Indonesia: Bali and Jakarta

Trip Start Aug 18, 2010
Trip End Aug 31, 2011

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

I have to start with some apologies as there is a massive 6 month gap covering my time from Melbourne, Australia which I will update down the line but without doubt Melbourne was one of the most interesting, fun and socially busy times of my life. I love that city and was fortunate to meet some great people in my time there but sadly, like most good things, it came to an end. What I will do is write a few entries to try and capture my time there retrospectively but now that I am on the road again travelling through South east Asia I will write about what's fresh and current and try to keep these entries as current and regular as possible, internet accessibility and time allowing of course.

So as a very brief recap, my time in Melbourne and Australia came to an end on November 19 when my one year working visa had been fulfilled. The last 4-6 weeks in Melbourne was chaotic and busy to say the least, with festivals, nights out and as my time neared an end, an assortment of farewell festivities. I had decided about a month out from my visa’s end to join two Irish friends on their trip to Indonesia and do some proper SE Asia travelling as it’s the continent I have this far ignored the most. So with mixed feelings, a broken liver and sleep deprived body I made my way to the Tullamarine Melbourne International airport on a fresh Monday morning on the 19th November armed with  my backpack and laptop bag and set off for the first stop; Bali.

I was absolutely shattered on my flight and was pretty happy it was a direct flight from Melbourne to Denpasar. I was also armed with loads of tips of things to do from work colleagues as Bali is an extremely popular Australian holiday destination and several of my colleagues had recently spent time on the island. So as I departed the plane on arrival in the mid afternoon humidity and sun I quickly got a weather reality check, with sweat beads pouring off my scalp I collected my bags and ventured outside to fight the vulture taxi drivers (with the handy tip of guestimated price range for a taxi) and of course the drivers were asking for treble but I stood my ground and paid what I was told was appropriate (still crazy cheap compared to Australia!).

The driver took me to his van, alongside which some locals were happily sipping away at some homebrew spirits which they offered, I had a swig of and nearly emptied my stomach as a result of. The drive from the airport to the pre booked hotel was interesting, my first glimpse of the chaos of driving in Bali, scooters and bikes cris-crossing between trucks and cars, all known rules of the road easily forgotten and somehow accidents averted. The drive was a long one as the traffic was pretty bad and we took shortcuts through all kinds of hazardous alleyways which were actually roads, the ever present honking of the horn letting those coming around the blind corners that we were speeding towards them. Anyways a few hazards later and I arrived at my hotel, at which my two Irish mates, Darren and Oliver had already been staying at for a few days. I checked in, was shown to my room and crashed out on the bed.

A couple hours later, reception buzzed my room as Olly was looking for me, and he came up with a friend in tow, a young Canadian called Riley. With the introductions made, we walked our way down to the beach, through a maze of back alleys and stopped by one of the guys favorite eating, or should I say staff watching spots called Sandbar. Olly and Darren had a holiday in Bali in August and had pretty much not stopped raving about it until this trip, so there were some high levels of expectations. Sand Bar was right near the beach  and had good food but the main attraction was the tightly clad staff who got more than a few stares from the Bule’s (Westerners) walking past. A mutual friend of Olly and Darren’s, William joined us at the Sand Bar. William lives on Bali and is dating a local girl but works in Australia on a fly in, fly out job, which is a tough life coming back here every 3 weeks (not)!

After a small bite we ventured the 1 minute down to the beach, where William knew a few local vendors and we got seats on the beach and served cold Bintangs (beers), the first of many on this trip. It was pretty idyllic; surf in front of us, hot sun above and cheap beers in hand. The Holiday had truly arrived. Williams’s partner, Bella joined us and after being mysteriously absent Darren finally arrived telling tales of his long night out and hook up. We spent a while chatting and then headed back for showers and agreed to meet up for dinner at a place called Havana club, which of course was Cuban themed. It was still muggy and warm by nightfall and we had an early start the following day, as we had all booked a trip to go to an island called Gili. I needed the chilled break after some heavy social weeks and it sounded like the guys had been over indulging too the few days they had been on Bali so after a decent meal we called it a night.

With a 6:30 pickup and another manic 2 hour drive through the crazy streets of Kuta we eventually made it to our destination, stopping at Padang Bai harbour where we had some much needed breakfast; a strong black coffee with condensed milk and banana pancakes( the first of many in Asia). After the brief stop and booking in with our fast boat service which would stop by the island of Lombok before arriving at our destination Gili Island, famous for not having any motorbikes, cars or police! The journey was a little crammed and extremely hot, so William and myself ascended to the roof of the boat where we got slightly burned and witnessed our near collision with massive ship hauling timber and minerals from Australia to China. These were busy shipping channels and apparently our captain slowed down for no-one!

Once we arrived at Gili, with the boat launching onto the beach itself, we disembarked and collected out bags while swatting away an army of locals trying to sell us a deal on accommodation and tours. With a bit of haggling we decided on some accommodation that looked decent but after the long sweaty walk decided against it as it was too far from the beach and made our way back to haggle again and got a decent price on a place closer to the bars and beach. Our home for the next 3 nights would be the aptly named "Beautiful Life" Hotel. It cost me only $10 per night for my own room with a fan and included breakfast. The manager and the staff were great fun and all of them “gangsters” as the Irish lads labeled them. The first day was pretty chilled and we scouted the area down the main road along the beach and shops, narrowly avoiding any of the many horse drawn carriages that is the main form of transport on Gili. The island is a bohemian and hippie dream with ample mushrooms on sale, little modernity and ni obvious police presence, albeit there is massive development going on and its unlikely to stay that way for long.

We made our way down to the main beach, packed with tourists on a unbearably hot and sunny afternoon and after a few hours and some Satay snacks headed back for an afternoon nap. I woke up before the rest and caught my first island sunset of course made slightly less picturesque by the nearby German tourists who would become the nation at the butt end of most of our jokes on the trip That night we made it out for the first of many great meals, with incredibly fresh sea food and moderate prices but the nightlife was severely lacking and Darren an Olly were having some Kuta withdrawal symptoms pining for the nightlife in Bali, I was Ok with the downtime!

The next day was spent relaxing in hammocks or on the beach, swimming, eating and a tad bit of exercise as we walked the main strip. After another afternoon rest we hit the night markets and had some great food super cheap and went back to the rooms for some pre drinks as Wednesday was due to be a big night. We took the short walk to the Irish bar which was much busier than the previous night. Although there were some really random and odd people about what was stranger was how the local Indonesians hung on the outskirts of the bars and dance floor circling the westerners as they drank and partied away. Anyway it was a a decent night out for a chilled island, even pleasing Darren!

We had decided to book a snorkel trip on our last day, but having a big night out the evening before probably want a smart move for a 8AM trip! After a hasty breakfast we headed out with a group of about 25-30 people and with some sore heads collected our masks and flippers and after a short trip out to sea we landed at our first sport. The diving was ok but nothing amazing but it was great just being in the water in the scorching sun….we would pay for that later of course. Our second stop was the bets for the diving as we spotted a few turtles and our guide, who is an amazing free diver and could hold his breath for ages also had amazing sight to spot some of the turtles…. Finally we stopped for lunch at another island, not before Darren had emptied is stomach contents into the sea while on the dive of course. It was a pretty decent day but little did we know the damage that had been done by the sun and as the evening set in we all turned red and toasty.

The last night was another fantastic meal, William and I opting for a massive rack of ribs each which were tender and spicy although probably not the best bet for the Bali Belly which had set in a couple days before! We had also started buying the cheap and delicious ice creams for about $1.50 each with each shout from the vendor of “ice cream” Olly responding with “You scream we all scream” which would without fail crack the vendor up. We were burned and beat but I had enjoyed the chill out time, but much like the other guys was pretty keen to get back to Bali and see if the nightlife lived up to the hype. The next day was the repeat journey back, via fats boat, scorching sun and bus and we booked into a great little budget hotel only a couple minutes away from the beach and the main party strip in Kuta.

My first night out, became a routine of our nights out, as we had a afternoon rest then headed out for a decent meal and started with a few drinks at a place called espressos. There was a  live cover band which did a job ranging from great to terribly depending on the song but the bar was always busy and had plenty of odd balls. The staff knew the guys already and we always had decent service as we had a few beers and then a jungle juice, a massive container filled with a mix of spirits and orange juice which certainly helped get the night going. One of the locals was Andy the mute who Darren and olly knew and we had some interesting written conversations with him before leaving Espressos at around !M and heading to the guys favorite place, SkyGarden.

It happened to be Australian Schoolies week, like the US version of Spring break for those who have finished high school and thousands of the annoying-  can’t handle their drink and eager to get into fights-  young Australians - were in Bali. Luckily because we headed out quite late most of them were already heading to sleep from a long day of drinking. We stopped by one other club which was a glimpse for me that I was going to be out of my comfort zone as the places were all dance music, strobe lights mayhem. Skygarden has several floors and most of the westerners cling to the top floor, while we hung about the second floor which was a weird mix of dancers, working girls and locals and offered plenty of people watching opportunities. There was also a massive domed dance floor with apparently some famous DJs, but this was not my world so it could have been anyone. We ended the nights around 5 or 6 am there and had the short walk or taxi bike back to the hostel for some much needed sleep. Oh one thing that kept the nigh going was the Extra Josh, a energy supplement you buy in the shops which was basically a massive sugar high.

The days were spent lounging at the pool, shopping for dodgy fake goods and haggling over prices with the irritating “Heeey Maaate” coming from the vendors assuming we were all Australians. We visited some shopping malls and had decent food but the whole place is like a mini tropical foreign Australia.

On one of our last night’s we joined William and Bella for dinner at their place before we bid them goodbye. The dinner was a mix of cheap local foods and super tasty. They do know how to make killer Sate in Indonesia! That night it was just Darren and myself who ventured out and after another late finish we hung out with some of the working girls who we knew from the club (no, not like that). They were just ridiculously good fun or Craic as they taunted the western guys and were all kinds of inappropriate funny.

The Last day I had chatted to the guys about going on a day trip which would take us to the south of the island which we all agreed on. We headed out to some beaches near Nusa Dua which had some fancy resorts and decent beaches before stopping for a bite to eat being entertained by the squirrels in the nearby trees. Then made our way to another beach which was my favorite but I didn’t catch the name of. It was located at the bottom of some steep steps shouldered by some decent cliffs, but the little bay was jam-packed with people, white sands and easy swimming clear waters. Our final stop took us to the temple at uluwatu which was built along some massive cliffs overlooking the seas. The temple itself was not that amazing but the views from the cliff tops and the sunset were. There were some local traditional dances and singing going on nearby and the fishing fleet came into view below us as the sun faded. The whole place would be pretty tranquil if it wasn’t for the overcrowded tourism and the monkeys who try and steal anything and everything off your person!

Our last night in Kuta was very civilized as we had a flight in the morning to take us to Jakarta which was a bit of an unknown quantity. We arrived at the airport in good time and what would be my first Air Asia flight was mightily impressive. Attractive staff and brand new planes greeted us for our short 2 hour journey from Bali to Jakarta, we had been pre warned however about the atrocious traffic on the Jakarta side and the warnings weren’t hollow as it took us over 2 hours to get from the airport to the hotel! The guys had pre booked into a hotel but I was hoping for something cheaper and although the place I found was decent enough, first impressions did make it look a bit dodgy. The street it was on was lively enough but had a good vibe and the rooms although not grandiose would do fine for a few nights.

We headed out that night by taxi to a Irish bar, in the south of the city as there were meant to be a few good places to go out to in the area. There obviously aren’t as many westerners that venture to Jakarta as they do to Bali as we got plenty of stares. After a few hours at the Irish bat listening to another semi decent cover band we tried a couple place nearby but both were pretty empty so we headed to a club the guys had researched called X2. It wasn’t cheap and it was very fancy and apparently a place some of the cities VIP like to hang out at which explained the prices. It was OK although again not my scene and at around 4AM called it a night and cabbed it back for some much needed sleep.

The following day we explored some nearby shopping centers, and believe me this city loves its shopping centers!  Later that evening we tried a local bar which was great called Mellys. It was full of locals which is what we wanted and had well priced drinks. After a few hours and Darren falling off his chair we decided to head to a club called Red Square. It was located right near X2 but was a different vibe and great fun. With bartenders blowing flames and the girls dancing on the center stage within a short time after arriving we got chatting to some locals and after a few drinks decided to join them at another club called Stadium, which is the biggest club in Jakarta. We had mixed opinions about leaving as we were all enjoying Red Square, but took the offer of a free lift.

Stadium was in hindsight a mistake. It felt like a weird dance cult had setup, the place opens on Thursday and closes on Sunday and you can see all kind of tripped out people in the dark and gloomy building. Lining the entrance are working girls with pimps in tow, it all very seedy. In the middle of this all military police came in at some point and escorted some people away too so all in all it was very weird and surreal. Once again I decided to leave the guys there and made it home after some haggling with the taxi drivers. Apparently by the time the guys left there was a massive line outside waiting to get in, and that was 6AM…. Clubbers- don’t get them.

Our final full day was spent chilling in the morning before we headed to a massive shopping complex called M Block. There are loads of malls ranging from the expensive to the fake DVD variety, but was weird throughout was the sound of Christmas Carols and fake snowmen and trees scattered throughout, mainly as it’s a predominantly Buddhist and Muslim city, but also the sweltering heat adding to the non Xmas feel. We repeated the evening by going to Mellys and Red Square, although it was good it wasn’t as good as the night before. The next morning Darren left us to head back to Ireland and Olly and myself chilled out. The final morning was spent doing some admin stuff like getting some passport photos taken for my Vietnam trip and printing boarding passes. We totally overestimated the time it would take us to get to the airport this time round and had some serious time to kill at a not very exciting Jakarta airport.

Finally though it was time for Olly and me to say our goodbyes as he is heading back to Ireland via Australia and I was to start my solo adventure in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh, here I come.
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Gary on

So awesome ;D

Chris on

Sounds like great fun! Enjoy your further adventures :D

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