Friday, 25 October 2013



FROM SURABAYA SOUTH TO MALANG


A taxi the next morning got me to the local bus terminal Purabaya where I boarded for Malang, it was actually a very easy process, almost too painless and not challenging enough, but take the easy ones when you can.  In a couple of hours I was at the next terminal in Malang, just ripe for a good old fashioned rip off.  

I had no choice but to take the only transport available and bargained as hard as I could, walking off up the street before we both finally caved and agreed on a price.  Now that I know the angkot routes I could probably use the local transport next time, but i had no idea which one to take on arrival. 

I checked into the Armyn Guesthouse, once again booked through Agoda and was pleasantly surprised, this is a really great guesthouse with exceptional service and little extras that made for a great stay.  


I highly recommend the place if you are visiting Malang, and you should, it ended up being probably my favourite area of Java, though I haven't been everywhere yet.  So many amazing places to explore in the area if you're not scared to grab a scooter and go looking, as usual I did plenty of that.

I met up with a good friend of mine, Yuni, a sweet local girl studying chemical engineering at university, with a great sense of humour and a thirst for adventure.  She was never scared or reluctant to go exploring and would try almost anything.  We hung out in Malang for a couple of days seeing a few local sights before making the spectacular journey to the almighty Mt Bromo, icon of East Java. 


To be honest i had never heard of the place until about a month earlier when Yuni suggested it, turns out people from all over the world come here to see it and i'm certain they don't go away disappointed.





SURABAYA, EAST JAVA


My flight gets delayed and as I’m hoping to catch the footy in Surabaya,  this is not good news,  an hour of playing 'The Walking Dead' on the Ipad sees us finally board and take off to Java.

     Seeing Surabaya from the air is quite amazing, it’s a huge sprawling city ,  don’t quote me, but a guy i spoke to here, claims it to be the 2nd or largest industrial city in the southern hemisphere..?

  By the time i land, get to the hotel and check in, its after 10pm.  I'll throw in a plug for the black pepper chicken at the Olympic Hotel where i stayed, because it was that good,  I later find out that the Olympic Hotel is actually known as a short-time hotel in Surabaya.  Google it if you don't know what that means!

It’s Ramadan in Indo,  a bad time to be here for a pisshead like myself,  no bars open and expensive domestic travel, luckily for me, I have a great nose for finding places to drink!   
I see a bunch of taxi guys all sitting around, I say 'can go 15 Palms'?    ‘ ya ya,  we know , we know.  15 palms’,   ok this is too easy.....   hehe   sure.  


  So around 40 minutes later,  after a quite extensive tour of the city,   we end up at the Surabaya army base...???   'yes,  yes,  this is Priti Par?!    (or something like that sounds like 15 palms). What the fuck dude?   I’m a bule in Surabaya,  with a backpack, do I look like I wanted to go to the bloody army base?!   haha  Not sure who is more confused, me, the taxi guy, or the bunch of soldiers all starting to take an interest in the crazy bule who turned up for a 'visit'!     

  Oh well,  a couple of phone calls later and we're off to 15 Palms to watch the footy, this is still no easy feat and I’m getting sorta pissed off by now,  but we finally make it and to be honest, when i stood out the front, i thought 'what the hell is this shithole'.


  The place looks closed, blacked in windows,  one of which has a hole in it,  and pretty much an eery ghost town feel about it.  I find out later this is due to them supposed to have been shut during Ramadan.

Never one to shy away from a dodgy looking bar, I cautiously open the door,   a gasp goes up around the room, they are amazed at the newcomer, I’m simply amazed there are people inside! 


  You can almost hear the whistling and see the tumbleweed roll past...     but I am quickly and warmly welcomed by a great bunch of guys,  who are just amazed more than anything that a newbie has found the joint,   they are later more astounded that I just happen to be in town 'on holidays'!   

Unheard of around here apparently,  great news for me,   I love being the only tourist around.   The locals down the street, in the shops,  pretty much everywhere all stare and want to chat,  and are extremely friendly and curious.

I spend the next couple of nights at 15 palms, mainly to watch the footy, but i have also met some great contacts and new friends here, locals , expats and travellers.  Some local guys take me out on my last night in town for beers and delicious bbq pork they had been raving about,  it was a great night, i love getting the proper local experience. 


The boys drove me home afterwards which was much appreciated as it was a decent cab fare back across town, we bid fond farewells as if old long lost friends, I love these chance encounters in foreign lands.



BACK TO ASIA
 BALI, INDONESIA


There are a few more adventures that happened back home, like getting caught out camping at our islands in one of the worst storms i have been in, that resulted in probably my roughest night outdoors followed by an extremely shit ride back to town in the boat.  But i'll keep the story going abroad and begin my Indonesian tales...

So I’ve landed in Bali around lunchtime, the usual process, step out of the airport into stifling heat, humidity and that 'Indo' smell in the air.   I set off to my hotel,  possibly the cheapest room in town,  well aside from the ones with no aircon, tv or hot water...   but really,  I do have standards,  not many,  but i do have some. 

The place is Sayang Maha Mertha and  check in is quick and painless as usual, with a nice cold juice while i wait the 5 minutes it takes to get sorted.    It really is a good place, with excellent, cheap food and pretty much my regular on the odd occasion i decide to stop in at Kuta and try to avoid the drunken yobbos that seem to have taken over the place.   This time they seem to be absent and it was a fairly nice crowd around the place.  

With a few sore muscles after the plane ride i go to get a massage,   as I usually do, and find a place that looks ok,  the assistant manager behind the counter decides she's going to do it,  must be my charm and good looks that brings this on!  So the usual routine and the massage starts out ok,  when suddenly things get hot n heavy between us.   


Not what I was expecting,  and I fought it kicking and screaming,  but my will was not strong enough for this gorgeous, tanned young lady,  I must learn to be strong!  She is looking for a boyfriend and keys her number into my phone, but I am not staying long in Bali.  5 hours off the plane and I have already been taken advantage of,  I feel so cheap...   hehe

Some new shoes (those that saw the ones I left Australia in will understand), an 'original copy' Sydney Swans shirt  and a new sim card sees my shopping out of the way,  much to the dismay of nearly everybody I walk past who are trying to sell me shit,  then  it’s time for a beer and some games of pool.  


After some shocking form back home on the pool table,  I am suddenly back on my game and quickly demolishing the local talent, a phone call goes out and they call in 'the master'!  He gets one game on me as I wasn't  quite prepared for a real challenge,  but it’s all downhill from there for him and i am soon the newly crowned 'master',   of this bar anyway!  

I stop for a quick drink across the road, as the cute girl out the front, trying to entice customers,   looks so lonely...     we chat for a while but no luck,  she has a boyfriend.  I get talking to the owner, a young Aussie guy that fell for the old ' i'll buy a bar in paradise and live happily ever after' trick.   The only people buying drinks were him...   poor guy,  probably seemed like a good idea at the time!   

He tries to talk me into having dinner there,  but price wise, as  Darryl Kerrigan would say 'tell him he's dreaming'.   Besides, I have a date with a pizza at Rendezvous 78,  their supreme is bloody awesome,  also a great place to watch the footy,  UFC or whatever sport you're into.  


3 girls with no English from Sulawesi,  decide it would be fun to take pictures with the bule and i am now in the holiday snap album of some giggling girls from far north Indo!     ah ,   the things i endure,  and its only day one....

Let’s leave night 2 untold,  my mother might be reading this....


I check out of the hotel and kill a few hours while I wait for my flight to Surabaya, with a beer and a massage,  no scamming the  innocent tourist this time,   all above board and just what i need after a lot of walking.   I get to the airport far too early as the whole process of checking in takes about 5 minutes and i am left with nothing to do but...  have a beer. 


 

Monday, 21 October 2013





PERTH, KALGOORLIE AND HOME

We partied hard at the buck’s show plus a few other nights and also made the call to visit a mate living in Kalgoorlie who we hadn’t seen in at least 5 years.  It is such a huge trip to go from our town and it was the first time we had found ourselves in Perth with time to kill, so we figured we would catch the train out there and catch up with him for a couple of days.  With bags packed we headed to East Perth Train Station at some ridiculously early hour where we waited for the ticket booth to open.  

After lining up for 10 minutes I tell the lady behind the little window ‘2 tickets to Kalgoorlie please’.  She asks to see my booking….   Hmmm.   I was on their website the night before and had considered buying a ticket online but thought ‘how many people seriously would want to go to Kalgoorlie?!,  we’ll be right!’.  


No, we weren’t right, the train was full and we had to catch another expensive taxi back to the unit and drive Stenty’s car the roughly 600km out there.  You would think somebody who had just spent 10 months in South East Asia could organize a fucken train trip in Perth!

Not much to report from Kalgoorlie, it was about as dull as I imagined it to be, but was good to finally see our old mate and his new baby.  We had 2 nights there before deciding it was enough and made the drive back to Perth where Stenty still had his brother’s wedding to attend before we left for home.  

One more spanner in the works though, as Stenty met a girl he couldn’t drag himself away from and we ended up staying nearly another week!  It was a strange feeling when we finally pulled into my place back in town, I was expecting it to feel weird, exciting, but it really just felt like I hadn’t left.  It was nice to be back though.

We fished, camped, went crabbing, caught lobster, took the boat out, caught up on all the tales and pretty much just had a great time with all my mates.  I had planned to only stay 2 months back in Australia before heading off again but my dad had planned a fishing trip in town with his mates, which would mean staying almost a month longer, but I wasn’t going to miss that. 

They are an awesome bunch of old farts that I had fished and travelled with quite a few times and it was a fantastic week, we fished all day and partied all night. It took a bit of effort to keep up with them actually, I kept joking that I would have to go back to Pattaya to chill out and stop partying so hard!!



One of the things I miss most while travelling, my car and the freedom it provides


Beer and fishing....



Getting set for a night of crabbing, fishing, kayaking, campfire, boozing and bullshit!









Baby Spanish Mackerel, but so tasty


A couple of Baldchin Groper, possibly the tastiest fish in the ocean and a great fighter





Just a small long nosed emperor, but the first we know of being caught in the area


Big Wahoo,  this was actually Dennis' fish, but while trying to help him hold it, kinda looks like I caught it...    haha   sorry Dennis, gotta be a bit quicker




No shortage of these bastards..


They get hungry too..










Tuesday, 15 October 2013

HOME AGAIN!
On the 20th April 2013 I arrived at Denpasar airport with mixed emotions, still awake from the night before, ready to head back to Australia. Sad that this amazing journey was at an end but excited knowing I would see family, friends and be back in my home town soon.    We went and stayed with my sister, my brother in law and my new nephew who I hardly knew, plus my parents were there for the home coming also. 

It was great to see everyone again, but to no-one’s surprise the old boy had me working straight away and we were into it, no sleep and a raging hangover in full effect! We chopped down trees, carved them up, cleared paddocks, built gates and drains, rounded up sheep, carted hay…  I thought I was gonna die after being so slack for nearly a year!  But it felt great to be doing something like that again and being able to help out. 

As keen as I was to get back to my home town, (something I thought I would never say after 23 years!) to see friends and get out fishing, my stay in Perth was extended longer than I had planned.  It was great seeing my family but everybody was so busy and my dad had already gone back north, I wasn’t getting to spend much time with them all.  Plus after the daily excitement that my life had become, I was getting restless staying in Perth. 

Stenty, from the Solomon’s trip, was coming down to the city for his brother’s wedding and buck’s party so I figured I would wait around for a lift home.  I was more conscious than ever about saving money and to fly back home from Perth is possibly the most expensive domestic flight in Australia.  Besides, I couldn’t miss a buck’s party….




NONG KHAI, VIENTIANE, JAKARTA, BALI

I think it must have been around March by now, Mon’s mum and daughter had gone to Udon Thani with Wit and we flew up to meet them.  It was Mon’s first time on a plane and I thought she was going to break my hand with her grip, I didn’t want to tell her but it was actually a shitty flight and had me worried most of the way there.  But we made it safely somehow and spent a few days with her family before making the journey across the border at Nong Khai into Laos as my visa had nearly expired.  I had actually managed to stay an extra 6 weeks with a little Police bribery, but it was time to leave.

The whole border crossing over the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge was a little confusing, but we managed and now found ourselves in a ‘taxi’ on the way to Vientiane, the capital city only 22km away from the border.  As Mon didn’t have a passport she entered Laos on a 3 day entry permit which the Thai’s can get, but she overstayed and we had one last week together, the fine being something trivial like $20.

  I won’t go into the details here, but after weeks of discussing it we had decided it would be too hard to continue the relationship after I left.  I thought going into it I could travel away for a month at a time and base myself in Thailand, but we soon realized that wasn’t going to cut it.  It was a very strange feeling that last week but we agreed to make the most of what time we had left, though it was still very difficult knowing we wouldn’t see each other for at least a few months, if ever.  We were in constant contact for months and still keep in touch today, but not on the same level as it was

Not much to report from Laos, I didn’t have time to explore further north but will do upon my return, the capital Vientiane really didn’t do much for me but considering everything that was going on, perhaps it was just me.  I will investigate again, though I doubt my opinion will change.  I thought it was extremely boring and was merely a jumping off point for the seemingly huge contingent of backpackers coming into Laos. 

From here I flew to Jakarta for my first visit, and I have to say, I liked it.  Due directly to the people I met of course, take them out of the equation and it definitely would not have been the same experience. Though I still ventured out alone a lot and had a great time.  Once again, being prepared to approach people and chat goes a long way.  Some of the nightlife stories I won’t post about here, but there are sure as hell some crazy places in Jakarta, even for somebody that had spent quite a bit of time in Pattaya, a notorious party town, it was a little surprising.

My laptop crapped out in Jakarta though and I was at the mercy of internet cafes until I returned to Australia, I had 1 week left and for some reason I decided to hit Bali on my way home.  I was pretty much over it the first night I went out, after all the travelling I had done I just didn’t seem to belong here anymore.  I was still in travel mode but everybody else was in 2 week party, lay by the pool mode.  If I hadn’t already booked my ticket home I would have possibly bolted after a couple of days.  Once again though, being forced to stay and meeting the right people saved the day and by the time I had to leave, I didn’t want to!





KHAO LAK , THEN BACK NORTH
One more road trip was in order and another scooter rented for the journey north to Khao Lak for the day, the area was one of the worst hit in the 2004 Tsunami and claimed over 4000 lives, with an unofficial estimate at nearly 10000.  As always, a great ride and the town area itself was ok, it still retains a small town feel and there are a few cafes on top of the hill which provide great views over the beautiful ocean there.  But a short ride from the centre shows the scars of the tragedy that occurred on Boxing Day 2004.

  We saw a beachside hotel in ruins, left abandoned after the catastrophe, much of the nearby beachfront land is still unused, fear of ghosts maybe?! The Thai's have strong beliefs in the spirit world.  There is also a memorial still being set up nearly 2 km from the ocean where a police boat ended up from the force of the tsunami, although it has been repositioned for aesthetics, the boat still sits there as a reminder of the destructive force that nature possesses and unleashes at will.


On a lighter note, whilst exploring different tracks we came across an interesting sign that beckoned us to ring a bell and a boat would come pick us up from a sandbar island across an inlet, where there was a bar/cafĂ©.  Very cool little place to hang out for a while.  We ended up on another beach elsewhere for delicious, fresh squid lunch and a cold beer or 2 before making the trip home.  Some beautiful riding and a nice little piece of Thailand, well worth a visit, but we were back in Phang Nga by early afternoon and were greeted by a downpour. 


As I’ve said, I really loved Phang Nga town and it is seriously a place you could just drift on into and lose track of time, we were supposed to do some kayaking through The Elephant Cave, but nobody was around, it looks like great fun if you’re in town.  Don’t be scared to get on a bike and go look around, you will be amazed at what you find, not only in Phang Nga, but everywhere.  Remember, it is hard to include everything that we did and this story happened more than 6 months ago.


It was time to leave this sleepy little town though and make our way home, on the bus back to Surat Thani and then overnight train to Bangkok where we arrived at around 7am.  A taxi to Ekamai or Mo Chit will see you get on a mini bus back to Pattaya, I don’t recall which one we went to, but the same company operates from both, Pattayavan.  More of the same in Pattaya, like I said, there are many things that happened or that we did, but I want to keep the story rolling and get us to the present day.


The police boat left high and dry after the devastating tsunami





Another scooter, this one lived to tell the tale


The destroyed and abandoned hotel







Cool little island bar with boat pick up...  just ring the bell




Beachside restaurant



Surat Thani Train Station



Snacks and whiskey..



Overnight train survival kit...   polony sandwiches and beer!


Saturday, 5 October 2013



PHANG NGA BAY PICTURES


The day out on Phang Nga bay, leaving the harbour









Phang Nga Bay
















The famous karst in the bay of 'James Bond Island'











Ancient cave paintings