Posts Tagged With: moving on

Two Nights in a Hospital, One Night in an Airport.

On returning to Bangkok from Burma, I wanted nothing more than Skype, iron tablets and rest. I was so weak however that the very thought of an hours journey on two trains with a huge walk in between and a backpack on my back was very unappealing. I headed for the airport hotel to discover the cheapest room was 160GBP. I may have been ill but I knew this was too much for one hotel room for one person for one night. So I walked all the way back and rolled straight into a taxi to roll me straight to the same hostel as before – the speedy wi-fi being a big draw after Burma’s ridiculous internet.

After 2 hours of Skype to keep me sane however, I needed out to get something to make me feel better so I headed downstairs and asked the man for the nearest hospital to go and see a doctor. I wanted him to take some blood, tell me what’s wrong, give me some pills and send me on my way. After much mmming and ahhing about the nearest hospital, the hotel man took me to a taxi.

When I arrived at the hospital, I pointed at words in the phrasebook (about 8 out of 10 on the symptoms list) and waited my turn. The nurse took my blood pressure and then took me to the “Emergency Room”. At this point, I’d like to mention I’ve never been to hospital. Well, 3 times. When I was born, obviously, and once to pick someone up and once to visit someone, but never for my own health, so I didn’t really have a clue what to expect.

I do have a basic knowledge of the rules of hospitals, however. At least I thought I did. Mobile phones, are they allowed in an “Emergency Room”? Food, drink? The TV was on for the nurses, is this normal? A man was having some stitches put in his foot, a proper little operation, curtains wide open, no privacy. Is this how it is in England?! Is this how Emergency Rooms are?!

After a dizzy wait, I saw the doctor, who thankfully spoke English. Once I’d explained my story, he said he wanted to take a blood sample. I had this sat in my chair and it wasn’t long before I must have turned pale because I was offered a bed. After a long cold wait in said bed, I was told that the doctor wanted to admit me for the night, x-ray me and take further tests. Not one to want to argue with a doctor, I reluctantly agreed and was put into a wheelchair and taken to be x-rayed. Another first! And second, and third. He had to do it a few times.

Finally, starving, thirsty and slightly dazed, I was taken up to a bed. “Maybe this will be a bit more private than the “Emergency Room”” I though. No. Even closer beds, no air-con, privacy curtains all wide open. Again, maybe this is all normal, I don’t know. Everyone around me looked like they were on death’s door, all non-moving, wired up to respirators with pipes up their noses and drips in their arms. It wasn’t long before a very nice lady doctor came over and I had to tell her all about my poo. She was very beautiful. I bet her poo smells of roses. If she even does poo. So it was embarrassing to have to give her graphic detail of mine. She said she didn’t know what was wrong, that it could be anything, cancer, but I’m very young so probably not, a tropical disease, like malaria, she didn’t know. But she’d said the words cancer and malaria. Not great words to hear on your own in a hospital bed in a foreign country surrounded by pipes and drips. I cried a little bit, not helped by the fact that none of the nurses seemed to understand what I wanted when I pointed at the Thai for “food” in my phrasebook.

Thankfully, some visiting relatives of a very ill looking woman across from me spoke English and were kind enough to go to the 7/11 across the road and get me some food. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone. People are nice.

At this point I got a phone call from my boyfriend, which helped in the perking me up stage I was now going through. When I finished I was moved rooms! A woman in a smaller room cornered off by glass had seen me on the phone and spoke a little English so they moved me closer to her. And this room was air conditioned, and there were no respirators or pipes or drips! In fact, I was now the only one with a drip. Which was horrible, I don’t like needles so having one stuck in my hand all night wasn’t great fun.

Despite having a needle in my hand and my translator being sat watching TV ‘til the wee hours, I slept very well. Until I was woken for pills and two more blood samples. The morning was less stressful than it could have been. When I rang the hotel the night before to ask if they could bring my stuff to the hospital, the man wasn’t very helpful.

“And how am I supposed to do that?”

“Well…I don’t know, get a taxi? I’ll pay when you get here.”

“Well we can keep your stuff here until you are finished.”

“But the doctor said it could be a week! I need my stuff!”

“Ok..well..I can’t do anything tonight. Tomorrow? Maybe 1 o’clock.?”

“Yes, that’s fine. 1 o’clock tomorrow? It’ll be here?”

“Yes, yes.”

I had to ring him the next day at 3 to remind him. Thankfully, he eventually delivered my stuff just in time to keep me sane.

It was a mind numbing experience being in that hospital. I left less than 12 hours ago from writing this and it feels like a distant memory. It’s kind of hazy, a bit of a blur. A dull, repetitive blur. So I won’t bore you with the details that at the time were momentous to me but now are minimal.

The important thing to know is that consequently, I’ve decided to come home. If you’re sat reading this thinking “Oh my God, how stupid” then shut up. Unless you’ve been alone on the other side of the world, starving in a foreign hospital where you can’t speak the language and you don’t know what’s wrong then your opinion on my decision doesn’t matter to me. It is lonely, miserable and not fun. I’ve already learnt from Bali that this experience is not going to be all fun and games and happy, smiley photographs, but to be ill on and off up and down for 2 weeks and then to have to spend two nights in hospital really is enough to send me home. The thought of getting ill again in Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, where the healthcare is not quite like Thailand is just not worth the risk for me. I’ve decided to go home and rest and return in December to Hong Kong, which is when my boyfriend has his ticket to “come and meet me”, now to come out with me!

I’m not claiming this was an easy decision. I’m just claiming I don’t want any criticism for it. If there is one thing I have learnt above anything else over the past few months, it is that there is no right and wrong when it comes to travel.

If Little Bobby Joe has been travelling since he was 23 and never looked back then who’s to stop the 45 year old? If Jimmy wants to come to Thailand and go to a full moon party and get utterly out of his face because he’s just turned 18 and discovered alcohol, then good for him, I hope he has a blast. If Mary wants to go to spend six months in Belize and watch X Factor while she’s there, then so be it. If I want to come home for 6 weeks and rest in one place where I know I’ll always have a hot shower and healthy, safe food then good for me. You can sit and criticise my decision but I don’t care. There’s no right and wrong way to travel, just your way. And this is my way.

Addition 19/10/11: I’m home now, in the comfort of my room and feeling much better. A little sleep deprived but almost fully recovered from the illness and hospital. It feels good to be back.

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Categories: Burma, Thailand | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

A not so long house.

So today I did something! I woke up early and instead of heading up to the TV room to practice some Chinese, I headed to the reception area to practice some Chinese while I waited for my minibus to a longhouse.

The longhouse is a traditional way of living for Borneo folk and it was not what I expected. I’ve heard a lot of people who have visited a longhouse say it wasn’t what they expected; and I’m not naive, I was expecting satellite dishes, mobile phones and various other mod cons. It was what I expected in that sense. However, it wasn’t what I would describe logically as a longhouse. Let’s break it up:

LONGHOUSE

If you’re imagining lots of houses connected in a loooong line, then we’re on the same wavelength (I’ll let you be the judge as to whether that’s a good thing or not). What it really is is a small village community built on stilts. Most houses are made of bamboo and wood in the traditional fashion, however, there is the odd concrete one dotted here and there, which makes for a bizarre mix of old and new.

In an attempt to save money after spending rather a lot this month already on Mulu and the Grand Prix, I opted for the half day trip, which involves just a nosy around the village rather than an overnight trip, which involves staying at the longhouse (in the purpose built concrete building) and various activites. Initially, I was in two minds as to whether or not I should splash out and go for the overnight stay (the cheapest I found was 420RM). After having seen the place, I’m glad I just visited for the day. An overnight stay would offer nothing more to me. The activities were all things I did on my tour in the Cameron Highlands and sleeping in a purpose built concrete building would have taught me nothing additional about the longhouse communities than an hours stroll did.

When it came to 8.50, my pick up time, I put my Chinese book on my bed and headed outside to wait for the minibus. I wasn’t waiting long before a Chinese man came and found me. We had to walk to the bus because lots of people who stood around while “Scotland The Brave” played were blocking the road. Apparently it’s the Governors birthday and they are doing dress rehearsals…that require the roads empty…despite them being in the park. They were there yesterday too, which is why I couldn’t find my bus to Kubah National Park and therefore spent the day learning Chinese.

Anyway, we get to the bus, pick up two more tourists and away we go. Our guide was a nice chap who laughed a lot at his own jokes.

“This is the dragon fruit tree,” he said as we drove past some weird looking short trees, “it is pink inside. It is imported here from Vietnam and China because it is good for the health. It clean the body. I eat the dragon fruit one time, and I go for shit to the toilet, and my shit is red! I call my wife, “I think I’m having a period or something!” Haha! Because it is red! But it is just because it cleanse the body. Haha!”

Awkward… I’ve just met you and you’re talking about poo. At least wait an hour.

When we arrive at the longhouse, we are given a shot glass of rice wine, which I knew we would be given. I don’t drink alcohol. I had read that it is very rude to refuse the rice wine, and the only way people get out of it is if they have heart problems. I didn’t want to offend, and so drinking small sip by small sip so as to be able to hold my wincing face at bay, I eventually managed to finish it.

We then began our walk through the first longhouse, admiring the electricity and kittens.

“This pink slip,” our host began, pointing to one of the pink slips that was outside every front door, “is from the doctor. The tribe people and people who live in the longhouse in Malaysia all get free health care. And the yellow one is for free electricity when there is enough money from the government. Sometimes they need to pay but water is always free – from the river, yeah? This is their water source.”

Free health care? The Malaysians who don’t live in the longhouses pay 1RM every time they want to see the doctor.

We soon came to the second longhouse, which wasn’t much different to the first other than the amount of people. There were a few more people in the second longhouse. One young looking 72 year old was weaving a ratan basket, one 60 year old man was making a wooden spinning top. He was brilliant and let me have a go. He wound the string around the spinning top and then wrapped the other end around my hand. When he had finished, I threw the top and pulled on the string as instructed and send the spinning top into orbit. Yaaaaay! Feeling quite confident, I tried again, this time with me doing the wrapping.

“Like this?” I said to the man, showing him my hand.

“Not like that!” he said, with real comic tones in his voice. He re-wrapped it. And I couldn’t do it. Must have been a fluke.

Before we left, we were offered some durian. Again, I didn’t want to be rude and so I took a piece of the revolting, creamy, gone off mango flavoured fruit.

In the minibus on the way back, I agreed with the Australian couple on the tour that it wasn’t what any of us were expecting. The longhouse not durian. It is a worthwhile experience to see how people live, but it is changing rapidly. A few doors down from the old woman weaving her ratan basket are a couple of 20-somethings smoking and playing on their mobile phones. Next door to the “typical” show house of ratan rugs and bamboo cooking poles is a comfortable living room set complete with sofas, cushions and Barbie flip-flops by the door. If you look up, that tin roof holds up the satelite dish.

I’m not claiming that this is a bad thing, or that these communities should not have TV, or mobile phones, or ambition. What I am saying is that in 5 or 10 years time it would not be worth visiting a place like this. The idea is that you see how people live, yes, and this is how they live, satelite dishes ‘n’ all. However, would you bother to go to a council estate in Corby or a penthouse in Plymouth to see how people live? I’m pretty sure the answer is no (if the answer is yes then we’re definitely not on the same wavelength).

“It’s not the same thing!” I hear you cry, “You go to a longhouse to see how people live because it’s different to you!”

Exactly my point, in 5 to 10 years time, I don’t think it will be that different to how me or thee live. Yes, the stilts and bamboo will still be there, but with the smart, young ones moving to the city for money, you’ve got to question who’ll still be in the longhouses?

I think the answer is the real smart ones. If the tourists are still coming and giving the odd gift here and there, and the government is still giving free health care, and the world around them is still giving free food then really they’re made up! They may be living differently to me, but I’m sure if I asked anyone today who Lady GaGa was then they would have known.

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Categories: Malaysia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One journey, two countries, eight stamps.

From Penang, I flew to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah on Borneo. It’s still part of Malaysia, but because it’s semi autonomous, you get a little “entered Sabah on…” stamp. Initially, I was thinking of spending a couple of days here, one of which I would go to Mount Kinabalu National Park – not to climb the mountain, just to do some trails around the park itself and then head back. I though from there I’d then head down to Sandakan for a couple of nights as this is near one of four orang-utan sanctuaries in the world! After this, I was planning on Semporna, which is apparently home to some of the best dive spots in the world.

However! Things have changed slightly since that plan…I’m writing this from a different country. I was in two different countries today, yet I had my passport stamped eight times. I’m now in Brunei. If that means nothing to you, Brunei is a tiny country on the top of Borneo and it looks a little like this:


 

 

 

 

 

This means that when you go on a bus from Kota Kinabalu to Bandar Seri Begawan, this happens:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, let’s add something else to the perfectly to scale diagram, Malaysian Borneo is split into Sabah and Sarawak, both of which are semi autonomous:

So altogether the journey involves going in and out of two different countries, and two different states of one of those countries, a grand total of eight times! My passport now looks a little like this:

At border control number five (or four, they all became a bit of a blur), I had a brief chat with one of the drivers who told me that he has to get a new passport every two months because he racks up seven stamps each day! I checked, his work pays for the passports!

I was quite looking forward to the journey, well, as much as you can be looking forward to an eight hour bus journey. Within minutes of me sitting down and whipping out Sons and Lovers, Justin Bieber Never Say Never The Movie was on! Well, Sons and Lovers could wait. Plus reading on a moving vehicle makes me feel a bit sick, whereas watching Justin Bieber on a moving vehicle? That just makes me laugh. Unfortunately, we went over a speed bump after 15 minutes and “The Beebs” was gone. However, my personal favourite quote from what I saw was his vocal coach’s response when “JB” asked for a razor – “Really? A razor?”

The DVD player was off until we stopped at the first border and the drivers had a chance to play with the wires. Only to put on AWFUL karaoke tracks. The lyrics were rolling across the bottom of the screen in front of cheesy images edited on Windows Movie Maker. URGH. I whipped out the iPod. But the karaoke was loud, and it was about to get a whole lot louder…

On the seat opposite me was an adorably bizarre old woman, wearing a batik dress held on with a bumbag, thrown over pyjama bottoms with little wintery bears dotted on them. She had a pink quilted jacket and green thing that was on and off her head more times than I thought about Rick Astley during the bus ride. She must not like karaoke, because not long after the karaoke started, she whipped out her own entertainment device, presumably to block out the noise. She had a little portable DVD player and a carrier bag full of DVDs. Only problem was, she didn’t appear to have any headphones. I wouldn’t have minded too much if she was watching something I could sneak a peek at. However, when the films started, it soon became clear that she was watching home videos of herself. Mainly of herself singing. To a duck. Seeing as she clearly didn’t seem to care about her volume, I put mine up to block out the crooning “lay lay lays” to the duck. At times, I was literally clutching my ear to block out the sound. Especially when KL Gangster came on after the drivers got bored of the karaoke DVD. It started with a man getting a beating on the road outside the entrance arch to Petaling Street, yards from where we stayed in Kuala Lumpur! They also threw in lots of night shots of the Petronas Towers for good measure. I wouldn’t recommend they add it to the in-flight movie list, people would be landing and going straight back out.

As for Brunei now I’ve finally arrived, well! It’s a fascinating little place.

I set out to stay at the “Youth Centre” for B$10 a night (5GBP) as opposed to B$30 (15GBP), which was the next lowest price I’d managed to find. I found the Youth Centre no problem; Bandar Seri Begawan is very small. There was a man stood at the entrance to what I assumed to be the Youth Centre.

“Pusat Belia?” I asked.

“Yes, but the manager has now gone. I am also wait here and he say he come back soon. You come in, come sit. He is here soon. You can have bed.” replied the man, ushering me to sit down. I hadn’t fully understood what he was trying to tell me, mind you.

“Well, I think..so, what? Do you work here? Can you give me a bed? Or do I go in and wait for him?”

“You can wait here. I am customer also. I do not work here. I am here on business but I ring him and he say to me that he is here soon.”

“Right, err, ok.” I sit down.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“England. And you?”

“Oh England. I have been three times to London on business.”

“Right. What did you think? Did you see Big Ben? Buckingham Palace?” I was struggling to think of monuments for a few seconds after that. Isn’t that awful?!

“Yes yes. I see all these things. It is very nice. You are very nice. You travel alone?”

“Yes.”

“And where is your husband?”

I’d decided at this point it was best to go with the fact that yes, I do have a husband. I don’t.

“He is working. In England. But he will come and meet me soon.”

“And does he work or do business?

“Sorry?”

“Does he work or do business? Business is better. You can get lots of money and then not a lot of money. But with work always the same amount each month.” Surely, he’s just talked up the benefits of work as opposed to ‘business’?

“Right. Yeah. He works. And does business too. So where are you from?”

“Bangladesh. Have you been?”

“No, not yet!” And I probably never will! But I didn’t tell him that bit.

“You must come. You can stay at my house. I live 20 minutes from the airport. I will give you my address. And you can stay in my bed. In my house.”

“Right. Maybe one day!” A very polite way of saying never.

“And next time I come to England, I can stay at your house. You give me your address and I will come.”

“Hmm. I live a long way from London!” I don’t. “Way up north!”

Thankfully, someone arrived at the Youth Centre. He headed towards the swimming pool. I went to ask if he knew any more than we did. He was very nice and from Sudan. And he did know more than us. Apparently they are closed for a few days after Hari Raya (the end of Ramadhan). B$30 a night it was then. I started to head back into town.

“My friend! Wait! Where do you go? I ring him now! And he says he comes! He will be here very soon! My friend!” Mr Bangladesh did not want me to leave. Even if the Sudanese man had only meant that the swimming pool was closed after Hari Raya, I wasn’t waiting any longer with this guy to find out.

I arrived at my 15GBP a night room (the most expensive so far!), showered and headed out for food. Thankfully, I found a hawker market very close to where I’m staying as shown on the map in Lonely Planet. Only, it was very quiet. Once I finished my chicken and rice, I discovered the rest of Brunei was also very quiet. This is the capital city! And it feels deserted! It is remarkably clean though and it does feel very safe. I took myself on a little stroll around the main hub of the city, passing Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and the call to prayer on the way. One of the better “singers” for the call to prayer I’ve heard.

This morning I set off nice and early, thinking I could make the 3km walk to the Palace and another mosque before it got too hot. I think I got about half way and was sweltering! So I gave up on that idea and instead went straight to the Royal Regalia Museum, which is full of gifts given to the Sultan by presidents, prime ministers and other royal families from across the world. Personally, I couldn’t help but think it led me to understand a little further as to why we’re having a global economic crisis.

“What shall I send the dear old Sultan of Brunei for his birthday, Phillip? Ooo, I know, a big glass vase with my initials on it. That’ll come in handy for him.”

No it won’t Lizzie, it’ll end up in a museum. I’d feel slightly insulted if I spent that much money on a gift and it wasn’t even in his house. Especially when his palace is three times bigger than Buckingham Palace!!Even if he put it in one of the 257 bathrooms I’d be happy.

I’ve only been here less than 24 hours, but I’m mesmerized by the place. It’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been and if you come to Borneo, it’s definitely worth adding a day or two here to your itinerary. The wealth is evident but not in the sense of skyscrapers or amazing monuments, the money has been put into religion, royalty and roads. I’m also quite fond of the fact that for the first time in over a month, zebra crossings mean something.

My only negative of Brunei is that I can’t send text messages – so apologies if you’ve text me over the past couple of days and I haven’t replied! I’m still alive! I suppose this is good practice though because tomorrow I’m heading back into Sarawak to a town called Miri. This is the base for flights to Gunung Mulu National Park and the Kelabit Highlands. I’m hoping to spend a couple of nights at Mulu exploring the caves and a couple of nights in the Kelabit Highlands, perhaps doing a longhouse visit if it can be arranged! If I get to Mulu and the Kelabit Highlands, I’ll also be phone (and Internet) free, but I’ll report back as soon as I can!

Categories: Brunei, Malaysia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Who hasn’t slept with half the world?

Ooo, I need a rant! So this place I’m staying in Penang, really odd…

I’m walking down the street, map in hand, trying to figure out why I can’t find Blue Diamond Hostel (the cheapest in the book!) when I’m stood right by exactly where the dot is on my map, and a guy on a moped stops and asks if I’m looking for a room.I would normally ignore this, but he had an old white man on the back of his bike so he must have been a bit legit…

“Yeah, I’m looking for Blue Diamond Hostel?”

“It doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s that,” he points to where the dot on my map would indicate, “Expensive now, over a hundred Ringgit a night.”

“Oh..”

He sends me to Jim’s Place. He’s Jim.

The people are a bit weird here, like travelled for waaaay too long, dead cynical etc….then there’s this little girl. She shows me the animals at the hotel behind this place (they had lots of terrapins!) and when I get back from my walk around town, she wants to play cards. No worries. Bored of her cheating at Go Fish and having been to see the animals again, and watched her dance, I decided to go upstairs and watch a film. She follows, we end up watching a copied and skipping version of Marley And Me.

After about ten minutes, she sat on my back…then she picks my key up with her toe, no problem, then she won’t give it back to me!!

“It’s MY key, you need to give it back.”

“No, it’s Jim’s key.” She sounded rather smug.

You may think I’m overreacting, but I attach my hotel keys to my suitcase key and thus to everything I have to keep me alive for the next 4 months and a keyring with 2 out of 3 photos I have with me of me and my boyfriend. AND a keyring my sister got me from ChocoStory in Belgium. That was the deal breaker. I was rightfully, I think you’ll agree, getting angry with a little girl.

When I eventually get my key back, after feeling like I’d gone back to working in a school with the tone I was having to use, she starts tugging on my watch!! She wouldn’t let go, thinking it was a joke, I could see the evil in her eyes. The skank.

Her dad, who kept finding fault in “the system” during an earlier conversation, was downstairs (he’d smoked dope earlier in the day…great parenting, right there) and I heard him saying earlier “Do you have kids?” to some guy.
The guy responded with, “Yeah, one French, one Palestinian.” What the hell?!?!?!?!

As if it’s the most natural and normal thing in the world to have slept with half the planet, Isa..something..blah blah’s dad replies with, “I’ve got 3. One Spanish, one (something else) and Is(..blah blah or whatever her name was.) Her mother is indigenous. We were living in the rainforest for sometime.” WHAT?!?!? You were living in the rainforest so long you decided “Hey, let’s get pregnant?!”

Literally mental. Tomorrow I’m finding somewhere else!!

Just needed to vent that!

Please tell me I’m not on my own here, that’s weird, right?…

Categories: Malaysia | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

“You make like husband and wife in the bedroom?”

Everyday is a holiday in Bali. National Stare At The White Person Day. Everyday. You’d think with they amount of tourists (for reasons beyond my comprehension) that they’d have got over it by now. But apparently not.

My lasting impression of Bali is a dirty, overrated place full of stray dogs and heaps of plastic rubbish. If I was you, I wouldn’t bother.

The family I stayed with were lovely and couldn’t have been more helpful but I just didn’t get Bali. Here’s a little insight into my rather interesting itinerary…

Day One. Bali.

I had arranged a Couchsurfing place to stay in Bali. It was the first time I had tried it and if you’re not aware of it, it’s basically free hosting and staying all around the woirld maybe trading language lessons or cooking a meal. I was eager to try it and thought that a place like Bali, where I know very little about would be a great first place to try it.

I arrive at the airport, having been in text contact with who I thought was Ratna, the 19 year old daughter of the family. I knew that Papajero (the dad of the family) would be picking me up, but because I thought I’d been texting Ratna’s mobile, I thought she would be there too.During the huge visa queue, I get a text “I’m in a blue tshirt outside”. So when I eventually make it out of arrivals, I find myself confronted with many people (a lot with blue tshirts) all waving their signs with names of their victim to Bali. I don’t see my sign, instead Papajero has to ask me if I’m Lindsay, but we get there in the end.

Imagine the scene; arrive in a new country, not being able to speak the language, and then your only way out of the airport being a lone man with a long beard and an old 4 by 4. I was extra alert, any scary sign I’d be jumping out of that car. So when the conversation turned to boyfriends and the question “Do you make like husband and wife in the bedroom?” came up, I was ready to leap onto the nearest motorbike, of which I had plenty of choice.

“Err? Baa…nah, ye…but…meh…that’s a bit personal isn’t it?” was all I could manage on the spot.

“I only ask because in Bali, it is very bad. I meet my wife, we married after only one week.”

And so it went on for 2 and a half hours. Very scared, we eventually arrived at the house. I was started to doubt the family’s existence a little until his son, Udi came running to open the gate. Still not sure what to make of it, I eventually managed to fall asleep.

Day Two. Bali.

I am awoken very early to the sound of Green Day, “I hope you had the time of yoour life”. Yeah right. I attempt to have a shower, it’s quite weak. I go for breakfast and Papajero asks me if I want to go to Candidasa with him. Having no idea what else I can do, where Candidasa is or what there is to do there, I agree. We pick up two Italians from a hotel 5 minutes down the road and set off. It turns out Papajero has never been to Candidasa before and that it’s on the other side of the island. I sit in the hot car on my leather seat for about 8 hours. We had a little lunch break inbetween. By lunch I mean Nasi Campur, which is rice with whatever is lying around. That day little ants were lying around.

By now the dogs, plastic, fires by the road side and overtaking and hooting of every other veichle on the road was becoming quite draining. I was ready to come home. I chose to work damn hard for a year and save every bit of spare cash to have fun and enjoy myself not be stuck in the middle of nowhere, alone with a squat toilet and a pants shower!! The second night was very hard. I was literally planning the quickest way out. I already had a ticket from Bandung to Kuala Lumpur on the 25th of August. To get home from KL would be very easy, and relatively cheap cpared to if I carried on and flew home from somewhere else. This was a very tempting prospect. I could fly home on the 25th, be home for my boyfriends birthday and then come back out again in December – skipping the squat toilets!

It took a lot of self convincing over the time in Bali to stay. I knew, and still know, that if I go home early, I will have left my job for nothing, worked solid for nothing and endured 6 hours sat next to a Somalian pirate for nothing. It would be difficult but I knew I had to stay.

Day Three. Bali.

After the delights of the weak shower, I had to surcome to the mandi. A mandi is a deep bowl in Indonesian bathrooms that is filled with cold water to be scooped out and poured over the body. In the mornings in the mountains in Bali it gets cold, so this takes some courage. It’s not a pleasant experience, but being here in Yogyakarta where it’s a lot warmer, it’s actually quite refreshing.

On the morning of my second full day in Bali, I went to school with Coming. Coming is five and adorable. In fact her whole class were adorable.

I’d asked Papajero if I could maybe drop her off at school with him one day just to see what it was like andI was allowed to stay. For the two hours that they go to school. Towards the end, the teacher asked me if I knew any English songs or games, so I taught them the Hokey Cokey and we played Duck, Duck, Goose. I enjoyed my morning at the school, this was the kind of experience I was after. Things were looking up. Then it came time to leave.

“Oh, you must, email…” I followed the teacher into her office. She pulled out a book full of names, countries and emails. Apparently this happens a lot. I sign the book for her to then pull out another book, with the word “Donation” written on the front. Now, I don’t mind the fact that I had to donate to see the school and participate in the class. What I do mind is the fact that it’s at the end, after I’ve seen the school and participated in the class that the book comes out.

Later that day, Udi took me to the Water Temple on his uncle’s motorbike. I’d never been on a motorbike before and he told me not to hold onto the back because it makes him wobble. So I had to just sit. It was surprisingly easier than I thought! After the water temple, we headed across to the internet cafe.

“Are you going to go on the internet?” I asked Udi, just being nice.

“Yes” he replied.

In we went, and an hour later I head over to the man to pay. My hour had cost 4,500rupiah (it sounds a lot but it’s only 32p!) and I paid with a 10,000 note. The man gave me 3,000 change. I stopped for a moment and wondered whether it was worth questioning. Already hating Bali, I turned around, “Erm, 4,500? I gave you 10,000?”

“Yeah, but you pay for him too.”

I turned to Udi, “Did you use the internet? I though you were just watching that boy. I’m paying for you?”

“Oh yeah, sorry, I forget to tell you.”

“Oh right.”

The hatred for Bali was not due to disappear anytime soon. If you are white, you are rich beyond your wildest dreams don’t you know?

In the afternoon, Papajero invited me to a cock fight. It wasn’t my cup of tea but neither was sitting lonely on a porch in the middle of nowhere, so I agreed to go. Coming came too, and apart from her, I was the only female, and the only white person. Instantly asking for lots of stares. It was a pretty gruesome sight. Not the stares, the cock fight. They put the chickens in bags to make them angry. Then attach a little knife to their ankles and pluck feathers from their heads until they are very angry and then they let them loose on each other. The fight continues until one chicken dies or both are too close to death to fight. Although having said that, I only witnessed one draw.

When we arrived home, my luck had changed. A new family were stood on the restaurant platform looking quite lost. They were from France, and they were my saviours! Not only had they come at the perfect time when I really needed to vent how annoying it is to be thought of as a millionaire everywhere you go (which technically, in Indonesia, I am), but they were French! So I could vent my frustrations with no worries that the family would understand any of what was being said.

It was such a relief.

Day Four. Bali.

Now I had people to do stuff with, things became a lot easier. I had to wake up very early (5am!!) to get my ticket to Yogyakarta…Papajero had to collect a live pig for the ceremony the next day en route…I couldn’t watch the pig being put into a sack and dumped in the car live. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Neither was the chick with it’s legs tied together shoved in the glovebox. We then picked up a grandma. Then another live pig. Then another grandma. THEN we went to get my ticket, finally!  

In the afternoon, me and the parents of the French family went for a walk by the lake with Udi and later on we went to the GitGit waterfall. The waterfall was nice but the main attraction was the endless stalls of the same sarongs, batik and wooden carvings. I didn’t realise just how much you could barter down the goods until I watched the French family do it. I learnt to walk away and pretend you don’t want to pay that much and they instantly lower the price. It feels mean but the prices start ridiculously high so it’s ok. On the way back, we picked up a durian which we ate for dessert later that evening. It smells absolutely vile but tastes like creamy mango. Not bad, but nothing spectacular.

Day Five. Bali.

Day five was a biggie. It was the ceremony that I’d heard so much about. The pig, the fruit, the rice baskets, the gamelan…all was prepared and driven to the family temple. It was a very interesting experience! The gamelan went on and on. Then the dancing begun. Young girls came out one by one and picked their ‘victim’. I don’t know who was more of the victim though – the girl or the picked dancer. The first man to be picked was a leary paedo-esque man and it felt quite uncomfortable to watch.

“I don’t think I can watch this if it’s going to go on for as long as the gamelan goes on” I thought. Then she picked me. Neil’s dad from The Inbetweeners came to mind. (*If anyone sees the film, let me know how it is!!*)

It was actually quite fun and the parents of the French family had a go as well. They were pretty good!!

We were then offered lunch in a bag and I sat next to my new found friend, {insert name here}. I never did find out her name. But she was very old, and short and cute. And she lived in the little house next to the temple. She wouldn’t let go of my hand, it was quite touching. Bali grew on me a little that day.

Day Six. Bali.

On my last day in Bali, we headed to the hot springs pool near Lovina beach. Papajero assured us that we would have time to hit the hot springs, beach and eat all before my bus. And we did!

And now I’m here, in Yogyakarta. So far so good. I spent the first day getting lost and making friends with Yvonne who studies in York and is also travelling solo, so we had lunch together. In the evening, I was invited to a Couchsurfing meet up by my host here. There is a HUGE Couchsurfing community in Yogyakarta. HUGE! Everybody knows everybody.

The next day (yesterday) I took the obligatory trip to Borobudur, which is a very impressive Buddist temple. I went alone but met a couple from Luxembourg on the bus who I felt like I followed around like a lost puppy until we found the temple! After one tour of the temple, I saw Yvonne arrive with someone she had met on the bus, who turned out to be quite the saviour!

My host had been texting me all day with details of the Ramayana ballet. Turns out there’s two Ramayana ballets here! And I got off the bus at the wrong one. Luckily, Matthew (who Yvonne had met on the bus) was there, so I went in with him and not my host (who had gone to the other Ramayana ballet – it’s all very confusing!). Turns out the Transjogja stops at 9. Which isn’t helpful when the performance finishes at 9.30. Matthew offered to walk me home, as the rickshaw driver didn’t seem to know where the bus stop near her house was. If I could have got to there, I could have worked my way back to her house. But no-one apparently knows where they live around here!! Thankfully, Matthew let me sleep at his hostel for the night as the curfew at my hosts house was 12am. This morning has been a restful few hours reading after breakfast on a bench and internet in KFC. Fun times!

Categories: Indonesia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

So long, Singapore!

So tomorrow I head off to Bali and leave Singapore. Having been here 2 days longer than originally planned, it’s beginning to feel quite comfortable.Singapore really is the perfect place for first time Asia. I think! Remember, this is my first visit to Asia! I am expecting things to get a little tougher from here though – visas being stricter, transport being less frequent etc…but we shall see.

Yesterday I headed down to East Coast Park. In an attempt to save my MRT money to leave me enough (including the $5 deposit that I can get back and spend on a cheaper ticket) to take me back to the airport, I decided to walk it. It didn’t look too far on the map from my hostel – but that was the country map, not the city map. Either way, I decided it’s not a big country, it’s only 5 MRT stations, and because they’re raised overground and not underground this far out of the city, it would be easy enough to follow the track and then turn right, keep going right and eventually hit the beach. And it worked!

It’s a really cool place. The beach itself isn’t worth writing home about, but what they’ve done with it is respectable. There’s plenty of bike hire, inline skate hire and weird two board scooter hire. There’s a cable water ski, an amazing and very clean “emo”-free skate park and a great hawker centre. It’s not very easy to get to even from the MRT closest it’s a little walk but it’s worth it for a relaxing afternoon.

Here’s my overall opinion of Singapore:

  • Clean. If you were getting fined $500, you wouldn’t eat or drink on the MRT either. Although it’s not an overly helpful rule when you’re having a coughing fit on a train.
  • Less people speak English then you would think from the signage. And unleash the linguist in me, if language is boring to you, skip to the next bullet point now…..Most signs are at least bilingual, (even quadlingual in some cases!) which is what I was expecting from what I’d studied about Singapore’s linguistic ratio. However, sometimes, they’re not. Sometimes, the signage is just in English, or just Chinese if you’re in a Chinese community area. This would be fine, but then from the locals I’ve needed to speak to, I can’t recall more than 5 who have been completely fluent in English. Proving that Singapore is not as bilingual as I thought. If you don’t speak English, it would be hard living here in my opinion unless you were in a Chinese/Malay/Tamil etc community. If you do speak English, you’ve got a great advantage. Essay over.
  • Safe. Even roaming the big sights in the city at night, Singapore feels very safe.
  • Just. Plain. Awesome. Singapore is cool. There’s no denying it.

And so, my Singapore fling is over. (Geddit? Singapore Sling/fling?…It was weak, forgive me.) Tomorrow brings Bali and I’m preparing myself for a very different experience…

Categories: Singapore, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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