Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Indonesia-A Walk On The Wild Side

Amy and I headed into our 11th month of travel and were just reaching Asia.  Our initial plans had us spending a year teaching abroad somewhere in Asia.  With 11 months behind us, missing our Malia and experiencing first hand what life in Asia would be, we decided to keep on heading west and circumnavigate ourselves back home.

My gottaglobe companion and I were extremely happy at this point to be reuniting with some of our Denver friends.  For the following week our friend Matt had planned a fun filled excursion that would take us from Kuta, Bali to Indonesia's Gili Islands.  Fortunately, Matt set our itinerary and left us with little worry and much time to enjoy with great company.

Our 5 hour flight from Adelaide, Australia got us into Bali around 9pm.  This was Amy's second trip to this island paradise, so we were able to get through the airport quickly and find a cab.  The cab ride was nothing short of what one would expect from a bustling Asian city.   Windy roads with speeding traffic coming at you from all directions intersecting with the loud buzz of high powered mopeds and other one-maned, curiously fabricated vehicles are what we encountered on this half hour transport to our beautiful Balinese hotel room in Kuta.  We were the last ones to arrive at the hotel and were able to meet up with our travel partners in the lobby before turning in for the night.

The staple Indonesian breakfasts that we enjoyed every morning was either the noodle with egg "traditional breakfast" or the foreigner loved banana pancakes.  We bounced back and forth between the two our whole trip and never got tired of them.
Here we are enjoying our first breakfast in Bali.
We met up with our travel companions Matt, Patrick, James, Alex and Ben during our breakfast.  After sharing our travel stories and how we independently journeyed to Bali we set out to explore the town of Kuta.
Amy and Alex at our hotel right before heading out for the day.

Arriving at the beach in Kuta, Bali.  Amy said it was a lot cleaner from the last time she was here.
Patrick leading our way through the streets of Kuta.
Amy, Matt and Patrick relaxing at the beachside bar.

Our bar came complete with the use of this hand made gym.  Cement filled barbell on a Bali wood bench.  Probably could get a couple hundred for it in the States.
After soaking in the sun and putting back a couple of Indonesian beers we worked up an appetite.  Down the road from the beach we found a popular restaurant where you can order a la carte from a wide variety of Indonesian foods for a very small price.  Most of our meals in Indonesia were about $3.00 and that included a drink.  
One of the delicious lunches we had while in Bali.
Delicious and cheap.  These were the a la carte cards that we accumulated for our lunch.
We spent about three days with the group in Kuta.  After touring around Kuta on foot we decided to pitch in and rent a van and driver for the day.  We spent the next day in a cool car driving around and seeing all of the tourist sites on the island.
An Indonesian gas station
Out on a hike with the group and our driver.
The grounds at the first temple we visited.
The temple on the lake.
After our jumping photo we noticed that other Asian tourists were starting to do the same.
Another temple we visited.
We could not figure this one out, but I'm sure there was a valid reason.
One of the many phenomenally large and ornate statues we encountered around town.
One of our stops was this terraced rice field.  Nice photo bomb Matt.
Just a naked kid swimming while ma and pa do their laundry.
We walked down this path along the canal to explore.
We found a beautiful waterfall which Amy cooled off in.
Our driver took us to this restaurant with an excellent view for lunch.  We were shocked later at looking at the bill and realizing that we just ate our most expensive meal.  It worked out to be about $8.00 a plate.
Matt successfully devoured 9 chicken sates with sides for his $8.00.
A durian fruit stand next to the coffee place we stopped at to drink poop coffee (keep on reading).
We stopped off at this "coffee place" and walked past this caged animal.  Why do they have this animal in a cage at our coffee place you ask?...
...well that animal eats the coffee beans and processes them before displacing them in a clump (seen above in the blue strainer)...
...wacky tourists (as depicted in photo above) smell the fecal clumps during the coffee tour...
...then proceed to happily taste the various types of excremented java goodness and pay inflated prices for the delicacy.
Passed many rice fields along during our trip which provided some wonderful photo opportunities.
The entrance to the temple by the sea.
Amy and I along with a few tourists at the temple by the sea.  During high tide the temple becomes an island.
A typical roadway on Bali.
Didn't know what it was, but people were flocking to it.  I had to give it a try.  Later, I found out that it is called 'Klepon'.  They are rice cake balls filled with palm sugar and covered in coconut.
After galavanting across Bali with the group our itinerary called for a relaxing and quiet stop on the Gili Island named Meno.  Meno island sits in the middle of the three islands which are situated off the coast from the island of Lombok.  We chose Meno since it was the quietest of the three islands.  This known backpackers mecca is starting to experience a growth spurt to include honeymooners and those that want to experience an untouched and quiet Indonesian beach lifestyle.  
The group on the fast ferry to the Gili Islands.  We made a stop in Badang Bai, Bali and then in Lombok before arriving at the first Gili island, Trawangan.
The next ferry from Trawangan to Meno island wasn't until later, so we found our own transport.  Pictured above is the local taxi on Trawangan.  No cars...only horse and carriages.
It was hot, but we were determined to find our way to the neighboring Meno island.  Meno island was probably only a 100 yards swim, but we had bags.
Very small, but the price was right...our water taxi to Meno.
Here we are piled into the small water taxi.
'Meno Smile' was home for the next 4 days.  We were paired up in these cottages that were scattered about in the garden.
The spiders here were huge.  This one had a web right along the path to our cottage.  None of us bothered to take it down and ducked every time we passed it.
These huts belonged to the restaurants in downtown Meno.
This lady sold fresh fruit on the beach daily.  She would cut the pineapple up in interesting shapes and put it on a stick for the hungry beach goers.
A storm was brewing, but the water was so nice.
That's the island of Lombok in the background.
Amy and I enjoying the beach.
Group selfie on the beach in Meno, Gili Islands, Indonesia
On one of our foot adventures through town.  Patrick making friends with the locals.
This was the traffic we had to deal with on the island.
It would take about 2 hours to walk around the whole island.  We walked about half.
We sat in this spot and watched the sun set.

Matt showing us how to do a proper wave roll.

All fun and games until someone does a face plant in the sand.
Someone has had a bit more sun than the others.
Amy eating one of her favorite newly discovered tropical fruits...the mangosteen.
Here we are again lounging and enjoying the setting sun.

One of the main roads in town.
Our cottage was a few streets up from the black location mark shown above.
The local mosque.  We could hear the call to prayer a couple times each day.

A family market and a directional sign to the yoga studio.
A traditional hut on the way to the yoga studio.

Amy, the goat whisperer.

The gang walking back from one of our foot adventures.
The island had a bunch of goats, cows and horses...oh and the spiders.
Now this photo puts the size of these things into perspective.
Amy making friends with a local.
Out for a ride with mommy.  We saw this in the cities too, but on motorbikes.
One of the dive boats out in front of the dive shop.
Amy and Matt getting ready to dive.  It was Matt's first time diving.  We cannot wait to go with you again Matt.
Another delicious Indonesian meal.
Photo of one of the huts at the yoga place Amy and Matt visited.
Amy, Matt and their instructor after their yoga class.
Saying our goodbyes to the group as they made their way back to the US.
We were sad to see the group board the boat for their journey home.  Thank you Patrick, Matt, James, Alex and Ben for  the great company and sharing Indonesia with us.
After they left we had lunch waiting for our water taxi to Lombok.
After the sad departure of our traveling companions we sat had a drink and some lunch while watching the waves come to shore.  We had about 3 hours until we departed.  For this leg of the journey we decided to spare the luxury of a fast boat for a more traditional, local water taxi.  The trip took about an hour from the Gili Islands to a small port town on Lombok.  This was probably the most classic "national geographic scenario" we found ourselves in during the whole trip.  Our taxi was a narrow traditional water taxi filled to the brim with locals.  The locals were carrying their left over goods and wares that they sold to the tourists on the Gili Islands.  They were lugging billowing sacks, carrying their groceries on their heads and shuffling their children on the boat as the boarding process commenced.  There was a long line that queued up the instant the boat came to shore.  All the locals that were patiently waiting now flooded the entrance to the boat while the arriving passengers came ashore.  The two sole western passengers onboard (yours truly and Amy) received an abundance of stares and curious smiles from the nicely bronzed Indonesians.  They must have thought that we had missed the "western, fast boat" and were involuntarily downgraded to their semi buoyant water vessel.  Silly us for wanting just a little bit more culture along our journey.

Being the cautious travelers we are, we had positioned ourselves in the front of the line about a half hour before the boat's arrival.  Once the boat came closer and was about to land on the sandy shore our prime position in front was quickly taken by the eager locals.  We now found ourselves inconspicuously trying to poke our way back somewhere mid line.  While waiting for our turn to board the boat that was bouncing up and down with every peaking wave.  As we waited in knee high waters with our bags above our heads we tried to figure out how we would manage the slippery step up on the narrow boat while carrying our bags and dodging our way through the locals that were strewn about the boat.  With the boat practically ablaze from the locals smoking we made our way on the and through the smoke cloud to any open seat.  I found my seat next to a woman with a gap in her smile and along side a tiny and stinky bracelet salesman already asleep from a full days work.  Amy and I were positioned across from each other and on either side of some gas tanks and furniture.

We gave each other a half smile knowing that this was going to be an experience sitting among the aromas and the nativeness.  Before we pushed off the lady sat next to me gestured for me to get on the other side for weight and balance, so I squeezed next to Amy.  The waves at times were rough, but our passing stares at each other managed to provide us with some inner calm.  Each rise and teeter of the boat gave rise to dark daydreams of headlines documenting our potential obituaries...'American couple drown on an Indonesian water taxi on the final leg of their globe circumnavigation'.  Aside from the daydreams Amy and I were happy that we didn't get sick.
Just pushed off

Our yacht and crew on the voyage to Lombok.
We safely arrived in Lombok and had heard that if you walk up the road a bit you would find an inexpensive taxi called 'blue bird'.  During our walk we met an Argentine and ended up sharing a taxi ride with him to our hotel.  Amy and I were both dripping with sweat and were happy that the taxi had AC.  We arrived at our hotel that we booked on about 45 minutes later.  The place was a bit worn, but had a nice pool that we used before getting ready for dinner.

We decided early on to visit the Gili Islands and Lombok to experience a little more of Indonesia and a little less of the touristy areas that we see all too much of in the movies.  We were happy to experience the Gili Islands with friends, but now we would have to fend for ourselves as a duo heading into an island that has only recently hit the travel guides and adventure blogs.  We spent the next 4 days touring around Lombok and getting accustomed to an island many say felt like Bali used to be about 20 years back.
After a shower we went down to this beach to have a drink and dinner.

Cheers to making it to Lombok.
The first day we walked around the town and watched some surfers at this point.
Of course we treated ourselves to a cheap massage.
The next day we hired a car and driver to take us around to see the island.  Our first stop was to this temple on the coast.
We arrived early and no one was in sight.
The road in town on our way to a traditional Indonesian market.
Amy out in front before venturing in.  We stopped here mainly to get bananas for the monkeys that were going to be at our next stop.
The market was around the main building and on all of the floors inside.
You name it, they sell it.  From eels on a skewer to stinky smelling exotic fruits... the women were out in force trying to get the early morning deals.

With all of the smells and chaos I was proud of Amy making it through the market.
What bartering?  She quoted a price and I paid with monopoly money.  It's really quite easy.
Ooh, we found those sweet pastry treats we tasted in Bali again.  Had to buy a banana leaf pouch full of them for the road.
Amy getting ready to leave the market.  Things went well, but as I was getting into the car I stepped in a gutter full of black stinky sludge.  What ever kind of waste it was my foot and flip flop went right in.  Our driver quickly rinsed it off with a bottle of water.  Luckily, I had some liquid sanitizer to give my foot a bath in.  Happy to report that I didn't get any Indonesian fungus and still have all of my toes.
The monkeys flocked to Amy with the bananas as I kept distance.
Once we arrived at this beautiful roadside lookout the monkeys of all sizes came to say hello.
This little guy had a deformed leg, so his mommy held him tight but still got close to us.

We threw a banana straight to him, but this mean monkey with a cook hairstyle stole it away.
This was the mean little punk that kept stealing all of the bananas from others.
This two little ones were too busy playing to worrying about eating any bananas.
We watched the monkeys grooming themselves for a bit before heading out to our next stop.
Passed some picturesque rice fields on our way to the waterfall park.
Just a rice field hut and some palm trees.
This was the first of two large waterfalls we visited in this national park.
This was our guide 'Moglie' in the national park.  He was the happiest guide and cracked Amy and I up because he referred to himself constantly in the third person..."Moglie use banana leaf to protect head from rain".
I used the poncho to protect our computer which I was carrying in the backpack.  In addition to the rain, the mist from this second waterfall was getting us pretty wet.
A quick shot of the waterfall before heading back down the trail.
Moglie kept on telling us he had a surprise for us for our trip back.  His surprise was taking us down these dark canals for the waterfall run off.
It was completely dark most of the time and the only light we had was from our phone.  It smelled of bat and the walls were filled with webs and spiders.  Moglie mocked, but maybe was serious when he told us to watch for rats.
Every once in awhile it would open up and we would see the sun.  
Happy we were at the end.  Notice that I am ducking down a bit to miss the spider webs.
We visited a Lombok traditional village.
Once we got home we showered and headed out to a nice hotel nearby for a meal and drinks.

We arrived at happy hour.  The band was playing British and American tunes.
Cheers to Lombok
The next day we headed out after breakfast for a full day journey.  The journey would take us by car to the south park of Lombok to catch a ferry to Bali.  Once on Bali we boarded a small tightly packed mini van to Ubud and arrived in the early evening.  It was a hot day and the mini van dropped us off on the opposite side of town.  Not wanting to spend money on a taxi, Amy and I sweated along the uneven side walks for about an hour until we reached our hotel.  Once we arrived we quickly showered the sweat off and headed out for dinner.  On the ferry, at the ferry station and in the port town in Bali there was food, but none of which Amy and I felt comfortable eating. We did have a bag of chips, but that was all we ate for the whole day.  Needless to say we were quite hungry and luckily found a quaint restaurant down the way from our hotel with a beautiful courtyard that we ate in.
Our shuttle ride down south to the ferry terminal.  We thought we were going to be the only ones, but we stopped to pick up others.
We passed many rice fields along the way.

The ferry was hot and people were smoking inside.  
Before we departed many food vendors flooded the cabins to try to sell their goods.
After the ferry ride a bunch of us foreigners crammed into a small van that brought us to downtown Ubud.
Amy and I were in the back corner of the van.

Once we arrived we walked for about an hour to our hotel.  This is where we ate after arriving at our hotel.
Although being landlocked, a bit overpopulated and focused on the shopping culture, the town of Ubud turned out to be our favorite.  While in Ubud we took advantage of the excellent balance of the native culture and fancy creature comforts.  The town had a nice variety of native boutique stores and multiple level artesian booths selling anything from fine silk clothing to hand crafted, Indonesian toys and statues.  The town drew in the crowds of tourists with its famous monkey park where hundreds of monkeys ran while, interacted with tourists and passed the day performing their shenanigans.  There were lots of traditional dancing entertainment, cheap massages and tasty assortment of international cuisine to eat.  Aside from delicious Indonesian food we ate a wonderful gourmet pizza and some excellent Indian.  If we weren't eating our way through Ubud we were indulging in massages or lounging at our hotel's pool.

Many shops and massage spas arrange flower petals in water like this to welcome guests.
Our hotel pool.  Our room was back in the corner on the right.
The next morning Amy did yoga at the 'Yoga Barn' and I met her there for brunch.
This lady was carrying a tray of offerings to place in front of store fronts.  The offerings consisted of a small food item, flowers and an incense burning atop a plate made of a banana leaf.
Walking up to the monkey forest.
Statues were placed all along the perimeter of the monkey forest.
Entering the park right before the cashier's booth.

This monkey was doing her morning stretches when we showed up.
There were lots of baby monkeys around.  This one was the first we saw in the park.

The park had many temples and statues that served as a jungle gym for the monkeys.
This guy was checking me out and was just sitting by himself.  We got closer to have a chat with him.

The monkey pool

The walkway to get down to the pool is almost hidden behind this huge banyan tree.
The monkeys just hanging around.
Amy told me to behave on this one.  I'll let you put your on caption on it.
These guys were quite mischievous.  They located a power chord on this informational sign and were trying to pull it out.
Amy sat down to have a look and...

...made some new friends.

They were successful in getting the power chord down and were now ripping it apart after dismounting Amy.
Primate selfie
Cleaning and cuddle time

This guy raced right past us.  I guess late for a banana boat or a meeting or something.
A temple in the middle of the monkey forest.
Oh those people look like me mom

...hey you monkey face

Another temple in downtown Ubud.
Amy on the streets of Ubud.

Accidentally found this gem of a temple just off of the main street.

This was our last day and we squeezed in one last reflexology.

A couple of days earlier we had almost 3 hrs. of treatment at one spa and then went  for another  hour of reflexology right after.  We just could not get enough.  All of that didn't even hit $100 for the two of us. 

Local kids playing soccer on the field in the center of town.
This little one was waiting for his Dad outside of one of the markets in town and enjoyed playing peek a boo with Amy.
We bought the nieces and nephews presents at this mall.

Putting out the offerings in the morning.
Bye Indonesia
We flew Thai Airways from Denpasar, Bali to Bangkok, Thailand.  We spent the night in Bangkok and then flew on Turkish Airways to Instanbul, Turkey.