It was hot and muggy in Java and after a week inland we decided it was time to head to Bali. We rented surfboards and spent the week being humbled by the beach break that makes Kuta one of the best places on earth to learn to surf. Unfortunately, Kuta is also known worldwide as the sight of the deadly Bali bombings, and while we felt perfectly safe, it was painful to see the dramatic effects of terrorism on the tourist trade. Kuta is comprised of wall-to-wall shops, restaurants and bars, all virtually empty - it was as though the city had planned a big party and nobody showed up. We did our best to fuel the local economy, but mounting vet bills from home had further diminished our already meager backpacker's budget. After extensive blood tests, x-rays and surgery, Jesse Jane, our beloved Golden Retriever, was diagnosed with canine expensivitis, a chronic condition endemic among dogs in the Brody/Flynn families. The treatment involves daily infusions of cash, and thanks to the tireless efforts of Nurse Karen and our Platinum Visa card, Jesse's prognosis is good.
On the much-anticipated day of her arrival from Portland, we vacated our flee-bag room, picked our good friend Kristin up at the airport and whisked her away to the upscale hotel we chose for the occasion
. We sat atop bar stools submerged in the pool, basking in the warm sun and KK's company while sipping on ice-cold Bintang beers, thus kicking off a ten-day fun-filled odyssey around Bali. Kris showed off her west coast surf moves before we left Kuta for Dreamland, an idyllic beach on the southern tip of the island. From there we made tracks for Padangbai, a fishing village up the east coast where we snorkeled in the azure waters of the Blue Lagoon, the ladies ate fresh sea food and we all fell prey to our first Arak Attack - a local liquor that we have concluded after much investigation tastes terrible regardless of how it's mixed. Leaving the ocean behind we headed inland for Ubud, where we browsed the endless boutiques and art galleries, took in an evening of traditional Balinese dance, cycled through lush rice paddies and pampered ourselves at one of the countless local spas. Exhausted from satisfying our every hedonistic whim, we were shocked to discover that our time in Bali was almost up. Back in Kuta, we returned to our barstools in the pool for one last Bintang binge and a bittersweet post-mortem of our amazing time together. And just like that KK was on her way back to the airport, leaving us to prepare for our epic journey to Mexico.
We flew from Bali to Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, where we curled up on some comfort-free chairs to wait out the midnight-to-7am layover
. We managed to fall into some semblance of slumber just in time for the Singapore S.W.A.T team's transit lounge shake down. Surrounded by Uzi-wielding men in riot gear we hastily displayed passports and boarding passes. At long last we boarded a plane for a 17-hour journey to LAX, where surly security guards and super-sized everything let us know that we were back in the good ol' U.S.A. Before we could get used to flush toilets and drinkable water we were back in the air en route to Mexico City where we caught a couple much-needed z's before catching a bus to Oaxaca the next morning.
Needless to say, it's all a bit of a culture shock, but the fresh Mexican food, cold margaritas and vibrant plazas are helping us adjust to being back on the American continent. We plan to hang here for a couple days before making the 16-hour bus journey south to Antigua, Guatemala. Adios for now...
The Indonesians on our flight from Malaysia to Java introduced us to a new form of plane passenger etiquette. They bum-rushed the boarding gate, used cell phones throughout the flight, and launched out of their seats the moment we landed - all of which seemed perfectly reasonable in comparison to the scene we faced once we disembarked and entered the chaos of the airport. A power outage had plunged the entire place into darkness, forcing customs and immigration officials to use their cell phones to illuminate passports for inspection. The pandemonium of the baggage claim process persisted even as the power was restored, and once the official government bureau de change agent and authorized taxi driver had legally robbed us blind, we made our way to town. The rain-soaked streets were devoid of any signage, and we found ourselves wandering through pitch-black back alleys in search of lodging. We eventually settled in to a sprawling colonial era hotel, and spent the next couple days wandering the congested streets of Solo before hopping a train north to Yogakarta to battle silver-smiths and batik peddlers, and to see the ruins of the ancient Buddhist Borobadur temple