Archive for September, 2009

Indonesia

Day1
I arrive at the Bali Densapar airport at 3am, where I immediately start looking for any public buses. Realizing there were none, I took a taxi to the bus terminal. Unfortunately, when I exchanged my money back at the airport, they didn’t give me any small bills, so the taxi fee went from 25 to 30. I waited at the bus terminal until 5am and took a bus to Ketapang Station, which is the port where I will take a ferry to Java. While on the ferry, I met an Indonesian (Donny), who was leaving Bali with one of his bandmates from a recording session. He was willing to go to Gunung Bromo with me and help with my accommodations. Arriving in Java, we took the train to Probolinggo, from there we hired a driver to drive us the rest of the way to Bromo. I don’t know if this made my trip better, especially in terms of saving time and money. Were were able to make it to Bromo to catch the sunset, even though it wasn’t spectacular.

Day2
I woke up at 3am to start my way to catch the sunrise at Mt Bromo. The beginning of the hike was easy, but the paved road turned to dirt, and there was no illumination whatsoever. Without a flashlight, it’s completely pitch black. I was starting to get worried that I took the wrong direction, because of the massive overgrowth I found along the trail. It gave me the impression that not many people go through here. Sometimes the path would veer off, which just makes it much more confusing. After 1 hour, I was relieved to find the viewpoint. While hiking, there was something flashing far off in the distance. At first I thought it was a beacon of some sort. It wasn’t until I arrived at the viewpoint that it was thunder way out in the distance. It was unearthly experience, being alone watching the clouds and mist swirl around the mountains. While waiting for the sunrise, only four other travelers stopped by this area. Satisfied with my photos, I make my way back to the hotel to embark on another hike, this time through the sea of sand to the smoking volcano. This trail also took 1 hour. Not sure if it was worth it, but at least I experienced it. Me and Donni finally leave this area to Surabaya to stay over one night. I wanted to visit the island of Lombok the next day to climb Mt Rinjani, so Donny helped arrange a flight ticket there.
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Day3
I arrive at the airport at 8:30am only to find out my airticket was not available because I did not pick it up the previous day. FUCK!! Not only did I waste $100, I also wasted time! There was no way I was going to spend more time in Surabaya, so I purchased a flight back to Bali that morning.
Arriving in Denpasar, I looked into finding public transport to Ubud. Info center told me several options, but I couldn’t find the damn bus, so I wound up taking a taxi all the way to Ubud ($25). There was definitely no shortages of places to stay, since Ubud is infested with travelers. During my stay in Ubud, most of the foreigners that I encountered were either German, French or Japanese. I found a place to stay for $8 per night. Not great, but within my budget. Since I booked 2 nights, I walked around central Ubud to get an idea what my schedule would be like. I looked at a few travel agencies to see if there was anything interesting to me. Along the way, I stopped by Perama bus. Not only do they have transport to the airport, it’s way cheaper ($5)!. I also asked them what’s interesting to see in Ubud. They introduced a person to me who said he can give me a tour to the mountains/rice fields/temple for $25. I was initially opposed to it, but considering that I would be the only tourist, he’s willing to take me to see the sunrise at the mountains, and allow me to take my time with my photos, I finally agreed and arranged to meet at the Perama bus stop the next day at 5:30am. I immediately set off to see a cultural performance (7pm/$7.50). What I found interesting was not just the visuals, but their chants. I’ve never heard it before and it sounded so alien.
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Day4
Wayan and I meet and first set off to see the volcanoes at sunrise. I was beginning to regret this tour because as we pressed on for on hour on his motorcycle, I was freezing and there was mist everywhere. Then he turned around a corner, and Bam! The view was magnificent, no mist, you can see 3 volcanoes, and the sun was about to pop out in half an hour. A big part of me wanted us to go further to see if there was a better vantage point. I decided to stay put and was glad I did, because after I was done taking my photos, the view didn’t get better as we continued down the road. The last thing we saw during the tour were the rice terraces. Along the way, I fought the urge to stop him to take pictures. I’m glad I did because he took me to a spot that was just sublime. Great scenery with no trees blocking my view. Not only did I appreciate his services, but I also had great respect for him as a person. We talked about the importance of preserving our environment and karma. Out conversation started when we saw some plastic refuge on the side of a mountain, and he lamented how his people were foresaking nature and embracing modernization. I think it made a huge difference having a tour guide like him. Our common view points made my trip more comforting and relaxing, and his love for nature took me to remote tucked away spots that I think the general tourist agencies wouldn’t go to. During the day, I went to see Monkey Forest, which was not very impressive, and for some unknown reason, I was itching everywhere, so I headed back to my place to shower, which was much better. At night, I attended another Balinese performance. I initially wasn’t so sure about see this performance, because they said it would be performed by children, but the setting was great, had live music, and the dancers were precise and synchronized.
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Day 5
The next morning I left for Candi Dasa. Since I’ve already seen volcanoes, temples, and performances, I felt it would be a shame to not stop by a beach, especially to look for some seashells. We started with a full bus, and by the time I reached Candi Dasa, there was only three people, me included! An old fellow at the bus station accompanied me to find a cheap place to stay. The person at the first hotel showed me a room with only cold running water and a ceiling fan for $13 a night. I was on a tight budget, so I passed. Then the old man took me to his own place, which was a complete wreck, but for $5.50, I decided to stay for two nights. I then walked on the main road towards Bugbug beach, which took about 2 hours. By now, my feet felt so raw, that I could feel each tiny rock/pebble that I stepped on. Approaching the coastline, a family on a motorcycle drove up to my side. The driver turned out to be the guy who showed me the room from the first hotel. It turns out that he lives at that beach and gave me an introduction to his place. On the other side of the mountain is white beach, but where he lives is called black beach because of the lava from a previous volcano eruption. Out in the distance, some of his people collect the sand to be sold for construction. He mentioned that it’s illegal, but for them, they have no other way to earn money. We also negotiated on him taking me to some rice fields at 9am the next day for $12. He also told me that if I walk along the sandy coastline instead of back on the main road, I will arrive back in Candi Dasa much quicker. I took his suggestion and was glad I did because I finally found some seashells, but I was slowly starting to regret it because it started to get dark, and I had to scuttle over some slippery volcanic rocks. Fortunately I made it back safely and in shorter time.
Going to bed, I sprayed myself with mosquito repellent because I saw a few mosquitoes around. As it turns out, they were the least of my problems. While sleeping, I had an itching sensation on my back. I thought that was bizarre, because I was sleeping on my back with my shirt on. I sat up to find numerous welts all across my back and I was convinced that my bed was infested with bed bugs. That’s when I said, “screw this place!”, and decided to not stay for the next night.

Day 6
The next morning got more bizarre. When I stepped outside to see the beach, some old man walks inside to use my toilet, and even left a poo dropping on my floor! Then, when I walked out to meet my tour guide, I saw a girl walking past me with a bleeding nose.
Me and my tour guide set off to see the rice fields. I had a nice casual walk through the fields, and we arranged to meet on the other side of my path. Along the way I saw several kids playing and bathing. Some of the kids were curious about me and were actually following me for a while.
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After the tour, I arranged with Perama bus to Kuta/airport, and I was getting conflicting answers. Before, they said they can take me directly to the airport, then later they said I’d have to take the taxi from the Kuta stop to the airport. Regardless of how I was going to get to the airport, there was one last thing that I wanted to take a photo of. When I previously left the airport, I saw a really cool statue. So my plan was to sleep overnight at the airport, then walk to the statue before sunrise to take pictures. After taking my pictures, walk back to the airport and take my flight back to Taipei.
Fortunately, not only did the Perama bus go directly to the airport, but along the way, I also saw that the statue was closer to the airport than I thought. I took a four hour nap at the airport, then made my way to the statue within half an hour. It was completely deserted at first, but as sunrise began to approach, a few old folks emerged to exercise around the statue. Satisfied with my photos, I walked back to the airport, freshened up in the restroom, had my last meal, and waited for my flight.
While waiting, I suppose one cannot avoid people watching. It seems almost every Japanese or Korean I saw were part of large tourist groups. I also recalled the numerous times the locals asked where I came from. I actually found this difficult to answer. Do I say Taiwan, since that’s where I directly came from and also where I have currently lived for a year. I would normally answer American, but that usually doesn’t satisfy them because of my appearance. Would it be clearer if I said I was Korean, even though I never lived there, nor can I speak the language. I guess in this case it really doesn’t matter because just about everyone thinks I’m Japanese and automatically spew a few Japanese phrases at me. This situation actually doesn’t make me concerned, in fact I’m quite happy about not fitting in a category.
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Now this is sweet

Honda introduced a prototype of possible mobility technology yesterday. Unlike the Segway, you comfortably sit at around barstool level and the device allows for simultaneous movement laterally through a self-balance control scheme. Very cool! As you can see, it’s far more agile and intuitive than the Segway, though I give Segway points for launching Bush on his ass.

We can has travel?

Hi everyone. It’s been almost five years since we all gathered in Tokyo for Ben’s wedding. We talked a bit about getting together to travel again, and then things got quiet, and Steve moved to a whole other continent and the US economy tanked and Republicans went batcrap insane and we all got busy…so now I’m broaching the subject again.

If we plan ahead early enough, what do you guys think about a trip abroad next year? I’m not picky as to where, but I’ll throw out some ideas:

Greece

Italy

France

Spain

the British Isles

Scandinavia

Any combination of the above

Taiwan

Thailand

Australia

Heck, if everyone likes the idea of Brazil or Belize or Botswana, I’d be fine with those places too. I’d just like to get out of the country for a bit, and it’s always fun in a group.

So, what say ye? Open to the idea in a year or so?

– Laura

Death Star Conspiracy.

Very Funny!

http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1920944

♪ Pac Man Fever ♪

♪ It’s driving (some people) crazy! ♪