Indonesia Impressions

Did you know that if you add ‘ones’ to India, you get Indonesia? In this post I am telling you about my almost month-long trip to Indonesia. Warning, this post is looooong. Better reserve a month to read it.

Bali

I landed in Denpasar airport on a Monday evening, naturally with a planeful of Aussies as I was flying from Sydney. Jetstar is easily the best low-cost-carrier I have ever flown with. They have clean and big planes with normal amount of legroom and the rented iPad had some good movies, in addition to the mandatory Bruce Willis movie. Admittedly, Wizzair and Norwegian are also not bad. Apparently the future of flying is with the better low-cost-carriers, not premium airlines who serve free coffee for premium price.

Back to Denpasar, where the immigration queue was not as bad as I’d expected. Soon I was through and nobody from my plane got picked up for the death row. Indonesia has death penalty for drug trafficking and the history knows a few examples of Australian passport holders. May they rest in peace. My hotel pick-up greeted me and while he was getting the car from the parking lot, I took a deep breath and enjoyed the anticipation of one month in Indonesia, with nothing planned beforehand.

The warm summer evening air had little bit of Indian smell, but absolutely not so overwhelmingly intense as it was in the country of Maharajas.

Next days I spent in the notorious Kuta beach area, which is often said to be the Canary Islands for Australians. Never been to Canary Islands, so I don’t know if there is any truth to it, but there are heaps and heaps of families with children here. Traffic is moderate and totally lacks the non-stop horn honking Γ‘ la India, air is comfortably warm, but not scorching hot. There are plenty of things to do, good selection of hotels, restaurants and shopping malls.

Indonesian coffee is GOOD, if not fantastic. I ended my intensive sightseeing day at a coffee/tea plantation, where I tried twelve different kinds of tea or coffee, including the Luwak, made of beans that have passed through the asian palm civet digestive system. It was very smooth, but thankfully not my absolute favourite, as the kilo price is astronomical. Not to self: Try to find mangosteen peel tea, ginseng coffee with sugar, vanilla coffee and ginger coffee back at home.

Before the Luwak experience, my driver had taken me to Bali Bird Park, Bali Zoo and some hindu temple nearby. The man of the forest, orangutang Jacky, was mad as hell and half of the zoo staff was trying to calm him down. Jack had broken his bed in desperate anger and longing for his girlfriend. Now he had a big bolt and a metre long plank which he was making a helluva racket with. Can you imagine the noise when adult male orangutang is banging a metal door with a big bolt?

Jack

Jack

Deep inside the aviary, where nobody could hear me scream, I was apparently too long static while taking photos and one lory made a close-by reconnaissance flight over my head. Ten seconds later I had three parrots sitting on me. Animals seem to think of me as mostly harmless and likeable fellow. Three-legged tiger was fully asleep and a photo-op with the lion cubs was only late in the afternoon, so no good photos of them.

Lorys planning their attack

Lorys planning their attack

For another day, I had booked a tour to Bali Safari Park. The pickup from another hotel was at 9:30 in reality, my ticket said 9:15, sales agent said to be there 9:00, I was there 8:45. With all this accumulated contingency, I really really did not miss the bus πŸ˜› The Safari Park is more child friendly than the other two, but as I am not a child anymore and I was not in the mood for elephant riding for these inflated prices, I didn’t like this newest and highest standard attraction so much as the older, more charming ones.

Anyways, I had a good two intensive days of photography with my new 70-200mm lens, which I am liking more and more every time I use it.

While I was eating my extremely tasty pisang goreng keju, banana fritters with cheese, I noticed a small kiosk advertising boat transfers to the Gili Islands.

Gili Islands

I was stupid and bought a return ticket with open date for bargained 800 000 IDR (roughly 80 USD). Stupid not because of the price, but because I never used the return part. It’s possible to do this transfer somewhat cheaper. Take a shuttle from Kuta to Padangbai for 100 000 IDR, cheap boat to Gili Trawangan for 100 000 IDR, or fast boat for 250 000 IDR. After all this travelling, I am fed up with furiously bargaining for every penny. I am now trying to be aware of the “local price” and ready to pay premium, as long as it is not a complete rip-off. Like someone who had paid 120 USD per person for the same trip.

The hotel pickup was at 7:00 and I was half asleep through all the journey to Padangbai, where I checked myself in. The shuttle bus driver asked not to worry about my luggage, it will find its way to Gili Trawangan. And yes, my backpack was there, lonely and abandoned as it had arrived on a different boat half an hour before me. The fastboat trip was… rather interesting.. for lack of a better word.

I had managed to secure myself a place on the sundeck of the boat. I did get a lot of sun, and also ‘too much too good shower, free of charge’ as they would’ve said in India. The boat was slamming into the waves and raising a spray of salty water over the boat. And showering the passengers on the roof, or ‘sundeck’. The plastic bags given for our luggage did not earn our trust and soon all bags were lowered down to the safety of the cabin. As I arrived in Gili Trawangan, I was completely soaked, salty, surrendered and tired.

Should’ve visited the ATM and waited four hours for the cheap public boat to Gili Meno, the peaceful island only 800 metres away. But no, I chose to share a private charter boat with a Spanish couple and two high waves got inside the small glass-bottom boat and on my bags during the transit. My big backpack has most of the things packed inside a canoe bag, but my National Geographic camerabag is not waterproof. Although, the camera and lens are weatherproof, my laptop and external drives are not. I was worried a tiny bit, but what could I do.

The boatman left us to the closest beach, which was totally empty. After wading to the shore, I walked inlands and there was a ringroad and a cidomo, a horse carriage “taxi” waiting. I asked for directions to the closest bungalow, and after one minute of walking, one second of thinking, I chose a nice bungalow with AC for 500 000 IDR a night. It was too clean, too spacey and too luxury for long-term stay, but right now I just wanted a fresh water shower, meal and sleep. The next day I moved to Sunset Gecko, where I chose a simple room for 99 000 IDR a night. It was with a small bed, mosquito net and a fan. I planned to stay here as long as I wanted to.

Gili Meno is also known as the honeymoon island, total contrast with the party-goers Gili Trawangan. And I was there all alone as I broke up with my girlfriend a few weeks before in Fiji. I was bored and even the resort owner was flabbergasted by my stunt of renting a whole bungalow just for myself. I started to feel lonely and depressed, but miraculously, through another animal encounter, I started to feel Gili Meno as my home. Three kittens adopted me as their pet and were always hanging around my ankles while I was dining. Later I got acquainted with a heavily pregnant cat also. If they were related, nobody knows.

As I was doing a half-circumnavigation of the small island on feet, I met Swedish Anja, who was living on the island semi-permanently with her boyfriend, writing her thesis and managing their bungalow business. Somewhere on the busier side of the island, I was doing the most startling thing and photographing a road that was being built. This caught her attention as she was racing past with her bicycle and we chatted a bit and I was invited for a sundowner to chat more about life, universe, rice wine and all.

Sunset at Gili Meno

Sunset at Gili Meno

On another occasion, I was doing the other half of my circumnavigation, I found an abandoned resort with many bungalows and as I was making some photos of it, I made friends with Uknir, whose job was to kind of take care of this place. We had a real nice chat about everything and the Bali bombings and how it affected tourism. I had dinner with Italian mother and her thirty-something son who were once again travelling together. Italian boys are truly mammas boys, I do believe that now.

There is no ATM on Gili Meno island, population 300, and I had not particularly saved cash. I made an inventory of my stuff and decide to make an ATM run, to ease my financial worries. It is not fun to be somewhere and not being able to pay your bill. Like a master, I took a horse carriage to the harbour, bought a return ticket to Gili Trawangan ferry, where I had fifteen minutes to spare. I made five separate withdraws with two different cards and two ATMs. Now in my daypack and wallet, I had full nine millions in 50 000 and 100 000 denominations and I tried to make my way back as unsuspiciously as humanly is possible and paid the horseman. My ATM run had cost me 20 USD excluding the bank transaction fees and loss due to currency exchange rates. But now I had 900 USD with me, which should cover me for two or three weeks if I didn’t get crazy with something. My consumption for eating, sleeping and drinking was about 30 USD a day, excluding all excursions and trips.

At Sunset Gecko I met Japanese Fumi, a 35-year-old nurse student. She was complaining about being alone on this honeymoon island so I invited her for dinner. We connected very well and had a nice discussion and even cheered for a long-lasting new friendship. She wanted to show me her Japan when I would visit it. We departed with the belief that I’d meet her again the next day and spend the day together. In the morning she was nowhere to be found and when I accidentally met her in the evening she had already found better company for dinner. We wished each other “Have fun, see you later!”, without really meaning it. So deceiving are the first impressions sometimes. So grand is my lack of understanding women. Oh well πŸ™‚

My mental balance was again disturbed. I felt unhappy and depressed. I am not asking what had I become, this was always me. I was always lacking the skills to make contact with the few single females, but rather spend time on online dating sites instead. There have been numerous times when a girl was interested in me, but I didn’t realise it until only much later when I had lost the opportunity already. I need a context that brings us together naturally to be able to build rapport and make good friends or more. I guess I need to spend a lot of time on the Freudian couch to resolve my issues. My second guess is that travelling alone is more lonely for us introverts than for the majority of people. Oh well πŸ™‚

I was not enjoying exploring ‘everything’ nor learning to snorkel or swim. I wonder what is so exciting about snorkeling and diving that tourists want to do that two to three times a day, everyday. For someone who can not even swim properly, this mystery will never be solved, and I have admitted a long time ago that water is not my element. Is this generic travel fatigue or the realisation that one can not escape ones issues by changing physical location, I don’t know. Oh well πŸ™‚

After this emotional tsunami, I didn’t want to spend more time at the Sunset Gecko. What a convenient excuse to kick my lazy ass to the sea. And I had finally finished reading Shantaram.

Komodo Boat Trip

Day 1

Gili Meno cidomo drivers earn too much money.

I can make this statement, because they are too lazy to make an early morning appointment with customers. On Monday morning, I walked half an hour to the harbour, where I met German Kathrin*) and two women from Australia and New Zealand. We had all booked a 4-day 4-night all-inclusive boat trip to Komodo and Rinca Islands to see the Komodo Dragons in their natural environment. I didn’t care so much for the dragons or snorkeling, but I had thought it’d be more fun to have a long boat trip and maybe make new friends than to be boring and fly to Eastern Indonesia. My final destination was the Kelimutu volcano. I had chosen it as a destination after reading about it on the Lonely Planet. Indonesia has 129 Active volcanoes, of which Mt. Rokatenda had had a small eruption just the Saturday before the beginning of my trip to Komodo. Rokatenda is only 50km north from Kelimutu as the crow flies. It started to feel that going to Kelimutu was a very adventurous decision.

Member of the Atta’s Travels staff who had met us in Gili Meno, told us that porters will take care of the backpacks. And yes, they did carry them onto the boat. Our arrival in Bangsal harbour in Lombok was a little appetiser of what we would be served later on. There was chaos! So many touts and porters meeting us and asking for our tickets etc. The porter had taken my backpack and loaded it on a cidomo. So we were supposed to take two cidomos for the four of us and ride to the parking where the shuttle bus to Senggigi would be waiting. But but.. We had to pay for this. As we had been promised an all-inclusive from Gili Meno all the way to Labuan Bajo, we refused. And walked to the busstop, only 500m away. So much for the “someone will meet you in Bangssal” and “No need to worry about your luggage”. And our tiny group of four people got loaded on three different buses despite our attempts to hold our position. “Don’t worry, you will meet again in Senggigi.”

We did meet again in Senggigi. It was total chaos also in Senggigi. The buses stopped in front of the Kencana Adventures office and nobody told us what we needed to do. After asking about it, the bus driver told me to leave my bag on the same bus, which I obeyed. Big mistake. There was chaos. There was a big f’n fuzz. I was seriously worried that I will get separated from my new friends forever. I didn’t want to spend 4 days and 4 nights on a twenty person boat if other passengers are the party animal kind who came from Gili Trawangan. But I found my Gili Meno friends all there in Senggigi, visiting ATM and having lunch etc. Afterwards we boarded the buses again and started making our way to the harbour at the Eastern end of the Lombok island, with numerous stops to pick up more travellers from the Lombok hotels to my bus. Did I mention that there was chaos?

Finally at the harbour the bus stopped next to the two other buses and there was a big wooden boat or ship parked at the pier. Nobody was again telling us, the paying customers, what to do and where to go. I spotted the Oz and NZ women onboard and climbed in without further questions or instructions. The ship was on it’s maiden voyage with paying customers, so it took a while to load it with food, kitchen equipment, mattresses etc. Finally we set sail at 6pm, already four hours late of schedule. And Kathrin*) was not onboard that ship. There must’ve been fourth bus and another boat. Oh well πŸ™‚

Not so luxurious ship

Not so luxurious ship

The first evening I made acquaintance with Czech adventurer and photographer Luke*) who was travelling alone like me and was not a French/German/Belgian party-animal like most of the passengers. We found refuge from the party animals behind the bridge of the ship where we made our nests for the trip duration. There were almost 90 passengers on this ship (as opposed to max. 18-20 in the itinerary I was given by Atta’s Travels) and the sleeping space was on the lower deck, upper deck, in a room on the lower deck and inside the bridge. IΒ  was chatting with Luke on the bridge and we were joined by an Indonesian girl with clean American accent, Celia*) and a German girl Berit*) who spoke fluent Indonesian. We were soon acquainted with them and a tiny Indonesian-speaking Japanese girl Yumi*). There was no welcome speech from the tour operator nor was there clear info on what was going on, what was going to happen and most importantly, who was in charge. Total chaos and disorder. Later I heard that the GPS is out of order and that we were navigating by the lights in the horizon.

The rolling and pitching of the ship was rocking me to sleep and as I was watching the stars from my bed, I made a prudent decision to start learning Indonesian Bahasa in case we’d be shipwrecked and I’d be the sole survivor on a deserted island like Tom Hanks in Castaway.

Day 2

I woke up when the staff representative was poking me with a plate.

On the plate was a delicious piece of toast and jam and after it had disappeared inside of me, I went to the kitchen for another. Now I was fully awake and talked some more with my new acquaintances who had nested on the bridge. The captain obviously smelled our nerdy talent and asked me and Luke to have a look at their GPS. It had locked onto a location and not updating the position. Little research and we found a way to set the GPS into a navigation mode instead of demo mode. Great start for a new day!

The sea was not rough but nevertheless the ship movements were quite strong at times. I spent a good two hours sitting on the bowsprit, riding the waves like the ship was a tame mechanical rodeo bull, listening to good music on my iPod and enjoying the freedom of not having any immediate plans. Just being in the moment. I tried to make conversation but both the French and the German were rude and preferred their own kind to talk with. Swedish couple and Danish couple were madly in love so I didn’t want to disturb their euphoria either. Alrighty, I had already had good time with the friendly and compassionate Indonesian speakers and the Czech Luke, so I made no further efforts to connect with the rest. Two dolphins played alongside the ship for a few minutes and I had almost burned my skin in the sun. I was out of sunscreen so I was borrowing little bit here and there, but mostly trying to spend my time on the shady side of the ship.

My lobster-red face was saved once again by the magnificent PizBuin after-sun cream that I’d bought in South Africa five years ago.

Day 3

I woke up and I saw nobody. The deck was empty.

What the hell!? One Indonesian guy said it was breakfast time and I should hurry. I rushed down to the kitchen past the surprisingly long queue for the toilet and enquired about the breakfast. The chef’s little helper immediately handed me a plate with delicious banana pancake on it. I rush back upstairs and heard some sighs and moans behind me. As I climbed the stairs, a thought struck me. It wasn’t the toilet queue, but the pancake queue. Oh well, nobody challenged me so I have almost guilt-free consciousness πŸ™‚

Now that the GPS was fixed, we observed that the speed is not all that great, only 7 kmh. Quick googlemaps calculation on Lukes smartphone and we discovered that we are six hours behind the schedule, and we had skipped Gili Bola on day 1 and a snorkeling trip on day 2. We did visit Gili Moyo for snorkeling on Day 3, but that was scheduled for Day 2. So in reality, if taking missed items on the itinerary into account, we were twenty hours behind the schedule. One Indonesian tourist, a mechanical engineer also, informed me that the ship ‘girbo’ has a damaged bearing, hence the superslow speed. Nobody was in charge and the only Kencana Adventures representative onboard was not willing or skilled in speaking English either.

Another helpful Indonesian tourist informed some of us about the decision that those who wanted, could extend the trip by one day to see everything and those who couldn’t, would be taken to Labuan Bajo by a speedboat – and miss the Rinca Island altogether. Huge argument arose between this poor Indonesian tourist who wanted to help us others, and a few Italian and French tourists, who blamed him for taking side with the company. Of course, he was not taking sides, but just being realistic on what can and can not be achieved and had accepted the situation. I myself was not angry as I didn’t care for snorkeling and there was still one of the two dragon islands on the itinerary for those who wouldn’t opt for the one day extension. I was not happy paying ‘big’ money for unfulfilled promises, but I accepted the situation and let go of anger.

We parked in front of Gili Moyo for snorkeling and people were more at ease, because there was at least ‘something’ realised from the itinerary.

This ship had two toilets for all 90 people. Surprisingly there was not much queuing at any times. The toilet seat had disappeared somewhere on day two, but otherwise they were clean and not clogged with faeces as sometimes happens on trains and buses. The flushing was manual with water scooped from a barrel. Well, the ladies toilet had no valve on the barrel filling hose, so the water was running constantly into the barrel, flowed over on the floor and through the drainage back to the sea. Except the evening of day three, when toilet paper had clogged the drainage. There was ankle depth of water splashing back and forth with the ship motions and at first the staff member ignored me when I mentioned about it. But I waited and watched until he had cleaned the drainage and the other toilet started to drain again. Such can be live on Indonesian boats sometimes.

I myself was suffering from constipation since Gili Meno. It happened to me also on the Trans-Siberian train. Must be something mental with the moving vehicles. I am not sure which is more comfortable malfunction, constipation or diarrhoea. Maybe constipation.

Day 4

The final day of the trip as scheduled started early.

I woke up already at 6am, was taken shore on a small boat and off we went, climbing a very steep hill on Gili Laba. After coming back to the boat with some amazing photos, I started to feel the travel fatigue and was looking forward to the end of the trip and a hot shower. Or at least a shower. I washed my face and all visible parts with wetwipes and applied again some borrowed sunscreen. We were taken to the Pink beach for snorkeling before splitting our group into extenders and quitters. I was a quitter and after a rather quick visit to the beach, two small boats were taking us quitters to Labuan Bajo. The ride was three hours and we witnessed the most amazing sunset I have ever seen. And I was too much lazy to dig out my camera. Oh well πŸ™‚

Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon

With the lead of Celia, only Indonesian and English speaker amongst us quitters, we found our way to Kencana Adventures office and started a riot. Well… The few Europeans who had not booked accommodation expressed their anger and frustration demanding some money back and a place to sleep for the final night. I was realistic and was not expecting any money back. So was Celia, who had stopped two ojeks, motorcycle riders who accept pillion passengers for money, and the two of us took off into the Labuan Bajo night, somewhere up the hill, towards the unknown. Towards a cheap hotel she knew. I was aware of the risks. Maybe my ojek would take me elsewhere and strip me of my valuables. Maybe my ojek would crash and my helmetless head would spread its gray matter somewhere in the gutter in Western Flores in Indonesia. I felt alive. I felt free. I felt the adventure. I trusted her. I trusted my ojek. I had surrendered to the unknown, to my destiny. Whatever happens, happens.

I celebrated this great milestone in my soul-searching trip by a long, cold shower. My five-day-long constipation was finally over.

We met our co-quitters, with the exception of Luke, in the restaurant at the very same cheap hotel. They had gotten basic rooms there, courtesy of Kencana Adventures. Maybe there is justice in the world after all.

During the boat trip, I had learned to say in Indonesian Bahasa “Oh my god! I don’t understand anything. I am a chicken, maybe.”

“Astaga! Saya tidak mengerti. Saya ayam, keli”

After all this boat adventure, I am lucky and happy to be alive. I survived a boat trip in Indonesia, all the way from Lombok island to Labuan Bajo. I did not get shipwrecked and ransacked like this girl.

Kelimutu Volcano

It was Friday morning, I spent half an hour trying to look for hotels in Ende or Moni. No success.

I took a bemo, a minivan ferrying paying passengers along a certain route, to the airport, where I was one hour too early, just to be sure. There was a travel agent and they managed to find me a reasonably priced flight from Ende back to Denpasar. It was only half the price that I could find myself online. The catch, it was only on the following Friday, leaving me seven days to visit Kelimutu. After the one hour long flight, I landed in Ende and was thinking whether I should stay here or head straight to Moni. I was worried if I had enough cash for Moni, as it was a tiny village with no ATM. And I was not sure about Ende either. Maybe it was also too small town to have an ATM. While waiting for our check-in bags by the carousel, I noticed one tourist reading about Ende in his Lonely Planet. I asked if he can tell me how far is it to the city center from the airport, and the answer was, two kilometers and ojek should not cost more than ten thousand rupees.

I found my backpack and walk out of the airport and was instantly approached with numerous offers for transport. Someone wanted to drive me all the way to Moni for 400k, and when I counter-offered 100k, he said he can take me to the Moni bus for 15k. Without much thinking, I said sure and found myself again on the backseat of a motorbike, my messenger bag on my shoulder and my backpack at the riders feet. We passed the city center and I was not sure where I am being taken, but soon he stopped behind a parked small-ish bus and some other guy loaded my backpack on the bus already. I paid the ojek and the other man led me to my backpack, which was already on the backseat of the bus. I asked the price to Moni and without bargaining I accepted the 25k he was asking. 2.5 USD or 1.8 EUR for a 50km busride is acceptable, though I knew the ‘local price’ would most probably be around 15k.

The bus commenced its voyage to Moni, while playing techno remix of the classic song ‘Teeny Weeny Bikini’ in a very loud volume. This bus was equipped with a decent hi-fi with subwoofer, so it was actually very pleasant experience. While we were making way to Moni, some familiar white faces from the airplane were overtaking my bus with their shiny black jeeps while I was receiving local hit music from my seat neighbours phone via bluetooth and enjoying the drive in dusty and pleasantly warm summer afternoon in the tropics. I had no reservations or bookings. I felt alive. I felt free. I felt the adventure. I trusted that whatever happens, happens. I was confident that I would find accommodation without hick-ups and that I would resolve the money issue somehow, should it become an issue. For a minute I was worried that I had paid the man already and got no ticket or receipt. I could not remember what he looked like and did not know if he was even on the bus. I chose to surrender to my destiny. If I had paid to a conman for my ride, then I had. No biggie.

The bus stopped by some housing concentration and my new friend told me this is Moni, and by the way this hotel right here is very good. Maybe it was very good indeed, because they had no vacancy. Luckily Sylvesters homestay had all four rooms free. I chose the one with a cold shower as it was half the price than the one with warm shower. The obviously gay man at the village tourist info was talking a lot, but had no real information about the village itself, he only told me about the nearby sights and where they are located and asked me to ask my homestay to arrange excursions if I wanted them. Fine by me.

Sylvesters brother agreed to take me to Mt. Kelimutu at 4:30 in the night on his motorcycle to see the sunrise. It was very cold ride for 30 mins, then a quick stop to pay 20k for the National Park entrance ticket, and then again 15 mins of bike ride. From the parking lot, there was a 15 minutes hike up the stairs to the observation point. It was still dark and I was lucky to have my headlamp with me, as it occurred to me only as I was walking out the door, that some light might come in handy. It did. The sunrise was at 6am and first tourists left soon after. I hung around for quite a while and in the end it was only me, six other tourists and maybe twenty locals who were selling tea, coffee, noodles and biscuits. Good service, I might say! The prices were indeed reasonable and I had two or three cups of tea and ginger coffee, aptly named Kelimutu coffee.

Sunrise at Mt Kelimutu

Sunrise at Mt Kelimutu

I made the shutter of my beloved SLR scream mercilessly as I was ‘working my subject’, the crater lakes, tourists, locals, monkeys etc.. Only at 10am I decided it’s enough. I took a total of 524 photos in just four hours at Kelimutu. I saved 260 photos for future use, 34 I marked as good photos and 2 was chosen for publishing online. Quite a good ratio, don’t you think? πŸ™‚

I found Sylvesters brother at the parking lot and after coasting down into Moni village, I paid him the agreed 100k, ordered some breakfast and decided to stay one more night here just that I can have a nap instead of checking out immediately.

Early morning bikeride and the Komodo boat trip made my throat sore and my nose was running like hell. I medicated myself with super spicy noodles and ginger tea, took some pills and went to sleep early. The next morning I felt considerably better so I decided to check out and make my way back to Ende to check my email.

It was maybe five minutes I had to sit and wait by the roadside before a black Toyota stopped and the driver asked from the locals around me if I was interested in joining him and his entourage on a trip to Ende. For a very reasonable price of 50k the front seat would be given to me, so I decided to go for this option instead of waiting for possibly overcrowded bemo and paying 25k for it. Yes, the Lonely Planet advices against hitchhiking in any country and only using commonly recognised means of public or private transports. I decided this was commonly recognised means of transport in Indonesia. After all, I had learned the art of surrendering to my destiny.

Two hours later the driver dropped me off in front of the Hotel Ikshal, just like I had requested. I paid the driver the 50k and he obviously had not expected that much. He had not said a single word to anyone during our car trip and now the flood gates finally opened under his strong emotions and he muttered two English words: “Thank you”. It felt very good to overpay for excellent service. Although it was one of the Moni locals who had come up with this price, not me.

Hotel Ikshal is “a role model of budget hotels” of Lonely Planets opinion. And their restaurant has the cheapest food I’ve encountered in a touristic place in Indonesia so far. Why pay 10k for a coffee, when you can pay 3k? Despise the Lonely Planet book as much as you want, or like the german hippie with a “Losers Plan It” t-shirt on, but the truth is, information is power. And this specific information saves you both money and trouble.

Goodbye Indonesia

After five nights of low cost life in Ende, without internet, I finally woke up to the day of my flight back to Bali.

For the first time ever in my life, I walked all the way from the hotel to the airport. It took me almost 10 minutes. Flying from Labuan Bajo to Ende, I had not paid the airport departure tax on semi-purpose and I felt guilty for it. This time I secured myself a clear consciousness by paying the tax, a total of 10 000 IDR or 1 USD,Β  was relieved from my travel budget to the future development of ENE airport facilities. During my stay I had noticed the siren sound before each airplane arrival. As we were taxiing on the runway, I knew why. There were tens of children and teenagers and even few adults all around the runway, watching, hearing and feeling the jet take off. Ten seconds after the landing gear separated with the runway tarmac, there’s nothing but water underneath and the plane took a steep right turn and pointed the nose westwards and upwards. Indonesian pilots obviously dream of becoming navy pilots, such maneuvers I’ve never experienced onboard commercial airplane before.

Thanks to the navy pilot, I made it safe and sound back to Bali to support the local economy with three times more expensive hotels and meals as in East Flores. Not to forget the scooter rental for 7.5 USD and ‘special processing fees’ 7 USD at police checkpoints.

As my round-the-world trip hits 6 month marker, I fixed my flipflops that I had bought only a month prior. I am on my fourth pair now. The third pair I had fixed twice, before upgrading to the current ones. I have three more countries left on my itinerary.

Maybe I should have bought Indonesian made Eccos?

*) Names have been changed

posted: 13 August 26
under: Travel