Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Airport Fest '09

Yesterday was the beginning of what I have now come to call "Airport Fest '09". Airport Fest '08 was quite the ordeal. I was not allowed to board my flight in Seattle, spent a night in the Sea-Tac Airport, and had a 24 hor layover in Seoul, South Korea. This year I think we have it beat. Yes, it really is an all star line up. It all began with a flight from Maumere, Flores to Denpasar, Bali with a half hour layover in Sambawa. Next, 7 hours in Denpasar which, with delays turned into 9, waiting for a connecting flight to Jakarta. Arriving just past 7:00pm, I had planned to stay in a hotel near the airport, my next flight not being until noon today. However once at the Jakarta airport I learned all the flights were fully booked except for the Hyatt. I don't think I need to explain that this was a little out of my price range. I ate dinner at the airport, thinking about my options. They were as follows:

1)Stay at the Hyatt-not really an option.
2)Go into Jakarta and stay on Jalan Jaksa, the backpacker strip.- The only way to get there is by taxi or bus. With a taxi from the airport, you are garenteed to get ripped off, and not just a little. A lot! The bus, at that time of night, takes 2-3 hors to get there. Jalan Jaksa isn't bad if you meet some people to hang around with, which takes a couple of nights. Flying solo as a woman there, you are subjected to non-stop harassment by local men.
3)Sleep at the airport-This involves...well. sleeping in the airport.

Guess which one I opted for? I like to make my life more difficult than it has to be. That's right, I slept at the airport. Not so much slept, as sat starring aimlessly at the ground for hours upon end. It was unpleasant, to say the least. I did save myself a nights accomodations though. There are about a dozen doughnut shops, so finding a cup of Jo to keep me awake wasn't so much a problem. It also gave me a chance to catch up on some reading. Today the events of APF '09 continued with a flight, once again delayed, to Singapore. This is where I am now, Singapore. Tomorrow will be spent packing up Fred and preparing for the next long haul. The one that will end at home. First it's off to Tokyo, an hour layover, then off to LA, California. 5 hours later I'm off to Calgary. Home sweet home! Just a side note to my family, please remember to pick me up.
The more I think about it, the more I'm looking forward to being home. To seeing my family and my friends, and to enjoyiong all the creature comforts. Seeing as I can't be there just yet, Singapore really is the next best thing. I've been here so much that it feels almost like a second home. It's good to be back here.
Many airports have internet access. If I can I'll try to post durring the rest of Airport Fest '09. If not, this is likely to be my last. It's been a slice. I'd like to thank everyone who followed along. Being that I'm back in Singapore I've been able to post a lot more pictures. If you click on the slideshow it should provide you with a link to my picasa albums.
Goodbye everbody, and to those at home I'll be seeing you in a few days!


Saturday, August 1, 2009

So Concludes My Trip To Indonesia...

Well, I'm at the end of my Indonesian Adventure. One more day until I fly back to Jakarta, and one night there until I'm back in Singapore. I guess, more than just ending my trip to Indonesia, I'm more or less done with my travels all together. It's been a good trip. I'll be sad to leave it all behind, but at the same time I'm about ready for a sleep in a clean bed and a home cooled meal.
Right now I an in a Internet Cafe in Maumere, Flores. This has to be the most boring city on the face of the planet. That's saying a lot, because I've been through so,e pretty mind-numbing places. I made the mistake of coming here a couple of days early thinking, being the biggest city in Flores, there would be some thing to do here. Boy, was I wrong. The most exciting thing here is the Internet Cafe, and now that I've found that I don't know what I'm going to do. I wish I could pass the time reading, but I'm out of reading material and there doesn't appear to be a book exchange in sight. My crappy little guitar has come in handy. It's been the only thing keeping me sane.
Flores has certainly been the most beautiful part on Indonesia that I saw on this trip. On the coast of the island are white sandy beaches, in the middle are towering mountains and lush jungles. It actually reminded me a little of Laos, only with the addition of the ocean. It was a lot colder than I had anticipated. The evenings get down to about 3 degrees. Again, it was another parallel to Laos, which is the last place I experienced anything that could be described as cold weather. Needless to say, I was a little regretful about throwing away my 3 in 1 pants in Singapore (Laugh it up. They may not be pretty but they are practical). The Thai fisherman pants weren't quite cutting it. It made me wonder how on earth I'm going to deal with being back in the Canadian climate.
One of my favorite things in Indonesia was Mt. Kelimatu. It is a big volcano just outside of Moni. At the top of the mountain are three large craters, and in each is a lake. The lakes change color depending on the light. If you catch it in the right sun all three lakes can be completely different colors at the sane time. The surrounding area is nice as well. It's in the mountains, which I always like. The nearby forests are great for wondering around and exploring waterfalls, hot springs, and all the other marvels of nature. The town of Moni is quaint and quiet. It's a great place to just relax. Upon thinking about it, I probably should have just hung out there for a while longer instead of coming here.
The people of Indonesia are a little difficult to explain. They are really nice people, and eager to help you in any way they can. However, there constant sales pitches and the never ending advancements from men grow really old, really fast. Sometimes it leaves you not even wanting to leave your hotel. There is no escape from it. Even at your hotel, the only way around it is to stay in your room.
So, four more days and I'm off. Until then...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Back From The Dragon Islands

Hello All!
I just arrived in Flores last night after a three day/two night boat trip from Lombok. Usually these types of tourist trips are really my thing. However transportation between Lombok and Flores is pretty limited, particularly if you want to make a stop in Komodo. I must say, even though it's not the sort of thing I would typically do, the boat trip was wonderful. The first day is spent driving across Lombok in a bus. They stop at various sights such as a Tobacco farm, and a village where they weave bamboo baskets. This part of the trip was not the most exciting, but still a little bit interesting. Once on the eastern most part of Lombok you board a boat, which is your home for the next three days. They take you to various islands, most of which are uninhabited and great for snorkeling. You are given three meals a day, and a place to sleep on the boat. For those willing to spring the extra rupiah, you are provided with a cabin on board, but for those such as myself who are too cheap, you have to sleep on deck. The food was great. They really do go all out at meal time. The sleeping arrangements were cramped. There is about a dozen people all crammed in to this little room on the boat. On the second night, I bundled up and slept outside. It was a little chilly, but being able to sleep beneath a sea of stars was well worth it. One afternoon, while travelling between islands, we were accompanied by a school of dolphins. I have never seen a dolphin before, so this was an exciting event for me. One of them jumped up beside me, so close I could have touched it.
On the second day the tour guide dropped a bomb. He informed us that it is actually quite rare to see a Komodo Dragon on the island. Out of the last four groups that went on this trip, only one were able to get a glimpse of the prehistoric creatures. I was extremely disappointed upon hearing this. Seeing the Komodo Dragons was my main reason for coming on this trip. As it turns out we saw not just one, but two dragons when we were on the island. I guess we were among the lucky few. They sort of look like big, ugly, long-necked Iguana's. I took a lot of pictures (sorry, Indonesian Internet is too slow, so I won't get a chance to post them until I get home). It was an unforgettable experience.
So far Flores is beautiful. The people seem really friendly. The only down side is the transportation around the island. Buses seem to run infrequently and getting to any destination seems to take at least two days. If you look on the bright side of things, I guess it gives you a chance to see more of the country.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Waiting For A Boat

It's been a long time since I posted anything. For this I apologize. As was pointed out by my sister, biking across Asia seemed to give me more motivation to keep on top of these blog entries. I guess the life of a backpacker has made me a little lazy. In truth, there isn't really a whole lot to report. I'm currently in Sengiggi, Lombok, waiting to take a boat to Flores via Komodo Island. I have really been looking forward to this. A stop on Komodo Island to see the legendary dragons may very well be the highlight of my trip, or at least one of. I've been looking forward to it since arriving in Indonesia. Hopefully it will live up to my expectations.
I arrived in Sengiggi a few gays ago. The boat only leaves on Tuesday and Thursday, which gave me some time to kill. I had planned on using this time to either go to the Gili Islands or hike up the nearby Mt. Ranjani, the latter of which would have been my preference. As it turned out neither were in the cards. I woke up a couple of days ago feeling a little ill. Just the early onset of the common cold, nothing major. However, as I have a three day boat trip filled with snorkeling and trekking ahead of me, I didn't want to do anything that could unnecessarily make my cold worse. I opted to spend the past couple of days here. It's not that bad of a situation, really. There's a nice beach, great food, and the people are quite pleasant.
The Indonesian people in general have been nice. Some of you have taken my recent complaints as an indication that my experience here is mirroring that which I had in Vietnam. Sorry, sometimes I like to use this blog as a source to vent. It isn't really that bad. The people here are nice (more so in Lombok than Java). It's just that they are constantly trying to sell you something and everything (and I mean everything) has to be haggled over. It's not like Vietnam though, where I found the locals to be most unpleasant.
Another couple of weeks until I'm back home. I've spent the past nine months living in a fantasy and am now starting to feel the pressures of reality creeping up on me. It's a scary thing, reality. The way I see it, if it's too much for me to handle, I can always take off again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Still In Yogyakarta

I'm still in Yogyakarta. It seems like I've been here forever. It's not a bad place. I definitely prefer it to Jakarta, although the trickshaw drivers are starting to wear on me. Even though I have enjoyed Yogya a little more than my previous stops in Java, I've been here for almost five days and have now found myself struck with a bad case of the boredom blues. This is where you come in. The only thing I have left to do is sit around and play on the Internet. I did purchase a guitar, which has helped a little to pass the ever stretching hours. You should see the thing. It's about a foot and a half long and when I play it I feel like a giant. It does the trick. I'd post a picture for you, but unfortunately Indonesia's Internet connections are not the fastest in the world. Yesterday I uploaded five pictures... it took almost two hours.
I got a chance to visit the Buddhist Temple at Borobudor, Indonesia's answer to Ankor Wat. It seems every country has there own mini version of the collosal Cambodian temple. This one I found particularly nice. I am getting slightly sick of temples, but the inscriptions on this one were quite incredible. It really was a sight.
Tomorrow I'm headed via airplane to Lombok. It seems like this smaller, slightly more laid back island may be a little more my speed. There seems to be some great trekking opportunities, beaches, and volcanoes to visit. Not to mention the island of Komodo is easily accessible via Lombok. I fully intend to make the journey out there to see some dragons. (of course I do realize they are not actually dragons in the fire-breathing, flying, mythological sense). After Lombok I'm not sure what the plan is. Originally I wanted to visit both Bali and Flores, but realize now this was over-shooting a little. I don't know that I'll have time to do either, let alone both. If I could choose I would definitely opt for Flores, however Bali is much easier to get back to Jakarta from.
I fly back to Singapore from Jakarta on Aug. 4. After much procrastination, I have finally booked a flight home. August 6 is the magic date. I have mixed emotions about it. On one hand I would love to continue to travel. If I could I'd just keep going forever. Going on a big trip like this just makes you realize how big the world actually is, and how little of it we see in our lifetime. On the other hand, I am starting to get a little homesick. I miss my family and my friends (which I'm sure will change after about a week back home), I miss the comforts of home, mostly my own bed, and there is always the money factor. Being that I'm not independently wealthy, I have to go home eventually.
Well, thanks for helping me pass the time. I'll see you all in a few weeks!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Greetings From Yogyakarta

The last time I left you I was heading out of Singapore, on my way to Jakarta. It's been about a week since I landed in Indonesia. I would have posted earlier, but the Internet availability as well as quality is a little lacking in Indonesia. It's not as sparse as in Laos, except for in Bandung where I was unable to find an Internet cafe at all. I'm sure they were there. To be completely honest I didn't look that hard. Wondering around in search of a computer is not exactly my idea of a good time. There's a lot to catch you up on, so lets get started.
I flew out of Singapore on July 6. I had thought my flight left at 11am. I woke up early, showered, ate breakfast, and packed my stuff up. Just as I was preparing to leave I glanced at my ticket. My flight was at 4pm, not 11am. This lack of attention to detail is fairly typical for me. It's not entirely my fault. I believe it to be genetic, passed down from my father. Anyway, I did eventually get to the airport, boarding my plane and making it to Jakarta without another hitch. The flight was nice. I flew Air Asia, a no frills budget airline in Asia. It's sort of like the Asian equivalent of Westjet, for you Canadians out there.
There was a huge contrast departing from Singapore and arriving in Jakarta. To call Singapore a well organized city would be a huge understatement. Everything runs so smooth. It's so easy to find your way around. Unlike other SE Asian cities, you don't have to worry about constantly being ripped off. Things have a price, and that's the price you pay. Arriving in Jakarta I felt like fresh meat being thrown to a wild pack of dogs. From the second you walk off the plane everyone is trying to sell you something. Nothing is properly labelled. Looking around you see a bustling airport filled with Indonesian people pushing there way through the crowds while we, the unaccustomed foreigners, stand there wide eyed and confused, with no idea what to do and where to go. The chaos started upon arriving at the Jakarta Airport, and hasn't ceased since.
Anytime you arrive in a new country here, with the exception of Singapore, you have to except the fact that you're going to get ripped off. No matter how hard you try, how much research you do, it's going to happen. There's nothing you can do about it. It takes at least a few days before you get into the swing of things and figure out how much things are and where you should be going to buy them. For example, cigarettes. In Vietnam if you buy cigarettes from a street vendor, you're going to end up paying more than in a store. Here it seems to be opposite. Like I said, it takes a few days to figure these things out. I don't think I did that bad getting into Jakarta from the airport. The day after arriving I asked around as to how much the cab ride should have cost. I came out with the answer 100,000 rp. I payed 160,000 rp. Not bad for someone completely ignorant to the way things work here. I also learned it's easier to insist taxi drivers use the meter instead of trying to haggle over a price.
Jakarta is big. It's big and it's loud. Traffic is non-stop. 24 hours a day 7 days a week the streets are packed with cars, motorbikes, and tuk-tuks (they're not called tuk-tuk's here. I forget what they are called, so for now the term tuk-tuk with have to do). Walking across the street is a challenge which, if done too timidly, could take all day. You pretty much just have to go and pray you don't get hit by a car. There are shopping centers everywhere. For a Muslim country there is a surprising amount of bars, pubs and clubs. As well, the majority of restraunts serve beer. I was expecting it to be a little more like Malaysia where, even in Kuala Lumpur, finding a place to wet your whistle can be a bit of a chore. When taking a stroll down the street in Jakarta, the best advice I can give you is where an ipod. It will help prevent you from going completely insane due to all the people begging and trying to sell you things. If travelling as a single women, the amount of unwanted attention from Indonesian me can be a bit wearing too. It seems to be harmless, although really annoying.
I spent a few days in Jakarta (a few days too many, that is). I had planned to high-tail it out of there ASAP, but it took me a couple of days to adjust. After Jakarta I headed to Bandung. There was a couple of things I wanted to see in between, but time is limited and I'm headed back to Java anyway. If time permits I can make a couple of stops on my way back. I'd heard Bandung referred to as the "Paris of the East". Obviously by someone who has never even seen a picture of Paris, let alone stepped foot in it. Bandung is a really busy city as well. Not quite on the same scale as Jakarta, but busy none the less. There is very few things to see in the city itself. The main attraction is some old hotel built by the Dutch. It is actually rather unimpressive. The surrounding area, however, has a lot worth seeing. There are hot springs, temples, National parks and Volcanoes. I saw my first Volcano here. It was pretty neat. Getting there was an ordeal though. I went to the Tourist Information Center to see if they had some tourist information for me. They just tried to sell me on these ridiculously expensive package deals. All I wanted to do was see this volcano. The told me to get there via public transportation I would have to make my way to the bus station on the outskirts of the city and pay 50,000rp each way. I sort of suspected they were lying, so I decided to attempt to figure it out myself. As it turned out you can catch a public minibus from the station, which is about 500m from the Tourist Information Center, for about 10,000rp. The only downside is they drop you off at the park entrance. From there you have to hike up the side of a mountain for about 6km before reaching the main crater at the top. The walk took about an hour and a half, maybe two, but it was worth it. I had never seen a volcano before. It was pretty amazing, although it did smell a little of rotten eggs. After seeing the main crater you can walk down a scenic little path to a series of smaller ones. You can get up close to steam vents and bubbling puddles of mud. It's a little intimidating.
I don't want to complain but, in case you haven't guessed already, I'm not exactly in love with Java. It's a little disappointing, being that I'm part Javanese. After Bandung I decided to catch the train to Yogyakarta, which is where I am now. From here I'm going to look into flying to Lombok or Flores. Yogyakarta seems a little more low key than Jakarta and Bandung. You still get harassed while walking down the street, but it's not nearly as bad. It seems a little more artsy here. There are plenty of Galleries and Batik shops. I still plan to go to my Oma's home town of Depok, but am now saving it for the way back to Singapore. I can use it as a way to avoid Jakarta.
I'm still not used to not being on my bike. There are times when I miss it and times when I regret making the decision not to bring it along. Given the traffic here, it was probably a good call. Still, I miss him all the same.
That's all for now folks. Stay tuned for the next, and hopefully more uplifting, addition of my story.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Leaving Singapore

Today I leave Singapore for Indonesia. This is the first time in eight months I am leaving a hostel without my bicycle, and it feels a little strange. While I'll miss my two wheeled companion I think, or at least hope, the life of a backpacker as opposed to a cyclist will present some new challenges and adventures. It will certainly be nice to not have to wake up at 5am every time I leave a place.
Singapore was fun. It's expensive and, considering the size of the city, there isn't that much to do here. However, due to the amount of travellers also in this city that they can't really afford to be in, it's pretty easy to meet people. The majority of thime here is spent in your hostel drinking the cheapest possible beer you can find and playing cards. SOmetimes those are the best times though. I really enjoy Singapore and, one day, when I have a little more money, fully intend to come back and see it properly.
I had thought my plane left at 11:00am but, after waking up and examining my ticket, realized it wasn't until 4pm that I was due to leave. I fly into Jakarta, where I intend to spend as little time as possible. After that I'm headed for my oma's home town. Discover the roots and all that. A little more sight seeing around Java and I'll be off to Bali.