Bali and Thailand
“Should I feel bad, I just hit a monkey.” –Keegan
“Keegan let’s go!” –Kristina
“No! I’m staring down this monkey…”-Keegan
You know when you’re struggling for that opener, like when can’t find a can opener which means you can’t open your can of beans which means you can’t roll your burrito which means you won’t smell funny later which means said loved one will still love you in the morning but it still feels like the end world because you just really, really wanted that can of beans? See sometimes I like to throw my can of beans on the ground and that’s how I open it.
Random eh? Kristina asked me to summarize again, so look to the end of this for the full story.
The past while has consisted of two relaxing stays, one marathon, one plane ride, breathing underwater and one really, really, big tree.
So in short, we spent a grand total of ten days on Nusa Lembongan, a few in Kuta trying to get a visa we never got, a week in Ubud where I learned yoga colonialists have moved overseas, five days on a motor bike, and like I said, a plane ride. It’s safe to say we’re in another country but we’ll get to that.
Nusa Lembongan, surfing and one death threat. Summary complete.
Ubud, a lot of good health food, one stylish (Valentine’s day consisted of a rose found in Delhi on an early morning rickshaw rampage with the promise to get something better than Indian old fashion gold later) bracelet designed by me and unable to be completed… bummed (it was too complicated or something?), one girlfriend who bought all her souvenirs a month early, and an abusive monkey.
Round island tour, this will take longer. Mostly I’ll be talking about a Big Tree.
In Ubud we rented a bike whom we christened with the sexy name of Shiela. Super Speedy Sheila. She was quick. North was the direction of choice, up towards Kintamani. Driving in Asia has reinforced the stereotype that all Asian drivers carry with pride… bad. Through sun, rain, one hundred percent white out, over what seemed like a land bridge through the sky it was so misty, and into a glorious opening of the clouds to reveal a massive lake lined crater stretched out before us, volcano rearing high in the center. From there to the coast, west west north up the coast and then back into the jungle to find Munduk. Munduk was signed for a while but then it got elusive. Kristina had a sore bum.
Felt like we were in a green version of Nepal. Steep mountains everywhere and rice paddies stretched out and carved into the slopes nigh on everywhere you looked. Got a posh place. Next day we got on the stair climber and found three water falls. Didn’t find the kitty shit coffee we were looking for though.
Then on to Big Tree. Abstabloodylutelyfantasmatically HUGE. Anybody who’s seen James Cameron’s “Avatar”, this thing was home tree. We saw it from miles away across the valley from our place the night before. So we both climbed in every kid’s dream jungle gym for a while until the beckoning rain clouds forced us onwards. A few hours later we were in Pemuteran, scuba dive central. I took an intro course with a funny British bloke with bad teeth and Kristina swam with the big boys out on the reef. She had fun, I got an ear infection and attacked by Nemo’s black distant cousin Bubba. A bum squishing day later and we were in Medewi.
I was too fried from putting up with other drivers (Sheila seemed to be one of the fastest on the road, we were passing everything. I now know how to fully utilize the inside shoulder the outside shoulder and opposing lanes for passing), and sunburnt to do anything other than lie there. Next day we were back in Ubud: dropped off the bike, picked up our bags, and headed to the airport. I bribed my first airport official. Money handshake.
As a man will do I’ve given you the What and Where. Kristina will now catch you up on the Who, How, When and Why.
It’s mango season.
In what country you ask?
…again, I’ll get to that.
It’s also pineapple season. I should know because yesterday I cut my lips quite brutally while trying to maw the remaining juice from a husk.
The last I wrote we were headed off our island sanctuary back to the real world… or Bali at least. Keegan mentioned something of a death threat: I’ll leave the details vague for the sake of the impressionable, but let’s just say that when a member of the Lembongan mafia tells you: “If I drunk, I kill you!” and “If I have cellphone, I call my friend be here no time,” it’s time to kiss ass. All a misunderstanding of course- rest assured no harm inflicted save a few feelings!
So off we jaunted early the next morning to acquire visa extensions, having already whiled away almost half of our allotted 30 days without managing to see much of Indonesia. (In our defense: it is quite large.)
Story of our lives, it was closed- for the second time I might add. It being Saturday we were forced to kill the weekend in Kuta until Monday.
Monday came around and guess what?
Third time was not the charm but enough to get our asses into gear and book our ticket to…
I’ll get to that.
In Kuta we had discovered 2 scrumptious nearby macrobiotic organic vegan restaurants (score!) and indulgence trend continued inland to Ubud where several trendy health cafes had us mowing raw chocolate pies like they were bananas. Yum.
Ubud bares the reputation as the handicraft town. The hotspot for Balinese silver, art, woodwork and other such knickknacks and has become something of a trendy yoga-posing expat colony, possibly due to a mention in Eat, Pray, Love (I’m guessing?) Nevertheless it has funky charm and the nourishing food was irresistable. We stayed a week.
…during which time I did a tad spot of shopping.
…more than a tad.
Let’s just say my backpack (whom I’ve named Olivia) was growing a bit stout.
We also took a cooking class. Quite official, the spread of herbs and produce they artfully displayed could only be deemed as picture worthy. Us being the only students we had quite a bit of eating to do when all was said and done. Keegan, not being a huge fan of some of the flavours, left this mammoth of a task to me. Yum. I miss kitchens. We made all the curry pastes and sauces from scratch, utilizing the biggest mortar and pestal I’ve ever seen (the pestal was up to my waste- it’s a blender with a work out!)
After running into (for about the ninth time) another young couple from Nelson whom we had previously befriended, we were inspired to rent a scooter and utilise that last dwindling days of our visa exploring a little more liberally. So we ditched nearly everything with our homestay (a lovely authentic family compound with a four poster bed and bath(!) for $12) and headed off into the mountains aboard Sheila, our trusty red automatic.
In SE Asia, when it rains, it pours.
So we got a tad wet, and a tad cold but came out on a ridge town overlooking a gorgeous volcano cascading down into a lake. We rode high through the mountains though eerily dense fog, but eventually popping out on the other coast. Not liking the “vibe” we ventured back up the hills, following the rain apparently and getting thoroughly lost amongst the terraced rice paddies and lush jungle. Eventually we found the mountain village of Munduk and stayed in somewhat regal place with and even more regal view of the valley.
A super early start the next morning (the days were a ticking!) saw us on a somewhat arduous (for our out of shape selves) hike to a waterfall and a hunt to find a café that was not in fact 348m down the path but more like 1246m and did not have the advertised cat poop coffee. Gross right? Google it. But apparently at home it costs about 35 bucks a cup. We were curious.
We popped back to the coast to check out the world famous Mengangan Marine Park. Keegan did an “Intro to Scuba Diving” but discovered the hard way he had an ear infection. I dove a site called Close Encounters with beautiful delicate pink soft coral that could inspire a couture gown; unfortunately the visibility was not spectacular, c’est la vie.
After 2 days we rounded the North West tip of the island, following the coast to the surf town of Medewi, stopping along the way to discover some gorgeous untouched stretches of beach- save a few cows and fisherman. I was less than impressed with Keegan’s little “detours.” Long full days on the back of a motor bike does not make for a pleased exterior nor a patient girlfriend.
I also got a little dirty. Unlike Keegan’s my helmet did not have a face mask so I sported the caveman. But at the least I’m sure an inch of grease and grime protected me from the sun’s rays. Keegan got scorched.
Medewi had the gentle surf break Keegan had been looking for but alas we had not the time (nor a good ear!). Our somewhat less posh hotel (a single pillow between the 2 of us?) had us up almost at the crack of dawn and on the road in time for the rain. We raced back to Ubud to return the bike and onwards to Kuta, our flight the next day.
Okay time to let the cat out of the bag. We flew to Phuket.
Not all that exciting, but there are 2 cats in this bag. The other kept (particularly from my mother) simply for shame of being ridiculously untravel-saavy. As some of you may know Keegan and I are both travelling with a ukulele each. (Somewhat of a nuisance at times but ultimately worth it both for a past time and a means by which we have met people.) While in Kuta the first time we happened upon a music shop with an amiable shop keeper named Rafi and a beautiful solid mahogany ukulele- the neck and body all one piece (which is unheard of.) We could not get over the tone. It was hand carved in central Java and he was getting a shipment in on the 9th.
Cut to the chase.
We came back.
He had picked out the best ones for us.
We bought three.
…I am imagining will be my mother’s reaction.
Yes. Because you see I promised my brother a badass instrument- and let’s just say we won’t be able to afford (let alone find!) instruments of this quality for some time to come. PLUS NOW WE HAVE UKES FROM INDONESIA. Badass? We thought so.
Where does this lead me?
Well I boarded a plane to Phuket with no less than 3 ukuleles… as my carry on.
5 between the two of us. Whichever sounds more ridiculous.
Worth it? Heck yes. Thankfully Keegan has an Uncle in Bangkok to whom, for very little money we were able to mail 2 large boxes of our extraneous purchases (just a wee box… 23kg). I am now travelling with 2 tank tops and a pair of shorts- Olivia has never looked more svelte. And yes we are in Thailand. I have had more green curry and phad thai in the past couple days than I can fathom. I’ve also manage to scorch my mouth unfathomably on dishes not even labeled spicy.
We spent a night on the reputable island of Koh Phi Phi, and visited where “The Beach” was filmed. Unfortunately, although the beaches there are indeed sandy and ideal, they are so overrun by tourists it is rather comical.
When you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. We partied on a Wednesday night. $5 buys you a mickey of awful Thai whisky, a pop and a red bull plus a BUCKET to mix them in.
Then on to Koh Lanta, where I now sit and what a rather burning sunset. Where the vibe is almost deserted feeling but leaves the beaches long, sandy and trance music free. It’s more chill. Though we can’t quite figure out why so quiet compared to Phi Phi- but hey, we aren’t complaining. World class diving is to be had as soon as Keeg’s ear is happy and tomorrow, a thai cooking class! J
If you’ve made it to the end- Congratulations! I’ll shut up now and get back to the sunset.
MORE PHOTOGRAPHS: http://cid-555be8206d79d3b3.photos.live.com/browse.aspx/Indonesia2