A Travellerspoint blog

May 2012

Chapter sixty two - Singapore

The urban jungle

semi-overcast 30 °C

Day 228: Singapore 14/05/2012

Shhh, I have a dirty secret to confess to. Today, we had both a McDonald's and a Burger King. I feel sick even thinking about it. This is how this happened. We got up at seven for our taxi to the airport, where we take the opportunity to grab some breakfast, and for the sake of convenience and cost a sausage and egg McMuffin ticks all the boxes. We check out the airport and before we know it we have arrived in Singapore, the smallest state of our tour so far. Amazing how green it looks from the air.

The airport is incredible - so clean, efficient in a way Heathrow can only dream of and free wifi to go with the range of designer shops. We talk to the woman on the visitor information desk, who might be the most helpful person I have ever met. At this point we take the chance to sit down and decide where we want to go and occupy a seat in Burger King with the sole intention of having a drink and a pore over the map. I order two soft drinks and somehow a Whopper and a chicken burger present themselves in front of me. Shocking.

Anyway, find a room easily enough after a ride on the ultra efficient underground system and after a shower and a check online, we go exploring. Have a bit of a heart to heart in a park and eventually find our way onto the marina bay, seeing Singapore for the beautiful, modern city that it is. There are lots of nice green spaces and an abundance of sleek, smooth buildings. End up in a shopping mall full of stuff we will never be able to afford, before watching the daily light and water show that is shown on the waterfront. We walk back (via the most pedestrian unfriendly route ever) and have a Chinese served by the rudest person seen yet.

Day 229: Singapore 15/05/2012

Arise for our only scheduled full day in Singapore and after a quick breakfast we are back up and out. Some crazy, weird Americans staying at our place. Must avoid.

We stroll to the MRT station nearby and jump on the train to Kranji, where we will get the shuttle bus to the nearby frog farm care of the local countryside alliance. A bit of a wait for the bus so we have the cheapest lunch yet, costs about two quid, and we are soon at the frog farm, where the noise of the bull frogs is deafening.

Take the train back to Orchard Road, a very upmarket part of town, with all the designer shops you could ever want. A McDonalds hot fudge ice cream sundae and I manage to get some shorts that actually fit me! We then proceed to walk and walk and walk around Singapore, stopping only get changed back at the room. We pass thousands of people queuing for a video game release and head back to the bay to watch the light show again and get some photos of the incredible cityscape. An incredible city with so much going on - a huge arts festival due to open the day after we leave, which we see people rehearsing for, and after a very late dinner we get back to the room after midnight after what seems like twelve hours plus of walking. Both would like to spend a bit longer here.

Posted by tevs 05:06 Archived in Singapore Tagged singapore city marina_bay_sands Comments (0)

Chapter sixty one - Kuta

Paradise to hell in one foul swoop

overcast 25 °C

Day 227: Kuta, Bali, Indonesia 13/05/2012

Up at 7am with heavy hearts - we don't want to leave the Gilis! Bloody visas. After a quick breakfast we were on the beach waiting for the shuttle boat across to Lombok for the ferry across to Bali. Funnily enough we are on the boat with an Aussie couple that arrived on the same boat across to Gili as us (though they originally succumbed to the horse and trap con). However, wise to the horse and cart trick, we walk to the bus point with them.

Messed around a little bit - bumped from one minibus to another (seems everyone is being pissed about to be fair). Wait for the ferry with about a thousand other travellers taking the same route, with backpacks, surfboards and suntans aplenty. The ferry ride across is eventful with everyone flocking to the back to watch a huge crane being loaded onto the boat. Rough seas saw motorbikes parked on the lower deck falling over and the crane rocking violently from side to side. Cue a man straddling the crane - with no regard for health and safety - tying it down with a seriously big rope. Meanwhile, a little boy playing around the sleeping Gemma is sick in her hair and the fourth minibus of the day to take us to Kuta. We arrive about eightish and check in online for our Air Asia flight. Eventually track my family down on skype and find a beautiful, overpriced, grimy shithole to stay in for the night.

Posted by tevs 04:49 Archived in Indonesia Tagged beaches hotels bali indonesia gili_trawangan Comments (0)

Chapter sixty - Gili Trawangan

Paradise. Suppose my brother has to be right about something...

sunny 30 °C

Day 222: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia 08/05/2012

Picked up at 8.30am by the minibus taking us over to Bangsal (the ferry point serving the Gili islands), where we are told to wait at a cafe with a load of other people that have been dropped off for the boat. We are then all told to get ready to go and are taken to a horse and cart 'not included in the price'. We'll walk then. 'But is 1km away and boat is waiting'. The walk is about a hundred and fifty metres and the boat hasn't even arrived yet. Cheeky bastards. Sly.

Cross the water to the biggest of the tiny Gili Islands and once again the scenery is breathtaking, with the mountains of Lombok looming large over the sea. The views of our destination ain't half bad either. Arrive to what seems on the surface to be a really busy beach given the size of the island and we are taken by a tout to a small homestay, which turns out to be fine and at a good price (though the water supply on the island is salty), reached only by passing the nice looking diving resorts that line the beach front. Check in then off to explore.

Wow! This turns out to be about the only thing Billy has ever been right about in his life as Gili Trawangan is stunning. Amazing views across the impossibly blue water to Lombok, Mount Rinjani and the other Gili Islands. Some surfing at one end of the island, some beautiful beaches at the other, no traffic (literally no cars or bikes - just horse and cart) and job's a good'un. Incredible location and the prices are not as high as first feared (as washing is a lot more pricey). Dinner is at an incredible night market, with loads of food stalls, where food cannot get any cheaper. Stuff ourselves silly.

Day 223: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia 09/05/2012

Up, breakfast, out. Successfully haggle the old lady down on our mammoth load of washing, get a great price on a surfboard for the next four days and go for a surf. The waves are not as good as Pangandaran but what a place to do it! Meet Cribbo up the island at the beach where we have lunch and a perfect afternoon on the beach. Told the best surf is late afternoon so take a walk back to the other end of the island, where the low tide and rocky reef mean I turn straight back round to meet Gemma back where I left her. She hasn't moved a muscle.

Dinner again at the night market, before we go for a few very cheap drinks at the local.

Day 224: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia 10/05/2012

An early surf blows away the cobwebs from last night but no such luck for G, who is dying up at the other end of the island. We have lunch and Gemma cannot even finish her 'deliciousy' chicken baguette and fries (so it is left to me to pick up the pieces...) and she eventually perks up. We absolutely love it here - the beach is perfect, it is quiet and the views are amazing. I play a bit of keepy uppy with the locals in the afternoon, somehow running into the odd WBA fan from Sengiggi...Another great night market dinner!

Day 225: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia 11/05/2012

I head off for an early morning surf, and being a lot earlier than usual (and taking the cross island detour) I arrive and the tide is still out, so I go for a walk around the end of the island, which is scenic, deserted and strangely eerie, with a load of abandoned bungalows and cafes left to decay. I eventually get into the waves - the best since getting here - and meet a couple of brothers from Bali who are insanely good at surfing. Funny how living somewhere like that has that effect.

Meet Gem at the beach bar where we have befriended the staff and taught them to play Uno. D'Hiel the barman is pretty good and enjoys screwing everyone over with the +2/+4 cards! We then go for a snorkel and the scenery underwater is incredible. Unbelievable colours, crazy fish and we are lucky enough to see a big sea turtle. However, an urgent call of nature about two minutes after getting into the water sees me have to make a mad dash to the toilet! Disaster averted and we head back in have an awesome time, even Gemma has gotten confident in the water!

Dinner again at the night market, where we meet a couple from the UK and nice guy from Sydney and we go on for drinks at Rudy's again. We meet up with another British couple and proceed to have more than just the one drink we intended...

Day 226: Gili Trawangan, Indonesia 12/05/2012

Well, feel hellish after last night - Rudy's has a lot to answer for. Breakfast helps marginally before we drag ourselves to the beach (surfing is even on the back burner the way we feel). More Uno, a good lunch and we decide to go surfing again. See another great big turtle and follow it around for what seems like ages (so tame), seeing lots more weird and wonderful things under the surface, including novice divers. The heavens open and we get back out to save the stuff from getting soaked. However, we are now freezing as the wind gets up as well and we have to head back to the room to warm up. This takes a while but we get there eventually.

Have a skype session, then have another night market dinner, before walking through the storm to have a drink with our friend at the beach bar. Get back, dry off, bed. Packing the bags is so easy now after our huge clearout in Bukit Lawang. I almost look forward to it now!

Posted by tevs 03:40 Archived in Indonesia Tagged beaches snorkelling indonesia paradise gili_trawangan gili_islands Comments (0)

Chapter fifty nine - Sengiggi

Bank Holiday movie marathon and Baggies

rain 23 °C

Day 219: Sengiggi, Lombok, Indonesia 05/05/2012

After yesterday's long day of travelling and the need for a decent night's kip, we are helpfully delivered breakfast to our room at 6.45am. Thanks, much appreciated. After this we get a couple more hours before we head for the bus station for another long day's travelling. We manage to get a minibus that goes direct to Padangbai (for the ferry to Lombok) and though slightly more expensive than the public bus, takes out the hassle of changing buses. The driving in Bali is marginally less scary in the daylight than at night and before long we arrive at the ferry port, where we are able to book a ticket direct to Sengiggi through a travel agent (boat and taxi). However, Gemma is left fuming as an annoying posh couple seem to have got their tickets to a further destination slightly cheaper than we were told. To cheer her up I buy us a very hot and spicy lunch (which results in me with chilli all over my face on the boat (stingy). Although we are sat in what is basically an open air section of the ferry, we are suffocated by diesel fumes and cigarette smoke. The ferry takes its time (about four and a half hours) but throughout the voyage there are some stunning views of Bali and Lombok, both of which are beautiful islands.

Back on the minibus (where we seem to have spent the last week) to make the final leg of the journey to Sengiggi, travelling through Lombok where the rugged coastline and huge mountain ranges make for a spectacular backdrop for the journey. Incredibly, there is a West Brom fan on the mininus, who on first impressions seems a nice guy. After finally arriving in Sengiggi we manage to find ourselves a little bit of luxury on a budget, checking into a brand new hotel with plasma TV, sofa, huge bed and hot shower. Grab dinner in a roadside cafe made of tarpaulin before watching the FA cup final in the room with a couple of beers with the WBA fan.

Day 220: Sengiggi, Lombok, Indonesia 06/05/2012

Wake up for breakfast and enjoy the luxury of a long hot shower and Fox Movies channel. As we are having breakfast, we see the Albion fan off to check the beach out, aptly kitted out in board shorts, sandals, plastic bag and a fleecy jacket. Turns out he is not so normal but I suppose the writing was on the wall all along you might say. We follow suit (going to the beach that is, not wearing our winter gear) around middayish. It is not a beachy beach, more geared up for watersports, and there are hundreds of locals there (Sunday). Almost as soon as we step foot on the beach the heavens open so we head off for a well earned lunch.

The weather drives us back to our luxurious room and we have a very nice afternoon in front of Fox Movies Premium. We may also both have had a nap. Again Gemma takes it beyond what could reasonably be described as a nap, grabbing a good three hours of shut eye. We have dinner with the Baggies supporter, who kindly agrees to let us use his laptop to skype. Good lad, we think, until 'oh, sorry do you mind if I just...' before logging on to skype himself, having an argument with his mum and throwing my headphones at the table. We end up in the internet cafe opposite.

Day 221: Sengiggi, Lombok, Indonesia 07/05/2012

After breakfast we have a proper Bank Holiday Monday (just like you lucky folks at home) and with Fox Movies Premium in fine form we have a very lazy morning. We head up the road a bit later on to sort out the next leg of the journey and successfully negotiate a good price for the two of us (Rp 40,000 each instead of the advertised Rp 75,000) to get to the Gili Islands (which came highly recommended by Billy). Have a decent lunch - chicken salads all round - and Gemma befriends an iguana that looks uncannily like her...

We buy a new iPod charger as the iPod has magically decided it will accept one, and with a packet of biscuits in hand, we smash the movies for the afternoon. Begrudgingly leave the room for tea and haggle a really good price to get back to Bali from Gili Trawangan from the same guy and have another skype session. More films, more biscuits.

Posted by tevs 03:03 Archived in Indonesia Tagged beaches indonesia lombok sengiggi Comments (0)

Chapter fifty eight - Denpasar

Having a lava in Java

sunny 25 °C

Day 218: Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia 04/05/2012

A very, very early morning (ten to three) is our reward for yesterday's slog and we are out before three, with our trusty poundland head torch, for the walk up Mount Bromo for sunrise. The very early morning is accompanied by a very steep walk and before long we arrive at a very dark and desolate plain to cross to reach the volcanoes.

'Which one is Bromo?' Gemma asks as we are confronted by numerous peaks, and I point confidently at the one dead ahead. So up 'Bromo' we go, struggling in the dark and with the distinct lack of footpaths. After trying and failing to ascend this mountain, and me falling flat on my back down a ravine, legs kicking like an overturned turtle, and with the sun starting to peak over the horizon, we look up to next volcano to see trekkers casually strolling up to the summit laughing and in good spirits. It appears that I was wrong on my assessment of which volcano was for us...

So we arrive at the top of Mount Bromo just in time for sunrise and despite the few, ahem, technical hitches we enjoy the spectacular spectacle of the sun rising over this prehistoric landscape, with Bromo's menacing, smoking, smouldering crater nicely contrasting the stunning views around. Glancing across at 'the one that got away', it becomes clear this is a near impossible climb given the steepness of the sides and the softness of the terrain. Still, a bit of ambition never hurt anyone...

Hitch a lift back to the hotel on a motorbike, shower then hijack a nice minibus back to the bus terminal out of town, before boarding a bargain bus to Bali. An easy journey up until the ferry, a relaxing journey on the water (like crossing the Mersey) and a truly terrifying one once on Bali, with oncoming lorries, blind overtakes and manic speeds causing the most distressing journey since India. Eventually arrive in Denpasar (after being pulled by the police twice) and have a bit of difficulty finding a room, before settling down to some spicy chicken and Eddie Murphy's Coming to America.

Posted by tevs 04:39 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali indonesia java volcano bus sunrise ferry journey bromo Comments (0)

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