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.

Riding Around Gili T

photos of passersby during one of our last lunches on the island

Though Gili Trawangan is quite a small island, it’s not a bad idea to rent a bike as a more efficient (and enjoyable!) way to get around the island. In fact, sometimes it fels as if there are more bikes than people as you make your way past and between the handlebars and wheels, or are forced to jump out of the way for the millionth time when yet another shrill dingding harasses you from behind. I suppose at this point it doesn’t bear repeating that there are no motorized vehicles of any kind on the island, so if the feet are starting to feel tired bikes and horse-drawn carriages are the only options on the table. I saw rental prices ranging between 20,000Rupiah and 50,000Rupiah, so don’t be afraid to shop around and negotiate. (We only inquired into a horse-drawn carriage once and found it to be a non-negotiable 50,000Rupiah– for one ride– if you were interested. Not sure what other drivers were charging.)

As I mentioned earlier, we actually had a slight mishap with our bikes… Our friends had assured us they hadn’t been locking their bikes and had experienced no problems. So, when stopping for one quick happy hour drink, we decided to follow suit. And returned 30 minutes later to find Wayne’s bike gone. Amazingly, the next day he was able to spot it tucked away in another bar’s ‘parking lot’ (for lack of better term) and we were able to enjoy the bikes the way God intended– by taking leave of the tourist-ridden perimeter of the island, and instead entering the maze of local agriculture (and normal culture, I guess) in the island’s interior. I will say I had scenes from Ladri di Bicicletti (The Bicycle Thief– or perhaps its oft-heralded parody, The iPhone Thief) coursing through my head for the near entirety of the search. Guess that’s what happens when you major in History and minor in Media Studies, even three years after graduation (whoa, I think tomorrow might be the official anniversary? Blood still runs blue and orange!)…

Anyway after re-securing what was rightfully, temporarily, ours it was time to let our intrepid natures take over and see what was awaiting us in the lush labyrinth of Gili T. We found a completely different side of the island… quiet, rural, and perfectly charming. It was a nice surprise as someone had assured us there was ‘nothing’ awaiting us there! (Though I guess maybe it’s a matter of semantics…)

can’t tell you how many different spellings of ‘laundry’ we encountered…

most of these pictures were taken from my bike, so excuse the blurriness… though i feel it almost adds to this one?

they start ’em early in the sticks.

a close encounter!

he was searching for something in the brush.

The next day we decided to go for a ride around the circumference of the island– something that only took one long, taxing hour on account of the few sandy stretches we’d always attempt to power through even though nine times out of ten it would require getting off the bike and pushing. It was still a neat way to see everything the island had to offer. (Okay, maybe not everything.)

entering sandy territory…

lombok visible in the distance (or is it bali?)

flip flop tree

island goats? i’ll allow it.

here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

my bike in all its glory, with a cute sea turtle emblazoned building.

So that’s that. Slowly but surely reaching the end.

And now I gotta run– testing out Jess and Danny’s balsamic salmon recipe and it’s almost time to throw it in the oven! Can’t waitttt.

Scuba Diving off Gili T

Finalement! Internet up and running (though not without another unsightly cable running from the telephone post to our house… though thankfully a bit more discreetly up into our bedroom window as opposed to blatantly forming a trip-wire for Ollie in the living room as it was before), computer holding on for another day (barely), and the behemoth diving post well under way. We discovered Trawangan Dive primarily because we fell for a gimmick: we noticed a swim-up bar along one of the main stretches we found ourselves walking daily, and then realized it was part of a dive center with a cool logo. Since we knew there was a price agreement policy amongst all the dive shops on the island, we knew we weren’t going to have to shop around for the best price (we were told the other advantage of this is that we know no one is cutting costs by skimping on safety measures. Hooray!); instead we were going to leave it up to the “feel” we got when we went and inquired at the shops.

going down!

Before going we’d “tossed around” the idea of going to the next level of PADI certification and doing our Advanced Course. I put that in quotes because by the time we left we were both 97% sure we were going to do it, and upon arriving on the island and seeing the potential the waters held, that had jumped up to a solid 110%. The first guy available when we walked through the shop, Adam, assured us that Advanced Courses were really easy to schedule due to their pick-and-choose nature, but also that he’d just started another guy on his Advanced that very day and we were welcome to join in. When he told us the course came with a free T-shirt we decided we’d definitely gotten the desired “feel” from the dive shop and signed right up. The way the PADI Advanced Course works is that divers must complete five dives, each with a different focus. The two required dives are the Deep Dive (where you reach a max depth of 30 meters/100 feet) and the Navigation Dive (you’re given a compass and must perform a series of navigation tasks underwater). The other three are optional, and we decided we wanted to do a Night Dive, a Nitrox Dive, and a Photography Dive. (For the full list of options and general course descriptions go here.)

so many fishies

The all-encompassing statement I tend to give about the Gili diving is, “It was so good.” Our first dive was the Deep Dive at a site called Shark Point. We’d actually already dived to 30 meters with Eugene over New Year’s Weekend, but who could pass up the opportunity to dive at a location with such a name?! And it didn’t fail to disappoint– we saw two white-tipped reef sharks, as well as some sea turtles, an amazing banded sea snake, and a ton of other stuff that I’ve forgotten in the near-month since it happened.

coral detail

Dive Two, that same afternoon, was the Nitrox Dive. Nitrox can be cool because, for a bunch of complicated scientific reasons, it allows you to stay at greater depths for longer due to the more nitrogen-rich blend of gases in the diver’s tank. It’s usually a bit more expensive, but a good skill to have. As it turns out, we could have probably spared ourselves the extra 100,000 Rupiah for the special tanks and called it a Drift Dive (another of the Advanced Certification options). Drift Dives take place in waters where there is a current– and was there ever a current! In the previous dive there had also been one but for some reason I found it more manageable. On the Nitrox Dive… well the best I can describe the experience as is a mix between the Twister Scene in The Wizard of Oz (only instead of family members and witches flying by there was a variety of sea creatures) and being in the EAC (as seen in Finding Nemo, once Adam had corrected my posture so I wasn’t being so viciously carried by the relentless current and I was able to more properly enjoy the experience). Though we were expecting to have a longer bottom time this actually ended up being our shortest dive, on account of the current bringing us so quickly to our end point and others in our group hitting 50 Bar of air (the lowest amount you should go to before beginning to surface).

At sundown we set out for our Night Dive– something I was a bit more nervous than usual about after experiencing the strong current on the previous dive. I kept having images of me being swept into some black oblivion, never to be seen again. However, I’d heard way too many good things about Night Dives to consider backing out. With Night Dives, it’s all about moving in slow motion– even staying stationary at times– and really closely observing the little things in your direct periphery that are visible with your flashlight. A surprising but perfectly logical factor in Night Dives is that colors that normally get drowned out of natural stand out so much more brilliantly in the close-up beam of a flashlight. Our Night Dive also brought us to a site of ecological bragging rights in the Gilis: one of their Biorock locations. In an attempt to make up for the massive amounts of coral that are dying each year, conservation groups have created enormous wire “cages” with a slight electric charge running through them. Coral, which normally grows at the glacial rate of one centimeter per year, grows five times faster when assisted by this charge. It’s a work in progress, but seems to be an ingenius way of preserving and even creating new coral reefs. Besides, huge fish like to sleep in the “cages” at night, which was a bonus for us.

favorite! hey fishy!

Three dives in one day left us pretty knackered indeed, and I know I was feeling some mixed emotions having done all that but knowing I only had two dives left the following day. Still, I was really excited for our Photography Dive the next morning since… well you know how I love taking pictures so, and I’ve really been eager to bring back some concrete memories from the depths. Adam informed us we were in for a treat– we were going to be diving at a site between Gili Meno and Gili Air called Hidden Reef, with lots of gorgeous coral as well as some interesting fish. In other words, a great site for taking photos. In a 40 minute dive I took 150 photos… Here are my 74 favorites :). (Oh, and please, if you stumbled across this blog and have a knack for identifying fish and other marine life, please feel free to clue me into the names of any and all of these things! I’m useless!)

Finally, we were taken to the Bounty Wreck for our fifth and final dive– the Navigation Dive. We completed our navigation tasks easily enough and enjoyed another gorgeous and leisurely dive in the vicinity of the wreck, which was a sunken pier as opposed to an unfortunate ship of some sort. I think the highlight of that dive for me might have been the shy octopus… it did its best to avoid our glances but the way it moved– nay, slunk– around its coral fortress and some lightning-quick color changes made it really memorable for me. There was also a massive school of some… fist-sized orange fish (haha, maybe I really should have done a Fish-ID specialty…) with their translucent juveniles creating an iridescent wall in front of an already-impressive piece of reef that had me really mesmerized for a bit.

everything okay!

cheesin!

Then there was the whole… expired-credit-card fiasco that kept me running back to the dive shop with my tail between my legs for the next three days to explain that the holiday was making it so that I still was lacking the necessary funds for the dives, but eventually they came through and we got our photos and books and official certification (and, of course, T-shirts) and it was a wonderful day for everyone! Thanks so much to Trawangan Dive for such a special experience.

Gili Trawangan

Though we arrived on the island too late to really appreciate the beauty of the surroundings on account of the darkness, come morning it was easy to see why it is so popular (and the potential it held for diving). Crystalline turquoise water, white sand (though not without its fair share of sharp coral in some places!), and self-proclaimed “Turtlle (sic) Points” where majestic sea turtles (and sting rays on one special occasion) could be seen when snorkeling really made for some unique opportunities for us.

By day there were many activities in and out of the water to keep visitors busy: surfing, snorkeling, diving, renting a bike to explore the island inside and out (it only takes a day to do so!), yoga, boat trips to the other islands, or just lazing around with a good book. By night things livened up… there were tons of bars and restaurants to suit any appetite and budget; a central food market with lots of fresh seafood and local fare; and special parties every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at set locations. We were even “lucky” enough to be around for a Full Moon Party! (Explanation of quotes to follow.) I’ll include that when researching the island beforehand we read that as per its reputation as a “party island” we should expect to encounter many offers of drugs during our time on the island; we were indeed approached on occasion by people hawking a variety of narcotics, but it was far from in our faces the entire time and easily avoidable.

Unlike my million-post recap of Bali-by-event, I’m going to bombard you with all of my “general” Gili T pictures from the 5 days we spent there now, with shots from diving (we did a photography dive as one of the Specialties for our Advanced Course… one of the better decisions of my life) and some of our island bike rides to follow in later posts.

not a bad view to wake up to! (not that this was exactly seen directly from the ‘stank room;’ we’d gone to breakfast at a nearby venue.)

one of the bungalows we’d looked at before going was listed at being ‘behind the turtle hatchery’… but for some reason i wasn’t actually expecting a turtle hatchery?

“no naked”. hahaha!

rainbow over on gili air! a nice addition to any afternoon.

night market.

had dinner there one night… black pepper squid and some delicious snapper, courtesy of this sassy lady!

horses in the moonlight.

we did our diving with trawangan dive and were really happy with the experience. as i said i’ll do a full post about the diving but in the mean time i’ll include some shots from the boat.

look at that water! i mean, look at it!!! ridiculous visibility…

the infamous “stank room.” we left it and dear romi after 2 nights to move onto greener pastures.

our new digs at blue star bungalows!

the view. definitely an upgrade!

did i mention we were right next to the turtle viewing point? we must have seen at least four or five while we were staying here. amazing creatures!

So I’d hinted at the possibility that maybe we actually weren’t so “lucky” to be around for the Full Moon Party. It’s not that we weren’t lucky or it wasn’t fun. I just feel that so many people come to Thailand and like, plan their vacations around attending the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan and there’s a lot of hype concerning it and therefore the wrong idea might have been conveyed. First, though the Thai Full Moon Parties have already lost their luster for me anyway, this was nothing of that caliber (complete stretches of bucket vendors along the entire beach, 10,000 people, tons of DJs playing any kind of music you could want to hear, etc etc). There was a bonfire, one bar (that was overpriced and wayyyy too crowded for our liking so whenever it was time for another drink we headed to the nearby Rudy’s Bar, which provided a nice reprieve from the madness), a DJ booth, and (granted) a big crowd of people getting sloppier as the night went on. We had fun, but I wouldn’t call it a crowning moment of the trip by any means. Actually, that makes it quite a lot like the Full Moon Parties I’ve been to in Thailand!

our crew at the onset of the full moon party (please note the guy in the back. though we all look fairly dazzling here i must say he’s my favorite part of the photo.)

gavin (in the middle) did his advanced diving course with us and his friend paul is on the left. not sure on the identity of the indonesian guy haha.

the shark from nemo!

one shot of the full moon haha.

The night of the Full Moon should have been our penultimate night on the island. Should have been. We finished and should have paid for our diving that day, leaving us one last day to enjoy our surroundings before heading back to Ubud for one more shopping day.

Except… we decided to put the courses on my credit card, and, as it turns out, my credit card was expired. (whoops) It so happens that I have a wonderfully generous mother who always comes through in the clutch who was able to transfer me the needed funds at a moment’s notice, but even so, it was Easter Weekend and it took an extra day for them to go through. (whoops) But as Adam, our dive instructor noted, there were worse places we could have been stuck. Can’t really complain about an extra day in paradise, right?

haha, oh yeah! we’d rented bikes the night of the full moon party, and didn’t lock them up because our friends assured us they’d had bikes for 2 days and there was never a problem. plus we were just grabbing one happy hour drink so the risk was low anyway. except wayne’s ended up being taken! (we’re sure it was an accident; there was one just like it at the place we had a drink, but the hotel owners wouldn’t let us take it because we couldn’t prove there had been a mix-up.) so we had to drive around like this for a day until, by some amazing stroke of luck, wayne happened to see his own on the side of the road the next afternoon. how charming though, right? (even if it made for a bit of a sore bum…)

yes please?

sunset on our last night.

one last amazing seafood dinner…

in addition to no motorized transport there are no dogs on gili t! but there are tons of kitties. also if you’re admiring those flip flops i got them in ubud for 25,000 rupiah ($2.50). then someone at the market tried to charge me 80,000 rupiah for the same ones not 30 minutes later! and then ollie destroyed one last week… you’d think after 3 other pairs i’d learn…

So that’s the not-so-brief overview of Gili T…

On a completely unrelated note I’m terrified that the coffee shop in which I currently find myself is closing. I have only my bicycle, and no rain jacket, and it’s completely pouring outside! Guess this gives me time to plan my lesson for the police officers we start teaching tomorrow (assuming the café stays open and I’m not forced to destroy my computer more than it’s already destroyed on account of my dropping it a few months ago…).