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I missed thanksgiving. October for me this year meant many things other than turkey and stuffing. I found myself in Indonesia with a 30 days Visa, looking at 17,000 tropical islands home to 200 million people who speak 500 different languages. I have arrived in Paradise, and while melting in the equatorial heat and arguing with the airport urchins I felt fully recharged. I began to feel a ‘same same but different’ feeling with the locals on the grift (looking to sell you something). I’m a western tourist and everyone who walked by me in the Philippines (my 2nd stop after Singapore) had something to sell or offer special price, but here in Bali (my first stop in Indonesia) they are friendly. An Aussie friend told me that on the beginning of your holiday you fall under a rupiah syndrome haze. The Rupiah is around 9300 Rp to the Canadian dollar, so after visiting the ATM I was snowed under by hundreds of thousands of Rupiah bills. They come in denominations of 10,000 through 100,000 and can be very confusing when entering the country for the first time. You learn quickly, we were screwed out of some money when haggling for a hat around dinnertime. We paid with a 100,000 Rupiah bill and the local would take it and then quickly hand us back a 10,000 bill claiming we gave him the wrong amount (this was used on us twice more later that day). My decision to set up shop in various beach towns throughout Indonesia was usually planned only on a day or two before arrival basis. I had heard many things about Indo and was curious about this place. As I would be spending the next month or so in a place where voodoo Black Magic spells were commonly used against political candidates, and reality shows rewarded transvestites or Benchongs for reverting back to a more masculine way of life (for example the reality show “Be a Man”). Surfer’s Paradise sounds a little more appealing, that’s if you like Aussie’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie !!! as they love to say). However it is still a third world country. According to local surf bible 2009 in Bali has been a very eventful year so far. For example there was a deadly batch of Arak (local liquor mixer substitute- i.e. Rum & Arak) that killed 25 people, Rabid dogs are spreading on the Bukit Peninsula (vaccine shortage in ALL clinics- i.e. don’t get bit), and Dengue fever had returned with many cases being reported (Ben has gotten dengue fever, a bad case too, on his previous trip to Thailand 5 years ago). It’s a shame because I grew to become fond of the Arak mixer, even though it left me squatting and spewing in the mandi (to my sister Mandi, yes this is a true and often used Aussie saying). Gods of the island are supposed to determine your dreams and nightmares. I myself heard of this upon arriving in Kuta Beach in South Bali. I would spend the next 10 days there having the most incredible dreams and nightmares. We went to many parties, and haggled our way through Kuta. Ben spent a few days working on a design for his shoulder piece tattoo. He went to the best artist in Bali for Japanese black and grey, which was an amazing, piece of art in the end. After a few days we took a 3-hour bemo bus ride up north to the artsy town Ubud. We spent the morning drinking Bali coffee, which is by far the best coffee in my opinion, in Lotus Café in Central Ubud. Checking out the many Hindu temples was followed by a visit to the Sacred Monkey forest sanctuary. I love monkeys but I was terrified after seeing a lady get bit in the hand. They were perfectly cute and fun to watch, but I felt the safest near the monkey lady who sat at the front gates with a bunch of bananas (and a huge stick to chase the monkeys with). For lunch we sniffed out more delicious food (enak makanan) and found bagels (when I think of Montreal I can taste bagels in my mouth, and when I dream of Montreal I’m sleeping on a pillow of dough) and cream cheese! Dreamland is found further south than Kuta, and is more beautiful if that is possible at this point. It’s not just a name to attract tourists, instead surpassing the meaning of the word. We spent our time with Bintangs (local beer) sunbathing, swimming and chilling in an infinity pool high up on the cliffs surrounding the beach. I tallied up all the modes of transportation that got us to my favorite spot and found them to be 9 Airplanes, 10 Buses/Bemos and 9 Boats/Ferries. The 3 Gilli Islands to be exact. You can find them on Google maps Aerial view under northwestern Lombok, and if you look really closely you will see the tiny dots of islands surrounded by white sands and turquoise coral reefs. Gilli means Island; I know it’s silly right? I visited the more popular Gilli Trawangan, Gilli Meno and Gilli Air. I spent about eight days in this paradise, Gilli T being my favorite spot to date for 3 reasons. First, the view of Gilli Meno about 500 meters away and Lombok’s Mountains about 1.5 km’s away. Amazing. Secondly, the no police rule. Third, and most importantly I finally took my Open water Scuba Diving Certification with Blue Marlin Divers. The first time I was diving 18 meters down I will never forget how tranquil the water was looking up at the surface, while circling a Bommie reef surrounded by Ariel the little Mermaid worthy fish. Over the course of three days I dived morning and afternoon around the 3 different Gilli Islands. One morning our class took place in a current over the north part of Gilli T. We traveled at quite a speed, and if you can recall the movie “Finding Nemo” where the fish and turtles travel together in a tube like current you can imagine what it felt like to pass by the anchored coral in a tube of water surrounded by fish of all color and size. We would also see Batfish, Barracuda, Sea Turtles, Trumpet fish, Flute fish, black tipped Reef Sharks, Lobster, Tuna, Angel fish, Starfish and Parrot fish to name a few. My snorkeling trips were equally impressive, on one occasion we followed around a friendly Sea Turtle for an hour and a half. We are in Sengigi, Lombok now. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but we have planned to take our pink rented motorbike (4$ a day and the 3rd motorbike we’re rented that is pink) up north to see the Waterfalls around the base of Mount Rinjani (the 2nd highest peak in Indonesia). Most days are sunset, sunrise, sunburn and happily ending with Indonesian special fried rice. A local pointed out to us that you can see a beautiful red sunrise early sometimes, that’s if you look into his eyes (the dude puts willie nelson to shame).

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2 Comments

  1. If you can, go on the three day hike up Rinjani. Make sure you are well equipped, don’t buy the ‘we bring everything, even chicken village’ bullshit. Bring something warm for the night climb to the summit.

    Did you meet ‘Lars’ the magician on Gilli Air? He can walk on water you know!

    I hate you bastards! Traveling around while I have to go into work everyday.

  2. ashley’s blog suce à français….
    lol
    Who was your french’s teacher!!


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