Friday, May 21, 2010

Indo

Once again I'm behind the eight ball and Chris has gone ahead of me and given an amazing account of our travels in Indonesia. (Do we suck up to each other too much?) Here goes the color commentary again.


Bali:



Bali was interesting. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, deserted beautiful beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and lots of culture. Instead, as Chris described, it was overly touristy which ruined some of the vibe. One thing that was unique and interesting to Bali that I noticed almost immediatly was their obsession with picnic table clothes. Yes, that's right picnic table clothes. On every single statue and tree they put black and white checked picnic table clothes. On the streets, in the hotels and yes, in the temples. I was wondering why they did this and finally found out when we went to the Mother of all Temples, better known as the Mother Temple. Apparently, the Mother Temple is the most holy of all Hindu temples in Bali. It is located approximately three hours to the north of the main tourist areas close to the volcanos that most recently exploded in the 1900's. Because it is so holy, everyone must wear a sarong when they go to the temple regardless of whether they are wearing pants, shorts, or a skirt. This includes Mr. Chris Barela, as you can see in the pictures he posted on Indonesia. At the Mother Temple all of the statues have on the black and white checkered sarong (picnic table clothes). At the MT these sarongs are sacred and somehow this has translated all throughout the island and although it is sacred at the MT, it is just decoration everywhere else. I never got a good answer as to why the sarongs are sacred or symoblic or anything else.


When Chris and I went to see the Mother Temple, we also went to see the Water Temple, a beautiful temple that is on a lake, and the Monkey forest with lots of monkeys as you would imagine and even bats that people (Chris) could hold and feed. I chose just to take pictures. The monkeys were a little aggressive and stole a woman's shopping bag that was right next to me. Finally, we went to visit Tanah Lot, another temple right on the ocean. It was beautiful scenery and I got lost in it and fell on some slippery moss covered rocks. I cut my knee and it was bleeding pretty seriously. Luckily, just at the base of the temple there was a spring with two holy men that for a small fee blessed my knee and let me use their 'holy' water to clean it. They gave me a jasmine flower and a bindi like dot on my head. It's cliche, but if I hadn't fallen down, I wouldn't have had that interesting experience. You never know what any experience will bring you.





My very favorite part of Bali was going to visit Git Git waterfall. It was a torrential rainfall and Chris and I had to walk through slippery stairs and walkways with rivers running through them to get to the falls. We had umbrellas, but by the time we got there we were pretty much drenched. The falls were thunderous and it was fun just to get even more soaked enjoying the spray. See the video below.



Indonesia:

Indonesia was one of the highlights of the trip for me, mainly as Chris explained because I totally fell in love with surfing. The people were so nice in the town, Batu Karas that we were in it made the trip even more enjoyable. This included Anry our instructor, fellow surfer Eda and some fellow Americans, Cindy and Sandy that we hung out with. I couldn't get enough out of just going and sitting and waiting for the waves, much less how exciting it was once I finally caught one. Luckily, the waves were really long because each time I caught a wave it would take me a full five seconds to realize that I actually caught the wave, freak out a bit because I was so excited and then realize, hey, I have to stand up now. I'm really hoping that we can do some more surfing in South Africa and hopefully continue it once I get back to California. I find it hilarious that I've been living in California for the past six years and had to go to Indonesia to pick up surfing. Better late than never.











Besides the wonderful week of surfing, I also enjoyed meeting the people in Indonesia. They were so kind, from the people giving us directions on how to get around, to families giving us a ride to our hotel from the train station and all of the Indonesia children wanting to practive English with us. Chris mentioned the kids at the top of the Mt. Bromo, but we also ran into a class of 2nd or 3rd graders at another temple outside of Yogyakarta called Borobodur that wanted to talk to us. They all had their scripts ready and asked us the usual questions, such as where are you from. After our 'interviews' they presented us with an award and we took all kinds of pictures. Of course once the english speaking class was done taking pictures, we had about five random families ask to take pictures with us. It was pretty funny, but most of all charming that they are so excited to interact with people from other cultures.





Also as Chris mentioned, we had a slight detour when we tried to go to Kalimantan and into Indonesian Borneo to see the orangotangs. I got an ear infection while surfing and it just got worse and worse. The doctor in Yogyakarta said I was fine to travel to Borneo and gave me hard core antibiotics and ear drops. We got to this divey town, Benjarmasin, on Kalimantan and stayed in a horrible roach motel because there weren't any other options. Unfortunately, my ear kept getting worse so we had to go to another hospital there. The office hours for doctors is bizarre in Indonesia, so while it was a 24 hour hospital, they had no ear doctors on staff. They directed us to a small clinic and there we met Dr. Strange. I just wanted someone to look in my ear and was feel pretty bad, so I didn't notice as much as Chris did all of the 1920's style equipment. The doctor had a flashlight that was literally taped to a band on his head and he kept hitting it into my head while trying to look into my ear. At the same time, his assistant was holding my head still. I wish I had a picture of this.


Dr. Strange proceeded to use some crazy cotton and long sharp stick to pull black stuff out of my ear. He said that I was allergic to whatever drops the other doctor gave me. Then before I could say anything he put a TON of cotton into my ear and drenched it with his special potion, a clear bottle with a bandaid closing the top. He said that I needed to keep the cotton moist all night and come back in the morning for him to remove it. What could I do at that point? I smelled the special potion and it just smelled like ammonioum. I did as instructed and went back in the morning for him to take a look. Apparently, he said it was looking better.


At that point Chris and I made the hard decision to go back to Yogyakarta and lay low for a week so that I could get better. Chris was so gracious to give up that jungle trek and truly he was the one that convinced me that we need to be healthy for our trip to Africa, as that was coming up soon. We spent the next week hanging out in Yogya, me mostly resting and getting all of our ducks in a row for Africa. One interesting thing that I did while in Yogya with all the downtime was to take an all day batik class. It was such an intricate process with drawing and outlining with wax and painting. There's a short video at the end of this post showing one of the most interesting steps where the cloth was turned from white to blue with special chemicals. It gave me a huge appreciation for the handmade batik in Malaysia and Indonesia.





Malaysia:


After our time in Bali, Batu Karas, and Yogyakarta our one month visa for Indonesia expired and we were basically kicked out. We headed to Malaysia for a week to relax on the east coast in a beach town called Cherating. It was a really relaxed place which during the rainy season has very good surfing. It wasn't the rainy season and they were actually experiencing a 10 year record heat wave. Most of the time we were just trying to stay cool by laying in front of fans and putting freezing soda bottles on our neck, but there were two major highlights. First, one of the first nights there we went on an evening canoe ride up the river and saw thousands of fireflies. It was magical. Second, we were on a waiting list for days to go see green turtles laying eggs on a nearby beach, but nothing happened for awhile. On the VERY LAST NIGHT in Cherating we were called out right before midnight to go out to see the turtles laying eggs. It in an amazing hidden cove with tons of stars out that we saw three green turtles laying their eggs. Also, the country has some headstarting programs and not only were we able to see the turtles laying the eggs, we also had the opportunity to release some hatchlings into the wild. It was amazing to see these healthy strong babies going out into the water. It was the perfect end to one of our last nights in SE Asia to finally see the illusive turtles. Really, we'd had a room called the turtle room in Batu Karas and lots of other times that turtles were everywhere after the time volunteering with the turtles.







SE ASIA SUMMARY:


Overall, Southeast Asia didn't hit me as hard with an instant impression like India did. It is a much more subtle culture. What I've taken from the area mainly is the dignity with which people act and their overall kindness. Throw in the natural beauty and it is a wonderful place to spend three months.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

INDONESIA - FUN STUFF

Our first destination after thoroughly endulging ourselves in Thailand was Bali. Not because it is the sexiest of the islands but because logistically it made the most sense to us to start there first because of how vast this archipalego of islands is and work our way back to our next flight destination town which was Singapore. In retrospect, it may not have been the wisest choice after now becoming very familiar as to how to navigate these very remote islands. But I will never be sure until I try it again. :)

If and when you hear anyone back home speak of Indonesia what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Bali, of course right and why? Because it is the most commercialized of all the islands. Tourism is rampant here. Way overcrowed and way too many Australians here all year round. Bali is like Hawaii, Daytona Beach and Tijujuana all mixed together. The Aussie's come here to party and wreak havoch along the way. For them it is like going on spring break only it lasts all year round on Bali. It is just a short puddle jump to very cheap fun for them. This of course tends to tarnish the image of Bali and detract lots of backbackers and even some regular types of tourists looking for more meaningful places to bask in the sun and have fun at. Nonetheless, Bali it thriving. There are many other non-aussie family vacation areas. Lots of very expensive all-inclusive resorts line the beaches waiting for the next family to get sucked in to their fancy pools, massage parlors and anything else they want all at the push of a button. Hard to resist if you have lots of money to blow. If Sumatra and Kalimantan are the islands that are not for the Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson types then Bali is surely without a doubt the island for these types. If you are into being pampered and waited on all day,and are ok with parting with lots of cash to do it then for sure Bali is for you. Personally, I would prefer just the opposite.

I have come to realize on this trip that I do not like the tourist trap vacation areas. The most obvious awakening I have made is to realize that I don't need to travel thousands of miles just to be a part of a concrete jungle. I can do this in the backyard of where I live back home. Why would I travel all the way over here and spend endless amounts of cash to do the same thing back home for a fraction of the cost? Doesn't make any sense to me. Just to say that I went to Bali? No thanks! You pay way too much for so little indulgence. And forget about becoming cultured in the process. The only way to really submerse yourself in any culture is to go down the unbeaten paths and mingle with the locals. For example, if you were Indonesian and you wanted to know what it was all about to live in and be American would you pay loads of $$$ just to go to Disneyland or hang out in Las Vegas? I would certainly hope not. I would like to think that you would want to see our country through the eye's of all it's majestic landscapes and the people that inhabit them. I would hope that if you were Indonesian you would want to go to places like the rockies, adirondack's, yosemite, blackfoot river, the sierra's, the grand canyon, taos indian pueblos, louisiana backwoods, the list goes on and on, you get the idea. See our country in all of it's grandure and meet all the people that make up the fabric and soul of our country. You won't get this at Disneyland that's for sure.

What is my point? In Bali, you are most likely going to mingle with your neighbor John Doe who just happens to be there at the same time. And the conversation will be mostly about who's got the biggest or fastest car, the fanciest phone or gadget, biggest house back home and who belongs to most country clubs. Snore! Not my idea of best use of my money and time. On a different note, we did have some good and memorable moments while in Bali. After all, Bali does have it's fair share of Indonesian history as we all already know from my last post. We saw a very beautiful waterfall, 2 or 3 nice temples and of course the very exquisite Balinese woodcarvings of which if I had the money I would have purchased a super large carving on the spot and sent it home. Too much dinero. We also met a couple of other Americans (first ones we had met on our trip after being in southeast asia for nearly 3 months!) that we hung out with the last couple of days during our stay on Bali.


Bali was also the place where I would have my first run in with what can only be described as police alterior motives. I had heard and read about these sorts of things happening in this part of the world but never did I think it would happen to me. It did at the least moment I expected it. Here's how: We had decided while in Bali that we wanted to rent a motorbike and do some sightseeing that way since Bali is very beautiful in some areas and because it is such a humongous island that takes hours upon hours to cross and see all the nice little havens spread out all over the island. This is nothing new as we had already rented motorbikes in Vietnam, Thailand and other countries as well. Bali would be different though. For whatever reason the rules were much more strict in Bali. First, you had to have an international license before you could rent a bike and second, if you got caught riding a motorbike without an international license the fine was a whopping $500 and possible jailtime. I'm not kidding at all. This was enough to scare me into enquiring about how to go about getting my international license. So we set off to what we thought was the police station/dmv to see if we could get one. My guess was that it would take at most a couple of hours to secure a temporary int'l drivers license since I already have a motorcycle license back home. Boy was I wrong. The process to get a motorcycle license in Bali takes 3 days from beginning to end no matter what your previous experience riding a motorbike may be. This of course was unacceptable as we could ill-afford to go through god only knows what sort of red tape and then wait that long just to ride around the island for a couple of hours or so. Uh, I don't think so. In addition, I soon learned that I was at the wrong police station to even apply for a motorbike license. I would have to take a taxi ride another hour or so further down to the place that they actually did issue these sort of documents. But wait, here comes the interesting part. As I kindly say thanks, but no thanks I am soon faced with the gross reality that I am now being coached into getting and told that I can get a motorbike license the roundabout way by none other that the very police officer that I was asking questions. So I say, the round about way? What does that mean? So he proceeds to tell me that if I want I can fill out a police report and create a file that states that I have a police report of some sort. At this time I am struggling just to understand the man. You have to remember, these people do not speak english well at all. Most of them don't even speak english at all. The ones that do are impossible to understand 90 percent of the time. So not knowing exactly what he is asking me to do I proceed to fill out a police report because as I understood him it was necessary in order to create a record stating that I have applied for and paid for a temporary motorbike license. So as I fill this document out I soon begin to realize that something smells very fishy and stinks really bad about this whole police report thing. So I ask him to please explain it again to me. This time he brings the captain in who proceeds to tell me the exact same thing that he did verbatum. Funny thing is I don't understand him either as his english is no better than the first guy's. Now a little frustrated because lots of time has passed and I still don't know what the hell it is I am filling out. So Katie, now realizing that something strange is going on comes over to the desk and asks what is going on. She looks at the doc and reads it the same way I do. Why the hell am I filling out a police report when all I want to do is get a motorbike license? It just doesn't make any sense. So I ask him one more time to please explain why I have to fill out the police report. I didn't do anything wrong so why do I have to fill this damn thing out? As Elmer Fudd would say "there's something vewy scwewy going on wound heur". And then he says something that made it all clear: "You help me and I help you, you help me and I help you". And then it suddenly dawns on us both. Holy crap, I'm being bribed. I now know why the police report is necessary. For a certain amount of cash, I would be given a document stating that I had gotten my international drivers license stolen as indicated in the police report and was assured that this would serve as an intermitent int'l drivers license should I get stopped. So there you have it, a real live story of how I crossed into territory I never thought I would ever be in on this trip. I will leave it to your imagination as to whether I gave the man money or not.

After Bali we decided to go to Java. This was a very critical and hard decision to make because of only one reason, time. We were to either go east to the archipelago of Lombok, the Gili Islands, Flores and Komodo or go west to Java. Unfortunately, we could not do both. So we decided to go west for one big reason: to learn how to surf! Java has a beach that is known as the best beginner's swells in the world! Little did we know at the time how true this would turn out to be. But before we could get to surftown we had to do one important thing that was on the way: climb a volcano and watch the sun rise. To do this would prove to be an almost impossible task. No, I don't mean climbing the volcano itself, I mean just to get to the volcano in time to watch the sun in all of it's majesty peak out above this majestic landscape. How's that you say? Ok, I'll tell you. We had to board a bus on the island of Bali at about 6:00pm. We rode piggyback on a ferry boat while still in the bus for about 20 min to cross the channel that divided the two islands. After saying thanks for the ride the bus driver chartered a route for us strait to the volcano called Bromo. This was a long,long very daunting bus ride that had to be done in two stages. We would be dropped off at around 3:00am at a very small town that was supposedly the launching point for backpackers looking to hitch a ride to Bromo.So the bus driver just dumped us off and said good luck in finding a ride. Geez, thanks alot! So after dusting off our bums and scratching our head we took a quick look around to soon realize that nothing was open at 3:00am. Not even a mouse was stirring. Big surprise right. As luck would have it there was one guy who happened to be working at 3:00am in the morning. He came to greet us right away and simply said "Bromo?". That was our queue. At this point we only had minutes to act, literally, if we wanted to see the sun rise. So after giving him a quick glance and asking him a few questions to determine his legitimacy and negotiating a price (we really had no real room for negotiation as there was only one option: either let him take us or risk not seeing the sun rise over this grand landscape) he whisked us away to the volcano. At this stage we had already been on a bumpy, smelly bus for 9 hrs that was impossible to sleep on. So needless to say we were both already zombified at this point.We now had about a 1 1/2 hour ride to get to the drop off point and still had a mountain to CLIMB! Katie decided to pass out immediately on the way over while I took on the role of guardian keeping one eye open and one eye closed all the while watching our new friends drive us to wherever on earth we were headed. Must be nice to be a girl. ;) We arrived around 4:30am and had to immediately get on the trail that leads to the top of the volcano as we had about an hour of hiking to do. Relieved that we actually made it this far we soon had another dilemma to deal with. Imagine this: It is pitch black because it is dark-thirty, there are no lights within 10 miles of this place and to make things even more interesting our flashlight decided to bug out and die on us. You can't even see 2 feet in front of you. Again, we were saved. Because there were others who wanted to witness this wonderful event we were able to meet up with a very friendly Belgian couple who did have a workable flashlight who let us follow them. Of course even with the flashlight we still managed to get lost as there are no signs and no guides to tell you which way to go to get to the stairsteps that eventually lead to the top. So after soon realizing we were on the wrong route we had to make an executive decision. Which way do we go? Remember that even with the flashlight you can still only see about 5 to 6 feet in front of you. It is pitch black all over! Then we had an epiphany. Looking into the far distant we saw some tiny little lights that were bobbing up and down all in a row as if little ant's had headlamps and were marching somewhere. So we headed toward these tiny lights not knowing if we would fall in an abyss along the way. Lucky for us the lights got bigger and bigger until we soon saw images of real people straight ahead of us and a trail as well. Yippee! So we were saved. Alas, after climbing 253 steps we finally reached the top of the volcano only to realize that it wreaked of sulfur. What's that you say, why didn't we take a mask with us? Because no one told us that we would need a mask, duh! We coughed incessantly as our lungs and body adjusted to this strange environment. After about 30 minutes of sitting in a pack of around 100 people our lungs finally adjusted.

And now the climax of our journey to Bromo. After making this enormous effort to trek across islands, mountains, and valleys and sitting and waiting for the ultimate event to occur and the sun to show it's face we would be dissapointed. The skies would be cloudy that morning and we would be denied a magnificent sunrise. Yes, after all that effort.But there was a happy ending after all. We did get a chance to see and sit atop a majestic (still active) volcano and watch it smoke up the air which was enough for me. There was another highlight on Bromo as well. As we decended in the late morning we were surrounded by about 30 Javanese children that just happened to be there on a school field trip that morning that were so entrigued with us that they all took pictures with us "one by one" and then followed us down the mountain just so they could practice their english. They treated us as if we were celebrities and that is exactly how we felt. It was a very nice moment for us. We would soon learn that this would be a sign that these Javanese people would be the kindest people that we have met so far on our trip.

After descending the mountain and saying our goodbyes to our new friends we were taxied back to our origination point,the place where we were dumped off the bus that brought us here. From there we rallied and got on yet another taxi that took us straightway to the train station where we would board a train bound for a place called Yogyakarta where we would finally get a chance to rest and get some much overdue sleep. Of course this would only be after an additional 6 hour train ride. I am sure you can only imagine just how tired we were by the time we eventually did get a chance to rest and sleep. But is was well worth it. A trip I would do over and over again if I had the chance.

So we rested for a couple of days in Yogyakarta before heading for a one-lane tiny fishing village called Batu Karas or more affectionately known to Katie and I as "surf heaven". We spent 5 glorious days learning how to surf and surf we did. :P


Time went by so fast because we were having so much fun. The waves were 10 feet tall and went forever! That was the best part. If you were lucky enough to catch your own wave you could ride it all the way from the point break to the very end of the shore which was a very long ride! So awesome. I must say that we both felt like we had experienced something really special. Katie even more so than I. It was really special to see her embrace something so wholeheartedly. The local people there fell in love with her because she embraced them and their way of life and absorbed it like a sponge. We could not get her out of the water. All she wanted to do was get on her board and swim out on it to wait for a nice wave to ride. She would only come in to get something to eat or take a quick rest and even then it was hard to keep her on the shore for very long. She found a new passion in life and it is called surfing and I am so glad I was there to witness it and watch it all unfold. After all, how many times have you seen anyone find something in life that they are so passionate about? It just doesn't happen that often and it is very special when it does happen. Good for you Katie. Surf's up babe so let's go catch a wave. :P


So as you might imagine we were both reluctant to leave this wonderful place. We had so much fun and made so many new friends that we seriously contemplated changing our whole travel schedule completely just so we could spend another 2 or 3 weeks there in paradise. But in the end we realized that there was still so much more to see and be a part of so we packed our bags and readied ourselves for a very sad departure. So with tears in our eyes we said goodbye to this special place and to the friends that we made ,hugged it out two or three times and set off to our next destination, the orangutan jungles of Kalimantan.

Before we could set off to the island of Kalimantan(Borneo) we ran into a slight or I should say very big roadblock. Katie had developed a very severe ear infection while surfing in Batu Karas. It had become so bad because she refused to get off of her surfboard even after she found out that she had an ear infection. I didn't have the heart to tell her to stop surfing so she could get better. After all, how many times have you found something that you are utterly passionate about? If you were lucky enough to find it, would you want somebody taking it away from you? I think not. So I let her surf until her heart was content. It would just be wrong to take that away from her. The dimples kept coming morning, day, and night. We took a train back to Yogyakarta from Batu Karas where we were scheduled to get on a plane in two days time to head to the island of Borneo. We decided to take her to the hospital while in Yogyakarta because her ear was just getting worse and worse and it needed attending to. So we asked our guesthouse where we could find a good hospital and took a taxi there. After waiting about 30 minutes they called her name. To make a long story short, the ER in Indonesia in not the ER in the USA. We would find out the hard way that there was no ear specialist to speak of therefore a general practitioner which basically knew no more than webmd(and therefore myself) about ear problems would end up giving her an exam. So it was basically a waste of time because the on call doctor didn't even look inside her ear and basically gave her the same exam and the same drugs that I did. Boy what a crock that doctor was!

So we stocked up on antibiotics and boarded the plane for Borneo the next day. This turned out to be an extension of bad luck. We had already purchased the plane tickets weeks before we were to depart to Borneo so we couldn't just give them up. We boarded the plane and headed for a town called Benjarmasin. We decided that we would stay there a couple of days and just rest in hopes that antibiotics would eventually take their course and that she would begin to get better before heading to the orangutan jungle but she did not. So again we searched out a hospital for her only this time there was none to be found because we were on a remote jungle island. Instead we were directed to a doctor's office that can only be described as something out of "Harry Potter" or "Dr. Strangelove" as I nicknamed him. I'll let Katie give you all the details about Dr. Stranglove and this surreal dr.s office visit in her writeup. It was a setting straight out a science fiction novel. This also turned out to be a big waste of time.

So against her will I decided to cancel the orangutan trip and head back to the town of Yogyakarta on the island of Java so she could get some proper rest and find her some proper treatment. It would have been a mistake to take her deep into the jungle with a full on ear infection like the one she had. So we took the earliest available flight back to Yogya and found a decent place for her to rest and take her medicine and get better. After a couple days of stuffing antibiotics in her she still was not making any progress. So again we went in search of a suitable doctor to examine her an hopefully give some finality to her prolonged misery. This was the third time we would visit a doctor. This time we did a little more research and found an international hospital where they actually had an ear specialist on the staff. Alas, we found someone who could properly examine her and give her a suitable diagnosis and subscribed treatment. Let me just say that if you have ever gotten sick abroad in a third world country that does not speak english then you probably know how extremely difficult it is to find a doctor that actually understands you let alone that actually knows more than you about your illness. This was something we found out the hard way. It was definitely a learning experience that I hope I will never have to go through again. In the end we did not get to see the orangutans swinging around in the jungle as we had planned but that was only a small sacrifice to pay for our wellbeing.

In summary for me, Indonesia can best be described as a case of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

THE GOOD:
learned how to surf, ate delicious indonesian food along the way, saw some of the most majestic landscapes, monuments, waterfalls, temples, beaches and rice patties I have ever seen in my life, and most importantly met the most interesting fascinating people along the way, both locals and fellow backpackers, that shared these special moments with us. They are the only reason these memories will last with us for a lifetime. So I believe a shout out to our new friends is in order if they are reading this blog:

Tammi, Mike: Thx for letting us crash at your place in Ubud. We had so much fun hanging out with you guys. Hope to see you both back home very soon.

Rob Winning: I can't believe we followed eachother and randomly ran into each other all the way from Vietnam down all the way to Indonesia. My favorite run in was the one in Yogya at the restaurant where you just stood up and appeared out of nowhere as if right out of a magicians hat. That was so funny! Had a great time hangin with you mate. Come see us in the US before you go your trip next year or better yet just make the US one of your destinations. :)

Andry: thx for the great surf lessons. You are a fabulous surfer and teacher as well! So cool to watch you master the waves. One day I hope to be as great a surfer as you are. :) I am sure that Katie and I will both be back someday so you can teach us some more cool moves. Take care my friend and stay in touch with us.

Dorus: Thx for the drinks and the many great conversations we had at the bar.

June/Eda: Thx for letting us steal all the internet time on the only computer in the whole of Batu Karas! wow! Most of all, thx for surfing with us and sharing those special times with us. We had so much fun surfing with you. Keep up the good work and your surf record as well. Impressive!

Sandy/Cindy: You guys are the greatest. We had so much fun hangin with you guys in Batu Karas. Sorry you didn't get to surf Cindy. Next time we meet up in BK you can show us all your crazy surf skills. Sandy, we need to hook up in San Fran for some more good times when we get back. :)

Nik: Thank you so much for taking the time to get to know us while we stayed at Java Cove. We both loved hearing your success stories and about all the steps it took to get to where you are. So inspiring! I'll be sure to let you know how my ventures go.

Oliver/Lou: I'm so glad we ran into you guys at the airport. That was so cool! It made our trip to Borneo worth it for sure. I only wish we could have spent more time with you guys. :( We will just have to make up for it next time. Please stay in touch and all the best on the rest of your journey as well. I'm certain you guys will have loads of fun.

There are so many other people I am sure I should note here that I have accidentally left out because I simply don't remember everything I did while traveling in Indonesia. To you all, my sincere apologies if I failed to mention what a great time we had together. You know who you all are. Thank you all for sharing a little bit of your lives with us and making our travels so meaningful and worthwhile.

THE BAD:
Not being able to see all of the islands, spend more time surfing, spend more time with our new friends, see the orangutans, see more volcanoes on Sumatra, go diving in the Gili islands and on Sulawesi, see the komodo dragons, party on lombok, see flores, buy any fancy balinese woodcarvings... I'm sure there is more.

The UGLY:
Too many illgotten doctors visits at nonsuitable medical centers, losing our bearings in Bali and staying at the wrong places on more than one occasion, Katie taking a fall while temple-hopping in Bali and cutting up her knee a bit on some dead coral only to get splashed with holy water by a couple of guys posing as priests or something down the way a bit, the monkeys climbing all over the monkey temple in Bali, the huge vampire bat I held in my hands in Bali,and last but not least my run in with the police.

So there you have it. Indonesia all rolled into one. It was such a rush to experience. Another great chapter in our epic journey. There are still so many stories that I have left out because as I stated earlier, I just don't have the time or energy to write about everything that we have experienced. I can only try and touch on most of the highlights as I see fit. I am so glad we were able to go to Indonesia. I would not change this part of the trip for anything. So many memories to take home with me.

Lastly, I will try to post some pictures on this same blog on a later date if I get time to. I don't know when I will be able to make another posting as we are off to Africa on a camping safari trip in the middle of nowhere for about 3 to 4 weeks with no access to computers, phones or anything that requires electricity. Just a sleeping bag and a flashlight. Hopefully I will be able to get in one more post before then.

































































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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

INDONESIA - HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

I will keep the history for this country separate as you will soon see, it is quite long and very interesting. I'll put the fun stuff in another post. :)


BEGININGS:
First, there are a gazillion islands that make up the vast expanse of Indonesia. I will stick to the big ones for simplicity. Just to give you an idea of how big this country is there are 3 time zones here just like the US, Big! It ranks as the 4th most populated country in the entire world, nearly 260 million people. Hard to believe when the whole bit is comprised of nothing but islands. There are 5 main islands: 1)Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan,Sulawesi and Bali. I will first give you an overview of the country itself and then a little background on the big 5.

Indonesia has a very extensive and quite fascinating history. A lot of it is due to its prime location. The rest is due to its very early beginnings. It is widely believed that the first humanoids "Homo Erectus" to roam the earth lived on Central Java around 500,000 years ago. They apparently reached Java by crossing over from Africa on what used to be land bridges before the earth shifted and formed what we now know as separate continents. Pretty cool, eh? It is unknown what happened to these early humans. Myth has it that they either just died off or were wiped out by the arrival of "Homo Sapiens" years later. The discovery of "Java Man" in 1891 by Berlin-born paleontologist Eugene Dubois on the banks of the Solo River in East Java told the story. Java Man is one of the first ever fossilized humaniods ever discovered that proved Homo Erectus existed before Homo Sapiens arrived. It was the oldest hominid ever found until older human remains were found much later in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. Some scientists back in the day considered Java Man as an intermediate form of modern day humans and the great apes. The current consensus amongst anthropologists is that the direct ancestors of modern day humans were African populations of Homo Erectus and not of Asian populations of Homo Erectus(i.e. we are all of African decent, even the Asians!) what is that you say? But wait, there is a very interesting twist to this story due to a very recent discovery. In 2003 the remains of a tiny islander dubbed "the hobbit" was discovered on the tiny island of Flores. The indigeneous people of Flores have long told folktales of child-sized, hairy people with flat foreheads that once roamed the island's deep jungles during the times of their distant ancestors. Nobody paid any attention to them until September of 2003 when archeologists made a stunning find,"Mr. Hobbit",while digging through a limestone cave in Liang Bua on the island of Flores. To prove their theory of the existence of a possible new human species they found six more remains of the ancient Shire(hehe)that they would later name "Homo Floresiensis" of course,why not. This was a very critical find as all the theories of human evolution and when and where early humans roamed the earth were now about to be challenged and possibly thrown out with the bath water. Throw in some lab tests and a little carbon dating and voila! Tests would show that the pint-sized hobbits(only 1 meter tall) lived only 18,000 years ago. This would be a major blip on the scale of human evolution that would set the evolutionary theorists into a dizzy! Wait, it gets better. It was concluded that contemporaneously, Homo Sapiens arrived to the islands and being taller, smarter and better at the harsh survival game pushed the little hobbits off the island and into utter extinction. Survival of the fittest at it's best. So what was the outcome of all this stirring in scientifico land you ask? Ok, I'll tell you. :) The evidence, seemed to overwhelmingly indicate that Homo Erectus survived much longer than was previously thought and that previously accepted timelines of Indonesia's evolutionary history would have to be re-examined. But unfortunately, most of the skull and bones hunters huddled up and decided to throw the theory of the Hobbits existence and the Shire out. Better left for science fiction movie-making in the 21st century.

Today, most Indonesians are descendents of Malay people who began migrating around 4000 BC from from Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China. By 700 BC they became skilled farmers and what soon followed was the birth of modern day rice-farming which is more prevalent in Indonesia than anywhere else in South East Asia.

RELIGION:
Now this is a whole different giant ball of wax. With the growing prosperity of early kingdoms in Indonesia came the attention of Indian and Chinese merchants salivating at the chance to establish trade routes. So along with silks and spices making their way this vast land also came the dawn of Hinduism and Buddism in Indonesia. These religions quickly established footholds in the archipelago and soon became central to the great kingdoms of the 1st millenium AD. But things would change down the road. Indonesia would do a 180. Faultlines of leadership power across the islands would begin to open up and Hinduism's and Buddism's golden ages would swiftly draw to a close and in would come the rise of Islam to take their place. With the arrival of Islam came the power, reason, and will to oppose the religion of the early kingdoms and uprisings soon unseated the kings practicing these early religions. The last Hindu kingdom was taken down in the 15th century. The remaining followers fled to the island of Bali, the only place in Indonesia where Hinduism continues to flourish leaving Java and the other big islands to the islamic sultans to come. Today Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation on earth. And believe you me, there are a lot of them here and very visible. Whew!

ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE:
By the beginning of the 20th century, the Dutch ruled and had brought most of the archipelago under their control. But as with every other great nation's humble beginning's not without revolutionists running amuck looking for their freedom. Dutch rule would be challenged as the Japanese swept through during WWII. After the Japanese departure, soon after WWII, came an opportunity to re-establish themselves as an independent sovereignty. So they declared themselves as such on August 17th, 1945. The Dutch, however, still heavily present had other plans. They were unwilling to relinquish their hold over Indonesia, were supported by the Brits, of course who had entered Indonesia to accept the Japanese surrender. So together they moved quickly to reassert their authority over the country. Four bitter years of Indonesian resistance followed via guerilla warfare. American and UN opposition to the reimposition of colonialism and the mounting toll of Dutch casualties eventually forced the Dutch to pack it up and head home. The Indonesians finally got their hard fought independence and finally hoisted their flag over Jakarta's Freedom Palace on December 27th, 1949. Fastforward to today. Basically Indonesia has been facing the same trials and tribulations of the other Tiger countries I have already mentioned. They are just looking for a better lifestyle for their families and future generations.

JAVA:
This island is the heart and soul of the Indonesian nation. It is the bully of all the islands wielding its financial and political muscle. It is home to more than 50% of the Indonesian population(i.e. very,very,very crowed!) An island of mega cities with it's own share of forests, volcanoes and touristy beaches and towns with fabulous temples and monuments erected everywhere all in the name of Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and, uh I forget the other ones. Oh ya, Bhudda. duh! I will dispense with the local history of the island and just tell you that of all the islands this one is where most of the ever-present political boxing scene takes place, mostly in the capital city of Jakarta.

SUMATRA:
Lush with forests and jungles, jinormous and intriguing. The island stretches over 2000 km across the equator. Not sure what the math is but I am guessing if you superimposed it on the US it might just measure halfway across. It is not an island for the average tourist. Few paved roads, sweaty hot jungles, small towns or villages with hardly any amenities that you would expect to be pampered with on Bali. You will find amazing volcanic peaks here that rise above tranquil huge crater lakes, long uncrowded white-sand beaches and the biggest draw, world-class surf breaks. Some of the best in the world. It is the 6th largest island in the world that boasts a wealth of resources particularly oil,gas and ofcourse timber. Unfortunately, the rainforests are being desimated at an alarming rate. It is believed that if the logging does not stop that the rain forest could be gone by 2050. And of course no one gives a damn. Same old story I have been telling, only in a different place. Makes me sick!

KALIMANTAN:
Kalimantan is affectionately known as the island of Borneo. Roughly two-thirds of the island belongs to Indonesia and the rest(the north side) belongs to the country of Malaysia. So when conversations are of Kalimantan it is usually referred to as Indonesian or Malaysian Borneo. Kalimantan is home to the famous orangutans jungles. Orangutan is Malay for "forest person". They do look the most human don't they? Kalimantan is very similar to Sumatra. It is not densely populated for the same reasons as Sumatra. Very dense sweaty hot forests, jungles with tons of leeches roaming around looking for an unsuspecting victim to suck on for awhile for lunch. Not a place for the Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson types if you know what I mean. Because of the vastness of the rainforests here there are many villages sprawled out all over. The people who inhabit these villages are called Dayak. There are a couple of big towns but most of this island is remote and uninhabited. This too is a vast resource island that draws miners, loggers and oil-palm planters and harvesters.

SULAWESI:
This is an island that is directly north of Nusa Tenggarra (another archipelago or cluster of small islands in the south that is comprised mainly of Lombok,Flores and Komodo islands) that are very significant from a tourist perspective. I just don't have the time nor patience to tell ALL of the history of Indonesia. It's just too damn big! I do have some vacationing to do while I am here you know. These blogs take tons of time to put together so unfortunately I have to pick and choose what I want to blog about. The rest will have to be stored in the ole noggin. Uh sorry, small case of writer's cramp. I'm all better now. I took a break :)

Sulawesi is somewhat of a twisted orchid of an island if you were to see it from a google perch. It has four mountainous peninsulas that sprawl haphazardly into the sea. Once known as the Celebes, it has river valleys with jaw-dropping landscapes, evocative cultures, spectacular beaches and arguably the best food overall in Indonesia. It is surrounded be world-class reefs so as you might guess most people go there to dive, dive and dive in pristine underwater canyons, reefs, and caves. So this would be considered the divers island of the whole chain of islands here. It doesn't get any better than this anywhere else in the world! Less commercialized than Java and Bali and more backpackery in nature so it is definitely my kind of island. Unfortunately we were not able to visit Sulawesi because as I said this place is so huge we just did not have enough time to see is all much less a third of it. Oh well, I will just have to visit this island next time I come this way. For sure. :)

BALI:
1)HINDU INFLUENCE: It’s certain that Bali has been populated since early prehistoric times, but the oldest human artefacts found are 3000-year-old stone tools and earthenware vessels from Cekik. Not much is known of Bali during the period when Indian traders brought Hinduism to the Indonesian archipelago, but the earliest written records are stone inscriptions dating from around the 9th century. By that time, rice was being grown under the complex irrigation system known as subak, and there were precursors of the religious and cultural traditions that can be traced to the present day.

Hindu Java began to spread its influence into Bali during the reign of King Airlangga, from 1019 to 1042. At the age of 16, Airlangga had fled into the forests of western Java when his uncle lost the throne. He gradually gained support, won back the kingdom once ruled by his uncle and went on to become one of Java’s greatest kings. Airlangga’s mother had moved to Bali and remarried shortly after his birth, so when he gained the throne there was an immediate link between Java and Bali. At this time, the courtly Javanese language known as Kawi came into use among the royalty of Bali, and the rock-cut memorials seen at Gunung Kawi (Mt Kawi) near Tampaksiring are a clear architectural link between Bali and 11th-century Java.

After Airlangga’s death, Bali retained its semi-independent status until Kertanagara became king of the Singasari dynasty in Java two centuries later. Kertanagara conquered Bali in 1284, but his power lasted only eight years until he was murdered and his kingdom collapsed. With Java in turmoil, Bali regained its autonomy and the Pejeng dyn­asty, centred near modern-day Ubud, rose to great power. In 1343 Gajah Mada, the legendary chief minister of the Majapahit dynasty, defeated the Pejeng king Dalem Bedaulu and brought Bali back under Javanese influence. Basically a case of I won,you won,I won,you won.....

Although Gajah Mada brought much of the Indonesian archipelago under Majapahit control, Bali was the furthest extent of its power. Here the ‘capital’ moved to Gelgel, near modern-day Semarapura (once known as Klungkung), around the late 14th century, and for the next two centuries this was the base for the ‘king of Bali’, the Dewa Agung. The Majapahit kingdom collapsed into disputing sultanates. However, the Gelgel dynasty in Bali, under Dalem Batur Enggong, extended its power eastwards to the neighbouring island of Lombok and even crossed the strait to Java.

As the Majapahit kingdom fell apart, many of its intelligentsia moved to Bali, including the priest Nirartha, who is credit­ed with introducing many of the complexities of Balinese religion to the island. Artists, dancers, musicians and actors also fled to Bali at this time, and the island experienced an explosion of cultural activities. The final great exodus to Bali took place in 1478.

2)EUROPEAN INFLUENCE: The first Europeans to set foot in Bali were Dutch seafarers in 1597. Not surprising. Setting a tradition that prevails to the present, they fell in love with the island,and when Cornelius Houtman,the ship’s captain,prepared to set sail from Bali, some of his crew refused to leave with him. At that time, Balinese prosperity and artistic activity, at least among the royalty, were at an all-time peak. The king who befriended Houtman had 200 wives,a chariot pulled by two white buffaloes,a pack of 50 dwarfs and a partridge in a pear tree. Geez! Not surprising that the crew all wanted to stay. Maybe they thought they too would have 200 or maybe even 300 wives and a chariot of fire. :) "Go ahead captain, we'll see you when you get back". When the Dutch returned to Indonesia in later years, they were interested in profit and expanding their kingdom, not culture, and so barely gave Bali a second glance.

3)DUTCH CONQUEST: In 1710 the capital of the Gelgel kingdom was shifted to nearby Klungkung but local discontent was growing, lesser rulers were breaking away from Gelgel domination and the Dutch began to move in, using the old policy of divide and conquer. In 1846 the Dutch used Balinese salvage claims over shipwrecks as the pretext to land military forces in northern Bali. In 1894 the Dutch chose to support the Sasaks of Lombok in a rebellion against their Balinese rajah. After some bloody battles, the Balinese were defeated in Lombok, and with northern Bali firmly under Dutch control, southern Bali was not likely to retain its independence for long. Once again, salvaging disputes gave the Dutch the excuse they needed to move in. A Chinese ship was wrecked off Sanur in 1904 and ransacked by the Balinese. The Dutch demanded that the rajah of Badung pay 3000 silver dollars in damages – this was refused. In 1906 Dutch warships appeared at Sanur; Dutch forces landed and, despite Balinese opposition, marched the 5km to the outskirts of Denpasar.

On 20 September 1906, the Dutch mounted a naval bombardment of Denpasar and then commenced their final assault. The three rajahs of Badung (southern Bali) realised that they were outnumbered and outgunned, and that defeat was inevit­able. Surrender and exile, however, was the worst imaginable outcome, so they decided to take the honorable path of a suicidal puputan – a fight to the death.

The Dutch begged the Balinese to surrender rather than make their hopeless stand, but their pleas went unheard and wave after wave of the Balinese nobility marched forward to their deaths. In all, nearly 4000 Bali­nese died in the puputan. Talk about valor and honor at it's highest possible peak.Pretty fascinating,eh? Later, the Dutch marched east towards Tabanan, taking the rajah of Tabanan prisoner, but he committed suicide rather than face the disgrace of exile.

The kingdoms of Karangasem and Gianyar had already capitulated to the Dutch and were allowed to retain some powers, but other kingdoms were defeated and the rulers exiled. Finally, the rajah of Klungkung followed the lead of Badung and once more the Dutch faced a puputan. With this last obstacle disposed of, all of Bali was now under Dutch control and became part of the Dutch East Indies. As fate would have it all of the Dutch efforts would be eventually all in vane and short-lived. As we already know, Dutch rule over Bali and Indonesia fell to the Japanese in WWII. And the rest is history that we already know.

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Turtle Islands


It's been a long time again, hasn't it? It's hard to remember all that went on in Thailand now that we've been in Indonesia for almost one month. I need to get better at writing more often, but we're headed to Africa next and I really doubt that internet connections are going to be any better than they are now, but we'll see. Thanks to the faithful followers that still check up on us to see if we've posted anything.



Chris already did a great job talking about the history of Thailand and about our time through Ko Tao. I won't try to redo all that, but will just throw in some pictures and funny stories. Basically a little color commentary.



Ko Phra Thong (aka "Turtleteer Island")




Chris and I went to Ko Phra Thong to volunteer for an organization, Naucrates, that helps turtles in the local area. As Chris mentioned, we went at the time when we would be most likely to see little baby turtles, but mother nature can't be controlled and we weren't able to see a whole nest of hatch-lings while there. We did however see one hatch-ling on the night that we camped out on the beach. This is the story of Scrappy the hatch-ling:





Chris' account was accurate - we didn't see any hatch-lings while we all (Chris and I, Martina, Maxi, Ailan and Isabelle) diligently took two-hour shifts through the night, waiting for the little ones to pop out. Once the morning dawned, we were faced with the task of excavating the nest for lack of a better word. The turtle eggs were hidden about three feet underground, so it took awhile for our fearless leader, Maxi, to reach the nest. Once there the eggs were taken out one by one and painstakingly recorded by two of the other volunteers, Ailan and Isabelle (sorry if this is misspelled). Basically, most of the eggs had some sort of mildew or fungus that got into them and did not develop properly. I think we dug out a total of 60 or so eggs that didn't hatch. They were all in various stages of development and the smell wreaked basically of, you guessed it - rotten eggs.





At the very bottom of the stack of eggs, all of a sudden, Maxi pulled out an "alive/out" (alive and out of the egg, if memory serves) turtle. This little guy had been at the bottom of the heap of eggs for at least two or three nights, trying to fight his way through all of his unhatched turtle brothers and sisters. He was scooped up and put in a bucket while the rest of the excavation continued. As he continued to try to break free from the bucket and make it to the sea, we noticed that he had a bum front flipper which caused him to go in circles for awhile.



What happened next was an interesting discussion between Maxi, representing Naucrates, that is actually from Italy and a local man from a marine research center that is collaborating with the volunteers. The Thai people have a long history in what is called "head-starting" the turtles. This consists of keeping the hatch-lings in captivity for a few months (or years) until they are strong and have a good chance of making it in the open ocean. Naucrates, the volunteer organization, on the other hand, believes in not interfering with nature and supported trying to let the now named "Scrappy" try to get to the ocean and make it on his own with no head starting. Additionally, Scrappy was (or hopefully still is) a leather back turtle and Naucrates was unaware of any successful case of a leather back turtle being head-started.



A discussion went on for at least an hour regarding what to do with Scrappy. The Thai gentleman advocating for headstarting and Maxi pushing for sending Scrappy out to the waters that day. Por, the translator for the program, was literally in the middle of the intense and complex conversation trying to get each person's point across without majorly offending anyone. All the while, Scrappy was scratching away at the sides of the bucket trying to complete his task of getting to the water.



In the end, since we were on the beach that Naucrates patrolled, it was decided to let Scrappy go, rather than headstarting him for awhile. It was a harrowing journey for him from 100 or so feet from the ocean to making it in. He struggled with his bum flipper, but eventually figured out how to correct for it. It was especially difficult to watch him make it to the sea, only to be pushed back 10 feet by the waves. He never gave up, though, even after being at it for so long. It was amazing to watch the innate determination built into his little body. He was not going to give up for anything.





Who knows what Scrappy's fate was or if it was the best decision to send him out into the world then rather than after a few months. I still think about that and haven't come up with a firm viewpoint as I'm not an expert on turtles. Regardless of how improbable it is, I do, however, like to image that one day, 20 years from now, Scrappy (who will actually be female and named Scrappa) will come back to that same beach, with a slight limp and lay her eggs.



Besides our night on the beach waiting for the turtle nest to hatch, Chris and I also spent another night on the beach alone. It was a little cooler than in the town and we wanted to take advantage of being able to stargaze like you can't in LA. We set up our make shift tents (actually mosquito nets) on the beach, and of course once we did, it started to rain. It seems like it never just rains in SE Asia. It may start out as a slight sprinkle, but sooner or later, okay usually sooner, it turns into a down pour. Luckily, we were by a yoga sala (aka covered patio) and were able to set up our makeshift tents there.



It wasn't quite as romantic as we hoped for, but it was still less hot than in the village. The one thing I wasn't expecting was that I got totally freaked out by the area, which I hadn't when we were turtleteering it up waiting for Scrappy. The cause of my angst was a book that I read while in Ko Phra Thong, Out of the Blue. It was written by an Australian journalist that was on that very beach, by the Golden Buddha Beach (GBB) resort, during the tsunami that hit SE Asia right after Christmas in 2004. In the book, the demise of people from the tsunami on that very beach is depicted in heartwrenching detail. It was really freaky to be in that very spot where the author describes the events of that one fateful day. I, apparently, am not alone in my apprehension, as some of the locals originally on the island refused to return because of ghosts that were haunting the place. The part I was really freaked out by was the description of monkeys that went on the attack and ripped into people's faces a la Siegfried and Roy. Needless to say, we made it through the night.



The rest of our days on Turtleteer Island were filled with a LOT of patrolling beautiful beaches and the occasional secluded island looking for signs of turtle hatch-lings. I thought I would lose weight from all of the walking, bicycling, and swimming, but actually probably gained some from the wonderful cook, La Mione, that made a five course meal (with dessert) every single night. As Chris mentioned, the accommodations were definitely minimal. The family we stayed with were very hospitable, but we were more consumed with Tutleteering duties. We weren't expecting luxury living when we signed up for the program, but it is a slightly difficult problem to figure out how to use the squat toilets. Luckily, we had other facilities by GBB that we could use. This really was the first time in Thailand that we had to use squat toilets all the time. While there are many in bus stations and other areas where more locals use, for the most part, in the touristy areas there are almost always western toilets and facilities, so don't worry if you are going to Thailand. Also, I must say that I've gained a new appreciation for squat toilets in public places as your feet are the only things touching a public area.



{TMI? Trust me - I have way more funny stories to tell about waxing and other issues associated with being a women that I will be happy to share off the blog. I could probably have an entirely separate blog for the female issues I've encountered!}




Another interesting, none turtle related note, is that they grow cashews on Ko Phra Thong. I had never seen this before and was amazed that one cashew comes from just one fruit on a cashew tree. No wonder they are so expensive!



Overall, for me, the highlights of Ko Phra Thong were the beautiful, uninhibited beaches, the yummy food, and hanging out with nice people. The turtle bit didn't pan out quite as expected, but I guess mother nature can't be scheduled.







Ko Samui/Ko Tao



Basically Ko Samui and Ko Tao had beautiful beaches and lots of SCUBA. I wasn't quite ready to try SCUBA yet, so I spent a lot of time reading and working on my tan. Hard life. I did do some snorkeling and cliff diving (about 30 feet or so), which was a blast. Chris and I even saw some black fin sharks when we were snorkeling, just a few meters of the coast. The guy we were with had a trick of crunching on an empty water bottle to make the sharks curious and come around. A nice trick with smaller sharks, but I won't be trying that with on my own! Ko Tao is DEFINITELY an island for SCUBA divers with over 40 SCUBA shops, but I still had fun relaxing during the day and enjoying dinner in the evening. Can't complain.









NAI YANG!!!



After our time on Ko Tao, we went to Nai Yang, a small beach resort outside of Phuket for two nights because we were flying out of Phuket to Bali. It was a small stop over, but worth mentioning for a slight detour we had when we got to the bus station in Phuket. Basically, by that time we had already been travelling for well over 12 hours. From Ko Tao, we took a three hour boat ride to the mainland, from there a 30 minute bus ride to a main town, after that a three hour hot crowded "minibus" ride to another main town (Surat Thani), and from there, a six to seven hour ride to Phuket. It was about 8:30 pm and luckily we already had a hotel reservation in Nai Yang so we thought it would be a quick trip to crash out.



Chris was in charge of getting our bags from the bottom of the bus, while I was in charge of finding a cab. I was ushered to a man with a broken down minibus and showed him my piece of paper which clearly stated "Nai Yang Beach Resort." He pointed to a list of places around Phuket said yes here. The sign send Nai Han, but I didn't see Nai Yang anywhere else on the list, so I said ok. Additionally, I asked if he wanted to use my cell phone to call the hotel because I had the phone number. He declined.



Here I have to interject something that I've seen ALL over SE Asia. They spell every word, including and especially towns, ALL different ways. Case in point - we are in Jogjakarta right now. Or is that Yogjakarta or Yogyakarta. I've seen all different ways - even on airline flights and within the city itself. With that in mind, I thought Nai Han was just a different spelling of Nai Yang.



All the way from the bus station I saw signs for Nai Han beach and started getting suspicious, but didn't say anything because I had shown him the name of the hotel on the piece of paper. Boy was I wrong. We basically ended up 2 hours away from Nai Yang with the man shouting and pointing in my face with his finger. "Lady say Nai Han." "NAI YANG not NAI HAN" If I could hear the difference between what he was saying that would be a miracle. 2 and a half hours and $30 later in a different cab we ended up at our resort in NAI YANG!!! Lesson learned - point to a map.



If you haven't already figured it out, we decided to skip Australia and have been hanging out in Indonesia for the last month. Sorry Australia, we'll have to see you later. We'll update on Indo soon. Miss you!

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