Hola people! If you’re still interested, here’s a few tales of my second month in Indonesia…
Frightened of a month solo in Asia? Hmm I’d say more excited, with a twinge of nervousness perhaps… I had some time to prepare, what with my ‘wedding ring’ and photo of my so-called ‘husband on the next island’. But after a month in Indonesia already, I’d gotten over the ‘I’m not gonna make it back alive’ mindset. Anyway, what’s the worst that could happen? A ‘Home Alone, Lost in New York’ scenario? Suits me.
Seeing as I was planning on island hopping and what not, I thought it would be easiest to pack my life into one carry-on sized bag. I’d recommend the MEI Voyager to those interested; it’s amazing how much you can squeeze in to this handy sized backpack.
There were a few others from Labundo carrying on to travel too and although I had no set itinerary, I knew that we ultimately had different plans for our travels. So saying goodbye to any last familiar faces, I set off into the depths of Bali!
What a liberating feeling! Traipsing around Bali as free as a bird, or so it seemed…
I first headed to the most touristy place- Kuta. It was late and I had no where booked so I presumed there would be somewhere to stay in such a popular backpackers hotspot.
Although not pregnant, I couldn’t help identify with Mary… At every hostel I received an Indonesian ‘no room at the inn’. Perhaps I would have to opt for the beach??
What was that I heard? ‘ROOM!’ – a guy standing in the street, selling a room for the night… Should I trust him? He was about my age, why not? (Don’t try this at home) After we agreed on a decent price, he shipped me off on his motorbike through the narrow, bustling streets (more like alleys) of Kuta to the place where he was commissioned for.
Would you believe it? Yet another ‘no room at the inn‘. Oh dear. Fair play to the guy though- he never left me stranded. He took me to his 2nd option but again, ‘no room‘, so on to his 3rd choice… Why is this town so popular tonight?? His desperate looking face persevered onto the 4th home-stay, but ‘no room‘, and finally the 5th. Phew! Low and behold a room was found!
I was half tempted to stay in the same room for the month, judging by the difficulties of finding it. However I quickly realised pretty much everywhere has a room providing you arrive early on.
In the evening Brama, a motorbike guy, offered me a taxi to somewhere interesting to eat. He picked me up afterwards too…. And refused to let me pay him! That was typical of my experience in Indonesia- the locals were amazed that I could speak their language. And through that connection, many friendships were formed.
I should add at this point, I’m no language guru; the Indonesian language doesn’t contain any masculines, feminines, tenses or plurals. It’s more of a cave-man language, so for example, ‘yesterday I went to the beach’ would literally be ‘me go beach yesterday’. So all you need to know is the word… And sure enough, it works!
Brama and his friends were amused at the way I sat on the bike. I sat sideways, with my two legs dangling to one side (side-saddle?). He dropped me off the next evening at a Catholic church where I thought I’d experience an Indonesian mass for the craic. If I went back, I’d certainly have an eye-out for some sort of evangelical Christian church!
Although I never tried out a surfing lesson, I did meet a surfer instructor, Borju… What a dude! He took me to Ubud on his bike and gave me a tour of some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve laid eyes on. There was one place he took me that looked amazing but I didn’t know much about… That is until I came across this blog which gives more information.
I rarely met any people from England. Actually no, cancel that, I did spend a day in Ubud with a couple of English guys; it was great to speak with my native tongue for a change!
I couldn’t forget the massage parlour near where my home-stay was… It was cheap- around £3 for a full body massage, or ‘massaze’ as they pronounce it. This wasn’t quite the relaxing experience I expected, it felt more like a pilates lesson!
Oh, and I couldn’t fail to mention the monkey forest:
Here comes the worst part of the whole trip… At the blue lagoon in Pandangbai I went for a swim. Rather than leave my camera on the beach, I thought I’d make use of my Aquapac and take it in with me. Of course, being the clutz that I am, I didn’t seal the Aquapac properly… I heard a bubble… ‘Uh-oh‘… And I’ve been kicking myself ever since.
Sometimes I got my awkward phone camera out, but other than that the memories are in my head. That reminds me of something similar that Rose said in the film ‘Titanic’. Speaking of which, dolphins swam alongside the ferry to Lombok- it felt a bit like the scene from Titanic.
I found a family run home-stay in Senggigi. The son Azis, showed me around; his English was great as his father was originally from Australia. His father (I’ll call him ‘crazy Australian guy’ because I can’t remember his name) was one of a kind. A white haired, dishevelled looking chap with a constant mumbling chatter under his breath. They invited me to eat with them for dinner to which I happily accepted.
The crazy Australian guy showed me his little light bulb experiment, as well as his campaign booklet for cleaning up the beaches of Senggigi. He was very interested in Europe, and couldn’t believe how we still weighed in stones, pounds and ounces! He had many contacts too, so managed to find me a hostel on a Gili Island in advance. YAY.
To cut a long story short when I went back to the home-stay after visiting the Gilis, I didn’t see Azis or crazy guy at all and the woman said she would’t be able to make any breakfast.. I could sense something was wrong.
A day after leaving I received a text from Aziz… It was an invite to the crazy guys funeral! He died 😦
I traced most of the Senggigi beach coastline, running away from tourist central, out until I saw a long line of people who looked as though they were playing tug-of-war with the sea! It was actually a bunch of fishermen and women reeling in a net for their daily catch. I ran over and they were pleasantly surprised for the help. They even offered me a free fish in return!
A real treat of the home-stay was that it shared a back garden with the beach! So I sat down to watch the sunset. It wasn’t long until Rasid, bracelet seller, sat down next to me. He was obsessed with trying to sell me one until I told him I wasn’t interested… He was rather taken aback by my use of the language, so we chatted for the evening. When I happened to go back to the same spot a few days later, Rasid offered me a bracelet as a present from him. Get in.
The boat ride to the Gilis was so cool. Me and Nula, an Indonesian guy lay at the front. He was very pleased to be talking to me and even offered me a room at the hotel he works at. That was one thing about Indonesia- white people had a sort of celebrity status. Even on a boat to what was probably the most densely populated islands of white people in Indo!
The Gilis lived up to my expectations. I managed to find the hostel easy enough. One thing that was unusual about the islands is that there was no motorised transport; only cidomos (horse and cart), bicycles or legs.
After walking around the whole island I settled on a decent spot to watch the orange ball fall from the sky. While sitting there, a couple of local lads offered me an even cheaper room! And the Gilis were meant to be full?!
Judging by how surprisingly easy it was to find a home-stay on Gili Air, I thought it would be easy enough on Meno. So on arrival in Meno I set off to find somewhere within budget. I quickly came across a man who had a room, but he laughed at me as though I’d never find somewhere for such a price.
Well, I did find some cheaper places but rather than stick with them I thought I’d go into the depths of the island and see what I could really find. I found a few local families and introduced myself. The language barrier was a struggle but they were very friendly and offered to take me in for a low price. What an experience that was! Here I was on a honeymooners island, furthest away from the beach with a local family and their chicken coop!
Gili Trawangan was larger and busier, even claiming to be the smallest island in the world with an irish bar! So I had to make a stop there. I even ate a desert dedicated especially to me! Well a Sarah Dougherty (minus the ‘ug’ it’s me).
One night as I was eating by the beach on Gili Meno and I was hassled by a guy. He was a cheeky chap with a big curly mop-head. He offered me drugs, asked some very personal (and strange) questions and even grabbed my hand saying:
Mop-head: ‘Is that ring real silver?’
Me: ‘No it’s just a cheap fake one’
Mop-head: ‘Hmm I’m not sure, I think it’s real silver’
Funnily enough, it was as cheap as chips; I don’t know about metal, the ring was maybe even painted plastic! I only got it to pretend I was married. Funnily enough, he owned a silver shop– you would think he had an eye for the stuff now wouldn’t you??
In the season of Ramadan, most eateries were closed, and those that were open looked closed from the outside so I usually had to ask locals where I could eat.
I’ll mention Rose, a woman I met… She was amazed that I could speak Indonesian, but I certainly couldn’t as well as she thought! She thought I said ‘my mum is Indonesian’ (when actually I (thought I) said ‘my mum is coming to Indonesia’!), so she started speaking to me fluently and enthusiastically with her hands squeezing mine. I seemed to smile and nod in the right places and I did get the general jist of what she was on about, but the more she spoke to me the more I was digging myself a hole by not telling her I couldn’t really understand her!
So as she was introducing me to all of her family as having ‘an Indonesian mother’, I decided to break the news to her. She was very puzzled at what a young female from England was doing on her own in Indonesia! As were many locals. And people back home too I suppose. I’m just weird.
I remember there was a home-stay where I left without paying! I left to catch some kind of transport but realised and quickly went back… Nice to see Gods moral imprint alive and kicking within me!
Borju gave me a lift to the airport where I flew to Jakarta, the big city… I headed to the JakartaFM7 hotel where I had my first hot shower since, I don’t know when 🙂
My mum arrived in Jakarta! I had organised to take her to Labundo, to the rainforest village where I spent the first month… So we flew to Sulawesi! All the ‘white people’ had left, so it was now a very different, quiet village. My mum enjoyed the week there, where she was immersed in a completely different culture. Fifin was our tour guide- he took us fishing, macaque watching, bat caving, not to mention visiting the AMAZING waterfall!
I’m convinced that if the waterfall was more accessible it would be a popular tourist site. To get to it we had to trawl up and down through the forest, in and out of rivers. My mum was close to a collapse! But the scene when we got there it was totally worth it. It was breath-taking! At the bottom there was a plunge pool where me and Fifin jumped in from a large rock at the side.
The video is on my previous laptop so I can’t up load it. But actually there’s a link to the video here…
As we were driving through the various villages we had a flood of kids running up to the car. I opened the windows and stuck my hand out to them saying ‘SAK’ … Which is basically an Indonesian ‘high five!’
We went back to Java and did a some more exploring, even going to Bandung to meet some staff workers that I’d previously met in Labundo, which was awesome.
If I could sum up the whole experience in three words, I’d go for… Culture, Beauty, and Friendship. What wonderful God-given gifts we have!