Monday, February 23, 2009

Bali and Gili Islands

Feb 12

Take a flight on Asia Airlines from Krabi to Kuala Lampur, where I have the worst meal of my trip. 3 hour layover and from what I experience in the airport, not a huge fan of the people (or food) of Malaysia. Catch the flight over to Bali, where I hit the ATM and take out 1,000,000 Ruphiah. Sure makes you feel rich! Of course, that is only about $85! Ed and I grab a taxi to Chun Ghee's house. Chun is a friend of a friend, and when we arrive at his villa in Seminyak, it is amazing! I know I am going to enjoy my free stay at this amazing place and the insight from a local expat from the US. His villa is the essence of living in Bali, for $500/month it his 2 very nice luxurious bedrooms and an outdoor living area with a fish pond around it, an outdoor kitchen and nicely landscaped yard. He also has a maid come daily for $45 a month, as well as a gardener. Now this is the good life! All just a block from the beach and some of the best restaurants and bars. One very cool thing that Chun tells us about is that in a month if his maid continues to work hard and be motivated, he will send her to English school to become his personal assistant to help with his business. Very cool as it will help advance the ability and skills of a local Balinese person by teaching her English and business skills.

Feb 13
Happy Birthday to me! Grab a nice breakfast, then pick up my moto for the next 10 days ($3/day). Decide to get out and explore town with the moto, and before I know it I am a little lost (tough with no street signs). The traffic is totally insane with cars and moto's weaving in and out of traffic at crazy speeds! Luckily I had some practice up in Chaing Mai, so I'm up for the craziness. We explore south Bali, and visit Ulu Watu, a nice Temple in a spectacular setting up on a cliff overlooking the ocean. There are monkey's everywhere, and you can purchase some peanuts to feed them. I do this, and get into the Temple and pull out a peanut to give to a nice little monkey. Next thing I know a huge monkey starts coming towards me to take it. So, I throw it down so he can have it, but he keeps coming. I throw down 2 more, but he continues after me as I am walking very fast to escape (I guess he wants the entire stinkin bag of peanuts?!?!). I suddenly have a flashback of a few days earlier in Railey when a monkey jumped on a tourist, and I freak out and throw down the bag and he gets them all. Oh well, at least he didn't attack me, that was one aggressive dude! We continue to enjoy the Temple and the spectacular views. At the back of the Temple, I am leaning my elbows on a stone wall to get a great photo, when all of a sudden I feel something hit me hard on my hands. Next thing I know, another big monkey has run off with my camera case!! Yikes! He opens the case, looks in, shakes it upside down, then starts gnawing on it! I don't know what to do, but the people who work there throw him a few bags of food, and he finally drops the case for the food. I quickly grab it back before another monkey grabs the case. Crazy! I give the people a tip, and keep a close hold on my things. Ed said he saw the entire thing go down and the monkey sprinted 15 feet down the wall to grab it from me - impressive tactic by the monkey! Then we watch a traditional Kecak and fire dance show, with the sun setting behind the show. Very nice way to end the day. We grab dinner in Seminyak, where there are countless nice restaurants. We decide to get some Italian food, and I enjoy a great dinner at a very classy restaurant for $8. Then we head out to celebrate my b-day, we hit the 5 most popular bars/clubs in Kuta, Legion and Seminyak into the wee hours of the morning. Great ladyboy incident in the middle of the night. We are walking down and narrow street, and this drunk Australian guy strikes up conversation with us. We are all talking when a moto with 2 lady boys pulls up. Now, these were the types of lady boys that are so obvious, I don't even know whey they try. Well, one jumps off the moto and starts messing with the Aussie. This goes on for about 2 minutes, and he is laughing and enjoying the attention when the ladyboy quickly jumps back onto the moto and they speed off. Ed quickly asks "dude, you have your wallet?" and without even responding the kid takes off in a full sprint. We all start laughing hysterically at the scene we just saw go was a classic ladyboy strategy you hear about, and I must say it was quite well executed!!

Feb 14
Head to the southern beaches in the morning. Get to Geiger Beach, which has a great view and vibe with beach chairs and restaurant serving great smoothies! I enjoy a nice ocean swim. There are seaweed farmers in a small village here, working hard to pull it out and get it dried. We head out on the motos and grab lunch at Ulu Watu town, which has spectacular cliff top views of one of the best surf breaks in the world. Then we head to Dreamland beach, boogie boarding as the sun sets. Great day of beach hopping! We head out at 9:30 for a beer at the ultra schwanky Hu'd Bar in seminyak. This restaurant/bar has probably the nicest ambiance I have ever seen, with lounges in a garden and pool (where I don't think people swim - more just for looks) in the middle of it. Amazing place. Then we head to KuDeTa on the ocean for dinner, and it is just as trendy. These places put places in the US to shame, and cost a fraction of what you would pay for a nice restaurant in the US.

Feb 15
Decide to head north today to visit some beaches. After doing some exploring, we head back to Kuta/Legion to surf (or attempt to). The surf was big, and I got "laundry machined" under water and thought I was going to die I needed air so badly. After that, I stayed in the smaller surf, I was wiped out! Next some bad weather moves in (first rain of my entire trip), which we expected at some point as it is rainy season in Bali. A total monsoon hits as we are driving back to Chun's house on the moto, with the surfboard. We get to his house, and the rain is full-on - actually flooding his yard and we had to prevent water from getting into the bedrooms. We had massages scheduled back at his house that evening, 2 women came and Ed and Chun got the first massages and I got the best - 4 hands massage (I think the massage count is 7). then we headed out to a dinner party that an expat was throwing, the rain had stopped but the streets were flooded! The dinner party was lots of fun, and the food was fantastic! I really enjoyed talking to all the people from around the world on the businesses they do in Bali (many exporters). Fun times.

Feb 16

Ed's trip is over, and he heads off to the airport. I wake up at 6am, to get an early start on the day over to the Gili Islands on Lombok. All I have is my day pack for this adventure, I hope my clothes last me for the 5-6 days I will be gone. I have to get to Padangbai on the scooter, and this proves to be quite a challenge. First off, it is raining again, so road conditions are pretty bad. Also, I think someone forgot to wind-test my poncho as the one side has ripped under my arm and is flapping wildly in the wind and not providing optimal protection against the rain. Secondly, there are barely any street signs of directional signs in Bali. So, I end up driving and driving and driving...I think in a circle. I would ask one person which way to go, stop 2 min later to ask another and they would point me the direction I just came from! ugh. I finally get heading the right direction, up the east coast. I hit a nice stretch of pavement and get my moto up to 102kph. I am within 10 min of the town where I will catch the ferry, and I see a cop with lights on in my mirror...great, this is not good. I slow down, and luckily they pull by me. Phew! I finally get to Padangbai, buy my ferry ticket (which leaves in 20 min), but I can't find a safe place to leave my moto while I am on the islands. I finally find a hotel which hits me up for a steep fee, but I am desperate at this point (next ferry doesn't come for 90 min), so I pay it and run to the ferry, just barely making it on before it pulls out. At this point, I am starving as I didn't have a chance to get food, and only had an orange for breakfast. All they have on the ferry is cookies, oh well. The ferry is rocking big time in the waves, so I head to the top for fresh air. But, since I am tired, I decide to try to get some sleep, local style - on the hard floor of the ferry. Not comfy, that is for sure. We are finally pulling into the port, and I realize we are not in the town I thought we'd be in, and I thought I caught the wrong ferry. Later on, I found out that all the ferries go to this same town. We get into the port, and I start the haggling process with the taxis and motos. I settle on a fair with a moto driver (to be on the back), and off we go. Literally, off we go. This guy is flying, heading the wrong way against traffic, taking corners (in the rain) at 80kph, passing buses and then having them practically run us off the road. For the first time on my trip, I am a little concerned about the driving. Looking back on it, I should have gotten off, especially considering I didn't have a helmet on. A man sure can do a lot of praying sitting behing a crazy moto driver!! It then starts pouring rain, and he pulls over. I am getting worried, as it is after 4pm, and the last boat to the Gili Islands leaves Lombok at 5pm. He flags down a van, they exchange some money, and off I go in the van, hoping I get to where I need to go. It continues to rain like crazy as we work our way up through a rainforest. What makes this more fun is that this van has no windows, and the window wipers don't visibility in this hard rain. We get to the town where I need to go, I catch a horse buggy for the 1km to the port where the boats are, and get there and work my way through all the touts trying to rip me off with a more expensive boat rid. I barely catch the last boat, and off I go on the 45 min ride to Gili Trawangan. On the ride, I meet some people from San Fran. Once on the island, I find a room for $5, grab dinner and catch a movie. In the middle of the night, I wake up and freak out as I went to sleep with the light on while I was reading...and now the light is off. I grab my torch, look around, and realize the power has gone out...phew - I wasn't robbed! Now, with the power out, the fan is obviously not working and it is rather hot in the room.

Feb 17
So, wake up in the morning with much more light then when I saw the room last night, and it is way dirty. So, I check out and find a much nicer room for the same price. I bump into the girls from CA over breakfast and decide to join them on a snorkeling trip. The boat had a glass bottom, which was pretty cool and gave you a sense of what you would see before jumping in. The clarity is not nearly as good as Thailand (I think b/c it was rainy season b/c it is supposed to be amazing in the dry season). I see some nice fish and reefs...then the coolest part was seeing a manta ray and then swimming along with a turtle for 5+ min - awesome! The trip wraps up on the 3rd island, Gili Air where we enjoy a nice lunch on a secluded part of the island. We get back to Gili T in the afternoon and I see some locals playing a heated game of ping-pong, so I challenge them and beat them all (winning a Bintang beer in the process). Then I decide the best way to see the island is to run around it. I enjoy a beautiful 8-9k run around the island as the sun is setting, very nice! The island is very pretty with a great vibe and very friendly people. A big difference from Bali is that it has a heavy muslim population, and the mosque loudly broadcasts prayers in the morning and evening. For dinner, I join friends from the snorkeling trip and we enjoy a nice dinner right on the beach. So far, the Indonesian fare I have had has been average. We grab a few drinks at a local establishment, and on the walk home at night I am always offered every sort of drug you can imagine...hopefully they realize the answer is always going to be no and leave me alone!

Feb 18
I grab breakfast then walk through town, saying hi to many people (locals and tourists) I have met since I have been on the island (you meet lots of the people b/c it is so small). I then chill out at a secluded, private beach all for me. While laying there are relaxing, I decide I want to go out in search of a more private beach front bungalow, and hear about a place on Gili Meno that offers it. So, I check out of my place to grab the boat over. Walking by the ping-pong table I see my local friends, and the one really wants my Arsenal tee shirt (one of my fave's). I decide I will give it to him, but challenge him to a game of ping pong for it. I win, I get a Bintang, he wins, he gets my shirt. He was the best player of the group, and we had a heated battle, but he is now the very proud owner of a new tee-shirt! I bounce over to Gili Meno, and find my great ocean front bungalow on the beach and on the secluded west side of the island. It is perfect, and I am the only person there (other than the employees). Very cool traditional bungalow style room for $10, with open air outdoor shower (very desirable). I have the beach to myself, perfect for some good R&R. I decide to run around the island, it was smaller than Gili T, probably a 5-6k run. I get back and jump in the ocean to have a good float about while the sun sets, and get a spectacular blood red sunset, awesome! I eat dinner at the place, get a noodle dish, and I ask for it to be spicy. It comes and is spicy and pretty good, then while slurping up a noodle I somehow had some of the sauce flip into my eye...oooouuuucccchhhh!! Seriously, I have never had sauce flip into my eye before, and it has to be some super spicy Indonesian sauce! My eye is burning, I am calling the waiter for some water (all I have is a beer) and he gets it after what feels like an eternity. I get it flushed out, but still not good, how did this happen!?! In about 10 min starts to feel ok again. I enjoy a nice quite and relaxing evening and night, just what I was looking for. I call it a night in my great bungalow, only to wake up at about 2am to a screeching gecko right by the headboard of my bed. It was seriously so loud that it made me jump up b/c it freaked me out!


At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

trip sounds fun. what is up with not trying the ocean cliff free climbing as you could have been the guy in the ads falling into the water... wimp.

anyway were you able get in touch with scott for ideas in australia?

At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

still laugh each time I read...sounds like so much fun.
Missed saying happy birthday to you.


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