Category Archives: Indonesia

Never run in Bali after 8am…

Life has been so crazy and busy lately, some things in life have unfortunately taken a back seat. I tried my hardest to do everything at once and not compromise, but of course that isn’t how life works or how humans function. I like to think I’m no mortal human, and can do everything and anything, but that unfortunately isn’t the case.

I’ve been sick about three or four times this year. I never get sick. But that is my body telling me to slow down, stop working so hard, stop doing a hundred extra curriculars, stop running 60km a week, and sleep! I got sick quite recently, right before going on vacation, from again doing too much, trying to do everything without compromise. I had all the normal cold symptoms, plus foggy thinking (helpful at work right?). But no time for a sick day when I’m going on vacation and have a two page to do list to complete prior to departing for Bali.

The incredible thing was, once I reached Bali and slept a solid 10 hours, I had recovered. It was as if I had never been sick at all. Poster girl for perfect health. Fully rested.

The only negative part of my sleep in was that I had planned on going for a run on my first morning in Bali. Again, running had been an item that got cut when busy and sick, and I was excited about getting out and exploring and also getting the legs turning over again. But, by the time I got my act together it was 8:30am and 28 degrees. The sun was out in all its glory and not a cloud to be seen.

Still, i was determined. I am running. I will run and I will enjoy it and I will survive and it will be fun (she says with gritted teeth).

For the first 2km, that was the case. I ran from our villa down to Echo Beach. It was relatively quiet, and was nice to get a feel for the neighborhood. Villas, rice paddies, small shops…dogs and young kids, and the heat was present, but tolerable.

I made it down to Echo, and stopped to take a few photos. 

Stopping to take photos was a mistake. Within 30 seconds the heat had really hit me, I was sweating profusely, and wanted to stop. But no, I wasn’t going to give in. I turned around, turned down a side street to do a loop, and kept going. As I ran it got hotter and hotter, my legs wanted to move less and less, and I started to look less like a glamorous westerner effortlessly running in her cute lululemon gear in 28 degree heat on vacay putting all passerbyers to shame, and started to look like a deranged, dehydrated person dripping in her own sweat, a dumb westerner who thought 28 degrees was nothing, or someone who lost a bet and this was my punishment (or all three combined).

Luckily I found a road taking me back to Jl  Padang Linjong (our street) that was slightly in the shade, not too busy and which only motorbikes really used given its narrow width (though I did see one car!).

I cut my run short – I had no goal but thought 5km was just enough. I couldn’t bear to be out any longer. I got back to the villa and had never been so happy to see a swimming pool. In I went, running clothes, socks and all. I was in such a rush to cool down I even forgot to take the 40,000 or so rupiah out of my pocket that I had taken in the case of emergency. 

The water had never felt so good. And I had never felt so dumb. Don’t run after 8am on Indonesia Jen. What were you thinking? Unless you want a sure way to dehydration and heat stroke. Lucky for me I decided 5km was better than 10, and was easily able to return to the villa (I hadn’t gone too far). I still had a fresh coconut in the fridge, perfect to quench my thirst and help the body recover. And it was a wonderful start to the day, good to get my legs moving again, to run again,  even at a slower (5:17) pace than I would usually run 5km. But best not push myself too hard, that’s when the body rebels and says stop. A short run, a chance to explore the neighborhood by foot, and a opportunity to clear my head and start the day fresh 😊


Leaving Laos for a few days of sunny island paradise

I apologize again for my lack of blog posts. Truth is I have been enjoying my trip so much I forgot about my blog!! That and I have so many amazing photos that I want to attach to my posts. But I thought it was time for a quick run down as I am currently sitting in KL low cost airport for a 5 hour layover. It was meant to be a 3 hour layover, but 2 days ago we received an email saying our flight was delayed by 2 hours. So here we sit in coffee bean nursing our ice blended coffees to retain these comfortable plush seats before having to brave the check in havoc. However it is most depressing because they are playing a wicked upbeat playlist very similar to my running playlist. It has been almost 3 months since my knee injury, and although my ruptures have repaired, my knee cap is still not properly aligned. So I have 2 more months of taking it easy according to a knee specialist in Jakarta. And 2 exercises to do every morning and night. They hurt and are difficult but at least make me feel like I am making progress. I may not be up for the San Diego marathon in August, but I am going to find another run to make my goal.

It is also nearing the end of Asia (round 2). Andy and I spent the last 12 days in the beautiful country of Laos. It was the place I most looked forward to going to this trip, because I know no one, except my dad, who has been there. It also seems slower than the rest of SE Asia and at least 10 years behind in terms of tourism and popularity than Cambodia and Vietnam. It did not disappoint. 12 days was too little, and to Andy’s horror I am already planning another trip, to see the entire country by motorbike.

It was such a gorgeous country with such wonderful friendly people. So many beautiful temples, great rural scenery, with mountains, rain forests, the might Mekong River, and so many nature activities such as Rick climbing, caving, kayaking, mountain biking, elephant riding and more. We sadly did not participate in any, due to either rain, my knee, or Andy being diagnosed with tonsillitis on day 2, at the Australian embassy medical clinic in Vientiane. This meant not only did it hurt to eat and drink, but prolonged periods outside or doing physical activity was out of the question. Which is why another trip is on the books!

Whilst in Laos, we spent 2 days in Vientiane, basically in order for Andrew to be well enough for a bus ride. It is just a big city that we didn’t really enjoy. The sights aren’t very spectacular and the river front is very commercialized. It was hard to find local food not in nice restaurants or westernized, but we did find a restaurant literally on the side of the road, where we had our first experience with sticky rice, which became a staple food throughout our trip.

It is soaked for hours and hours, then cleaned and rinsed 3 times, drained, and cooked in a bamboo basket. You pick up a lump in the left hand, take a small portion with your right, and roll it into a ball so it starts to stick to itself. You then use your thumb and two next fingers to dip it and pick up laap or other food. It is only for dips and dry stir fries though. Any curry or saucy dish has steamed rice. Of course we learnt this all throughout our trip, so with our first experience we just picked at it and ate it, not quite sure what to do!

After Vientiane, we took a 4 hour bus to Vang Vieng, the party town. It is basically a town in the middle of no where, with two main strips, full of places serving up hamburgers, pizzas, “happy” additions to your food, and playing family guy or friends on full blast. It is also popular for it’s caves and water sports, but the talk in our bus there and when we left was “are you going tubing?” or “did you go tubing?”. Still, better than Vientiane. It at least had something making it stand out from a normal city. A strange western influence that no one quite understands.

After 1 night we then endured a 7 hour ride to Luang Prabang. My favorite place in Laos. It was beautiful and magical. It had an old school French feel about it. We stayed in the old quarter on the river amongst French colonial style houses and cafes, with crepe shops on street corners and numerous pagodas and temples about. We saw monks live their daily lives, and after 5 days i can now say it is no novelty seeing a monk. They are everywhere in Luang Prabang. It is another reason the city has such charm. It is peaceful and calming, and it is wonderful seeing monks in action at the temples, walking down the road with a yellow umbrella sheltering them from the sun, or younger ones running around playing games like the boys they are. It was our favorite place, and I want to rerun, especially to go further north to Luang Namtha and other more rural areas.

After LP we had another stint in Vang Vieng, this time involving tubing, injuries, lost jandals and a broken camera, but we made it back to town after tubing down the river in the dark unsure of where we were. We only lost $2 of our $7 deposit for returning the tube after 6. And despite the blunders, we can now saw we have tubed down the Mekong in Vang Vieng. Our last day in Vientiane also involved a visit to the COPE visitor centre, which was my favorite museum/war exhibit on this trip. We met a 20 year old man who lost both his lower arms to unexplored ordinances dropped over Laos during the Vietnam war. He was also partially blind but full of life and joy. The only really sad moment was when he revealed he has never had a girlfriend, because “no one likes disabilities”.

The exhibits were neither political nor hateful, they presented statistics, photos, and information about what COPE does to help, through rehabilitation, rural visits and prostheses. It was a wonderful albeit heartbreaking visit, and really brings you back down to earth and makes you thankful for having all your limbs in tact. 40% of those injured are children, as they follow adults into the forest, searching for exploded bombs to sell as scrap metal, and picking up the unexplored ones set aside by the adults. Or they are discovered while farming or even cooking, by heating the earth and setting one off without knowledge of its existence. It is so sad, especially as 30% of the bombs dropped on Laos did not explode upon impact, with up to 90,000 estimated to still be hidden. Makes you thankful to live in a place where you don’t have to worry about stepping on a bomb.

And with that ending our Laos experience, we fly to Jakarta for 2 days to boat out to Kotok island in the thousand islands. Looking forward for more beach time, and time to read. Will be the perfect ending to my 2 months of Asia, and my 2 weeks with Andy before he returns to work.

Photos of Yogyakarta, Borobudur and Prambanan

If you have been following my blog, you will have noticed the change from posts full of photos to a lack of photos. This is due to buying a beautiful digital SLR right before my trip and wanting to play with it lots and lots, and leaving my laptop behind in Jakarta (hence no photos post-Jakarta!).

So here I update my blog with beautiful photos of Yogyakarta, seeing as my post relating to Yogyakarta lacked photos of our experience. Soon other locations will follow, however the Internet in Hanoi is rather slow, even slower than in Cambodia surprisingly. Hopefully people can access this – Facebook is blocked by Vietnam ISP providers, so fingers crossed the automatic post to my FB profile still works!!

The photos start at Yogyakarta, lead to Prambanan, then our sunrise tour of Borobudur, and finish off with some shots of the gamelan and the wayang kulit show back in Yogya. I didn’t take too many of those, because I used to play the gamelan for over 5 years, so it wasn’t as thrilling to me as it was to El!

The life of a “celebrity” in Yogyakarta

Sampai nanti Indonesia! It is time for the real adventure to begin!

Tomorrow we set off for Cambodia, via Kuala Lumpur for a 2 night layover. So far it hasn’t seemed like we have been ‘backpacking through South East Asia’, and KL is definitely not your typical backpacker’s destination. However the consequence of using cheap airlines is that you often have long layovers – and AirAsia’s flight from KL to Siem Reap required a 6 hour layover at the budget terminal (from 1am till 7am, with uncomfortable seating), or an overnight layover, flying into KL earlier in the day for some sightseeing. So I turned the overnight trip to two nights, just to make it a bit more worth our time. Also because I have never been to KL (I have flown through KL, but the Malaysia Air Lounge doesn’t count!) it means that we have more time to explore the sprawling bustling city, and more time to indulge in Malaysian cuisine. I am not ready to say goodbye to tempeh just yet!

We surprisingly packed quite a lot into our two days of Yogyakarta. Our first day began early at 4am – to leave for the airport at 4:15 for our 6am Jakarta-Yogya flight. But upon arrival in Yogya, our hotel allowed us to check in at 8am. Fantastic! Even got to choose between two rooms – which was good because the second one had a bit of a weird smell. This place is probably the worst we have stayed at yet, but that is reflected in the price, and the fact that it is in the backpacker’s district of town. But hey it is a bed, and it has a huge pool. And free internet. So can’t complain. Except we are here for two days and neither of us have had a shower yet – we used the pool to clean/cool ourselves off. The shower and bathroom in general is just not very nice. So neither of us have braved the shower quite yet. The shower by the pool looks nicer than the one in our room – so maybe I will use that, in my bikini. Either way, I am looking forward to a hot shower in KL as soon as we can check in!

While being shown our rooms here, I arranged with one of the receptionists to take us to Prambanan that afternoon on the backs of motorbikes. So at 2pm, two motorbikes showed up ready to take us out! I had a bright pink helmet. It was pretty awesome. I have been on motorbikes before, but they never get old. They are just so much fun! Last time I was on one was in Bangkok, same set up as ojeks, where you hire a motorbike instead of a taxi. But on an ojek you either bring a helmet or you don’t wear one. Luckily these guys had brought helmets. It is about a 30 minute ride out to Prambanan, but we split it up with two other temples – Candi Sambisari and Candi Sari. The first was large but pretty boring – the second was a bit boring but it appears to act as a playground for all these local children. They were playing soccer, flying kites, and chasing each other around. They even posed for photos and wanted to talk to us – but the cute little girls were too shy and kept running away!!

We finally got to Prambanan – a Hindu temple built in the 9th century. It is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia, originally consisting of 240 temples but now only 8 full large temples remain. The others were destroyed by earthquakes and by people stealing rocks to build homes, so the compound is filled with rocks or quarter tall temples. There are some that have been reconstructed, but there is still a lot of work to be done. However we barely got to even look at the temples because the minute we came into view of the temple, and the templegoers, we were accosted by Indonesian school kids (primary school, high school and maybe even college) wanting photos of us. I told El this would happen, and she dismissed the idea saying that it hadn’t happened yet in Yogya. Was she wrong.

It is really the oddest thing – asking a complete stranger to be in a photo with you purely because you have white skin. If you are blonde as well, you are even more of a celebrity. Blonde, white AND good-looking – jackpot. Some of the Indonesians spoke to us and asked us questions – so taking a photo kind of (but still not really) makes sense because you can show friends who you met and ‘became friends with’. But when you just pose with random people, or when people surreptitiously take photos of you on their cell phone while you walk past – I just don’t get it. However I am used to it now. I grew up with it, and when Amanda and I were younger it was much worse as we were two cute girls with white blonde hair. Nowadays I pose for a few, then tire of it, because we paid to see the temple, not to become the tourist attraction.

However they get so sad when you say no to them – they try to justify it by saying they are from Kalimantan (heard that one a few times) or “just one! Pleeeeease?”. So you just have to ignore them. I did this today when we visited Borobudur. I was taking photos and had people approaching me asking for photos. After already taking lots of photos, talking to students learning English, and climbing several levels higher just to escape school kids, I told them in Bahasa that I was taking photos and I came to Borobudur to see the temple. That didn’t stop their sneaky photos of me walking around or taking photos though…I know, 1st world problems, but really the people at the temples are not overly poor because the children are still at school – so they must have seen white foreigners before. Why is it such a big deal? We don’t take photos of Japanese or Italians in New Zealand. It would never even enter my mind to take a photo of an African-American, no matter how dark his or her skin color is.

Sadly, despite being in so many photos, I have no photos to add to this post. I no longer have my laptop with me and I am being careful of what computers I plug my SD card into. so as to avoid viruses. Today we woke even earlier than yesterday, at 3:45, and were picked up at 4am for a sunrise tour of Borobudur. Well, a 10 minute hike to a viewpoint on a mountain to see the sunrise, and then 2 hours at Borobudur. The hike I did not expect to be so steep or difficult, but I survived, I just took it very slowly. It is surprising how unfit you can become with 3 weeks of no exercise. And how much you rely on turning your knees when descending from a hill down steps – the most difficult bit was trying to walk down without twisting my knee! I did it though, and the view was worth it.

Although I have done Borobudur countless times, it was interesting to do with the sunrise tour, and to also go in the museums there. I would definitely recommend the sunrise tour to anyone going to Borobudur – it adds something extra to it, and you beat most of the crowds (except when there are school holidays, like today!). For 100,000 rupiah each we had a “VIP” tour, which included our ride there and back plus a bread snack and water for breakfast. We shared the car with 5 others but still cheaper than a 800,000 rupiah shared car (70,000 is equivalent to NZ$10). Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and is surprisingly mostly in tact (after rebuilding post earthquakes that is). There are multiple levels of carvings, then some domes and large Buddhas at the top. There also exists a level of carvings currently hidden underground – and before they reburied the carvings they took photos of them all. You can understand why they buried the carvings – they aren’t the holiest or purest of carvings. However unless you had the little piece of paper below each photo, you wouldn’t know what each one was!! The most extreme carving was of a woman giving an abortion (although you only knew this from reading the caption and really analyzing the photo), and others represented crimes (such as stealing fish), consequences of such crimes, and what heaven and hell both look like. They were very interesting, and you would have no clue they existed had they not documented them!

We then returned to town around 11am, where we have been since. Which is my cue to now log off and explore the city a bit more and have a very late 2pm lunch.Hopefully once I find a trustworthy computer, I will upload some photos and update this post with my pretty sunrise photos. Until then, Google will provide one:

Attempting to be a tourist where I grew up – Jakarta

I was going to save my Jakarta post and combine it with Yogya – but I took far too many photos that I want to share. So here comes Jakarta. I grew up in Jakarta from when I was 5 years old. I went to international schools, had a driver, maid, cook and gardener, and went to the American Club for macaroni and cheese. It was definitely a different kind of upbringing.

Jakarta has changed so much though – Kemang (where we lived) has grown so much and new malls are being built everywhere. I was last here in December 2011, and so much has changed since then! A huge Indonesian middle class has grown, so most restaurants are actually full of Indonesians rather than expats, which is very different to what I am used to. This is evidenced by going out to a club in Kemang, which was packed full with a line outside to enter, and being the only bule there (a foreigner/white person). This actually proved quite handy when I lost El, and although I knew a lot of Indonesian when I lived here, I have forgotten quite a lot by now. So I ended up asking some girls in the bathroom whether the occupied toilet had a bule in it – they said no, she had already left. I then enlisted two guys trying to chat us up to find her – “saya hilang lagi bule”. Literally this means “I lost the other foreigner”. They found her within a few minutes!

Anyways, background done, our first day in Jakarta started with a walk down the back streets of Kemang (where my Dad lives) down to the local shopping mall Hero. And, because it was a warm day and we had walked 5 minutes, we decided to cool off with a margarita at the one and only Amigos. (Actually I lie, there is another Amigos in Jakarta now, but the Kemang Amigos is the original and the best). Amigos used to be the best Mexican restaurant ever. Then I worked at Flying Burrito Brothers in Christchurch for three consecutive summers. I am now biased towards both and they are equally as good. FBB has better fajitas. Amigos has better margaritas. Sorry Jimmy. They are just much more alcoholic there, and you can get them in massive jumbo glasses. Which we later returned to Amigos for that evening…

Also due to Cinco de Mayo, they gave out a free tequila shot with every margarita…this led to quite a lot of alcohol being consumed.

The next day we decided to have a north Jakarta day out. We went to the bird market, to  Fatahillah Square, Cafe Batavia and Sunda Kelapa.

The bird market is where I bought my frog, Mango Tango, back in 6th grade for our science class. We had to get an animal of some sort, look after it and take notes on it. It was a pretty awesome lime green and orange (the color of a mango!) frog, that we let free after it was no longer required to be in captivity. The market hasn’t changed much – they still sell lots of rabbits, birds, cats, and other weird and wonderful (and some endangered and therefore illegal to sell!) animals. I just love some of the cages for sale, even without the animals inside.

We then went to the Istiqlal Mosque – the largest Mosque in South East Asia and the 3rd largest Mosque in the world. It was actually very interesting, we had a guide and were able to walk all around. We learned all the meanings behind the design of the mosque – 7 gates to enter the Mosque represent the 7 heavens, the 12 columns supporting the dome represent the birthday of Muhammad and the 5 floors represent the Five Pillars of Islam.

We were allowed to step on the prayer carpet, after being told that Obama is the only Westerner allowed, apparently we were special enough to stand just on the edge of it – for a photo opportunity of course! The inside of the Mosque itself wasn’t overly beautiful, however it the hallways and the building itself was rather beautiful.

Our visit to the Mosque was followed by trying to navigate the streets up to Fatahillah Square – with Dad driving and me reading the map, I still can’t believe we found it! Cafe Batavia. It is housed in a 19th century Dutch colonial building opposite the old Dutch City Hall. It is a reminder of Jakarta’s luxurious albeit oppressive colonial past. It has a salon upstairs, a bar downstairs, and a lot of photographs all around. The photographs in the bathroom are particularly…interesting…yet not quite appropriate for a PG rated blog.

Then after exploring Fatahillah Square, we drove to Sunda Kelapa – the marina. We took the mandatory boat tour, after saying no to a guide who wanted to show us around, tell us the history and take us on a boat. I am fine with guides, but he talked far too much and was going to be annoying, especially when I prefer to just walk around and take it all in. I enjoy learning, but I also enjoy peace and quiet. Something I inherited from my father. Many boats were loaded with concrete or oil drums, and were very sunken. Others were trying to get out to sea, yet very slowly. Our boat however was a small sturdy motorized boat – much better than the one we had last time. Although the motor did stop several times due to getting caught up in trash. You definitely didn’t want to fall in…

Bali – beach, monkeys and a foam bar

After walking all up and down Singapore, I decided that Bali had to begin with relaxation. Swimming, sunbathing, reading, and lounging on the beach. Lots of rest – that is, indeed, what the doctor ordered! I wasn’t quite sure how El was going to handle Bali – having never been to Asia (apart from Singapore), Bali is a good introduction to Asia, however it is still quite a harsh introduction in terms of crazy traffic, lots of people, and shop owners grabbing at you trying to get you to buy their items any way possible. I have experienced many a time the ‘hello darling’, ‘morning price’ and ‘sunset price’ – but we experienced new methods. “Sexy price” and “Lady Gaga price”. They then got more inventive with “Hey I know you” or “What happened to your knee? Can I touch?”. It is all part of the fun though.

I forgot how beautiful a place Bali is though. I dislike Kuta for the fact that it is so touristy and the locals are very in your face and try to get money any way that they can. I prefer untouched Indonesia – such as more rural parts of Bali, Lombok, or my favorite place so far in Indonesia – Labuan Bajo in Flores. The people there are Christian, and you can walk the entire town in 5 minutes. There are no big stores – all roadside stalls. When I was there walking the street, a little girl grabbed my arm and just looked at me, and when I asked her name, she turned away as was too shy. In Bali however, you get touched by shopkeepers all the time as they try to pull you into their store. And the shopkeepers put on Australian accents to try to entice you – NOT a way to entice a New Zealander. Neither is chanting “Aussie Aussie Aussie” – damn those cheap flights between Bali and Australia – Kuta is overflowing with Australians left right and center!

Anyway, in our 2 days in Bali I made sure we did the typical must dos – we ate at a warung, walked the beach, visited the memorial and had a beer (or two) on Kuta beach for sunset. We also went out to bars and clubs – another must do that honestly I had never done myself. It was…an experience. This one bar just kept going and going – more and more rooms appeared, and more levels appeared as the night went on. There was a live band where you could sing Karaoke (I rocked “Can you feel the love tonight”), a group of guys with bongo drums chanting (I may have been dragged up to play the drums not once but twice – my palms are still bruised 3 days later!), two big stages with cages on them to dance in, and a foam pit for wrestling. When in Bali, right?

El also experienced being a celebrity in Asia – locals asking to be in photos with her. I always find this in Yogyakarta, but never in Bali, where there are so many tourists!! However within 10 minutes of sitting down with our beers on Pantai Kuta (Kuta Beach) Indonesians started to come up and sheepishly ask if they could take a photo with us. I was then asked a few more times, and more and more people kept joining in on the photo and trading cameras. God knows how many random facebook photo albums I am in from all these photos that Indonesians take of me!

We also managed to see monkeys without them going crazy and attacking us or trying to steal our stuff. We got a taxi to take us to Pura Uluwatu, about an hour south of Kuta, which is a temple on the cliffside. It is 70 meters above the Indian Ocean, and the ocean beneath is very popular with surfers. The temple itself is pretty average, but the views were absolutely beautiful and although we missed out on the kecak (a Balinese dance), we heard the chanting, and got to walk around the temple more after the sun had gone down – resulting in magical views that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

As you can see, the monkeys were pretty awesome: