Published: February 6th 2011February 2nd 2011
This blog is written in Bali, where we started our Indonesian adventure and where it will shortly end...sooner than intended.
Im currently sitting in the porch of our guest house as it hammers down with rain and the sky claps with powerful thunder it sounds as if the sky is going to fall in...in the last hour it has been raining so heavily,a deep river has appeared outside our room and the surrounding area and we are pondering about wading our way out to find food in the dark as soon,im pretty sure the storm is going to cut the electric.
Our stay in Indonesia as been bitter-sweet.
We arrived on the 12th of January into Kuta, Bali. The first thing to strike us was the intense humidity. It was SO hot it was often difficult to breathe. And its not even summer!
Kuta is like the Australians version of Magalouf and is where 'surfing came to Asia'. So there are tonnes of proudly named 'Aussie Owned' bars and hundreds of surf shops. Jimi and i got really excited, long boards and skimboards we skipped into the shops thinking we were going to return with some sweet
deal but instead, in most cases it was all more expensive than back home :( I've never seen so many duplicated surf shops in a short stretch of high-street either, i counted 7 Rip Curl shops in a tiny stretch of Legian Street, all selling exactly the same stuff.
Kuta is slightly different to the other places in Asia we've been because the Balinese mostly follow Hinduism, whereas the rest of Indonesia are Muslim. Both of which, we haven't really encountered yet on our travels.
There isn't much of a striking difference initially, but walking the incense filled streets and trying not to tread on the little leafy 'offerings' that seemed to be placed with strategic randomness in the most likely places one is likely to tread on them [steps,curbs,shop doorways] you soon realise your not in Thailand.
The street hawkers are possibly the most intense and intimidating we've come across too,literally going to the point of physically pushing you into their shop. Some however, have developed a clever tac tic of giving the impression of a possible genuine friendship; shouting 'G'day mate!' in a terrible accent from the other side of the road when we begrudgingly
reply 'We are not Australian' its followed with 'how are you today?where are you from?Im from london too, i play for Arsenal' *proceeds to push you into his shop to buy cheap sunglasses* damn. And i thought we had the beginnings of a life long friendship going on there.
Kuta beach is a strange one.I can see how it brought 'surfing to Asia'..the breaks are amazing. But our first walk along the beach in the evening wasn't the best introduction to a beach we'd seen amazing pictures of. There was rubbish everywhere and there was a very suspicious thick brown substance floating in parts of the sea and staining the sand as the waves broke on the shore. Certainly wouldn't be taking a dip.
I had been feeling quite unwell for the previous few days before arriving in Bali and after thinking i was getting better,i got worse and so had to visit a hospital out here to sort it out. Luckily, it was an Australian run affair, as i hear the local ones are pretty dire. It was SO clean and the service was quick it was a shock from back home, but then i guess
with it being a business not a service thats what you would expect! The dr heard about my symptoms and decided to take a blood test and an xray to rule out me either having malaria or a sinus infection. Personally, i thought the two would be pretty easy to spot the difference between, but £93 and a dose of antibiotics later i was told i didnt have dengue fever but if im not better in 6 days i COULD have malaria and i should probably pop back for some more tests.
So it wasn't the best introduction to Bali! After i had finished the anti biotics i was ready to leave Bali and get travelling again so we got on a fast boat to the infamous Gili Islands, a set of 3 tiny islands inbetween Bali and Lombok. If Bali was the Australians' getaway, the Gilis were the Europeans! We stayed on Gili T, the biggest of the 3 and has no motorised traffic, just horse and cart and bicycles-magical. It was beautiful but we still didnt manage to get away from the high prices; staying in the most basic accommodation we have stayed in with cold salt
Community Turtle Conservation Project
water showers and smelly stodgy rooms, paying what we were getting for some really lush places in Vietnam and Thailand we started to think maybe our trip wasnt going to be particularly cheap.
The crackling, almost deafening call to prayer was most definitely the soundtrack to Gili..even snorkelling far out in the sea we could hear it under the water!Despite the island being Muslim, all of the locals drank and come nightfall everyone would be offering you mushrooms..probably the most lax taking on Islam! We met a guy called Dede who looked no older than 25 but was 29 and married to a 16 year old who has just given birth to his son. Again, i compare it to home and think how that would be accepted..without a doubt it would be viewed as paedophilia..but out here its perfectly fine and people assume you are married if you are over the age of 15. Because, it seems to be unthinkable if you arent!
Along the beach theres a little open area with 3 huge tanks with varying sizes of sea turtles in ^_^ including some babies not bigger than my little finger..which says alot because apparently, according to
jimi and my sister my little finger is abnormally small.
Its a community conservation project and when the turtles reach a year old they are let out into the sea. Theres a big problem around Bali with turtles because the Hindus believe they have many healing properties to kill them to eat. It was amazing seeing one of my favourite ever animals so up close. But it was about to get much,much better..
Our first afternoon on Gili and we went for a quick dip and a snorkel in the beautiful turquoise water i haven't seen since the Philippines. Luckily, the best snorkelling spot was right outside of our guest house..very handy.
Not thinking there would be anything spectacular we jumped in without thinking about taking our underwater camera with us. Probably one of the only times we've gone snorkelling without it too. There were huge boulders of coral and some really cool fish, though nothing amazing, that is until i saw something HUGE move out of the corner of my eye. Initially panicking i wasn't even going to look at it but immediately swim away as fast as i could. But i turned instead to see a massive
sea turtle chomping on some coral right below me. I couldn't believe it!
I was SO close to paying to go to 'turtle island' off of Bali in fear that i wouldn't see any in the wild, and here i am, a few metres from the shore, swimming with my favourite animal in the whole world! Something I've wanted to do forever.
Desperately trying to get jimis attention underwater i eventually had to resort to pretty much shouting 'JIMI JIMI!LOOK AT THIS!' and splashing his snorkel to get him to come over.
We followed him for ages, just chomping away. He didn't seemed phased with us being there atall, he even did a little poo. Which brought me joy.
Out of nowhere, a second one appeared with a little fish all too happy to peck at his shell and give him a good clean. It swam up for air right in front of me, it was the most breath taking thing ive ever experienced. And the ONE TIME we didnt bring the under water camera. Gutted.
Gili T is tiny and you can walk around it in 2 hours. Jimi and I hired a 2 bikes and decided,on
probably the hottest day we were there, that it would be a good idea to cycle round.I suppose what with there being no motorised traffic on the island we were king of the road..a shared titled with the horse and carts.
We found lots of little secluded beaches with bath warm sea but was worried to take a dip, knowing one of the points on the island was called 'shark point' and there was probably a very good reason why no one was enjoying the warm waters!
After a while we found a clearing to paddle and cool off though the sea was SO warm it wasnt really cooling but it was so beautiful.
We continued on our way and jimi stopped in his tracks - a MASSIVE lizard- what looked like a baby Komodo dragon was walking in the path. We stood in amazement (and more likely fear) whilst it looked at us, gave a lick of the air and scuttled off into the bushes.
The paths were so sandy in places we had to push the bikes which was harrrdd work in the sun. We stopped somewhere for a drink and a 'jaffle' [the aussie word for a toastie wtf??]and sat in this chill area on stilts just over the shore which was memorising to watch.
We stopped off in a few places to ask how much their rooms were, but we couldn't find any cheaper than where we were, it was becoming crystal clear that Indonesia is by far the most expensive place we've been to so far. And we certainly weren't expecting it.
On the way back from dinner we stopped off at a reggae bar setting up for a live band. We ventured in, drank and enjoyed listening to some amazing music. These Indonesians can put on a mean rasta accent! We showed the barman how to make a purple rain and he promised he'd add it to the menu as 'jimi rain'. There was a really nice feeling about Gili, everyone addresses you as brother or sister and are really happy and smiley. Most people will ask where you come from which will be followed by 'Welcome Home'.
On our last day on Gili we booked ourselves on a snorkelling by glass bottom boat tour. The first spot was just off of the island and probably the best stop of the day. The visibility was SO good and hundreds of coral that were really shallow so you could swim right over them and peer in- it was like an underwater city. The current was strong though and i could feel myself being dragged out.
The second spot was 'Turtle Point', we had to follow a guide because the current was so strong and there was a MASSIVE drop in the reef that led to the abyss lol. We saw one turtle up close and i took a few photos, only to later realise after being so proud of myself that the lens had fogged up!:(
We saw a couple more but they were so deep and there were so many people trying to see them at the same time..certainly not as impressive as our private little viewing!
After our trip, we went to 'gili deli' an amazing french deli we'd found that serves REAL ham and PROPER cheese- something we were only to discover on our last day but ive never been so satisfied by a few slices of cheese before! haha.
From Gili we made our way to the mainland of Lombok in order to try and get a boat or a flight to Kalimantan- Indonesia's Borneo. Our drive to Sengiggi was beautiful, winding up and down mountains through jungle, monkeys just chillin' on the side of the road! We left Sengiggi for Mataram, Lomboks capital so we could go to the shipping office to get the ball rolling. But it was closed. Downer number 2 after discovering our hotel was a dump. With nothing to do for the rest of the day we decided to walk around town and into the mall to escape the heat. Instead, it was as if we'd stepped back in time. Everything felt so dated, it was stuffy and there were people smoking inside the shops which was really bizarre. Downer number 3 there was NOwhere decent to eat.
The stares and pointing we were getting walking around felt like we were back in the Philippines - except no one asked if they could take a picture of us as we stood in a que this time :P In the taxi on the way back to our 'hotel' a little girl on a motorbike even alerted her mum that i was in a taxi next to them lol.
The next day we left for Mataram airport to find a cheap, last minute flight to Kalimantan or infact anywhere but Mataram. Transport, whether you fly,boat it or bus it seems to be insanely expensive, much like food and accommodation. After being told the cheapest way to get to Borneo was a £200 flight by some really rude airport staff [considering its a domestic flight the equivalent distance between London and Birmingham]i almost burst into tears. We'd both had enough of the rudeness, extra hidden 'tax' on EVERYTHING and constant hassle from everyone trying to hussle us.
Our only option was to fly back to Bali. Which we did in the hope to get to a ticket office and immediately get on a flight somewhere out of this country but by the time we got in most ticket offices were closed.
We eventually managed to arrange a flight from Bali to KL Malaysia, which was cheaper than getting a bus or a plane one way to Jakarta!
Thankfully we will soon be out of here, and can make our way, far cheaper to Malay Borneo and enjoy the sights Malaysia has to offer..hopefully with a smile! ^_^ I think perhaps we would've enjoyed Indonesia more if we'd done it at the beginning of our trip when we had the most money, but even then i think everything is really over priced for what you get..be it transport accommodation even down to food. I feel sad that we didn't get to explore Bali much as we'd heard so many good things. But i suppose you can't see everything, and you can't win them all! We went after all on a whim after talking to a man from Jakarta that we met in Vietnam and although ive always wanted to go, its definitely not as i'd expected it to be.
Very much looking forward to Malaysia and still having the opportunity to be able to go to Borneo ^_^