Tag : travel-2
Tag : travel-2
And finally, two months later, here is part two of the travel blog. And because I got terribly sick during the second week, this is also unfortunately the final part of the Indonesia episode (though I hope the TravelKlutz can continue in the future.)
After a fitful and humid night of (not) sleeping in the hostel in Ubud, I got up before dawn on a Saturday morning to catch a ride to Sanur, near the airport, so I could get the fast boat to Gili Air. The Gili islands are a trio of islands in Lombok, east of Bali. The ride was about 1.5 hours, and as we all learned the hard way, exactly the length of the new Fast and Furious movie. A movie that I don’t recommend to anyone. Fast cars, excessive explosions, tacky Hollywood, and bodybuilders…no thank you.
The first island, Gili Air, was the smaller of the two I stayed on. It took me around half an hour to walk the perimeter. This I learned as I was killing time before the yoga class that I never went to because I got lost in the jungle. I gave up 20 minutes before the class started and crashed through the brush to get hammered at the first happy hour I could find. Not a difficult task: every single bar on the island, of which there were dozens, was having happy hour right at that moment.
They also, I was elated to discover, all had wifi. Something my hostel was apparently too good for (“We don’t have wifi. We have friends and conversations.” Not from what I witnessed, you don’t.) The first thing I learned from this trip, and I think a very important thing, was how difficult it is to truly disconnect. It was nice not having 3G for two weeks and occasionally being forced offline, and I did certainly take advantage of the retreat. But at least twice a day, I would seek out wifi and stay glued to my ass. I may be ashamed of how often I stayed connected to wifi, but I will never be ashamed of all the cocktail photos I took. Getting drunk in Indonesia is cheap, y’all.
I intended to get some reading done on the island, and that I did. I finished a book, drank on the beach, slept on the beach, slept in the hostel, drank in the hostel, went to a cooking class, watched the sun rise through apple-flavored cocktails, and bought a mask made from a coconut shell. Aside from yoga, that is all basically what one does on the island. It was a beautiful place and I could even have stayed an extra day. I never get tired of happy hour and $2 beef rendang (I ate far too much on this trip.)
Since living in Los Angeles, I’ve found that one of my favorite things to do is walk. Just walk around and see my area. I do it a lot in Japan. I’ve been to 8 of the 10 largest cities in the country and whenever I plan a domestic trip, people ask me what I plan to do in that city. My answer is usually “walk…and eat.” For a long time, I’ve been a solo traveler, not having the energy to deal with planning trips with other people (if they plan the trip and invite me along then I’m all for it.) I was nervous about traveling alone in Indonesia, but a part of me was also excited to have a chance to just walk around another country and see things at my own pace. The Gili islands, all three of them, are perfect for that.
I also like to read. I end up reading pretty slowly in the long run…because I only read on the weekends. Sometimes I sneak a peak at my kindle when I’m at work (I would feel more guilty if I weren’t unbelievably productive during most of the day, and if I didn’t stay an extra 2-3 hours at work most days of the week.) I like to read non-fiction books but I can’t process so much information in a short period of time. Those tend to take 2-3 months for me to finish, because I’ll read about ten pages at a time and only twice a week.
Being in Indonesia and either not having the energy or the health to do all the amazing things every moment of every day meant working on my books. I probably read more in those two weeks than I ever have in my life, including college.
I was on Gili Air for two nights before I moved onto Party Island, Gili Trawangan (“Gili T.”)
I’m not a very outgoing person and sometimes just the thought of socializing saps what little strength I have left. I didn’t expect to do any real partying while I was abroad, but promised myself I would be open to the opportunity. Regardless, it was nice to be on this island. Gili T has a very different energy than Gili Air. It’s much larger (about 2 hours walking around the perimeter, which I never actually got to do), and louder. It’s far more popular as a tourist destination than the other two islands.
Despite my introverted solo-traveler nature, I loved it. It was gorgeous, weird, eclectic, exciting, energetic, but still casual. 10/10 would visit again.
After hostel-hopping in the last two places, I treated myself to luxury here: a private bungalow at $70 a night for 3 nights, with a restaurant and bar. It was run by a lovely French woman who knew everything about the island and Indonesia. If I had more time and energy I would have wanted to party with her. As soon as I arrived I pestered her for recommendations and she gave me a map marked with her favorite sunset spot (accomplished) and snorkeling company (also accomplished.) Thank you, Nathalie.
Merci beaucoup pour vos faveurs.
I got up at the buttcrack of dawn (again) on my first morning on the island and found my way to the snorkeling company. I don’t remember the name. Masjid something-something. Their storefront was a plank nailed to a tree and they operated out of the side of a Buddhist craft shop (from which I bought many souvenirs for my family.)
I’ve been snorkeling one other time in my life but it was not what I would successful: When I was in high school, my parents took me to Antigua, an island in the Caribbean. We tried to do all of the tourist-y things we could, but we couldn’t go sailing because…it was too windy? (We did eventually go sailing and all I remember is my dad yelling, yelling, yelling at me like Rachel at Joey in the episode where she teaches him to sail. Thanks, dad.) We tried snorkeling at the beach but the water was too murky so that didn’t last long.
That being said, there was one moment I will always remember positively about that trip: swimming with manta rays. Or, more specifically, getting a hickey from a manta ray. They are smooth bastards, those slippery rays.
When Nathalie mentioned I could do some world-class snorkeling within walking distance of the villa, I nearly jumped out of my swim trunks.
I wasn’t prepared to take any photos during the snorkeling trip but it really was an amazing opportunity and a perfect second chance. I got to see a coral reef for the first time in my life, I watched the instructor dance with a turtle larger than himself, I swam in whatever sea surrounds the Gili islands, I pet a pufferfish (frightened out of its mind, naturally), and I learned exactly what it’s like when your breathing pipe isn’t fully screwed onto your mask. And I bumped into people a lot.
But most importantly, I got diarrhea that lasted nearly a week.
I did manage to finish my souvenir shopping and watch the sun set from Paradise Sunset Lounge (complete with a fire dancer and in-house DJ.) I walked through the forest to get there and ended up covered head to toe in mosquito bites. I’m not sure which is worse, the rear-end problems or the welts making me queasy.
I also made it to another yoga class and managed to survive the whole hour. It was by far the most peaceful yoga class I’ve ever been to. It was a small class somewhere in the woods, the studio was small, and there was a bar/restaurant just below us. Clearly not the most popular tourist destination so I wasn’t ashamed of how much strength I lacked compared to the handful of other people there. And it rained the whole time, but because we were under a roof, it provided a nice backdrop and soundtrack to the practice. I don’t like going out in the rain but I like doing yoga when it’s raining. It’s a conundrum and there is only one solution: become a yoga teacher so I can do yoga on my own at home and never have to set foot outside.
It may not have ended as pleasantly as it started but the trip was well worth everything I paid and all the poops I made. I would go back to Indonesia again in a heartbeat and I would even leave the tourist areas next time. I’d give anything to have a chance in Borneo or Sumatra, if I thought I could physically manage it. I didn’t make any friends or hold onto any connections but I at least learned how to recognize them. I know what to do in the future.
Connect, connect, connect.
I learned more about my limits: where they do end and where they don’t end. I may have taken it too slowly but at least I didn’t push myself to the point of exhaustion. I didn’t learn anything about the country per se, I made a really f***ing huge step in my own life. I know that I’ll have to capacity to expand my horizons more from now on, and to start learning more about the world around me.
But I’m probably gonna take it easy on the traveling for a while.
Here it is, y’all: My Big Trip. The one that I’ve been planning for 4 months and thinking about for 5. The one that made me nearly faint at work in January, and convinced me I had developed clinical anxiety (definitely haven’t.) The one that was supposed to change my life.
On Monday, April 27, I took a bus from Takamatsu to Osaka for a 11:35 pm flight. I landed in Kuala Lumpur at 5 am on Tuesday (look at me mister world traveler wow), and waited in the airport for five hours, unsure of whether I was meant to go through customs again in Malaysia, and bone tired before breakfast. At 10 am, we took off for our Final Destination: Bali, Indonesia.
It was a warm, clear day in Denpasar when I landed at Ngurah Rai Airport. I had transportation arranged for me already, but nevertheless I was immediately overwhelmed by hordes of private taxi drivers following me around the airport saying “sir…sir…taxi? taxi? excuse me sir…taxi?” Gotta give it up for Eric from Mawa House, my driver for the afternoon, for saving me from the onslaught, and escorting me to his car like a celebrity’s bodyguard. I’ve been abroad a few times before this trip, but walking into the Wall of Drivers was a first for me, and it wasn’t the last time it would happen on this trip.
getting there budget,
highway bus to Namba Station, Osaka, from YouMe Town, Takamatsu, round trip: ￥6,900 ($57.09)
train to Kansai Airport, Osaka, round trip: ￥2,120 ($17.54)
baggage fee for AirAsia: ￥17,500 ($144.78, it’s ￥12,000 if you don’t pay in advance: ￥5,500 if you pay online before your flight)
round trip flight from Kansai, Osaka, to Denpasar, Bali: ￥48,198 ($408)
Indonesian visa on arrival, thirty days max: ￥4,231 ($35)
A small town of around 30,000 people, Ubud is in the Gianyar Regency, in the middle of the island, and surrounded by rice paddies and smaller villages. It’s an arts and cultural center of Bali, while the other major cities are known for parties. The name comes from the Balinese word for medicine, ubad, and the town was once known for exports of herbs and medicine. The town is centered around Jalan Raya Ubud, the main road that runs east-west, and divided up by the north-south roads, Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Monkey Forest. Ubud is full of ancient temples, where you can watch evening dances, and it’s also known for the Tegallalang Rice Fields.
I don’t remember much of the drive except staring out the window the whole way from Denpasar (south Bali) to Ubud (central Bali.) We got to Ubud just before dinner, and I immediately exploded all over my private suite (right next to the pool, in the heart of Monkey Forest heyyy.) Once I had acquainted myself with the room, I went out for food. First stop: a nameless food cart in a small parking lot somewhere in the forest for “soy heaven,” fried tofu with sweet peanut sauce and what I assume was also kecap manis, sweet soy sauce (I never asked…I was too busy inhaling my hand. It was good.) Street food: check. And no diarrhea yet.
Next, restaurant food. Soy heaven (I may never find out what it was actually called) was only the appetizer. Now, the main course: fried noodles (mie goreng) and Indonesian beer (Bintang), for under $5 (including the appetizer and a second beer that I bought after dinner.) I’m already in love with you, Bali. Fried tofu, peanut sauce, and beer every night and we’re set for life, dear.
Ubud is a remote, nature-y tourist city in the middle of the island (Bali), about an hour away from the southern coast (Kuta, Denpasar, and the other major areas.) It’s known for the Monkey Forest [[name]] and Tegallalang rice fields. The streets surrounding the forest are literally teeming with private villas, hostels, homestays and guesthouses, and the shopping area, reminiscent of downtown Carrboro or Asheville, surrounds the forest like a hungry person. In fact, it vaguely resembles my own face. Traffic is unbelievable, and most of it is scooters, there aren’t any traffic lights, roads are tiny, and sidewalks are…hard to describe.
But the stores…the stores are amazing. You can find anything and everything in Ubud, including wooden penis-shaped bottle openers! The perfect souvenir for all of your friends who have never been to Indonesia themselves and have absolutely no say in what type of gift you give them. I tried budgeting with my shopping money but failed completely on the first day. I stumbled upon a Balinese wooden cat carving and it all fell apart after that: bunnies. bracelets, sarongs made of batik cloth, bamboo shirts, penis bottle openers, painted penis keychains, and buddhas buddhas buddhas. I bought fourteen souvenirs within an hour, then a few more later in the afternoon.
I spent Wednesday and Friday walking around, attempting a yoga class, and eating the street. I mean…eating on the street. I mean I ate everything. Apologies.
Like Japan, small shrines and temples are everywhere in the city area, tucked into every empty space. The Ubud branch of Starbucks (avoid it, by the way. Worse even than American Starbucks), is on the grounds of a temple, surrounded by lily ponds and sculptures. I’m not religious but there’s something about Hindu, Buddhist, and Shinto art and architecture that really gets to me.
monkey forest: mandala suci wenara wana in Balinese.
yoga barn: an open yoga studio buried in the woods in central Ubud.
bali spirit kafe: Indonesian coffee, western food, Indonesian food, and raw and vegan options galore.
caramel bakery: a huge selection of French macarons and health drinks.
casa luna cooking school: a restaurant and cooking school in the heart of the shopping district.
best bali cooking class and anika volcanic spa treatment,
I was in Ubud from Tuesday until Saturday. My one big goal was a cooking class, which I went to on Thursday morning. I hadn’t realized there was a cooking school in Ubud, so I booked a class in Kuta…over an hour away. I got up at an illegal hour of the morning, got a ride to Kuta, and we started in the Kuta morning market. It stank…and I loved it. I wanted to buy everything except the newly-skinned chicken corpses. Our guide explained every single piece of food in the large, crowded market, and how to use them. Clearly, I don’t remember any of it, but they gave us a book.
Right when I was ready to faint from the heat, we emerged back into the morning sunlight, piled into an air-conditioned car, and drove to the hotel for the cooking demonstration. The class is called Best Bali Cooking Class, but the location is Anika Spa and Hotel. A beautifully-crafted hotel building with an open-air kitchen and dining patio, equipped for around 30 cooking students. We started with tea, pastries, and fruit (“snakeskin fruit,” mangosteen, and rambutan.) After trying and failing to remove the skin from the spiny thing, and finishing my pandan-flavored coconut pastries (give me more), I joined in the cooking demonstration. We each got a plate of things to chop, such as shallots, garlic, red peppers, and lemongrass, to be used in each of the different recipes we would prepare.
Balinese beef satay (grilled, skewered beef)
pepes ikan, grilled and steamed curried fish in banana leaves
kare ayam, yellow coconut curry with chicken
sambal chili sauce
gado-gado peanut sauce
boiled spinach with tomato sambal
nasi goreng, stir-fried rice
mie goreng, stir-fried egg noodles
carrot and cucumber salad
green pandan pancakes with coconut sugar filling
sticky black rice pudding with coconut milk
I shamefully did not finish all the food on my plate (and I had trouble eating the chicken around the bone), but my dessert stomach was more than prepared for the pandan coconut sugar crepes and sticky black rice with coconut milk. I’m buying a truckload coconut palm sugar and pandan extract as soon as I get my next paycheck. I’ll be practicing a few of these throughout the summer and once I move back to the U.S. and have access to food processors, I’ll be filling up the kitchen with homemade sauces.
After departing from the class, we went to the spa to pay and to decide on our spa treatments. I’ve never had a professional massage or spa treatment before this. I guess it was supposed to be relaxing, but it wasn’t the thing for me. Being naked for someone to give me a full-body massage isn’t my idea of relaxing. After the massage, they scrubbed me down and left the scrub to dry on me, which made me cold and uncomfortable. At least they gave me tea at the end. I can’t compare it to other spa treatments, but maybe I should take one more shot at professional treatments some day.
Mawa House lodging, 3 nights: ￥16,163 ($133.72)
In Da Lodge, 1 nights: ￥812 ($6.72)
Souvenirs: ￥21,738 ($179.84)
Food, 4 days: ￥15,167 ($125.48)
Transportation: ￥3,668 ($30.35)
It being my first time here, I wasn’t quite aware of how much I should be spending and I’m sure I got duped once or twice. I was able to live like a king, though, on the above budget and I think it’s doable for less (if I don’t book a cooking class on the other side of Bali and if I eat more street food.) I ended up eating at a lot of restaurants and, though they’re still cheap by American and Japanese standards, they’re far more expensive than street food, which is just as good and just as safe.
When I was researching for this trip, I couldn’t decide where in Bali to stay, but my friends who had been before all recommended Ubud as the place I would like the best. I did end up liking Ubud the best, and I would go again in a heart beat. I would stay in the same private villa, go to the same coffee place, find a different yoga place (it was very difficult and too many people), and do all the cultural things again. And I would not go all the way to Kuta for a cooking class.
I never really accepted the fact that I was in INDONESIA and I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that I’ve been to Bali.
Pinch me, please,
Big news, y’all:
I’m flying to Bali today, for 11 days (originally 10, but my return flight got cancelled and pushed back.) It’s Golden Week now in Japan, so I took 6 days paid vacation for an 11-day trip (with weekends to book end and for recovery.)
I could pee my pants I’m so nervous…it’s my first solo international trip. Japan doesn’t count: this is my third time in Japan, second time living here, I came over with a group every time, I have a Japanese phone, bank account, and health insurance, and I’ve been studying Japan for 10 years.
I know nothing about Bali or Indonesia. I didn’t even know it was in Indonesia until I started researching “places to go in Indonesia” and Bali came up.
Did you know the world’s 3rd largest island is in Indonesia? Well now you Borneo. I mean…it is Borneo. #cheesyjoke
I actually wanted to go to Borneo and Java, but I’m not quite ready spiritually or mentally for that. I need to start small: with one of the best tourist destinations in the world. I need to know that I can throw a rock and hit another foreigner. Not that I would do that. It is the 21st century and the jerk who throws the first stone…
I’ll come back with two weeks of excitement or two weeks of tears, but either way, I’ll come back with stories and many, many photos. (I bought a selfie stick so you can see my face in another country.) I won’t have my computer because it’s relax time, so try to entertain yourselves while I’m away.
I’ll be posting on Facebook in the meantime, though!