Well, we made it. Not even a typhoon can stop the monsoon!
After landing in Manila safe and sound, despite the typhoon being 200 nautical miles away (that’s pretty close for a typhoon), we gathered for one final group picture and hugs goodbye.
The group leaving us. We'll miss you!
And with that we headed for our flight to Bali to meet up with the crew before a week in East Timor.
After a 3 hour flight from The Philippines to Indonesia, I let out a long sigh of relief: We did it. Despite the typhoon cancelling a majority of flights today and tomorrow, we still made it to Bali.
Some things have changed in the last 4 years since I’ve been here. The Visa on Arrival for tourists increased from $25 to $35 USD and the airport got a significant upgrade. Everything has become more flashy and I was surprised to not recognize anything from the last time I was here.
Outside the airport, we haggled 2 vans to take us to the hostel for $35 USD total (from a starting price of $120 USD!) and lo and behold when we arrived at 3am, there were 12 comfortable bunk beds waiting for us in an air-conditioned room by an indoor pool (a hostel with a pool?!). Perhaps our luck didn’t really run out just yet.
But as I looked into my backpack I realized I had lost my small bag of chargers, adapters, wires, and GoPro accessories. Although I still had my phone, cameras, and PC/tablet, I lost everything that could keep them alive. According to one of my monsooners, Anthony, he noticed a small bag being left behind in the overhead compartment as we were disembarking the flight from The Palawan to Manila. In other words, they had fallen out of my backpack during the flight. Then, a few hours later in Ubud, I dropped my Windows Surface, cracking the screen and rendering it unusable. Aye, we can’t have all the luck in the world.
Perhaps fittingly, experiencing this at the end of a week in The Philippines, I want to take this opportunity to put some things into perspective: These first world problems we are wrestling with. For one, the things I’ve accidentally left behind or broken are entirely replaceable. Second, these typhoons do not affect us backpackers as badly as they have to the people of The Philippines who already did so much to make us comfortable despite the circumstances.
So we instead need to take these moments of supposed failure not to get upset but rather to remind ourselves the heaven and earth already being moved by the intrepid yet warm, hospitable people of The Philippines who ask for very little when they take us into their homes. And even — or especially — in the good moments we also should make the effort and time to be grateful to the local people who try so hard to make our experiences as memorable as they can be; they are the true survivors who brave these typhoons as part of their everyday lives — not us — and for them to make everything possible for our 1 unforgettable week here, means more to me than what any obstacle or difficulty we’ve encountered could ever measure up to. I learned this during the protests in Egypt and I’m still learning how to do that now. This is a place I want and will give back to one day, wishing I could do as much for them as they have for me.
And as this chapter ends, another one begins.
Our 28 hours in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia in a nutshell:
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Yes, and backpackers can be foodies too. We finished our lazy day in Ubud with a dinner at Mozaic, listed as one of the top 20 restaurants in the Miele Guide (the official Michelin Guide authority in Asia), Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards #1 most innovative restaurant in Southeast Asia, one of the world’s top 50 restaurants in the San Pellegrino Guide, and arguably the top restaurant in Bali.
Its executive chef, Chris Salans, is notable for being the head chef of Thomas Keller’s (of The French Laundry and Per Se fame) restaurant Bouchon in Napa Valley.
Scallops with fermented soybean and foam
Seafood Medley with Dry Ice
Trio of Pigeon with Foie Gras
Wagyu Beef With Grape Reduction
After dinner, we headed out for bit of partying afterwards in Legian. Now we’re pulling an all-nighter waiting for our 5:15am shuttle bus to the airport. We’re embarking on a 7:30am direct flight to East Timor-Leste, the newest stabilized country in the world!
- At time of posting in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, it was 31 °C -
Humidity: 75% | Wind Speed: 26km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy
So this morning, I got to upload a lot of videos but the computer was so slow that it just pooped out on me before I could post them… Sorry!
On a different note- Caitlin left our trip this morning at 4am to get to the airport at which point she was detained and questioned by the police for a couple of daggers that she bought in Bali.
She texted me saying that “I’ve only been separated from you guys for 3 hours and I’m already in trouble!”
On a side note- a friend of mine, May Alam, was wonderful and sent me some key Bahasa (language of Indonesia) phrases- which I’ve made good use of. Trouble is- Indonesians then think that I can speak Indonesian and answer as such… Sometimes with long-winded replies that I of course cannot understand.
Exhibit A: this morning trying to ask a local how the hell I was supposed to make it to the airport when there weren’t any taxis available.
I asked, “Bagai-mana pergi ke airport?” – which means “how do I get to the airport?” (Yes, the airport was my bahasa-english insertion). And the local replied with… A lot of words that I obviously couldn’t follow. He ended up finding a taxi for us – but I still have no idea what he was telling me.
From beaches to mountains, from villages to megacities. This is the diverse face of Indonesia, where thinks look a little like what Earth should look like, and where sometimes you just feel like you’re on Mars (or at Shangri-La). It begs exploration, as it always ends up overlooked for destinations like Bali. So get off the beaten path and go west through Java; you won’t be disappointed.
Bali Buddha – Jl Jembawan 1; Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Although the ambience and menu are truly inspired at this vegan-friendly restaurant, the real deal falls flat: Awful tasting yogurt, drinks that although looked good on paper, tasted like watered down minute-maid juice, and some of orders never came. Skip this.
Warun Ibu Oka – Jalan Suweta; Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
The suckling pig. I dream of suckling pig (ok, suckling is not a verb here). It almost melted in my mouth and it bursted with flavor. If I could make this description any less suggestive, then it wouldn’t do the food justice.
Ku De Ta – Jalan Laksmana; Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia
If David Burke was the executive chef, I wouldn’t be surprised. This is high-end dining in Bali at its finest. Our meal was $70 a person for 3 courses and 2 drinks each, so don’t expect prices to go down here simply because you’re not in America anymore.
Jl Malioboro Street Market; Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Simple and delicious, but what struck me was how they cooked the chicken in a nutty, almond flavor. Go check it out if you’re ever around.
Health Rating of Indonesia after 9 days…
# of bug bites: 1
# of Immodium used: 0
# of Pepto used: 0
# of Advil used: 0
# of antibiotics used: 0
# of total medication used: 0
Creams used: Sunscreen
Quality of healthcare: It is known that the healthcare quality of Indonesia is not yet up to international standards; foreign doctors are not yet allowed to work here so you’re left with local doctors, many of whom have to balance both working in a public running a clinic and a private practice. Serious cases are usually rushed to Singapore or Australia, so pray that you don’t fall ill here.
Sanitary Conditions: Constant rains and flooding leaves stagnant pools of murky water on the streets everywhere, with kids running about barefoot and not caring about what they’re stepping into. A lot of bathrooms and public facilities leave a lot to be desired, so take care when you’re milling about. It’s definitely not the cleanest country on the planet.
I got destroyed here: $500 USD in 9 days, which approximates to $65 USD/day. The goal was to spend no more than $40 USD/day.
Don’t let the website or the price fool you…this is a gated compound with a bar in the middle of a swimming pool and suites that scream “4 star luxury hotel.” My first thought when I rolled in here: “WHY IS IT SO CHEAP?!” and “WHY AM I ONLY STAYING HERE FOR ONE NIGHT?”
Price: $18 USD/night per person
Internet: Free wi-fi, business center at $2.50 USD an hour, decent connection
Other Amenities: Free shoeshine, cheap arranged transportation to Gunung Bromo, swimming pool with bar, 2 restaurants
Other Amenities: Probably the best place you’ll ever stay in.
Bangka B&B – Jl. Bangka XI A no. 26; Jakarta, Indonesia
It’s pretty much a big nice house in the Jakarta suburbs that rents out its entire 2nd floor as a guesthouse to travelers. The staff are extremely friendly and the whole place is charming and homey. The only downside is that the location is at least an hour away from the city center, and given that Jakarta has the worst traffic jams on the planet, that might not be what you need.
Price: $15 USD/night per person
Internet: Free internet access…but slower than molasses.
Other Amenities: Friendly staff, free coffee & tea
So this morning we said our goodbyes to Etri, bought a silver pen as a thank-you gift for Mr. Pesik, and took a 1 hour cheapo flight from Yogyakarta to Jakarta, at which we got stranded in a monsoon right after getting off the plane. And we’re spending only 12 hours here — none of my Indonesian friends are questioning this call. In fact, they’re encouraging me to get out of here as soon as possible (“there’s NOTHING to do there! you’re just wasting your time!”).
Jakarta existed nothing more than a nostalgic reminder of my dorky childhood where I would play “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” endlessly (the name of “Jakarta” always stuck in my mind). And here I am, stuck in a city where highways are turned into parking lots. For example, it took us 90 minutes to drive to a place where I could’ve walked to in an hour (that place being Obama’s former elementary school).
Did you even know President Obama grew up and went to grade school in Jakarta? It’s a pretty nice school too:
Went Templelunkin’ today by visiting both the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Borobudur and Prambanan. It’s pretty much a 9th century Buddhist Temple vs. a 9th century Hindu Temple respectively, and while Borobudur gets all the attention in guidebooks, it was Prambanan captured my awe and much much more (how do you beat an open-air nighttime ballet under floodlit 9th century Hindu temples?). But judge for yourself by what we’ve seen today…
You pick which you like better. My vote is for Prambanan. No offense, Buddha; Lord Shiva can be a badass.
While staying at “The Palace” a girl studying English named Etri, who was a neighbor and friends with the staff members (yes our residence has a “staff), stopped by with her sister to show us around Yogyakarta. She was a delight to have around and this was a great way for us to get to know a side of Yogyakarta from the eyes of a local:
It’s been a nice last couple of nights in Yogyakarta, staying up late in a remote internet café about a 20 minute walk away from where we’re staying. Etri showed us this place, and she enjoys hanging out with us. I guess for her she has a rare opportunity to practice her English and get to know what Americans are like.
It’s cute how she cautiously asks if she can sit next to me and watch me blog; I’ve been informed how Islamic tradition here is a bit conservative about young girls sitting next to guys that aren’t their family members, let alone a random backpacker from New York City dropping in at their doorstep unannounced.
- At time of posting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, it was 32 °C -
Humidity: 95% | Wind Speed: 1km/hr | Cloud Cover: overcast