TRAVEL INDONESIA: A Month in Bali and Gili Trawangan

Travel Indonesia Blog: Turtle Island - What Not to do around Bali

After my very first night in Bali I was awoken early in the morning my Alit – the snorting local who fetched me from the airport. Rubbing my eyes I was presented with about six tourist brochures-worth of activities.

It was all the usual crap – skiing, para-sailing, white-water rafting, elephant rides etc. each for around $50 a pop. I mentioned that if I were to do anything, it would be snorkelling. He offered me a ‘deal’ on a glass-bottom boat ride, an hour of snorkelling and a visit to 'Turtle Island’ all for the ‘amazing price’ of just $70.

Turtle Island Bulih Bali

'Turtle Island'

I gave in, and after post-phoning my already-paid-for excursion to Turtle Island twice due to bank card woes, I was fetched at 10am on Friday morning by a large shuttle bus. I was the only one on board.

The driver was in no mood for small talk and spent most of the 40 minute journey to Turtle Island on his cellphone. The trip included a stop at his friend’s shop so that he could run some errands. When we eventually got to Turtle Island I was instructed to select a set of snorkelling gear and jump on board a glass-bottomed boat captained by an aggressive Chinese man who spoke little English.

There was at least some nice scenery on the way to Turtle Island to enjoy

There was at least some nice scenery on the way to Turtle Island to enjoy

The boat sped off leaving nothing to see below except for a bubbly blur of brown water. When we stopped, the boat driver began to shout, “YOU DIVE! YOU DIVE!” and handed me a quarter bag of sliced white bread.

My hired pair of goggles immediately filled with water, but fortunately I had brought along my own pair which I quickly strapped over my face. There were boats everywhere as well as a few divers centered around a small area. I thought I would make my own underwater discoveries but was soon shouted at again and instructed to stay within a very small and confined area.

The ocean floor (about 3 meters deep) was brown and mucky. A grated off area enclosed some colourless corals and the schools of fish were all pretty much the same breed (white bread addicts no doubt). Grinding up some bread underwater did entice the fish enough to surround you, but it was no experience. I climbed back aboard the boat heavily disappointed after about 30 minutes.

Turtle Island Bulih Bali

We sped off again to Turtle Island. A local who fancied himself as the real Slim Shady greeted me loudly in an Australian accent. When I told him I was South African he immediately rattled off all his SA trivia, “Nelson Mandela! Bafana Bafana! Wakka Wakka!” What a douche-bag.

The Turtle Island ‘sanctuary’ housed turtles of differing ages, an eagle, a young monkey, a lizard, a few snakes and a couple of owls and bats. The turtle water was manky and foul-smelling, but what nearly brought me to tears was the treatment of the largest mamma turtle. This poor creature spends its days getting dragged out of the water by its front flippers into the baking sun every 10 minutes so that tourists can have their photo taken with it. It desperately tries to clamber back into the water with what little strength it has left. When Slim Shady asked me to smile for my photo I wanted to spit in his face.

I did eventually tell him to go away (politely) so that I could get closer to the animals myself. The adolescent monkey (in a cage on its lonesome) frantically jumps around its little prison and was clearly stressed out. It jumped in front of me with wide eyes and clasped its little toes around my finger. I was holding back tears.

The owls and bats stare at you motionless with wide eyes, the snakes huddle together in the little bit of shade provided, the bats hang and seemed to constantly shudder and the lizard... (well it’s hard to know what lizards are thinking most of the time).

Afterwards I was instructed to ‘relax’ and have a beer on Turtle Island, but there was no chance I was spending another cent there! They eventually got a pissed off that I wasn’t buying anything, so I ordered a bottle of water for R15. On the boat-ride back I photographed a few fat Australians flying through the air and asked to be taken home.

Turtle Island Water Sports

Crikey mate!!

There’s not much else to be said about that experience except this: if you have ANY love for animals, don’t EVER visit Turtle Island! And please advise anyone you know who plans to visit Bali to avoid it and keep a wide berth. It is sad and shocking to say the least and the staff clearly don’t give a shit about the animals. Turtle Island is a tourist trap. The company involved is called Tour East and they should really be brought to justice.

Still no news about the bank card. More cheerful writing to follow soon.

Travel Indonesia Blog Previous Chapters:

<< Travel Indonesia Blog Chapter 1: Getting to Bali

<< Travel Indonesia Blog Chapter 2: Exploring Kuta, Bali

<< Travel Indonesia Blog Ch. 4: The Balinese People & Bali Lifestyle

<< Ch. 5: A Frenchman, a South African & A Balinese Sat on the Beach

 

  • This is the third of 10 chapters of my travel Indonesia blog. More to follow soon!
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TRAVEL INDONESIA: A Month in Bali and Gili Trawangan

Travel Indonesia Blog: Exploring Kuta, Bali

Kuta is the party capital of Bali. It’s where Australians flock in huge, friendly hoards. In fact, beautiful youth from all corners of the globe can be found here. It is also rife with drugs, prostitution (legal, apparently) and party animals. During the day you can’t walk 10 paces without being offered a massage, taxi ride or a tour of someone’s shop. At night offers change to magic mushrooms, taxi rides and hookers – the latter pitched with some enthusiastic selling point such as, “Girl! Girl! She bend for you!” No thank you. I suppose this is the price for being pale.

Travel Indonesia Blog: Magic Mushrooms grow in abundance on the island of Bali and are 100% legal.

Magic Mushrooms grow in abundance on the island of Bali and are 100% legal.

The equatorial ocean air seems to disguise the petrol fumes emitted from hoards of scooters. Instead you are left with the smells of clove cigarettes, brewing coffee, incense, fried food and Australians. I love the aromas and think I’m developing a mild addiction to Bali coffee...

Travel Indonesia Blog: Some cheap local nosh and for just R21!

Some cheap local nosh for just R21!

I must admit that I haven't quite settled in yet. Getting to Bali was hugely stressful for me, which I think has a lot to do with traveling alone somewhere alien. But to top things off I lost my bank card on the second day! I had decided to make sure that my card would work in the local ATMs, so after a full day of walking around, feeling overwhelmed, dehydrated and close to getting sun-stroke, I withdrew a little cash.

The ATMs in South Africa either give you your card back first and then the cash or they beep violently until you take it. Indonesian ATMs do neither and instead display another screen asking if you would like to perform another transaction. So after carefully counting my money and sub-consciously assuming that I must already have taken my card, I simply walked away! I take full blame and feel like a tool.

Travel Indonesia Blog: Enter the Bum Gun

Enter the Bum Hose

As a result I have had "traveler’s diarrhea" for nearly a week now and have quickly become a fan of the bum-hose. Too scared to spend any of my cash, I survived my first few days off complimentary hotel breakfasts and some smuggled in biltong. Before losing my bank card I had been walking around in mid-day heat for hours and was feeling quite ill and delirious. I had also been struggling to sleep and was having anxiety dreams.

Travel Indonesia Blog: Bakung Sari Hotel restaurant - a good place to relieve some stress

Bakung Sari Hotel restaurant - a good place to relieve some stress

But what must be said is thank Krishna for the Internet! I shudder to imagine what this experience would have been like without the support of Facebook friends and being able to deal with admin via email. Or even cellphones! Thank Ganesh that there is also free WiFi available all over the island. I can only imagine how frightening it must be to feel totally cut off from home.

In trying to get my bloody bank card sorted out, my bank insisted that they speak to me telephonically. So after being put on hold for several minutes and running out of airtime, I eventually got offered a free VOIP line to call. I haunched behind the reception desk of my hotel (my short charger cable needed to be permanently plugged in) and spoke to one person after the next in scratchy tones – all the while getting my hot ear shocked shitless for some reason. What a nightmare.

Travel Indonesia Blog: I thought I'd better not mention the ATM that claimed my plastic but it was in this street

I thought I'd better not mention the ATM that claimed my plastic but it was in this street

The second crisis was not being able to charge my laptop due to my fat, European plug not fitting into the wall or any Asian adapters. I greatly feared losing contact with the outside world and spent a lot of time in a humid Internet café run by a 13 year old boy. Fortunately it was just 4 ZAR per hour.

Travelers Tip: make sure you have the right adapters and chargers for your electrical devices. A bit of Skype credit doesn't hurt either.

Travel Indonesia Blog: Local Internet Cafe Entrepreneur

Local Internet Cafe Entrepreneur

Travel Indonesia Blog: My New Laptop ChargerI had met a local called “Harris” - known as “Bob Marley” to his friends for obvious reasons, who offered to take me to all the electrical shops in the area in an attempt to find a European-to-Asian adapter. So wearing a piss-pot Nazi helmet and not knowing whether Bob was blazed or not, we sped around on his motorbike – me with elbows firmly tucked in. We were out of luck, but I eventually found a security guard in a back-alley who severed off my old plug and fashioned me a new one within minutes and for cheap. It works like a charm.

Kuta scooter culture deserves a mention. They are everywhere and driven by everyone – school children, the elderly, tourists, female Muslims – everyone. Every motorist also seems to operate as a taxi. It still amazes me that I have not yet seen (or even heard of) a single accident taking place. You cut down narrow side streets, weave between cars, get hooted at from all directions and try your very best not to freak out. Helmets and licenses seem to optional, and locals often carry heavy loads, topless, with a clove cigarette dangling from their mouths. There are often babies on board and it is quite common to see a mother taking her kids to school - up to four people on one bike - helmetless. It's quite something.

Travel Indonesia Blog: Kuta Scooter Culture (it was a little difficult trying to photograph the moving ones)

Kuta Scooter Culture (it was a little difficult trying to photograph the moving ones)

I made a few compulsive purchases during my first day in Kuta (before losing my damn bank card). I equipped myself with a sarong, straw hat, coffee (and other pleasant smelling things) and have since realised that I have overpaid for nearly everything. And I thought I was a good negotiator! Starting prices are often three times what items are worth; but now I know. I am just so grateful that the mathematics of currency conversion is currently so simple: 1 $US = 10 ZAR = 10 000 IDR (roughly).

I’ve mentioned how many people have decided to emigrate here but also think that a number of people come to escape their lives back home. It is common to see grey-haired men walking hand-in-hand with young local girls, and tourists are treated like kings (apart from the incessant haggling). I can see now how the lifestyle appeals to people. It is a life free of care and worry. It has taken me a while to feel less like a tourist and more like a traveler.

Previous Travel Indonesia Blog Chapters:

<< Travel Indonesia Blog Chapter 1: Getting to Bali

<< Travel Indo Ch. 3: Turtle Island: What Not to do Around Bali

<< Travel Indonesia Blog Ch. 4: The Balinese People & Bali Lifestyle

<< Ch. 5: A Frenchman, a South African & A Balinese Sat on the Beach

 

  • This is the second of 10 chapters of my travel Indonesia blog. More to follow soon!
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TRAVEL INDONESIA: A Month in Bali and Gili Trawangan

Travel Indonesia Blog: Getting to Bali

I was so over-eager to get on the plane that I was first in line. But after getting the silent treatment shortly after ticket inspection (and looking back to notice that I was the only one queuing up) I soon realised that I was attempting to board with Business Class. Hashtag #Awkward! Guess I was out of line :P

First flight was from Cape Town to Singapore via Johannesburg. Sexy Singaporian air hostesses in beautifully patterned dresses provided seemingly endless service. Myself and the grumpy Russian couple next to me enjoyed three great meals - with snacks, coffee and hot towels inbetween. At least I enjoyed them. I was quite stoked to have a window seat and kept pressing my face right up against the glass in the hopes of seeing a steaming volcano. No such luck.

Travel Indonesia Blog: Singapore Airport

Travel Indonesia Blog: Singapore Airport at Christmas

Singapore Airport at Christmas

Singapore airport was a little scary. Exhaustion led me to signing up for immigration by mistake and entering the wrong gate. Luckily the stern security man caught my bluff. I was also under the impression that I would need to pick up my backpack and check it in to the new flight and stressed out a bit when it never showed up. One of the sweet air hostesses explained the situation to me and calmed my nerves.

Travel Indonesia Blog: Singapore Airport Enchanted Garden

Singapore Airport Enchanted Garden

I had 3 hours to kill in the airport so relieved some stress by chilling in the airport gardens and playing with the koi fish. I noticed some pale folk snoozing on the floor and was hugely tempted to join them, but felt too paranoid about missing my next flight, so moved on. My ticket also had no gate number on it! I asked for one at Information which ended up changing, so I was frantically charging up and down Terminal 2 until I found it. The flat escalator / conveyor belt thingy really makes you fly through the airport! More forms to fill in and a good frisking by security. Note to future self: memorise flight and passport numbers.

Travel Indonesia Blog: Sleeping Pale Folk at Singapore Airport

Sleeping Pale Folk at Singapore Airport

I was greeted in Denpasar airport by Alit wearing a colourful sarong. I felt really grateful to have a companion in that moment. We took a 20 minute shuttle to the Bakung Sari Hotel while being swarmed by scooters. My first accommodation is nothing like the superior hotel room I had in Mauritius (which I half expected it to be). It is very basic with wonky lights, but has air-conditioning and a Western toilet with an optional bum-hose. This is my ‘splurg’ accommodation and is where I'll be for 5 nights. I went straight to sleep as my head hit the pillow at around 2pm (Indo time).

Travel Indonesia Blog: Alit (Tour East)

Travel Indonesia Blog: Alit - the snorting member of Tour East who fetched me from the airport.

Alit - the snorting member of Tour East who fetched me from the airport.

I'm wide awake now and finally starting to make some more concrete plans. It's a balmy evening and the mosquitoes are on the prowl. I'm meeting Alit at 9am after my first breakfast (included). I’m sure he will try and sign me up for all sorts of touristy things, but I plan to spend my first actual day getting a full-body massage, snorkelling and lazing around on the beach…

Travel Indonesia Blog Previous Chapters:

<< Travel Indonesia Blog Chapter 2: Exploring Kuta, Bali

<< Travel Indo Ch. 3: Turtle Island: What Not to do Around Bali

<< Travel Indonesia Blog Ch. 4: The Balinese People & Bali Lifestyle

<< Ch. 5: A Frenchman, a South African & A Balinese Sat on the Beach

  • This is the first of 10 chapters of my travel Indonesia blog. More to follow soon!
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You and Me by Rod Smith is an inspiring article about intimacy that I read in the Sunday Times months ago. I really wanted to share his inspirational words with you.

You and Me by Rod Smith

Intimacy - You and Me by Rod Smith (image: www.jessicarpatch.com)Lay aside the commonly held connection of intimacy and sexual behaviour. See it as an essential platform for a meaningful relationship. Intimacy occurs when I let you into my head, heart and reality without fearing that you will disapprove of what you see. I let you in and my hope is that you will love and accept me. I don’t want you to rummage around, judge my thoughts or be startled. I don’t want you to rearrange the furniture or paint the walls.

We discover intimacy when you enter my world and behave as a valued, respectful guest. You are a guest, not a consultant, interior decorator or demolition expert. I want you to know me so you can treasure me, understand me and enjoy me – so don’t try to change or fix me.

Authentic intimacy (there is no other kind) is not easy. You have to know yourself really well, possess a high degree of self-acceptance and self-love. In the event that you do not love and accept yourself, the moment you enter my world the experience will be so unsettling for you that you will either take an emotional hike or you will feel like you have to be a missionary or nurse and fix whatever I show you.

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A Collection of Feel Good Valentines Day Videos

I thought I'd share a collection of feel good Valentines Day Videos. Whether you are single, have a long-time partner, or perhaps a new love interest in your life, these should tug at your heartstrings and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

First up is a fairly recent video that is by far my favourite. It's the Oscar-nominated Paperman.

Paperman - Full Animated Short Film

Here’s a little bit about Paperman off YouTube:

“Using a minimalist black-and-white style, this animated love story follows the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams is gone forever, he gets a second chance when he spots her in a skyscraper window across the avenue from his office. With only his heart, imagination and a stack of papers to get her attention, his efforts are no match for what the fates have in store for him.”

Next up is Matt Harding's 2012 Dance video, which I like to call "Dancing for Humanity".

Where the Hell is Matt? 2012

Here's Matt's message off YouTube:

"This video was made without a sponsor. You don't have to buy anything. Just remember we need to take care of each other."

And of course you can't beat Isaac's Live Lip-Dub Proposal. Or can you?

Valentines Day Videos: Isaac's Live Lip-Dub Proposal

Here's what Isaac Lamb had to say:

"On Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012, I told my girlfriend to meet me at my parent's house for dinner. When she arrived I had stationed my brother to sit her in the back of an open Honda CRV and give her some headphones. He wanted to play her a song..."

This next one is one of my favouite songs by one of my favourite bands. It's Fairytale of New York by Sarah Blackwood and Gianni Luminati of Walk Off The Earth fame.

Fairytale of New York - Gianni and Sarah (Walk off the Earth)

A little bit about the band:

"Walk off the Earth is a Canadian indie band formed in 2006 in Burlington, Ontario. They have gained success around the world by making low-budget music videos of covers and originals. The band built their fan base independently with no help from record labels, booking agents or management" - Wikipedia

This one is a world favourite. There is no doubt that dogs share human emotions. It's "Denver the guilt dog".

Denver Official Guilty Dog Video

"Someone helped themselves to the kitty Cat treats while I was out!! Let's see who is Guilty! and cracks under pressure!"

Who wouldn't be moved by a rendition of "Stand by Me"? Especially when it has been created as a song from around the world!

Playing For Change: Peace Through Music

Here's a snippet from the makers:

"From the award-winning documentary, "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music", comes the first of many "songs around the world" being released independently. Featured is a cover of the Ben E. King classic by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe."

I hope you enjoyed my collection of Happy Valentines Day Videos! Any favourites? Or do you perhaps have your own to share?

Valentines Day VideosMuch Love,
Galen xoxo

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