16 October, 2009

The Great Adventure: Day 28 to Day 35

So here I am again, sat at the computer while the sun is shining outside. Do hope you all appreciate the effort I'm making...

So here's what we're been doing for the last week:

Day 28 - Thursday 8th October
This was the day that we left Tioman & headed to Kuala Lumpur (or KL as everyone calls it) The journey involved taking a speed boat to Mersing, on Penninsular Malaysia. there, we had to hang around for 3 hours until hour express bus to KL. Here was where i updated my blog last time.
Got on our (on-time) bus to KL, with a supposed journey time of 4 hours. It wasn't 4 hours - it was 6. Have now (finally) come to the realisation that whatever the predicted journey time is, add at least 2 hours and then you'll know the actual journey time. Luckily, we had lots of time & didn't have any connections to make. The bus ride itself was interesting - we travelled through miles and miles of palm tree plantations; i assume they are for palm oil. May sound strange but for me (& K) seeing palm trees neatly planted in long rows just seemed weird. Palm trees are supposed to be exotic & wild, not neatly arranged.
On arrival in KL, we followed one of our fellow bus passengers, Tammy, to a guest house that she'd been recommended in Chinatown. After that, the 3 of us went out for dinner in a nearby Chinese restaurant (what else do you eat in Chinatown, eh?) After that we went to a Beatles bar that played house music, then to a reggae bar playing pop. Go figure...

Day 29 - Friday 9th October)
K & i indulged ourselves in a full on Western day. We started off by taking the train to the Twin Towers (or Petronas Towers, once the tallest building in Asia). Here, we went to the medical centre as both K & I had insect bites that had got infected & knew that we needed antibiotics. Under an hour later, we had had our bites cleaned, received a week of antibiotics & antibiotic cream. (And now, a week later, both of us are healed up)
Then we treated ourselves to a nice lunch (K was craving steak & proper coffee; you can buy Nescafe EVERYWHERE here, but if you want a real coffee, it's a real challenge). And then it was off to Kinokuniya for some extreme book shopping. We spent ages there in the air-conditioned world, safely cocooned off from the real world.
Once back in our guest house, i booked our flights out of KL - Air Asia is great. The cheapest prices & a load of destinations available. And you can do everything on -line. Where did i book us to? Keep reading...
In the evening, we hit the night spots of KL. Not really sure where to go, we asked a taxi driver to take to a bar/drinking area. Think he took us to the posh area because everyone was posing & we felt a bit out place. Then again, maybe that's what everyone does in KL? Later on we found an Irish bar a bit out of town, which was a lot more our style.
And so another day ended.

Day 30 (Saturday 10th October)
Unsurprisingly, has a slow start to that day. We walked to Little India to have a curry lunch - again, what else would you eat there?!
This restaurant specialised in something a bit different - Southern Indian food. Or was it Northern? I can't remember which it was; all i know is that most Indian restaurants specialise in one type, and this one specialised in the other. And it did taste different. It still tasted like curry, but more earthy & it was good too.
The afternoon was a bit of right-off, both of us went back to sleep in readiness for the evening. In the evening, we (once again) satisfied out Western food cravings in a BIG way & went to TGI Fridays. Ever since K had their Jack Daniel's glazed beef ribs in Japan, he has been craving them again. So off we went. And i had a really good steak & mashed potatoes. Cravings satisfied, we found a cavern of a bar with live music, called Rum Jungle. Was a fun place & we discovered that the service improved wonderfully once we started tipping the staff. Our glasses were never empty & staff were always available for an order. Tipping isn't really done here, and similar to other (Asian?) countries, people don't really pay the staff much attention, let alone courtesy. So, by being nice & tipping, we ended up having an enjoyable evening.
But it wasn't over. I wanted to see the England vs Ukraine game (in hindsight, it wasn't a good decision) so we got a taxi to the Irish pub (again). On the way there, we had the wonderful & entertaining driver, a 3rd generation Indian Malaysian. He told us about his family & that he has 9 kids. Yup, NINE! He also told the funny story about how he and his wife had trouble getting pregnant for the first few years of their marriage. They went to the doctor & had lots of tests & stuff & finally she pregnant. Then again & again & again. Finally, taxi driver went back to the doctor (after baby number 4) and asked the doctor to stop them getting pregnant. The doctor said, "First, you ask me to help you get babies. And you get babies. But now, you ask me to STOP you getting babies?! I kill you!!!" The taxi driver driver went on to comment that " the factory is now closed". He was a really lovely man & seemed full of life & joy, despite working a hard job & hours.
After that, the England game was a disappointment. Luckily, I beat K at a few games of pool afterwards, so the evening wasn't a complete waste...

Day 31 (Sunday 11th October)
This day marked exactly one month of travelling. Seemed like ages ago since we left Germany & we certainly have entered a different world.
Today was another travelling day, luckily this day didn't involve buses but aeroplanes. First of all, we got ourselves to the airport, which was a bit of a challenge because, for some unknown reason, K's cash card wouldn't work in any ATMs. Meant we didn't have enough money to even GET to the airport. But we took the train one stop & found out that we could buy tickets for the airport express train with Visa card. Yeah for plastic Santa! Once we arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Aiport (KLIA), we had to take a shuttle bus to LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal - they really like their acronyms here). The bus driver was completely crazy - i think he was a wannabe NASCAR driver or something. Was very glad (& grateful) to reach LCCT in one piece.
Checked in, had lunch, then waited at the gate. And guess what? Our plane was delayed. Luckily, it was only delayed about 40 minutes, so nothing too horrible.
And then we boarded. LCCT is very Low Cost. They have no passengers bridges to board the plane - everyone has to walk outside to their plane & walk up the stairs. I think it would even be quite easy to walk to the wrong plane & end up somewhere you weren't planning to go because no one checked out ticket once we were on the plane. Luckily, we did get the right plane & two hours after taking off, we arrived in...

We are finally in the Southern hemisphere; K's first trip, my 4th. Hello everyone down here - nice to be in your half of the world...
We decided to stay in Kuta - lots of choices to stay, eat, drink & relatively easy to get out of. On arrival into town, both K & I were a bit overwhelmed & immediately wanted to leave. It was just too much - noisy, crowded, busy. All the tourists there seemed drunk, all the locals were trying to sell you stuff - it was a bit too much. I wasn't expecting the chaos of Bangkok in a small place like Kuta. But that's what it felt like. Mad.
However, K & I soon realised that being in Kuta is a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" And once we found out where the Happy Hours were (i think it's possible to drink at a Happy Hour somewhere for 24 hours in Kuta), things rapidly improved. Kuta is not a place to relax & enjoy nature/beach. It's the Australians Ibiza or Mallorca. You need to let go of any pre-conceptions, morals, healthiness & just enjoy the craic.
And here's a question for any Australian out there - WHY? You have such a beautiful country, with beautiful weather so why would you choose to go Kuta?

Day 32 (Monday 12th October)
Today was a day of anniversaries, one sad & one happy.
Being in Kuta, it's hard to miss the memorial to the 2002 Bali bombings. It's right in the middle of the drinking area, near where the bombings occurred. 12th October is the anniversary of the bombings & there were tributes in town & family members came to the memorial. It's pretty sobering looking at the memorial, seeing all the names listed by country, with Australia having the majority. Having wondered around Kuta, it's hard to imagine how things must have been that night. Already Kuta is a crazy place, but trying to imagine how emergency services got anywhere near the scene is impossible.
On a happier note, today was our two-anniversary. Two years of Germany vs England. And still smiling - yeah for that!
The day itself was pretty uneventful, although there seemed to be extra police (with bug guns) wandering around. And each club/bar seemed to have at least one security guy with a big gun. And by big gun, i don't mean a pistol. These guys had semi-automatic machine guns (so K reliably informed me). K also noticed that every bar had a security check for all local males. They all got patted down, while the drunken foreigners could stagger in unchecked. Makes sense i guess (in hindsight)
K and i again sampled the delights of various happy hours and had a fun evening. At one point, a very very drunken Australian came over to our table with (for some unknown reason) a German style military tin hat on. He offered it to K to try on, which he did & then we had the following (bizarre) conversation:
Oz Guy: You look German
Me: He is German
OG: Yeah, I hate f**king Germans!
Me: No, he REALLY is German.
OG: Yeah, I hate f**king Germans.
Me: No, this guy here REALLY is German. From Germany.
Here, Oz Guy started processing what he was hearing, in a very slow way. You could virtually see the cogs rotating. Then, there was a look of realisation on his face; he high-fived Kevin, took his army hat & wandered off back to his mates (who he said were f**king Swedish)
Ah yes, the joys of drunkenness...

Day 33 (Tuesday 13th October)
Today was another slow one - that's what seems to happen after an evening of happy hours; surprise surprise!
But we did book our tickets out of Bali.
And in the evening, K & I satusfied our Japanese food cravings, by going to Fukutaro ("The Best Japanese food on Bali" apparently) K had ramen & gyoza; I had natto-maguro & sushi; we both had miso soup. And it was good! I forgot how much i love the sticky stinkiness that is natto.
We ended our evening by buying a couple of convenience store beers, heading back to our place & playing poker on the balcony.

Day 34 (Wednesday 14th October)
An early start as we had to get the boat out of Kuta. We decided to take the easiest option, which was also more expensive. But it was worth it. We got picked up at our place, driven to the port, had our bags put on & taken off the boat & at 7:30 in the morning, all that service was VERY welcome. Our boat ride was 2 hours over rough seas, as we had to cross the Lombok Strait (in between Bali & Lombok) Luckily, the weather was good, so the crew said that we had a relatively smooth crossing. Still, for me, it was a tad scary...
And now, here we are in the Gili Islands, on Gili Trawangan.
Here is really beautiful, a real tropical paradise. No cars, no motorbikes, nothing with any kind of engine (except the generators). The only forms of transport round the island are foot, bicycle or horse.
On our arrival here, I volunteered to go and find ourselves a place to stay. I wandered off in the direction (or so i thought) of where the majority of place to stay are. I managed to go in completely the wrong direction. Now, that's not too shocking, but if you look at the map of Gili Trawangan, you have, basically, two choices - clockwise or anti-clockwise. Somehow, i managed to get us a place at the North end of the island, instead of the South (where i had intended on going). Luckily, the island isn't very big - only 3k long and 2k wide, so it isn't too much of a hassle. Actually, where we are is a bit nicer because we away from the action & it's a lot less developed at 'our end' of the island. Also, we have an outside bathroom which i am enjoying a lot more than i expected. There's something really nice about taking a shower in the sunshine.

Day 35 (Thursday 15th October)
A nice slow day with lots of sleeping time.
K did manage to book some diving though. And we had a nice dinner overlooking the dark waters in between Trawangan & Meno.
What's really interesting here in the Gilis is that the landscape is completely different than in Bali. Apparently, the Gilis/Lombok is the edge of a different zoogeographical area, with a mix of Asia & Australasian wildlife, whereas Bali & eastwards is purely Asian wildlife. And it is very apparent - here the trees are more bush-like & the environment isn't as lush as we've been used to up till now. Still, it is really beautiful but in a different way. If you want to learn more search for "Wallace Line" on the internet; he's the guy that first identified this difference & put his name to it.

And that's where i am today, sitting in an internet cafe. But if i look to my right, i can see beautiful blue ocean with little boats bouncing around, with Gili Meno lurking in the background. And i do have to admit that i am enjoying my rare moment of air-con while i update you all...


Jacquelenedanica said...

i just found out that u were a TB patient before. btw, im malaysian, staying in KL now. im now having tb, and new to tb :( how was ur tb? and how was ur trip to malaysia? ^^

j-ster said...

Re Aussies in Bali - why? Cos its cheap, and close, and easygoing. Its "overseas" and there is enough of a culture shock to feel like you have gone somewhere. Its pretty close for "overseas", and the Balinese people are very tolerant of Aussie dickhead behaviour. And once it became established as a Tourist Destination then the prices got even cheaper and it became The Thing To Do. And the Balinese beaches and coast became very dirty and cluttered with tourist facilities very quickly. Kinda sad really. But I reckon I could go to Pt. Douglas for about the same price as Bali, but the shopping in Bali is much cheaper once I get there.

Sarah and I stayed at Gili Trawangan many moons ago. I loved the little beachside huts where you culd crash out, drink cocktails and watch movies, and the pool at the hotel which serves excellent nasi goreng. Ahh, natsukashiii!