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The Indonesia Roundup

5 Feb

map_of_indonesia

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country –  30

Cities/towns visited –  Kuta, Bali; Ubud; Bali, Padang Bai, Bali; Gili Air, Lombok; Sengigi, Lombok; Kuta, Lombok

Number of different lodgings – 7

Flights – 0

Bus journeys – 4

Boat rides – 3

Taxi  journeys – 5

The Budget

indonesia chart

Total US dollar amount spent – $2054.14

Average cost per day, per person – $34.24

Average lodging cost per night, per person – $7.45

Most expensive lodging, per person – $12.50 for a private cabana with bath at Banana Cottages on Gili Air.  It was an ok value, though it would have been better if it included breakfast.  The cabanas were brand new though, and were cleaned every day, which was a huge treat for us.

Least expensive lodging, per person – $3.65 for a private double with bath (cold shower, toilet, no sink) including breakfast at Tri Putri homestay in Kuta, Lombok.  It’s a basic surfer compound but we had our own room with a fan and bathroom, unlimited banana pancakes (really crepes) for breakfast, a little patio area with a  drying rack, and it was just on the edge of the village.

Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $12.20 – We ate out exclusively, everything from $1.00 Mie Goring (the local cheap noodle dish) to more Western style meals, mostly on Gili Air.  We also drank copious amounts of beer.

The Best

Chill Out Bungalows and Bar on Gili Air – This was the most consistently decent Western food we had in Indonesia.  It’s beachfront and they have free wifi that actually works.  They have tables inside, little surfer decks (most have some cover) outside, and lounge chairs on the beach that you can use all day if you order something, even just a bottle of water.

Cheap cheap cheap Magnum ice cream bars.

Corner Warung, in Ubud, Bali (on the corner of JL Raya Ubud and JL Sugriwa) – Really great food for cheaper than comparable places.  The Thai beef salad and the BLT’s are the best.

Tude’s Family homestay in Ubud, Bali (on Sugriwa St not far from where the street branches off from JL Raya Pengosekhan.  There’s also an entrance on Gang Menda.  Call ahead – 081 338 227 008) – It’s walkable from the Perama bus stop and the town center, but far enough out to have a real neighborhood feel.  He’s got two rooms, one with a double bed, one with two twins, both have their own bathrooms.  The rooms are new and spotless, and come with breakfast , afternoon tea, and towels.  Prices vary, depends what you negotiate, but we paid around $7 per person in the shoulder season.

Paying a few dollars to spend the day lounging around at fancy hotel pools.  Lots of places will let you do this, just ask around until you find one you like.  Biyukukung Suites and Spa, on JL Sugriwa #89 near Tude’s is great because it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rice fields.  There’s an upper and a lower pool, the lower is much more private.

Super cheap local food – you can get a plate of Nasi Campur (rice based dish) or Mie Goreng (noodle based dish) for a dollar or two at many local places.  Quality varies, so ask around about good places.  This particular plate we found at a tiny little place in Ubud for $1.  It was pretty good, and Justin ate a total of 3 full plates in one sitting.

We took a cooking class at Casa Luna one day, and we were very pleased with the value.  It’s a group class, so you don’t get to do everything, but there’s TONS of food and it’s really interesting to see the curries made from scratch, especially since they take a fair amount of effort if you are hand grinding all the ingredients.  We took a class on a day with the market tour and it was great to be able to wander around the local market with a guide who could tell us a little more about the food and spices that we were buying to cook with.

The Worst

The never-ending calls of ‘taxi/transport/massage?!?’ you get while walking down the street.

Kuta, Bali.  Wow.  I mean, we somehow just had no idea that Bali is to Australians what Mexico is to Americans, meaning a place to get crazy drunk for super cheap, or a place to stay in nice resorts for a fraction of what you’d pay in Australia.  We were expecting paradise, but Kuta just reminded us of Cancun…only tackier.    It’s the place to be if you want super cheap t-shirts/sarongs and a souvenir penis in the form of a bong, bottle opener, lamp or just about anything else you can imagine and you can get them in wood, plastic, aluminum, or disco ball style.  You can also find a full range of some of the most offensive stickers I’ve ever seen.   Most people end up here for at least a day since the airport is here, but it was our least favorite place in our entire 15 month trip.

Photo Friday – Bali Dragonfly

26 Oct

Last week we were checking out some of the exotic flowers here on Bali and we came across this friendly dragonfly.  He hung out on this flower, staying very still and cocking his little head at me while I took at least a dozen photos.  I got the distinct impression he was as curious about me as I was about him.  After I capped my lens he went about his business and eventually flitted away.

Rediscovering Our Travel Style

16 Oct

Over the last two weeks, between bouts of lazing around on a variety of Indonesian beaches, I’ve had an overwhelming feeling of needing to do something.   Something we can’t do back home.  Something that will capture the essence of the foreign land we are in. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out quite what the something was.

photo by Jaymis on Flickr

Getting sucked into yet another guidebook…

In the last 6 months our travel has been faster paced than we are used to.  We’ve focused on visiting some really historical places, some of which we probably won’t get the opportunity to visit again, and we wanted to make sure we really used our time well.  The problem with this that we lost track of how we usually like to travel, which is slowly.  When I imagine a perfect day I see myself sitting at an outdoor café all afternoon just people-watching.  Or perhaps I’m wandering through the neighborhoods, checking out the houses, peeking into the local restaurants, or drifting around in the market.  This doesn’t mean I don’t also want to take a walking tour in a new city, or check out the museums and galleries, or hit up the famous towers and temples and churches, but I need there to be a balance between these different kinds of days.   Unfortunately, somewhere between dashing around to ancient holy places in Israel to making our way all over India by train and then being hospitalized in Nepal, we let ourselves get pretty unbalanced.

By the time we got to Thailand I was feeling some serious burnout.  Yes, that’s right, I was burned out on travelling, which is something I never really thought I’d say.  I’ve read about other long-term travelers having this problem, and I figured it would just take a few weeks of lazing around to get myself back together.  Having already been to Bangkok a few times, I didn’t feel too much pressure to go sightseeing, though there are a few sights I’d missed in my previous trips and we figured we’d hit up one or two of those so as not to seem like lazy travelers.  We ended up seeing none of them.  Instead, we spent our days eating absurd amounts of Pad Thai, having massages, and going to the huge and fancy movie theaters at the top of the big malls in the downtown area. Once or twice I’d feel a pang of guilt at not being motivated enough to do something more, but I justified it by reminding myself that it had only been two weeks since I had been released from the hospital so I really should just be taking it easy still.

As we made our way out of Thailand and into Cambodia, then back into Thailand and down to Indonesia, we felt a bit like we were on a huge pendulum, swinging back and forth between bouts of frantic ‘tourist stuff’ and complete sloth.  The thing is, with the exception of Angkor Wat, none of the ‘tourist’ stuff was really impressing us anymore.  There comes a point when you just get so templed and museumed out that you can’t imagine having to go to yet one more of them.  I know, these are not pressing issues compared to most of life’s problems, but it was unsettling because we felt like we should be enjoying ourselves more.  One of our problems was that the cost/interest level wasn’t balancing out.  In Cambodia we had paid something like $35 to go see a village built on stilts, but we both walked away feeling like we had totally wasted our time and our money.  $35 isn’t much by Western standards, but keep in mind that for us, that’s one half day’s allotment of our expenses.  We paid this to essentially be scooted along in a boat for 30 minutes through this village which, while interesting to see, just wasn’t $35 for 30 minutes interesting.

For nearly a month we tried really hard to figure this out because time and time again we simply weren’t feeling the love with our sightseeing choices.  What could we see that might re-energize us?  What could we do that would make us feel like we were getting our money’s worth out of the visit?

Eventually we gave up and just went to the beach.  I kept arguing with myself that we are all the way across the world, in this place that’s nothing like where we live usually, and we can’t find anything better to do than lay around at the beach?

Who wouldn’t want to lounge about here?!?!?

There are plenty of things you can do as a tourist here, but what we kept running into was that pesky cost/pleasure problem.  Do we really want to pay $200 to hike up a mountain at three in the morning to see the sunrise with 35 other people?  Do we want to pay $80 EACH to ride an elephant for 30 minutes (especially when the same thing costs $20 in Thailand where we just were)?  We neither dive, nor surf, so that takes away another chunk of options.  I get wildly seasick, so the boat trip to Komodo and Flores is a no-go.  We intended to go to Sulawesi, but that island is huge and we’d only have a few days there, which would definitely make us feel frantic and rushed.

I felt like I was losing my mind.  Here we have the trip of our lives and I already felt like we’d been lazy travelers in Thailand so I didn’t want to just waste time while we were in Indonesia.  Then, finally, it hit me.  This was the trip of OUR lives.  Ours.  Who said a ‘good’ trip is filled with non-stop sightseeing, especially if that’s not what you want to do?  There are other ways to experience a place, and they don’t all involve a tour guide or a rushed itinerary.  We totally knew this, but had somehow lost track of it along the way.  We started looking at our options through a different lens.

Why were we beating ourselves up over lounging on the beach when that’s something we love?  Colorado doesn’t have beaches with fabulous turquoise water, so it’s not like this is something we can do back home.  We decided to give ourselves 5 more days to explore the beaches around southern Lombok.  When we’re done with that we’re heading back to Ubud, in Bali, where we’ll take 5 or 6 days of introductory yoga classes and at least one cooking class.  In our spare time perhaps we’ll rent bikes and ride through the rice terraces, or maybe we’ll just find a lovely café and read.

It was incredible how much better we felt after that shift in perspective.  Making these decisions served to remind us, as we head into the next few months of travel, that this trip is for us and we will only be making the most of this time if we do things because we are interested in doing them, not just because they are in the guidebook under someone else’s list of ‘must see’ items to check off a list.

What are your favorite things to do when you travel to far away lands?

Photo Friday – Offerings in Bali

5 Oct

We were fortunate to be touring temples in Ubud, Bali during a holiday based around the full moon (though the celebration only happens either twice per year, or once every seven months…we keep getting conflicting information).  The temples were packed with locals, the women dressed in brightly colored silks while the men wore crisp white shirts and patterned sarongs.   We hung around on the sidelines and watched dozens of women parade by, carrying the offerings – gigantic platters of fruits, roasted duck, and sweets – on their heads.

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