We have been in Pemuteran, the small town on the northwest coast of Bali, for about two weeks now, patiently waiting on the beach for our visa extension to finish up. It’s such a small place that we have been to nearly every restaurant in town, some more than once, and are becoming familiar faces in the area. In an otherwise sleepy town (bedtime is about 9pm), a lot happened today, but there’s no local daily newspaper! So for a change of pace, I’m going to indulge my inner journalist and report the real-ish news here on my blog. Continue reading
It’s the last month of our nearly six-month trip, and we’re ready to come home. Travel has worn us out. And even though we couldn’t wait to get to Indonesia and were excited to see as much of it as we could, it’s just too large of a country to do justice in month. So we had a choice: spend the rest of our time island-hopping or stick to one island. We chose the latter, and decided to spend our time on Bali. And now that our brains have finally entered vacation-relaxation mode, I can say confidently that we made the right choice. Continue reading
It has been awhile since I have been to the ballet. I think the last time was the San Francisco Ballet’s version of the Nutcracker, a lovely production Rebecca and I attended in an effort to relive her childhood Christmas tradition. I cannot say that I am usually a huge fan of the ballet; I’m not a dancer, so I usually just end up falling asleep to the music. But yesterday, in Yogyakarta on the island of Java, the Ramayana ballet we attended exceeded my expectations and rounded out nicely our mixed visit to Yogyakarta.
Traveling as an English speaker is a luxury. English is essentially the universal language today, which means that wherever we go, someone speaks our language, with varying degrees of competency. Being able to speak English in the countries we have visited is a highly prized skill, one that everyone we have encountered in Southeast Asia has been eager to hone with us. But the strangest incident of English learning we have seen has been here in Indonesia, where for the past week, we have been physically stopped by kids looking to “practice English” at tourist sites.
We began our brief waterfall trek at a restaurant, where local drivers and tour guides hang out and smoke while tourists eat and drink. Moments before we were ready to start out, it began to pour, with water falling in torrents off the warung’s roof. I declared that due to inclement weather, I would leave my camera in the car for the hike.
“No!!!” the guides despaired, “You cannot hike without the camera! How will you take pictures??” When I said I’d simply remember it, they got so exasperated that I ultimately gave up and took the camera.
The photos were nice, but I didn’t need them; the best part of the experience was talking with our guide.
We’ve become a species more inclined to capture moments on film than experience them fully. I love taking photos, but seeing something through a camera lens distances you from it. So don’t be afraid to leave the phone/tablet/camera behind once in awhile and just let yourself be immersed. Your takeaway might end up being something entirely different.
Fun story about our trip to Lombok, the island directly east of Bali, known for its surfer beaches and referred to as an “unspoiled Bali.” Most go to summit monstrous Mt. Rinjani, but we opted for an easier hike to a jungle waterfall.
Our guide, a 17-year-old boy from Senaru, did his best to communicate his interest in America by mentioning a few of his favorite artists. After taking a picture with us at one waterfall, he exclaimed, “Me with Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne!”
Continuing with the pop star theme, I asked him if he liked Lady Gaga. Rebecca and I were shocked when he replied, “No, she is too sexy,” and said he liked Selena Gomez. We decided teen-dom would be better off if more hyper-hormonal teens had this attitude.
We sang pop songs all the way back to Senaru, and now we’re Facebook friends. Thumbs up for friends in faraway places!
You’re walking down the road — obviously, because sidewalks just take up space — and you hear a honk. Startled, you turn to look at the person honking at you. What is it the honker is trying to say? Based on our experiences on motorcycles, walking and in cars in ASEAN nations, here are our top 20 honk translations. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it might help a little. Continue reading
I have written before about the proliferation of advertising and marketing in Asia. This is truly the land of marketing overstimulation. The ubiquity of ads, commercials, billboards, signs and posters first struck me in Bangkok, but it has been consistent across the entirety of the continent we have explored over the past four and a half months. Never before Bali, however, had I found a museum dedicated entirely to marketing — specifically Marketing 3.0, or “Marketing for Good.” Continue reading
It’s been a long trip. About three months in, we probably would have decided to come home had it not been for the prospect of visiting Borneo. We had this fantastical idea of what it would be like. For Rebecca, she wanted to go to see orangutans in the wild. For my part, I thought that going to Borneo would be like the movie Congo, where we would meet a gorilla named Amy who would talk to us and protect us from the other bad gorillas. (Clearly, my brain confuses gorillas with orangutans.) In any case, we dreamt of an island wild and unspoiled. Thanks to the palm products industry and lack of awareness about wildlife conservation, the reality is quite different.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be sleeping in a bungalow in the middle of the jungle in Borneo next April, I would have laughed at your foolishness. I am not a jungle person. Jungles have big bugs, poisonous plants, and dangerous animals; why on earth would I want to go visit?
Well as it turns out, jungles have lots of wildlife that you cannot see anywhere else. So despite my strong misgivings, we decided to do a nature tour in Malaysian Borneo in search of orangutans. And we were not disappointed. Continue reading