Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Last couple of days in Oz and beginning of indonesia

So my last few days in Australia were really good. On the thursday we drove inland to Baural, which is famous because it is where the legend, Don Bradman, first started playing cricket. If you don't know who he is, well, you probably won't be so interested! But there was a really good museum there about him and the evolution of cricket, so that was good stuff. In the evening we went to the italian place we went to the night that i arrived, i had some tasty pasta.

The next day we drove inland to the blue mountains, the reason they are blue is because of the millions of gum trees giving off eucalyptus, which makes everything look blue! So that was cool, we did a couple of smallish walks, saw a couple of waterfalls. In the evening we were back in Sydney, and went to Doyles for fish and chips (the place is famous worldwide...apparently, but i'd never heard of it!). So after we ate that we sat on the top deck with some beers and watched the sun set over Sydney, looked very beautiful!

The next day, i was flying, but not until the evening. So we drove over to bronte beach and walked across to Bondi, where i went for a quick swim, just so i could say that i had! We wandered back, i packed up my stuff and we headed off to the airport. Said my goodbye's to Gaye and Phil, i remember Gaye saying 'look after yourself.....but you've been to Cambodia so i'm sure you'll be fine!' Made me chuckle. Now, i was wearing a tshirt that had stuff written on it in Thai, and i swear i have never felt more like a terrorist than i did with that tshirt on. Everybody kept giving me shifty looks. At least my big ginger beard was gone so i didn't look quite so crazy.

Anyways, when checking in, (first i was flying with qantas from sydney to singapore, then the next day from singapore to bali with air asia, not a logical route, but apparantly it was cheaper) the woman told me that they wouldn't let me get an indonesian visa unless i have proof that im leaving the country....and i said, 'yeah, i'm flying home from singapore on the date shown on this document. But she said that wouldn't be enough. Well, she checked me in and decided to let someone else have to deal with it in Singapore. The flight was fine, landed at about midnight singapore time. Picked up my bag, out through customs.....aaaand sat down on some seats. My next flight wasn't til 10, no point going to a hotel, so i tried to get some sleep in the airport. Not the easiest thing to do in the world. The seats weren't all that comfy, so i gave the floor a go. Plus the place was brightly lit, and then there was a cluster of singaporian girls wandering around staring at me and this other guy. There were a few of us sleeping in the airport. Well, i got about 20 minutes sleep, but that's all i could manage. Not something i'd really recommend!

Once the air asia ticket office opened at 6am, i wandered across and asked about this visa problem. The guy said yeah yeah you have to book a flight. The only problem is, i didn't know when or where i would be leaving indonesia, or where i would want to go to. The indo visa would expire in 30 days, and then 7 days later i'd fly out of singapore, but i didn't want to spend the whole time in singapore. Arg. So i booked a flight from jakarta to Kuala Lumpur on the 10th of feb. Only once i got my indo visa several hours later i bali airport, it said i had to be out of the country by the 9th. Arg. And they get really fiddly about people overstaying. Arg. And once i took my flight to bali and got my visa, they didn't even ask if i had any onward plans. Arg. That's not cool.

So anyways, i landed, took a taxi to Kuta. Originally i wasn't too sure where i was going to go from the airport, and i hadn't really heard too many good things about Kuta from talking to other people that had been there, but i was mucho tired, and it was the closet place to the airport. I wandered up and down poppies gang 1 and 2 trying to find a place to stay, in the end i had a choice between a pretty groggy room for 80,000 ($8) or a much nicer place with a pool but 125,000 + 10% which is something they seem to sneak onto everything. Anyway, i ended up going to the nicer place. So worth it. But as for Kuta itself....well...i didn't think i would like it....and i didn't. It was pretty much as everyone had desctribed it to me. Lots of australians, pretty much all wearing bintang beer vests, wandering around drunkenly.

Essentially it's a place for aussie holiday makers, so you'd get families, couples, groups of guys or girls. But i really didn't see what the place had going for it. If you didn't surf, the beach was out of the question, go for a swim and you'll probably get sucked out by the i was there one morning and high tide had washed up a whole load of dead fish, as well as lots of other get hassled like you're back walking down kao san road, except you don't really expect that when you are walking down a beach. The streets are all narrow and really overcrowded. Well, as you can see, i wasn't such a fan! But i wasn't expecting to be, so it was ok. I stayed for 2 nights before i got a bus to Lovina. I say bus, it was a minibus.....which seemed to double as a mobile swimming pool. It was raining hard when we left and the water came flying in from everywhere, through the ceiling fan, through the sides, but luckily i found it all rather entertaining.

So we picked up and dropped off people on the way, until about 4 hours later we made it to Lovina. The journey itself was cool because i had the chance to see what Bali really looked like, away from Kuta, and it looked amazing. It was mountainous, dense greenery, which reminded me a lot of the road to Pai in Thailand. After the usual attempts by the driver to get us to stay where he wanted us to, i found the place i wanted to stay, called the angsoka. The only problem i'd been having is that the prices lonely planet would say something is would be sometimes nearly 50% less than they are now. So i got to Angsoka, they showed me the list of accommodation, everything was 110,000 or more....except.....except....for a 'rice barn'. Sign me up!!!

Well, i was shown it, and for 60,000 i really wasn't expecting much. But it was awesome! It was this perched little barn, which only really had space for the bed in it, and a little balcony bit attached with a chair and table. It was like a watch tower, and for some reason, i was really rather happy with it. So i dumped my stuff, and went for a swim in the pool. The pool was great, big, and had one of those sunken bars attached to it. Anyways, just after jumping in i got talking to a dutch girl who'se name i'm not even going to attempt to spell, but it's quite dutch, and then shortly after met her friend Fiona who was from Bristol. They'd pretty much done most of SE asia, and were both pretty close to the end of their journeys. Anyway, i asked them about Lovina, and they said it was pretty much a ghost town, even though they only arrived yesterday, they went out to eat and there didn't seem to be anybody else around! So i travelled in a mobile swimming pool for a ghost town? Yes.

Either way, we had some food then agreed to meet up later to go out for dinner. Which we did. We went back to a place where they ate at last night. Had some good food. Then we got chatting with an older aussie guy called Cameron who works with the coastguard over there, stoping drug trafficking and illegal immigrants coming across the ocean. And we were also talking with these two local guys, one of which owned the place we were eating in, and had a friend who ran the dolphin tours that the girls had signed up to do the next morning, so i signed up too.

So we had some more beers with these guys, and ended up wandering up the road to a bar/live music place that was pretty lively. The girls seemed really suprised by how many people were about! Anyway, plenty more beers, then not remembering too much and waking up in my watch tower. At 6 o'clock. From a knock on my door. Oh yeah, dolphin tour. Oops. I'm sure i had set my alarm but luckily jannaka (ok i gave spelling it a go) came and knocked on my door. So i ran down to reception where we were supposed to be getting picked up, at 6am. And waited. And waited. But no one came. Arg. A guy that worked at the hotel said it might be because it was too choppy. Who knows. So back to bed. But then up again, for 9.30, to go and meet the grandson of the last raja of Bali.

I think it was while we were in the restaurant last night that Cameron had told us that he used to be married to someone who used to be married to some kind of supreme being, someone who had been chosen as an enlightened one, and had been related to the last raja of Bali, but then he died, but somehow he ended up meeting this other guy who is the grandson of the last raja of bali, and goes to visit him in his palace every year or so. And he told us that he was going along the next day, and we were welcome to come. So we did.

Cameron picked us us in his rental car at 9.30 and we drove about 25 minutes down the road to singaraja, and eventually found the place/palace. We wandered in, and met the guy, and his wife. And then we sat down and had coffee and some sweet balinese snacks. Such as sticky rice that we had to unpeel from a banana leaf, and then top with coconut and a sweet sauce. And also some crazy fruits, one called a mangostin, i think. It was all a bit odd really, but pretty cool. The guy gave us a tour around, and then eventually it was time to go. We drove back to Lovina, the girls checked out and got some food, then they and Cameron left for Sanur! Shortly after this point i ended up booking a snorkelling day for the next day, then just didn't do a whole lot for the rest of the day!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Nearly finished in Oz :/

So, going back before christmas, one night we went out with one of phil's old friends. We ended up going to this french bistro place, i had snails for the first time. They were actually pretty good!

For christmas we were staying with friends of phil's called kate and charlie, who live in newcastle which is about two hours north of sydney. They also have two kids called hamish and alexander who were 12 and 9 and proved to be prett entertaining. We went up there on the 23rd because they were having a big party in the evening. So we got to their house, which was really nice, and had a pool but it was empty because they were renovating it. Curses. Before the party, kate had told me that there wasn't really going to be anyone my age, apart someone's daughter. So halfway through the night kate wanders over to me with this girl in tow, and says 'dave, this is jackie, she's your age, ok bye!' Well that was amusing. She was pretty cool, had been to Bali so I picked her brains about that, she's planning some big road trip across the states with a friend as a well. So some time later she leaves with her parents, and so then it's just me with a bunch of drunk middle aged people. Fun times! Crashed at about half 3.

Next day myself, phil, jeremy and the two kids went down to the beach. We took the dog for a walk and went for a swim. Phil always calls me 'boy', and so suddenly everybody was too, even the kids. Although they would say 'boy, do you like being called boy?' In the evening we went out for dinner, which was pretty good. Soon enough twas past midnight, and phil accidently got out jeremy's 30 year old port. But it tasted good :D

Christmas morning, the kids got up early and opened their presents. I can hear hamish playing his electric guitar badly. Excellent. We get up and have some breakfast, and then open our presents. I had some stuff that was sent over from home which was cool, one thing i got was this hilarious tshirt with a picture of some of my family on saying 'we're with you down under!' Cheesy as, but very sweet.

As well as us lot who were already there, a whole bunch more people were coming for xmas dinner, there was 24 of us in total. And just as we sat down on the veranda to eat, the rain came, and didn't really go away for about 2 days. Felt just like home! But it was a great christmas day. Most of the people who came were expats, as are kate and charlie so that's not that much of a suprise really!

Boxing day, i can't really remember too much of. Not that i was drunk, i just can't remember! Remember taking the kids and the dog for a walk. Hamish and alexander were big fans of me, mostly because i was one of the few people who didn't tell them off! They were a bit spoilt and got away with quite a lot, but so do most kids. I remember when we went for a walk, i was walking the dog, while alex was on his longboard and hamish was on this other wiggly board thing. Anyways, i was just on the road and a car was coming, so i jumped off and accidently bumped into hamish who was flying past on the pavement on his board, and sent him flying onto the grass. Whoops. He was fine though!

On the 27th we went to Nelson bay which is about an hour away further north, to see steve and oonagh. We went to a pub for a while, then came back to their place, as they have a bar in their basement. Awesome. That was a good day. The next day we came back to Newcastle, and went to see sherlock holmes in the evening which i was pretty happy about. I love the stories but was worried that they were going to ruin it, but it was pretty good! Next day we came back to Sydney. A couple of friends of phils fron england had flown in on boxing day and were staying at his place, so we came back and met them, and then went out for dinner. Can't think of much else that happened between then and new years. We were originally planning to just have i at phils place, as you can see the bridge from his place. But a couple of days before he went to see his friends new house which cost something crazy like 8 million dollars, and mostly its that expensive because of the view. It looks straight out over the harbour. Awesome. So we went round around 8ish. They have fireworks at 9pm for kids, which were awesome enough by themselves! Then from 11pm there would be a few random ones just to build up the tension, thn 12pm hits. Boom. Lots of boom. Fireworks are set off on the water as well as n the bridge. They were pretty epic. Went on for about 15 minutes altogether.

Some time later we went for a walk on the beach down below, and then eventually started walking back home. It was fun walking home, with people walking past and wishing you happy new year, as well as seeing all the people trying to get a taxi, which is pretty much impossible to do. I overheard one girl on the phone to a friend who said ' oh my god i hate everything right now'. I laughed. She didn't look amused. I offered her a piggy back service. She looked even less happy. I laughed some more. It was a good time :D

Next couple of days we didn't do too much, on the 3rd we went the scg to watch the cricket, aus vs pakistan! In the morning we went to the gym first (which is part of the cricket ground. We had some breakfast, and it started drizzling. So they called off the start. The food area filled up, and we ended up sharing with an old aussie guy, an old kiwi guy and his grandson. So we had some fun talking about cricket and rugby, mostly just phil and the older guys remeniscing about stuff before my time! Eventually the rain stopped and play started at 2pm. We were in the members section, which meant wearing long trousers and a collared shirt. But it was pretty cool because we had the two dressing rooms and balconies behind us! Anyway, the cricket was awesome, australia decided to bat for some criminal reason and ended up all out for 130. I did find myself cheering a bit too loudly when the aussies were getting out, especially as i was pretty much surrounded by aussies :D

I went again the next day, but by myself as phil had a rugby reunion. His gym membership meant we could get in for free which was pretty sweet. It was a pretty dull day though compared to the day before as pakistan batted pretty slowly. And of course, now that its several days later, even though the aussies were 200 behind after the first innings, they still managed to win. Bastards! Well, the day after the 2nd day i slept in as i'd been getting up early a fair bit, and going to the gym quite often too. So i just read and sat in the sun.

The next day, which was yesterday, i went to Wollongong to go and see Fi! I got up early and walked to sydney central station, bought a ticket ($13 for a return, two hours each way, that would cost bucket loads in england!). The journey was pretty scenic, then i hopped off at north wollongong and saw fi. She's a friend from the second time i went to canada when she was working as an instructor, but originally she had been a gap student like me, the year before i was there! So i was there for a year and heard about her loads, and it was cool that i got to meet her when i went back for the 2nd time! We had a pretty chilled day, lying on the beach, fish and chips and then had dinner at her place. It was really awesome to catch up with her, and hopefully it won't be too long til i see her again. She's keen to come over to the uk on a work visa at some point, particularly as her co gap student was a scot, and they are still close friends. It's been really good being able to catch up with old friends while on my travels, and hopefully one day they'll come through my neck of the woods when they are over!

I came back in the evening and there was a party going on, the couple that were staying at phils place as well were leaving the next day, the guy called nick used to play rugby over here at one point back in the 70's. So phil invited over a bunch of guys from those days, but by the time i came back they were well on their way to drunkville.

And so now i'm up to date. Yaaay. We're off the blue mountains tomorrow which should be good, then i fly on sunday to singapore, where i'll be sleeping in the airport (yay) and catching an early flight to bali! I've started reading up on indonesia to figure out what i'll do, and i think i'll start in kuta, which sounds pretty crazy, then head up to lovina, which sounds a bit more laid back. Then wonder westwards towards yogyartka, to see borobodur etc. And then beyond that i don't really know yet! Should be fun. I think it's going to be more of a challenge (once out of bali) to get around etc then the other places in asia i've been too, bt i'm looking forward to the challenge! And not even slightly jealous of the snow. :D