It feels like it has been months since I last put up a post on here. I think that is probably because we have been on the move so much that I’ve hardly had time to reflect myself on everything that we have seen and done. But we are now settled back into island-life so I have all the time in the world to share some of our new memories.
Marni and I, with two of our good friends from Calgary, hired a driver for the 10 hour drive from Wonosobo to Pangandaran. We had heard that Pangandaran was the #1 travel destination for Indonesians from the Java island to visit. This fact made for a very unique experience because the beach-village had many of the comforts that you would expect from a tourist destination, but this one wasn’t targeted toward foreigners as much as our previous destinations. The biggest difference was that most people could not speak English. And once again, we ourselves were a tourist attraction for the Indonesians desperate to catch a photo with the white folks that had arrived on their space ship.
We stayed in a beautiful guesthouse that was smack-dab in the middle of a very authentic Indonesian village. I felt like we were the only foreigners for miles. It was a really unique opportunity to observe an Indonesian community function without the buzz of massive tourist influence. I was especially happy to get invited to play volleyball with a group of local men that were so excited to have the tallest man in Indonesia on their team. Most fun I’ve ever had on a volleyball court.
This story, from one of the few locals that speaks English, sticks out to me the most though: In 2006 Pangandaran was hit by a devestating tsunami (not the Boxing Day one in 2004). A young man told us of his experience on that day. When the tsunami hit, he ran for 5 miles, barefoot, towards the mountains to find safer ground. After waiting a day for the chaos to settle, he returned to his village in search of his parents and his eight siblings. He was especially worried about his mother who had been bed-ridden by illness for over a year.When he couldn’t find them, he went to the hospital to unzip dozens of body bags to see if he could find any of his loved ones that way. Thankfully, this epic story had a happy ending; the entire family was accounted for a few days after the disaster. Even his mother had found the strength, perhaps through adrenaline, to run inland away from the tidal wave. The day after we heard this story, we experienced our first earthquake! It was small enough for the locals to hardly bat an eye, but definitely large enough for me to be checking for tsunami warnings online for the rest of the day!
We stayed in Pangandarn for one week. We spent our time doing yoga, swimming in our pool, and going for long walks through the village. We had our own kitchen, so we were able to prepare our own meals for the first time since our departure. I’m glad we rested up because little did we know, the next stretch of our adventure was going to be much more exhausting than either of us expected!
Another long bus ride got us to the Capitol of Indonesia: Jakarta (population: 30 million people). We said goodbye to our buds who had a flight out of the country. Most people that we had spoken to about Jakarta warned us not to waste our time visiting. Even our guide book suggested that we give it a pass. It seems to be thought of as a big, dirty, unfriendly city that chews people up and spits them out. But we figured that since we were flying out of the city, it would be insane to not experience the Capitol. We are now so glad that we gave it a chance.
Now it is definitely true that Jakarta has some serious stank to it at times. But outside of that, I would have nothing bad to say about it. We spent a full day exploring the bustling city, taking in all the amazing architecture, markets, and city parks that Jakarta has to offer. There were dozens of malls that had every American restaurant chain you can think of. And everyone was so incredibly friendly. Two days was plenty of time to see the city, so we spent the third at a spa
But some of the smells – holy hell – so bad at times. The worst was how bad the hallway leading up to and from our hotel room smelled. Each morning we would take a huge breath before leaving our room, quickly lock the door, run down the hallway and the stairs, through a restaurant, and out to the street before daring to take another breath. On a few occasions a rat the size of Gwyns fat cat darted out in front of us. We must have looked absolutely crazy as we sprinted out of the hotel…but maybe we are crazy for actually staying there.
Landing in Singapore was quite a shock after roughly 5 weeks in Indonesia. As you step off of the plane and onto the high speed MRT, it’s impossible not to feel like you’ve stepped into the future compared to Indonesia. Compared to Canada even. The buildings all appeared to be brand new, and so unique. The streets are incredibly clean (not at all like Indo). And I never once saw someone without a shiny smart-phone in their hand. The people in Singapore are apparently half human, half internet.
Singapore was painfully expensive. A bed at the cheapest hostel we could find, in a dorm room with eight other people, cost us the same as our total daily average in Indo. And everything after accommodation cost about double what it would be in Canada. It was painful.
We spent our two full days in Singapore just walking around the city and enjoying the sights. The waterfront was especially beautiful in my opinion. The Little India district was also really neat – we enjoyed the street market and temples that it had. We also explored a few malls that seemed to go on for miles and miles.
I can’t really say that I “loved” Singapore. It was way too expensive for us to do anything. And the consumerism was so in-your-face that it left a bad taste in my mouth. But I don’t mean to say that I regret going. It was cool to see all of the space age architecture, and we celebrated our fifth anniversary together in Singapore. More memories that will last a life time.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
For our third Capitol city in a row, we were super excited to arrive in Kuala Lumpur. We knew we were taking a risk by going there because we had heard that the smoke from Sumatra’s forest fires were making it hazy. But our plan had been to do Malaysia next, so we decided to go for it anyway.
The smoke was bad. Really bad. By the time we got off of our bus from Singapore, we knew we wouldn’t be there long. Visibility was very poor and you could feel the smoke in your lungs when you took a breath. Determined to not let the smoke get us down, we really did a great job of still enjoying the city. As always, we spent our first day getting our bearings by exploring the city on foot. It was another amazingly beautiful city filled with one of a kind buildings. Seriously Calgary, let’s try something other than a glass rectangle for a change!
This pic shows how bad the smoke was:
The next day we checked out the Batu Caves. A bit of a tourist trap, but really cool none the less. Plus there were monkeys which tend to steal the show sometimes.
But due to the smoke, and how much we value our lungs, we decided to head to Thailand until the smoke clears. We promise to be back soon Malaysia! Maybe for Christmas?
Koh Chang, Thailand
We flew from KL to Bangkok (4th Capitol in a row), but this time we high-tailed it out of there. An 8 hour car/ferry ride got us to the island called Koh Chang, located in the Gulf of Thailand. Annnnnd this will be my last blog post because I’m NEVER leaving. We have been here for three days now and we have already fallen into a comfortable routine of sleeping in, doing yoga, relaxing on the beach, having a romantic dinner, then going out partying. What more could I ask for!?
Only 26 more days until Alex & Colby get here. Seriously so excited for their arrival!
Sending all my love to my family and friends back home. Miss you guys! Quit your jobs and come join us please…
P.S. I was just kidding Mom – I’ll keep blogging