Leaving Indonesia/Kuala Lumpur at a Glimpse

Let me start by saying that yesterday Wayne informed me that I’d been misspelling “TrawaNgan” for… the entirety of the time I’d ever mentioned it ever. Even though it was blatantly on maps, even though our dive center was called Trawangan Dive (and as I was sure to mention, twice, we were given a T-shirt with the name on it! I have a T-shirt proudly heralding “Trawangan Dive” and I consistently left out that poor, unsuspecting ‘n.’), even though I must have done about a trillion searches on things to do/places to stay/etc etc on the island. No wonder I only got second place at that spelling bee in 6th grade (did you know ‘commotion’ has 2 m’s? Me neither.) So if you’ve been secretly laughing at me from behind your finger tips (you know, Asian-style), the jig’s up, and I think I’ve gone and corrected all of my errors (except, however painfully, in the title frame of my snorkeling video). *hangs head in shame*

I’m also not thrilled about how I’ve chosen to throw these two independent events into one hodgepodge post, but there weren’t substantial photos or stories for each one independently and really I’m just trying to get all this tomfoolery out of the way at this point.

Leaving Indonesia was a bit of a race against the clock that saw us in variety of vehicles (little boats, big boats, horse-drawn carriages, minibuses, airplanes, buses, taxicabs), on three islands in two countries in eighteen hours, all while a fear-inducing earthquake was going on in another area of the country (unbeknownst to us until hours later in the Bali airport, though there were some significant swells on our Lombok-Bali crossing). The needed funds for diving didn’t come through until the morning of the day we needed to be on our way to Malaysia (albeit on a midnight flight). At this point we were really kicking ourselves for pre-booking that “slow boat” return trip, because we realized that we’d really be pushing it if the trip ended up taking us another 12 hours.

Thankfully it didn’t. There weren’t any of the same delays and in general the return trip seemed to go much smoother (in spite of the fact that there were subaquatic tremblings just a few islands away? Okay, I’m definitely making things sound worse than they were… the quake was off the coast of Sumatra, which is really really far from where we were. In fact, we’d have been closer if we’d still been in Thailand!). I supposed it helped that I was completely immersed in Catching Fire for much of the journey.

couldn’t very well leave the lombok area without a ride in one of these could we?!

more lombok rice.

taxi through lombok.

lolzlolzlolz. suppose they’re in no danger of being sued then, hey?

photo from the lombok-bali ferry. these girls were so cute to me. and with the baby? precious.

another leg completed.

So yes, made it to the airport with plenty of time, slept like a rock on the 2 hour flight to KL, and woke up to the wee hours and yet another bus-then-taxi to Chinatown, where we’d planned on making our base. We’d made no prior reservations and finding an affordable-enough-(for-us) place at 3 in the morning was no pleasant chore, but we were eventually successful.

breakfast at the nameless place we stayed the first night. the focus of this picture was the pepper paired with ‘sauce salty,’ (aka soy sauce, as a salt replacement. not exactly what i was imagining on my veggie omelet… ohhh china[town])

Our first morning, at breakfast on the balcony overlooking the famous Petaling Market street, was awash in China memories for me. Certain smells, lots of sounds, the lanterns, the iconic characters (some of which I was still able to recognize after a desperate attempt to learn to read a bit of Chinese in my last 2 months there. Disclaimer: it’s recommended to allow oneself more time than this to learn such a language.)… I can safely say there was a good deal of nostalgia happening.

amazing! i only just noticed the ‘economy rice homeland various fried’ sign.

i think i captured everyone in this photo at their absolute best.

This only increased as we walked around the area in search of a new place to stay. We ended up choosing Ribbon Stayyz Guesthouse, as seen on Travelfish.org, which was… okay. I’d surely be singing their praises if they’d actually posted me the forgotten items of art we left in the room, as they sent me an email assuring me they’d do, but the package has never arrived and any subsequent email has gone unanswered so, I’m sticking to “okay.” We stayed in a dorm room (with no windows) the first night with a Malaysian couple, and were moved to a much less-well-taken-care-of double room (with no windows) the second night, and were paying about the same that we paid in Ubud and more than we’d been paying on Gili T. Which made this:

(small scrolls of art we’d hoped to have sent to us hiding somewhere in those discarded bags…)

just a little disappointing. But I suppose that’s the big city for you, innit?! Oh, did I mention the entrance to the guesthouse was tucked in the back of a convenience store?

Though I think it’s safe to say we were a bit rundown and worn out by the time we made it to KL, we still tried to enjoy the city to its fullest. Had some great meals and saw some of the city’s major sites (including the Times Square mall, where we watched The Hunger Games on the big screen. Simple pleasures!). Note: the dazzling Petronas Towers are getting their own post.

kickapoo joy juice. in retrospect we really should have given this a go.

shame, we never got to see the inside of the famed jamek mosque. first it was closed and then it was too rainy to make our way back!

the times square mall has a theme park in it.

turns out there’s another ‘famous’ tower in KL… the ‘KL tower,’ as it were. but i mean, it’s tough competition in this city…

day 2

wait… they don’t love you like i love you.


Off to Gili T

Wow, I’m falling so behind! I just sorted all my pictures this morning to find that, including this post, I have at least 5 others simply to conclude the Indonesia/Kuala Lumpur adventures. More for Jack and Grace’s visit and subsequent jaunt to Koh Jum and Tonsai. One more for our strange but exciting adventure to Krabi with a Thai friend (as tagalongs on his IT company getaway? I feel like it’s fine.). Nevermind that, to draw from that old Muse ditty, our time is running out from a “have-to-go-to-school-but-not-actually-do-anything-school-oriented” perspective. Have picked up extra classes at a local learning academy, maybe start our adult classes back up today, begin teaching the local policemen this Thursday, and real classes resume next Thursday. Oh free time, I hardly knew thee…

So without further ado. After five-or-so glorious days in Bali, it was time to explore one of Indonesia’s other 16,999 islands: Gili Trawangan. The Gili Islands had come strongly recommended to us from a number of sources, particularly if we were keen to do some diving, which we most definitely were. Though “Gili” simply means “island” in (one of) the Indonesian language(s), “the Gilis” refer to three little islands between the larger islands of Bali and Lombok. Of these Gili Trawangan is the westernmost, the biggest, the most happenin’, and contains the most syllables so henceforth will be called simply “Gili T.”

We (read: Wayne) had done some research on the best way to get from Bali to Gili T. Judging from the map above, it doesn’t look too bad, right? Well, sure… we could have done it in +/- 2 hours direct (I never ever ever saw or heard of an option to do it in 1 hour, 15 minutes, despite what the map suggests)… if we had a profession other than teaching, in a place other than Thailand, receiving a currency that was even moderately desirable to the Indonesian moneychangers. And you know, even with all these factors in place, I think it would have been likely we’d have dished out double fare for the “fast boat” if anyone in Bali had been honest with us about what the “slow boat” would entail. But we don’t, and they didn’t, so we didn’t. Twice.

(In layman’s terms, we paid half price for what turned out to be a 12 hour journey, having been assured it would be no more than six. And before leaving the first time, were conned into upgrading our one-way tickets to return journeys; they swore tickets would cost more on Gili T and this sounded logical to us. As it turned out Gili T was surprisingly affordable in almost every way, considering that everything, including fresh water, must be imported.)

So how, exactly does that seemingly itty bitty journey take up half a day? I guess, really, it’s a problem of semantics. It’s just that “slow boat” is a bit of a misnomer. “Slow boat that leaves two hours late, takes four hours, drops passengers on Lombok + Rickety ‘taxi’ to take passengers on a tumultuous hour-long journey to another pier on Lombok + Another hour wait at that pier + Longtail boat that drops passengers at Gili Air before proceeding on to Gili T” would be more accurate, but I suppose it is quite a mouthful.

Still, it was an adventure, we met a nice English chap on the first boat who works on yachts and had lots of entertaining stories, and got to see snippets of Lombok (even it was just briefly and slightly terrifying). I guess I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

saying goodbye to ka-de-ka, our bff at sagitarius guesthouse.

funny zodiacs at the place that convinced us to buy a return ticket. i now suspect them of having put them there intentionally to distract us and keep us from making good decisions. still got a chuckle, and the synopsis is pretty accurate for me (minus the ‘tidy’ part…)!

sorry wayne, all girls are finish. but i now understand why you’ve taken towards leadership amongst children and small anymals.

view from the boat. nice scenery, anyway.

Oh! Jeez, before I forget I have to share another example about why the whole trip was a big boatload of bizarre (no pun intended, the alliterative opportunity was too much for me to pass up). We sat up front in the air-conditioned section– a privilege one man tried to suggest was not free when he came around taking a collection. He had no uniform and didn’t push the issue when we raised our eyebrows at him in skepticism, so we figure it was a con. Next thing we knew there was a horrible racket coming from the un-airconditioned portion of the boat that we couldn’t identify. It grew louder and louder until a man entered our room– simply shouting and making horrible, indistinguishable noises with his mouth, and asking for money. We couldn’t tell if he was demonstrating deafness (honestly or otherwise) or if he was just hoping people would pay him to shut up. Eventually he left but it was a very strange series of minutes. Also there was a food-selling woman outside as we were waiting for the boat to arrive who kept insisting that Wayne and I kiss each other and offering us discounts on bottles of water for each kiss (I can’t remember if she made good on such promises or not). Weird, wild stuff

at our first pier in lombok.

passed loads of rice fields in lombok.

Then we went through these flooded streets:

Not pictured: Stopping to pick up the driver’s sister, brother-in-law, and baby nephew on the side of the road (the van was already quite full).

Also not pictured: The stomach-churning hairpin turns of a brief mountain journey, or the monkeys seen along the road that served as the silver lining.

these little guys were seen throughout lombok. how charming! (kind of… until you saw how emaciated some of the horses were…)

ready for the last leg.

sittin on the dock of the bay…

goodbye lombok!

The biggest problem with our longer-than-expected journey was that our friends weren’t teachers in Thailand and so had no qualms dishing out the big bucks for the quicker journey; we’d arranged to just meet at 3 o’clock at the pier. Unfortunately we only arrived at 7 o’clock with no way to contact them. The island’s quite small with only one main road, so (after settling for a room in the first guesthouse we came across [henceforth known as “the Stank Room” for self-explanatory reasons but with a charismatic owner named Romi who consistently referred to us as his “[expletive] best guests!!!!“]) we figured if we sat in a prominent place it wasn’t unlikely that they might come strolling by at some point.

What luck! We’d just finished some delicious fish and a happy hour mojito (happy hours generally last a long, long time in Asia) when Greg appeared just down the road. The girls apparently were tired and wanted to stay in, but Greg was happy to stay out with us for the weekly Wednesday night bonanza at “the Irish Bar” (it had another name but knowing it wasn’t necessary… you just had to follow the crowds to find the party). Luckily he had a convenient way to shoot back quickly to relay this information to his companions…

there are no motorized vehicles on the gilis! bicycles and horse-drawn carriages it was. this little thing was lent to him by one of the employees at the restaurant.

(for the record that’s my bathing suit top that you can see…)

reunited and it feeeels so gooooood…

good times with new south african and french friends!

Just what we deserved after a long day traveling!