation (“Kecak” dance). It’s one of those local things kind of like what they do in Hawaii, that pretty much only makes sense to locals. Well, it was off the charts ridiculous! Dozens of these guys sitting in a circle chanting “Chaka chaka chaka chaka” for 1.5 hours with the occasional dancing monkey, or monster, or king, or pretty girl coming into the middle and then leaving. This went on forever. Then they cleared out and brought out a bunch of coconut shells and lit them on fire. This guy comes out with a silly horse costume and starts stomping all over the flaming coconut skins! This took a good 20 minutes. We were just amazed at how silly this whole thing was….but it was one of those “it’s so ridiculous that it’s funny” kind of things.

The next day, I moved out of my hotel and into a better and cheaper one (with a pool), partly because the following day is Nyuppi, where nobody is allowed on the streets! So were kind of all stuck in our hotels.

Anyway, last night was the big celebration. The center of town was filled with these huge monster puppets. Many of these puppets apparently took months to build, all for this one night. The puppets range from looking completely ridiculous, to funny, to scary, to…pornographic! I think my pictures will do better justice to the latter description than for me to explain it. 🙂

The kids were divided up into groups. One by one, each group took there puppet out into the street, where they performed chants and dances. Then they took off down the street with their puppet, parading through town. This went on a LONG time. We finally got kinda bored and left for a cafe, a beer, and call it a night…but not before running into several groups of young men lighting off fireworks that exploded like bombs. These were probably M-80’s or cherry bombs, but they are completely annoying, and we couldn’t figure out what pleasure people could possibly get out of just experiencing ear drum-rattling bombs going off every 10 minutes!

So today is new years day, and it’s “Silent Day” and I’m stuck here at my hotel until tomorrow morning. It’s a very strange tradition. What happens if I leave my hotel? Supposedly, an armed police officer would quickly usher me back to my hotel. Most people here just abide by tradition and don’t do a lot of questioning. I’d like to do a full analysis of the Hindu religion, but I’ll save that for another day when I have more info and energy to delve into this fantasy world!

If I ever get internet today I’ll post this. Otherwise, it’s just another typical wifi experience, where it “kind of” works.

Yesterday I booked my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket on April 14th, and today I’m going to start reading up on Thailand a bit…since I have all day!

p.s. I had a banana pancake for breakfast this morning and it was amazing

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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. 🙂

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Update and Some 3rd World Realities

My walk around the Gilli T island was pretty cool, but after that I was kinda ready to head back to Bali, and ended up having about 4 extra hours before the boat left…I ate and did a little internet, then just waited!

I left paradise and took a shuttle back to the madness of Kuta/Legian to grab a hotel for the night. Arriving at my hotel was a huge let down from where I was! I was paying the same amount and yet a much lower quality place, and in the thick of busy-ness.

The next morning I walked to Seminyak, a nicer area, and found a nice hotel near the beach and decided to pay a little more for a couple nights in a nicer place while I re-group.

Yesterday I walked probably like 10k in the mid-day sun! I found this authentic Indonesian restaurant where I had lunch (I was the only white skinned tourist in the place!). They only had one thing for lunch- “Chicken and rice”. Sounded boring, but the Lonely Planet recommended this place so I went for it. It was actually a huge lunch! And, I got to try some new things. It came with chicken, chicken liver, and….chicken feet! I was feeling adventurous, so I gave it all a try. The liver was good! The chicken feet were just too crispy/overdone to really get excited about. But, I was proud of myself for trying new food- and, nothing bad happened! And, it was a whopping $3 (although I think that was tourist prices, the local guys were probably paying $1.50).

By the end of the day I was exhausted, but I dragged myself to the beach for sunset, and sat on a bean bag under an umbrella, had an ice cold Bintang and took about 17,000 pictures of the sun right before it set. Sunset seems to be a popular thing here in Seminyak, and people around me were from all over the world.

So one thing that people don’t like to talk about with tropical paradise islands like Bali are the 3rd world aspects. Here’s a list of some of the things that suck:

-At least 3 times a day, no matter where I am, there’s this horrible smell that drifts into my presence. It’s kind of like bad cheese and poop combined. I still have no idea where it comes from, but I intend to find out!

-The sidewalks. No matter where you are, if there are sidewalks, they are crumbling apart- and this includes gigantic holes in the ground that would be easy to fall into if you were not paying attention.

-The dogs and cats. They are so unloved here. Most of them look depressed and beaten down, underweight, and they’re all DYING for food. They seem miserable and some of the dogs just bark a lot for no apparent reason, and the cats all have this scratchy meow that lends me to be more annoyed than sympathetic!

-Many of the beaches are littered with litter! It’s like people just throw stuff out in the ocean, and nobody bothers to clean up. I did see a hotel staff yesterday cleaning their portion of the beach, which is nice. Still, I question why nobody bothers to clean the beaches here. In San Diego, the biggest trash day of the year is July 4th, and the place looks like hell at the end of the day, but at 8am the next morning, volunteers get together to pick up trash, and by mid-day the place is immaculate!

-The hawkers. You can’t really go anywhere without people yelling at you: “Massage sir? Taxi! Transport? Boss, what you want?” It’s constant and gets old after a few times. If you even glance their way, they will get all excited and run up to you and try to get you to buy! One caveat to the hawkers is that, if you want something, they will get it done for you, or find someone that can! And, there doesn’t appear to be any resentment if you don’t buy and just want to ask a question (unlike Tijuana!).

So I’m here in “glitzy” Seminyak one more night. I’m getting together (finally) with my friend Dan later today, who lives about a 20 min walk from where I am. Not sure where I’ll be going tomorrow. I’d like to find waves. There’s a beach here and I was going to rent a board and surf this morning, but the water was a yellowish-brown color after a lot of rain last night. I’d rather not acquire some nasty disease at this point, so I skipped it. I may head north, or south back to Ulu Watu, or I’m even toying with the idea of going back to Ubud for my last week.

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Kuta!

I moved down to crazy Kuta a few days ago and it’s not bad!!!!

It’s a little crazy and busy but it’s got lots of nice restaurants and it’s a good central place to be.
It’s also not as cheap as I thought it would be. I’m paying 250Rp a night at this budget place…that’s about $27. It’s got A/C and it’s super clean, but it’s a 15 min walk from the beach and there’s nothing special about it. But, I’ve checked a couple other places and that seems to be the going rate here. If I was willing to sweat it out all night with no A/C I could pay $16/night. But my sleep would be terrible. Last night I got 8 SOLID hours with the A/C on full blast all night.

Yesterday I also finally surfed! It was awesome. I only caught 1.5 waves, but being in 85 degree water is such a treat coming from chilly CA! (and better than Costa Rica where it was around 90 degrees in the water when I was there!). I went down to Balangan Beach yesterday with a group I met through Dan and the Dynamite Circle people.

This is where I surfed

It’s down on the Bukit peninsula, kind of a quirky place to get to, but notorious for a great beach and great waves. It delivered on the beach, the waves, not so much. BUT, I got a taste of it. The group I was with included my friend Elisa from the Dan Andrews’ group, along with Tommy & Vlad (also connected to Dan), & a handful of their friends who were this group of Balinese girls (one of them being Dan’s girlfriend). We cruised down to Ulu Watu for sunset…we didn’t quite make it in time due to the crap roads here, but ended up grabbing a drink on the cliffs over Ulu, then headed over to a Thai restaurant for dinner. Some amazing food! I got my yellow curry pork and it was….enak! (Indonesian for delicious, my 3rd word in this language!)

Ulu Watu at Sunset

The peeps I hung with yesterday

I have a faster connection now but still struggling with uploading pics (takes a while). 5 more days in Bali, then flying to 1st world Singapore, the one of the freest markets in the world, as long as you don’t chew gum! Going to my friend’s hotel across the street from mine this afternoon to actually swim some laps, tomorrow hoping to surf in the morning and keep getting work done, as hard as that is. 🙂

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Is it possible to travel abroad AND save money?

When I was telling people before I left the US that I was going on a 2+ month trip to SE Asia, most of them had reactions like:

“Oh wow, business must be going really well!”
or
“Can you afford that???”
or
“How can you do that, what about your business?”

Another rice field near ubud

The funny thing is, part of the deal of me going was saving money! After being here almost a month, I can say that I underestimated my costs- partly because my traveling partner and I only lasted a week, so I was on my own with hotel or accommodations for a lot of the time here. I think what surprised me was that while Bali is cheap, it’s not THAT cheap. There is so much tourism here that you can easily travel around the island in luxury if that’s what you want. There are all levels of hotels.

And, my original thought was to be here for 2 months and rent 1 place, which I could have easily gotten for $300 or so a month. But, the way I did it bouncing from hotel to hotel cost a little more. Let’s look at numbers compared to what I spend at home (not including the stuff that I pay either way):

Typical month in San Diego:
Rent: $1200
Food: $350
Phone: $100
Gas: $200
Misc. car expenses: $50
Internet: $40
Power: $18
Entertainment: $100
Car insurance: $75
Total: $2133

First month here:
Hotel expenses: $650 (taking out $3 for breakfasts included)
Food: $300
Flight: $25 (Just taxes)
30-day Visa: $25
Phone: $40
Transport costs (taxis/shuttles): $80
“Exit” Fee from Indonesia (lame, I know): $30
ATM Fees: $50
Tours/Boat transport: $170
Internet: $0
Power: $0
Car insurance: $0
Total: $1400

So, according to this, I’m $733 ahead. I left out laundry, which is a wash, no pun intended. I may have spent a little more on little restaurant things (like amazing avocado juice shakes!), but it’s like $2 here and there, and beer (which I don’t drink much of at home, but when it’s like $1.70/beer I have it more often here), so maybe throw in another $25 to my trip expenses. But clothing comes out to be less here, not that I’m buying a bunch of clothes, but I spent $2 on a tank top yesterday where at home it would be $10.

I’m kicking back and letting the checks roll in!

Now, let’s say I got a place for $300/month here instead of paying for hotels wherever I go. This doesn’t mean I suddenly save an extra $450 a month- unless I just stay in one place and never do overnight trips. So, if I had gone with my original plan, I would have been doing several overnight trips and paying for hotels on top of my rent. So let’s say I did 8 trips and averaged $25, it’s an extra $200 so we’re looking at a savings of about $283.

So we’re going with a $733 savings over staying home for the past month. Not bad, was hoping for a little better, but like I started with this post, it’s not as cheap here as it’s played up to be- and food costs go up a bit because I eat out for every meal here as opposed to doing the groceries thing.

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A Massage is Not a Massage…

So it’s been a few days since I’ve blogged, lots going on and I moved from a wordpress.com site to wordpress.org, still working the kinks out with some stuff, like the links on the right look like text and descriptions are blending in instead of showing up when you scroll over the links. Details…

Lots has happened in the last few days! Here’s a rundown:

1. I took a trip up to Tanah Lot temple with a couple of women I met via Todd who I met through Dan! Anyway, one of them was a crazy indonesian woman and the other was less crazy but kinda uptight Dutch woman. We took a taxi to the temple, about 8 miles north, but lots of windy roads. Not super exciting, but I got blessed by a priest or something! Of course, for a donation. You splash your face with some sort of holy water and then they put this little salt on your forehead and chest.

Right after being blessed, Indian ocean background

2. My plan was to walk to Canggu Beach from the temple after. The women were going on to another temple which I didn’t care about and wanted to check out a new beach. The driver laughed at the idea of me doing that walk. When I got there I saw why he was laughing. There’s cliffs I would have to scale to go south. There were no taxis waiting at the temple, so I had to talk to some people to ask for a ride. First one said 100k. No thanks. The next guy I found said 80k but I manged to get him down to 40k. He took me to Echo Beach, just north of Canguu. Kind of nice, kind of touristy but really laid back (no waves that day).

Echo Beach Cafe

The driver that took me to Echo Beach was the nicest guy in the world, but said I wouldn’t be able to walk from Echo to Canguu. He was smoking something because it was super easy to do that walk, only about 1km. I met a French Canadian couple along the way and we walked together. They were looking for a guest house in Canguu, but when we got there, they realized it was actually at Echo. Anyway, Canguu beach wasn’t all that special and again, no waves, so, I parted ways with the Frenchies and decided to WALK back home, probably about 10k- in the midday sun. I was on a mission and it felt like the right thing to do. It was amazingly empty for most of the walk, nobody was out at the beach, just walking through the desert! I have a video that I would upload here if I had the bandwidth. Here’s a pic of the W on Kerabokan beach. It really stands out there.

The W at Kerabokan Beach

I applied sunscreen 3 times along the walk and by the time I got back home I was soaking wet…but luckily not sunburned.

3. The next day I had a planned bike ride with my new friend Ning. She lives in Kerabokan so I told her I would taxi up there, and she’s got a mountain bike for me to borrow. She was making fun of me because I’m not big on biking in the Bali traffic, and kept saying I’m scared. She rides every day all over the place and is in top shape. Anyway the story was the morning. I walked out of my hotel at 7am and the usual 10,000 taxis were no where to be seen this early! But, there was a girl on a scooter waving at me, so I walked over and she asked if I wanted a ride. Yes, and I told her where I was going and she said yes, 20,000 ($2 US). Great deal! So I hopped on the back of her bike and we take off.

“You want massage?” she says.

No, I just want to meet my friend, I’m okay.

Her- “I show you good time!” as she starts moving her hips.

Me- “No thanks, just want to get there”.

Her- “We have time, I go fast, you want? How bout hand job?”

At this point, I’m laughing! I can’t believe I’m getting a ride on a scooter with a prostitute! Anyway she continued selling me her services all the way up. But, she got me there despite getting a bit lost and asked me to pay her before we got there (I guess she was worried about people seeing the transaction). She told me to get a massage later. I gave her my phone and “Lela” put her number in. Really funny, strange, interesting all at the same time.

The bike ride was fun. We biked in not too bad of traffic to this health breakfast place. Then biked up to Canguu on roads through rice fields, took some photos along the way and came back. It think I slowed Ning down quite a bit. Here’s one of us with this goofy cow on the side of the road that we had some village guy take:

Kevin, Ning, And A Goofy Cow on the side of the road

Last night, I went out to dinner with the Dan and Elisa crew at this really good (and expensive) ribs place. The girls wanted to go to this dance club after which is near my hotel, so I played along and danced til 3a.m.! Not my usual thing, and I got made fun of a lot because of my white boy dance skills and fading fast at around 2, but it was an interesting place-with 4 levels, lots of locals and some tourists. No cover charge!

I’m now in a cafe next to my hotel, and getting ready to head to the airport to catch my flight to Singapore. So far, I have no plan but I have a hotel the first night and possibly a couch after that, and meeting another couch surfer who’s going to show me the city/country a bit.

That’s in for Bali! I’m stoked about all my experiences and all the people I met…I will be back someday for sure! I’m really looking forward to Singapore and Malaysia next week.

Oh yeah, Happy Easter! It’s a 4-day weekend here I think.

 

 

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