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Bali and Gilis...

...my final week in Indonesia...and in south-east Asia...at least until next time!

Bali. A word or destination that many people hear these days and grimace about skeptically. After they say “don’t take drugs” of course… Nevertheless, I was looking forward to a week of relaxing and party before coming to grips with the reality that it was almost time for me to return to the real world.

I met Lena in Bali and we stayed in Kuta. It was actually a good spot though as the place was really nice, right near the beach and the cheap shopping and where you go out and what not, but wasn’t right in the middle of the trashy going out district. Which lets face it was trashy, but that can be fun from time to time. And to be fair, it was not much different to places such as Chewang Beach in Koh Samui.

The people in Bali were really just as lovely as everywhere else we’d been in Indonesia, if not more lovely as they are used to drunk Aussie bogans hurling abuse at them unfortunately. We would speak Bahasa and they would say “oh, you’re so polite!” even if it was just “ma kasih” (the shortened version of thankyou). Definitely didn’t have the problem of being accosted and held for photos and autographs in Bali that seems to be the case in the rest of Indonesia, although one Indonesian lady, who seemed quite out of place in Bali (which is predominantly Hindu – literally it’s like going to another country compared to Java) did accost me in front of the memorial and practically hold me down until she got her photo.

I expected to see the memorial, but it haunted me quite a bit to see it, which I didn’t expect. Mainly because there are groups of people posing for photos in front of it, as they drunkenly stumble on their way to a big night out, similar to how the victims of the bombings would have been. As you drive past the places that have been built from both the 2002 and 2005 bombings (only the Sari Club hasn’t been rebuilt – can’t say I’d want to go to it though, or any of the places that they have redone for that matter) the taxi drives point them out and say “Bali bomb 1” or “Bali bomb 2”. Also security in that place is crazy, but it’s good. There are boom gates across every driveway, and security guards check under the cars with mirrors, and check the boot and doors for trip wires before a car can drive in anywhere. Also all bags are scanned or searched before entering anywhere, and guys are patted down when going into clubs (although bribery is still rife, and I heard of one guy who managed to pay a security guard off to avoid a strip search as apparently they suspected him for carrying drugs). Still sometimes I wonder – one security guard inspected one of the girls’ boxes of tampons for an unusually long amount of time!

I guess the threat is always there, but unfortunately for the victims of the bombings I fear it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I guess it’s up to the individual to decide how much the threat of extremists is going to stop them from going places that they want to go and doing things they want to do. But as for all of the stories that make the front page of Australian newspapers claiming that Aussie tourists have been bashed and assaulted by Indonesians, I can guarantee the Indonesians wouldn’t have started it. They want us there! I was in a taxi with Jenee and Talia (the Kiwis) one night, and he asked where we were from. They said “Selandia Baru” and I said “Australie”. As soon as I said that he said “Bagus! Australia means good money for me!”

We barely spent any time at Kuta during the day, unless it was at our infinity pool on the top level of our hotel that looked out over the sea (so how could you blame us?!) There was a mini-ACICIS crew heading to Bali from Jakarta, so we all got to hang out with each other and our respective friends who had come over from home to meet us, and it was a lot of fun. During the day we went to places like Ulu Watu, Padang-Padang beach, Dreamland beach (apparently not so dreamy as Lena got stung by a jellyfish there…although it was stunning), Ubud and it’s surrounding rice paddies, Candi Dasa, where I went snorkeling…I will write that again for effect/in case you though you misread it – where I went snorkeling! Yes that’s right people. There are photos on my Facebook to prove it. And there’s more where that came from.

Everyone knows Bali can be done very cheaply, and this isn’t just if you stay in a dive, don’t eat and do nothing but lie on the beach and get sunburnt. No joke, going out every place has promotions like ‘buy one, get one free’ and ‘free welcome drink’, but my favourite was Sky Garden, where shamefully I admit I went every night whilst staying in Kuta, purely because of the free drinks on offer every night for an hour for guys and an hour-and-a-half for girls. The place we went all the time had three levels – the Asian level, the old men level, and the free drinks level where all the ‘normal’ people (a.k.a. Aussies) hung. If you are smart, you wont buy any drinks at all. Most nights we were smart. But if you are not smart you are in big trip, seeing as most of the drinks you buy are about $6 with 3 shots each in them!

A couple of nights we decided to exude a little bit of class at a posh bar in Seminyak before heading out. One of them was Talia’s birthday, which ironically was also Valentine’s Day. Best night out in Bali for sheezy. We started off at Potato Head, a renowned bar in Seminyak that everybody had told us we ‘had’ to go to. And OMG it’s amazing! For those of you who has seen episode 1, season 2 of Gossip Girl (and yes I am exercising my GG knowledge and writing skills at the same time here) picture the white party! There’s an infinity pool with a swim up bar that is right on the beach and then a big lawn area and a DJ and tables by the pool and then a restaurant. And to top it all off, it was the most amazing sunset I think I have ever seen! Being Talia’s birthday and all, we splurged and ate dinner there, but it was quite funny having this long table and a loud group of Aussies (and Kiwis) when everyone else was sitting around in tables of two, talking quietly by hushed candle light. What made it equally as funny was that it was me, Talia, Jenee, Ella, Kate Raous (all from ACICIS), Ella’s two friends, Ellie and Kaitlin, and then Ben. The only boy at the table, happily sipping away on cocktails with the rest of us, completely comfortable with his sexuality. Then as we were leaving some middle-aged man commented something along the lines of “he must be having a good Valentine’s Day”, so we decided to propose in an appropriately cheesy, ‘The Batchelor’-style Valentine’s Day-special, type photo. I don’t have it, but I wish I did…stay tuned…hilarious…

Being the pov people that we are (may I point out that we weren’t aware of the free-drinks scenario at this stage) we went back to where Kate was staying with her mum and her sister (as they had their own private pool!) to have beers and birthday cake. We got a bit too carried away with the pres, so much so that we missed the free drinks! Meaning that we HAD to resort to the three-shot drink option. I didn’t take any photos that night but I feel like other peoples on Facebook will say what else needs to be said. However, it was a very fun night. I’m jealous, I want my birthday to be on Valentine’s Day!

Towards the end of the week, everyone was either heading home or to the Gili Islands, off Lombok. After much deliberation and a flood of messages telling us how amazing the Gilis were, Lena and I decided to make an impromptu trip there for two nights. And thank God we did, as it is literally paradise! There are several Gili Islands. We went to Gili Trawangan, which is meant to be the ‘party Gili’, which don’t get me wrong, it is, but it’s no Bali or Koh Samui or Koh Phangan (at least not yet), which is awesome. The only form of transport on the island are pushies and these little horse and cart things, so in a way, it really is quite remote. Talia and I rode around the island one day and it took us about an hour, which included stopping to take copious amounts of photos, as it truly was so beautiful.

Unless you’re really into diving, there’s not a whole lot to do on the island besides lying on the beach and going out, which is awesome! Although be proud – I did do more snorkeling, and one day we possibly think we saw a shark (which Talia was very excited about because she loves sharks, me however, no so much…) There are also copious amounts of beachside bars around the island, where you can go and have a Bintang and watch the sunset over the volcanoes of Bali. Another easy way to pass time. Although riding home can be somewhat of an adventure…

I really wish I could just explain how amazing Gilis was, but unfortunately my writing (and photographic) talents cannot do them justice…so you’ll just have to go there! And take me – I want to go back!

And then just like that, four months came to an end. And I’ve never wanted to go home less. Similar to how I was upset about leaving home back in October, because I was scared everything would change while I was gone (even though I should know by now that it never does!) I had tears in my eyes in the cab on the way to Denpasar airport. (I know that you should never trust emotional writers, but this is true!) Sure I’m excited to sleep in my own bed, and see my Mum and my friends and eat rice crackers and cheese, but it would be nice if I could just go home and do that for a week, repack my bag so I have a new batch of five t-shirts to wear for the next few months, and head back out into the world again. But unfortunately tidak funds and the fact that I would like to finish uni in under the six-year time-frame, are preventing me from this at the moment, so I will just have to take comfort in the fact that the reason I’m so sad at the prospect of going home is because I had more fun than I ever thought was possible. So without being too sentimental and soppy, thanks to each and every person I encountered on my journey – I will never forget our crazy antics and the amazing experiences that we shared, and wherever you all live in the world, I aim to re-enact them again with you all, STAT! So until then, look me up if you’re in Melbourne (as as much as I don’t want to go home, it truly is the best city in the world!). And if you ever need a travel buddy (and I haven’t annoyed you to death just yet), I’m there!

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Cahill.

xoxo

Posted by ljmac2 04:00 Archived in Indonesia Tagged beaches melbourne snorkelling taxi sunset bali beach volcanoes memorial security english bars scuba_diving lombok kuta dreamland ubud seminyak gilis gili_trawangan gili_islands bahasa_indonesia bali_bombings pedang-pedang candi_dasa acicis infinity_pool potato_head Comments (0)

My final week in Jakarta...

...and second last week in Indo :(

Now it’s time to cast my mind back to those last fond Jakartan memories. I never actually thought I’d use the terms ‘Jakarta’ and ‘fond memories’ in the one sentence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough city to live in, but with the right crew, you can have a lot of fun.

So work that week was actually quite tough for me (comparatively) seeing as wait for it, I had to source my own stories, and didn’t just get the press conferences or contacts handed to me. This meant that it was a much less productive week for me (I only got two or three stories published) but still a fair effort. I also spent a fair bit of time posting things I though were incredibly witty on the ACICIS page on Facebook (well at least I thought they were) as I was doing my research…oh that’s one thing I’ll definitely miss about ACICIS…how witty we all thought we were posting articles or incredulous blogs or embarrassing photos of each other on Facebook whilst we were meant to be working. And don’t deny it – you all did it! Anyway, I found my story, got the article published (even with a really dodgy photo that I took and got the credit for), and also got an opinion piece and an article, believe it or not about gym, published that week, so it was a good work week.

Outside of work, it was a week of ‘lasts’. Last of our kos meetings (which really just consisted of eating oreos and dancing to Beyonce), last week of eating at our local warung, last week of going to the canteen lady at work and ordering ‘satu’ strawberry juice and ‘satu’ Silver Queen. However, it was also a week of a few out of the ordinary activities. For instance, Royksopp. It was friggin amazing. Actually it was more than just Royksopp, it was like a whole festival thing (where the tickets cost $35!) but Royksopp were headlining, and the only other band I had actually heard of that played were Bag Raiders. Still it was awesome. Much different to festivals at home which are held in parks or showgrounds, large open spaces that are in the city but in places that are supposed to be as resident-friendly as possible, this gig was held in a shopping centre carpark, surrounded by a select group of Jakarta’s many skyscrapers. It was a tiny space compared to what we’re used to at home, but unlike the rest of Jakarta, it was immaculate. They had rolled out fake grass, and amongst other quirky things there was a bar (this is quirky for Jakarta), free photos booths, stickers that people could wear to indicate their relationship status (e.g. “single and ready to mingle”), and wait for it, girls that gave out free cigarettes. And you wonder why Jakarta is not a very healthy city to live in… However, Royksopp, the reason we were there, was amazing. I can’t actually describe it, but no joke, one of the best live gigs ever. Once again we thought the whole crowd was really going off and totally into it, but they were probably all just standing there, bobbing and videoing on their phones whilst us crazy ‘bule’ chanted ‘satu lagi, satu lagi’ (one more song) for a good few minutes. Once again, we all thought we were tres witty.

The next day was a bit of a blur, due to the craziness of the night before, but I would like to point out that on my last day of work (and the day after Royksopp mind you!) I worked until 10pm! So yes. Dedication much? Or maybe nerd much…

Friday was a day of ceremonial proceedings and goodbyes. The Jakarta Post invited us for lunch to talk to us about how our experience had been there and what not, but mainly they just wanted to hear our stories of how we had found Jakarta as ‘bule’. And they laughed at us a lot. I think that’s actually why they gave us a free lunch…

Then we had to go back into Atma Jaya for some ceremony where basically the point of it was to get out certificate and our transcript from language class, and wait for it, duh duh duh, guess who got 100%? Yes that’s right, yours truly. Oh if only Signora Simoncini (my year 12 Italian teacher could see me now). Saya fludent di Bahasa Indonesia (except for the word fluent apparently…) So it seems I can learn other languages, maybe it’s just that two weeks is my limit. And remember how I said how me and the guy sitting next to me in the test (Ben – I guess he’s worthy of getting his name mentioned in here by now…) were talking during the test and our teacher thought it was hilarious? Well guess who got second top of the class…oh yeah.

Then that night was the shindig at the Australian Ambassador’s house. First funny thing about that was that the dress code on the invitation said “lounge suit or Batik”. Firstly, what the hell is a lounge suit?! And secondly, wearing Batik is like wearing a Hawaiian shirt – how is that Ambassador – appropriate?! There were a lot of us there, as there are people who do ACICIS programs in Indonesia for the whole year and all ACICIS students were invited. However, they had to do performances and stuff, so we had the luxury of making the most of the free alcohol. This was a very exciting prospect for us. However too exciting for some, as wine was served (Shaw and Smith to be exact) and not having drunk wine for six weeks, we got a bit excited. We literally drank him out of wine. They had to go down to the cellar to get more, and then they had to go down again, only to find out that it was all gone. Don’t think some of the official ACICIS people were too pleased. However the Ambassador himself seemed like a true Aussie bloke who loved a good beer (or wine), so at least he didn’t seem to mind. Only problem was that the Ambassador’s house was meant to be our pre-drinking location for our final night out, and some people didn’t even make it out. Some did but probably shouldn’t have. So props to those of you who lasted until 6.30am – bagus effort!

Being the intelligent person that I am, I foresaw this potential problem, and so had not booked my flight to Bali until the Sunday, meaning that I had all of Sunday to recover and pack up my room. To be honest, this had to be done in half hour shifts, but I got it done. Then that night, those of us left caught up for a ‘quiet one’ and the Beer Garden in Kemang. It was a quiet one comparatively to the night before, but still, I didn’t get home until 3.30am! I felt quite sad that night actually. I was the only one left at my kos and there was such a small group of us out. Unfortunately due to many of our antics the night before, not many people got to say proper goodbyes. But luckily, compared to with my time in Siem Reap, most people on ACICIS live in Australia, and a large proportion of this is Melbourne. So I shouldn’t complain.

There are a lot of things I won’t miss about Jakarta. The traffic. The taxi drivers who drive past with their light on and don’t stop. The taxi drivers who don’t know where they’re going. They taxi drivers who say they know where they’re going but don’t know where they’re going. Well to be fair, most of my issues with Jakarta were with the traffic and the further problems that that causes. (Oh and the prayers – did I say that at our local mosque in the last week during the prayers they said “Australia New Zealand” in English? They must have been talking about us, counting down the days until our departure…) But there are many things I will miss. Warung food. Ojek rides. Hearing “hello Mister” as I leave my kos every day. Crazy gigs like Foster and Royksopp that I would probably never be able to afford to go to at home. And of course all of the amazing people I met and friends I’ve made. Honestly after my time in Siem Reap I didn’t think it was possible to have that much fun again, and I won’t deny that it was a polar-opposite type of different experience, but I had an absolute ball. To everyone I met whilst in Jakarta, thanks, it’s been a pleasure. (And of course the obligatory “sorry for whatever it was I did last night/thanks for taking me home”). And I sincerely hope that we all do keep in touch via the miracle of Facebook, which we all managed to spend so much time on whilst earning us those credit points, and when we visit each other’s cities. So until next time teman-teman saya…terima kasih banyak. xxxx

Posted by ljmac2 03:46 Archived in Indonesia Tagged buildings people parties planes mosque taxi jakarta indonesia siem_reap festival wine bars kos prayers beer_garden batik atma_jaya jakarta_post australian_ambassador ambassador's_house lounge_suit kemang ojek royksopp foster_the_people bag_riders Comments (0)

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