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Published: July 31st 2015
The journey from the kuala besut jetty town to the perhentian Islands was rather fun. Spent about 90% of the time airborne in the speedboat, and often came crashing back down to the sea with such force I was surprised I didn't sustain a spinal rupture.
Well the perhentian Islands were gorg, for real. The main beach of the small island (where I stayed) was stunning - a stretch of golden sand laid against an emerald jungle backdrop. The sea was extremely blue and extremely clear.
I spent around 6 nights on the island. I spent most of my time lazing on the beach. On one day I did a snorkelling tour. This tour allowed me to snorkel above sea turtles, swim with sharks, marvel at the coral and enjoy other pristine beaches in the area. On this tour I met a fun British couple. That night I had several drinks with them whilst watching a fire show, before dancing drunkenly at a fun beach bar further along the beach until the early hours. Apparently I dance gangzta. Must be the Croydon influence. The following day I lounged on the beach with them and had dinner with them in the evening.
Also I watched a particularly fantastic fire show featuring a number of performers on my last night on the island. It was an extravaganza. Pretty sure I fell in love watching one of the athletic fire weilders.
So yeah, the island was super fun. There are tonnes of superhuge monitor lizards just roaming around willy nilly. The coast on the other side of the island (coral bay - reachable via a path which leads you through the jungle) was cute but the sand was somewhat marred by washed up jagged stones and sea bits. I preferred long beach notwithstanding that it was a touch less classy.
I caught the boat back to kuala besut after a restless night and then got the bus to Kota baru. The next day I got a bus to jerantut with the intention of going to Taman negara jungle. Jerantut town was plain plain plain.
Next day I caught the bus to kuala tembeling and from there I got the boat to kuala tahan. The boat journey was stunning. Each side of the river was flanked by dense jungle. From the boat you could observe local life - locals fishing knee-deep in the river with nets, kids bathing, etc.
Kuala tahan was a small, quiet riverside town which offered floating restaurants and small local stores selling essentials. I met two nice british girls in my dorm room.
The next day the 2-day-1-night tour of the jungle commenced. This was great - and a hell of an effort! We had to fill our backpacks with noodles, water, cutlery, sleeping bags, bed mats and the like and carry them through the very humid jungle. On the first day we trekked for a good 6 hours or so through the awesome nature to a large cave. Upon arrival, we washed in the stream and then collected firewood. Our guide cooked food for us over a camp stove and we ate in the cave in the flickering glow of the campfire.
Next day - we trekked through the jungle to a stream (where swarms of bizarre sweat bees landed on our damp clothes and backpacks) and a tribal village where we observed tribespeople creating a frictional fire and we were taught how to use a poison dart blowpipe.
That evening after arriving back in kuala tahan I had dinner with the rest of my trekking group on a floating restaurant. The following afternoon I caught the bus back to jerantut, then travelled to Kuantan the next day. I had a Starbucks. The day after that I travelled from Kuantan to mersing, and from there I got the boat to pulau tioman Island. The boat was swelteringly hot. It was a very sticky and unpleasant journey.
I alighted on ABC beach, and as I walked along the coast to find a hostel I met a girl called Laurence. That evening we had a few beers together during happy hour.
Next day I ambled around the island for a bit, walking along the coast to different beaches and villages. Some trees along the island house loads of bats which hang off the branches during the day. That afternoon during my stroll I met a couple from Bangladesh and bumped into Laurence; we arranged to meet up the next day to trek to the other side of the island through the jungle. That night Laurence and I again took advantage of happy hour.
As planned we met up for the trek. A French couple joined us too. The walk through the jungle was very enjoyable (we hitchhiked the last section of the journey downhill) and we were rewarded with a beautiful, quiet beach. We had lunch and then swam out to floats that bobbed on the waves. We sunbathed there for a while and enjoyed watching the swaying coconut trees that lined the shore. It was perfect. After that we trekked back - though this time we had to walk uphill at the start. After the trek back Laurence and I had a few beers and then we met up with the Bangladeshi couple for dinner.
That evening we met a fun British girl called bex in our dorm room. We went out with her for a beer or two and chilled with some other guys on the island in an open beach shack.
The following afternoon, Laurence, bex and I walked along the coast to the other end of the island and bought vodka and beers in a duty free store. We walked back and sunbathed on the beach for a while, sipping beer. That night we got drunk on vodka and fanta and bumped into some French guys from the night before.
The following afternoon I got the boat back to mersing. This was an interesting experience as the boat got caught up in a terrific storm which resulted in the stairwell and floor flooding with water. I found myself saying a few Hail Marys. When I arrived (by the grace of God) I walked around town for a while and had Indian food for dinner. I woke up early the next morning to get the bus to singapore.
The journey to singapore involved a lot of jumping on and off different buses but in the end I was able to get through passport control and get a random bus to an mrt station. I travelled by mrt to the station closest to my hostel (lavender street). The mrt is extremely easy and a genuine pleasure to use. It is also quite cheap.
After dumping my bag at the hostel I travelled by mrt to the gardens by the bay. The gardens are very well kept and feature bizarre 'supertrees': hyper-modern, almost alien feats of construction upon which plants grow and which boast weird criss-crossing frond-like structures which splay out at the top. After taking a walk around the gardens I walked through the famous fish-slapped-on-top-of-three-towers building and enjoyed the view of the financial district at marina bay. I visited the artscience museum and saw two exhibits: one which explores sealife at different levels of the ocean deep and a Dreamworks animation studio. Both were interesting. After that I went back to the gardens by the bay and watched the nightly light show whereby the supertrees light up in synchrony with music. It was a fun and strange display.
The following day I travelled to the financial district and spent most of my time jaw-slackened as I looked at the towering, gleaming skyscrapers. I walked along the path that skirts the circumference of marina bay, taking in the sights, and then travelled to Chinatown. After exploring this section of the city I visited a highly affordable food court in the area and ate delicious food.
That night I decided to check out the Singaporean gay scene, more out of genuine curiosity than anything else. There were a few bars but it didn't seem to be up to very much. Then again it was a Thursday. Drinks were exorbitant.
I was due to catch my flight to Bali the next day. After waiting around listlessly in a collectively confused mass of aspiring passengers, I was informed that my flight was cancelled due to a volcanic ash cloud. My flight was rearranged for the following day. I was actually kind of happy that my flight was cancelled because I wanted to see more stuff in Singapore.
So I travelled back to my hostel, dropped my bag and caught the mrt to little India. Little India is a slightly chaotic but intriguing part of the city. It dazzles with the full colour spectrum with its gold jewellery stores, fruit and vegetables and jumbled clothes which spill out of shop fronts. I visited a Buddhist and a Hindu temple and had sweet Indian tea and deep-fried onion scrapings.
That night I thought I'd give the gay scene a second chance. It was a Friday - maybe it would be better. And it was. Or maybe the bar was better than the one I had visited the night before. Either way, I had a brilliant time. It was low key. I had great conversations with an American dude and a Malaysian-Singaporean guy working in the bar, called Sabri. After chatting to him for a while, he told me that after work he would be visiting a local night market with his colleagues, and he invited me along. I happily accepted.
At midnight the bar cleared out and I sat by and observed what Sabri later called the nightly 'post-mortem' meeting between colleagues. After that we all piled into a taxi, which drove us to the market. The market was removed from the hubbub of the city. After meandering through the market, we visited an Indian restaurant. At sabri's suggestion that I try authentic Singaporean food, I ate a naan-like dish which was stuffed with chicken. Despite my protests one of the bar workers paid for my meal.
Once I got back to the hostel (at around 3am), I received an email telling me that my rescheduled flight had been cancelled.
The next morning, after much hassle and confusion, I had no choice but to travel to the airport to rearrange my flight for the following day. After doing that Sabri and I organised over WhatsApp to meet up for dinner at a Malaysian restaurant in a supermall so that I could try authentic Malaysian food. The restaurant Sabri proposed looked plush and expensive so I suggested we go somewhere cheaper; however Sabri insisted that he had invited me and that therefore he was paying. This made me uncomfortable but I was reluctant to offend Sabri and I was excited about what the experience might offer. For some inexplicable reason I was also very nervous. I wasn't sure whether this was a date or not, for starters. I decided to go with the flow.
From the airport I travelled to the supermall. It housed a cinema and I watched Jurassic World. It was an excellent film. As per our arrangement I met Sabri at the restaurant after the movie. A generous buffet was on offer; it comprised the full variety of Malaysian food. Since it was Ramadan, Sabri and I chatted until Sabri could break his fast - whereupon we made a beeline for the buffet and collected food. Sabri urged me to try a range of dishes including chicken, mutton and beef satay, duck, a traditional spiced beef dish and Malaysian sweets. Relishing the rare cultural opportunity, I enthusiastically complied. Sabri also gave me this really sugary, thick drink. I think it contained nutmeg? It was nice.
I needn't have been nervous. Conversation flowed naturally and I had an excellent time. That dinner was easily one of the top highlights of my travels and it was a unique opportunity to absorb some culture. Sabri is awesome.
My flight was due to depart in the evening the next day. Accordingly I spent the afternoon strolling around little India and visiting a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple. The latter temple is located in Chinatown and it is a multi-levelled complex with elevators. Here I watched and listened to rows of believers, guided by monks, reciting religious scripture at tongue-twisting speed in the prayer hall; followed the story of Buddha in a museum; stared at waxwork models of important monks; and observed believers turning a giant prayer wheel, one full turn of which represents the reading of one line of religious scripture. I visited the brilliant food court (maxwells) one last time before grabbing my bag from my hostel and making my way to the airport.
The flight was delayed by a few hours, but eventually I made it to Bali. I arrived in the early hours of the morning, though I should have arrived at 11pm. I caught a taxi to bedbunkers hostel in kuta and crashed out.
When I woke up I had a margherita pizza and went to kuta beach. What immediately struck me about Bali were the readily visible, exquisite manifestations of commitment to Hinduism: swaying, tasselled bamboo structures hanging over the road; colourful offerings in square-cut banana leaves; incense. I immediately knew I had entered an entirely different cultural world.
Kuta beach was fantastic. I spent most of my time getting battered and beaten by the insanely huge rolling waves. It was cool to get caught in the tube of the wave as the crest came crashing down. That evening I had a few beers and crisps in a sports bar and returned to my hostel. I sat in the lounge area and met amy and Angela, who told me they were going out the following night and invited me to the beach the next day.
So the following day amy, Angela, karin (who was with the others in the lounge area that morning and was now also coming along ) and I hit the beach. Again I enjoyed being serially assaulted and nearly drowned by the waves. We had lunch together and I had pasta. On the way back we bought alcohol from a liquor store (I opted for vodka) with the intention of pre drinking. That night I polished the entire bottle and was drunk before I even left the hostel. We went to sky bar, which offered 'free' drinks between 8-10 and I got so obliterated that I don't remember much of what happened before I left. I left the bar on my own and tried to make my way back. I was stumbling along the road alone with my wallet swinging in my pocket. All I needed was a neon sign reading 'steal from me'. Predictably my wallet was snatched by a guy on a motorbike but it didn't contain a ridiculous amount and there were no bank cards inside. I learnt my lesson. I met many Balinese people that night (though I wish I had met them in more refined circumstances) and a generous local in an Internet shop drove me home on his motorbike with a complimentary cigarette. Somehow I lost my flip flop.
The following day amy was collecting her friend from the airport. Angela, karin and I caught a taxi to seminyak and visited potato head, a beach club. This was an idyllic retreat which gleamed with a light blue swimming pool which looked especially inviting against the dark blue of the rolling sea in the background. It was a brilliant day. We walked into town for food because the prices at potato head were not exactly affordable. That evening we returned to sky bar and had a tamer evening. I was actually coordinated enough to dance this time. I met Amy's friend, Shane. On our way back we hopped from bar to bar and busted moves in each.
Angela made her way back to singapore in the early hours of the morning. The following day karin and I made our way to Ubud. The town is aptly named. 'Ubud' means 'medicine' in Balinese, and this eponymous title is reflected in its ubiquitous organic, vegetarian and raw food restaurants, yoga opportunities and conspicuous commitment to metaphysical and holistic health. Many families live together in elaborate compounds adorned with intricate Hindu statues and shrines. The cumulative effect is to create a palpable spiritual aura over the town.
On our first day in Ubud we strolled around town, visited monkey forest and dined in a restaurant that offered extremely loud live music. In this restaurant I had my first encounter with Tempe: a cake-like, soy vegetarian alternative which is nothing short of delicious and originated from Indonesia. I had a delectable Tempe curry.
On our first day we observed - for the first out of numerous times - children parading around the town in traditional Hindu dress. Leading the procession were children animating a dragon; they stood under fabric and danced, giving life to the striking dragon face at the front. Following in their wake were children playing numerous musical instruments. Our taxi driver would tell us the following day that this was part of a Hindu festival (Galungan) and that the purpose of this practice was to give thanks to the gods.
The following day karin and I embarked on a tour that took us through rice fields to a coffee and tea tasting centre and several Hindu temples. To be honest the highlight of the tour was the taxi driver. I learned a great deal about Balinese culture through speaking to him; he spoke to
us on topics such as: Hindu practices, festivals and traditions, sex, gender roles, family, attitudes of the locals towards tourists, drugs, marital ceremonies and the annual Balinese kite competition. Enchanting kites can be seen soaring high everywhere in Bali, lending a dreamlike quality to the island. Our driver informed us that locals fly their kites to test their quality in preparation for the competition.
The next day karin and I strolled around town and I wandered through stunningly green rice fields in the countryside. That evening we walked a long distance to a field and watched herons flying gracefully in large flocks and landing in the surrounding trees. At the field we met a group of people - two of whom had moved from Holland to live in Bali - and they invited us to a Balinese restaurant which one of them had helped build. The food was great and I got drunk and danced to the live music with the others.
The following morning karin and I travelled to Gili T. We serendipitously met amy and Shane on the bus there. Gili T is a raucous party island. Magic mushrooms are openly advertised everywhere.
Due to it being high season there was a bit of hassle finding rooms but with the generous help of a local we managed eventually. On our first night we got drunk in a bar, tried pineapple joss (fizzing pineapple powder that coats the mouth followed by a straight vodka shot) and then let loose at the dark moon party on the beach. That night I couldn't find my room so I returned to one of the places where we originally sought a vacancy, and a local chatted to me and gave me tea and a cigarette and showed me where my room was by bicycle. I climbed through the window because karin had locked the door without realising.
The day after that amy, karin and I cycled round the island. It was a pleasant ride. That night we all got drunk again (taking advantage of deals on cocktails), played jenga and danced in a club. I made a Brazilian friend..
A detox was thoroughly needed after all the debauchery. Karin and I said goodbye to amy and Shane and made our way to quieter Gili Air. We were surprised to discover that the rooms karin had booked were in fact tents on a hostel compound that was still being built. That evening we watched the sunset and marvelled at the imposing silhouette of the mammoth volcano on Bali in the distance.
The following day we strolled the perimeter of the entire island and lazed on the beach. The day after that we did a snorkelling tour around Gili air, Gili t and gili meno, which was great (I saw two sea turtles up close and followed one as it rose to the surface for air), and then watched a movie on the beach in the evening. The movie was crap.
One bad thing about the gilis (and other locations in indo): the cruel use of horse and cart is prevalent. Horses are small and drag around hefty metal carts and fat inconsiderate tourists (and their sordid, massive bags) behind them. Horses froth at the mouth and hang their heads with exhaustion with the metal bars of the cart weighing on their necks. They are severely mistreated and it makes me want to cry and spit in people's faces.
From Gili air karin and I travelled to kuta Lombok. Kuta Lombok is a quieter beachside town. Waves roll in the distance as they meet coral under the surface. Sadly many children roam the streets (even at night) trying to sell you bracelets with persistence.
On our first day karin and I lay on the beach and soaked up the sun. We had an early night as we were tired from having to wake up early to catch the boat to Lombok.
Next day karin and I walked east and found bay areas. We walked up two hills and were rewarded with a sweeping panoramic views of kuta beach, the grand adjacent bays and the frothing white sheets of the waves out at sea. Opposite the ocean and behind us was the rugged, dry landscape of kuta which fuzzed in parts with vibrantly green coconut trees. It was a majestic sight.
After that karin and I returned to kuta and had lunch. We then walked along the beach and I strolled around kuta. There was not much to see on foot - just roads - but I did see an unfortunate motorbike accident. I returned to town and booked my flight home before spending some time relaxing on the beach and returning to my room. Karin and I had dinner and then we went to a beach bar, which was holding a party because it was a Saturday. A young local girl threw down her bracelet board and starting playing games with me on the dancefloor: she would touch my back and run away and hide behind other dances, much to her (and my) amusement. The live band was fantastic and it played all the favourites. At one point a mosh pit spontaneously rumbled into existence amongst the crowd during a rebellious rock song and I jumped in and got thrown around. We had a great evening. I was drunk on vodka but karin got drunker than me.
The next morning karin and I parted ways as she was heading to thailand. I travelled to senggigi. I spent the day on the beach recovering from my hangover. The beach was bustling with locals because it was a school holiday and many were excited to see me.
I spent the next day in senggigi too. The beach was quieter. I sunbathed and read my book. I booked a 2-night-3-day trekking tour to Gunung Rinjani. In the afternoon I visited a Hindu temple a couple of kilometres out of town. In the evening I sat on the sand to watch the staggering ocean sunset. I intended to have a quiet dinner and go to bed early as I had to be up early the next day, but in the bar/restaurant I met a local called Houdini who was playing pool, and he soon sat down at my table and persuaded me to drink beer with him. His friend Agus later joined us. A beer turned into a few. I had a great chat with both of them and left later than I should have.
I woke up bleary-eyed at 4.45am the next morning for the tour. We arrived at the office and had breakfast. One of the locals associated with the tour agency gave us a safety-focused lowdown on the trek. He told us the entire trek was challenging, but the most challenging part was the trek up Rinjani to the summit. His concluding comment, 'But, as I always say, we never know when our life will be taken and we never know what will happen tomorrow,' didn't exactly set me at ease.
After leaving our bags, we set off at around 8am. Locals (called porters) carried all of our equipment in baskets and bundles which hung over their shoulders on an uncomfortable-looking bamboo stick. They would trek great distances up and down steep hills with this. I thought it was exploitative and cruel and I felt very guilty.
One of the porters, called anchi, had a very positive energy, always smiled at me and was extremely hospitable. I think he took to me as he would always call after me when he saw me, saying, 'Hello, Tom!' or 'My friend, Tom!'
On our first day we trekked through the jungle and up very steep, earthy terrains engulfed in cloud. We made a stop for lunch at around 12pm. At lunch I met my fellow trekking buddies, who included Franck and Melanie, and my guide, Su. Su was a very sweet and genuine guy and a calming, quiet guide. We eventually arrived at the rim of the volcanic crater at around 6pm. It was a very challenging journey due to the steepness of the trail and the length of the walk. At the rim, although the view was hazy and obfuscated by cloud, we could see the lake, the smoking volcano and the Rinjani summit. It was staggering. At the rim it was very cold and I could hear the wind whistling eerily through the clouds. The porters erected our tents and I snuggled into my sleeping bag and had dinner before going to sleep on my mat.
I was woken by Su at 7.15am. In the morning sun the view of the inner volcanic crater was absolutely clear. Twirling smoke emanated from the cone of the active volcano, over which the intimidating Rinjani summit towered to the left like an authorial giant. Smoke also trailed from what I assume were smaller volcanic cones. To the right the volcano was hugged by the crescent-shaped lake. The lake was perfectly still. It looked like a expansive sheet of glass. It was coloured by mesmerising lighter and darker shades of blue, green and yellow, which swirled into each other like a whipped dessert. The crater overwhelmed with transcendentally beautiful natural phenomena.
After the equipment was packed we made our way downhill into the crater and past the lake. The journey downhill was not a gentle sloping decline but a precarious rocky descent which at a few points involved actual climbing. Many sections of this trail were accompanied by steep drops to the side into the crater, and when we passed a certain point our guide solemnly informed us that tragically, three days prior, two Singaporean tourists had fallen to their deaths there. Make no mistake: the trek was dangerous. And it would get more dangerous yet.
After that we made our way to some sulphur-yellow volcanic hot springs. I had a dip, and then we made our way back to the lake for lunch. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, I waded into the cool lake (which is about 2000m above sea level) for a quick swim. We then pushed and hauled ourselves up unforgiving, steep, rocky terrain to the second rim. It was about 4.30pm when we reached this point, and great banks of cloud swirled around us. At sunset the clouds lowered and I enjoyed watching the tints of dusk deepen in the sky over the drifting blanket of cloud. It was very cold.
I had a restless night. I was so nervous about the summit because I desperately wanted to get to the top yet I had some idea of just how hard it would be; in addition it was incredibly windy, causing the tent to flap frantically.
Su woke us up at 2.30am. He had also had trouble sleeping and imitated a flapping tent which made me laugh despite the early hour and my nerves.
After a coffee, we set off.
The summit is a total of 3726m above sea level. I had a vague idea of how difficult the ascent would be, but what I did not realise was that what awaited me would be one of the biggest challenges of my life.
The trek would involve climbing up the slope of the mountain to the ridge, and then climbing up and along the steepening ridge to the summit.
As we approached the mountain, I saw a luminous snake of head-torches weaving up the slope at an alarmingly steep gradient. It looked strange and mysterious against the dark of night and ... horrifying.
We started the ascent. The slope up the mountain is comprised of loose earth. During the lowdown about the trek back at the office, the guy had said that on the mountain each step forward would entail two steps back. I had laughed internally at the idea, thinking that - mathematically - if that were true, I would probably reverse back to Bali by the time the summit trek was over.
But the joke was on me. Even though it seems impossible, each step forward really DID feel like it was followed by two steps back. As you placed your foot down, it would sink into the earth and drag behind you, causing you to stumble as you desperately tried to regain your footing, and, in some cases, to fall forward. Each failure to create some semblance of a foothold in the earth was exasperatingly draining and cruelly burned the calves. At this early stage, I was wondering whether I would be able to carry on. Before we started, I had decided that getting up the summit would be a purely psychological game. I knew I was fit enough to get to the top.
But here, on the slope, it felt like there was literally nothing left of my calves to burn.
As we dragged ourselves up the slope, the trail mercifully became a little rockier and slightly easier to traverse. I made it to the ridge.
The start of the ridge was relatively easy. The ground was sort of solid at least and the gradient was manageable. As I walked along in the pitch dark, I saw the moon reflecting off the volcanic lake in a white widening triangle, and watched it against the cold star-studded night sky as it deepened to a shade of orange before slipping into the universe.
The ridge was extremely dangerous. In my probing torch beam I could see vertiginous voids at the side of the path which dropped straight into the volcanic crater. These drops would sometimes be a meter and a half away from the path. At one point maybe less than a metre.
Further along the ridge, the loose earth returned with a vengeance. This last section of the journey, which spiked up to the summit, was also punishingly steep. I will say that it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Already close to exhaustion, I started the ascent. I felt acid in my throat and fire in my legs as I tried to gain purchase in the earth - but I could see the summit now, and I was close. Heaving myself up the impossibly sharp slope, I tried to follow footholds created by those ahead and this seemed to help. But whilst it helped me conserve the energy I did have left, it didn't help me feel any less drained - and at a few points, in the orange glow of breaking dawn with the grand spread of Lombok island growing lighter far below me, I fell onto my hands and knees in earth and attempted to catch my breath. With a few final bursts of energy, I made it to the summit.
I was too tired - and it was too teeth-chatteringly, hand-numbingly freezing - to be jubilant, but I was incredibly proud of myself. I had made it in time for sunrise and I was able to watch as the hues of dawn on the horizon made way for the deep-orange rising morning sun. It was too cold to spend too much time at the summit, but I was able to absorb the majestic vista of Lombok island, a bird's eye view of the volcanic crater, the distant volcano in Bali and the gili Islands. It was awesome.
The descent was more fun. The loose earth became an excellent slide and I slid down it gleefully as a massive F-U to the evil terrain.
We had breakfast and then started the trek back to the village where we would get collected by car. This final section of the trek was a slippery downhill affair as the light-dirt paths didn't offer a great deal of scope for traction; but eventually we made it down safely and stopped for lunch before trekking through the jungle to the village.
There, we piled into the open-air back-compartment of a van used for storage and enjoyed the breezy journey back to the office. I spoke to the porters and tried to build on the rudimentary Indonesian phrases Su had taught me during the three day trek. On arrival at the office it was all hugs and handshakes with the porters and Su, and then we jumped into a van and were taken to Senggigi.
Although the water wasn't working, with some persistence I managed to take a shower when I arrived at the hotel. Then I had a carbonara-type pasta dish before hitting the sack with great relief.
Today I have been recovering and I had my hair cut and as I write this I just saw a mahoosive fish jump out of a pond in my hotel. Jumped out of my godforsaken skin.
This will be my penultimate entry as I fly home on August 11th.
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