We’ve been and gone to Ubud since the last time we sat at a computer, crossed from Bali over to Lombok and are now on Gili Trawangan, a small island just a few kilometres off the north west coast of Lombok. Ubud was great, a very different place to Kuta – it’s the cultural part of Bali, and is the place to go if you want to see traditional Balinese dances or other performances. Altough it’s a popular tourist destination, you get the feeling that they’re really serious about their traditions there – all of the performances are done by local groups and all of the kids in the village seem to be out selling tickets – it reminded me off going to a play in the parochial hall in Ballyhaunis not so long ago! We went to two performances, both quite different. One was similar to something you would imagine seeing in China, and used two-man monster costumes, it was very well done and very realistic looking. The other performance involved a group of over 100 men doing a monkey dance – both were unusual but very enchanting!
Archive for June, 2008
We’re in Bali at the moment (in Kuta, the main tourist area by the sea) and although we didn’t get a good first impression, we’ve quickly settled down to the routine of eating, sleeping, a bit of surfing and a lot of sweating :-) We’ve come to the conclusion that what you first think of any place is mostly down to expectations – we didn’t expect too much of Kuta as we heard it was supposed to be like the Canaries for Ozzies, but it’s not nearly as hectic as we thought it would be. It’s great to be relaxing for a few days and not having to catch buses and trains! We’re staying in a really relaxed place called the Secret Garden Inn, just off Poppies Gang I (this is where a lot of the cheaper accomodation is in Kuta). A really clean, large room with air-con and a fridge is costing 240,000 rupiahs per night which is about €17. That includes breakfast and a nice swimming pool. We thought that Kuta would be full of backpacker types, but there are lots of families with kids around (most people here are either Australian or Japanese). Bali is a big surfing destination, but most of the breaks are for advanced surfers – Kuta is one of the few places that’s suitable for folk like us, but even at that, it’s great compared to a lot of Irish beaches! We both had a good session today and we were easy to spot from the beach being the whitest people in the water! We’ll probably be moving inland to Ubud in the next few days, but don’t have any definite plans yet.
So we are here a week today! Here being Hong Kong and Java, but it already feels like we left home ages ago – probably because we’ve travelled so much already. We’re already very grubby and although Eddie is a bit more used to it, I have never sweated quite so much! Its hot here, but not unbearable (until you’re walking around, a bit lost, with rucksacks on and there’s no shade). We were in Hong Kong for three days, which we loved, we’re definitely hoping to return sometime. Highlights were the Peak, the shops (even though I didn’t purchase much!), the escaltor up to Soho and the Man Mo temple, which was so peaceful we could have stayed for hours.
So we’re in Java now, which is the biggest island in Indonesia and well known for its coffee. We’ve spent a lot of time here travelling on trains and buses, so we are wrecked already! The first part of the journey was on one of the better trains from Jakarta (Argo Dwipangga, 180,000 each) to Jogyakarta so it was just like getting the train to Dublin ten years ago, only maybe better because the lights didn’t go out at all and we were served breakfast and free tea! We stayed in Yogyakarta for a day or two and spent a lovely few hours wandering around the Kraton, a large elegant palace where the Sultan of Yogyakarta has resided since the 18th century. Yogyakarta was the first place we really saw in Indonesia (we just spent a night in Jakarta and didn’t see much) and it was really cool to get out and explore its hot and busy streets. We took our first ride in a local taxi – a bicycle with a seat attached for two which faces out in the traffic, so once you get in you can’t see the driver (cycler!); you are just thrust out head first into the bustling traffic, at which point you sit back and hope for the best!
So after absolutely loving Hong kong and wishing we had more time there, we landed in Jakarta on Monday night and I got a bit fat dose of the Western guilts! We had read in the Loney Planet that we should go to our hotel with the reliable Blubird taxi company, so we had our eyes peeled for the ‘Bluebird’ signs as we left the airport, only to be greeted by countless non-Bluebird taxi men all offering their services. We started with the ‘”No, thank you’s” as we looked for, and found, the Bluebird queue – it was the line of white people headed by a smart looking man in a suit. I was wondering if they had all read the lonely planet too or what was the story. The Lonely Planet has a lot of power. It seemed really unfair that most of those taxi men were finding it hard to get customers, when probably 99.9% of them are decent self-employed men and not trying to kidnap you or anything. But once the seed of fear is planted, it feels too risky to take a chance. So we headed off in the fancy (by local standards) car owned by some big company in search of our hotel which had not actually held our room! Anyway, we didn’t spend long in Jakarta, just found another hotel and the next morning we boarded the train to Yogyakarta.
Greetings from Hong Kong, friends and relatives! Eddie and I have just had our first full day here and we both love it. I am definitely returning some day to shop, shop, shop - I have seen so many cool clothes that would cost a fortune at home! Of course I can’t buy any unless I want to buy a larger rucksack. Even Eddie remarked “Yeah they have good fashion here” when I pointed out the 100th deadliest top I’d seen! I had a little giggle, waiting for him to remark next on how “stylish” they were!
The whole place is so alive, it’s a really big proper city, it makes Dublin look like Ballyh! Its very easy get around and because of the British thing, lots of shops, prices, menus and signs etc. are in English, which does make it much more accessible for the average Westerner. The plan for tomorrow is to do a tour of the place, getting up much earlier than today – I slept in ’til 2pm, I’m blaming it on the jet lag.
Anyway, I have no idea how to end a blog entry (I’m pretty sure you don’t say goodbye) so I’ll just stop writing now!
Well, we’ve had our first full day here, and the verdict is in, Hong Kong kicks ass! It’s like a cross between New York and some big Asian city (although never having been to some big Asian city, I’m only guessing that part) full of bright lights, cheap clothes (especially for the ladyfolk) and is open 24/7. The weather’s been crap since we arrived – very warm and very wet, but you can get around most places without getting soaked as the footpaths are mostly sheltered. We spent most of today looking around the shops and markets – we went to one bargain basement sale where you could pick up Cork and Roscommon G.A.A jerseys for about €8, they mustn’t be selling very well at home :-)
We’ve arrived in our first port of call - after months of anticipating, our holiday has finally started, yay! Honk Kong looks like an amazing city, but we haven’t had time to do much exploring yet. We arrived in last night and didn’t do much except eat and walk around the area we’re staying in (Fortress Hill area of Hong Kong island). The hostel, Yes Inn, is nice, clean and quite central, and it’s in a building called ‘Rialto Mansion’ which is right down Ri’s street! We’re on the 11th floor which isn’t too high up in this city, and its costing us about €90 for three nights for the two of us, in our own room. Hong Kong isn’t considered a cheap city, especially compared to other Aisan cities, but your euro goes pretty far here. We kind of cheated last night and ate Thai food, but it was lovely and the king prawns Ri had were about the size of her forearm :-) I’m not nearly as adventurous with food as some people, but I’ll have a go at some of the local stuff before we go!
Oompa, loompa, dippity doo, I’ve got a shiney new website for you!