Thursday, November 24, 2016

Escape to Lembongan

Again from the infinite backlog...

The madness and mayhem associated with The Hustle in Seminyak finally boileth over, and it's time for us to escape to some quieter shores. We've poked around and discovered a nearby and tiny island, Nusa Lembongan, that might be a little more our flavor.


Man, I was super tan

We climb into a totally safe boat that will shuttle us across to Lembongan, only half an hour or so away. Upon making landfall, we get a glimpse of the village of Lembongan itself, and it's about a thousand times less insane than Seminyak. The resort at which we've booked has a "shuttle service," which translates loosely to "sliding around in the bed of a truck with broken suspension," but beggars shall not be choosers and we have no idea where we're going, anyway.


Boat mode

Moreso on this island, but pretty much everywhere we will go in Bali, roads are not marked, quality of road surface is not indicative of the importance of the road, and while some roads go everywhere, other roads go nowhere. We make mental notes of the numbers and relative placements of the smoldering plastic fires we pass in case we need to find our way back down. #halfkidding


Always work to be done

Upon reaching Poh Manis, our accommodation, all stress of the previous stretch of days melts away. It's absolutely lovely, and it's cheap as chips (I want to recall it being something like $25/night). I'm nearly back to eating regularly, too, and their food is quite good.


Poh Manis dining area


Our little bungalow


Mosquito nets ain't just for show

Of course, the resort offers free wi-fi, which is simply a box that must be ticked to attract the interest of young travelers. However, it's not much more than a ticked box, as "free wi-fi" usually means that one can see the tangled and chewed wires running from the router up a rickety pole to some sort of obsolete directional antenna. This results in giving up on making precious instabook updates in the interest of preserving sanity; the internet simply isn't fun at 14.4kbps.


View down to Nusa Ceningan


In case of an emergency, pathway lighting will guide you

While we wouldn't have dreamed of riding a scooter in Seminyak, fearing instant catastrophe, here we're totally keen to splash out the $7/day for one. It's a much safer environment in which to figure things out, and much like a teenager brandishing a newly-minted driver's license, the scooter represents Freedom.


Dutch neighbor in morning light

We've got a few days to hang out here and enjoy all that the little island has to offer, and we're beyond relieved to have escaped The Hustle and to have found our groove. More Lembongan to come!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ubud Bike Tour

The other thing about the child holding the balloon is that his focus inevitably wavers and the balloon slips out of his grasp. But enough about that.

We've signed up to do this eco bike tour around Ubud, which hilariously starts with a two-hour ride on the bus built mostly from NOx fumes and partially held together with bits of steel, rubber, and Fear. I'm rather keen for some exercise, but what I don't yet know is that this is the bike tour for lazy people, wherein they drive you to the top and you coast down.

We start with breakfast (well, everyone else eats and I watch) overlooking Mt. Batur and its namesake lake. From there, we hop on our trusty steeds, take approximately three pedal strokes, and pretty much don't have to touch the pedals again for the rest of the trip.


Murphy, radiant, and with coffee

One of our first stops on the tour is a Kopi Luwak plantation, which, if you're not familiar, is the particular variety of coffee where the beans are roasted after being shat out by a furry little beast. To be more specific, the Asian palm civet eats the coffee berries and passes the beans, which are then collected, (cleaned,) and roasted. It's also known as the world's most expensive coffee, and has a raft of hairy eyeballs cast its way by virtue of animal abuse allegations and all other manner of pitfalls that come along with a supply/demand ratio firmly in a farmer's favor.


Roasting away


Aforementioned palm civet

So anyhow we drink the coffee, and it doesn't taste like poo, which is awesome. It also doesn't taste any better than other great coffee, so I'll have a really hard time paying 10x for a cup of it.


Sleepy

We continue on, taking random stops at rice paddies and whatnot, and eventually, someone notices the massive spiderwebs (and spiders) strung comprehensively between power lines, trees, and pretty much anything else in the air worth attaching to. Our guide stops and eagerly disappears halfway up a tree to collect a smallish example of these gargantuan wood spiders, which he then expects us to play with.


Conor is brave, but not enough to leave his shirtsleeve open


Does not care

After we've all booked appointments with our therapists to shake off the shock of this close arachnid encounter (and after our guide replaces it in the tree from which he fetched it), we coast downhill for another while and make a visit to a traditional Balinese family compound.


Welcome


Right after this, she spat, and convincingly

This is quite cool, as they're super deliberate about how the space within the compound is laid out, with highlights like ensuring there's room for all the generations of the family and orienting their temple such that it's pointed towards the highest point on the island. This is also a place where The Hustle has been turned off, so it feels like a calm sanctuary amongst the rest of the mayhem.


Scrubbed regularly, I'm sure


Well hello there

We conclude our home visit by wandering around and meeting all the various barnyard animals, then hop on our gravity-enabled cycle-machines once more.


I see you


Leftover propaganda

I suppose it's time to explain the liquor bottles. It's not booze, it's a gas station. An overwhelming preponderance of vehicle traffic is scooter, and scooters have tiny gas tanks. As such, full-blown gas stations would kinda be overkill, would further burden already-scarce land, and would actually impact traffic patterns as people sought them out. So instead, you're never more than a hundred meters away from a roadside stand with a bunch of gas-filled liquor bottles. In less than two minutes and for about a dollar, you're back underway, and the proprietors always have a grimy filter-rag, too.


All the necessities


Up the guts of a banyan tree

After a final snack stop underneath an enormous banyan tree, we coast the rest of the way down the hill and return to the tour's home base in Ubud. The rest of the crew eats a hearty lunch, and I sip, with great hesitance, on a Coke (remember our fable about the kid with the balloon?), and then all we have to endure is another 2-hour trip on the Tetanus and Carcinogen Express back to Seminyak, where we'll be thrust right back into The Hustle.

Livin' the dream.

-

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ubud Wandering

Hi! I'm the guy who writes less and less frequently. Something about being busy bla bla bla excuses.

-

As we begin to branch out from Seminyak, one of the recommended spots to go do stuff is Ubud. There are bike tours and yoga retreats and mountains 'n stuff, all of which sound lovely, but it's just a spine-wrecking and nausea-inducing two-hour bus ride away through shattered roads, choking traffic, and dense clouds of plastic smoke. Put me in, coach!


Progress

We make a stop at the terraced rice paddies of Tegalalang, which are cool, but the Hustle is alive and well here, too. Wanna walk up to that next level? Perhaps you'd consider a donation? Oh, that's all? Got any more? Dude.


The famous terraces


Life groweth

Next stop is Ubud itself, where we've got this eco bike tour thing booked the next day, which deserves its own post. The right thing to do is probably to spend a couple nights in Ubud, thus sparing ourselves the soul-swallowing bus ride back to Seminyak where we're still resident (and then back and forth again the next day...), but we're not yet this smart.

Anyhow, our mission today in Ubud is to visit the Sacred Monkey Forest, which is cool, but the Hustle is alive and well here, too, except this time it's the monkeys.

God forbid you wear a hat or glasses or carry any visible food, because if you do, a shrieking monkey will stalk you, climb on you, steal your shit, and then go hold it hostage for a piece of fruit. Our mate Ruby even acquires a for-realz monkey bite and gets to buy a few rabies shots. Lucky girl.


Eh?


Mission accomplished

At the end of the day and after a couple of really nice meals/snacks, we return to Seminyak to practice our Hustle Avoidance Skills for a couple more days, but we have located a driver who's down with the whole photo stop thing, so that's sweet.


Rural scene


Soggy feet

Unfortunately, most of my memories of this day are tainted by the spectre of clenching my exhaust valve like a toddler holding a helium balloon (see aforementioned note about GI problems, and in case the simile doesn't compute for you, the answer is "with singular and consuming focus"), but I'm a trooper, and promise to only complain about it to anonymous strangers on the internet instead of my travel companions.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Uluwatu and Wedding

Well, it now appears that I write blog posts once a quarter, so perhaps this is a good indication of what my day job workload has been like.

Anyhow, continuing on with photos from our trip to Bali, I have noted that the purpose of our trip was a wedding for Ethel's BFF from Ireland, who now lives in Perth. Bali is a cheap, nearby, and boozy holiday for the Aussies, but it's a lot further from nearly anywhere but Western Australia.

The wedding party is staying well afield from Seminyak and in the greater Uluwatu area. They've rented a pretty epic villa, which most definitely wasn't built with drug money, and it provides a welcome respite from the madness of Seminyak. Unfortunately, it takes an hourlong taxi ride on utterly decrepit roads to get there, so the trek there is an adventure in and of itself.


Wedding night moon

This villa overlooks the Indian Ocean, and the views are correspondingly amazing. No wedding photos to share as they had that department covered.

The next day affords us the opportunity to explore a little bit more around Uluwatu and its cliffs and temples.


Missteps punished here


Temple carvings


One of many examples of Hanuman

Wedding hangovers subsiding, we then return to the villa for a markedly less formal party, a refreshing break from the pomp and circumstance of the day prior.


Horrible villa

The afterparty quickly devolves into all sorts of shenanigans, a direct consequence of putting a bunch of vacationing Irish and Aussies in close proximity to a supply of alcohol.


Coming through


On the catwalk


Good lift from the footy team

After this party, the wedding-related festivities have come to a close, so we're free to move about the country for the duration of our stay. We've got a few more days of being based in Seminyak and its Hustle, but we're ready to go explore and see what there is to see!

-

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Seminyak

Our MEL layover is the price of admission for cheap passage to Bali. Ethel's childhood bestie is getting married there and it's the type of shindig that's not to be missed. When we get off the plane, we're flattened by the heat and humidity, and this is followed in short order by the extortion visa fee at passport control. Minutes beyond this, we are thrust directly into the maelstrom of The Hustle: every two seconds, we're solicited for something or other (ride to town, carry your bags, directions to the ATM, etc etc etc). It's a taste of what we'll experience over the duration of our stay, and it's oppressive. We've got a ride prearranged, and my instinct in cases like this is to act like I belong (and mind my valuables), but that's an impossibility in a place like Indonesia.

When we find our ride, I'm ready to tune out the world in the relative safety of the car. Hahahahaha. Entering the flow of traffic is unlike anything I've ever experienced in many tens (hundreds?) of thousands of miles of driving (I think I'll write more about traffic in Bali later on). Our route takes us down progressively more ridiculous streets until we're finally in a dead-end alley so narrow that the driver must stop at a cutout so that the car doors can open.

Anyhow, we have successfully arrived, in one piece, at the villa we're sharing with 6 other people, so we drop our bags and immediately retreat across the street for a cocktail. Having a 10pm introduction to the madness of Seminyak is amply disorienting...sights, sounds, and smells all make equal assaults.

Anyhow, our villa is lovely and serves as a ready respite from the madness down the alley, around the corner, and in the whirlwind of Seminyak's main drag:


Quite nice!

We've got a few days in Seminyak, and I can't say that I've got much nice to say about it. Between the drunken Aussies, the din of car horns, and the oppressive humidity, the silver linings are few and far between. I count them as discovering an awesome coffee shop, being able to relax in the villa's relative silence, and oh wait that's about it.

Also, I pretty rapidly contract some sort of bug, probably from eating salad or the ice in a drink or something, and enjoy this as my primary view for a couple of days:


Game of Throne

While some of the other places we'll go don't feel as sketchy, Seminyak itself feels -super- sketchy to me, so I usually don't even take the camera with me when we go wandering. In hindsight, I was probably overly cautious, but my general approach when traveling is to be as small of a target as possible.

Beyond the "small target" effort and the "leaky gut" escapade, a fair bit of bandwidth goes toward not dying. Pitfalls are around every corner - they include, but are not limited to: exposed rebar, jagged open drains, rabid dogs, insane drivers, Australians, corrupt police, heat, humidity, carcinogenic plastic smoke, and machetes. As facetious as I may come off, these charming dangers are actually a lot of the fun of traveling. I know that we could, wallets permitting, be whisked off via helicopter to some exclusive resort, but that's not really experiencing a place, is it?


Naptime


Standard state of disrepair

I take particular notice of this scaffolding right down the alley from our villa. I don't have my camera with me the day prior when it's twice as high and five times as sketchy, but you get the idea.


Totally fine

We do find some nice cafes and whatnot. Unfortunately, I have just recently finished reading Snowing in Bali, and it's hard for me to look at any capital-intensive (and conspicuously empty) restaurant and assume that it's not built on bales of coke.


Well-presented


Ditto


Deliberate vintage

Ah, whatever. Still a nice spot for breakfast.

Perhaps more noteworthy than these various sources of discomfort is that there's a huge disparity between wages and the cost of all things related to tourism; it feels extremely exploitative towards the Balinese. This is my first time traveling somewhere "dirt cheap," so maybe I'm just extra-attuned to it, but the general theme is that of squalor just over the wall of every four-star resort, and it's quite hard to reconcile. This is another topic that will be a recurrent theme as I take you on a fair and balanced tour of the place :)

While it's unfortunate that Seminyak itself is the lowlight of the trip for me, it does mean that better experiences are in our immediate future!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MEL Layover

On a sunny day last year, Murphy and I find ourselves with just the wrong amount of time in the Melbourne airport...far too long to really feel like staying in an airport, but barely too short to escape and make an excursion into the city for a quick lunch. Changing from being a transiting passenger to a passenger entering Australia and then subsequently having to re-clear security has both time and cost implications, and Tullamarine isn't right by Melbourne's CBD, either.

This great indignity means that we do get to explore more of MEL than we would have otherwise, and it happens to be a pretty quiet day in the terminal, so we find ourselves enjoying an atypical luxury in an airport - isolation. Entire departure areas without a soul in sight are seemingly around every corner!

Of course, this means that I've got ample time to wander around with my camera, in between lunch breaks, coffee breaks, duty free breaks, etc.


Mechanical


Patiently waiting


Expanded metal


Spinelike


Pretty bird

When we finally get to board our flight, the day is nearly gone. It's my first time on a 787, and while it feels pretty much like any other plane, we're theoretically going to be less jet-lagged on the far side thanks to the lower cabin altitude. All that aside, I do manage to catch some great Australian sunset light on the engine and wing.


787 at sunset

Next stop DPS!

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Past Detritus