Taman Negara to Cameron Highlands to Georgetown to Thailand!

(A bit behind on the blog, so massive update on everything. Also the name of the jungle is Taman Negara, but I wrote temara negara and I’m not going to bother to change it haha.)

So after spending too long in Kuala Lumpur due to an air conditioned room and an no clear idea of where to go next, we headed to the jungle of Temara Negara. Since we try to do things the cheap way (which is oddly enough often the most comfortable way) we took a nice relaxing public bus journey to a nearby town named Jerantut, where, super conveniently (!) an agency named NKS gives you a free lift to their hotel, since it was cheap and NKS also has a monopoly on transportation to the jungle we gladly accepted. Hurray for not wandering around with our packs for a couple hours late at night.
Our number one priority while in Jerantut was to figure out how to avoid leeches in the jungle, so we immediately proceeded to ask any local we could find. All told us to spray cockroach repellent on our feet… which amazingly enough actually works. Ranjani and I never had any leeches on us, probably the only tourists who did jungle trekking who managed to avoid that. Though I did kind of want to get a picture of a leech on me… but not enough to intentionally put one on.
From Jerantut we took a brief bus ride to the river and had a scenic river cruise through the jungle to the little town of Kuala Tahan. On this scenic river cruise we saw zero animals, which would be a familiar theme throughout the rest of our time there. Don’t get me wrong, we saw plenty of bugs and a couple lizards.. but none of the promised tigers, elephants, etc. Probably b/c the jungle in question was teeming with tourists… most of whom were chinese families (I believe malay-chinese) in huge tour groups. Scared all the big animals away and nearly scared us away too.
So after a couple days of sweating horribly and running at the sight of every leech on the ground (there were many), we decided to high tail it out of there. There were some bright sides to Temara Negara, like the river cruise, the floating restaurants, and the view from the top of some mountain, but overall way too many tourists, too hot, and not enough animals.
To rectify the too hot situation we went to Cameron Highlands, which as the name suggests is up in the mountains, thus wonderfully cool. The thing to do in Cameron Highlands is more jungle trekking and seeing the tea plantations. So of course we decided to do the absolute longest and hardest jungle trek we could find. Joined by a French woman we met named Nadia, we moved forward with this epic all day hike. Whoever built the path seemingly made it as inconvenient as possible, since it made sure to go up to the top of every easily avoidable hill by the most direct route possible thus necessitating the frequent use of hands to help climb up and causing us too frequently slip in the wet conditions on the way down.
After hiking through the jungle and then along the road to a tea plantation, we discover that all tea plantations are closed in Mondays. Great. Don’t really know what we missed out on, but at least the views of the plantation were beautiful. Now to somehow get back to our hotel WITHOUT walking back. We ask a couple locals, who tell us where to go for the public bus that comes every 2 hours or so. We wait for the bus for 40 minutes and then miss it (!!!) b/c the lady standing 10 meters away didn’t bother to tell us that we couldn’t sit at the bus stop and expect the bus to stop. Thanks lady for letting us know where we were supposed to stand after the bus passed. So we decided to try hitching… most people just laughed at us, one young man stopped but couldn’t communicate with us so drove off. Hope quickly dwindling we settle into walking all the way back, which means missing the pickup time for our laundry which means not being able to leave at 8am the next morning for Penang! Making us feel slightly better is that it soon becomes apparent that we are actually walking faster than traffic.. due to a festival happening in a nearby town. I made sure to give mean looks to every driver who didn’t pull over for us earlier (Note: Didn’t actually do this). After making it through the traffic jam, we managed to find a taxi for the rest of the way, thus saving our laundry and our feet. Hurray.
We left early the next morning for Georgetown, the biggest city on the island of Penang. Georgetown is an old city that was an important trading post while the British colonials were around. As such it’s filled with old architecture, including some very impressive Chinese buildings. We wandered around Georgetown for a few days, including some resort crashing at nearby Batu Ferringi beach before we decided it was time to move onto Thailand.
Probably got into Thailand the most inconvenient way possible, horribly long bus journey to Ko Samui, but we’ve met some German girls that we are currently hanging with so its been fun! Hard to go wrong hanging out on a beach. In 5 days the full moon party is going to happen and after that we have to make a decision, keep on going up to Bangkok, or backtrack and go to supposedly gorgeous Ko Phi Phi.

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Kuala Lumpur

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay with our Indonesian friends for too long, especially unfortunate b/c he was going to give a tour of a nearby volcano to visiting American students the day we left. But I was kind of ready to leave Yogyakarta and to leave his house (there was no fan in the room, horrible way to sleep) and see someplace new.
A quick 3 hour flight and we were in modern Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Everything was clean and sparkling and well laid out… what a nice change of pace. It is also very multicultural with significant populations of Indians and Chinese, along with Western expats… no longer did my presence turn heads or attract any notice whatsoever. Well maybe a few of the Indians wondered why Ranjani was traveling with me. Along those lines Kuala Lumpur was a delight b/c we got to have lots of delicious and greasy Indian food, supposedly the chinese food is supposed to be good too but we didn’t find any we liked.
The downside of being in a wealthy cosmopolitan city was that the prices were a bit higher, but we still managed to snag a hotel room for 20 dollars. There’s not too much else to say about Kuala Lumpur, our days (and nights) were mostly spent wandering through Chinatown, Little India’s bazaar, the bazillion expensive malls, and the happening expat districts where we mostly declined to participate in the nightlife due to the extreme expense.
We met up with one couchsurfer for dinner and drinks who moved to Kuala Lumpur from England to start his own business. He was actually planning to move his business to Australia because apparently corruption has been getting significantly worse in Malaysia over the past couple years (apparently a new political party came to power?). So when he first moved here he didn’t have to pay any bribes to start his business or get his visa, but now bribes area a matter of course and getting increasingly expensive. Unfortunate to hear and I hope the trend doesn’t continue because Kuala Lumpur seems like such a wonderful place (we’ll see what the rest of Malaysia is like).
One cool site that we saw just outside of Kuala Lumpur is the Batu Caves, in which a Hindu Temple was built guarded by the largest Mer( some Hindi god) statue in the world. Awe inspiring site, though so commercialized that it was kind of annoying (think little shops playing tinny Indian pop songs and selling tacky merchandise inside the cave).
Right now I’m on a bus heading out of Kuala Lumpur (to be honest it would have started to get boring unless I was willing to start dropping major dough on going out to bars) to Jentuta. Jentuta is the gateway to the most famous national park in peninsular Malaysia (I’m assuming all the parks in Borneo are a million times cooler but I’ll probably not make it over there), which is Temp Negara. Possibility of seeing tigers, rhinocerous, elephants, etc, but super unlikely so I’ll try not to get my hopes up. There is a near certainty of seeing leeches however, so I have that to look forward too. If only I had long pants… I’ll be sure to take a picture if I get some on my legs.

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Yogyakarta

Most of the below was written a week ago, been a bit behind on updating the blog, but hopefully I’ll catch up later tonight.

My sleep schedule is a complete mess.  Woke up at 3am to see Bromo, took only a short nap during the day, then what I thought was going to be a nice overnight bus ride to Yogyakarta which would allow me to sleep.  Turned out to be a ride in a small van with just me and Ranjani as passengers, not bad for 20 dollars, though I’m sure the travel agency actually took a loss on the trip.  At first I was excited about having the whole van all to ourselves, but soon it become clear that I would be getting no sleep on this 8 hour journey.  The driver was a maniac, almost getting into multiple head on collisions, hitting big bumps at full speed, and getting a whopping ticket for some unknown infraction that wiped out half his profits.

We arrived in Yogyakarta at 4am in the morning hella tired with no hotel room booked.  The hotel that the driver dropped us in front of was triple the average that we’ve been paying for a room, so after a moments consideration we decided to risk it and wander off into the night.  Luckily some random dude chilling on the street asked if we needed a hotel room, we said yes and told him the price we wanted, so he led us down a bewildering set of alleys (probably sketchy to be following some rando down empty alley ways at 4am, but whatever) to a cheap “losmen.”  The room smelled like shit, but it was 4am so we took it.

After sleeping in until 10am and missing our free breakfast, we set out to find ourselves someplace to eat, a new hotel room, tickets to some nearby attractions, and a place to do laundry.  Once again someone on the street came to our rescue, or maybe we came to his haha.  First he took us to his Uncles restaurant, then to the next door hotel that some relative of his owned, then to the travel agency that he works for, then to the laundry shop that his sister owns.  Since he was nice and all the prices were reasonable, I was fine with that… though it seems as though he led us astray on one point.

Yogyakarta is home to batik art, which was original a process used to make beautiful sarongs but now also applies to wall hangings.  Our friend led us to an “Official Government Art Gallery” that was supposedly open one last day and whose proceeds went to the Merapi Volcanic Eruption Relief.  Since he had been so nice to us earlier I kind of believed him, but apparently it was all lies.  There are no official art galleries in Yogyakarta and none of the artists sell their own work in the city, everybody there are just liars trying to take advantage of tourists.  Unfortunately, both me and Ranjani bought paintings.  They are good quality works and we got good deals, but it is unfortunate b/c we gave money to scam artists and we are going to a nearby village where the actual artists live and we could purchase the works directly.  Sigh.

Anyways, we also purchased tickets to see Borobudur and Pramanan (spelling?) the next day, for which we had the joy of waking up at 4:30am for, so much for sleeping in.  Borobudur is an old Buddhist temple that supposedly is the next best thing after Angkor Wat in South East Asia, though a British girl we met told us that Borobudur has nothing on Angkor Wat and all temples are boring and existence basically becomes meaningless after observing the beauty of Angkor Wat.  Still, for the unenlightened, Borobudur is definitely worth the visit and was an awesome site, complete with stunning views of the surrounding hills and Mount Merapi off in the distance.  Pramanan was a nearby Hindu temple that was also neat, but I’m already starting to get temple fatigue so it was hard to care too much.

Meantime we have started making use of the couchsurfing.org website to meet people and arrange places to stay.  We first met up with a guy from Estonia who is being paid by the Indonesian government to study in Indonesia.  Kind of a cool scholarship that is meant to get more foreigners to visit I guess.  Anyways he took us out to a delicious restaurant and talked about his experiences living in Indonesia and traveling all over the world.  We were so tired from our various travels that we declined his offer to go out drinking with him that night and the following night.  We are lame =(.

Right now (and by right now I mean days ago) we are staying in a village just outside of Yogyakarta named Tembi with a family we met through couchsurfing.  The head of the household is basically an amazing renaissance man who makes me feel ashamed to have accomplished so little in my life.  Growing up he was on a path towards joining the Indonesian national team for football (soccer), he stopped to concentrate on going to university b/c back then soccer players were not paid good in Indonesia.  That has changed now and it seems like he regrets not continuing with soccer.  But since graduating from college, he has worked for an NGO called Friends of Earth, focusing on disaster relief but also helping document environmental damage caused by illegal logging, for which he went undercover to help secure footage.  In his spare time from saving the world he participates in the traditional batik artwork of his family and happens to be an amazing artist.

His family has been extremely nice to us, making us meals giving us the guest bedroom, and all around bending over backwards in order to make sure we are happy.  After brainstorming what to get for the family, we bought some toys for their cute two year old, who promptly broke them.  Oops, still he seemed happy with the broken toys.

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Snorkeling in Bali and Traveling to Mount Bromo

We left Lovina to go snorkeling off the coast of Mansomething Island (not the actual name), which is a 20-30 minute boat ride from North-West Bali.  The island is protected for fishing so it has a gorgeous coral reef that was absolutely teeming with fish.  Unfortunately for me I somehow got a bit seasick from snorkeling AND didn’t ask someone for help applying sunscreen on my back.  So not only did I spend the whole day slightly ill, I got an awkward looking sunburn to show for my efforts.. a picture was taken of course.  During our snorkel trip we also met a nice Colombian girl who is apparently taking a very similar travel route as us, so we got her email address with the goal of meeting up in Thailand.

Post-snorkeling we had the divers drop us off in Pemuteran, which seems to consist of dive shops and resorts, luckily we managed to find a cheap homestay after being told that it was impossible multiple times.  At the homestay we discovered that we could get the best internet on the island after I managed to successfully guess the user name and password to a nearby hotspot (username: guest, password: guest).  Spent way too much time using the internet instead of exploring the area which supposedly had beautiful black sand beaches, but oh well.

The next day a nice local diving instructor gave us a lift to the ferry (30 minute drive), while giving us advice on getting to Mount Bromo, our eventual destination.  The rest of the journey was relatively hellish for me, except for the beautiful views from the ferry between Bali and Java.  The ferry rolled back and forth in the waves, and while I didn’t get seasick I kept on thinking I was going to, not to mention recalling the articles I read about the poor safety record of Indonesian boats.

Luckily we made it onto Java in one piece and were immediately taken to the public bus to Probolinggo (the nearest big town to Mount Bromo).  I had enough time to quickly eat half a meal of bakso soup, while Ranjani was in a rather hilarious conversation with two local ladies who apparently had a lot to say to her and me despite not knowing any English, and then we were off.  The public bus was made for someone much smaller than me, maybe smaller than even Ranjani, so my knees were pressed up against the seat in front of me and my body took up two seats (our backpacks taking up a 3rd).  But amazingly a minor miracle happened to make the 6 hour journey more bearable in the form of an Australian girl named Cat.

Cat had been relying on a 5 year old guidebook which erroneously told her of a homestay in some existing village which no longer existed.  The local police put her on our bus and she found us, thus enlivening the dreary journey a bit.  After talking with her for a while she agreed to join us on our journey since she no longer had a clear destination in mind.  It was nice having Cat around for a change of pace from traveling with just Ranjani (not that it has been thaaaat bad traveling with Ranjani haha) and b/c she actually knew how to speak Indonesian to an extent.

Arriving in Probolinggo, we spent the night in a dingy hotel that appeared to be heavily infested with mold, but had the attraction of being super cheap and walking distance to the bus terminal. We had breakfast the following morning amongst rowdy elementary age school kids who were more fascinated by Cat’s Macbook Air than by us and managed to quickly go from cute to annoying with their constant screaming (just like any other group of kids I guess).  Then it was off via minibus ride with two untalkative germans up to Mount Bromo.

The Mount Bromo area is breathtaking.  Mount Bromo is an active volcano that is constantly emitting a dull roar along with puffs of white and brown smoke.  Bordering it is a dormant volcano and far off in the background is Mount Semuru, another active volcano.  They are all within a massive caldera that marks an abrupt transition from the surrounding green.   First there is an abrupt drop, and then the “Sea of Sand” which is a great sandy expanse surrounding Mount Bromo.  We did what the guidebook recommended and woke up at 3am to hike to Bromo, so we could be on top for sunrise.  It was one of the most eerie experiences I’ve ever had as we left the scenic village of Cemaro Lewang and headed down to the Sea of Sand in the dark, as if entering Mordor in Lord of the Rings.  After losing our way in the dark a couple times, we sighted the small Hindu temple near the base of Bromo and made our way up the side of the volcano.  The guidebook claimed that there would be stairs, but sand covers everything fast here and we had to deal with the slippery slope up, but once on top the view inside the crater of Bromo was amazing.

In the dark, we could clearly see the red hole spewing forth bright ash (or maybe rock?) that would lazily float in the air before descending back down into the volcano.  Meantime the roar had gotten much louder and every once in a while we got whiffs of the terrible sulfur smell of the smoke.  I do wonder how safe all this is (there were no guard rails at the lip of the crater, everything is sand) and apparently tourists have died from Bromo erupting in the past, but man volcanos are awesome and this was completely worth the trip.  Kind of makes me wish we had more time in Indonesia to see more volcanoes.

Shortly after we hiked back we lost our travel companion =( b/c she wanted to go a different direction than us, but she left behind her ukulele on accident, so perhaps she’ll be forced to find us haha.  Now we head to Yogyakarta, our last stop in Indonesia before we fly out to Malaysia.

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Lovina: Land of the Dolphins (we saw none)

Woke up in the morning only knowing that we were going to leave Ubud, with no clue as to our destination.  Power outages impeded our search so by the time we settled on the idyllic beach community of Lovina in Northern Bali we had already missed the tourist shuttles.  Luckily we managed to negotiate a decent price for a taxi to Lovina.  Our taxi took us through the awe inspiring mountains and alpine lakes of Bali, immediately making us regret not staying in the vicinity, but it was kind of too late to change our minds unfortunately… perhaps next time =).

Since we had nowhere in mind to stay, taxi driver drove to (I’m assuming) his friends hotel, that was actually decently cheap and had a swanky pool.  Unfortunately we didn’t realize that our room was crazily mosquito infested, I think we must have killed like 50 and still there were swarms.  Poor Ranjani was completely covered in bites, but, on the bright side, the mosquitoes were so distracted from feasting on her that they avoided me completely.

We decided to go for a walk to explore the town and were bombarded by different sellers on the beach, all telling hard luck stories and making us feel really guilty for not buying things (though eventually Ranjani gave in to a little girl saying she needed money for school and selling outrageously expensive corn necklaces).  But we also ran into Ziggy and his friends who were playing guitar and conga drums on a bench by the main road.  They invited us to join them to listen to them sing and we ended up chilling on the bench for 4 hours singing different songs (though Ziggy was constantly disappointed with how few of the words we knew and my terrible conga drum playing) and chatting about their lives.  Not to mention they provided us with an endless supply of rice wine, which in addition to the 3 big beers I consumed was enough to get me decently intoxicated.  On the walk back home I made it a point to chase every single dog who barked at me, so glad that no Balinese people were out late enough to see me haha.

Waking up slightly hungover, we decided to forgo our plan of another epic bicycling adventure and just chill by the pool all day, reading and relaxing.  Apparently that is the popular thing to do at Hotel Suma b/c at least 3 or 4 other groups of people spent all day by the pool… we didn’t talk to any of them haha.  For dinner we went back to Ziggy’s place since he kind of has a restaurant I guess?  In Bali everybody seems to have multiple businesses going on and if they can’t do something for you they know at least 10 people who can.  I was a bit nervous about eating at Ziggy’s restaurant b/c there were no signs and no menus and Ziggy didn’t appear to be the cooking type, but it turned out to be amazing.

He made Ranjani a vegetarian dish called gado-gado which seems to be the premiere Indonesian vegetarian option.  For me he cooked a whole chicken in some delicious peanut flavored sauce, I am forgetting the name but I’ve seen it on the menu at a couple places.  It was completely worth eating but rather expensive compared to most food we’ve had in Indonesia.  After dinner we once again joined Ziggy and his friends for rice wine and music, Ziggy extoled us to spend another night in Lovina, but sadly we had already made plans to travel up the coast the next day.

If anyone ever goes to Bali and wants Ziggy’s contact info, I would be more than happy to give it.  He’s a good resource for the Lovina region, not to mention an excellent cook and singer, with an interesting life story.  He was named after Ziggy Marley, spent 7 years or so singing reggae in bars until a horrific motorbike crash, but is back on his feet right now attending university and starting a restaurant business.  Also, every story I’ve heard about motorbike crashes involve the participants being drunk, I think Ziggy said he lost two brothers in drunk motorbike crashes, sad and crazy.  So if you ever go to Bali, don’t drink and drive and wear a helmet.

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Ubud: Eat Pray Love and Reggae

We left Kuta on Monday afternoon via shuttle bus to Ubud, made popular by the book and movie Eat Pray Love. While Kuta is the primary party destination for weekender Australians, Ubud is where middle aged women and hippies who read the book come from all over the world to discover themselves or whatever. But they come to Ubud for good reason b/c it is beautiful here; epic terraced rice fields abound, every small village looks like a collection of mini ancient temples. Not to mention cooler weather than Kuta, plus we have charming hotel room with a nice view and a pool.

Our hotel room is 50 yards away from the touristy monkey sanctuary which we immediately walk into after disembarking. There must be hundreds of monkeys here, all begging for overpriced bananas that are sold by venders to tourists. Apparently monkeys often steal people’s sunglasses, cameras, and other items and hold them ransom in exchange for bananas, but sadly we did not get to witness that nor did any monkeys harass us. We did however get peed on immediately upon entering the sanctuary by some cruel practical joker of a monkey, but a little pee never hurt anyone, so we continued on, slightly smellier than before. Ranjani also managed to take a cute picture of two monkeys kissing, but on closer examination one of the monkeys was masturbating… I hope she didn’t delete that picture.

Our first full day in Ubud, we decided to take a beautiful, but long, walk through the rice fields where harvest time is occurring (or at least some taxi driver told me that). Very pretty scenery and we met an artist who explained the process he went through to make the traditional Balinese paintings depicting various Hindu gods. Beautiful paintings, but we are traveling light and on the cheap so we declined to purchase any. Along the way back we got slightly lost and might have accidentally wandered into someone’s backyard (?) where two older Balinese women were bathing in the nude, awkward.

The next day we got our Indiana Jones on with a bike ride to see two ancient temples, Goa Gajah and Yeh Pulu. Goa Gajah means the Elephant Cave which is a beautifully carved, but the most exciting part was when we wandered down a random path to the jungle temple. The longer than expected hike led us have to through the jungle, down to a river, across a rickety bamboo bridge and then a swim into three carved out caves. We declined to do the swim portion of the trek and contented ourselves with taking pictures outside the caves, but we were interested to learn that the jungle temple is still actively used by the Balinese for various ceremonies.

One last point of interest was that in Ubud live reggae music was occurring everywhere, not sure if it’s something popular with the Balinese or just brought in to satisfy all the hippies who travel to Ubud. But regardless, I enjoyed it, a very nice way to wind down the evening.
I’m starting to think that adding pictures to this blog won’t happen, while wifi is easy to find all the connections are sooo slow, thus impossible to upload pics. Maybe when I get to a larger city, like Yogyakarta, I’ll find internet with faster speeds, until then everything will have to be text only sadly.

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Impossible Journeys in Kuta

Kuta is hot.  All I’m doing is sweating, sweating on the beach, sweating in the room, sweating in front of an industrial strength fan.  In addition, my sweating is making the use of sunscreen impossible (despite the label claiming it is sweat proof).  So I’m basically an annoyingly gross mess of sweaty sunscreen during my entire time here.

First night in Kuta, talk with Ranjani about exploring the famed nightlife then promptly pass out at 9pm due to exhaustion.  Wake up at 2am to the sound of someone throwing up, fall back asleep.   Wake up again at 4am to the sounds of drunk people playing in the pool, fall back asleep.  Wake up at 8am to the sounds of construction; resolve to find a different hotel room.

After finding a better hotel, we decided to walk up the beach to Semanayak, which is has a nice temple and supposedly the best restaurants of the region.  The beaches of Kuta are beautiful and surprisingly clean for the amount of people using them.  Walking in the ocean water was one of the few times I was at a comfortable temperature.  After visiting the temple we stopped in at a classy restaurant with a cover band playing classic rock and folk music.  They claimed to know every song, but rarely did they get all the words right, still were very talented.   We decided to change things up on the walk back by going via inland roads, huge mistake!  We didn’t make it back until 10pm and promptly passed out, once again missing out on Kuta’s nightlife.  We had been told earlier that the walk was impossible, might as well have been true… should have spent 2 dollars on a taxi ride back rather than walking for an hour and a half through dimly lit and empty streets with no clear understanding of where we are (the roads can be a bit confusing).

On the second full day in Kuta we decided to rent bicycles (referred to as push bikes in Bali) to ride to Tanah Lot.  The guy renting us the bikes yelled “Impossible! Too far!” when we informed him of our travel plans and then started laughing at us.  He must have repeated impossible a good 20 more times while laughing and predicted we would never make it past Semenayak.  Despite his dire pronouncements, we decided to brave the traffic and possible death by heat stroke.  20 minutes into our ride I discovered that I forgot to bring the map, but not to worry, everyone we asked was more than happy to give us directions while telling us we were crazy for biking there.

Turned out to be a beautiful ride to the temple (although the pollution from the traffic stung the eyes) complete with our first views of rice fields.  The temple itself was awe inspiring but completely packed with tourists, both foreign and Balinese.  After wandering for a bit and getting my picture taken with a bunch of Balinese kids (who I almost had to force to stick around so I could get a picture with my camera), it was time to head back.   Of course our brilliant planning led to us having to make the ride back in the dark along poorly lit streets with no bike lights and no helmets amidst heavy traffic.  Mostly just gave that description to annoy my mom b/c nothing happened to us other than a flat tire, we achieved the impossible apparently.

To celebrate our successful ride and Ranjanis bday (!) we finally decided to participate in the nightlife with the goal being to make some friends.  Started the night drinking large bintangs (most popular Indonesian beer and perfect for hot weather) on the beach and then proceeded to wander aimlessly around.  First bar we went into had a heavy metal cover band with the best acdc voice I’ve ever heard.  The bar itself was filled with extremely intoxicated and scary Australians who were molesting the male waiting staff; we tried not to look and focused on the music.  Failing at making friends with the scary Australians, we went to a sports bar where I bonded with a Brit over the Tottenham v. Liverpool game to Ranjani’s increasing boredom.  Luckily we changed locations post game and met a hilariously intoxicated Scot who thought he knew Ranjani from somewhere and then proceeded to Sky bar which had 3 or 4 floors of dancing to pounding house music.  It was awesome and packed, a good way to end a Sunday night.

Despite the day being our best so far, it was characterized by 3 big fails on my part.  First I thought Ranjani lost the room key and we looked for it for an hour, whereupon I made Ranjani tell the hotel management.  Turned out it was in my pocket, yeaa…  Second was the aforementioned failure to bring the bali map for our long bike ride.  And lastly I somehow lost the key to the bike lock after locking our bikes together; I had to carry the bikes back to the place where we rented them.   The owners of the bikes were friends of the hotel management, so I’m sure they all had a good laugh at my expense.

One last note, I plan on renting a motorbike soon (despite forgetting to get an international driver’s license) and I got a firsthand lesson to not do drunken motorbiking!  Our next door neighbor was recovering from a severe puncture wound in his leg received after drunkenly crashing his motorbike and one year ago he almost died in a drunken motor bike accident.  When I asked him if he had learned his lesson, he replied that he can’t help himself when he gets the munchies… he was drunk during this 11am conversation.

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Adventures of Danjani (name courtesy of Jenevieve) in Southeast Asia

This marks the first, and hopefully not the last, post about our adventures around Southeast Asia.  I’m writing from Bali, where I’m currently relaxing with a beer at Havana Club, clearly immersing myself in authentic Balinese culture.  But in my defense, the last couple days have been hectic and I dearly needed a chance to relax.

Procrastinating being my strong suit, I (read: my mom) packed during the 4 hours proceeding my plane flight out of SFO, I’m still not even sure what I brought.  What I did manage to do is buy the same exact model and color (!!!) netbook that Ranjani has, which means it looks awfully planned out whenever we are on our computers.  The only thing that made me feel better is a couple (or at least I hope they are together) wearing the same exact clothes in Taiwan.

Anyways, somehow managed to make my flight on the wonderful China Airlines which declines to provide personal tvs on 14 hour flights, but at least allow prodigious amounts of leg room, thus marking one of the most comfortable flights I’ve had in a long time.

Upon arrival in Bali, Ranjani and I were promptly scammed out of some money by seemingly official baggage porters who helpfully forced us to let them carry our bags for 100 yards in exchange for 10 dollars that they basically yanked out of Ranjani’s hand.  Despite this, we were in relatively good spirits and decided to walk from the airport rather than pay a taxi to drive us the 2km to Kuta.

Kuta is a bit overwhelming; omnipresent traffic, crowded streets, dense buildings, oppressive touts, and noise everywhere.  Still I enjoyed walking around it and looking at all the sights.  It is definitely not the Bali one would imagine, which I’ll assume exists elsewhere on the Island.  Overdevelopment is everywhere and I swear I see more western style bars and restaurants than native balinese.  But it is a happening place, tons of Australians on vacation and other westerners, none of whom I had a chance to befriend yet.  Perhaps later tonight.

After awhile of wandering around Kuta and seeing the beautiful beach, we decided to choose a hotel and fast.  One b/c we were sweating like pigs and two b/c of the rapidly approaching thunderstorm that was threatening to drench us and all our belongings.  Luckily we secured a room at Rita Hotel for the somewhat reasonable rate of 150k rp (about 17 dollars) at least compared to the other places we checked out at Kuta.  If we don’t find cheaper places to stay in the future we’ll have to dramatically recast our budget.

Ok, I’m writing too much, but last thoughts are that I packed too much (of course) and I didn’t bring enough cash with me!  No one will accept credit cards here, I assumed it would be more like India in that regard.

Time to explore some more!

p.s. Next time I’ll attempt to add pictures.

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