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Category Archives: Life on the Road

Paradise does have its dark side and I’m afraid I discovered much of it in the last few days. Seems like everyone here is out to get the tourist’s money one way or another. Don’t get me wrong. Not everyone is bad and I have run into many very nice people whose heart is in the right place.

I drove from Kuta to Ubud on Tuesday. I guess I wrote about my driving adventure in an earlier post and I’ll just say that the driving is getting much easier. I don’t think I’ll complain as much about Seattle traffic after driving here. Anyway, yesterday I go back to my hotel in Ubud and the guy at the front desk asks me if I could pay him that evening since I was planning on leaving early. I go get my credit card and he tells me he doesn’t take them. I tell him that the man working the previous evening told me they did accept credit cards. I ended up having to pay in cash, but it pissed me off so much that I packed up and moved to another hotel. I told him that what he did wasn’t right because I probably wouldn’t have stayed there if I had to use cash. Being on a budget I thought I’d splurge just a little and get a $20 room instead of the usual $7 room but only if I could put in on the plastic. Read More »

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Well, since my last update I decided to take the plunge and get really daring. I rented a car. Now that may not sound like that big of a deal but if you’ve never driven on the opposite side of the road before in a right-hand drive car, it is truly a risky thing. More on that later…just how did I decide to do this?

I took a business class flight from Yogyakarta to Bali. It was only $10 more than economy and it meant I got to be pampered a little. Big leather seats, friendlier service and better food. Short flight so it didn’t last long. Anyway, while in the executive lounge waiting to leave Yogya, I met an Australian, Michael, who is in the import/export business and was flying to Bali to buy some handicrafts. Interestingly, he also wrote many of the arts and crafts sections in many travel guides. He wrote that section in the Lonely Planet guide to Bali.

Michael and I talked about politics, the Middle East and other controversial subjects. As we were landing, he said he had a friend picking him up at the airport and offered me a lift into town. His friend, Made, owns a ceramic and furniture export business in Legian–a very friendly Indonesian man with a great sense of humor. Anyway Michael said I should rent a car. At first I disagreed and thought I would just rent a motorbike, but as it started raining more and more, I decided it would be easier and more comfortable in a car. Michael didn’t feel it would be a problem, but then again they drive on the left side in Australia also. Read More »

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A lot has happened in one short day. If you have read my previous emails, you probably remember me describing how crazy the moped riders are around here. Well, I now have lots of first hand experience. My new friend, Bowo, the cook at the restaurant, owns a moped (125cc) and has been taking me around the town on the back of his bike to see the sights. Actually, once you are on the bike and weaving in and out of traffic, it doesn’t seem so bad. Going along at 80km/h feels great after all the heat. I question the value of the cheap little plastic helmets that everyone wears for protection. It’s a false sense of security since I’m sure they wouldn’t do much in an accident except maybe hold all the pieces of your head together. Read More »

I left last night from Don’s house on a mini-van to Yogyakarta. This is a small Mitsubishi van converted to seat 8 passengers with reclining seats and heavy-duty AC—a little more comfortable than an airplane but not by much. I actually slept through the dead of the night and got probably 3 hours of real sleep. It’s kind of hard to get a good night sleep when the driver is going down narrow two-lane roads at 110km/hr weaving in and out of mopeds, cars and huge tour buses and missing oncoming traffic by mere centimeters. This is not luck but skill to accomplish this without any mishaps. Along the way I actually saw two accidents. Both involving vans, one similar to the one I was riding in. Apparently, they ran off the road during one of the downpours in the middle of the night. No serious injuries. Arrived in Yogya about 12 hours later, a little haggard, a lot tired.

This is where the real adventures begin. Just like in Bangkok, I don’t know the language and although the Indonesian language is easy to learn, it is difficult to pick it up overnight. I now must get around on my own without the aid of Don as my interpreter and guide. I was a little apprehensive at first but it doesn’t really appear to be a big problem. More people in Yogya speak English since it seems to be more of a tourist destination. Still, it hasn’t been much of a problem. I just smile a lot, bow my head and say, terimah kasih (thank you) a lot. Seems to have worked so far. Read More »

After my bout with the stomach bugs, you’d think I’d be a little more careful with what I eat. But, NO, as soon as I had a normal b.m., I decided to try some more local food. These places that Don takes me are really no more than glorified street vendors with a real dining room. It’s scary to see them washing dishes from a bucket of water on the sidewalk.

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A few nights ago, we had Padang cuisine at what looked to be a fairly clean restaurant. As soon as you’re seated, they bring out lots and lots of small dishes each with a portion of some exotic food. That night I tried all sorts of things. Remember those eels that live in the rice fields? Well, I ate some of those. They fry them up whole, bones and all, in spicy oil and serve them in a tied bundle. Untie the bundle and pull one out and start crunching away. They’re actually quite tasty. I also tried another specialty called rendang beef. Cooked with spices until they permeate it. The roasting seems to also dry the beef making it tough to separate. It also was very good. Some other things I tried were fish head in yellow curry, cassava tree leaf with green chili sauce, beef tongue satay, beef rinds (like pork rinds), curried chicken and boiled chicken with red chili sauce. Some things I decided to pass on were the beef lung, beef tripe, beef liver, beef brain, etc. They eat just about any part of the cow, but I have to draw the line somewhere. So what happens to those dishes you don’t eat? It goes back to the kitchen and served to the next customers. Sounds far from sanitary, but they’ve been doing it this way for years. Read More »

20040842Today, Don took me south, about 100 km away from the city, to Punchak to visit his mom’s rice plantation. It’s here that one of their servants, Katiman, lives with his wife and child and takes care of the main house and plantation. The village they live in seems typical of a rural community here in Indonesia with dirt roads and oxen and cattle roaming freely. Houses are really nothing more than shacks built of bricks and cinder blocks with thatch roofs, dirt floors and no properly wired electricity, at least not by our standards. Katiman’s house was much nicer than most of the small houses in the area and was built more in the modern style with plumbing and electricity. Of course, the main house was enormous and thoroughly modern. Much of the fields look like they’re underwater since they are growing rice. The women tend the fields doing so much of the backbreaking labor of planting the rice, while the men do the occasional big jobs such as dealing with irrigation or plowing with the oxen. However, it often looks like they just sit around a lot while the women work. Read More »

indo20Gotta keep this one short cause it’s costing me for this one.

First night in Bangkok was kinda a blur; too many beers; too many taxis and too much luggage. Everywhere there are women trying to offer themselves to me and having to fight them off, Hah! Went dancing till 4 a.m. and now I’m paying the price.

Met a guy in the Narita Airport, Gary, and since we both have a couple of days layover in Bangkok, we decided to share a room in a cheap motel for a couple of nights before I head off to Jakarta. He’s also leaving on Friday to go trekking in Nepal. I met a couple of other nice people on the flight from Tokyo to Bangkok. Got their names and hopefully we can stay in touch.

Well, gotta go and find the next place to eat. I’ll write again when I can.

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