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Monday, March 14, 2011

Indonesia Part Five: Sorong to Bali

In Part Four, I described the incredible diving and adventures that we experienced in Raja Ampat, Indonesia.  For the other four guests on the boat, this was the end of their trip and they were heading home.  For Todd and me, we were ready to head off on another Indonesian adventure -- Bali.

First of all, if you want, you can watch a very, very silly video that I made while in Raja Ampat called Kim Shows the Boat.  We didn't take photos in the boat, so this is an opportunity to see what the boat looked like.  Like I said, though, it's very silly and also probably boring.  But, if you're interested... Check it out

Our last morning in Sorong started out cloudy, and as we ate breakfast, thunder clouds rolled in fast and soon it was POURING.  Todd and I had an earlier flight than everyone else, so we left the boat first, in the middle of a huge downpour.  We waved goodbye to the crew from the dingy that took us to shore and loaded back into a cab to the airport.  I was prepared for the horn honking and scary driving this time.

The beach in Tulamben, Bali
The airport in Sorong was crowded, hot and crazy.  Weka escorted us into the check in area, despite the fact that a security guard clearly didn't want him to.  I stood by our checked bags (to keep them away from the airline personnel who might want to charge us excess weight fees for them), and Todd and Weka checked us in. Weka managed to negotiate us a cheaper rate for bag fees, which was great.  We waved goodbye to him and went through "security" (nothing like in the US), and we were on our own.

Indonesian airlines do not run on time, and they are even less likely to do so in the rain.  So, we sat in front of the doors to the tarmac and watched the rain come down.  We were clearly the only non-Indonesians in the waiting area.  Then, Todd started talking to the woman next to him and it turns out that she was the owner of the Raja Ampat Explorer (our boat!).  Even better, the man sitting behind us turned out to be a former divemaster from the Archipelago Adventurer II, the boat we were initially supposed to be on.  We sat and talked to them, and got some more of the scoop about what exactly happened to the AAII.  I won't go into detail here, but it was interesting.

Our plane became late enough that Matt, Ellen, Nicole and Daniel showed up at the airport for their later flight.  No planes were taking off in the pouring rain, and there were no more seats for anyone.  Nicole tested out the bathroom and I was told not to even go in there (I did not).

Then, the rain stopped and planes landed, and they let off 40-50 people each who were apparently transferring to somewhere else and came in and filled up the waiting area even more...  Then, when they'd announce that a plane was boarding, a hundred or so people would push out the door to get to the bus that would take us to the plane.  It was chaos.  I don't know when they announced that our plane was boarding (about 2 hours late), but everyone else apparently knew before I did.  I pushed along with everyone else - if you can't beat 'em, join em!

Our flight from Sorong to Makassar was on Batavia Airlines, a fairly new domestic airline.  This plane had the least amount of leg room of any plane that I have ever been on.  Our knees were smooshed into the seats in front of us, and injury may have occurred if the people in front of us had reclined.  This was clearly an old plane - it still had ashtrays.  The flight attendant came by and gave us some water and hot tea and a roll.  I bit into the roll and there was something brown inside.  I couldn't identify it. Was it meat?  Something sugary?  Nuts?  I was hungry, so I had to take the attitude of don't question it, just eat it.  It wasn't BAD, I just didn't know what it was. I did peek over at Todd's roll and the roll of the guy next to me, and they both seemed to have weird brown innards in them as well, so it hopefully wasn't bugs or something.

Makassar airport is incredibly nice.  Once we were on the ground, we retrieved our bags and then headed around to the check in desk for Garuda Indonesia Airlines, which would be taking us to Bali.  Garuda wrapped our bags in plastic ties, and didn't charge us any bag fees because we were scuba divers.  Our bags were soaked from being loaded on the plane in the pouring rain in Sorong, but it wasn't too bad.  

We had four hours in Makassar (it was supposed to be six, but we landed two hours late).  We had lunch in an Indonesian cafe, eating Nasi Goreng, or Indonesian Fried Rice.  We had diet soda for the first time since we left the US - Coke Zero is surprisingly popular in Indonesia.  From the airport cafe window, I watched a guy take a bucket and dip it into the fountain in front of the airport, then use it to wash his car in the airport parking lot.  Isn't that weird? 

We also used our Kindles to discover that we had internet access!!  We were able to check email for the first time in a long time!  

Apparently, Indonesia is where Polo Ralph Lauren makes a lot of clothes, so the airport was full of stores selling Ralph Lauren clothes.  There were also tons of stores selling "Markisa."  This was interesting, because our hotel in Bali was called Villa Markisa.  I decided it meant gift, because Markisa was written all over boxes that appeared to be gift boxes.    Further exploration of the airport found a muslim prayer room with about 150 pairs of shoes outside of it, a wet bathroom with included sprinkler hose, a reflexology place with lots of women massaging men's feet, and a store selling pastries with flies walking on them.  Prior to going to Indonesia, flies walking on food would have kept me from eating said food, but I'd developed a tolerance for insects while in Raja Ampat, so I investigated these pastries, but declined.  I did have some tasty frozen yogurt!  Yum!

Soon, it was time to get on our Garuda plane to Bali.  We headed out to the plane and got on and... air conditioning.  This was the first domestic flight in Indonesia that had air conditioning turned on while the plane was still on the tarmac.  There was even first class! And, the seats had televisions in the headrests!  This was luxury like we had not experienced in a while.  We found our seats and - EXIT ROW!  Score!  (Later, someone would tell us that Garuda will always give westerners exit row because Indonesians are less likely to actually help people in an emergency.  I don't know if this is true or not, but I will say that every person in our row was a westerner).  Garuda is the only Indonesian airline that is allowed to operate in the European Union, and it was like heaven compared to Express Air and Batavia.  (Garuda was previously banned from the EU, but was allowed to fly there again starting in June 2010)

On this flight, I experienced Teh botol for the first time.  Teh botol is an Indonesian drink that is everywhere, and is basically Jasmine tea.  The packaging looks remarkably like Coke.  Teh botol is disgusting.  I don't know what it is about packaged teas in Asia, but every time I tried to drink a packaged tea, I wanted to spit it out immediately.   Or, maybe I just don't like Jasmine tea.  I don't know.

At last, we landed in Bali.  It had taken a whole 12 hours from the time we left the boat to the time we landed in Bali.  We collected our bags, Todd changed money (finally) and I went to the ladies room.  This is where I had another Indonesian Bathroom experience, where the floor was so wet that I almost fell down, the woman that I mentioned before came out of the stall with her skinny jeans and heels, and I just wanted to stop her and ask what the deal is.  Like, "Hey lady, what exactly went on in there?  It looks like you were spraying a hose around! What is that about???"  The Indonesian bathroom confusion continued.

We met up with the driver from our first resort in Bali, who loaded us into the car to settle in for our two and half hour (!!) drive to Tulamben.  As you can see from the handy map of Bali that I have provided, it doesn't look that far from the airport (Denpasar) to Tulamben, but there is a giant volcano between the two that you have to drive around.  Travel in Bali is slow.

It was night, so we couldn't see much outside of the car, but in Denpasar we saw bits of home - McDonalds, Subway, Cartier, and more familiar brands.  The farther we got from Denpasar, the less light and buildings we saw.  We saw lots of motorbikes.  And dogs.  Everywhere, dogs.  People were just walking in the street in the dark, sometimes carrying things on their heads.  Our driver beeped at every single car he passed, and often crossed into oncoming traffic.  Apparently, the way it works in Bali is that every part of the road is a passing zone.  You can pass someone anywhere, and you should, because trucks go like 2 mph.  So, pass them, and you don't need to worry about the oncoming cars... apparently.  I don't know.  We didn't die in a horrific car crash, so that was good.  Todd nodded off, which I don't understand because I was facing life and death panic every few minutes.

Finally, we pulled into our resort, Villa Markisa.  The staff were waiting for us when we arrived and showed us to our room.  We were the only guests staying in the resort, so they'd kept dinner waiting for us (it was about 10pm).  Our room was AMAZING.  No roaches.  Mosquito netting, beautiful king sized bed, fresh fruit, mini bar...  We kind of stood there in awe for a few minutes, in culture shock after our time in Raja Ampat.

We followed one of the resort staff over to the dining area.  OMG.  It was open air, with a walkway over a fish pond in front.  As we ate (delicious Indonesian style food), we could hear the ocean nearby.  The grounds of the resort were beautiful.  Everything was amazing.  The dive master for the resort came by and we agreed on a time to meet up for diving the next day.  

Looking out from the dining area towards the ocean at Villa Markisa
We headed back to the room and got ready for bed.  Our bathroom was outside.  Toilet, shower, sink, everything was outside, which is pretty typical for Bali (and perhaps for Indonesia).  That first night, I was attacked by a giant blue bug that looked like a Beetle and that was about the size of our cat.  I was careful to leave the outdoor lights OFF after that. 

We settled into bed, dreaming of what was in store for us on the beautiful island of Bali....

Stay tuned for part six, where we are introduced to muck diving, have a roadside adventure, and dive the famous wreck of the USS Liberty, and more!

  




1 comment:

misszippy said...

What a cool adventure...all except the issues with getting everywhere! Can't wait to hear about Bali. Always wanted to go there!

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