Saturday, July 28, 2012

Eat Shop Yoga

I guess Julia (Roberts that is) did know something when she took up residence for her last place in Ubud, Bali This is the setting for the Love portion of Eat Pray Love.  Although we didn't find love here in Ubud we did fall in love with Ubud.  Upon arrival I though I had died and went to yuppie girl heaven.  After an hour ride through the country side on windy roads through rice fields we ended up in the city of Ubud, to take a break from our beach vaca.
Before searching for a place to stay we stopped at a cafe to grab a latte and discuss our game plan.  Finding a cafe in Ubud is not hard there is one about every 50 meters with many of them overlooking rice paddies.  After re caffeinating we put our backpacks back on and headed down the streets. Walking the Bali sidewalks is a risky endeavor where several of the panels could shatter sending you into the sewer systems below, so walking around is much like an Indiana Jones obstacle trying to stay on the firm panels and only hop out on the street when a scooter won't come bolting out.
We found a small homestay in a clean guest house where our host had her four month old gorgeous little baby on her hip.  The hotels and guesthouses in Ubud are though little temple entrances where various gods welcome you with the scent of incense fills your nose as you wander up the stairs where every little nook could reveal children playing, a small temple, laundry, a dog sleeping or some grandpas engaged in an intense game of chess.
We then set out to visit the shopping.  The shopping there was yoga stores, handicrafts, clothing, markets, music stores and on and on.  We learned to play the Tibetan singing bowls and many other instruments where the proprietors took the time out to play with us and for us.
We went to this incredible coffee shop where each drink is prepared individually for you served on a paddle with a glass of water and a small pastry.  The array of contraptions to brew coffee was mind boggling.  Each cup was meticulously brewed that even my dad would've been shocked.
We visited the Monkey Sanctuary, now when I read about the Monkey Sanctuary I guess I thought there would be a few monkeys living in a nice preserved area but OMG it was a Monkey Commune.  This place had over 600 monkeys roaming around freely interacting with the human visitors.  These monkeys are of the species where they look like they have a faux hawk soooooooo cute.  And they are everywhere behind tombstones in the graveyard, gallivanting through the temples, running through the crematorium, and swinging from vines. If someone sat down to drink water or tie their shoe a monkey would sneak up behind them an try to climb into their lap, it was unreal and Lindsey and I seemed to be the only ones who thought this super close interaction with wildlife was ill advised.  Although we did try to get our pictures with a monkey which resulted in me snapping a photo of Lindsey running away as a monkey hissed at her:)
After we had bought, ate, drank and yogaed all we could we had to head to the beach again for our final R and R.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Life's a Beach

So after leaving the island of Java we traveled overnight by train to the edge of the island to the ferry for Bali.  We arrived just before dawn and as the ferry traveled towards Bali we watched the sun rise over Bali.  We pre booked a last minute deal on for a resort in Candidassa where we spent a few blissed out days laying by the pool and reading.
The Hotdog Stand
When our two nights at the resort ended we weren't ready to leave this sweet little town so we found a sweet homestay where a Java woman was married to an Aussie man (who shall remain annonomous for tax purposes).  They had opened a clean place across from the beach complete with a hot dog stand.  Where they served AMAZING burgers with proper buns and chips (french fries)  These suckers were $2.60 a steal we ate lunch and dinner there!!!  As the day passed other ex pats gathered in the garage and bull shitted the day away over cold Bin Tangs and burgers.  The next day we headed off after a proper Aussie breakfast and  a sad goodbye to our hosts.
We headed out on the local ferry (which was supposed to take 4 hours but really took 6 when all was said and done).  We then meet a German family whose dad was oringally from Lombock (the island we were on) and shared a cab with them the remainder of our two hour travel.  We were then in the beach town of Sengigi which must've had its hey day in the 60s.  The next morning we got out of dodge and headed to the Gili Islands.  We selected Gili Air because the vibe was supposed to be half way between the party island and the deserted island.
We arrived there after another mini bus ride and a very jam packed ferry ride where we were sitting between about a month's worth of produce and chickens wedged inbetween back packers and breast feeding mothers.  After wading ashore we finally made it!!!! And boy was it worth the journey this island was a slice of paradise.  It looked out over the volcanic range of Lombock and was surrounded by the bluest water I've seen since the Maldives.
The View at Low Tide
We circumnavigated the island seeing all the guest houses and looking for good eats.  Every resturant looks out over the ocean with lounge tables.  Where every bar seves popcorn popped on the stove and happy hours run till 8 pm.  We found some Italian ex pats who made us fresh gnoochi and wood fired pizzas.  IN the center of Gili Air is an open air Yoga studio where we practiced each morning a whole new experience to hear roosters crowing while doing our sun salutations.  We booked one night at a scuba hotel which gave us free snorkeling.  And the snorkeling was AMAZING we swam with at least 4 sea turtles.  And our scuba joint rocked, each bungulow looked like a Dutch barn that was spotless inside and had UNREAL outdoor bathrooms where when the light was just right in the morning rainbows shown through the water.
Bungalow at the Dive Hotel
On the way back to Bali we took the fast boat which only took us 1.5 hours to get back as opposed to the 6 of the public boat (although it was 10x the price).  Now we are in the cute town of Ubud in the center of Bali.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ballet, Temples and Volcaneos

On our last night in Yogyarta we traveled out to the ancient Hindu temple of Prambanan we watched the Ramayana Ballet with the temple lite up at night as the background.  The ballet tells the story of the carved panels of the temple.  The ballet told the story of Rama and his epic ballet to get his princess, there was even fire dancing and battling monkeys.

The Backdrop for the Ballet
Our Ride to Bromo
That's Bromo behind us on the right
After the ballet we took the night train to Probolingo and then grabbed a minibus heading up into the volcanic mountians to vist Bromo.  The next day instead of making the epic pilgrimage up to see Bromo at sunrise with a 1000 other tourists we waited till the crowds died down and grabbed two horses and headed through the volcanic ash to Bromo.  We climbed the 250 stairs to stare down into the gaping sulfuric mist of Bromo.  Thinking that potentially it could erupt and then what??? (Just kidding we knew it wouldn't erupt).  After we peered in the volcano we climbed down the stairs and across the ash to look at the small Hindu temple.

We climbed back up to the village and grabbed a mini bus and headed back to Probolingo.  Once we got to the Probolingo we found out that the evening bus to Bali was sold out so we grabbed a local oplet (remember the truck with benches) in the bus jumped about 10 hijab wearing school girls with their super cute school uniforms (which looked like scouting uniforms with skirts) they were in about the 4th-7th grade and could not stop laughing at us and trying out their English.

After saying goodbye to our new friends we arrived at the train station where we got night train tickets for Bali tonight, so off we will go again.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A City and a Bunch of Buddhas

After our travel experience we finally arrived at Borobudur looking only a little worse for wear.  We grabbed a hotel on the actual grounds of the temple so that we could go up and see the sun set that day.  We made the pilgrimage to the temple and is was amazing. Standing at the top of the temple looking at the lush rain forest around us watching the sun set thinking about the people who designed, built, worshiped in this holy place in 800 AD is a humbling experience.  There are over 400 Buddhas in the temple facing east, west, north and south with five different hand expressions. There are people from all over the world sitting at the top of the temple as the sun is disappearing over the horizon it is fascinating to be in a place that brings so many cultures of people together I think it is truly what Buddha was trying to achieve.  Many of the people were Indonesians on holiday who all wanted to take pictures with the Westerners.  After the sun rose on the way back to the hotel an grandmotherly hijab wearing woman grabbed my hand and danced with me.

That evening we were entertained by a traditional puppet show, music and dancing.  The instruments were spectacular looking, like beautiful cooking devices of various sizes, but the sounds that came out were beautiful. The next morning I visited the temple again there were much less people and it was peaceful to look at the images that told a story carved into each layer of the temple.

Lindsey Cutting a Rug
Her Admirers

We then traveled by bus back to Yogyakarta and grabbed a guest house in a cute little section of town that is lined with great coffee shops and restaurants.  We lounged by the pool, read, got dinner and began to feel like we were on a proper vacation!!!!  The next day we set out to explore Yogyakarta we roamed through the Batak stores and bought items from the street vendors.  Lindsey rocked out with the street band as a group of giggling students video taped her.  Last night we enjoyed some wine, western dinner and some local cover band.  All in all a pleasant stay in this neck of Sumatra.

Take that Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

So after leaving beautiful Lake Toba on the island of Sumatra we grabbed a ferry back to the mainland.  The ferry dropped us off in a different place than we took off from so we had to grab a local oplet (basically a truck with benches) to take us to the transport office.  So us four girls flagged one down dove in with our giant backpacks scarring the bejesus out of a woman on her way to work, I'm sure when she got to work she said "OMG four white girls dove into my oplet spilling my F'ing coffee."

Any who from the oplet we got into a SUV to go to the Medan airport. where we waited around for our plane to leave while pursuing the beer vending machines.  Our flight crossed the equator to the city of Jakarta.  Where we took a taxi to the train city.  Driving through the city of 10 million at night was beautiful so many high rises with super colorful neon lights.  We said a sad goodbye to our new friend Sara #2 who was a teacher from Ireland that had been traveling with us since Bukit Lawang.  From there we grabbed a night train to Yogyakarta where we arrived in the morning around 5:20 just in time for sunrise.  Then we hopped on a rickshaw to grab a bus.  Things were going far too smoothly for us in our just under 24 hour travel that of course something had to go wrong.  I read the Lonely Planet wrong and led us on a wild goose chase looking for a bus station that wasn't there.  Then in our udder exhaustion we went to a luxury hotel for a breakfast buffet.  Feeling rejuvenated we grabbed a local city bus (after tucking my tail between my legs we visited the tourist information center) to the real bus terminal.  From there we tried to grab a bus to Borobudur, the bus manager kicked off like ten locals so we could get a seat and then we refused to get on the bus because of principal and the half empty bus rambled off.  We then grabbed the next bus and an hour later we were in the town of Borobudur, we then took a horse drawn carriage to our hotel.


So let's recap the transportation situation.
1. Ferry
2. Oplet
3. SUV
4. Plane
5. Taxi
6. Train
7. Rickshaw
8. Public Bus
9. Bus

$178 dollars the experience and a sore behind Priceless

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Organge Haired Cousins and a Big Lake

After we bought our visa on arrival for $25 which you will have to do once you get to Medan we grabbed a taxi to a "bus station" which was a bunch of super old mini buses on the side of the road.  After a squished two hours with no AC and 20 of our closest friends we arrived in a village on the side of a river.  From there we had to hike along a path from guest house to guest house looking for accommodation.  We did find something that was pretty pimp but no AC or hot water to be found.
The next morning we woke up to monkeys jumping on our roof.  We headed out on our jungle trek walking up hill in the rain forest till we spotted some orange haired orangutans we stopped and watched for a while and then moved on and found a mother hanging out with her baby which we stayed and watched for a while as the baby tucked and rolled down the hill and the mother built her nest.  After the veiwing we made a long trek back stopping for a lunch along the river where we ate banana leaf wrapped (that was the tupperware of Sumatra) rice, beans and veggies with a delightful coconut sauce.

Lake Toba
Grind Lindsey Grind
The next day we took a "toursit" bus from Bukit Lawang through Medan to the town of Parapat where we got the ferry to an island in the middle of Lake Toba where we stayed in the town of Tuk Tuk.  Lake Toba is a volcanic lake with an island the size of Singapore in it we stayed on the island in the town of Tuk Tuk.  The next day we walked all through  Tuk Tuk looking at the sights of chickens crossing the road, little children calling out "hello", dodging motor bikes and the unbelieveable lake views.  Today (saturday) we took at three hour Indonesian cooking class in Hedi's kitchen.  She was a 50 something woman who showed us the art of cooking over kerosne stoves.  We made a vegetable, chicken and fish dish (the fish was whole with the head on!!!).  It was pretty amazing to cut up the vegetables from her garden (that a ton of chickens were roaming in) and wrap up the fish in banana leaves to steam.  Tonight we are staying here in Tuk Tuk and tomorrow we head out to the Jakarta by plane to explore the island of Java.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Two Maylaysian Cities

After a five hour bus ride we rolled into the city of Melaka around 11 pm.  We grabbed a ubber clean guest house about two blocks from the weekend night market which sold everything you could imagine on folding tables for as far as the eye can see.  We grabbed a table at a bar and got some cold beers, satay and fresh spring rolls. The bar atmosphere was complete with a guitar player singing Eric Clapton with the drunk patrons singing along.   After the bar closed we took a very bedazzled trishaw home.  Each trishaw is brightly colored cart with fake flowers shaped like a hear with lights and a boom box blasting American music.  A bike and a rider sits alongside the crazy contraption.

At the Buddhist Temple
We had picked up a traveling friend in Tioman named Sara who is an English girl teaching English in Indonesia.  The next morning we woke up and had breakfast with her before she departed back to Indo.   We then began exploring the city we visited the oldest Buddhist temple in Malaysia built in the 1700s and continued on to the Dutch and Portuguese square to see the still functioning Anglican church built in 1800 and marched up a hill to see the ruins of a Jesuit church from the 1500s.  After all that traipsing about we stopped by a massage parlor to experience foot reflexology.  We then joined the enormous line to eat the Maylay version of fondue, mystery food on a stick cooked in large vats of peanut sauce.  After trying some standbys of broccoli and chicken we delved into the mystery items which were all variations on a seafood theme.  After dinner we returned to the night market where I got a spiraled cut potato that was fried and salted. 
Cookin up some Satay
The next morning we grabbed a super luxury bus to head up to the island of Penang on the northwest side of Malaysia.  7 hours later we hopped on a ferry and arrived in the town of Georgetown.  That night we ate some street food of noodles, with wantons that are served with soup or without.  We tried both.  The operators of the food cart were really ancient and cooked up a storm the man boiled the noodles while the wife sliced the meat and added the spices.  There were tables on the sidewalks to eat at and watch as scooters rolled up to get takeaway and others came to eat. 
Grandma and Grandpa cooking it up (check out the dishwash set up in the lower right)
In the middle of the night Lindsey and Kate got up to watch the Euro cup and cheer on Spain's domination.  The next day we tried to grab tickets for a ferry to Medan Indonesia only to find out that the ferry had stopped running due to low cost airlines so we booked a plane ticket to Medan for July 3rd.  We continued to explore the city where Little India puts Devon street to shame.  We ducked inside a Veg Gujarat restaurant right as the rain began to pour.