Ubud Bali Dance: Eat Pray Love, Hives, and Escape to the Ramayana Ballet

Ubud Bali Dance: Eat Pray Love, Hives, and Escape to the Ramayana Ballet

14023317.JPG

Ramayana Ballet, an Ubud Bali Dance Performance (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

Sometimes a gal just needs to go to the ballet. Well, the Ramayana Ballet.

I did not plan to spend much time in Ubud, Bali. I changed buses in Ubud on my way to Padang Bai earlier in the trip, and decided there were far too many sparkly Buddhas, yoga studios, businesses named namaste, and “handicraft shops.” The road into Ubud resembled an open air Cost Plus. It was not my cup of tea.

At the time, I did not know Ubud, Bali was ground zero for Eat, Pray, Love fans—or rather, those hoping to follow Elizabeth Gilbert’s path. There were a noticeable number of middle aged women with floppy hats, lots of linen and Ex Officio, and the look of cultivated searching in their eyes, a dreamy gaze. There were droves of them in the cafés—they looked contemplative, gazed into space, and wrote in their journals. They had shopping bags—someone had to buy those sparkly Buddhas and yoga mats.

My plan was to rent a motorbike and head north, maybe Amed on the northwest coast, and scope out the area around Sideman and Gunung Agung for later in the trip, after Kalimantan (Borneo).

But then the hives started.

I am still not sure what bite me, but I had a major allergic reaction. It was not so terrible in the beginning, just some swollen dots, mostly around my right ankle and a scattering up my left calf and thigh. I remembered brushing some insects off my chair right before I left Kuta, Lombok. Perhaps that was it?

Then it got worse—voluminous pustules with angry red edges. Frantic itching and fear of infection, never a desirable thing in a tropical climate. Thank heavens for the trekking first aid kit and antihistamine!

I asked Mrs. Rai, the guesthouse owner, what she thought. She looked alarmed and declared, “You need to go to the hospital.”

I tend not to worry about much as a solo female traveler, but I confess, I do worry about getting ill. And the only thing I worry about more than getting ill is going to the hospital.

Ubud’s public hospital was simple, but provided good care. At the time I did not know there were also some private clinics, but Ubud’s public hospital was a fine choice for my predicament.

I politely asked in Indonesian if anyone spoke English, and a nurse helped me fill out the forms and showed me the waiting room. The lovely male doctor and his assistant spoke excellent English—he was originally from Lombok and delighted I visited for the Bau Nyale festival. They had me recline on the exam table in what seemed to double as an operating room, drained the pustules, and applied ointment.

The doctor sent me on my way with some prescription antihistamine and antibacterial lotion—the total cost, consultation and all, was 38,000 IDR ($3.25 USD).

The diagnosis: keep the afflicted areas clean and dry, drain as necessary, and apply antibacterial lotion three times a day to the wounds. After the redness increased—and the pustules were looking a little angrier—I self-diagnosed an infection and took some oral antibiotics. On the follow-up visit, the doctor told me it was a wise move, as the infection had subsided. I felt like I had dodged the plague.

But I was supposed to keep the wounds open, clean, and dry until they were completely healed, at least two weeks. No boots. No hiking. No swimming. No Komodo Island or Komodo dragons. No long motorbike trips. The doctor shook his head firmly when I mentioned hitting the road north to rural Bali.

I was stuck in the land of Eat, Pray, Love, and I was not very happy about it.

So, what’s a sullen gal to do? Go to the ballet—well, the Ramayana Ballet!

14023238.JPG

Final Preparations for the Ramayana Ballet, an Ubud Bali Dance Performance (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

It was an enchanting performance space, set in the ornate courtyard of the Ubud Palace, the royal family’s historic palace. Intricately carved palace doors provided a stately backdrop, and Balinese stone statues of the guards watched over the stage. An elderly woman slowly went around the courtyard making final performance preparations, lighting candles, distributing flowers, and such. The gamelan orchestra settled in and before long, it was sunset and the dramatic, low lighting set the stage for the forthcoming drama.

14023284.JPG

Ramayana Ballet, an Ubud Bali Dance Performance (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

14023309.JPG

Ramayana Ballet, an Ubud Bali Dance Performance (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

The Ubud Bali dance ballet is a colorful and expressive version of the Indonesian Ramayana, a local version of the traditional Indian Ramayana. This ancient Sanskrit epic depicts the timeless story of Rama and Sita; Rama is the incarnation of the Hindu god, Vishnu, and is married to his wife, Sita. In the ninth century Javanese version, Rama, Sita, and her brother, Laksamana, are making a journey when they encounter the demon, Maricha, who abducts Sita, as commanded by the nefarious King Ravana. King Ravana is determined to marry the beautiful Sita, but thankfully, the giant bird creature, Jatayu, and the monkey god, Hanuman, intervene. Jatayu is unfortunately defeated, but then Hanuman and his monkey army arrive on the scene. After a raucous battle with the king’s demonic soldiers, Hanuman and the monkey army succeed in freeing the lovely Sita.

And of course, Rama, Sita, and Laksamana are reunited and everyone lives happily ever after.

14023300.JPG

Ramayana Ballet, an Ubud Bali Dance Performance (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)


UBUD BALI DANCE/RAMAYANA BALLET

The Ubud Palace performance starts at 19:30 and lasts about one and a half hours. Do arrive about a half hour early to get a good seat, particularly if you want to take photographs. You may sit on the carpet at the edge of the performance space; I recommend sitting there if you want to take photographs or use a tripod. Tickets are available in the late afternoon and early evening from street vendors, or you can buy tickets at the excellent Ubud Tourist Office (corner of Jl. Raya Ubud and Jl. Wanara Wana or Monkey Forest Road). Tickets cost 80,000 IDR ($6.80 USD).

Dance performances are available elsewhere around Ubud, but in my opinion, it is difficult to beat the location of the Ubud Palace and the quality of performance. Gamelan, kecak, legong, and barong dances, and wayang kulit puppet performances are also available.

14023292.JPG

Ramayana Ballet, an Ubud Bali Dance Performance (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

14023294.JPG

Ramayana Ballet, an Ubud Bali Dance Performance (Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

Indraprastha Homestay
Hanoman St. No. 40
Padang Tegal Tengah
Ubud, Bali
Ubud
62 361 975549
indraprastha_homestay@yahoo.com
250,000 IDR ($21.30 USD including breakfast)

Indraprastha Homestay has immaculate and lovely rooms, and Mr. and Mrs. Rai are so helpful and absolutely delightful. All rooms have private verandas, but I recommend the second floor rooms, which overlook the verdant green rice patties. Wake up to a symphony of chirping, ring the wooden bell, and breakfast magically appears on your veranda; the menu changes each day, but always includes fresh tropical fruit. Conveniently located close to town, but a little on the edge of the madness, and away from the congestion and day-trippers. Bookings are available on Hostel World. Mr. Rai moves silently about the property with the ritual offerings, and the Rai parents occupy the front building in the family compound.

It was the perfect place to nurse my wounds.

View from Indraprastha Homestay Veranda Ubud Bali Indonesia

View from Indraprastha Homestay Veranda Ubud Bali Indonesia

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week Waiting for the Sunset at the Edge of the Indian Subcontinent (Kanyakumari, India)

Photo of the Week: Waiting for the Sunset at the Edge of the Indian Subcontinent (Kanyakumari, India)

This photo of the week is from Kanyakumari, India, the southernmost point of the Indian subcontinent. Three oceans meet at Kanyakumari—the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean—and it is a sacred spot for Hindus and a major pilgrimage spot. Here the sunrise and sunset are visible from the same spot and during the full moon (Chitra Pournami), the moonrise and sunset are visible at the same time.

I love the sacred pilgrimage spots—Kanyakumumari, Pushkar, Bodhgaya, Dharamsala, Varanasi, and Hampi were some of my favorite places on the India trip.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Which Gili Island? Travel to Gili Air, Quintessential Paradise Found.

Which Gili Island? Travel to Gili Air, Quintessential Paradise Found

14022661.JPG

Sunset off Gili Air (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

Alluring, irresistible, tranquil Gili Air! Nestled in the turquoise waters off the northwest coast of Lombok, Gili Air (AH-year) is part of an archipelago of three islands, Gili Air, Gili, Meno, and Gili Trawangan (Gili T). The Gilis—Sasak for small island—are the perfect destination for snorkeling, diving, or just kicking back and relaxing. Multi-hued turquoise sea, pristine white sand beaches, vibrant, deep water coral reefs, gentle waves, tepid water, and beachside bungalows—the three Gilis (Tiga Gili) of the Gili Islands (Kepulauan Gili) are quintessential paradise found.

I confess, I am not much of a beach person. I am a fan of small, quiet places, though, and went to kill a bit of time before the Bau Nyale festival—and so glad I did.

There is no motorized transit on any of the Gilis—transportation is by bicycle, cidomo (small, horse-drawn carriages or carts, pronounced cheeto-mu), or by foot. There are no police or no real medical facilities. Regularly scheduled motorized boats and charter boats are available between the islands.

Each island has its own character, but the commonality on each Gili is that people seem to stay longer than expected. It is one of those places.

14022548.JPG

Rainstorm and Fishing Boat off Gili Air (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

As a solo traveler who was looking for some quiet cycling, ample restaurants, but not a party, I chose Gili Air as my home base. Gili Air is the second smallest island, and somewhere between Gili Meno and Gili T in character. It is known to attract couples and travelers seeking quiet—but not as much quiet and solitude as Gili Meno. It is the second largest Gili, and the closest island to the mainland of Lombok Island (although all three are quite close to Lombok). Good snorkeling can be had on the reefs off the coast, or you can go with a snorkeling/dive boat (see Getting Around section). The local economy is based on fishing, coconut farming, and tourism; most of the local restaurants offer local seafood.

14022625.JPG

Rainstorm over Gunung Rijani (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

Gili Meno is the quietest Gili, and is known for solitude and idyllic, secluded beaches. The local economy is based on fishing, coconut farming, and tourism, but has far fewer lodging options than Gili Air or Gili T. There is also a bird sanctuary and a turtle sanctuary, which you can be visited as a day trip from the other islands.

14022620.JPG

Children on a Boat off Gili Air (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

Gili Trawangan (Gili T) is known as a party island, and the economy is mostly centered on tourism. With regularly scheduled parties and beachfront bars, it is the place for nightlife (although I have been told you can avoid that, if it is not your cup of tea). It is the most outlying of the three islands, and due to its small size, has never been able to sustain large scale agriculture. The island is rumored to have a long history of drug tourism.

14022578.JPG

Biking across the Island (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

Like most island environments, water is scarce. Gili Air is the only island with underground fresh water; air is the Indonesian word for water. Be aware that water is a finite resource on Gili Air. Water is brought from the mainland for the other islands, and used to supplement the water supplies on Gili Air. Use water resources carefully and wisely.

Fast, tourist boats started traveling from Bali in 2005 and the Gilis appeared on the backpacker circuit in the 1990s. The real estate signs are posted, and tourism investment grows each year. Go now, but thread lightly.

14022652.JPG

Traditional House on Gili Air (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

Tyrrell Cottages and Restaurant
Gili Air, 83125 Gili Air, Indonesia
210,000 IDR ($18 USD)

Clean, simple fan room, with garden-view terrace, private bathroom, and shower; rate includes breakfast. Just a few minutes walk to the boat landing (just walk left or west to Tyrrell if you are facing the island) and 45 meters (150 feet) to the beach. Air conditioned rooms are also available.

Beachfront bungalows are available to the left (west) and right (east) of the boat landing, and on the sleepier north side of the island. Local homestays can be found along the main path that runs across the island, just north of the boat landing; rates were around 580,000 IDR ($50 USD) in winter 2014. Note that most of the restaurants are right (east) of the boat landing, so that area is a little busier (at least as busy as Gili Air can be).

14022592.JPG

Boats off Gili Air (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

GETTING THERE

Bangsal Harbor (Gili boat landing) is about two hours from the Lombok International Airport or LOP (Bandar Udara International in Indonesian). See Skyscanner.com (also available as an Ipad travel app) for the best flights to LOP.

Fast, tourist boats travel from Bali to the Gilis, and the public ferry travels to mainland Lombok. Do check TripAdvisor, etc. reviews for the fast boats, as there are safety issues. The crossing was not recommended during rainy season, when the seas are rougher.

If you are connecting with a dive shop, they can meet you at the airport and arrange boat transportation.

If you are traveling from other parts of Lombok (such as Kuta), you can purchase a ticket locally that includes car or shuttle transportation, plus a boat ticket.

If you arrive at Bangsal Harbor, tickets cost approximately 28,000 IDR ($2.40 USD) for a shuttle boat and approximately 10,000 IDR ($0.90 USD) for the public boat. Be forewarned that you may be told that the boat is full or has been cancelled, and that you may have to wait for the next boat, buy a special ticket, or wait for a charter. If it seems clear that there is space on the boat—as there was on mine—politely insist that you have a ticket and will be taking that boat. In my case, I just waded to boat (which was the normal way to access the boat), smiled and said terima kasih (thank you) and all was well.

I believe the last boat is at 17:00. After that you maybe have to arrange a room or a charter boat (approximately 185,000 IDR/$16 USD).

If it best to travel in the morning, when the seas are calmer. It takes approximately twenty minutes from Bangsal Harbor to Gili Air.

See the post on extending your tourist visa in Lombok for information on Lombok guides and private drivers.

GETTING AROUND

Cidomo (small, horse-drawn carriages or carts) typically meet the boats; most have a sign that says taxi. They are usually parked near the public boat landing.

14022622.JPG

Cidomo on Gili Air (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022606.JPG

Cidomo Meeting the Public Boat (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022558.JPG

Cidomo on Gili Air (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

Mr. Man (across from Ocean 5 Diving by the main dock), rents bicycles for 40,000 IDR ($3.40 USD). The going rate on the rest of the island is 35,000 IDR ($3 USD), but Mr. Man is conveniently located next to the boat landing.

Snorkeling gear can be had for 35,000 IDR ($3 USD) and snorkeling is possible off the beach on the northwest side of the island. Do check with locals on current conditions; there are reportedly strong currents between the islands. A full day (10:00-15:00) snorkeling trip on a dive boat costs 100,000 IDR ($8.60); price includes snorkeling gear and boat transportation to the coral reefs of Gili T, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. There are a number of dive shops on the island, but Ocean 5 seemed consistently busy, with a constant string of dive students and classes.

An island hopping boat runs between Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili T. The boat leaves in the morning from Gili Air to Gili Meno at 08:30 and returns at 15:30, and costs 30,000 IDR ($2.60 USD).

14022556.JPG

Fishing Boat off Gili Air (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

WHERE TO EAT

Beachside cafes, restaurants and bars serve Indonesian and well-done international cuisine. Most restaurants are right (east) of the boat landing. Scallywags is a little more upscale than the average beachfront restaurant, but everything (Indonesian and western cuisine) is excellent, well prepared, and terribly fresh. There is also a large beach attached to the restaurant and free wifi (quite common on most of the restaurants; ask first).

Raja served the best pepes ikan laut I had in Indonesia. The grilled fish was marinated in fragrant Lombok yellow curry and peppers, wrapped in banana leaves, grilled, and served with steamed rice, bean sprouts, carrots, and long beans. This is typical of pepes ikan, but in this version, the native charcoal seared the banana leaves, allowing the smokiness to permeate the fish curry and meld with the curry. Divine!

The local specialty is ayam pelecing taliwang, local chicken rubbed with Lombok sambal (spicy to fiery condiment) and then fried. A number of beachfront restaurants offered choose-your-own fish for grilling/barbeque.

Warungs (food stalls) can be found along the path that cuts across the island, immediately north of the boat landing. I only saw one street vendor: the woman near the boat landing often sells packets of rice in banana leaves and fried snacks, cylindrical pastry wrapped around banana, a savory fried patty with sweet onion and corn kernels, and round cakes of slightly sweetened fried dough. The initial price was four for 5,000 IDR ($0.040 USD), but she threw in an extra when I turned down the plastic bag and put it in my Lomobok sarong.

14022595.JPG

Indonesian Street Food (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022572.JPG

Biking across the Island (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia)

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week

Waiting for the Monks. Morning Alms Giving and Monk Procession in Luang Prabang Laos

Waiting for the Monks. Morning Alms Giving and Monk Procession (Luang Prabang, Laos)

This photo of the week is from the morning monks’ alms procession in Luang Prabang, Laos.

The sun was starting to rise above the river when I left my guest house, a bit after five am. I paused on the quiet street, not knowing where to go—then some locals motioned up the road and mumbled, “Monks, monks” in a low voice. So I might be in the right place?

The tea vendor across the street was firing up her charcoal brazier. I pulled up a hard, plastic lawn chair ubiquitous to all Southeast Asian food stalls, ordered a cup of tea, and waited. Slowly women emerged from the neighboring homes, and they gently spread their mats on the pavement. They set out woven sticky rice containers, huddled with their neighbors, and chatted quietly—and waited for the monks.

I was fiddling with my camera when the first batch of monks moved silently down the street. If the women did not open their sticky rice containers, I might have missed them—it was such a quiet and serene procession. The young novice monks filed down the street in a single line and each woman put a little rice in their containers, the first of hundreds of monks swathed in orange robes.

The monks’ alms procession starts at the temples, then the monks wind their way through the street to collect alms, usually rice and fruit. This is a common practice in Theravada Buddhist countries like Thailand and Laos, but the monk procession is particularly dramatic in charming Luang Prabang, with its plethora of temples and large monastic community.

Alas, the tak bat alms ceremony has reportedly become so popular that locals joke that there are more falang (foreigners) than lay people. Fortunately that was not the case during my Laos walkabout.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Useful Indonesian Phrases for Traveling and Indonesian Language for Travel

Useful Indonesian Phrases for Traveling and Indonesian Language for Travel

Indonesia has over 700 indigenous languages, but Indonesian (or Bahasa Indonesia; bahasa means language) is the lingua franca that unites 230 million Indonesians. It is easy to learn the Indonesian language; it is very easy to pronounce, phonetic, each letter has one pronunciation, and most letters are pronounced the same way they are pronounced in English. Indonesian in Seven Days also has audio, so you can hear pronunciation.

Bahasa Indonesia is the same as Malay, the language spoken in Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Malay is a product of regional history and Indonesia’s maritime spice trade, and was influenced by Sanskrit, Arabic and Javanese. Malay is known as Bahasa Melayu in Brunei and and Singapore and Bahasa Malaysia in Malaysia.

Whenever and wherever I travel, I try to learn some of the local language. Locals inevitably appreciate any effort to speak their language, and it can be a wonderful ice breaker with new friends—and it is just the polite thing to do. It is amazing how much you can communicate with polite words, smiles, and hand gestures! If you are unsure how to pronounce something, or want to learn new words, just ask a local. I promise they will be delighted to help you speak the Indonesian language and to learn new Indonesian phrases.

I do like the Lonely Planet phrasebooks, as they are pocket-sized, well-organized, and cover a range of situations. Even if you cannot speak much of the language, in a pinch, you can always point to the relevant phrases. A good phrasebook can really come in handy off the beaten path.

You may find it pleasant to learn a few phrases of the local language (for example, Balinese or Javanese). Although local vocabulary is less useful than Indonesian phrases in Bahasa Indonesia, locals truly appreciate the effort, and you may gain some insight into the local culture. For instance, the man at the Sanur, Bali post office taught me to say goodbye in Balinese, “Om santi santi” (like the Hindi “om shanti shanti”). Translation: the universal sound/vibration of the universe and peace peace—simply beautiful.

Following are some useful Indonesian phrases for traveling and a quick guide to Indonesian language for travel. You might also enjoy the Moiwalkabout guide to Indonesian street food, which has useful Indonesian food words or Indonesian food vocabulary, particularly useful if you want to try the warungs (food stalls), or just enjoy delicious Indonesian cuisine. If you want to go a little deeper, try Escape Artistes Twenty Words to Get You Almost Anywhere in Indonesia.

Continue reading


BASIC INDONESIAN PHRASES AND WORDS

English Indonesian Phrase
Hello (literally peace or peace be with you) Salaam or Salaam a'lakum (if someone is Muslim)
Hello Om swastiastu (if someone is Hindu; safe to start with this in Bali)
Hello Halo
Goodbye Selamat tinggal (if leaving)
Goodbye Selamat jalan
See you later Sampai jumpa
Good morning (until 11:00) Selamat pagi
Good afternoon (until 15:00) Selamat siang
Good evening (until 18:00) Selamat sore
Good night (at night from about 18:00) Selamat malam
Good night (before going to bed) Selamat tidur
How are you? Apa kabar?
I am fine. And you? Kabar baik. Anda bagaimana?
Excuse me (to get attention) Maaf
Excuse me (pardon me) Maaf permissi
I am sorry Maaf
Please Silahkan
Thank you Terima kasih
Very much Banyak
You are welcome Kembali
Yes Ya
No Tidak
What is your name? Siapa nama anda?
My name is… Nama saya…
Do you speak English? Bisa bicara bahasa Inggris? or anda bisa Bahasa Inggris?
I do not understand. Saya tidak mengerti
What does it cost/how much is it? Berapa harganya?
Expensive Mahal
Help! Tolong!
Police Polisi
Be careful or lookout Hati hati
Leave me alone Jangan ganggu saya
What is it? Apa ini?
Where is…? Di mana…?
Where is the toilet? Di mana kamar kecil?
Jalan Street or walk
Boat (general) Kapal
Boat (local) Perahu
Bus Bis
Minibus Bemo
Motocycle taxi Ojek
Plane Pesawat
Taxi Taksi
Train Kereta api
Ticket Tiket
I am lost Saya tersesat.
Can you show me (on the map)? Anda bisa tolong tunjukkan pada saya (di peta)?
Could you write it down please? Anda bisa tolong tuliskan?
I am sick Saya sakit
I need a doctor Saya perlu dokter
I need your help Saya minta tolong.
Buka Open
Tutup Closed
Masuk Entrance
Keluar Exit
Pria Men
Wanita Women
Dilarang Forbidden

TITLES/HOW TO ADDRESS PEOPLE

When speaking to men, use pak, bapak, or saudara. The literal translation of bak and bapak is father. Bapak is more formal and is used like sir in English. Saudara is more formal, and conveys greater respect. The literal translation is kinsman. A less formal term is om (uncle).

When speaking to women, use bu or ibu for addressing women. The literal translation of ibu is mother, and like m’am in English. Nona is the equivalent of miss. A less formal term is tante (aunt).


COMMON INDONESIAN QUESTIONS

Everywhere you go in Indonesia, people will ask questions will ask questions like “Where are you from?”, “Where are you going?”, and “Where are you staying?” The questions are almost like greetings and are meant as polite conversation, and are not meant to be prying. You can give an honest answer or a vague one. Some appropriate responses to “Where are you going?” include: jalan, jalan (walking, walking); ke sana (over there); jogging aja (just going for a jog); or makan angin (eating wind or walking).

Other common questions:

Dari mana?/Tinggal di mana?
Where are you coming from?/Where do you live?

Mau kemana?
Where are you going?

Tinggal dimana?
Where are you staying?

Jalan sendiri?
Are you traveling alone?

Sudah kawin?
Are you married?

Anak-anak ada?
Do you have children?

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week River Scene near Don Det Laos

Photo of the Week River Scene near Don Det Laos

This photo of the week is from Don Det, Laos, a sleepy, Mekong River fishing village in southern Laos, just north of the Cambodian border, part of the 4000 Islands (Si Phan Don). At least Don Det was still sleepy in 2009; my understanding is the hazy backpacker circus in Vang Vieng, Laos may have migrated to Don Det, and that would be terribly unfortunate. At the time, locals were very conscious of not becoming another Vang Vieng. Apparently there are even tshirts, Been There, Don Det. I am so happy I Don Det when I did—always the case with getting off the beaten path.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Travel to Kuta Lombok—Where Goats and Indonesian Surfing Meet Stunning Beaches

Travel to Kuta Lombok—Where Goats and Surfing Meet Stunning Beaches

14022535.JPG

Goats in Downtown Kuta (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022447.JPG

Surf Shops in Downtown Kuta (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022444.JPG

Downtown Kuta (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Kuta is a sleepy surf mecca, where the rooster’s crowing blends into the call to prayer from the local mosque, and a few bored and wandering goats stroll the main boulevard. Emerald hills hug the crescent-shaped, turquoise harbors around this simple fishing village. It is a splendid landscape.

The best swimming beaches are Kuta and Mawun Beach. If you do not have a motorbike, the main harbor beach, Kuta, is calm and pleasant. Small children will greet you with offers to purchase handmade bracelets, but I found once I bought a few—and wore them—I was in the clear, particularly with a smiling and polite, “Terima kasih” (thank you).

Mawun Beach is about eight kilometers (five miles) west of Kuta, and is simply stunning and delightful for swimming—sparkling clear, calm water and pristine white sand. There are several drink stalls, including a man selling coconuts, and a few shade platforms. Selong Belanak is past Mawun, about twelve kilometers (eight miles) west of Kuta Beach, with a popular surf spot, Mawi Beach, nearby.

14022438.JPG

Kuta Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022440.JPG

Fisherman on Kuta Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Novotel Beach (Pantai Putri Nyale) is about three kilometers (two miles) east of Kuta, but it is not suitable for swimming at low tide. Seger Beach (Pantai Seger) is about four kilometers (two and a half miles) east of Kuta and is a popular surfing beach. Strong currents make it unsuitable for swimming, but there are some drink stands and the rock formations are amazing. It is also the site of the annualBau Nyale celebration.

14022476.JPG

Mawun Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022485.JPG

Mawun Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022499.JPG

Drink Stand at Mawun Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022501.JPG

Coconut Man at Mawun Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Tanjung A’an is about seven kilometers (four miles) east of Kuta, and has two white sand bays, Pedau to the east and A’an to the west. There are some drink and snack stalls and a couple restaurants.

Locals love to joke that this fishing village is (quite thankfully!) *not* Kuta, Bali. Many an ojek (motorcycle taxi) or driver will laugh, “Oh you wanted *that* Kuta?”

14022474.JPG

On the Way to Mawun Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022472.JPG

Rice Paddies near Mawun Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

But Kuta is on the cusp of change. You cannot miss the land for sale signs as you motorbike about; apparently land is being marketed toward the Australian and New Zealand second home market,and hoteliers are sniffing about. Go now before it is too late and tread lightly, as paradise is most definitely for sale and the beaches—and surfing—are said to be some of the best in Indonesia.

For more information on traveling to Lombok Island and Kuta, Lombok (including accommodation, where to eat, how to get there, how to get around, etc.), see the post on Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

14022429.JPG

Motorbike Dreaming (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022515.JPG

Seger Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022462.JPG

Juice Bar (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022452.JPG

Kuta Market (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week

Flower Hmong Woman at the Sunday Market (Bac Ha, Vietnam)

Flower Hmong Woman at the Sunday Market (Bac Ha, Vietnam)

This photo of the week is from Bắc Hà, Vietnam, a sleepy, rural town in the Lào Cai Province in mountainous northeast Vietnam. Thousands of Flower Hmong Vietnam, congregate at the Sunday market in intricately hand-embroidered dresses, a technicolor whirl of color. The Flower Hmong are one of the fifty four ethnic minorities in Vietnam; Hmong people living in the mountains of Thailand, northern Laos, Vietnam, and China, and are a subgroup of the Miao in southern China.

Bắc Hà is also know for Tam Hoa plums, which must bloom three times before the plums ripen.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Indonesian Visa Extension in Lombok

How to Extend Your Thirty Day Indonesian Visa? Indonesian Visa Extension in Lombok

An Indonesia visa on arrival (VOA) is available at certain Indonesian airports and sea ports. VOAs are valid for up to thirty days, and can be extended another thirty days at Indonesian immigration offices. Applicants must have a passport which is valid for at least six months from the planned entrance to Indonesia; return ticket; and cash visa fee ($25 USD). Alternately, you can apply for a sixty day tourist visa before leaving your home country.

I thought of extending my Indonesian visa in Bali, as there are plenty of visa agents, middlemen who navigate the local immigration office for a hefty fee. However, from everything I read, the visa extension process is more bureaucratic in Bali and can take more time than in Lombok. I must admit, the process made me nervous: not only did Bali visa agents charge $75-100 USD, and you had to surrender your passport for several days or more. Although I read accounts of do-it-your-selfers extending their Indonesian VOA without a Bali visa agent, it was reported to be a time consuming and unpleasant experience. My theory was that more people apply for Indonesian visa extensions in Bali than elsewhere in Indonesia, so the immigration office is a little slower and grumpier—at least that was what was reported via Internet accounts.

Applying for a visa on arrival (VOA) extension in Mataram, Lombok was a fairly simple process in March 2014. Steps for applying for an Indonesian visa extension in Lombok:

  1. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after your visa expiration date.
  2. Print a copy of your outbound plane ticket from Indonesia. You will need a paper copy, not an electronic copy. With that said, a dreadlocked Australian surfer at the Lombok immigration office submitted a Garuda flight reservation, not an actual ticket, and it worked.
  3. Photocopy the main passport page, visa page, government departure card, and outbound plane ticket. The first floor photocopy machine was out of order, but the employees pointed me toward a photocopy shop (on the side street with all the food stalls/warungs). The folks in the photocopy shop knew why I was there, and what to photocopy.
  4. Go to the second floor of Kantor Imigrasi (immigration office) (JL. Udayana, No. 2, Mataram, 83122, Indonesia, 62 370 632520). The office is open Monday-Friday 08:00-16:00, and the VOA extension office is closed for lunch from 11:30-13:30. Some Internet accounts reported that the desk says helpful counter, but that sign was missing when I was there (even though the staff was more than helpful!)
  5. Complete a the cover page of the visa extension folder and insert your passport, photocopies, and processing fee, and leave it with the person at the counter in the second floor immigration office. I attached my departure card to my passport with a safety pin, so it did not go missing. The staff will ask you to sign a passport log when you turn over your passport, and then tell you when to return for your passport and new visa. Be sure to smile and say “Terima kashi” (thank you)!
  6. I paid 400,000 IDR ($35 USD) for speedy processing, and the visa was ready by 15:00. Regular processing was 250,000 IDR ($21 USD), which takes two days. Mataram is a rather unpleasant, big city, and I decided one night was quite enough.
  7. When you pickup your passport, you will be asked to sign for it in the passport log.

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

Oka and Sons Guest House
Jl Repatmaja No. 5 Cakranegara
Mataram 83231 Lombok Indonesia
62 0819 1600 3637

200,000 IDR ($17 USD). Immaculate room with air conditioning, fan, breakfast, television, wifi, and a pleasant veranda. Mrs. Gek and her family were just lovely, always friendly and helpful. They also have motorbikes available for rent and can help with transportation (bus or shuttle tickets, or private transportation).

Some folks in the visa line opted to stay in Senggigi, which is not far from Mataram, but on the water.

WHERE TO EAT

There is a super fresh, very friendly warung about one block from Oka and Sons; just walk toward Jl. Pejanggik, the main street. They had an incredible variety of dishes, at least ten different plates of the day.

GETTING AROUND/INDEPENDENT GUIDES
Mr. Agus Swanda
62 081 805 228 117

Mr. Agus is an independent tour guide for Mataram, Kuta, Gili Islands, and Gunung Rinjani, and is also available as an ojek (motorcycle taxi). He is friends with Mrs. Gek’s family and volunteered to give me a ride to the Internet cafe (so I could print my flight confirmations), and then gave me a lift to the Kantor Imigrasi. Mr. Agus even offered to wait for me and translate, but I assured him I would be fine. Mr. Agus was personable, informative, and helpful, and spoke excellent English. I did not use him as a guide, but he seemed to have a steady freelance business working for other tour offices. It is, of course, financially better for independent tour operators if you can contract with them directly.

Mr. Abello owns Abello Transport (62 81 917 185 286, 62 81 338 989 137); he usually contracts with tour operators and offices, but appreciates independent business. It cost 150,000 IDR ($13 USD) from Kuta to the Gili Island boat landing, but Mr. Abello will travel wherever you want to go on Lombok Island. He was very friendly and accommodating, and encouraged us to stop along the way (which we did not do).

For more information on traveling to Lombok Island, see the post on Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Bau Nyale Festival in Kuta Lombok

Bau Nyale Festival in Kuta Lombok

14022772.JPG

Seger Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

I traveled to charming little Kuta (Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia) specifically for the Bau Nyale festival. Bau Nyale means “to catch the sea worms” in the local Sasak language and is completely unique to the island of Lombok.

The sea worms, a rare variety of the palolo worm or eunice viridis, are found in tropical waters and in Lombok, Sumba, and Savu in Indonesia. The nyale spawn at certain Lombok beaches when certain lunar and marine conditions are right, and well, when the stars are in alignment. The Bau Nyale festival traditionally takes place in the tenth month of the Sasak calendar closest to the full moon, usually mid to late February. The festivities take place on stunning Seger Beach in a place locals call Putri Nyale (Princess Nyale).

14022770.JPG

Seger Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022778.JPG

Seger Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

There was a festive carnival environment en route to Putri Nyale before the Bau Nyale festival. A steady stream of motorbikes and cars inched toward the beach, sprinkled with truckloads of traditional music and dance performers from local villages. There was a mass of color, with the performers swathed in traditional Sasak ceremonial clothing, a whirl of color and gold-threaded songket cloth. Vendors sold balloons, cold beverages, and ice cream, which added to the merriment.

14022813.JPG

Performers on their Way to the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Admittedly it was motorbike gridlock and another traveler told me a story of road rage, a young woman in a headscarf who hopped off her motorbike to take a swing at two young dudes who cut her off and almost tipped her over. Mr. Muhammad was very right to question my skill level and sanity for wanting to ride in this scene!

14022802.JPG

Father and Daughter on their Way to the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022859.JPG

Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Beachfront stages lined the sand for traditional singing and dangdut music, which has its origins in Indian, Malay, and Arab music. Along the way, traditional dance and music groups performed and posed for the camera. It seemed everyone—including the performers—had a camera and was documenting the exuberant and colorful festivities and Princess Mandalika procession.

14022873.JPG

Musicians in the Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022892.JPG

Musicians at the Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022890.JPG

Performers at the Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Traditional Malay poetry called (pantun) starts the festival; young men and women use the poetic form as a way to flirt and to meet future partners. I was told that young men and women sing pantun verses back and forth, singing and wooing each other, often a first step to traditional courtship.

14022828.JPG

Near Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

The Bau Nyale festival culminates in a drama for Putri or Princess Madalika, the princess of the yellow flower kingdom. As the local story goes, the kind, beautiful, and well-loved princess was courted by princes and suitors throughout the land. However, she could not make up her mind, which lead to threats of war from neighboring kingdoms. It was a most distressing situation.

Princess Madalika’s father, King Kuripan, decided enough was enough. He rounded up the various suitors and instructed the princess that she must make a choice before sunrise.

14022860.JPG

Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022837.JPG

Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Princess Mandalika was distraught and feared that if she picked one man, it would make the situation worse and would most definitely lead to war. Instead of making a choice, she declared her love for her parents, her kingdom, and its subjects, stating that she feared the consequences of her decision. She chose to end her life, jumping into the sea from a point high above Seger Beach, promising that she would never leave her people and would return each year.

14022834.JPG

Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022839.JPG

Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Princess Madalika’s parents and the kingdom were understandably distraught. They fervently searched the land and sea for their princess, but only found multi-colored waves of sea worms, the nyale. The dukun (local priest) declared that Mandalika’s body had been transformed and all that remained were the nyale.

14022867.JPG

Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022869.JPG

Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

This legend is celebrated each year at the Putri Mandalika drama at the Bau Nyale festival, as well as the daytime parade of Mandalika performance groups to Seger Beach. Thousands of people gather around midnight to watch the beachside drama, awash in colorful Sasak clothing, drumming, and gamelan music. After the drama, the musicians entertain the crowds while they wait for the arrival of the nyale.

14022845.JPG

Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022862.JPG

Princess Mandalika Procession at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022902.JPG

Sunrise at Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022907.JPG

Sunrise at Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Expectant and excited crowds wade into the water with buckets, nets, and lights, all seeking the first nyale. The first catch starts a couple hours after midnight and by early morning, about 05:00, the tide starts to ebb while the exuberant masses return from the ocean with their prized nyale. The Bau Nyale festival highlight is when the dukun (local priest) wades into the ocean and predicts the success of the future rice harvest. Besides being a living manifestation of Princess Mandalika, the nyale are considered a fertility symbol and associated with local agricultural success.

14022919.JPG

Sunrise at Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022921.JPG

Sunrise at Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022926.JPG

Young Man and His Nyale at Seger Beach (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

The nyale are a seasonal, local delicacy. They are considered to be an aphrodisiac and rich in protein, and are sometimes eaten raw, steamed, fried, or made into pepes nyale (nyale mixed with coconut and spices and roasted in a banana leaf and roasted over a fire).

14022929.JPG

Sunrise at Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022951.JPG

Sunrise at Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022953.JPG

Sunrise at Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

The Bau Nyale festival was attended by mostly local Sasak people, with a smattering of Indonesian and foreign tourists. There are admittedly some days you wonder why you travel—and why one travels this way. Then there are undeniably awesome days of discovery and adventure and being right in the middle of a cultural event that leaves your head spinning and on pure sensory overload. The Bau Nyale festival was definitely one of the latter days.

14022955.JPG

Sunrise at Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022957.JPG

Sunrise at Seger Beach at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022963.JPG

Woman Selling Nyale after the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indomesia)

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

Segare Anak Bungalows and Restaurant
Jln. Raya Puntai
Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia 83573
+ 62 370 654 846, 817 366 457
segareanakbungalow@gmail.com
www.kutalombok.com
Near the harbor beach, Segare Anak has fan rooms around 230,000 IDR ($20). There is a quiet courtyard garden and the open-air restaurant overlooks the beach. Room rates include breakfast. The cheerful, friend staff is warm, welcoming, and chatty.

There are numerous homestays if you follow the main street perpendicular to the beach and go a bit inland. I found that it could be a little warm inland and was happy to have the harbor breeze.

If your tastes range toward the luxury, four-star places, the place to try seems to be:

Hotel Novotel Lombok
Mandalika Resort, Pantai Putri Nyale
Kuta Beach, Pujut Lombok Tengah
Kuta, Lombok 83111
www.novotel.com/gb/hotel-0571-novotel-lombok-resort-and-villas/index.shtml
$150-200 USD per night

WHERE TO EAT

There are a number of small, open-air restaurants along the beach. Most serve a variety of seafood dishes, with a wide variety of Indonesian and sometimes western dishes, and have fairly similar menus. I ate at each of them and enjoyed them all, and found that the beachfront places had more Indonesia food options than the restaurants further inland. Warung Bule (mains 40,000-150,000 IDR/$3.50-$13 USD) is very popular and has a steady stream of people, all foreigners (bule means foreigner in Indonesian). You are more likely to get a more local flavor at the other beachfront places.

There is a very popular and super fresh lunch warung a couple blocks up from the beach, which I highly recommend. Head inland (north) on the main street perpendicular to the beach, pass the surf shops, turn left (west) at the first intersection, and walk about one hundred meters. About 11,500-23,000 IDR ($1-2 USD) depending on how much you eat.

Ashtari Restaurant
www.ashtarilombok.com
If you rent a scooter and travel to Mawun Beach, be sure to stop at Ashtara at the top of the hill above Kuta (about two kilometers or one mile). Nestled in the forest, the restaurant provides stunning views of Kuta Beach and Seger Beach in the distance, as well as the emerald hills that hug the turquoise bays. I stopped in to dodge an afternoon rainstorm as the mist-shrouded hills yielded to sunny, blue skies, and took the opportunity to enjoy Ashtari’s signature ginger coconut pumpkin soup. There is an outside patio, and a mixture of jungle and farming scents, billowy clouds, and emerald mountains hugging crescent-shaped bays. Appetizers, focaccia, salads, and signature dishes (ginger coconut pumpkin soup, meh goreng, and an Indian-style veggie burger) run between 40,000-60,000 IDR ($3.50-$5.25 USD) with crepes, ice cream, and homemade cakes between 15,000-35,000 IDR ($1.30-$3 USD)

GETTING THERE AND AROUND

Seger Beach is about five kilometers or three miles from Kuta. Ask at your hotel for a motorbike rental (about 50,000 IDR or $4.15 USD per day); if they do not have one available, they will try to connect you with a private individual. Do ask for a helmet and make sure everything is in working order before you hop on the road. Do spring for parking areas at the beaches (5000 IDR or $0.50 USD), as they are more secure and provide some income for the security man. Roadside stands and small stores sell petrol (gasoline) for 6000 IDR/liter ($0.50 USD/liter).

Be forewarned that Kuta motorbike rentals are usually done without a contract or insurance, just a handshake. The longer your rent, the better the rate. I did talk to some folks who had body work done to their rented motorbikes due to minor accidents, and they reported that the repair people in Kuta were reasonable, fair, inexpensive, and reliable. Most rental places include a surf rack at no cost.

The tour shops (which usually double as surf shops) can book bus tickets, Perama shuttles, or private cars to the airport or boat landing to the Gili Islands, Mataram, or Senggigi. All of the offices seem to offer the same prices; I dealt with two separate offices, but unfortunately cannot remember their names, just Mr. Yanna, who was very helpful. I found that sharing a car with other people was about the same price as the Perama shuttle and offered more flexibility.

Our driver, Mr. Abello, has his own business, Abello Transport (62 81 917 185 286, 62 81 338 989 137). It cost 150,000 IDR ($13 USD) from Kuta to the Gili Island boat landing, but Mr. Abello will travel wherever you want to go on Lombok Island. He was very friendly and accommodating, and encouraged us to stop along the way (which we did not do). Kuta is very, very difficult to reach by public transit.

Kuta Lombok is a half hour drive from Lombok International Airport or LOP (Bandar Udara International in Indonesian). See Skyscanner.com (also available as an Ipad travel app) for the best flights to LOP. The Bali Lombok public ferry travels between Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia and Lembar, Lombok. Tourist fast boats travel between Padang Bai and the Gili Islands, although there have been reports of safety issues, particularly during rainy season. International flights no longer travel to Selaparang International Airport (AMI).

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Renting a Motorbike in Indonesia—or What Does a Gal Have to Do to Rent a Motorbike during the Bau Nyale Festival in Kuta Lombok?

Renting a Motorbike in Indonesia—or What Does a Gal Have to Do to Rent a Motorbike during the Bau Nyale Festival?

What *does* a gal need to do to rent a motorbike during Bau Nyale?

The problem was definitely a shortage of motorbikes. I asked at my hotel and they called around to their friends. Not a motorbike to be found. I checked at the hotel next door and they called around to their friends. No motorbikes.

How about Mr. Yanna? They remember I did a deal with him next to the goats last week. No, Mr. Yanna’s motorbike was too new—not a scratch on it and only 1000 k. It made me nervous. Ah, it did not matter, Mr. Yanna was not answering his mobile.

So, along comes a man with a tshirt that reads Esteem California—well, gotta love a man flying the Bear Republic flag, the flag of independence for my home state.

“But it is high season” said Mr. Muhammad. “There are no motorbikes.”

Yup, so I gathered.

And the price is up—not 50,000 IDR ($4.15 USD) per day, but 60,000 IDR ($5 USD) per day. That is ok.

“Can you ride?” Yes, I rented last week and used to commute by motorbike. Um, awhile ago. Like ten years ago!

Mr. Muhammad seemed nervous. He suddenly needed his motorbike for surfing later (he also teaches surfing, in case I want to learn). He will call the boss and see if there is another motorbike. Yes, there is. But he needs this motorbike until the evening—and he is worried about me riding to the Bau Nyale festival. There is a lot of traffic— *everyone*is going to Bau Nyale. I can see that, Mr. Muhammad—every motorbike, truck, and even car is packed with people and they are all headed toward Seger Beach and the nyale. I thought of hitching, but everything seems full—and I need to get a ride back.

14022705.JPG

Watching the Bau Nyale Festival Horse Races (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

But there is still horse racing and stick fighting. Do I want to go?

Did Mr. Muhammad want a date?

Oops, I am wearing a dress—I just dropped off my laundry and I have no trousers. I do not mind riding on the back of the motorbike, but I will not ride side saddle with a skirt. Now *that* is scary. No problem, he will wait while I pick up my laundry and change into trousers. Helmet? I will get one when I am on my own, but in the meantime Mr. Muhammad promises me he will drive slowly. No problem, sister.

No problem indeed.

14022690.JPG

Watching the Bau Nyale Festival Horse Races (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Hundreds of Sasaks were gathered around the track, perched on their motorbikes, waiting for the horses to go round, straining for a better view. “These are not chicken horses–they are very good horses.” And indeed they were—all quite elegant and well groomed. The jockeys clung to horses’ manes as they spun around the the track. )t was a festive atmosphere, with juice vendors and ice cream vendors interspersed in a sea of motorbikes, swirling smoke, and pensive gazes from under the veils. It was almost as if there was money on the race—but I was told that the only money on the table was for the winner, who takes home 1,000,000 IDR ($85 USD).

14022711.JPG

Watching the Bau Nyale Festival Horse Races (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Back on the motorbike—did I want to see the stick fighting?

Peresean is a traditional form of Sasak fighting or martial arts; the locals call it stick fighting in English, and it only happens during the Bau Nyale festival, August, and new years. Competitors try to strike their opponents with long, dull, rattan sticks while protecting themselves with cow hide shields. It was supposed to be a fast and energetic fight cheered on by an exuberant crowd. Let’s go!

14022755.JPG

Peresean or Indonesian Stick Fighting at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

We climbed the hillside, which looks out at stunning Seger Beach, as bare chested men in sarongs attacked each other with bamboo sticks, guarded by small cow hide skin and bamboo shields and an announcer called the score (and gave an oddly evil “Ba ha ha ha!” laugh). There was less money on this one, just 450,000 IDR ($38 USD). The man who got the most whacks in did a cocky little dance with a head bob and the crowd cheered. “Come back tomorrow” said Mr. Muhammad. “They are the best Sasak fighters on Lombok tomorrow.”

Indeed I will. In the meantime, early to bed and early to rise. The sea worms, the nyale, do not wait.

For more information on Kuta, Lombok (accommodation, where to eat, getting there and around), see the post on the Bau Nyale festival in Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia.

14022750.JPG

Crowd Watching Peresean or Indonesian Stick Fighting at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022744.JPG

Peresean or Indonesian Stick Fighting at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022743.JPG

Peresean or Indonesian Stick Fighting at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022739.JPG

Peresean or Indonesian Stick Fighting at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

14022725.JPG
14022719.JPG

Peresean or Indonesian Stick Fighting at the Bau Nyale Festival (Kuta, Lombok, Indonesia)

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Bali Lombok Ferry Safety, or Choices Made

Bali Lombok Ferry Safety

Bali Lombok Public Ferry and Fishing Boats Padang Bai Bali Indonesia

Bali Lombok Public Ferry and Fishing Boats (Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia)

I admit, I was a little concerned about the safety of Indonesian ferries. Lonely Planet warned that this ferry line had safety issues, and that there have been fires and they have run aground—but I convinced myself it was a traveler’s tale. I do have this thing about an orderly demise, and a watery death with fireballs and explosions was not definitely not part of my end days dealio.

I admit, I was a woman who took note of the life jackets.

My Internet research did not yield any negative information about this public ferry, but there sure were plenty of negative safety reports about the tourist fast boats between Bali and Lombok, including the national tour company, Perama’s, 2011 shipwreck.

Bali Lombok Ferry, Indonesia

Bali Lombok Ferry, Indonesia

I spoke with another traveler who said his outgoing trip went from a four hour trip to a seven hour trip, as the ferry had to go around swells and a storm—but all the fast boats had been canceled for days, so there were definitely rough seas. I convinced myself it was just another traveler’s tale. He was one of those bearded thirty-somethings, with the newly wistful look of wandering and well-cultivated, rough-around-the-edges grunge. He appeared to be a man of the road, or at least that seemed to be the look he was going for. I wanted to tell him I was doing this since before he was born (middle age!), like pre-wifi and almost pre-ATMs, but he appeared terribly disinterested in my stories or information.

I asked many locals in Sanur and Padang Bai about potential ferry issues and they assured me, “No problem!”

But then again, there is never a problem in these parts.

Mr. Guirig from the Padang Bai guesthouse assured me that the government cancels the ferry if there is bad weather and motioned that the crew has big screens, GPS, I think. “But better in the morning, not as much…” making wave motions with his hands. He assured me, “They are bigger than houses.” Indeed, they are car ferries and pretty mammoth.

Mr. Guirig gave me a lift to the ferry on his motorbike. I used to do this all the time in Cambodia, but it has been awhile. He popped my big backpack between his legs and away we went, albeit at slowly, teetering pace.

I motioned to my nonexistent watch at the ticket counter and pantomimed “When?” The ticket man pointed at the ferry and laughed, “Now!” I scurried down the walkway, as the women selling water, banana leaf-wrapped rice, and banana chips cautioned “Slowly, slowly!”

I heard that a lot in Indonesia—it was always a lesson to slow down.

Bali Lombok Public Ferry, Indonesia

Bali Lombok Public Ferry, Indonesia

The public ferry runs the seventy kilometers (forth three miles) from Padang Bai, Bali to Lembar, Lombok, a major ferry and tanker port. The ferry was supposed to run every hour or hour and a half, but the cardinal rule of traveling this way is the boat or bus leaves when it is full—or just when it leaves. The Bali Lombok ferry supposedly runs twenty four hours a day, but I knew I wanted to make the four to six hour crossing during the morning (and preferably daylight!), when the sea is quieter.

It started off so easy—gentle seas, soft, cool winds, Balinese gamelan music, some Indonesian pop music videos, and a man trolling for fish off the back of the ferry.

Calm Seas in Padang Bai before the Bali Lombok Ferry, Indonesia

Calm Seas in Padang Bai before the Bali Lombok Ferry, Indonesia

“No problem!” I thought.

Then, a couple hours into the trip, the rhythmic rolling of the sea was interrupted by the occasional pitch up to two meters (about six feet). I admit, I walked by the life jackets again…

But yes, no problem.

*No way* I would make this crossing in one of the tourist fast boats, small boats seating twenty five people! This is most definitely an open water crossing and there is no way I would do it in a small craft.

But then at 10:45, the calm stopped.

Almost two hours into the journey, the engine heaved a pile of loud and atmospheric clangs and bangs, and tossed a huge billow of smoke. The ferry paused. OK, it stopped. I do not know how long, but it seemed, well, like, forever.

Oh, oh.

The Indonesian woman next to me had huge eyes.

Like, really, really big eyes. Saucers.

Oh, oh.

She motioned toward the lower deck. We scurried down the stairs.

I pondered, “What happened if the engine stopped? Or worse yet, what if there was an engine fire?”

Really, what happens if the engine stops? Do you just drift? Do car ferries drift? Or do they start sinking if they are not moving? I really should have paid attention in high school physics.

Do the currents take you back toward Java? Or Thailand? Where would you land? There are ship radios, but what do you do with a hundred (?) sinking passengers, plus some autos? Hey, how many people are on this boat? Does someone (someone?) come and find you? Does Indonesia have a Coast Guard equivalent?

We came to the middle deck, to the snack bar and the main seating. Men snoozed on sleeping mats and a middle aged British couple sat in a rigidly upright position watching Indonesian pop music videos.

From this vantage point, all seemed right with the world. We were not going to our watery grave.

The ferry chugged forward, but as I tapped on my iPad mini, I admit it, my hands were shaking.

Then, the music of wherever and whenever you are someplace warm and tropical came on the speakers—Bob Marley. “I Shot the Sheriff” played on and oddly enough, no one looked worried—or even seemed to notice the engine malfunction or that anything at all was wrong with the world.

Note to self: sit on the middle deck. Ignorance is bliss.

The Indonesian woman was back to chatting on her cell phone. All was well.

But it was definitely time to pray.

GETTING THERE

Public Ferry from Bali to Lombok
40,000 IDR ($3.40 USD)
Runs about every hour, twenty four hours a day
Trip takes four-five hours (or longer, depending on weather)

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week

Man Waiting on the Plaza in Copán Ruinas Copán Ruinas Honduras

Man Waiting on the Plaza in Copán Ruinas (Copán Ruinas, Honduras)

This photo of the week is from the village of Copán Ruinas, near the Mayan ruins of Copán, a UNESCO world heritage site. The Mayan temples, plazas, and terraces were excavated in the nineteenth century, and the little village of Copán Ruinas sprouted up around the site to support the archaeologists. The town is a delightfully sleepy place, with a charming plaza where the locals congregate to chat and enjoy a helado de hielo, or frozen fruit popsicle.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week

Monastery Kitchen at Ki Gompa near Kaza Himachal Pradesh India

Monastery Kitchen at Ki Gompa, near Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India

This photo of the week is from one of my favorite places, Kaza, near the Tibetan border in the Indian Himalaya. They somehow manage to feed more than one hundred monks in this monastery kitchen at Ki Gompa, near Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India. Gompa is the Tibetan word for monastery.

Stopover in Padang Bai Bali for the Padang Bai Ferry to Lombok

Padang Bai Bali

Padang Bai Harbor Beach Padang Bai Bali Indonesia

Padang Bai Harbor Beach, Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia

Today I hit the travel groove. It sure took longer this solo trip, and I have my ideas why. But that is a story for another day!

It was a short bus ride (60,000 IDR/$5 via Perama) from Sanur, Bali via Ubud to Padang Bai (too many places named karma, sparkly Buddhas, and yoga on demand in Ubud!) My plan was to catch the slow boat, or public ferry, to Lombok, the next island over from Bali.

Reported to have a good traveler vibe, Padang Bai Bali is the sort of town where it is easy to find pizza and banana pancakes—along with a lot of grilled or curried fish (mahi mahi, barracuda, marlin, snapper, and calamari) sprinkled with an ample supply dive shops. Despite the laid back scene and atmospheric harbor, most foreigners seemed to roll off the fast ferries from the Gilis onto a taxi to more touristy places in Bali. Besides the underwater scene, there were just a few temples and a small market, and some pleasant beaches. It was a great place to pause.

Girls at the Beach Padang Bai Bali Indonesia

Girls at the Beach, Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia

I was saving snorkeling for the Gili Islands and Komodo Island—this was just an overnight stop. Admittedly, I was a little nervous about the crossing: during rainy season it was reported to be quite choppy, but calmer in the morning. Since I had read about various safety issues with the fast boats—as well as the ferries—I decided to wait. If I went down with the ship, I wanted to see what I was doing. The owner of my guesthouse, Mr. Guirig, assured me that the government shuts down the ferries when there is severe weather. Reassuring! Then again, another traveler told me his ferry took an extra three hours to go around the storm swells—and it is just a four hour crossing. In any case, I decided it would all look better in the morning.

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

Pondok Wisata Tirta Yoga Inn
Jl. Silayukti
Gg. Tongkol, Pandangbai Bali
62 081 236 514 350 cell
125,000 IDR ($10.60 USD) downstairs rooms
150,000 IDR ($12.70) upstairs rooms. Includes two levels, with the bedroom on the second floor
Quiet and immaculately clean. The rate includes breakfast and transportation via ojek (motorcycle taxi) to/from the bus stop and the ferry.

Chicken Cage Padang Bai Bali Indonesia

Chicken Cage, Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia

WHERE TO EAT

Topi Inn
Far west end of Jl. Silayukti
Pleasant outside patio and an assortment of western and Indonesian dishes.

Fish restaurants along Jl. Segara and Jl. Silayukti along the waterfront; most places have similar menus. I enjoyed grilled fish saté lilit (ground fish grilled on a flat, wide bamboo skewer) at Depot Segara (Jl. Segara), which has a lovely little harbor view. It was the first time the smoky, charcoal of the grilled saté melted into the sweet, but just spicy enough peanut sauce. Divine!

Not Really the Shuttle Bus Stop Padang Bai Bali Indonesia

Not Really the Shuttle Bus Stop, Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia

GETTING THERE

Perama Shuttle to Ubud, Sanur, Kuta, Airport
45,000-60,000 IDR ($3.80-5 USD)
Departs 10, 12:30, 16:30

Public Ferry from Bali to Lombok
40,000 IDR ($3.40 USD)
Runs every hour twenty four hours a day
Trip takes four-five hours (or longer, depending on weather)

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Photo of the Week

Sadhus Holy Men at the Monkey Temple Hampi Karnataka India

Sadhus (Holy Men) at the Monkey Temple (Hampi, Karnataka, India)

Hampi—wow, it has been a long time, six year ago, this photo of the week. The sacred places were always my favorite, and Hampi, land of Hanumen, is still one of my favorite sacred places in India.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Travel to Sanur Bali: Do Not Judge a Book by Its Cover

Travel to Sanur Bali: Do Not Judge a Book by its Cover

Man Fishing (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Man Fishing (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

 

I learned a lot of lessons this trip—first and foremost, do not book free plane tickets when angry. And in Sanur, I (re)learned to slow down and not to judge a book by its cover.

I landed in Sanur, Bali as an alternative to bustling, middle-class Denpasar—at first it was just a stopover before catching the Padang Bai-Lombok public ferry. I just ended an epic (insane!) travel run: 01:00 climb up Kawah Ijen in Java, public ferry to Bali, and public bus across Bali, just in time to score a room and a little rest in Sanur.

I will be frank, I try to avoid touristy places. I am not even a beach person. My first assessment was that Sanur was an Australian and European version of Florida, with middle aged and elderly, plump Aussies and Euros cruising around on bikes and minibikes, with the occasional football game on the tele. Given, there were ample temples and shrines, but it appeared to be a place for strolling the beachfront promenade rather than discovering Bali. I had a pleasant Sunday bike ride and found a more local and festive beach, but was ready to bolt from Sanur the moment I arrived.

But Sanur reinforced the lesson that if you take a little time and stroll, you can still experience the essence of the place and have wonderfully authentic experiences—for real life and the sacred happens everywhere, even on the sun-kissed promenade.

Temple Festival Sanur Bali Indonesia

Temple Festival (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

I was back in Sanur for a few nights, convalescing from my bout with Lombok insect hives (more on that later). I was admittedly grumpy: my plan was to rent a motorbike and head north to Gunung Agung and the northeast coast around Amed, Bali. Instead, I needed to keep my wounds clean and dry—no boots, no hiking, and no swimming until things were healed. So, I decided to make the best of it and bunker down in Sanur, to catch up on some writing and healing, so I was boot-worthy for Tanjung Puting National Park.

On the way into town, my bemo (mini bus) driver mentioned a ceremony. “You should go,” he said. “It starts in an hour.” When I returned to my hotel, I was told the same thing. “Do you know about the ceremony? It is starting soon.” I asked where and the hotel gal motioned toward the street and smiled, “Right here.” No problem, I thought. I will definitely check it out.

I set off to explore the other side of town and find some lunch, thinking I would stop at the ceremony—but no ceremony to be found. And no local warungs (food stalls). So I resigned myself to a beachside cafe, where there was a breeze to accompany my banana juice and writing.

I remembered there were some local warungs on the beach, at the end of Jl. Pantai Karang. There was an unusually festive scene and the older ibu (woman/m’am) at the warung wore a dressy, white long-sleeved blouse, long, lacy skirt, and a temple sash. Huh. A lot of women had the same look. Huh. A *lot* of men in sarongs and a *lot* of people, and some live gamelan (percussion orchestra) music to boot. What is up with that? I pulled up a shady stool, exchanged pleasantries with the elderly men at my table, and ate my mie goreng. There were some bule (foreigners) and local people, with more locals than foreigners—made sense, as my first assessment was it was more of a local stop.

 

Gamelan Orchestra at the Temple Festival Sanur Bali Indonesia

Gamelan Orchestra at the Temple Festival (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

 

The gamelan music continued and I thought, “Wow, I need to come back here for lunch!” It was typical street food fare, mie goreng (fried noodles), nasi goreng (fried rice), and another vendor grilling chicken saté. But what a festive, lunch scene!

Priest at Temple Festival Sanur Bali Indonesia

Priest at Temple Festival (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Then I noticed women bringing in offerings. No big deal, that is an everyday occurrence in Bali. Then I noticed a priest blessing the offerings. Then an immense bovine statue was carried in on a covered platform. Huh. I did not notice that little pura (temple) off to the side on my first visit to Sanur—but temples are everywhere in Bali.

Temple Festival Sanur Bali Indonesia

Temple Festival (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Then it dawned on me—this *was* the ceremony! So, I took a spot in the back, trying to be inconspicuous, and watched it all unfold: blessing the offerings, sacred bovine procession, prayer (facing the wall toward the beach), icy beverages and frozen coconut milk treats, and lots of prayer.

Temple Festival Sanur Bali Indonesia

Temple Festival (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

When I walked back to the hotel, one of the men out front asked, “Do you know about the ceremony?” Thank you, sir, yes, I was just there—splendid, absolutely amazing. “You are very lucky. Only once every ten years, to celebrate the beginning of the temple.”

Temple Festival Sanur Bali Indonesia

Temple Festival (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

 

Lesson learned (or reinforced): slow down. Wander. And stop and eat when you see a lot of people! Sometimes the most local experiences are in the most expected places. I must not be so quick to judge—and in the meantime, Sanur was a good place to heal.

Women at the Temple Festival Sanur Bali Indonesia

Women at the Temple Festival (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

14023467

Temple Festival (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

 

Temple Festival Sanur Bali Indonesia

Temple Festival (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

Hotel Ramayana
Jl. Danau Tamblingan No. 130/152 Batujimbar
Sanur, Bali, Indonesia
62 0361 288429

250,000 IDR ($21.50) including breakfast: tropical fruit, Bali didir (like a crepe, made of tapioca, eggs, coconut sugar, and shredded coconut), and western options such as omelets, pancakes, scrambled eggs, good quality whole wheat bread, and splendid Balinese coffee. Although I love embracing local cuisine, I admit that my body does better with morning protein and embraced a morning omelet. Quiet, clean, private garden terraces, and friendly, helpful staff.

Hotels costs at least four times more on the other side of Jl. Danau Tamblingan.

I like to spread the rupiah around; laundry is available at the shop next door for 25,000/kilo ($2.15 for 2.2 pounds).


WHERE TO EAT

Warungs at the end of Jl. Pantai Karang

Pasar Sindhu Night Market
Off Jl. Danau Tamblingan

Sunday Market at Cafe Batu Jimbar Sanur Bali Indonesia

Sunday Market at Cafe Batu Jimbar (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Café Batu Jimbar
Jl. Danau Tamblingan No. 75 A.
Sanur, Bali, Indonesia 80228
62 361 287374

Sort of a miniature rijsttafel (Dutch for rice table) at the Cafe Batu Jimbar’s Sunday market—or a Bali brunch. I loved the amazing nasi kuning (yellow rice) plate for 35,000 IDR ($3 USD).

Hotel Griya Santrian
Jl. Danau Tamblingan 47
Sanur 80228
Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

On the beach. Very elegant and one of my most memorable Bali food memories. I am still dreaming about the yellow curry coconut salad and fish saté lilit (ground fish grilled on a flat, wide bamboo skewer) (60,000 IDR/$5 USD)

GETTING THERE AND AROUND

Perama Shuttle (grocery store near the beach at the end of Jl. Hang Tuah)

To Airport
9, 11, 12:30, 15:30, 18:30

To Ubud (and onward to Padang Bai, 60,000 IDR or $5 USD)
6:15, 10:15, 13:45, 16:45

Sanur is approximately twenty minutes by taxi from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS). A pre-paid taxi coupon costs approximately 125,000 IDR ($11 USD).

Green bemos (small mini buses) run along Jl. Danau Tamblingan and to the bus station.

Speed boats and public boats to Nusa Lembongan run from Jl. Hang Tuah.

Bicycle rentals (30,000 IDR/$2.60 USD) and motorbike rentals (60,000-100,000 IDR/$5.15-$8.60 USD) are available around town.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week

While at my computer on this misty spring afternoon, I decided I wanted a way to remember past wanderings. Oh, what the heck—it was even a throwback Thursday and I was trying to get inspired for hiking season. Particularly since I was nursing a bum hip—not that I had ever done anything for throwback Thursday. So, I bring you, the photo of the week!

Goats on the Way to Rohtang Pass and Spiti (Indian Himalaya, Himachal Pradesh, India)

Goats on the Way to Rohtang Pass and Spiti (Indian Himalaya, Himachal Pradesh, India)

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Island of the Gods: Bali Bound, or Travel to Bali by Public Ferry

Island of the Gods: Bali Bound, or Travel to Bali by Public Ferry

Temple Offerings (Canang Sari) in Bali, Indonesia

Temple Offerings (Canang Sari) (Bali, Indonesia)

Palau Dewata—Bali is the island of the gods.

Bali is a cultural anomaly in Indonesia, as it is over ninety percent Balinese Hindu in the midst of predominantly Muslim Indonesia. Picturesque rice paddies and jungle-swathed mountains are peppered with Hindu temples (pura) and ceremonies, daily ritual, the swirl of incense—and the pulse of more modern dance rhythms in partying Kuta and glamorous Seminyak, which thankfully were not part of my travel to Bali. Package tourism and surfboard-laden travelers (usually bearded, with the wistful, restless look of wandering in their eyes) abound, but it does not take much to get off the beaten path, whether by public transit, motorbike, or bicycle.

Leftover Temple Offerings (Canang Sari) in Bali, Indonesia

Leftover Temple Offerings (Canang Sari) (Bali, Indonesia)

Religion is an everyday part of life in Bali, and small offerings (canang sari) to the gods are ubiquitous, found next to almost every home, business, restaurant, cash register, and rice field—well, everywhere. Temples (pura) and shrines also seem to be everywhere, and temple festivals are never too far away, at least if you stay in one place and watch for them.

Temples are protected by guardian statues of gods and most villages have a temple of origin (pura puseh), temple for the spirits in everyday life (pura desa), and temple of the dead (pura dalem). Multiple generations traditionally live in family homes built around a family temple, which honor the trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu (Wisnu), and Shiva (Civa), as well as the ancestors and local Balinese gods. It is a different flavor of Hinduism from India, bringing together elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, animism, and Malay ancestor worship. Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa is the primary deity, serving as a manifestation of the trimurti of Brahma, Wisnu, and Civa. Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa is usually not visible, but is depicted with an empty throne wrapped in a black and white chessboard pattern cloth and tedung umbrella.

Temple Ceremony (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Temple Ceremony (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Temple God and Guardian (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Temple God and Guardian (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Ritual is a daily part of life in Bali, which I learned very soon after landing at the public ferry in Gilimanuk, just across the strait of Java. We were only in the bus for a few minutes, when the bus driver stopped to make an offering at a roadside shrine.

It was official: I had arrived on the island of the gods, albeit on bus ride blessed with gyrating pop Balinese music videos and gamelan (traditional percussion orchestra).

Temple Offerings at Temple Festival (Village near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

Temple Offerings at a Temple Festival (Village near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

Temple Festival (Village near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

Temple Festival (Village near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia)

Waiting for  Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Waiting for Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

HOW TO GET THERE

The public ferry across the strait of Java to Bali (Ketapung-Gilimanuk) takes about thirty minutes and costs 6500 IDR ($0.60 USD); the ferry runs twenty four hours a day and runs approximately every half hour. It is a short walk to the bus station, where buses (40,000 IDR/$3.50 USD) run to Denpasar, the provincial capital. The bus ride to Denpasar was reported to take three hours, but mine had a lot of stops and took about five hours, a lovely drive across rural central Bali. It was a short and inexpensive bemo (minibus) ride from Denpasar to Sanur.

If you are traveling via a group minivan from Mount Bromo or Kawah Ijen, you can opt-in for a seamless 90,000 IDR ($7.80 USD) minivan/ferry connection that transits across Bali.

Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) or Denpasar International Airport is located in Tuban, approximately thirty minutes from Denpasar, or seaside Sanur. It is the third busiest airport in Indonesia, after Jakarta and Surabaya, and a major travel hub for Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and Australia. Flights to Singapore (SIN) take about two and a half hours and can be booked for a little as $50 USD via budget airlines such as Air Asia.

Temple God Shop (Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia)

Temple God Shop (Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia)

Rice Paddy Shrine (Bali, Indonesia)

Rice Paddy Shrine (Bali, Indonesia)

Home Shrine (Sideman, Bali, Indonesia)

Home Shrine (Sideman, Bali, Indonesia)

Roadside Shrine (Sideman, Bali, Indonesia)

Roadside Shrine (Sideman, Bali, Indonesia)

Even the Gods Need Coffee (Outside Starbucks, Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Even the Gods Need Coffee (Outside Starbucks, Sanur, Bali, Indonesia)

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Indonesian Street Food and Indonesian Food Vocabulary

Indonesian Street Food

No matter how small the Indonesian town, there seems to a warung (food stall or streetside restaurant) or kaki lima (mobile vendor with pushcart; kaki lima means five legs, three for the cart and two for the legs of the vendor). If you do not see a warung, head for the market (pasar).

Warung near the Beachside Temple Festival, Sanur Bali  Indonesia

Warung near the Beach, Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Chinese, Portuguese, and Dutch colonists and traders influenced the ingredients of Indonesian cuisine, which include chilis, cloves, coconut, coriander, cumin, curry, galangal, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, limes, nutmeg, palm sugar, shallots, soy sauce, tamarind, and turmeric. As early as 500 BCE, Indonesians sailed to southern China, where they exchanged spices, camphor, and bird feathers for bronze artifacts such as kettle drums and axes. Chinese-Indonesian trade picked up during the Srivijaya era around the tenth century and increased in the Majapahit era during the fifteenth century. Chinese immigrants began to settle in Indonesia, bringing their culture and cuisine. Indonesian cuisine—and Indonesian street food—is truly born from the spice routes and a culture of international trade.

Indonesian Street Food Sanur Bali Indonesia

Warung near the Beach, Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

Following are some of the most common Indonesian street food dishes, ones that are found throughout the country (or at least Java, Bali, Lombok, and Kalimantan). I will write more about regional specialties—particularly the divine and alluring food of Bali—as I wind my way down the trail.

Nasi Campur Warung Nasi Be Tutu Ubud Bali Indonesia

Nasi Campur with Sedikit Nasi, Warung Nasi Be Tutu, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Many vendors—particularly those with a small storefront—offer a number of prepared dishes or nasi campur, sort of the plate of the day. Nasi campur is rice with a variety of side dishes; a paper or banana leaf cone is filled with rice and you make your selections from the various options. Sedikit means a little and sedikit nasi means a little rice—a useful phrase to know!

    Nasi Campur

    Nasi Campur

  • Ayam Goreng. Fried chicken.
  • Ayam Goreng Vendor Yogyakarta Java Indonesia

    Ayam Goreng Vendor, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia

  • Bakso. Meatball soup.
  • Gado Gado. Salad of lightly boiled vegetables mixed with peanut sauce, usually served with hard boiled eggs and shrimp crackers (krupuk). Typically made with string beans, bean sprouts, cabbage, and carrots, gado gado is often served with tofu, tempe, and hard boiled egg. Depending on the location, the peanut sauce can be quite spicy, and you may be asked how spicy you like the sauce. Gado gado is a good go-to dish for vegetarians.
  • Mie Goreng. Fried wheat-flour noodles served with vegetables or meat. Mie goreeng was introduced to Singapore, Malaysia, and Malaysia by Chinese immigrants, and is served throughout the day, including breakfast. It is believed to originate from Chinese chow mein, a common dish from the Chinese diaspora.
  • Mie Rebus. Noodle soup
  • Nasi Goreng. Fried rice. Nasi goreng is one of Indonesia’s most common dishes, and it is served throughout the day, including breakfast. It is often made with chili, garlic, sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), tamarind, and either chicken, egg, shrimp, or salted dried fish (ikan asin).
  • Pisang Goreng. Battered, deep-friend bananas served warm, sweet, and crispy. They might be served as a dessert (as they were on the Tanjung Puting klotok), or as a snack. It is said that pisang goreng were introduced by the Portuguese, who reportedly introduced flour into the Southeast Asian diet. Plantains are sometimes used instead of bananas.
  • Saté (or satay). Bamboo skewers of grilled chicken, pork, beef, goat, or fish, depending on the island, usually served with a mild peanut sauce as a condiment. Look for vendors fanning the coals of charcoal, hibachi-like grills, and the aroma of seared, smoky meat! It is believed that saté originated on the island of Java, and that it evolved from kebabs introduced by Muslim traders from India. Saté definitely comes from the Arab Middle East, but galangal, coriander, lemongrass, palm sugar, and garlic give it a Southeast Asian flavor. There are regional saté specialties: saté lilit is made of ground meat or fish, and is grilled on a flat, wide skewer. Saté lilit is common in Bali, as are pork saté. Saté is found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand.
  • Sate Vendor Sanur Bali Indonesia

    Sate Vendor, Sanur, Bali, Indonesia

  • Perkedel. Savory, deep-fried, golden-brown fritters, or deep-fried bits of batter. In Indonesia, fritters are commonly filled with plantains, sweet corn, tofu, onions, and/or potato, and are often served as a snack—although I often saw them around breakfast time. It is thought perkedel evolved from Dutch poffertjes (deep-fried batter), which are said to be related to the Indonesian kue cubit.
  • Savory Deep-Fried Fritters Gili Ai  Lombok Indonesia

    Savory, Deep-Fried Fritters, Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia

  • Telur Balado. Hard boiled eggs in chili sauce. Often served with nasi campur.
  • Tempe Penjet. Deep fried tempe, this dish is often served with nasi campur.
  • Tempe Kering. Diced tempe stir fried with sweet soy sauce.

Useful food words to know when ordering Indonesian street food:

  • Barbequed or grilled (bakar)
  • Breakfast (sarapan)
  • Beef (sapi)
  • Chicken (ayam)
  • Chili (cabai)
  • Chili sauce (sambal ulek). An Indonesian staple, sambal is served as a condiment with most meals.
  • Coffee (kopi). Kopi tubruk is ground coffee with sugar and boiling water.
  • Coconut juice, sweet and young (kelapa muda manis).
    Sweet Young Coconut Juice

    Sweet Young Coconut Juice

  • Cold (dingin)
  • Closed (tutup)
  • Dinner (makan malam)
  • Duck (bebek)
  • Egg (telur). Nasi goreng (fried noodles) may have the egg mixed with the noodles, or you may be asked if you would like the eggs fried and served whole (telur mata sapi or ceplok) or as an omelette (telur dadar).
  • Fish (ikan). Salted dried fish is ikan asin
  • Fork (garpu). Indonesian’s traditionally eat with the fingers, as in Laos. Many warungs will offer you a disposable fork.
  • Fried noodles (mie goreng)
  • Goat (kamping)
  • Hot or warm (panas)
  • Juice (es juice)
  • Lamb (daging anak domba)
  • Lunch (makan siang)
  • Mackeral (kembong)
  • Market (pasar)
  • Meat (daging)
  • Menu (daftar makanan)
  • Noodles (mie)
  • Open (buka)
  • Peanut sauce (pecel or sambal kacang)
  • Peanuts (kacang tanah)
  • Pork (babi). Since the majority of Indonesians are Muslim, you will not find much pork outside of Bali.
  • Rice (nasi)
  • Salad (selada)
  • Seafood (makanan laut)
  • Shrimp crackers (krupuk)
  • Shrimp or prawns (udang)
  • Soup (soto)
  • Snacks (jajanan)
  • Spicy (pedas). “Pedas tidak?” means “Is it spicy?” and “Makanan tidak pedas ada?” means “Are there nonspicy dishes?”
  • Soy sauce (kecap). Sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) is a common condiment.
  • Tea (teh). Teh pahit is tea without sugar.
  • Tempe (tempe)
  • Tofu (tahu)
  • Vegetables (sayur)
  • Vegetarian food (makanan tanpa daging)

Recipes forthcoming! Also see our guide to useful Indonesian phrases and language guide for traveling in Indonesia.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Klotok Hire to Tanjung Puting National Park to See the Orangutans

Klotok Hire and How to Find a Tanjung Puting Guide to See the Orangutans

Copy of IMG_9894.JPG

Our Klotok Boat with Guide Jefri at the Bow, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Want to hire a klotok boat to Tanjung Puting to see the orangutans and travel the Sekonyer River?

The following information is meant those planning an independent trip to Tanjung Puting National Park in the forthcoming high season—and for those who want to enjoy some photographs of the area. I will save the amazing journey and the orangutans, of course, for a later post.

This is a how-to guide, an attempt to make independent bookings to Tanjung Puting more accessible and provide alternatives to the standard tour companies. This post tell you how to connect with some amazing local guides and how much it costs to hire a Tanjung Puting klotok boat to see the orangutans. There are also some ecolodge accommodation, one run by a conservation NGO and the other, a sustainable ecolodge. I also listed some volunteer opportunities, in case you have more time. This journey was part of my mostly solo, female, budget travel to Indonesia (albeit a friend joined me for this segment).

14033927.jpg

Orangutan in Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Tanjung Puting National Park and the orangutans are the main reason to visit this part of Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo: this is one of the last places in the world to see orangutans in the wild.

I went in low season (March), when there are fewer people than high season (May-September). There are a lot more tourists—and boats—during high season, which would definitely change the experience. During high season you definitely need to make advance bookings at least a few weeks in advance. There are only so many klotok boats in Kumai, and it makes sense that the best ones get reserved. Prices may be higher, too, than what I was quoted in February. Park entrance fees will increase May 1, 2014.

14034164.jpg

Mother and Baby Orangutans in Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

14034549.jpg

Orangutan in Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

The standard tour option is three days and two nights. On day one most web-based tour operators pickup at Pangkalan Bun (PKN) airport, transport you to the dock in Kumai, and have you on on the Sekonyer River for lunch. Day two is spent at one or two feeding stations, and day three is spent heading down the Sekonyer River. Breakfast is served on the klotok, and you are at the airport for an afternoon flight from Kalimantan.

This was a little whirlwind for my tastes. I knew there were only so many feeding stations and hiking opportunities, but I was determined not to be with the rest of the herd on the standard route. I also hoped to bypass a middle man tour operator, so the money went directly to the people running the boat.

14033791.jpg

Local Boat on Sekonyer River, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

You can arrange three full days on the river if you stay an extra night or two in the delightfully small port town of Kumai, Rimba EcoLodge (on the edge of Tanjung Puting), or Yayorin’s ecolodge (see Where to Stay/Accommodation). Three full days provide additional orangutan viewing opportunities and serenity, as you have more time on your klotok and solo time on the river—and for the same price.

14034401.jpg

Sunset on the Sekonyer River near Camp Leakey, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

We went to the same feeding stations, but had more time at each place, including a delicious river sunset and delightfully pokey morning at Camp Leakey, hanging out for some morning river laundry time (no swimming—and do watch for crocodiles). We caught some impromptu orangutan viewing and saw the local dominant male, Tom, building a nest, so he could mate with his female companion in the next tree. All the boat men and guides know the orangutans, so it was a morning of getting to know the local orangutan community.

IMG_0058.JPG

Sign at Camp Leakey, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Klotok Boat at Camp Leakey Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Klotok Boat at Camp Leakey Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Klotok Boats at Camp Leakey Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Klotok Boats at Camp Leakey Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

TANJUNG PUTING NATIONAL PARK KLOTOK HIRE AND GUIDES

I emailed three independent guides in the Lonely Planet guidebook: Andi Arysad (andijaka01@gmail.com); Erwin (erwinvanjava@gmail.com); and Harry (harnavia@yahoo.com), the owner of the Kingfisher boat. It turned out that Mr. Harry also owned the tour company, Borneo Wisata Permai Tours, and was not an independent tour operator or boat owner, and Mr. Erwin connects people with other guides, if he is unavailable.

The prices were comparable: 2,500,000 IDR/$222 USD per person with Mr. Andi; 2,700,000 IDR/$240 USD per person with Mr. Erwin; and 3,000,000 IDR/$267 with Mr. Harry. Mr. Erwin noted that his rates would go up to 3,000,000 IDR/$267 per person in a few months, due to an increase in park fees on May 1. Mr. Andi was noted as being one of the most experienced guides—and was also the least expensive—so we went with him.

14033786.jpg

Local Boat near Sekonyer Village, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

The rate typically includes: taxi to/from the airport to Kumai; boat (klotok); English-speaking guide; boat captain; cook; meals; snacks; drinks (bottled water; soft drinks; tea; coffee); and national park permits (including camera fee and boat docking fee). Central Kalimantan is a predominantly Muslim area, so alcohol is not sold or served.

If you stay at Rimba Ecolodge (like we did), you must also charter a speedboat (300,000 IDR/$26 USD). The trip from Kumai to Rimba takes about an hour.

A typical three day klotok hire stops at:

  • Tanjung Harapan and Sekonyer Village (across the river from Tanjung Harapan)
  • Friends of the National Park Foundation Camp Pesalat reforestation project
  • Pondok Tanggui
  • Camp Leakey. Established in 1971 by Professor Birute Galdikas, a student of Professor Louis Leakey. Professor Leakey was also known as a mentor to Jane Goodall and Diane Fossey in their study of chimpanzees and mountain gorillas.
14033945.jpg

Sekonyer River near Tanjung Harapan, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

14034388.jpg

Sekonyer River at Camp Leakey, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Tanjung Puting National Park Map at Visitor's Center

Tanjung Puting National Park Map at Visitor’s Center

The klotok rate includes lodging and meals. You sleep on the covered top deck of the klotok; the crew provides single or double bed mosquito nets. There is a simple shower onboard, but if you want more creature comforts, you could stay at a Sekonyer village homestay or at the Rimba Ecolodge (see Where to Stay/Accommodation).

I found everything about the klotok absolutely delightful, however, and the whole experience was absolutely one of my favorite parts of my trip to Indonesia! It was truly some of the best food during my six weeks in Indonesia—Chef Dayang is a freelance cook in Kumai and was one of the primary cooks for the Kumai wedding I attended (see below).

When it came down to the actual trip, Mr. Andi was already booked with another client, so he had his colleague, Siti Nurul (see below) arrange the tour details. He assured me she would book a very knowledgeable guide with good English. All very true! (see below).

14034119.jpg

Orangutans in Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

I arrived in Kumai a few days ahead of my friend, and had the good fortune of having Siti take me around. As she put it, she did not want me to be bored in sleepy Kumai.

So, the first night Siti took me to a local wedding—who knew a sleepy and dusty little port town like Kumai could get so glammed up? On the second day Siti picked me up on her motorbike, and took me to the local market and then Pasir Panjang, a modern Dayak village and the home of Orangutan Foundation International. We met Guide Jefri (see below) in Pasir Panjang, his home village, and went around the Orangutan Foundation International quarantine area and training forest and the village longhouse. We continued to Pangkalan Bun by motorbike, visiting the Istana Kuning (the former sultan’s home, nicknamed the Yellow Palace, as it used to be swathed in yellow fabric). Siti wanted to me for a sunset trip to Kubu Beach, a local beach, but I was exhausted and regrettably opted to stay in.

INDEPENDENT TANJUNG PUTING GUIDES

Jefri is delightful and personable, a young Dayak man from Pasir Panjang, a modern Dayak village. He was a Tanjung Puting National Park ranger for seven years, and before that, worked at the Orangutan Foundation International quarantine and training center, rehabilitating abandoned orangutans and teaching them to live in the wild. This process involves teaching the orangutans what to eat, how to climb, how to take care of themselves, and well, everything—and then tailing the orangutans to make sure they are successful. A mother orangutan typically spends six years with her baby, teaching them these jungle lessons. It is a long process.

Jefri started guiding last year, while his mother continues his work with the Orangutan Foundation International. Your jaw will drop when you see how quickly Jefri can scurry fifty feet or more up a tree. As he pointed out, he had to teach the young orangutans.

14034152.jpg

Baby Orangutan in Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

14034269.jpg

Mother and Baby Orangutans in Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Jefri can help arrange tours to traditional Dayak communities (just a few hours by taxi from Pangkalan Bun), Kubu Beach, and Tanjung Keluang (Turtle Island). He is also very familiar with the Orangutan Foundation International and their training forest, where he used to work.

Siti is a personable, intelligent, energetic, and delightful woman. She is originally from East Java, but moved to Kumai in Central Kalimantan many years ago. She has extensive experience with several local tour operators and Mr. Andi, organizing klotok boat trips and arranging all the trip details, as well as working as an independent Tanjung Puting guide. She thus knows the guides, boat captains, and cooks, and makes all the klotok arrangements for the tour companies. When she took me to a local wedding, she introduced me to a number of guides and other folks in the industry. It is a small community and she is very familiar with all that is involved with planning a klotok trip. Siti is starting her own business, www-tanjung-puting.com, which is the only woman-owned tour company. Both Jefri and Siti speak excellent English.

Mr. Andi trained Siti as a guide, and she is now one of six woman out of a pool of sixty Tanjung Puting National Park guides. I also met her friend, Daisy, another delightful female guide, in Pasir Panjang. As Daisy put it, they are the tough girls.

Mr. Andi, one of the park’s most experienced guides, has thirty years of experience. He trained Siti and many of the younger guides, and connects them with work. You can contact him directly, but his guide services are in demand and he is often unavailable. Based on my experience, he will connect you with a trusted and wonderful guide—but it is definitely better for Siti and Jefri if you contract with them directly.

I highly recommend Jefri or Siti as your guide for the Tanjung Puting National Park klotok trip! They will take care of hiring the klotok, boat captain, and cook, purchasing the food, and arranging transportation. They are both very familiar with the various parts of the tour process and know of interesting local places if you stay a couple extra day (see Other Activities below).

See Contact Information section for more information.

14034574.jpg

Orangutan in Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

FRIENDS OF THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION

Yet one more independent klotok hire option!

I also contacted Friends of the National Park Foundation (FNPF) to inquire about their ecotours. FNPF provides klotok trips to Tanjung Puting National Park‘s Sekonyer River, as well as some other options, such as sleeping in tents at their Camp Pesalat reforestation project and day trekking. The FNPF ecotour options were unfortunately out of my travel budget—albeit still reasonable and profits support FNPF.

The FNPF director, Dr. Wirayudha, kindly offered to have his staff take care of the klotok hire for us, in exchange for a small donation FNPF, a very fair arrangement (500,000 IDR/$44 USD). Mr. Andi had already invested quite a lot of time with our requests, so I decided to stick with him. I still made a donation to FNPF—this was on my list!—as they are an organization that does valuable conservation work and habitat rehabilitation from areas damaged by palm oil plantations and fire.

FNPF also offers volunteer opportunities at their Camp Pesalat reforestation project in Tanjung Puting, Central Kalimantan; Nusa Penida, Bali; Besikalung Wildlife Sanctuary, Bali; and their Bali Wildlife Rescue.

14034045.jpg

Burn Area, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION IN BORNEO

Wild orangutans only live in Sumatra and Borneo. Unfortunately their habitat is rapidly disappearing due to deforestation from palm oil plantations and mining. Sumatra and Kalimantan are threatened by environmental destruction, with hectares and hectares gobbed up by the palm oil plantations. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimated that 230,000 orangutans lived in the wild one hundred years ago, but now there are only 41,000 orangutans remaining in Borneo and 7,500 in Sumatra.

Deforestation is a huge part of the problem. Go now, before it is too late. And support the organizations doing valuable conservation work in this area!

14034635.jpg

Sekonyer River near Kumai, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

It is my hope that once the Indonesian government understands the financial benefits of ecotourism—for local people and business development, conservation organizations and even government bureaucrats (including park fees sent to Jakarta)—they will stop caving to logging and mining interests. These industries are destroying Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan—and Borneo—and destroying the orangutan habitat.

These industries also threaten the human population. The lower part of the Sekonyer is so contaminated from gold mining, that the people living in Sekonyer village must import bottled water from Kumai.

14034592.jpg

Where the Jungle Water Meets the Sekonyer River Contaminated by Gold Mining, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

DAY TREKKING IN TANJUNG PUTING NATIONAL PARK

I found out about the twenty kilometer jungle trek from Tanjung Harapan after we landed and the schedule was set. A few months ago this would have intrigued me—but I also entertained the idea of the fifteen day cross-Borneo trek. I have come to the conclusion that jungle trekking is extremely hot and humid business with a lot of creepy crawlies. If you go, hike with your guide, wear gaiters to protect against leeches, and take electrolyte tablets.

14034512.jpg

Babek Umar, Camp Leakey, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Guide Jefri’s elderly uncle, Babek Umar accompanied us for a short walk (about two hours) around the Orangutan Foundation International trails around Camp Leakey. We learned about jungle fruits the young orangutans learn to eat, along with a vine that provides liquid during jungle trekking (which looked exactly like something I learned about in Virachey National Park in northern Cambodia).

14033980.jpg

Pitcher Plants on our Walk with Babek Umar, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia


TANJUNG PUTING KLOTOK TOUR PRICE

The rate for two travelers for three days and two nights was 2,500,000-3,000,000 ($219-262) per person in February 2014. Note that park entrance fees will increase May 1, 2014 and that the price is typically less if you split it with more people.

The price does not include gratuities. Although tipping is not mandatory in Indonesia, it is always appreciated—and I cannot imagine not tipping. The Rimba Ecolodge recommended tipping the equivalent of $15 USD for the guide, $10 USD for the driver, and $10 USD for the cook.

The folks at Friends of the National Park Foundation provided a cost breakdown for hiring a klotok, in case I wanted their staff to make arrangements (see end of article). The Lonely Planet has a similar breakdown, if you need to compare costs, or if you are quoted a price and not sure what it includes.


KLOTOK HIRE DETAILS

I paid a 50 percent cash deposit two days before the klotok trip, and we paid the balance one day before, before going to Rimba Ecolodge. I believe web-based tour operators require a credit card deposit. There is an ATM in Kumai and the bank exchanges United States dollars

Bring two copies of your passport for the police and national park permit. There is a photocopy shop in Kumai, but you should not rely on that.

I made all arrangements via email, as I did not have an Indonesian mobile phone. Mr. Andi, Siti, and Jefri are often in the jungle, as they say, so it might take them a few days to reply to email. They did not have cell service within the park, but it seemed to kick in a couple hours from Kumai.


CONTACT INFORMATION

Mr. Andi Arysad (guide)
andijaka01@gmail.com
62 082 148 021 891 cell

Mr. Jefri (guide)
jefri.guide@gmail.com
62 085 751 999 944 cell

Ms. Siti Nurul (guide)
tanjungharapan83@gmail.com
www-tanjung-puting.com
62 081 256 721 645 cell
The only woman-owned tour company!

Friends of the National Park Foundation (conservation NGO with ecotour options)
www.fnpf.org
Director Drh I Gede Nyoman Bayu Wirayudha
info@fnpf.org, npfborneo@fnpf.org, bayu@fnpf.org
62 361 977978/62 82897209633

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

14033732.jpg

Entrance to Rimba Lodge, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

Rimba Ecolodge
Reservation Manager Mr. Gedi Ori
Sekonyer River, edge of Tanjung Puting National Park
rimbaecolodge.com/rooms
reservation@ecolodgesindonesia.com
62 361 7474205
62 361 7474204
62 81 23995212 cell

14033733.jpg

Rimba Lodge, Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, Indonesia

The Rimba Ecolodge is perched on the edge of the Sekonyer River and is surrounded by forest. The rooms, restaurant, and main lodge are built on elevated platforms. There are no roads: access is only by boat from the Port of Kumai. Book a charter speedboat (300,000 IDR/$27 USD, one hour) via Rimba Ecolodge, your guide, or at the harbor. There is apparently a public boat that runs between Sekonyer Village and Kumai, but I never saw anything resembling a collective boat or ferry, beyond a few folks in local boats.

There are five categories of rooms: diamond, emerald, amethyst, sapphire, and ruby. I really do not understand air conditioning in that type of environment—you have to go outside eventually! I booked a sapphire room (with ceiling fan) for $65 nett/night inclusive of breakfast, tax and service charge. Dinner is available à la carte in the dining room. Rimba Ecolodge accepts cash payment in Indonesia rupiah (IDR) or U.S. dollars.

I highly recommend staying here for a night before your tour starts and having the klotok pick you up at Rimba Ecolodge.

Yayorin Homestay Ecolodge
www.yayorin.com
Jl Bhayangkara, km 1
Pangkalan Bun
esasaba@yahoo.co.id, caniszf@yahoo.co.id, kurniawanferry@yahoo.com, imansapari_bogor@yahoo.com
62 0532 29057
300,000 IDR ($27 USD) including breakfast

Run by Yayorin (Yayasan Orangutan Indonesia), a grass roots conservation NGO. We spent one night here after leaving Tanjung Puting National Park; it is close to the airport and partway between Pasir Panjang and Pangkalan Bun. The rooms have woven fiber walls, batik print linens, and private verandas overlooking wooded gardens. Absolutely charming! They offered to loan us a motorbike so we could go to a nearby restaurant, or offered dinner on the veranda (40,000 IDR/$3.50). Yayorin can also book taxis to the airport, which takes about twenty minutes and cost 50,000 IDR ($4.45 USD).

Hotel Mentari
Jl Gurilaya 98 (street perpendicular to the street that runs parallel to the river)
Kumai
No phone
200,000 IDR ($18 USD) for a room with shower
150,000 IDR ($13) for non-shower (ladle and basin)

All rooms have air conditioning. Everything is clean enough (particularly if you had been in Indonesia for one month), but hardly pristine, with a tattooed and pony tailed Ahmed sketching at the front desk and some very bored men in the lobby waiting for the customers. It was OK, but I suggest the Aloha, which is reported to be better and very clean (see below). I made the mistake of assuming more expensive meant a better room. Your guide should be able to make the booking for you.

The Hotel Mentari is right next to what appears to be the only internet cafe (about 6000 IDR/$0.50 USD hour), the best rate I had in Indonesia. There is no wifi in Kumai. You might have to wait a bit for a computer during the late afternoon, when the after school crowd is around.

Aloha Hotel
Jl Gurilaya 392 (just a few blocks north of the Hotel Mentari)
Kumai
60,000 IDR ($5.30 USD)

Although I did not stay here, I think it would be a better bet than the Hotel Mentari. It was recently rebuilt after a fire destroyed the previous building.

Kumai offers simple, but clean accommodation and is a lovely and friendly little port town. I appeared to be the only foreigner staying in town (which I loved!) Most tourists stay in Pangkalan Bun and hop on a flight as soon as they are off the klotok.

Flores Homestay
Sekonyer Village (near Rimba Ecolodge)
62 0812 516 4727
350,000-450,000 IDR ($31-40 USD) en suite including breakfast.

I did not stay here, but it is said to be a good village homestay, just a bit expensive. Flores only has three rooms, and offers twin or double beds with mosquito net and small verandas overlooking the Sekonyer River). Meals are available for 75,000 IDR ($6.70 USD) per meal.

GETTING AROUND
Ojek drivers (motorcycle taxis) seem to hang around near the river near the main intersection in Kumai. It is a small place, however, and you can walk around town. Your guide will book your taxi to and from the airport, and can help you book other rides, if necessary.

The taxi from Pangkalan Bun to Kumai should be included in your klotok tour price, but if you need to make other taxi trips, it costs 150,000 IDR ($13 USD) oneway.

WHERE TO EAT

Kumai does not have any tourist restaurants: it is all warung (food stall and simple restaurant) dining. If you ate not comfortable with that, it might be best to stay at the Rimba Ecolodge or in Pangkalan Bun.

A number of vendors set up shop along the street parallel to the harbor and Jl Gurilaya at night. If you cannot find a warung open for breakfast, head to the pasar (market), the western part of second street parallel to the harbor.

In Kumai, mie goreng costs about 10,000 IDR ($0.90 USD) and a plate of gado dado with tea is around 20,000 IDR ($1.80 USD).

OTHER ACTIVITIES

  • Istana Kuning, Pangkalan Bun. The former sultan’s home and nicknamed the Yellow Palace. 5000 IDR/$0.45 USD motorbike parking and 50,000 IDR/$4.45 USD tip to the caretaker, who—as it turns out—was related to the last sultan.
  • Tanjung Keluang, a small conservation project ran by the Indonesian Nature Conservancy Agency (local name, BKSDA), where green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are protected and released. Go by car or motorbike to Kubu Beach, then go by klotok or speedboat to Tanjung Keluang
  • Kubu Beach, a local beach. About one hour by motorbike from Kumai
  • Interpretive centers at Tanjung Harapan and Camp Leakey. Very nicely done!

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

TANJUNG PUTING KLOTOK PRICE BREAKDOWN

From Friends of the National Park Foundation:

Boat 600,000/day x 3 = 1,800,000
Food + cook?/day 75,000 x 6 x3 = 1,350,000 or just food
Guide 250,00/day x 3 = 750,000
Registration 170,000/ day x3 = 510,000
Camera 50,000 x 2 = 100,000
Boat parking 50,000
Police permit 25,000 x 2 = 50,000
Tip to rangers 15,000 x 3 = 45,000
Donation 500,000 x 2 = 1,000,000

Taxi PKN to Kumai x 2 150,000 x 2 = 300,000

5,955,000 IDR ($528 USD)

Note that park entrance fees will increase May 1, 2014.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Kawah Ijen Volcano and the Blue Fire (or Night Hike into the Crater of an Active Volcano)

Kawah Ijen Volcano and the Blue Fire

Kawah Ijen Crater  at Sunrise

Kawah Ijen Crater at Sunrise. Note: camera operator error, so unfortunately unclear. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Sometimes it is better not to have all the details.

My plan was to checkout of my hotel, Catimor Homestay, 04:00 am, have breakfast, walk to the rim of East Java’s Kawah Ijen or Ijen Plateau (2799 meters/9183 feet), and position the tripod for the sunrise. Like most Indonesian mountains (always volcanoes), Ijen is an active volcano, with the last big eruption in 1999 and another in 2002.

Volcano eruptions seem common in Indonesia; just this February, Gunung Kelud erupted in Java and Gunung Sinabung erupted in Sumatra. As for Ijen, she still spews voluminous billows of sulfuric steam from vents next to the volcanic crater lake, inside Ijen’s crater.

On the way to East Java, our driver, Ahmed, kept mentioning Ijen’s blue fire. When we checked into the Catimor (which is set in the midst of a coffee plantation), Ahmed asked,”Don’t you want to see the blue fire?” Again at dinner, “Elise, don’t you want to go to the blue fire?” I tried to explain that although blue fire sounded amazing—truthfully, I was a little unclear about the specifics—I really needed sleep after the 03:30 wake up call for yesterday’s volcano, Gunung Bromo.

I smiled. “I am old. I need sleep.” Alright, I am not old, I am just in my middle years, but sleep deprivation definitely curtails this gal’s adventurous spirit. In fact, sleep deprivation makes me downright grumpy. Doesn’t it make everyone grumpy?

Now I feel quite ignorant, but at the time, all I *really* knew was that blue fire was probably blue, and it meant I had to wake up at 12:30, just four hours later, and it involved night hiking. In my defense, I sometimes do not like too much planning, and like to see how things go. This worked for me in the past—but kind of doubting middle aged Elise lack of planning. I did anticipate some night hiking this trip and sprung for a new headlamp, a new Black Diamond headlamp at REI. Every Indonesian mountain I read about recommended a sunrise hike—besides the sunrise, there was also a better chance of sunrise views, particularly during rainy season. And I needed a new headlamp.

So, I was not totally opposed to the idea of night hiking. But I had a secret suspicion it was a ploy to sell me a 150,000 Rp ($12.50 USD) extra. Really, it meant I had to wake up in four hours.

Indonesians are very nonconfrontational and indirect. I finally figured it out: everyone else on my ride was going to blue fire and Ahmed the only driver. If I wanted to go to Kawah Ijen, I needed to set my alarm for a bit after midnight. No problem—but, Ahmad, just say the word, do not be so male about this night hike!

So, I dutifully stumbled out of bed and grabbed my boxed breakfast, a hard boiled egg and a rather grim looking peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some very bleached bread. I confess I was grumpy, but were so were my fellow wanderers and volcano peepers.

We arrived at the parking lot at around 01:30—it was obviously pitch black and just a few men (guides?) shuffled about the lot. My plan was to sleep until 04:00, then walk to the edge of the crater for the sunrise.

Um, no. According to Ahmed, the path was a little unclear—and everyone was going to the blue fire. And he was worried about me hiking alone. Thank the universe someone is worried about my carcass! Ahmed was a wise man.

So, I grumpily paid my rupiah, grabbed my headlamp, down sweater, tripod, and bandana (my only protection from the sulfuric gases), and started to trudge through the chilly and moonless black night from Pos Paltuding trekking camp (1850 meters/6069 feet).

The air was brisk and misty. The path to Pondok Bunder resthouse and sulfur weigh station (about 2.5 kilometer/1.5 miles) was fairly smooth and well trodden, albeit very steep. In the morning, sulfur miners weigh their back breaking loads, 70-90 kilo/154-198 pound) baskets of neon sulfur. It is 518 meters/1699 feet over 3 kilometere/1.9 miles, about a 17 percent inclination, to the crater rim. The first 2 kilometers/1.2 miles are the steepest, and it takes bout 2-2.5 hours at night to hike to the crater rim.

Kawah Ijen Crater in Early Morning

Kawah Ijen Crater in Early Morning. Camera operator error, so unfortunately unclear. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

At one point the clouds lifted, revealing a stunning, starry night, with an endless Milky Way. It was a difficult walk and even more difficult with the altitude and thin air. We were alone on the way up, but met another group for the descent into the crater.

For me, the descent into the crater was the most difficult and surreal part of the hike. We stumbled along the rough and rocky wet path, gasping sulfuric gases. I was a tumble of rocks and boulders, interspersed with chit chat from fellow hikers. Two Iranian cousins and I were at the same pace, and the younger cousin (new to his Dubai business, exporting grain to China and Russia) was the only one wearing glasses. We debated whether to grasp the face masks, which obscured our vision. He pointed out, “Seeing is more important than breathing.” I agreed.

To call this hike surreal is an understatement. First there is the sleep deprived night hike under starry skies; then hanging with the sulfur miners next to the blue fire and sulfur vents in the crater of an active volcano; and then the morning light, as dawn catches the colors of the turquoise crater lake, reportedly the most acidic lake on earth, the bright turquoise waters equivalent to battery acid.

I offer all the disclaimers: use your own judgement and take your own risks. Check the conditions. See my what to take list (see below). I will be honest, it probably is not a safe or prudent thing to do—but I will be the first to say, it was amazing. I have never had such a hike, and do not imagine I ever will again. It was truly one of my best memories in Indonesia.

Unfortunately I was a victim of camera operator error and my disclaimer is my photos did not work out. Do Google images—it is an incredible bit of nature.

HOW TO GET THERE

Kawah Ijen (-8.06°S / 114.24°E) is in East Java, Indonesia in the Ijen-Merapi Malang Reserve, which extends over most of the mountainous alpine region west of Banyuwangi. Ijen borders on the Baluran National Park to the northeast.

Kawah Ijen is accessible from Banyuwagi (Banyuwangi-Licin-Jambu-Patuldingor) and Bondowoso (Bondowoso-Wonosari-Sempol-Patulding). Banyuwagi is more convenient if you are traveling from Bali, whereas Bondowoso is more convenient from the west (i.e., Gunung Bromo, Surabaya, or Yogyakarta). Travelers on the Bondowoso route cross a coffee planation covered with Arabica coffee trees.

Although I am always inclined to do things under my own power and generally despise tours, I was glad I was in a group for this night hike. Night hiking is never a safe thing to do, but it is particularly unsafe in these conditions, particularly during the rainy season.

I was pleased I did it as part of an organized group, despite online accounts about being in a herd of people. That was not my experience during the night portion of the hike, although there was a lot more foot traffic during the daylight hours for the descent. My usual philosophy is that half the fun is getting there, but in this case, I do not believe that would be the case. I am not a fan of urban places, and traveling to Probolingo and onto Kawah Ijen would have involved a lot of urban connections and a lot of time in many bus and train stations.

Independent travel may be worth it if you wanted to try something out of the ordinary, like walking around the rim of Ijen, which reportedly takes one day. I was also just one week into my solo, independent trip to Indonesia and was still finding my way, so the group option worked for me.

If you do want to go indie, Be My Travel Muse has a good account of going to Kawah Ijen without a tour. The Paltuding trekking camp site also has good information, as well as lodging information. Regretably, I only found this web site after I hiked Kawah Ijen. Be my Travel Muse also has some incredible photos.

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

Catimor Homestay
Jl. Gajahmada 249, Jember, Indonesia Hotel

Paltuding Trekking Camp
The road ends at Jampit, where very basic shelter is available. Homestays are reported available if the handful of hotels are booked by tour groups. The Paltuding trekking camp site also has good information about Kawah Ijen lodging.

WHEN TO GO

It is best to hike in this region during the dry season (April-November). Although the rain is usually not much of an issue, you will sacrifice vistas and clear night skies.

WHAT TO TAKE

  • Close toed shoes and preferably hiking boots, if you are going below the crater rim, which is quite rough, particularly at night
  • Extra clothes. Night temperatures at the rim go to 5 degrees C/41 degrees F
  • Headlamp or flashlight/torch. I was glad I had my headlamp, as I sometimes needed my hands for scrambling
  • Gas mask or surgical mask is recommended, or at least a damp towel
  • Water and snacks. Noodles, water, tea, and snacks are available at the resthouse in the morning, but the rest house is closed for the hike up

CURRENT CONDITIONS

The web site Volcano Discovery is a good site for current conditions and observations. http://www.volcanodiscovery.com/ijen/news.html

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Best Ipad Travel Apps for the Apple Ipad Mini

Best Ipad Travel Apps for the Apple Ipad Mini

I am an Apple Ipad mini newbie and needed the best Ipad travel apps. I used the mini on the Panama trip, but this is the first time I had the mini—or any type of computer, or newfangled device—on a walkabout or long holiday. And I do regard those as two very different things!

Wifi is very prevalent in Indonesia, with internet cafes few and far between (at least compared to my last walkabout a few years ago). I have *loved* traveling with the Ipad mini and it is well worth the weight. It has been almost too easy to stay in touch with the home front, and infinitely useful for note taking. It is not a full computer, mind you, and I often wish I had a laptop for sorting and editing travel photos.

Here are some of the best Ipad travel apps for the Apple Ipad mini, or at least ones that have been immensely useful on my Indonesian walkabout. They may not be the best Ipad travel apps, but they sure have been the best ones for me!

Like lot of my blog, this travel information is geared toward independent, solo, independent travelers on a budget.

Travel Booking

Skyscanner
Free. Skyscanner is infinitely useful for finding the cheapest airfare, as well as finding what airlines fly from point A to B. It shows airlines not normally shown in U.S. booking sites, particularly Asia and Southeast Asia budget options. Skyscanner also allows you to search for bargain hotels and car rentals.

Google ITA On-the-Fly
Free. One of my favorite airline shopping web sites! Compare options across airlines, dates, and alternate cities/airports.

Agoda
Free. Hotel booking app. Watch for their last minute, flash deals.

HostelWorld
Free. not just for hostels! As a budget traveler, I use Hostel World for booking guesthouses, small hotels, and bed and breakfasts. This app makes it even easier.

TripIt
Free (for non-pro version). My hiking buddy pointed me toward TripIt. At first I balked at manually entering information, but there is also an email option for populating the program. The basic version is free, but if you fly a lot, it may be worth upgrading to TripIt Pro, which show schedule changes and delays. TripIt is useful for storing booking information like confirmation numbers, ticket numbers, booking rates, supplier contact information, and frequent flier information. The app also lets you access information offline, so you can use it for etickets. It is very useful if you have to share trip information with multiple people, or are planning group travel.

Fly Delta
Free. My frequent flier miles are on Delta (for now), but all the airlines have apps like this. I love the eboarding passes!

Mapping/Where Am I

MotionX-GPS
Free. My hiking buddy turned me onto to this GPS map app, and I love it. It runs off satellites, so you always have access to your current location and local maps. Apparently you can also use it with free, crowd-sourced Open Cycle maps from the bike community, but I have not tried that yet.

News

NPR
Free. I admit, I do not keep up with news when I am traveling. But if I want a little dose of home and to tune in, I use the NPR app.

BBC
Free. Again, I do not look at a lot of news on the road, but I like to take an occasional look at the BBC.

Miscellaneous

XE Currency
Free. XEcurrency.com has always been one of my favorite sites for checking exchange rates. The XE Currency app lets you load ten different currencies, and make calculations offline.

Hootsuite
Free. Hootsuite allows you to update multiple social media sites, as well as view content on different social media sites.

Google Drive
Free. The Google Drive app makes quick work of uploading files. There is some limited functionality—for instance, it is best to use the full web version for sharing files and folders.

GoodReader
Free. GoodReader allows you to open and store PDF files on the Apple Ipad mini. I really loved using this for flight confirmations and etickets, as it was sometimes difficult to find an internet cafe with a printer.

Overdrive Media Console
Free. Most public libraries (at least ones in Massachusetts) belong to the Overdrive consortium, which allows you to borrow electronic books and audio books from your local public library. You do need a local,library card/log-in, so make sure that is squared away before traveling. Great for travel guides and fiction!

Photogene
$2.99 USD. Photogene is a handy and well-recommended photo editing app. It also allows access to IPTC and GPS metadata, and also allows watermarking.

Nightstand
Free. Somehow I misplaced my watch, so I have been using Nightstand as my alarm clock. It also shows the local weather and temperature.

What are your favorite travel apps?

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Mount Bromo Tour: to Tour or not to Tour an Active Volcano?

Mount Bromo Tour or No Tour?

One of the first Indonesian words I learned was gunung, which means volcano. Since food and nature were two main reasons for my Indonesian walkabout, gunung were definitely part of my hiking plan. Indonesia is definitely a destination for volcano enthusiasts!

Surreal, Black Volcanic Sands around Mount Bromo

Surreal, Black Volcanic Sands around Mount Bromo. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Gunung Bromo (2329 meters/7641 feet) is set amidst the lunarlike, black volcanic sands of Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. In clear weather, the southern view reveals Java’s highest peak, Gunung Semeru (3676 meters/12,060 feet), which is even more active than Bromo’s steaming caldera. Indonesia is an active volcanic landscape: Bromo’s last eruption was in 2011 and Semeru’s last erupttion was in 2013. Two weeks before my trip started, Mount Sinabung in Sumatra erupted and during my trip, Mount Kelud on Java erupted, closing airports for ten days.

The question was whether to take a Mount Bromo tour, or to go to Mount Bromo and tour independently? Anyone who knows me knows I avoid group travel like the plague. I just do not do tours.

But, I rationalized, this really was not a tour, just an economical way to get to Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen (Ijen Plateau). It was a bundled deal of budget hotel and minibus travel for the twelve hour run across Java to Probolingo, and onwards, to Kawah Ijen and the public ferry landing to Bali.

Evidence I was at Mount Bromo and That It Was Rainy

Evidence I was at Mount Bromo and That It Was Rainy. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

The Lonely Planet guidebook (which I fondly call the good book) cautioned against the tour operators, claiming that the mini buses are often AC-less tin cans on wheels with numerous delays. Lonely Planet even suggested that it may be more efficient to take the train (or fly!) to Surabaya in east Java, then take mini buses and ojeks (motorcycle taxis) to the village of Cemoro Lawang.

Frankly, I ran the numbers—and the schedule—and it seemed crazy. My quest for adventure and sincere belief that part of the fun is getting there, yielded to scheduling convenience, economy, and giving in to a fussy tummy. Not that I believe in fussy tummy syndrome (FTS)—and it is always the proper tourist restaurant and not the fresh, street side breakfast in a banana leaf from a silver-haired matron that does it! At least I am convinced of that.

The comfortable, air conditioned shuttle bus was filled an assortment of friendly, gap year sojourners and long haul travelers, topping out at age thirty. I never used to be self-conscious about age differences, but as I am rounding the corner on age fifty, it sometimes makes me pause—and then I ignore it. They were lovely and chatty, too, in that traveler way of where have you been and where are you going and what did you like. I was happy to have the chit chat.

We landed in lackluster, bustling Probolingo after a thirteen hour bus ride, just an hour behind schedule. We stopped in at the local tour operator and I opted for the jeep tour to the sunrise point (100,000 IDR/$9 USD). I also blame that on FTS.

We set off at 04:00 am. Misty, gray clouds enveloped the mountain village of Cemoro Lawang, bumping across the dark and bleak volcanic landscape in a four wheel drive vehicle. Unfortunately I shared my ride with a sullen group of four French gap yearlings, who looked as if they needed a lot more sleep—or a lot of caffeine. I wondered, when did young people stop traveling solo and started traveling in packs? Certainly not that way when I was a young pup—but then again, that was during the cold war.

So, we headed to sunrise point, Gunung Penanjakan (2770 meters/9087 feet), which on a clear day promises views to Mount Semeru and the surrounding volcanic peaks.

I will warn you, sunrise point is not a serene or solitary experience. This is the standard option for Indonesian and foreign tourists from Cemoro Lawang and Probolingo, and the path to the top is lined with tea houses and a sprinkling of souvenir shops—not too horrendous, but definitely some signs of life and beverages, and places to take shelter from the drizzle.

No, this was not a wilderness experience, but a merry gathering of a cheerful, expectant crowd waiting for a sunrise vista. The good news—and the bad news—is that almost everyone is on the same path and schedule. If you are able to travel at another time, I was told there are very few people. It seems everyone wants to see the sunrise over Gunung Semeru.

I optimistically setup my tripod facing the eastern wall of gray clouds. Alas, the weather goddesses were not with me, and that was the extent of the view. I knew it was rainy season until April and there was a chance of compromised views—and I do not just climb mountains for the views. The ethereal, black landscape and to be present at Bromo’s smoldering crater was well worth the bumpy ride in a four wheel drive vehicle with grumpy French youth.

The four wheel drive continued the jilting path across the surreal and spectacular black earth of Laotian Pasir, the Sea of Sands. Horsemen enveloped in clouds of dust appeared out of nowhere to offer rides (almost) to the top of the smoking caldera.

Horseman at Mount Bromo

Horseman at Mount Bromo. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

It *is* possible to walk from the village of Cemoro Lawang to Mount Bromo’s crater edge (about one hour/3 kilometers/1.9 miles). This was my planned path, but I knew I was not up for even a short walk that morning, particularly in the dark and without a marked trail, and certainly not with FTS. These things are left for daylight, I told myself—and definitely for a landscape with ready access to facilities. I also knew it was difficult to find the path—indeed, the couple from my bus who tried it did get lost, and joined forces with two other lost couples wandering the Sea of Sands. They came across some local men who offered to show them the way for 100,000 IDR ($9 USD). They bargained and settled on 10,000 IDR (0.90 USD) per person, a total of 60,000 IDR. So, carry a compass and certainly some extra rupiah!

Please note, Mount Bromo is an active volcano, as are most Indonesian volcanoes (which means most mountains in Indonesia!) Check Gunung Bagging or Volcano Discovery for information on current activity.

GETTING THERE

As mentioned above, I took the easy and economical route to Gunung Bromo and Kawah Ijen, booking from Yogyakarta to the Bali ferry landing on eastern Java.

We departed the Great Tour office in Yogyakarta at 08:00, and arrived in the non-descript mountain village of Cemoro Lawang twelve hours later. Ahmad, the driver, made a lunch stop and accommodated other breaks, including one for an ATM stop. We arrived in Probolingo to connect with the local tour operator, Abdul, at Bromo Holiday, where he communicated the timings and offered tour extras. If you decide to find your own way to Probolingo, I do recommend connecting with Abdul at Bromo Holiday.

If you decide on the bundled transportation and lodging option, I highly recommend Great Tours (Jl. Sosrowijajayan 29, Yogyakarta, 0274 58221, www.greattoursjogja.com). I booked my travel to Gunung Bromo and Kawah Injen via their office, and their staff was consistently friendly, helpful, honest, and chatty. All staffers also spoke excellent English. If you do not mind traveling with other bule (foreigners), it is not a bad way to go, particularly if you are short on time or have limited Indonesian language skills. Again, not my normal path, but it worked out well this time.

I spoke with two Iranian men on Kawah Ijen and they ended up spending quite a bit more time and money doing the Yogya-Surabaya-Probolingo route independently—and were hiking the exact same way I was, with a guide and with a mix of Indonesian and foreign tourists. They thought they would get better value by getting closer to the mountain, but not so.

If you do have more time and are traveling in rainy season, traveling independently gives you the option of hiking during the daytime—and finding the path across the Sea of Sands. This also gives you the option of bunkering down and waiting for a vista—although sunrise offers the best chance of views. In retrospect, I would have booked just the transit option, made my own hotel bookings, and asked to catch the bus the next day, or day after. I knew I was also eager to make my way across Java and head to points westward and to be Borneo-bound.

OPTIONS:

Mount Bromo Transport
180,000 IDR ($16 USD)

Prices are for double occupancy; add approximately thirty percent for single occupancy.

Leave Yogyakarta 08:00, arrive Cemoro Lawang approximately 19:00 via air conditioned mini bus

Mount Bromo Transport + Room
370,000 IDR ($33 USD)

Prices are for double occupancy; add approximately thirty percent for single occupancy.

Leave Yogyakarta 08:00, arrive Cemoro Lawang approximately 19:00 via air conditioned mini bus
Includes one night lodging in Cemoro Lawang

Mount Bromo Tour
475,000 IDR ($42 USD)

Prices are for double occupancy; add approximately thirty percent for single occupancy.

Day 1: leave Yogyakarta 08:00, arrive Cemoro Lawang approximately 19:00 via air conditioned mini bus

Included one night lodging and breakfast at Cemara Indah Hotel (see below)

Day 2: walk to Mount Bromo on your own (about one hour)
Leave Cemoro Lewang 04:00 for Mount Bromo

Note: did not include 70,000 IDR ($6 USD) park admission and optional 125,000 IDR ($11 USD) jeep to sunrise viewpoint

Leave Cemoro Lawang 08:00 via air conditioned mini bus, arrive Probolingo 09:30
Leave Probolingo 10:00 via air conditioned mini bus, arrive Denpasar bus station 18:00

Mount Bromo and Kawah Ijen Tour
670,000 IDR ($60)

Prices are for double occupancy; add approximately thirty percent for single occupancy.

Day 1: leave Yogyakarta 08:00, arrive Cemoro Lawang approximately 19:00 via air conditioned mini bus

Included one night lodging and breakfast at Cemara Indah Hotel (see below)

Day 2: walk to Mount Bromo on your own (about one hour)
Leave Cemoro Lewang 04:00 for Mount Bromo

Note: did not include 70,000 IDR ($6 USD) park admission and 125,000 IDR ($11 USD) jeep to sunrise viewpoint

Leave Cemoro Lewang 09:00 via air conditioned mini bus, arrive Sempol Village approximately 15:00 (more like 19:00, depending on stops)

Included one night lodging at Kartimore Homestay (see below)

Day 3:
Leave Sempol Village 04:00 via air conditioned mini bus, arrive Post Paltuding 05:00
Leave Post Paltuding 05:00 and walk to Ijen Crater for sunrise

Note: does not include 35,000 IDR ($3 USD) park admission

Leave Post Paltuding 10:30 via air conditioned mini bus, arrive 13:30 ferry station to Bali

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

(or where not to stay)

Cemara Indah Hotel
62 81358005885
62 81336338844
info@cemaraindahhotel.com

www.cemaraindahhotel.com/about.html

My room was included in the cost of the Mount Bromo-Kawah Ijen trip, otherwise I probably would not have opted to stay here. Frankly, it depends on the rate; it was clean enough, but I certainly would not pay a premium to stay here. The rooms were clean enough, but tired, albeit the staff was friendly and helpful.

The rooms are unheated and the village is at a decent elevation, so wear layers. The buffet breakfast is a bit grim, with the most mediocre mie goreng (fried noodles) and nasi goreng (fried rice) I had during my six weeks in Indonesia, along with some bleached bread options.

The hotel is allegedly near the crater rim, but everything was under cloud cover and darkness when I arrived.

Yoshi’s Guesthouse
62 0335541018
yoschi.bromo@gmail.com
www.yoschihotel.com
Just down the road from the village of Cemoro Lawang, in Ngadisari.

Although I did not stay here, some of the older travel comrades recommended Yoschi’s. They reported that the alpine-style rooms were clean and comfortable, and that the guesthouse was a little like the Alps meet Indonesia. A little.

WHEN TO GO

Java’s rainy season runs through April. Be forewarned, rain + mountains do not equal great views. I spoke with some Indonesian travelers in Sanur, Bali, who also had bad vista karma.

But no matter the weather, I strongly recommend this side trip on your way across Java, particularly if you are headed to Bali or flying from Surabaya to Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan (Borneo).

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Travel to Yogyakarta—or How to Survive the Batik Salesmen and Find the Kraton or Sultan’s Royal Palace

Travel to Yogyakarta and the Kraton (Sultan’s Royal Palace)

Street Scene in Yogyakarta Java

Street Scene in Yogyakarta Java Indonesia. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Yogyakarta (or Yogya, pronounced Jo-ja) is a sprawling city of 389,000 people, a tangled, chaotic mix of motorbikes and becaks (bicycle rickshaws), traditional arts, and batik salesmen. Really. I must admit, I did not feel a lot of Yogya love on day one, but it is a city that grows on you. The locals sport “I heart Yogja!” T-shirts—and before you know it, you are buying one too.

In the center of it all is the kraton (or keraton or karaton), the sultan’s royal palace and home of Java’s royal family. The hereditary title of sultan still has some political klout in Java, unlike other parts of Indonesia, where it is a largely symbolic position. In Java, the sultan is the hereditary monarch and governor of the Yogyakarta Special Administrative Region.

Palace Guards at the Kraton Yogyakarta Java Indonesia

Palace Guards at the Kraton Yogyakarta Java Indonesia. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

The sultan of Yogyakarta is a hereditary title, as is the honor of being one of the kraton’s royal guards. It is a lifetime position; when guards are too old to serve, they continue to live at the kraton and are cared for in their older years. One thousand active guards and one thousand retired guards live at the kraton.

Palace Guards at the Kraton Yogyakarta Java Indonesia

Palace Guards at the Kraton Yogyakarta Java Indonesia. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

The kraton is built on a north-south axis, aligning with Gunung Merapi and the Indian Ocean. It is said that the structure represents the Javanese cosmos, and represents a Javanese version of Islamic mysticism.

Yogya is a center for traditional Javanese arts, and a wonderful place to experience the performing arts. The kraton hosts daily performances are hosted daily from 10:00-12:00:

Monday – gamelan
Tuesday – gamelan
Wednesday – wayang golek (Javanese wooden puppets)
Thursday – gamelan
Friday – Javanese singing
Saturday – wayang kulit (Javanese shadow puppets)
Sunday – classical dance

Performance Area at the Kraton Yogyakarta Java Indonesia

Performance Area at the Kraton Yogyakarta Java Indonesia. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Shadow puppet performances are also offered at Sono-Budoyo Museum (near the kraton at the intersection of Jl Senopati, Jl. KH Ahmad Dahlan, and Jl A Yani, near the kraton) every night from 20:10-22:00 pm and every second Saturday at Sasono Hinggil 21:00-05:00 the next day.

Yogya serves as a good base for visits to UNESCO World Heritage site Borobudur and the Hindu temple complex of Prambanan. There are many tour options that let you pack the sightseeing into one day, although I do not recommend it, unless you are short on time. Many tour offices (see below) are located along Jl Sosrowijayan in Sosrowijayan, the epicenter for backpacker and hotel lodging.

GETTING AROUND/RECOMMENDED TOUR COMPANIES

I highly recommend Great Tours (Jl Sosrowijajayan 29, www.greattoursjogja.com). I booked my travel to Gunung Bromo and Kawah Injen via their office, and their staff was consistently friendly, helpful, honest, and chatty. All staffers also spoke excellent English.

Via Via Tours (Jl Prawirotaman 130, www.viaviajogja.com in the Prawirotaman area) also comes recommended. Via Via offers an assortment of interesting and innovative options, including jamu, or traditional medicine, and behind-the-scenes with traditional performing arts. Their tour options (particularly the long distance ones) tend to be pricier than the standard Sosrowijajayan menu.

If you prefer the fun of public transit, the public bus on Jl. Malioboro travels to Prambanan and buses to Borobudur go through the Jambor station. Be forewarned that the Borobudur-Yogja bus may drop you off on the outskirts of Yogja for a roadside transfer (at least this happened to me!) If this occurs, keep smiling and ask “Yogya bis?” and it should be okay.

SHOPPING

If you are in the market for some Indonesia clothing, Jl. Malioboro has a line of inexpensive clothing shops and printed batik clothing, including short sleeved shirts, baggy trousers, and dresses. I suggest traveling light and buying what you need in Yogya.

Admittedly, I am a market hound, so I also enjoyed the lively central market, Pasar Beringharo (Jl. A Yani, just north of the kraton, on the street that connects with Jl Malioboro). Fruits and vegetables are toward the back and rempah rempah (spices) are on the first floor. Please remember to be respectful and ask before you take people photos. Note that there are numerous warungs or food stalls around the market.

Chip Section at the Pasar Beringharo Central Market Yogyakarta Java Indonesia

Chip Section at the Pasar Beringharo Central Market Yogyakarta Java Indonesia. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com



WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

I heartily recommend Bladok Losmen when you travel to Yogyakarta (Jl Sosrowijayan 76
www.bladok.web.id), if you do not mind staying in the center of Sosrowijayan (backpacker central, albeit very convenient) It is an excellent value, with spotless rooms, lovely and friendly staff, and courtyard pool with water fountain. Deluxe rooms (250,000 IDR/$22 USD) have ceiling fans, European bathrooms, and a private terrace. Standard rooms (150,000 IDR/$13 USD)—not available when I was there—have ceiling fans and traditional bathrooms. VIP rooms with air conditioning are also available.

WHERE TO EAT

When I did not eat at the warungs, my favorite restaurants was Bedhot (which means creative in Indonesian). It was consistently tasty, with many Indonesian—and traditional Javanese—dishes, as well as the usual western offerings. Several special menu items that needed to be ordered a day in advance, included snake, with a choice of cobra or python.

Ayam Goreng (Fried Chicken) Vendor Yogyakarta Java Indonesia

Ayam Goreng (Fried Chicken) Vendor Yogyakarta Java Indonesia. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Travel to Borobudur Temple in Indonesia, the Great Sanctuary and the Spice Trade

Travel to Borobudur Temple Indonesia

First morning in Indonesia!

Borobudur Temple Buddha

Borobudur Temple Buddha Java Indonesia. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

It was still pitch black when I left the guesthouse, and the muezzin’s morning call to prayer floated across town. Some motorbikes flew by and there were a few rogue chickens, but otherwise, the streets were silent.

It was not my intention to hitch a ride, but a man stopped, and we negotiated a ride on his motorbike under the cloak of darkness. In Indonesia, this is called an ojek or ojegs, a motorcycle driver who will take a passenger for a price.

A friend recently asked me how I communicate if I do not speak the local language and since I usually travel as an independent, budget traveler. My philosophy is to know at least the basics, particularly the polite niceties. I tried to explain how much you can communicate with a lot of smiles, polite phrases and non-verbal communication. And the more I can speak, the better the experience.

And as I like to say, local people usually have a guess where I am going. The ojek man knew I was probably walking to the ticket gate for the sunrise at Borobudur Temple and had a hunch I might want a ride. Yup! It was dark and I only had a vague idea where to buy the ticket.

So, how did we negotiate? He held some money to the motorbike headlamp to show me how much, and I countered, holding a smaller bill under my headlamp. We had a deal. I threw my scarf on, and tried to remember how to be a passenger on a motorbike without screaming. The sound of panic is universal. This kind of ride is very common in Cambodia and Laos, but it has been awhile and I am out of practice.

It was still dark when I arrived at the Manohara Hotel, where one buys Borobudur sunrise tickets. Borobudur (or temple on the hill) was built between the eighth and ninth century during the fifth to tenth century reign of Syailendra dynasty. It is built in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, and is one the world’s greatest—and largest—Buddhist monuments. Borobudur is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise

Borobudur Temple at Sunrise Java Indonesia. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Friendly guides, particularly eager to practice their English, distributed egalitarian orange scarves (for covering the waist and legs) and flashlights to morning visitors. A friendly guide took me to the top of the temple hill, about a ten minute walk—plenty of time for the 06:30 sunrise.

The temple was seriously affected by the 2010 eruption of Gunung Merapi. Signs showed the before and after from the cleaning process. The monument was dusted with volcanic ash one again, during te February 2014 eruption of Gunung Kelud.

The muezzin`s call continued as the mist from last night’s rain enveloped the verdant hills, and volcanic peaks tucked in and out of the clouds. Morning light slowly opened the day, casting shadows and light over the temple stupas, Buddhas, and south central Javanese plains, known as the Garden of Java. I wandered with the camera and finished with a complimentary banana pastry and java (in Java!) at the Mahoraha Hotel’s outdoor terrace. They also tossed in a complimentary batik scarf made by a local shop, Batik Mandala Borbudur (Jl. Balaputra Dewa 56, Borobudur).

Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple Java Indonesia. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

The magnificent monument is a three-dimensional mandala (diagram of the universe) and a visual representation of the Buddhist teachings. It is believed that the universe is divided into kamadhatu, rupadhatu, and arupadhatuthe. Starting at the base, kamadharu represents the place where we are bound to our desires; rupadhatu represents the sphere where we abandon our desires, but are still bound to name and form; and arupadhatuthe represents the sphere of formlessness where there is no longer either name or form. In essence, the monument depicts the cosmos, starting at the base and the everyday world of passion, desire, and attachment, circling up to a place of enlightenment or nirvana. Like all Buddhist sites, circle clockwise, ascending the site through a series of galleys depicting the stages of reincarnation.

I spent part of the morning wandering some roads near the temple and village, an emerald landscape of patchwork rice paddies and cheerful salaam alakum (peace be with you, a traditional greeting in much of the Middle East). Locals flew by on scooters laden with baskets of greens, eggs, lumber—you name it—on their way back from the market.

There are a few warungs (food stalls) at the rotary near the temple entrance. Last night I enjoyed some chicken satay fresh off the grill, caramelized, charcoal goodness married with the sweet nuttiness of mild peanut sauce and wrapped to go in a banana leaf and newspaper (5000 Rp/$0.40 USD).

I highly recommended staying in town instead of taking a tour from Yogyakarta (also called Yoga, pronounced Jo-Ja), where you are shepherded back for the next attraction and cannot revisit the temple during different lights and moods (including the afternoon cuddling of young sweeties amongst the stupas).

There is also a greater economic benefit to the village if you stay in town, where there are also a few adventure touring options (class 2-3 river rafting on the Elo River and bicycling) via the Manohara Hotel, or visiting local cottage industries (pottery, tofu, glass noodles); nearby Mendut temple and monastery; Selogriyo (neighboring rice terraces); or walking to a nearby hillside for a sunrise viewing of Borobudur Temple with Jaker, a local group of community-based guides (Jack Priyana, founder, jackpriyana@yahoo.com.sg, 62 0293 788845).

The temple site changes dramatically as the predominantly foreign tourist crowd that arrives for sunset gives way to a predominantly Indonesian audience, with plenty of carriage rides, trolleys, and souvenir hawkers. A lively warung (food stall) scene also appears northwest of the temple, outside the parking (parkir) area, and up the street from the ATM machine. Street vendors also sell cut fruit and small bags of fried tofu (tahu). I returned later in the day to visit the museum and take sunset photographs and did not recognize the site! The Lonely Planet guidebook warns that it can be a chaotic scene, but I found it quite festive.

The small, but informative, Samudraraksa Museum documents Indonesia’s role in the spice trade and the 2003 voyage of the Borobudur ship replica, Samudraraksa (guardian of the ocean) from Jakarta to the Seychelles to Madagascar. The expedition was inspired by the ocean-going ships depicted on the wall of Borobudur temple. The Samudraksa route from Indonesia to the western coast of Africa retraced the spice trading route taken by Indonesian sea traders ten centuries ago.

Indonesia water transportation evolved from a simple bamboo raft used from prehistoric times for mainly for river transportation to ocean-going, single keel ships with double outriggers. A recent shipwreck off the coast of Cirebon (west Java) provides evidence of this type of boat, as well as the maritime history depicted in the Borobudur reliefs. The wooden ship was a design and technology typical in the Indonesian archipelago, which carried a wide variety of cargo: Chinese ceramics, Chinese coins, ingots, beads, Indian bronze statues, glass vessels, semiprecious stones from west Asia, and even Mediterranean amphora from the Mediterranean.

Indonesian maritime trade began as early as 500 BCE, when Indonesians sailed to southern China, where they exchanged spices, camphor, and bird feathers with bronze artifacts such as kettle drums and axes. The maritime spice route later expanded to the western coast of Indian (including Kochi, Kerala, India), Arabian Peninsula, and eastern coast of Africa.

The spice trade included cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Nutmeg was an important ingredient for medicine and religious offering in ancient Europe, and nutmeg seeds were used as a condiment. The Chinese chewed cloves as mouth perfume and Europeans used cloves for cooking (spice and preservative), aromatherapy, and as a preservative and for medicine. Cinnamon was used as a spice and condiment, as well as for medicinal purposes.

Indonesian trade routes ran along the western coast of India, southern Arabian peninsula, and east coast of Africa.

BOROBUDUR TEMPLE TICKETS

Buy sunrise tickets at the Manohara Hotel

Opens at 06:00

380,000 Rp ($32 USD) sunrise admission
230,000 Rp ($19 USD) if you are staying at the Manohara Hotel
270,000 Rp ($23 USD) for regular (non-sunrise) admission

Visitors staying at Borobudur hotels receive a voucher for fifteen percent off all temple admission rates.

Note: if you are traveling with another person and staying at mid-level hotels—and do mind such a place—ticket savings may make the Manohara Hotel worth a stay.

WHERE TO STAY/ACCOMMODATION

Manohara Hotel Borobudur
Komplek Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur
Jl. Badrawati Borobudur
Magelang,Jawa Tengah
+62 293 788131

The Manohara Hotel is the only hotel inside the Great Sanctuary.

Advertised room rates are around 1,200,000 ($100 USD). Apartment rooms can be found on Agoda for 4,000,000 Rp ($64 USD; regular rate 1,968,000 Rp/$160 USD). Book far in advance, as rooms sell out, even during the low season.

Budget Options:

There are numerous small hotels and homestays in town. I stayed at the Lotus II, the Lonely Planet pick (200,000-250,000 Rp/$17-21 USD). It is the base for a community-tourism organization, Jaker (founder Jack Priyana, jackpriyana@yahoo.com.sg, 62 0293 788845; same contact information for Lotus II). The staff are all friendly, speak excellent English, and are generally quite lovely. Second floor rooms overlook the rice paddies, although first floor guests are also encouraged to enjoy the terrace and the views. The room and cleaniness were fine; it was not my best budget room and not the worse one either.

HOW TO GET THERE

A visa on arrival (VOA) is issued $25 USD (about 300,000 Rp; the price is quoted in USD). VOAs are issued for thirty days, and can be renewed for another thirty days ($25 USD) at local immigration offices. Change is given in Indonesian rupiah.

In 2014, visa on arrival (VOAs) were available at Adi Sucipto International Airport (JOG), the principal airport for the Yogyakarta area, and Adi Sumarmo International Airport (SOC) in Solo. SOC used to be the principal airport until JOG. Do check with your local Indonesia embassy to determine the current situation with VOAs.

The flight from Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN) to JOG is about one hour. Air Asia has great promotional deals (usually $50-60 USD).

Taxis to Borobudur can be booked at the Yogyakarta (JOG) airport taxi transfer desk for 230,000 Rp ($19 USD). Airport transfer by your hotel will probably be a bit more (300,000 Rp/$25 USD). Public transit involves numerous connections and is not recommended. The taxi trip to Borobudur can take one and half hours, and sometimes more on weekends and holidays, when there are more Singapore tourists.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Travel to Singapore and Eating at Singapore Street Food Stalls and Hawker Centers

Eating at Singapore Street Food Stalls and Hawker Centers

Singapore is most definitely a street eats destination. Prevalent English, crazy culinary variety, and high standards of cleanliness make Singapore street food very accessible.

Maxwell Road Hawker Center Singapore Street Food

Maxwell Road Hawker Center Singapore Street Food. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Singapore cuisine—and Singapore street food—is a potpourri of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cuisine, as well as Peranakan (nonya or nyonya) cuisine. Peranakan can be described as the sour-spicy hybrid of Chinese and Malay/Indonesia cuisine, with belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste), shallots, chilies, peanuts, galangal (rhizome similar to ginger), candlenuts, laksa leaf, tamarind juice, preserved soy beans, kaffir lime, and thick coconut milk. This style of food is characteristic of the Malaysian Peninsula and is the food—and the history—of the Spice Island history.

Due to the large number of migrant workers, trade history, and the origins of most Singaporean Indians, South Indian food is more prevalent than North Indian food. Singapore’s Little India has a number of chaat houses with predominately South Indian food. Most Indian people in Singapore are from Tamil Nadu; Tamil is one of Singapore’s four national languages.

I tucked into an Indian chaat house for an onion and shallot uttapam and sambar idli (Spicy South Indian lentil soup and spongy, sour rice cakes). North Indian food is being offered at more and more places, at least judging from the Little India menus. If you do not know what to order, you can never go wrong with thali, the plate of the day, which usually includes several options and several chutneys.

Maxwell Road Hawker Center Singapore Street Food

Maxwell Road Hawker Center Singapore Street Food. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Singapore street food—hawker centers (food stalls), food courts, food centers, and kopitiam—can be found throughout the city. Kopitiam are Southeast Asian coffee shops that serve meals and beverages; kopi is the Hokkiem word for coffee and tiam is the word for shop. All except kopitiam have open dining areas gathered around several to a hundred stalls. Singapore hawker centers are covered, open sided venues with tables, whereas food courts are more common in malls. Food courts typically have more choices and higher prices. Traditionally Singapore food hawkers had mobile carts, but this is no longer allowed in sanitary Singapore.

What is the etiquette for eating at Singapore hawker centers and for eating Singapore street food? Secure a seat by leaving a friend to hold the table, or leave a pack of tissues on the seat or table. It is very common to share a table—during lunch, I shared my table with three different diners. This allowed me to ask what they were eating, and what they liked.

English and Chinese signs detail the menu; if it does not say self serve the vendor will bring it to your table. When in doubt, assume that Singapore street food is self-serve.

Indian food is tradtionally eaten without utensils; there is usually a washroom nearby so you can wash your hands, and utensils are offered. Be sure to use your right hand, as the left hand is considered unclean. Most Singaporeans eat lunch between 12-1:30, so expect long queues.

Singapore hawker centers and food courts are inspected and rated by the government based on cleanliness. Grade A is considered the highest level of sanitation. I only sampled a few grade B establishments and everything looked ship shape! Certainly no dish washing in river water or such…

Since if was Singapore Chinese New Year’s Eve, about half the Maxwell Road hawker center food stalls were closed. I read that Maxwell Road was a good, all-around hawker center, but could be a bit touristy, as it is right in the heart of Chinatown. Apparently it was featured on an Anthony Bourdain episode, and we know what that does. Based on my experience, it was mostly local people and fairly quiet, due to the holiday.

Some popular Singapore street food dishes to look for:

  • Hainanese chicken rice. This is considered the national dish of Singapore, even though it originates from Hainan, the southernmost province in China. Chicken is poached until just soft—not too long, or it becomes tough and rubbery—in a rich, gingery chicken stock. If done properly, it melts in your mouth. It is served with a side of rice, cucumber, and condiments (usually soy, chili, and ginger). Simple comfort food!
  • Murtabak (martabak or mutabbaq). Savory, stuffed pancake or pan fried bread filled with onions, peanuts, garlic, onion, or lamb, or any number of things. Also quite common in Malaysia and Muslim areas of Indonesia, as well as the Arabian Peninsula and Muslim parts of India. Mutabbaq is the Arabic word for folded.
  • Otak otak. Savory Chinese, spiced fish cake made of ground fish, coconut milk, galangal, chili paste, cooked inside a banana leaf. A version of this is found through Southeast Asia, and otak otak is also found in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
  • Hokkein (Fujian) mee. Stir-fried prawn noodles (egg and rice vermicelli) tossed with prawns, scrambled egg, and bean sprouts, and served with chili sambal. Originally brought to Singapore and Malaysia by Chinese immigrants from Fujian province in southeastern China.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Travel to Singapore Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse!

Travel to Singapore Chinese New Year, a Law and Order Kind of Town

My free plane ticket landed me in urbanized, safe, and consumer Singapore, sovereign city-state , island country, major commercial center, and mega shipping port. It is highly developed, and joins Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea as one of the Four Asian Tigers.

I arrived just after midnight, so I stopped in at Changi Airport’s sleeping lounge at the Rainforest Lounge ($41.20 SGD per person for three hours, $14.12 SGD for each additional hour). Such a brilliant concept! Singapore’s Changi Airport has sleeping lounges in the arrival and departure lounges, immaculate, private napping suites with access to a spotless shower room and free Internet. Changi Airport also has the Ambassador Transit Lounge with six hour time blocks—but I knew I would be ready to move in the early morning. Although Singapore’s public transit and train system (MRT) is speedy, super clean, safe, and efficient, I sprung for the the airport shuttle ($9 SGD) after the 30 hour odyssey from Boston. We dropped off one other pair of passengers and was delivered to Singapore’s Chinatown in a little over half an hour.

Mix two parts fragrant, roast chicken with one part incense and add a steady stream of customers—there was a constant stream of cars double parked outside Chiew Kee Noodle House (No. 32 Upper Cross Street, Chinatown), next to the cozy, immaculate, and friendly Pillows and Toast Hostel (No. 38 Upper Cross Street, Chinatown). No noodles today, though—it was Singapore Chinese New Year’s Eve and locals were stocking up.

Chiew Kee Noodle House

Chiew Kee Noodle House Singapore. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

I downed two cups of sweet, strong tea at the outdoor tables, listening to the persistent chop, chop, chop of the cleaver, waiting for the reception desk to open and watching the city awaken. One of the servers proudly told me that Chiew Kee Noodle House had been in business for sixty years, and is apparently the place for old school soya sauce chicken.

Singapore is safe, clean, prosperous, exceedingly polite, and easy—perhaps too much so? It makes a gal nervous! It is so safe and clean that everyone—everyone!—eats at the Singapore hawker centers (food stalls), which are regulated by the government. There is plentiful English; it is one of the four official languages and the language of education, business, and government. Singapore is so civilized that the reserved seats on the train stay empty and and western-style flush toilets actually flush and have paper (certainly not the norm in Southeast Asia) (please do not misunderstand—I have no issues with that!—but it sure is not the norm in Southeast Asia).

Subway signs advertised that a new government proposal would alleviate the financial gap between government health insurance and hospital costs, lowering the monthly income requirement by $300 SGD. No smoking, no drinking, no flammables, and no durians (the pungent tropical fruit) on the subways. Singapore drug laws are some of the toughest drug possession laws in the world: the draconian Misuse of Drug Act prescribes capital punishment for drug possession. Vandalism offences carry a mandatory sentence of corporal punishment by the rattan cane. Singapore is most definitely a law and order kind of town.

A major headline on a downtown electronic marquis shouted that two men were arrested for stealing canned abalone in a supermarket worth $200 SNG. Oh my goodness—shoplifting!—that is a various offense here. Amnesty International has reported that Singapore possibly has one of the highest execution rate in the world per capita.

Commerce and shipping are a major part of the economy. Due to the high standard of medical care, Singapore has also become a medical tourism hub. Banking is also a big party of the economy: many of the world`s financial elite claim Singapore at their home or bank here. And it is not just foreign money: one in six Singaporean households reportedly have at least one million SGD in disposable net wealth.

Chinatown Street Scene Singapore Chinese New Year

Chinatown Street Scene Singapore Chinese New Year. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Tourism is also part of the economy, but many of the major attractions lean toward the manufactured consumer experience: attractions include mega malls, aquarium, zoo, and Universal Studios (!) I did visit the Singapore Night Safari when I was here fifteen years ago—very well done and I could see the creatures I did not see in Malaysian national parks. I hope to visit before the flight back (and hopefully with M). I remember that many Singaporean tourists in Malaysia seemed to be seeking nature—and well, reality.

Chinatown Street Scene Singapore Chinese New Year

Chinatown Street Scene Singapore Chinese New Year. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

But it is Singapore Chinese New Year and worth the pause—and certainly a good place to start the walkabout. Given, Chinese New Year is a little different here than what I expected. I am used to the Boston Chinatown’s small town flavor, with local martial art studios parading their downhome dragons and tossing popper or bang snap fireworks in the street. Singapore presents stage shows and there was quite a spectacular fireworks display next to the marina. Singapore’s Chinatown was pleasantly festive, with everyone buying special foods, parading the streets and mugging for the camera, and dining on special new year treats in Chinatown. But Singapore is still Singapore, and there was something oddly sterile about it. And there was more than one luxury car passenger clinging to bunches of lucky bamboo.

Chinatown Street Scene Singapore Chinese New Year

Chinatown Street Scene Singapore Chinese New Year. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Be forewarned, 31 January and 1 February are public holidays for Singapore Chinese Year, so plan ahead. A number of attractions and businesses are closed, as are banks (although you can change money at the airport, if you have ATM problems, as I did). Many restaurants are closed for Singapore Chinese New Year, and the Maxwell Road hawker center was half closed on Chinese New Year’s Eve, with the rest of the vendors shuttering their doors by late afternoon.

Chinatown Street Scene Singapore Chinese New Year

Chinatown Street Scene Singapore Chinese New Year. Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com. All disclaimers apply.

Chai Masala, Aloo Paratha, and Travel to Indian Himalayas and Roof of the World

Travel to Indian Himalayas and Himachal Pradesh

Once upon a time, two middle aged gals found themselves in the Luang Prabang, Laos airport on their way to Hanoi. Emily, a Londoner, had quit her ho-hum PR job just before the world economic crisis, and was applying for jobs on the road. I was weathering a separation from a fifteen-year relationship, trying to figure out phase two in Southeast Asia. Mountaineer Emily was headed to Cat Ba, Halong Bay’s Vietnamese Riviera and ground zero for fabulous rock climbing. She planned to rendezvous with some climbers and I tagged along—and that was how we met.

But eventually all good adventures must end, and we returned to our respective homes and mundanity for a couple years, dreaming of the next walkabout. Back in the world of realty, we found a narrow window of time between monsoon and life, and agreed to rendezvous in Delhi for a trek in the Indian Himalaya. It was not exactly a walkabout, but a little taste for the next one, just a short adventure holiday launching from Manali. This is the tale of our trip over some of the roughest roads in India and the street food found along the way.

Manali, a hill station in the Indian Himalaya, is a well-known hub for adventure activities and winter sports, as well a honeymoon destination for domestic tourists. Prolific orchards dot the surrounding countryside, where spare pears, plums, peaches, strawberries, apricots, and apples are transformed into fruit wine, including the locally produced Wonder Wyne. There is an occasional chalet and snowboard shop—a bit like India meets the Alps. Sort of—but with yak cheese.

But this is India, where the sacred and the spiritual are never too far afield. Legend has it that Vaivasvata Manu—kind of the Hindu version of Moses—built a boat to survive the great flood, thus preserving the human race after a watery cosmic cleansing. It appears to be the Hindu version of the great deluge myth retold in many cultures, including the Judeo-Christian tradition. In any case, peaceful Old Manali is home to the Manu Maharishi Temple, where Manu meditated after landing his boat subsequent to the great flood.

Road from Manali (Indian Himalayas Himachal Pradesh IndiaMost importantly, it was also a jumping off point for mountain trekking. Here the rugged western Himalaya rises above the North Indian province of Himachal Pradesh, where snowbound roads cut off the high-altitude deserts for more than half the year.
We had our sights on hiking adventures further afield and promptly arranged onward transportation—fruit wine, yak cheese, and Manu would have to wait for the return trip. I could not convince Emily that the rickety public buses had the mountain stamina to crawl the highland passes, which were open for a narrow window between July and late October. So, we secured seats in a shared jeep-like vehicle, actually a Tata Motors Sumo Spatio. Since these were some of the most rugged roads in India, it was probably the best solution, and we joined our fellow passengers, an engineer, mother and child duo, and Buddhist monk. Only the engineer spoke English and he was a little sweet on us—regardless, it was going to be a long trip.

Road Conditions Were Not What We Expected (Indian Himalayas Himachal Pradesh India)We did not have a clear picture of the travel conditions—no one told us it was a dirt road and at the tail end of monsoon season, that meant a mud road. Buses, army trucks, and jeeps inched up the mountain pass, occasionally passing on what was at best—and only occasionally—a one+ lane road. Recent rains made it a slippery affair, and we slid past vehicles already stalled in the mud.

Watch for Blind Corners (Indian Himalayas Himachal Pradesh India)

But in India, there is always time for tea. We made a morning stop at a roadside dhaba (roadside restaurant) for some chai masala (Indian spiced tea) and aloo paratha (griddle fried flatbread with potato filling).

Paratha is very common offering among Indian street food vendors and dhabas. Unleavened and savory, this Indian flatbread is made from whole wheat flour and fried on a hot griddle. Parathas can be plain or stuffed—potato (aloo), cauliflower (gobi), chickpea (chana), or cheese (paneer) are some of the most common fillings.

Nothing compares to piping hot parathas, fresh off a sizzling griddle. Buttery, smothered in chutney, and stuffed with savory fillings, parathas are the ultimately satisfying, roadside comfort food. Parathas are a popular breakfast item in northern India, and eaten any time of day, as a snack, or tiffin. They are usually served with chutney, curd (yogurt), pickled vegetables, or even a little ghee.

I sampled many Indian parathas at many dhabas, but at the Snow View Dhaba—3390 meters/11,200 feet—they also came with quite the view. It was a taste of things to come…

Note: a version of this blog post first appeared on British Street Food. Forthcoming: our five day trek, homestays, and untouched Himalayan Buddhist temples and monasteries.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Aloo Paratha at the Snow View Dhaba (Indian Himalayas Himachal Pradesh India)

Solo Travel to Vietnam Hoi An Market

Solo Travel to Vietnam Hoi An Market

09045695.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045627.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045696.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045702.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045705.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045707.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045709.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045710.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045711.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045713.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045717.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045720.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045721.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045722.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045724.JPG

Hoi An Market Vietnam

09045737.JPG

Vietnamese Savory Crepe or Banh Xeo in Hoi An Vietnam

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Vietnam Hoi An Old Town

Solo Travel to Vietnam Hoi An Vietnam

09045608.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045612.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045613.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045617.JPG

Banh Mi or Vietnamese Sandwich Street Vendor in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045619.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045621.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045624.JPG

Men in a Street Cafe in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045628.JPG

Street Scene Hoi An Vietnam

09045631.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045632.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045635.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045636.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045637.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045654.JPG

Door at Tan Ky House in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045657.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045659.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045660.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045666.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045669.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045674.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045684.JPG

Handmade Silk Lanterns in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045756.JPG

Cua Dai Beach near Hoi An Vietnam

09045757.JPG

Cua Dai Beach near Hoi An Vietnam

09045763.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045764.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045765.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045767.JPG

Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045779.JPG

Night Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045793.JPG

Night Street Scene in Hoi An Old Town Vietnam

09045810.JPG

Bike Ride to Cua Dai Beach near Hoi An Vietnam

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Vietnam Hue Vietnam

Solo Travel to Vietnam Hue Vietnam

09045546.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045548.JPG

Vietnamese Tourists at Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045551.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045554.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045555.JPG

Young Women at Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045558.JPG

La Vie Water at Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045560.JPG

La Vie Water at Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045562.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045565.JPG

Young Vietnamese Tourist at Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045566.JPG

Young Vietnamese Tourists at Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045568.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045570.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045572.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045576.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045577.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045581.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045587.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045590.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045593.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045596.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045597.JPG

Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045599.JPG

Boys Playing Soccer at Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

09045601.JPG

Floating Village near Hue Vietnam the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Vietnam Ninh Binh Vietnam

Solo Travel to Vietnam Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045331.JPG

Bái Đính Temple near Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045333.JPG

Near Construction at Bái Đính Temple near Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045334.JPG

Bái Đính Temple near Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045337.JPG

Bái Đính Temple near Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045338.JPG

Altar and Offerings at Bái Đính Temple near Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045342.JPG

Altar and Offerings at Bái Đính Temple near Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045348.JPG

Altar and Offerings at Bái Đính Temple near Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045354.JPG

Limestone Karsts around Tam Cốc-Bích Động near Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045357.JPG

Limestone Karsts around Tam Cốc-Bích Động near Ninh Binh Vietnam

09045360.JPG

Limestone Karsts around Tam Cốc-Bích Động near Ninh Binh Vietnam

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Vietnam Ha Long Bay

Solo Travel to Vietnam Ha Long Bay

09045436.JPG

Men Fishing for Jellyfish near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045437.JPG

Men Fishing for Jellyfish near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045515.JPG

Men Fishing for Jellyfish on Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045516.JPG

Men Fishing for Jellyfish on Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045534.JPG

Jellyfish on Ha Long Bay Beach near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045444.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09045448.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09045450.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09045453.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09045464.JPG

Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045468.JPG

Boat Vendor on Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045469.JPG

Boat Vendor on Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045471.JPG

Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045485.JPG

Sung Sot Caves on Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045487.JPG

Sung Sot Caves on Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045488.JPG

Sung Sot Caves on Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045499.JPG

Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045500.JPG

Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045536.JPG

Our Ha Long Bay Boat near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045538.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09045540.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Vietnam Cat Ba Island and Cat Ba National Park

Solo Travel to Vietnam Cat Ba Island

09045418.JPG

Container Shipping Port near Ferry Landing to Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09045421.JPG

Container Shipping Port near Ferry Landing to Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09044891.JPG

Low Tide near Cat Ba National Park along Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09044893.JPG

Landscape near Cat Ba National Park along Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09044898.JPG

Low Tide near Cat Ba National Park along Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09044901.JPG

Low Tide near Cat Ba National Park along Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09044902.JPG

Fish Farm near Cat Ba National Park along Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09044904.JPG

Low Tide near Cat Ba National Park along Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09044906.JPG

Cat Ba National Park along Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09044913.JPG

Road near Cat Ba National Park along Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Island Vietnam

09044919.JPG

Waterview of Cat Ba Vietnam on Cat Ba Island on Ha Long Bay Vietnam

09044922.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09044924.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09044925.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09044929.JPG

Water Scene near Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09044952.JPG

Ha Long Bay near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045422.JPG

Cat Ba Floating Village on Ha Long Bay Cat Ba Vietnam

09045427.JPG

Woman Selling Fish in Cat Ba Vietnam

09045428.JPG

Water Scene near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045430.JPG

Water Scene near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045429.JPG

Water Scene near Cat Ba Vietnam

09045439.JPG

Cat Ba Vietnam

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Vietnam Bac Ha Vietnam

Solo Travel to Vietnam Bac Ha Vietnam

09045139.JPG

Before the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045140.JPG

Before the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045249.JPG

Women at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045171.JPG

Women at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045182.JPG

Woman at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045186.JPG

Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045195.JPG

Man at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045200.JPG

Women at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045201.JPG

Woman at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045204.JPG

Women at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045211.JPG

Women at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045218.JPG

Men at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045194.JPG

Men at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045225.JPG

Woman at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045227.JPG

Women at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045229.JPG

Woman at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045239.JPG

Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045240.JPG

Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045249.JPG

Women at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045252.JPG

Woman at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045256.JPG

Woman at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045263.JPG

Women Eating Pho at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045281.JPG

Children Eating Ice Cream at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045314.JPG

Woman at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

09045318.JPG

Woman at the Sunday Market in Bac Ha Vietnam

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Vietnam Hong Da Village near Sapa

Solo Travel to Vietnam

09045047 crop.JPG

Walking to Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045050.JPG

Walking to Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045052.JPG
09045062.JPG

Walking to Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045063.JPG

Walking to Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045066.JPG

Walking to Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045070.JPG

Walking to Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045071.JPG

Walking to Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045072.JPG

Walking to Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045073.JPG

Walking to Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045080.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045083.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045085.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045090.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045093.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045094.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045101.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045109.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045122.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

09045113 crop.JPG

Lunch with Hmong Friends in Hong Da Village near Sapa Vietnam

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Vietnam Sapa Vietnam

Solo Travel to Vietnam Sapa Vietnam

09045011.JPG

Walking in Sapa Vietnam

09045012.JPG

Walking in Sapa Vietnam

09045014.JPG

Walking in Sapa Vietnam

09045017.JPG

Walking in Sapa Vietnam

09045018.JPG

Walking in Sapa Vietnam

09045020.JPG

Walking in Sapa Vietnam

09045021.JPG

Walking in Sapa Vietnam

09045028.JPG

Zao Woman Sewing in Sapa Vietnam

09045045.JPG

View from the Hillside Above Sapa Vietnam

09045128.JPG

Zao Women in Sapa Vietnam

09045130.JPG

Hmong Children in Sapa Vietnam

09045132.JPG

Zao Woman in Sapa Vietnam

09045135.JPG

Hmong Girls and Women in the Market in Sapa Vietnam

09045136.JPG

Street Food Stalls and Market in Sapa Vietnam

09045394.JPG

Hmong Girl above the Hills in Sapa Vietnam

09045404.JPG

Hmong Women in the Hills above Sapa Vietnam

09045410.JPG

Hills above Sapa Vietnam

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Vietnam Hanoi Vietnam

Solo Travel to Vietnam Hanoi Vietnam

09034843 edited.jpg

Street Scene in the Old Quarter Hanoi Vietnam

09034845.jpg

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi Vietnam

09034849.jpg

Security Guards in Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi Vietnam

09034852.jpg

Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi Vietnam

09034855.jpg

Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi Vietnam

09034861.jpg

Street Scene in the Old Quarter Hanoi Vietnam

09034862.jpg

Street Scene in the Hoan Kiem District Hanoi Vietnam

09034863.jpg

Street Scene in the Hoan Kiem District Hanoi Vietnam

09034865.jpg

Street Scene in the Hoan Kiem District Hanoi Vietnam

09034869.jpg

Street Scene in the Hoan Kiem District Hanoi Vietnam

09034870.jpg

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi Vietnam

09034872.jpg

Street Scene in the Hoan Kiem District Hanoi Vietnam

09034874.jpg

Street Scene in Hanoi Vietnam

09034875.jpg

Street Scene in Hanoi Vietnam

09034879.jpg

Street Scene in Hanoi Vietnam

09035364.jpg

Street Scene in Hanoi Vietnam

09035368.jpg

Hoa Lo Prison Museum or Hanoi Hilton in Hanoi Vietnam

09035369.jpg

Around the Corner from the Hoa Lo Prison Museum or Hanoi Hilton in Hanoi Vietnam

09034993.jpg

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi Vietnam

09034995.jpg

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi Vietnam

09034999.jpg

Presidential Palace in Hanoi Vietnam

09035001.jpg

Interior of Ho Chi Minh's Residence or Nha Bac Ho in Hanoi Vietnam

09035002.jpg

Visitors Waiting to See Ho Chi Minh's Residence or Nha Bac Ho in Hanoi Vietnam

09035383.jpg

Water Puppet Performance in Hanoi Vietnam

09035389.jpg

Water Puppet Performance in Hanoi Vietnam

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Laos Muang Sing

Solo Travel to Laos Muang Sing

09034751.JPG

Landscape around Muang Sing Laos

09034754.JPG

Landscape around Muang Sing Laos

09034761.JPG

Landscape around Muang Sing Laos

09034763.JPG

Loom under Home Outside Muang Sing Laos

09034764.JPG

Road Scene around Muang Sing Laos

09034766 crop.JPG

Akha Women in the Market in Muang Sing Laos. The Akha are One of the Sino Tibetan Ethnic Groups in Northern Laos

09034770.JPG

Street Scene in Muang Sing Laos. These Chinese Trucks Were Very Common.

09034771.JPG

Akha Woman in Luang Nam Tha Laos

09034777.JPG

Thai Lu Influenced Wat Xieng Jai in Muang Sing Laos

09034780.JPG

Children Playing Volleyball in Muang Sing Laos

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Laos Muang Ngoi Neua

Solo Travel to Laos Muang Ngoi Neua

09034785.JPG

River Scene in Muang Ngoi Neua Laos

09034786.JPG

River Scene in Muang Ngoi Neua Laos

09034788.JPG

Main Street in Muang Ngoi Neua Laos

09034790.JPG

Street Scene in Muang Ngoi Neua Laos

09034794.JPG

River Scene in Muang Ngoi Neua Laos

09034795.JPG

River Scene in Muang Ngoi Neua Laos

09034796.JPG

River Scene in Muang Ngoi Neua Laos

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Laos Street Food: Kai Pen Recipe

Laos Street Food Recipes: Kai Pen Recipe

Kai pen is made from freshwater, green algae (Cladophora sp. or Dichotomosiphon tuberosum A. Br.) from the Mekong River and its tributaries in and around the city of Luang Prabang and northern Laos. Kai pen is very rich in vitamins and minerals, and is an excellent source of potassium, fiber, calcium, and iron. Soviet astronauts allegedly ate kai pen.

The algae (or kai, which means river grass) is harvested during the dry months when the water levels are low, washed, combed to remove the sand, and cooked with tamarind and a jungle fruit, hog plum. It is spread in thin sheets on bamboo mats, then scattered with thin slices of vegetables (garlic, tomato, green onion, and/or galangal), sprinkled with sesame seeds, and sun dried for a few hours. The sheets look like an ornamental version of Japanese nori.

For more information about kai pen production, see this post.

Kai Pen Recipe Yield:

About 2 servings

Kai Pen Recipe Equipment:

Candy thermometer

Slotted spoon

Tongs

Newspaper or paper towels

Wok (kadhai) (optional)

Kai Pen Recipe Ingredients:

Several sheets of river algae

Peanut oil (enough for 1/2 inch oil in the pan)

Kai Pen Recipe Procedure:

  1. Heat the peanut oil until it is very hot (approximately 375 degrees F).
  2. Break or cut the sheets of river algae into chip-size pieces.
  3. Briefly fry the algae until crisp (just a few seconds) and drain on paper towels.
  4. Serve immediately with chili sauce, jaews, or plain.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

On Laos Cuisine: Kai Pen, Jaews, and Laos Food

On Laos Cuisine: Kai Pen, Jaews, and Laos Food

I discovered the fried snack kai pen in a miniscule, northern Laotian village, Muang Ngoi Neua, upriver on the Nam Ou. Muang Ngoi Neua can only be accessed by river: go north on the Mekong at picturesque Luang Prabang, then right at the Nam Ou.

En route, village life dances next to the water: women washing clothes and prepping dinner, children swimming, men fishing. Shadowy limestone karsts rise up from the river, dotted with scrubs of green. Laos is the only landlocked nation in Southeast Asia, and the Mekong is the watery green thread connecting people and cuisine, a central artery, and the lifeblood of country.

Transportation is often an adventure in Laos and is certainly not for the time-obsessed, or those on a tight schedule. March is the end of the dry season and the rivers are very low—lots of exposed rocks and uncertainty. The channels narrow between the mammoth karsts once you turn onto the Nam Ou River—eventually, there was a low grinding sound and the antique motor gave out. Our precarious wooden craft stalled—right on the rocks. The captain wordlessly motioned the handful of passengers to remove their shoes and wade to the riverbank. It was unclear what was going to happen next—but then he and his wife navigated the boat through the low water and the rapids. It did cross my mind that I might be left for lost with my fellow travelers.

However, everything plods forward in Laos. The captain met us upstream and we landed to Nong Khiaw (also transliterated Nong Kiau or Nong Kiew), just in time to catch the public boat to little Muang Ngoi Neua.

Idyllic Muang Ngoi Neua is the last village before Phongsali, near the Vietnamese border. The settlement of 700 people parallels the river, with footpaths branching out to neighboring Lao Loum villages. The mountains have kept the village fairly isolated, and there are no incoming roads. The only way to get to Muang Ngoi Neua is by boat.

I left my guesthouse at dawn, as the light moved through the misty karsts. I did not have an agenda; my only plan was to walk the trails and see where I landed.

09034742 lr.JPG

Dried Freshwater Green Algae or Kai Pen Drying on Bamboo Racks

I spotted kai pen on some bamboo drying racks—oddly enough, next to a bungalow with a satellite dish. Mossy-green sheets were scattered in the morning sun, artfully sprinkled with sesame seeds and slices of garlic, tomato, galangal, and onion. At first glance, it looked like an artisanal paper.

Kai pen is made from freshwater, green algae (Cladophora sp. or Dichotomosiphon tuberosum A. Br.) from the Mekong River and its tributaries in and around the city of Luang Prabang and northern Laos. Kai pen is very rich in vitamins and minerals, and is an excellent source of potassium, fiber, calcium, and iron. Soviet astronauts allegedly ate kai pen.

The algae (or kai, which means river grass) is harvested during the dry months when the water levels are low, washed, combed to remove the sand, and cooked with tamarind and a jungle fruit, hog plum. It is spread in thin sheets on bamboo mats, then scattered with thin slices of vegetables (garlic, tomato, green onion, and/or galangal), sprinkled with sesame seeds, and sun dried for a few hours. The sheets look like an ornamental version of Japanese nori.

09034743.JPG

Making the Paste for Dried Freshwater Green Algae or Kai Pen


The artisan, Anun, saw me looking at the dried kai pen, and motioned me into her home. She spread the viscous paste on aqua plastic, a leftover shopping bag. She methodically swirled the lime-green mix with a miniature straw broom, forming a thin square. Completed kai pen were stacked on bamboo sheets, waiting to be crisped up in the afternoon sun.

In the kitchen, a traditional brazier (tao lo) and locally made charcoal warmed a wok (maw khang) of peanut oil. Hot oil sizzled that bit of river to deep olive, a Mekong shade of green. After it cooled, we broke the kai pen into paper-thin squares, dipped into a spicy chili dip (jaew). Jaews are vivid and robust, a brilliant way to stretch flavor into vegetables, meat, or even a basket of sticky rice (khao niaow). Jaews are the consistency of a course paste or sauce, and the predominant ingredients are chilies, which were originally brought to Southeast Asia by Portuguese and Spanish traders and colonists from the Americas in the sixteenth century.

Jaews are eating throughout the Mekong area, from southern Yunnan, China to southern Laos. They are known as nam mi in the Tai area of southern Yunnan, jaew in Laos, and nam prik in northern Thailand. Both of the following jaew recipes have optional fish sauce, which makes a great vegetarian option. Jaews are delicious with sticky rice, raw greens, vegetables, or meat. The secret to a good jaew is to cook the ingredients over a charcoal fire.

Bird’s eye chili peppers are sometimes called Thai or Thai dragon peppers, since they resemble claws. They are used in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and southern India, in Kerala. They measure 50,000-100,000 Scoville units, on the lower range of the hotter Habanero chili. They can be used as a natural insect repellent when mixed with water.

Laotian cuisine has many similarities to Thai and Vietnamese food. The Lao palate is accustomed to grilled and steamed foods, lots of fresh vegetables, and typical Southeast Asian herbs (chili, coriander, galangal, lime leaves, lemongrass, etc.) Like rural areas in neighboring countries, many people depend on foraging and hunting for small animals and birds for their animal protein. The herbs are delicate (as with Vietnamese cuisine), but not as spicy as neighboring Thailand and China. Colonial French rule also introduced bread, most notably the baguette.

There are also a fair number of differences with neighboring countries. Land-locked Laos has an abundance of freshwater fish, but not seafood. A typically Laotian meal usually includes side dishes of large quantities of undressed fresh herbs, vegetables, and greens. Most Southeast Asian cuisines combine hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavors (either in the same dish, or in the meal). Laos is different; sweet and sour are not combined, and bitter flavors are common. Laotian eating habits also differ, as most dishes are eaten with the hands, instead of utensils, as in northern Thailand.

Cooking methods include grilling, steaming, boiling, stewing, searing, and stir-frying. Stews (particularly in the form of mild curries) and soups are very common, but grilling (ping) is the most common cooking method, typically for a longer period over low heat. Grilled fish is ping pa, grilled chicken is ping gai, and grilled meat (usually water buffalo) is ping sin. Even in major cities, restaurants do much of their cooking on a brazier, which uses locally made charcoal. Other common kitchen equipment include a wok (maw khang) for frying and stir-frying), a conical bamboo basket (huad) for steaming sticky rice and packets of food wrapped in banana leaves), and a mortar and pestle (khok) for spices, curries, and meat.

Food is shared family-style or communally, and typically includes a soup, grilled dish, sauce, stew, or mixed dish (such as laap), greens, and sticky rice. Diners traditionally sit around a raised rattan platform (ka toke), or several platforms, depending on the number of guests; in modern homes, a table (taeng pha kao) may be used. Each table has a container of sticky rice (katip). Most food is eaten with the hands, with sticky rice (khao niaow); spoons are typically used for soups and chopsticks for noodles.

Forthcoming: recipes for
kai pen, jaews, sticky rice, etc.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Laos Nong Khiaw

Solo Travel to Laos Nong Khiaw

09034701.JPG

Ship Captain for the Trip up the Mekong River and Nam Ou River to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034705.JPG

River Scene on the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034709.JPG

River Scene on the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034716.JPG

Ship Captain for the Trip to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034720.JPG

River Scene on the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034722.JPG

River Scene on the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034724.JPG

River Scene on the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034725.JPG

River Scene on the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034726 crop.JPG

River Scene on the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034727.JPG

Engine Repair on the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034728.JPG

Limestone Karsts along the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034730.JPG

River Scene on the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034731.JPG

Limestone Karsts along the Nam Ou River En Route to Nong Khiaw Laos

09034735.JPG

Sunset over Nong Khiaw Laos

09034736.JPG

Sunset over Nong Khiaw Laos

09034740.JPG

Street Scene in Nong Khiaw Laos

09034745.JPG

Street Scene in Nong Khiaw Laos

09034747.JPG

Street Scene in Nong Khiaw Laos

09034749.JPG

Street Scene in Nong Khiaw Laos

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Laos Food

Laos Food and Laos Cuisine

Laos food has many similarities to Thai and Vietnamese food. The Lao palate is accustomed to grilled and steamed foods, lots of fresh vegetables, and typically Southeast Asian herbs (chili, coriander, galangal, lime leaves, lemongrass, etc.)

Like rural areas in neighboring countries, many people depend on foraging and hunting for small animals and birds for their animal protein. The herbs are delicate (as with Vietnamese cuisine), but not as spicy as neighboring Thailand and China. Colonial French rule also introduced bread, most notably the baguette.

There are also a fair number of differences with neighboring countries. Land-locked Laos has an abundance of freshwater fish, but not seafood. A typically Laotian meal almost always includes side dishes of large quantities of undressed fresh herbs, vegetables, and greens.

Most Southeast Asian cuisines combine hot, sour, salty, and sweet flavors (either in the same dish, or in the meal). Sweet and sour are not combined are not combined with Laos food, and bitter flavors are common. Laotian eating habits also differ, as most dishes are eaten with the hands, instead of utensils, as in northern Thailand.

Cooking methods for Laos food include grilling, steaming, boiling, stewing, searing, and stir frying. Stews (particularly in the form of mild curries) and soups are very common, but grilling (ping) is the most common cooking method, typically for a longer period of time over low heat. Grilled fish is ping pa, grilled chicken is ping gai, and grilled meat (usually water buffalo) is ping sin. Even in major cities, restaurants do much of their cooking on a brazier (tao lo; see photo in the amok trey recipe), which uses locally-made charcoal. Other common kitchen equipment include a wok (maw khang) for frying and stir frying), a conical bamboo basket (huad) for steaming sticky rice and packets of food wrapped in banana leaves), and a mortar and pestle (khok) for spices, curries, and meat.

Laos food is shared family-style or communally, and typically includes a soup, grilled dish, sauce, stew or mixed dish (such as laap), greens, and sticky rice. Diners traditionally sit around a raised rattan platform (ka toke), or several platforms, depending on the number of guests; in modern homes, a table (taeng pha kao) may be used. Each table has a container of sticky rice (katip). Most food is eaten with the hands, with sticky rice (khao niaow); spoons are typically used for soups and chopsticks for noodles. See the sticky rice recipe for directions on the best way to eat sticky rice.

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Laos Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang

Solo Travel to Laos Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang

copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

09024601.JPG

Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09024612.JPG

Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09024613.JPG

Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09024615.JPG

Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09024616.JPG

Dried Rodents at Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09024621.JPG

Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09024622.JPG

Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09024623.JPG

Talat Phosy Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09024629.JPG

Traditional Brazier (Tao Lo) and Locally-Made Charcoal

Solo Travel to Laos Luang Prabang Monk Procession

Solo Travel to Laos Luang Prabang Monk Procession

09034573.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034579.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034580.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034582.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034588.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034591.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034673.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034680.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034682.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034683.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

09034682.jpg

Morning Alms Giving and Luang Prabang Monk Procession in Laos

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Laos Luang Prabang Street Scenes

Solo Travel to Laos Luang Prabang

09034527.JPG

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang Laos

09034529.JPG

Produce Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09034531.JPG

Produce Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09034532.JPG

Produce Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09034533.JPG

Produce Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09034536.JPG

Produce Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09034538.JPG

Produce Market in Luang Prabang Laos

09034539.JPG

Young Monks in Luang Prabang Laos

09034541.JPG

Young Monks in Luang Prabang Laos

09034543.JPG

View of the Mekong River in Luang Prabang Laos

09034549.JPG

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang Laos

09034554.JPG

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang Laos

09034555.JPG

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang Laos

09034557.JPG

Young Monk Picking Fruit in Luang Prabang Laos

09034558.JPG

Young Monks Preparing to Catch Fruit in Luang Prabang Laos

09034559.JPG

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang Laos

09034560.JPG

Schoolgirls in Luang Prabang Laos

09034561.JPG

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang Laos

09034563.JPG

Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang Laos

09034570.JPG

Evening Chanting in Luang Prabang Laos

09034595.JPG

Young Monks in Luang Prabang Laos

09034597.JPG

Young Monks in Luang Prabang Laos

Copyright 2014 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Laos Plain of Jars

Solo Travel to Laos Plain of Jars

09034473.JPG

Recycled Bomb Shells from the United States "Secret" Bombing of Laos in Phonsavan Laos

09034474.JPG

Recycled Bomb Shells from the United States "Secret" Bombing of Laos in Phonsavan Laos

09034481.JPG

Plain of Jars Archaeological Site near Phonsavan Laos

09034482.JPG

Plain of Jars Archaeological Site near Phonsavan Laos

09034486.JPG

Plain of Jars Archaeological Site near Phonsavan Laos

09034487.JPG

Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Warning Signs at Plain of Jars near Phonsavan Laos

09034488.JPG

Plain of Jars Archaeological Site near Phonsavan Laos

09034493.JPG

Memorial for Individuals Killed by the United States "Secret" Bombing at Plain of Jars near Phonsavan Laos

09034495 crop.JPG

B-52 Crater Leftover from United States "Secret" Bombing at Plain of Jars near Phonsavan Laos

09034498.JPG

Plain of Jars Archaeological Site near Phonsavan Laos

09034501.JPG

Plain of Jars Archaeological Site near Phonsavan Laos

09034506.JPG

Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Warning Signs at Plain of Jars near Phonsavan Laos

09034508.JPG

Rice Wine Brewing near Phonsavan Laos

09034514.JPG

Plain of Jars Archaeological Site near Phonsavan Laos

09034516.JPG

Plain of Jars Archaeological Site near Phonsavan Laos

09034521.JPG

Leftover Tank at Plain of Jars Archaeological Site near Phonsavan Laos

Copyright 2013 www.moiwalkabout.com

Solo Travel to Laos Vang Vieng Laos

Solo Travel to Laos Vang Vieng Laos

09034413.JPG

Sunset over the Limestone Karsts in Vang Vieng Laos

09034418.JPG

Nam Song River in Vang Vieng Laos

09034422 crop.JPG

Motorbike Trip though the Limestone Karsts in Vang Vieng Laos

09034424.JPG

Motorbike Trip though the Limestone Karsts in Vang Vieng Laos

09034427.JPG

Motorbike Trip near Vang Vieng Laos

09034436.JPG

Reclining Buddha in the Tham Phu Kham Caves near Vang Vieng Laos

09034437.JPG

Reclining Buddha in the Tham Phu Kham Caves near Vang Vieng Laos

09034438.JPG

Tham Phu Kham Caves near Vang Vieng Laos

09034439.JPG

Tham Phu Kham Caves near Vang Vieng Laos

09034441.JPG

Motorbike Trip though the Limestone Karsts in Vang Vieng Laos

09034447.JPG

Motorbike Trip though the Limestone Karsts in Vang Vieng Laos

09034455.JPG

Closest I Got to the Innertube Horror on the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng Laos

09034461.JPG

Woman Crossing the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng Laos

09034467.JPG

Motorbike Trip though the Limestone Karsts in Vang Vieng Laos

09034468.JPG

Sunset over the Limestone Karsts in Vang Vieng Laos

09034469.JPG

Sunset over the Limestone Karsts in Vang Vieng Laos

Copyright 2013 www.moiwalkabout.com