Wednesday, December 29, 2010

20101208 Indonesia – Bali

The tiring 17.5 hr bus journey started at 12:30pm from Yogya. It was terribly uncomfortable because of the nauseating artificial air refresher in the bus. They had done slightly too hard to please the passengers. It took me a few hours to accommodate with the ordour. A female passenger boarded, I guessed she had overdosed cheap perfume… my nose suffered again.

There was no highway from Yogya to Bali, only 2-lane roads. All the way the bus navigated through green fields, jungles and local villages, and boarded a ferry for an hour. Was so glad to have hotel pickup arranged beforehand, saved my time searching for transportation in the tired mood.

08-Dec was a Hindu festival, many shops were close. I spent my time strolling on the beach and had a long sleep to compensate the sleepless night earlier.

I rented a motorbike (USD 6) and rode to Tanah Lot where a temple was built on an island, everything looked alike as 8 yr ago. The island was accessible in the evening during low tide. There was a cave at the bottom where “holy” spring water flow. I guess that was just a waterhole from the lime stone. Proceeded to Ubud, but under-estimated the distance was so so far away. Ubud seemed to be much more commercialized nowadays. Lots of expensive hotels, restaurants and souvenirs surround the palace. Ubud is famous for quality paintings and sculptures. Of course good stuffs are not cheap.

Went to the pub at night. Drinks were cheap, but the crowds were much less compared to Thailand. As usual, many people volunteered to accompany the lonely hearts… but they were not pushy.

With an acquaintance, I shared renting a car to travel to north Bali. Pretty cheap - USD15/day. First to Lake Beratan, not so impressive. Dense fog enveloped the whole area swiftly after we arrived. The adjacent temple Puraluhur Baratan was small. A few km ahead lied Lake Buyan & Lake Tamblingan. Circumnavigated the mountain roads was not easy in the rain. We headed straight to the north point - Singaraja. Quite disappointed, stayed less than 1/2hr and returning to Kuta. We stopped by Gitgit Waterfall, quite impressive but all of us were partially soaked in the rain.

The next day we covered the southern region. Nusa Dua has good white sand beach but almost exclusive to the luxurious hotels and resorts. We had our lunch at Jimbaran. We chose the lively seafood from the aquarium – clams, crab and a fish (frozen) for the kitchen to prepare grilling. When served, I noticed the crab meat shrunk and was too soft, 4 legs were missing. Obviously it was a dead frozen crab but not the lively creature that I chose. I complained to the waitress but she insisted that she supervised the food preparation.

20101205 Indonesia – Yogyakarta

I travelled by train to Yogyakarta (pronounce Jogjakarta), or Yogya in short. The service was quite good and clean, though the wagons were not new. It’s Ok, comfortable with a/c. The 8 hour journey passed through villages, symmetrically divided vast lush green rice field, the terraces shored up according to the slope contours, with scarecrows' thatching sleeves hung on the bony frame. I was listening to Yanni, wonderful feeling.

Rain poured lavishly at the time of my arrival. I was partially soaked. The rickshaw driver seized the chance to demand higher charges. I settled at a guesthouse tucked inside a very narrow lane near to the railway station. Was inconvenient to move around to find a better option.

Dinner was OK, had the local vegetarian food Gado-gado and scrumptious avocado juice.

Yogyakarta is said the most touristy city (other than Bali) in Indonesia. This statement misguided me somehow. It was not so attractive. The main draw – Kraton (Palace of Sultans) failed to impress me, only some exhibits of the previous sultans were displayed. The bird market was my pick in the city. Not bad, plenty of birds, roasters, lizards, dogs and cats for pets. The odd creatures like python, civets, bats, monkey were also found. Can't be sure some of them are illegally traded.

Due to the recent eruption of the nearby Merapi volcano, the most famous Borobudur Temple was partially close for ash cleaning and renovation. Tourists were only allowed to stay at the lowest platform though the entrance fees remain the same (EUR 10). Not fair… I skipped the visit this time.

I also planned to trek the highly recommended Bromo mountains. The authorities have banned the trekking due to some signs of eruption and the continuous rain pour lately. The risk had increased. I skipped again. Will definitely make it next time.

Without Borobudur and Bromo, there is no point to stay in Yogyakarta. I decided to leave to Bali, to try to recall some memories almost 8 yrs ago.

20101201 Indonesia – Bandung

Bandung is not a destination for ordinary backpackers, but its relatively higher altitude promising a cooler climate and being the hub of clothing factory outlets have attracted many tourists from both domestic and abroad.

Bandung airport is really small. 2 immigration counters were located right in front of the arrival entrance. The long queue of passengers may have to stay under the sun or rain outside the arrival hall. For all foreigners, all 10 fingerprints and a photo must be taken for record – first kind of experience in my travelling life. Process was fast somehow. The baggage conveyor belt (only 10m long) is found right next to the counters. Prudent custom officers checked almost each piece of luggage, but foreigners are mostly exempted from this tedious procedure.

The climate, indeed, not really cooling, but just a couple of degrees Celcius lower than Kuala Lumpur. The city is quite tidy, quiet and clean, this was a good start to convince my mom the place is not filthy like India.

Many street entertainers were waiting at traffic light junctions. Mostly have a guitar on hand, a few kids and transvestites were seen. They approached the stopping cars and sang or danced, expecting a few coins of appreciation.

Probably the hotel staffs didn’t understand us well, they couldn’t recommend precisely the outlets that meet our expectation. After visiting several disappointing outlets on Cihampelas Road, we finally found one. Ha… shopping spree commenced! The outlets have lots of signature brands with huge discounted price – some rejected items, some “A” quality imitation, some belong to previous seasons.

We rented a car to Tangkuban Prahu (30km north of Bandung) to see the volcanic craters. At the entrance, the rent car driver was so enthusiastic to purchase tickets for us. I counted he paid for 6 persons but only 5 tickets were given. I demanded back the difference. Reluctantly he withdrew the missing Rs50000 note (EUR4.5) from his pocket to me. I gave back the money to him end of the trip as tips. He was overjoyed.

There are several craters in the area, the car park was situated right next to the biggest Kawah Ratu. Scenery was good. Plenty of souvenir and fruit vendors gathered. The sulphuric fume was still emitting, tourists were kept a distance away from the poisonous gas. With my family, I couldn’t trek to other craters. The tourism authorities strictly requested all tourists to be accompanied by official guide to trek to other craters.

p.s. The hotels and taxi are not so cheap. Local foods couldn’t please our taste buds.

Indonesia – General

Indonesia is so close to Malaysia, yet I feel so far away. I have no clue at all about our neighbour other than Bali. The general impression (mostly negative) is mainly picked up from the local media about those crowds filling the hard labour works abandoned by Malaysians. How ignorant I was, the trip changed lots of biased stereotype positively. In fact majority of them are so genuinely friendly. Well, I had only been to Bandung, Yogyakarta and Bali (all in Java Island). My judgment is simply based on the experience on these 3 cities.

The country is wide, scattered in several huge islands. It is less developed economically than Malaysia, but this world’s largest Islamic country has a huge population of 270mil. It has great potential to surpass other Asean countries due to its huge internal market, low labour costs and rich resources.

I bought Lonely Planet edition 2009. Most of the prices and costs were not updated accordingly.


I have closed this blog for 2 weeks for some personal reasons. Now the mood is back and will start posting again. Thks for your visit.