Malaysia

Tena Negara

Working backwards, Cameron Highlands, Pengang, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur, Geddis, Lumbok, Bali, Flores, Komodo, Lombok, Bali, Kalimantan, yup, I have a lot to catch up on , maybe someday, maybe not.

Cameron Highland to Tena Negara

A van picked my up at my choice of accommodations, a group of bamboo cabins near the city of Tanah Rata, we picked up a couple of other groups of passengers and headed out to  Taman Negara.  After a bus ride of a few hours we we deposited at a station beside a river and told to deposit our bags.  The end wall was covered with enormous posters of activities and tours offered by a tour company.   With no further direction I took a seat when one became available and filled out a slip for admission to the park (1 ringitt) and a permit for photography (5 ringgit).  There are reportedly spot checks throughout the park and the penalty for not having a permit is 100,000 ringgit and two years in jail.  I went to the park office across the street, passed my application and six ringgit over the counter and waited while my information was entered into a computer and printed off in quadruplicate.  A lot of paperwork for thirty cents.  I placed my permits in a waterproof pouch in which I keep my passport, the pouch is tied to my computer bag, I don’t know how many times I would have lost it were it not tied.

I sat in the restaurant and ordered a dish of chicken and fried noodles.  Everywhere, it’s fried noodles or fried rice or rice.  Starch and oil. Twenty minutes later, nobody else was being served and I still had no meal.  The waiter indicated it was on the way.  Ten minutes later I was told it would be another five minutes, the restaurant was empty except for one couple.  Another ten minutes and nearing departure time for my boat I left, and bought some crap food at the market across the street, biscuits (alternative form of highly processed flour and oil) and a snickers.
The long narrow boat had eight or so seats and we sat two to a seat on the floor, there was a backrest but little room for the old legs.  We travelled upstream on the muddy river for several hours.  There was no sign of human activity for the whole of the trip, no other boats, no houses on the bank, no fishermen, it was a bit strange.  Eventually there were a dozen or so floating restaurants, covered wooden decks floating on plastic drums.  A man approached the boat and barked orders, “We will take your bags, take a seat and wait for instructions.”  What? We were in a combination restaurant and tourist agency and this guy was giving orders like an army sergeant.  Three Germans headed out, up the bank and the asshole snarled, “It happens all the time, we try to to help people out and they leave without instructions, they will be lost and return in ten minutes and I won’t be here.”   After a sales pitch of all of his overpriced tours he stated that up the hill the hotels were to the left and right.  Well, it didn’t seem as though his wonderful help was really necessary.  I vowed to not eat there, nor utilize them for anything.
Up the hill I found a nice enough hotel, but they didn’t accept payment through Agodo.  I have a finite supply of cash having acquired a the equivalent of $1,300 several weeks ago in Bali.  I have a replacement ATM card en route to Kuala Lumpur, but am paying for my rooms, when possible, by booking through Agoda.com and paying with Paypal.  So far that was only possible a couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur.  I located a hotel on my phone through the agoda sight and walked up the hill to a functional but soulless hotel, booked there, received the key to room 330 and promptly used it to enter room 303 to the consternation of the occupants thereof.  By this time the day was gone, so I just grabbed dinner and briefly strolled around.
Thursday, December 11

Canopy Walk

A tour company offered a canopy walk tour,  but it left at nine and it was past nine and they only had one tour a day.  This was fortuitous as for one ringgit one could hop a water taxi across the muddy river, stroll through a two hundred cabin pretty resort nestled under tall trees beside the river.   Beside the stairs was a trolley car on tracks used for transporting luggage and presumably resort supplies up the hill.  This would have been a far preferable place to stay, but they didn’t take agoda.  Besides, it was part of the national park and strolling the grounds was permissible for the public.
After passing all of the cabins I found the trail to the canopy, which seems excessive for its purpose, plastic synthetic wood planks made up the walkway and five centimeter square, black painted steel guard rails prevented one from falling off the walkway to the forest floor, a moderate step down.  The hanging walkway was erected for research purposes in order to study the canopy flora and fauna.  The majority of life in the rainforest is in the canopy.  Unfortunately there was little to see here. I have walked the hanging bridges near Arenal Volcano on the outskirts of Fortuna, Costa Rica many times in the last eight years and every time but one saw colorful birds in great abundance, skinks and walking sticks, monitors, agouti, capybara, hawks, parrots, macaws, eyelash vipers, frogs and tarantulas.  The views are impressive and pass over rivers  and beside waterfalls, orchids cling to every branch.  This was little more than walking on a narrow plank with web sides.   Oh, well.
I walked off, unguided through trails, but it was hot, humid and particularly uninspiring.  The only wildlife in evidence was the occasional monitor and some lizards and the view was was limited.  My hiking shoes are shot, in the prior few days, trekking in the Cameron Highlands, the sole on the ball diminished to tissue thinness and the sole became detached from the toe on the right shoe, catching with a flap on roots, stairs and stones.  It wasn’t worth the trouble and I walked back, caught a boat back across the river and lunched, a vegetable sandwich for three ringgit and a bowl of TomYam, a spicy thai soup with a red broth, veggies and usually some sore of meat, this was combination chicken and beef, seafood was unavailable.

The Urang Asli

There was a tour to shoot the rapids of the river and another to visit an Urang Asli village.  Urang means person or man in Malay and Indonesia. Asli is Malay for original.  Urang hutan is man of the jungle and is anglicized as urangutan.
I was requested to show up at a quarter to three and we waited until well past three for an Indian couple who didn’t count punctuality or consideration for their fellow man among what virtues they had.  I was asked to take the rear most seat, ahead of me a guy from Sweden and a girl from Netherlands and the rest of the boat was occupied by people from India and Malaysia.  The river was shallow, swift and muddy brown.  In a short while we encountered the rapids and received the promised dousing repeatedly, those near the rear were far more wet than those in the bow.  Water accumulated beneath the floor boards and soon rose above them.  When the water was not sufficiently tumultuous the driver rocked it with successive alternating thrusts on the tiller handle of the outboard.
We pulled up to a bank and disembarked.  Bjorn and Cess were going to wait at the boat, not having paid for the village tour.  I had come to the realization that the thing was a scam.  The rapids tour was a necessary path of transit to the village and suggested to the two that they had bought the village tour and not the rapids ride.  They readily accepted my logic.
We ascended the bank to a small collection of ramshackle wooden huts with thatched roofs.  They were the most basic of accommodations, devoid of furnishings of any sort, just a wooden floor with no evidence of even a room for cooking.  With no evidence of even a latrine
A short while later our group gathered on benches mourned a sand floor beneath a simple thatched for and our guide began to explain the lifestyle of the people.
There a several communities that live in an around the park. They are allowed to hunt using traditional hunting methods of blowguns.  The penalty for using a gun is severe and would probably be counter productive anyway as the sound would disperse the game.   The people hunt monkeys primarily but also deer.  For some reason, the easily hunted monitors are not a target, although I can attest the meat is far superior to monkey, at least to my palate.
The wedding rituals are pretty boring, but I will briefly relate them anyway as I am on a bus with nothing else to do.  The guys go to another village, choose a girl and they sleep together for one night, but don’t have sex (yeah, right). In the morning the girl can reject the guy and he has to look for another girl.  There was no mention of a guy rejecting a girl.  After the families consult, if everyone agrees they are declared married.  The consequence of  absence of other forms of entertainment results in great fecundity, with families of seven children common and up to sixteen to a single woman.
After age twelve or so the girls are housed in a female dormitory until they are wed off.  Why they are separated from the family, I don’t know.
The tribes grow rubber trees and sell the latex, but there is a hitch.  Rubber trees take seven years to become productive and the whole village moves before sundown to a new location upon the death of a village member, the deceased being secured in the branches of a tree ten to twenty meters above the ground.
Our guide stated that these people had been offered proper housing by our guide no less, but prefer the huts as they are a tourist draw, the village is recompensed five ringgits for each tourist that visits.   We were also told that the tribe is nomadic, that they deplete their hunting grounds, taking in conjunction with the statement that they move with each death, I find the claim a bit self serving and dubious.

Blow Guns

Glued barrel

The blow guns are unlike any I have ever seen.  A piece of bamboo just shy of two meters must be located.  A rare specimen of s special type of bamboo is located after a search of one to three days.  A barrel is sought out which typically takes five to seven days.  The barrel must be smooth and straight and of an appropriate diameter.  This type of bamboo never has segment long enough, so a couple are used and are secured together by being butted with a matte  secured with glue.  The barrel is inserted into the protective outer shell and a knob is formed on one end with the resin  from the tanjung tree.  The other end of the barrel is capped with something akin to a shotgun choke.  This piece receives an inscribed ring with each kill, and can be detached to serve as a whistle that is less disturbing to the prey than human voices.

Darts

The darts a made from splinters of wood, but I can’t recall the name of the tree and sharpened to a

Finished dart. The shaft is from one kind of tree, the poison is the sap of the Ipoh tree and the the balance on the end is from the very light wood of a third tree.

point TODO (how). A balance is made from the soft light woody root of still another tree and glued to the shaft with tanjung tree resin.  The tip of the dart is treated with sap from the ipoh tree.  Darts are carried in a quiver made of bamboo.  A green material made from leaves is inserted into the barrel as wadding after the dart is inserted.

Hunting

Groups of four or five go out in search of monkeys at night.  The hunter approaches the tree and shoots near straight up as this provides the greatest accuracy, the drop is primarily in speed, not in height.  The dart generally breaks off at the skin and the animal runs off to die.  Three or four people track the monkey which is dead within the hour.

Game

Porcupine and monkeys are the primary game, a deer is occasionally taken.  We were told that lizards are not eaten, despite the fact that the monitors are plentiful and fairly large.

Pay for Trip

I hadn’t paid for my combo tour yet, when I returned to the office I stated that this was no combo tour, we went to see the Urang Asli and returned.  The tour operator protested that we did shoot the rapids which is a separate tour such as the one the Swedish guy and Dutch girl went on.  I protested that all I had was the Urang Asli tour and that it was not possible to see without shooting the rapids.  He stated that shooting the rapids was a necessary tour to see the village.  I don’t know, it doesn’t appear to be marketed as such.  We split the difference.  There being better trekking elsewhere, I bought a ticket to Kuala Lumpur and headed out to dinner and back to the hotel
Photo Album
Indonesia

You might be in Bali if…

A police officer decides that the contents of your wallet is sufficient for a bribe.

Later you tell another police officer that you have no more money for bribes because you gave them all to the previous police officer and he graciously waves you on, stopping traffic for you.

It costs 200,000 round trip to go to the airport to buy a ticket that you can’t buy online and the ticket is 249,000. You count your money at an ATM and while doing so, the ATM swallows your card. Damn it, that’s the second time in Indonesia. Thanks, Roger for helping me out.

poolThere are 23 cars and an uncountable number of motor bikes all at a standstill, all in an intersection and no one is honking his horn, it’s just a normal intersection on a normal day.

A police officer decides that the contents of your wallet is sufficient for a bribe.

Later you tell another police officer that you have no more money for bribes because you gave them all to the previous police officer and he graciously waves you on, stopping traffic for you.

It costs 200,000 round trip to go to the airport to buy a ticket that you can’t buy online and the ticket is 249,000.

Your breakfast comes to 12,000 Rupiah and when you offer a 50,000 note ($4 US)  they ask if you have “small money”.

hotelroom
$20 hotel room at Sunset Hotel in Kuta, Bali

A twenty dollar hotel room looks like this…

Ok, I am off to some tiny island, not much more I can screw up today.

Bali Indonesia

Motorbiking Bali

I have skipped a lot, what, all of Kalimantan, Borneo, a trip to Bali, the Gili Islands, four days and three nights on a boat to Flores, stopping off to see Komodo dragons, two days overland to Mount Kelimutu, a flight from Ende, Flores, Indonesia back to Bali, three days in Bali and a couple in Ubud.  Some of these should be documented. Don’t hold your breath.
Without further ado…

Sunday, November 2

Roger and I set off on our motorbikes to meet Maja at an easy to find location in Ubud, Bali.  We just a couple of minutes early and she showed up precisely on time.  We stopped at a random nearby restaurant and a couple of us had a particularly uninspiring small serving of spaghetti that was slightly dyed by a minuscule portion of marinara sauce.
Maja is a 30 year old Slovenian, a civil engineer who, for lack of opportunity in her field in Slovenia became a ski instructor in the winter and a mountain guide in the summer.  Compact, energetic, cheerful and most of all colorful, in life and apparel;  every single thing she wore was at least five colors.  She had been staying at a hostel in Ubud and not particularly enjoying her vacation to the extent she had hoped.  We rode our motorbikes back to the house and sat around the swimming pool, listened to the frogs and amused ourselves with small talk.   Roger and she were still chatting when I went to bed.

Monday, November 3

In the morning I went out in search of a place to do my laundry and had breakfast at a warung, a typical local style restaurant.  The owner had a classic 1976 Vespa out front and we chatted for a bit.  He offered to take me on a tour to Kluklung, which was formerly the capital of Bali,  for whatever I wanted to pay him.  He told me that it was a nearby city and that it was sacred and never visited by tourists.  That sounded wonderful.  I texted Maja and she agreed and wanted to go. We agreed to meet at the house at 10 or so.  She brought her bags, she was done with the hostel and her very short term travel companion.  Apparently he was an ok guy, but utterly devoid of spontaneity.

Our first stop was to investigate the reason hundreds of motorbikes were parked on a large field next to a stadium.  It was soon pointed out to me that UbudToKlunkungthere we were the only white people and Maja the only woman in sight.  Perfect, some local event.  Peering over the heads, ten deep and past at least 50 rows of bleachers was the center of activity, a cockfight.  More interesting to us was a woman (yes there was another) who was breaking eggs and separating the yolks by dripping the white through her old, gnarly fingers.  Several yolks were then placed into a glass with some mysterious brown fluid.  I ordered a glass.  Maja took a sip of the fluid but eschewed the yolk.  I consumed the balance while she stood high on the support base of a pole supporting the roof and watched the crowd watching the cock fight.

We set off in the general direction and soon crossed a bridge and saw some hills.  Little miss mountain lady wanted to climb one of the hills.  I took a turn, stopped by a damn and saw a trail leading up a hill and suggested it.  Maja looked at me and without rolling her eyes, said, “follow me” and hopped on her motorbike and sped off.  Down the road a short ways she took a left and headed down a side road with apparent confidence and onto one of many single lane motorbike trails that meandered beside houses or through the jungle.  This one narrowed and finally became a very narrow dirt trail which after a while was nearly obstructed by several dozen motorbikes.  We stopped to find ourselves in a small village, men were preparing a feast, chopping vegetables while sitting cross legged, on raised platforms.  A couple of piglets were slaughtered, and in the process of being dressed.  Maja inquired about the path to the hill and fortunately there was an English speaking man told her that the trailhead was but a dozen meters away.  She told me she would “jump up and down” and asked if I could wait.

I had no doubt that I would be an encumbrance, though I can generally hold my own, I haven’t been trekking in quite a while and she is a professional.  The village was not accustomed to tourists and graciously accepted me, interacting with me as a curiosity, not a wallet with legs.

Chickens were secured to split bamboo spits, piglets were stuffed with peppers and vegetables, a solitary duck was plucked and a fire poured out smoke that filled the village. Across the trail a large wall cordoned off a courtyard to a house or two of concrete with elaborate hand carved doors and hand made furniture of the sort wealthy people all over the world import to appoint their houses.  The wall extended up an incline beside a widened and concrete path.

Maja returned, sweaty, dirty, covered in seeds and delighted.  This was her first venture in jungle trekking. We said our goodbyes, and headed down the path, found ourselves on a new asphalt road and wound our way north, curving our way through the hills and stopping for pictures.  Roger texted that he had a visitor from Hungary and had stopped working for the day.

We caught one of Indonesia’s awesome daily sunsets and headed back to town, grabbed some dinner and headed home. Maja produced a bottle of Hungarian schnapps much to the delight of the Hungarian, who’s name I will never remember.  To my amusement, Maja produced a bedroll and a sleeping bag and declared that she was sleeping outside on the wooden covered deck by the pool.

Tuesday, November 4

UbudToVolcanoNot long after I woke up an ever smiling face emerged from her cacoon, ready for more adventure but we had to wait for the Hungarian who wished to accompany us but proceeded at her pace.   Our first requirement was to assist her in renting a motorbike and the fundamentals of riding same.  We headed off to Sacred Monkey Forest, a beautiful park filled with aggressive macaques.  Maja and I had already seen the park but the Hungarian wanted to see the park.   Within a couple of hundred yards she complaining about the heat, well we had delayed this trip by three hours on her account and now it was the hottest time of the day.  Next came there were t0o many stairs, not enough water, she needed food.   Ayaah!  We tended to her needs and set off again, ostensibly to to an Elephant Cave but not really caring.  Maja set off, initially retracing our path from the previous day and then down another trail that led out into rice paddies where a man was cutting down the clumps of rice and a large gathering of women were flailing the rice and sifting it.   Uninvited we crossed over to the group and invited ourselves to participate to their amusement.   A few minutes of amusement, a few pictures and we were on our way.

We continued north, finally found a roadside restaurant that had a filthy tablecloth with hundres of flies per square meter, decided we were not hungry enough to eat there and found another one, quite clean and ordered.  A few minutes later the Hungarian complained that the woman was just beginning to cook. I don’t know what she expected.  All the while an Indonesian guy just stared at the girls, more out of curiosity than lecherousness, but the Hungarian was bothered by this too.  We finished and headed out. We were but a short way from the volcano and lake and decided to head our way up there.  Of course we stopped frequently to allow our guest to catch up.  I had mentioned that I like to stop off at random people’s houses and ask them to prepare a meal or coffee for me.  Maja decided she would give it a go and chose a house. She did amazingly well, with just the word kopi.  At first the woman pointed to a restaurant that sold coffee but Maja persevered and presently we were served three mugs of “Lumbok coffee”, or as we would call it in the states, “hobo coffee”, finely ground beans stirred into hot water and served with massive amounts of raw sugar unless otherwise directed.

It was getting dark and we all wanted to be out of the valley near the lake with its rutty roads and splashes of water and puddles that could not be seen in the dark and ascended the winding trails to the small town at the top.  We stopped to buy some supplies, agreed on our course and proceeded on our way.  In less than two hundred yards I stopped to photograph a dramatic sunset and discovered that Maja was not with us. Pony (the Hungarian’s assumed name) and I returned to the store and waited but Maja didn’t show.  We were told that she headed down a course we had not agreed upon and set out to look for her going as far as the next road going south and then returned to take our original route which was significantly shorter.  I needed some gas and Pony was cold and bought a jacket for the equivalent of five dollars and we headed back.  A while later I received a text message from Roger indicating that Maja had returned.  I had no doubt she would find her way.

Wednesday, November 5

Although Pony had expressed a desire to explore with us, we had to lose her, she was high maintenance and none too cheery about it.  We left the house and rode to Ubud center and agreed upon a meeting point.  As Pony couldn’t find her way to the point which was just two blocks away, just down the road she went off with Maja to have Maja give her advice on what kind of phone to buy. I went off to collect my laundry.  A short while later I texted Pony and told her that I was going off to Uluwatu to meet with some friends.  A while after that I received a message from Maja that she had “escaped.”

By now it was well past noon and we headed directly to TODO to find some lodging.  We had agreed to stay up in the town rather than try to find accommodations down by the lake as there would be access to food, at least.  I pulled into the first hotel and inquired about a room with two beds.  Maja had a short discussion with the guy who indicated that one bed was all we needed and headed over to the restaurant and found a significantly degraded accommodation, the room was smaller and musty, the bed far inferior and the bathroom was shared and across the balcony.  The view was different, but no better.  I didn’t care. If she was happy I could take this room.  It turned out that she liked the fact that the room was on the balcony and she could sleep outside, in the cool air on a 1/4” thick bedroll on the concrete.

Later I went to take a shower, but our keys did not work in the bathroom.  The employees had taken the key and returned to Denpasar, an hour and a half away, at least.  We could have moved back across the street but Maja wanted to sleep on the concrete so we waited for the key to be returned.  When the room was finally unlocked, it had no running water.  WTF?   I was told to use a shower across the street and was guided through a maze of halls to an occupied room and showered while the guests were elsewhere.  What kind of way is that to run a “hotel”?  The dinner menu was extensive, but the offerings meager, they had but one dish, take it or leave it.  I ate what was available.

Thursday, November 6

While Maja went off to find the trail head to climb the volcano I rode around and explored randomly and in so doing found a place by the lake with a swimming pool and what they claimed was20141106_090931 a natural hot springs hot tub.  I also came across the offices of the tour guides which, logically were located near the trail head.  We met back at the hotel and grabbed a room at the new location.

20141106_102406The nominal price for the long trek to the top of the TODO Volcano is 650,000 rupiah, call it 54 USD.  With no effort I got it down to 300,000 at the TODO official guide station.  Hiring a guide is not mandatory, although the locals will tell you it is.  After protracted negotiations, Maja got the price down to 200,000 rupiah but still elected to not go as paying to go trekking was against her nature.  Interestingly enough, she said she wouldn’t take anybody trekking in Slovenia for less than 100 Euros.

The food was substandard as was the service and we did little more than avail ourselves of the hot tub or pool.

Friday, November 7

2014-11-07We explored the country side by motorbike.  While Maja was able to climb the hills, my motorbike was not up to the task and I had to dismount and walk it up the steep inclines.  The paved roads gave way to dirt roads, dusty and hot with expansive views of parched vegetation as we were nearing the end of the long dry season.  The verdant scenery of Bali is seasonal, but no doubt spectacular in the rainy season as fresh rice is almost a luminescent green.

Very near the hotel was a little Warung called, “Volcano 1” as it was one of three owned by the same woman.  The food was excellent, fresh and organic.  When I ordered fish the woman went out back and took a live one from a large holding tank that she kept in the back.  The vegetables were all grown on the property.  Maja had the banana pancakes and fresh fruit.  She couldn’t finish her 25,000 rupiah dinner, just over $2.  The woman who ran the place was extremely pleasant.  Oops, that must have been Thursday night as we ate another breakfast and dinner there.  Oh well, who is going to know?

Saturday, November 82014-11-08 Volcano to Lake

We decided to head out to Danau Buyan area, where there is a beautiful large botanical garden, some awesome temples and a great deal of nature and trekking to be had.   I insisted that we take the easy route back down to Ubud so I could swap out my little Honday Scoopy for something up to the task of the “mountainous” regions.  The ride back to Ubud was uneventful other than being stopped by the the police and being asked for our International Drivers license. It is just a shake down.  I pretended not to understand much and called a guy I know in Bali and handed the phone to the cop and then spoke with my friend. After five minutes of exchange I reached into my bag and pulled out 100,000 rupiah, about $8, Maja followed my lead, everyone was happy and we were on our way.  The official policy is confiscation of the bikes, a court appearance and a fine of up to one million rupiah.

Next we headed north again and slightly to the west, the traffic was abysmal.  At one point we were passed by twenty motorbikes with side saddles, some had flashers and sirens although they were not police, they just expected that they could ride on the the wrong side of the road and everyone would get out of their way.  We encountered them again this time coming at us.  Cars and trucks would tailgate us, riding a meter from our rear wheels although we had nowhere to go.  It was nerve racking, to say the least.

We finally, very near our destination stopped at a market, wandering around, I with little purpose other than not being on the road, Maja in search of a cheap jacket; she found one and happily donned it and became a Slovenian bumble bee.  After another twenty minutes of exploration we happened across a…. hmmm… (what do I call it?)  a place that offered lodging.   The owners were a young Swiss man and his beautiful Indonesian bride.  Her father and their daughter also resided there.  There were six rooms, but at least two were reserved for the family.  The view was phenomenal and the setting was tranquil.  The room was basic, to be kind, but it would do. I can sleep damn near anywhere and there was a slab of concrete for Maja.  Three men appeared from somewhere nearby and they practiced their traditional music while the five year old daughter practiced her dance, although not in costume.  Dinner of the night was pre-set as to the menu and the time, one was asked to pay what he thought it was worth.  The room was 150,000 rupiah, cheap but not a great deal.

  • The underpowered Scoopy I swapped out.

Sunday, November 9

There was much to see in the area, our first stop was to be Manduk Waterfall, which I had seen my first time in Bali, it is an impressive waterfall and the hike is spectacular, steps forever, at least a thousand, through a lush jungle along breezy ridges.  Not far from our hotel on a patch of gravel Maja skidded to a stop, unfortunately not upright, and received some minor abrasions to her right upper thigh, buttocks, knee and ankle.  She was done for the day but insisted that she would return alone and that I should go on.  The roads became ever worse and I eventually, following the guidance of my phone went off to a dirt trail into the jungle, which was amazingly enough, indicated on google maps.  I left my motorbike and began walking but there were far too many trails.  Had I not had a motorbike I may have ventured down and figured I could come out somewhere and eventually find a taxi, but I feared that I would never find my bike.  Although some of the scenery was familiar and I was sure I could wind my way back to my original entry point of several months ago as I would just have to follow the trail along the ridge, selecting each of many bifurcations to find my motorbike left me a bit uneasy.  I returned, motored around aimlessly and finally killed a couple of hours in a roadside stall, seeking shelter from the rain and buying coffee after coffee a woman who became more confused with every request.  This coffee buying was done sole.  As the sun set the valley filled with clouds and the whole lake disappeared TODO. It was chilly, cool and drizzly.  We looked at the weather report and decided we should leave in the morning as rain was predicted for the next five days.

  • Morning has broken

Monday, November 10

We decided to go to Uluwatu, on the far south of Bali and spent a night in Kuta.  I took a nice hotel room and met up with a Indonesian woman I had met earlier while Maja found a couple of guys to host her.  While I luxuriated, she slept with a can of pepper spray in her hand, ever at the ready, wary but without any probable reason for concern.

Tuesday, November 11

We met up an my hotel and headed to Uluwatu.  Although it wasn’t much of a ride, we had departed late and there was little time to do much.

Wednesday, November 12

20141112_110900Maja went to the beach with a book and I drove around visiting every beach in the area.  They were all the same, a hundred steps down from the road and rough water.  The only reason to enter was to surf many of the beaches are considered completely unswimmable.  When the water is calm there is always surfing at Uluwata.

Thursday, November 13

I returned to Legian alone then went back to Ubud to swap out bike, pulled over by police for the second time in a few weeks,  this time my bribe was 200,000 rupiah.  The ATM was out so cop accepted 170,000.  I then went to town and got some cash at another ATM and grabbed a ride back to Kuta.

Friday, November 14

To my great dismay I discovered that I had left my ATM card when I withdrew my money.  The ATMs in Indonesia only let you take out 1,200,000 at a time, about $100 dollars, add the three dollar ATM fee and as of the date of this writing (December 13) I discovered that my bank is now charging me five dollars per ATM withdrawal, that’s 8% to get my money.   I contacted Roger and he told me he could get me $400, so I rented another motorbike and spent three hours on what should have been a forty minute ride. The traffice was unbelievable.  Usually motorbikes can bypass the cars stuck in traffic but every intersection seemed to have twenty cars going all four directions and a hundred motorbikes and nobody was moving.  At least no one was honking the horn.  Roger kept sending me text messages, but as I was driving, I didn’t know. I showed up hours late and met him as his girlfriend at a restaurant well after he was to meet a real estate person.   On the way back I got stopped yet again, while motorbikes with four kids, the oldest being twelve drove by with impunity but without helmets I was a mark.  This time the cop wanted 500,000, the official fine is 1,000,000.  I had but 350,000 left in my wallet, he took it all. I got stopped one more time and told the cop I had no more money, the last cop took it all, he just shrugged his shoulders, stopped traffic for me and I went on my way.

Screw it, it was easier to hire a taxi to go to the airport than get extorted again.  I turned in my motorbike and grabbed a taxi.  The reasonable metered fare is 30,000 rupiah, I paid 100,000, the driver offered to wait for me and take me back for only 150,000 more.  I dismissed him.  After buying my flight to the other end of this country for twice the round trip cab fare I found that the airport had instituted a policy of fixed fares set at a counter and I found that my fare back was 70,000 rupiah.

Adios

Done, flying off to Kuala Lumpur.  I missed a lot here, but it is already too long. Somehow I forgot the story of her “Felix the Cat” day pack that miraculously held every imaginable thing one could need under any circumstance, or her wide variety of multi-colored clothes each garment at least four different bright colors, from her hat, shirt, pants, socks to her shoes.  Oh well.

Uncategorized

Fuck these people – Asana Agung Putra Hotel Bali

Apologies, I now have working internet and will try to catch up on Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia as well as trips to see monkeys, apes and Komodo Dragons.  In the mean time, have a review I just left on TripAdvisor.

——

I was traveling with a buddy I met in Flores and we decided to pick a place on Poppy and booked a room at Asana Agung.  I was disappointed to discover that the internet was essentially worthless as I had intended to upload some travel pictures.  The hotel uses open WiFi so there is no security, but they have a popup login window that can’t be closed.  The connection dropped every five minutes so I decided I would just upload my pictures when I got to a better hotel.
We met some people and decided to extend our stay.   I was not able to have an internet connection long enough to book on Agoda over their WiFi and went out and bought a SIM card and booked on my phone.  I got two email confirmations and immediately notified the hotel that this was a double booking.  They promised they would address it as soon as possible.
The front desk came up with one excuse after another and said they would have to talk with management to process the refund.  I pointed out the Lamborghini parked next to reception with the hotel chain name on it and stated that they must be here and that they would call.  They sent a confirmation email that they would give a refund as soon as possible.  The hotel manager, Putra Suyara promised he would refund the money within the hour as we checked out.  I got to Ubud to see the second email from Agoda, which evidences that he was flat out lying.
Bear in mind, this was a double booking caused by their horrific WiFI and that they did not suffer any loss of revenue as they were immediately notified.  I have had other hotels in Indonesia offer large apologies and cash refunds when they couldn’t process a credit card refund.  Not this place, they just lied and kept the money.
Additionally the pool chemistry is so unbalanced that it is unusable.
Avoid the place, they are not worthy of being in the hospitality business.

 

Warm greetings from Asana Agung Putra …

 

Thank you very much for your email,

For your booking for the ref # 57631454, would you please help to contact Agoda and process the cancellation directly as our policy we unable to cancel your booking at our system before we receive cancellation from Agoda.

 

Should you need any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you.

 

 

Best regards,

 

Adi Saputra ( Mr )

Sales Executive

——

Greetings from agoda.com!

With reference to your booking ID 57680421 as detailed below:

Hotel: Asana Agung Putra Hotel Bali
Room Type: Superior Queen Pool View
City/Country: Bali/Indonesia
Arrival: October 30, 2014
Departure: November 1, 2014

Please kindly note that Agoda has already contacted hotel Asana Agung Putra Bali regarding this issue. We have spoken to the hotel manager Mr.Putra, however, in this case the no-show charge for this booking must be applied and we cannot waive it as per our No-Show Policy.

Regards,
Agoda Customer Support Team

Indonesia Malaysia

Tawau to Tarakan

I intended to stay but a night in Tawau. It was intended just to be a layover on my way to Tarakan.  I arrived, got a room and booked a flight.

The next day I popped a few immodium and went to the airport and was advised that I needed a visa for Indonesia.  I was in Indonesia in May and no visa was required.  It turns out that visa requirements vary based on the port of entry.  Strange.  The airline rebooked my flight and I killed Sunday cleaning up pictures.

20140929-20140929_121149_Lorong Shamrock 1Yesterday, Monday, I went down to the Indonesian Consulate to get a visa.  There were about 40 people sitting around who had been there for hours.  I will cut this short, I got my application form and then discovered that I also needed to have a ticket out.  I went to the ferry dock to buy a ticket I would not use from Indonesia back to Malaysia but was advised that they are only sold in Malaysia.  Great.  Next stop a travel agency who booked a flight for me from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur for no cost, they would just cancel the flight in a few hours.  They wouldn’t take any money at all for their services.  Awesome.

Back at the consulate, i presented my form, paid my fees, got my picture taken and received a visa within half an hour.  By now it was almost noon and there were no lines.  Back to the ferry dock/fish market.

I asked a boy with a “Superman is Dead” hat if I could take his picture.  He proudly 20140929-20140929_130110_Jalan Kelapaposed.  A friend of his solicited one ringgit, I gave them each a piece of gum.  They followed me around the market as I took pictures of massive ray heads, half a tuna cleanly cut its tail skyward and other miscellany and oddities.  Every vendor was very friendly and wanted to know where I was from, they guessed Spain, Germany, England, Canada and other large countries populated by white people.  I hadn’t seen a caucasian in days.  I took out my phone to show a map indicating where Panama was and one of the guys saw a picture of a large breasted, young, beautiful Philippino girl I had been dating.  I was now a rock star.  Everybody wanted me to take a picture of them or their produce.  We all ended up smiling and laughing, knuckle punching, fisting, thumbs upping or waving for the next two hours.

The boat ride from Tawau, Malaysia to Toraken, Indonesia was about three hours and cost 130 ringgit.  Visa on arrival is good for 30 days and  was $25 in May, is now $35.  A sixty day visa, which must be acquired before entry costs $50.

Tuesday, September 30

The airline wanted $100 to change the date of my flight forward one day.  The full fare was $69.  They also wanted me at the airport at 7:30 in the morning, three hours before departure at an airport with around three gates.  I decided just to take the ferry.  The fare is 130 ringgit, must be purchased before 11 and the ferry leaves at 11:30.

I went up top and hung out with random people for a while.  This was the luggage deck, the airconditioned cabin with spacious seats was below.  I was offered cigarettes, water, rice, fish, sticky rice with fish, soy milk, water, coffee candy, people asked to pose with me for pictures. No communication in English but a lot of laughs.

We pulled into Tarakan and I exited through the fore hatch walked the length of the boat on a narrow passage jumped a meter over water while holding three bags filled with $3,000 worth of electronics and up to the dock where suspiciously aggressive motorbike people offered to take me to a hotel.  I walked several hundred meters down the dock toward shore, cleared immigration and customs and walked out front.  Some guy offered to take me to a hotel that was only 100,000 a night for 50,000 riyad.  The hotel was obviously a dump and there is no way a ride could possibly cost $5 in a town of this size.  I walked a bit and enquired and found a small hotel near the pier.  I was leaving first thing in the morning, so damn near anything would do, but this place had no internet, which was required for research on how to continue this trip and the room was un-air-conditioned and musty.

The owner was kind enough to give me a bottle of water and direct me to the Dynasty Hotel and pay my cab fare as I didn’t have any Indonesian money.  To no surprise the fare amounted to 7,000 ryad, about $0.70.  The hotel was nice, the room was large and comfortable and internet worked great.  I found a guy who spoke English who tried to arrange a package dive tour through his friend for two million ryad.  I wasn’t going to sign up with an unknown entity without checking out references on the web or seeing the boat and gear and besides his boat didn’t leave until Friday and I wanted to get out of here.  He took my refusal graciously and told me to take a ferry in the morning to Tanjung Selor and from there take a minibus towards Tanjung Redeb and to tell the driver I wanted to be let off at Tanjung Batu on the way.  Without telling him, he wouldn’t stop. From Tanjung Batu buy a ticket on the ferry to Maratua Island.   This all sounded pretty straight forward.

Next order of business, get internet on the phone.  Gotta have internet, I book hotels, check flights, give directions to taxis and of course post stuff on CrackBook. That was mindless 120,000 riyad later ($12) I had a SIM and a 4 GB.

Next order of business?  Eat.  I was directed “Rumah Makaw Derawan” to eat. Now keep in mind that this was done without speaking a word of English.  I drew a picture of a fish and pantomimed eating.  The clerk wrote down this name, pointed down the street and raised two fingers.  So it was “two far”.  Wasn’t two blocks.  Wasn’t two hundred meters.  It turned out to be two kilometers.  The food was awesome, the staff was great, everybody had a good time as we amused each other.  A dish of fish, a dish of shrimp, a dish of veggies and meat, a bowl of rice I didn’t eat and three iced coffees came to 130,000 riyad ($13).

On the way back I walked past a Power Distribution Unit and Telecom Patch Panel in a small room on the main street with the outside door wide open and no one around.

Have some more pictures.

 

Malaysia Sarawak

Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines has had enough trouble without inviting more, first MH370 disappeared in April,  MH17 was shot down during an injudicious fly over a region in conflict. They recently had the GPS go out during a flight, necessitating a return to the departure point.  There are reports of flights with just one or two passengers.

Well, I am in Miri, Malaysia and need to fly to  Gunung Mulu National Park.  I visited several online booking sites but ended up being directed to MASwings.com.my or MalaysiaAirlines.com.

MalaysiaAirlines.com requires an area code and a phone number.  They don’t ask for the country code.  It wants a three digit area code.  I have no idea how I am supposed to enter my Malay phone number, so I just typed in 600 for the area code as 60 is the country code and 0 is the first digit of the phone number.  At least MASwings asks for a country code with a pull down and a phone number.

However, neither site would process my credit card, although my bank was never contacted, they were having technical difficulties.

MalaysianAirlinesBadServiceRep
Can’t book online due to two broken sites that can’t process payments, meet with surly representative at airport. Malaysia Airlines, you are your own worst enemy.

I set off to the airport and entered the ticketing room and took a queue number, number 65.  When I noticed that the next man to walk up was holding ticket #70, I objected that the numbers were not being served in order. I was told that my number had been passed.  There is no overhead display and the woman was calling out numbers in Malay.  I got a new number, she took walkins without numbers while I sat there and waited.  I protested, she told me to wait until they called my number and then took another walkin.

Finally I booked a flight and took a taxi back to my hotel.  If Malaysia Airlines fails, it will of their own doing.

 

Malaysia Sarawak

Orangatans! Semenggoh Wildlife and Kuching Sunset Boat Tour

Semenggoh Wildlife Park

Just twenty kilometers out of Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia is Semenggoh Wildlife Park.  There are tours, but really?  It’s easy.  From my hotel I walked one kilometer, hopped on an air conditioned bus, paid three ringgit, (3.17 to the dollar) and rode on the bus for 45 minutes.  The tours will spare you the 1.3 kilometer walk from the entrance to the rehabilitation center.  I like walking.

Admission is ten ringgit for foreigners and five ringgit for Malays.  I had caught the one o’clock bus.  Feeding time is 3:00.  There noorangwasn’t much hope of seeing anything, the orangutans had not been to the feeding station for weeks as the fruit are ripe.  The tour vans passed me and everybody on my bus charged toward the feeding station.  I ambled and looked around.  It sure doesn’t take an hour to walk less than a mile.   I saw some branches rustling on a windless day.  I stopped and gazed, put on my telephoto lens and spotted some red fur in the distance.  In a short while a full female orangatan with baby came into view.  I started taking pictures.  The next tour van that came in saw me and the guide came out to look.  He called everybody out of the van and called the office to let them know that rehabilated orangtans had been spotted.  All the vans at the feeding station drove back and everybody that was on my bus started running towards me.  More orangutans appeared. Finally there were somewhere between five and seven.

IMG_0098I felt no need to proceed to the feeding station. The apes approached closer and closer and three of them crossed the road.  I would call this day a success.  Tomorrow I go to look for probiscus monkeys.

Full picture album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset Tour

A quick walk back to the river front market and I met the soup girl I had met last night.  I convinced her to go on a sunset tour with me.  It was but an hour.  Fifteen minutes downstream, return and fifteen minutes upstream, then she had to work. Picture Kuching at night and sunset.  I was going to create some links, but it is going to take forever for those pictures to upload.

As always, all of my travel pictures can be found on picasaweb.

 

Uncategorized

New Camera

Just a short walk from my hotel is a four story shopping mall dedicated to electronics.  I knew what I wanted to buy, a Canon Rebel SL1, sold here as the D100.  I had been disappointed in the white balance and vividness of the D4100 and most pictures required post processing.  The camera also lacked autofocus in movie mode.  Whatever.

I was just going to buy the camera, a UV filter and a circular polarizing filter.  I ended up buying the 55-230 lens; I figured I would just regret not having it on my trip to Borneo, starting tomorrow.  This is the lightest SLR on the market and has received rave reviews on its quality of pictures. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find a store at the mall that sold cameras for less than Amazon prices and that there is no sales tax or VAT in Malaysia.  I also bought two UV filters and a Circular Polarizing Filter and a monopod.  They threw in a bag, a screen protector, a blower bulb and brush. Then I bought a 1,500 milliamp spare battery.

Next stop, get a lightning cable for charging my phone.  A standard USB cable has four wires, two for carrying current and two for data. A lightning cable shorts the data lines.  In this mode the phone will charge at one amp versus 500 milliamps with a standard cable.  Amazingly they wanted $20 for a $3 cable with the wires shorted.  I then spotted a 17,000 milliamp external battery pack. My current one is only 850 milliamps.  This beast would give my phone five charges.  Really I need to have a phone at all times.  As I said yesterday, google maps for taxis, track my walks, find points of interest with TripAdvisor, take pictures and yes, chat on Facebook.  They wanted to sell me this lightning cable for much faster charging.  I told them the cables that came with the battery pack were power only cables and I didn’t need anything else.  They didn’t believe me.  I downloaded three apps that show the charging rate and they all indicated 1 amp.  “This device puts out 2.3 amps.” So what dude, the phone won’t draw that.  I also advised them that the cable should only be used on AC adapters.  I don’t know if I got through to them.

When I got back to the hotel I looked up the filters I had bought and realized that when I stopped asking questions about prices the guy went nuts.  I went back to the store and told the guy I wanted to return the filters as I had been charged four times the value and showed him the prices online. He complained that online prices can’t be matched by stores.  I told him that four times the price was ridiculous and that I was sure I could buy at the online prices at another store.  He gave me a cash refund of a $150 and apologized profusely for having been caught.

All right, laundry is done, time to book a flight.  Orangutans, coming up.

Uncategorized

Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur

I put an ad in Craig’s list several days ago and received four or five emails.  One guy promised to come and buy my camera on Wednesday night as he was in Pattaya, a beach town about 100 kilometers from Bangkok.  After several exchanges, he never showed. Around eleven Wednesday night I received an email from an engineering student who wanted to buy it for his girlfriend who was taking a photography class.  We agreed to meet at the hotel at nine.

He finally showed up at 10:30, inspected it and got the Nikon D5100 camera body, three lenses, a right angle viewer, four macro lens/filters, U/V filter, Circular Polarizing Filter, lens hoods and a bag I picked up in Sagada Philippines.  Used on Amazon that was about $700, I let it all go for 8,500 baht, about $275.   I just didn’t want to carry all that stuff anymore, the only thing I had used was the camera body and the 18-55 mm lens.

Off to the airport, I paid 10,000 baht in fines for overstaying my visa by 20 days.  What a dope.

A two and half hour flight with lots of knee room and I was in Kuala Lumpur.  I had booked a hotel in an area called Bukit Bintang.  The online instructions were

From the KLIA Airport, you need to get to the KL Sentral station (the airport is 60km away from KL).Then, take the monorail to the Bukit Bintang station. The fare is RM3.70 (~฿37.41)

The train was ridiculously easy to find and in short order I took a very comfortable 60 km ride to Sentral Station.  Then the fun began.

Map of  KL Transit System
Kuala Lumpur Transit Map

I waited in the queue at the token machine while a woman paid her 3.70 fee in dimes.  It took her forever to insert them and to scrounge around.  I was inclined to walk to the front of the line and just insert a couple of bills, but I remained patient.  The next person, who certainly appeared a malay stood in front of the machine for a confused five minutes before figuring out how to use it. Eventually it was my turn.  I pressed the screen over a station labeled Bukit Bintang.  There were no clear signs. I made inquiries and was told there was no way to get there.  After half an hour I decided just to take a taxi but it appeared that there were none at the central terminal. I made another inquiry and was told I would have to go to Masjid Jamek and transfer from there.  That was easy. I hopped the train, got Masjid Jamek and finally saw a transit map. From here I would have yet another transfer. I decided to go back to the Sentral Station and find the monorail.  I had bought a new phone, A Samsung Galaxy Note 3 a few days earlier and developed the habit of carrying it in a pouch over my shoulder.  In the pouch I also carry a charger that will top up the phone. I need a phone all the time.  Nearest places of interest, google maps to direct taxi drivers, yes and chatting on facebook.  As I was departing the train a girl about age five ran off the train and handed me my phone.  How the hell did that happen?  I inquired as to the location of the monorail and was told it was in the mall.  From the station I took the escalator into the mall and wandered around without any clue as to where it was.  I was finally directed to leave the mall on the far side.  I found the monorail and six token machines, all with their lights off and no way to board the train. What the hell?  Somebody else told me to take the elevator down to the ticket office.  I did so and found a couple of guys in their early twenties from Turkmenistan who were studying in Kuala Lumpur.  We joked around for a bit and then they told me that the ticket office was across the street.  Come on guys, a sign or two couldn’t hurt.  I secured a token and headed to my stop.  Broad sidewalks of granite, litter free, were populated but not crowded with a great many people.  A very short man completely covered in gold glitter did the old statue trick and posed with tourists who paid to take pictures with him.   Time to grab a taxi and get taken to the hotel.  Easier said than done.  I only found a taxi every twenty minutes and none of them knew where the hotel was even provided the address in writing from the booking confirmation.  I made my way to a McDonalds and availed myself of the wifi. The hotel didn’t have a website and none of the booking companies listed it’s phone number.  I finally found a facebook page for the hotel that listed the number and packed up.   My phone was now dead, but my Mac Air can run on batteries for 12 hours.  I found a taxi showed him the number, he called the hotel and then quoted me an outrageous fee.  I told him to use his meter, he refused. I finally got him down to 25 ringgit and he took me to the hotel.  I arrived at the hotel three hours after arriving at the airport.

I met a german lad who was on his way to Singapore. I mentioned that it was very expensive.  He knew, he was staying at a hotel at the harbor for $300 a night.  That’s way the hell out of my budget range.  He mentioned that he was going to Bali and I told him I had a couple of friends there and then showed him pictures of the bikini models I spent three weeks with in the Philippines.  I mentioned that they were from Guadalupe.  His parents winter at their house in the Canary Islands.  Few bucks in the family.  I introduced him to my friend Candice.  He seemed quite excited.  Dinner and time for bed.

Uncategorized

Phetchaburi to Kaeng Krachan Park

As I was in Mae Klong and Phetchaburi was so close I thought I would check it out.  As my trip to Mae Klong was just an overnighter I only brought one change of clothes.  Got up, checked out of the hotel, walked down the street.  Found a place that had eggs. No I don’t want fried rice.  Googled omelette and showed it to them.  A few minutes later, I had an omelette.

Ten minute walk to town, found a police officer asked for transport to Phetchaburi (you supposedy can go by train or bus.  He pointed me down the street and said green.  I saw a red bus stopped in front of a stand, pulled out my phone, pointed to Phetchaburi on a map.  Six guys looked at it (it was written in Latin letters not Tha) one guy said “Phetchaburi” and pointed to his motorbike. I inquired about the price, 60 baht.  Five kilometers later he dropped me off on the side of a six lane highway and pointed to a van.

I walked over. “Phetchaburi?”  The man nodded and showed me six fingers. I handed him 60 baht and now I am off on a two hour ride in air conditioned van sitting next to a pretty girl.

That was ridiculously easy.  We arrived in Phetchaburi in short order, I thought the trip was going to take an hour and a half.  I was deposited in front of a mall, went in, enjoyed a mall big hot pretzel, something I haven’t had for years and a large iced coffee.  I wanted to see ??? a famous cave with with a temple inside.  I found a motorbike stand and showed the name of the temple to several people. I finally found one that could read the anglicized version of the name, written in Latin letters.

He agreed to take me there for 60 baht close enough to $2 that it makes no difference.  Yeah, it was a cave,  not impressive and it had Buddhas inside.  I was expecting an actual building inside for some reason, I obviously got it confused with another cave I had seen on the internet. Whatever, we saw an unimpressive former King’s house, hard to call it a castle, the homes in my town in Texas are far more impressive architecturally and far better appointed.  The grounds were interesting, expansive and lush, but the monkeys were the most interesting thing.   They were everywhere and very aggressive. The people who worked at the park carried sticks and slingshots to fend them off.  One more stop, ??? another Wat.  That’s it. I don’t need to see more.  I was dropped back off at the mall.

How to I get to Kaeng Krachen Park? That would require a coffee and some internet research.  An inquiry on the internet stated that Rabieng Rimnum Guesthouse.  I showed the name to a motorbike guy and he quoted 80 baht.  I laughed and showed him 40 and started to walk away.  He accepted and a few minutes later dropped me off.  Nothing like that ever happened in Lao.

The place was situated next to a bridge and ran along a river.  This rustic room had shutters that were open, revealing a fair sized river and allowing a good breeze.  Out of the sun and cooled by the breeze and an iced coffee, ahhh.   I asked the woman who ran the place about tours to the park. She informed me that the head ranger was illegally foresting and that she no longer goes there.

Hmmm.  I ordered lunch and sat by a windowed and watched enormous water monitors on the banks and in the river.  A man drinking beer after beer introduced himself.  He was taking advantage of the four day Buddhist Saint’s Day with a vigorous effort to remain completely wasted.  He asked if he could join me and then prattled on about how missed South Africa and then proceeded to tell me that it was dangerous and that he had no friends there.  More rambling, I ignored him, he cared not.

It started to rain.  He was going to go home but didn’t know where he lived.  Really?  You live in this city and you don’t know where you live?  The operator called him a taxi and then two well worn folks came in, he greeted them warmly and then introduced me “This is my good buddy… what is your name?”  There was one grizzled Norwegian fellow  They sat around and had drunken conversations for hours, repeating what they had said but the audience had already forgotten that which was said five minutes earlier.  The all had beautiful girlfriends in Cha Am, they just couldn’t remember their names. I did get some suggestions for interesting places to go.  Finally I went to my room.  The mattresses were a couple inches thick of foam.  Unidentifiable fluids drained down the wall near the bed starting a few feet above the bed.  Nasty really.   The sink for the shared bathroom rested on and drained into a five gallon.  Quite the dump.  I was tired and slept well.

In the morning I headed out to the pickup spot for the minivans to get to the park.  After being told by numerous people that there was no van I located the spot as I happened to be asking the driver of the van.  A couple of guys from England showed up and we paid our 120 baht.  An hour or so later we were delivered to the information center for the park where admission could be bought for 200 baht.  However, the campgrounds were 36km into the large park, walking was not an option and transportation required a four wheel drive vehicle and there were none for hire.   This couldn’t possibly be true.  More internet research, yup you have to hitch hike.  Too bad there is no vehicular traffic, precluding that option.  I returned to the van that took us to the park and I am writing this as we ride back to Phetchaburi.

As soon as I got to Phetchaburi I decided to check out Ban Laem.  No buses? No vans?  Ok, I’ll take a motorbike.  Haggled, 100 baht and we were off.  He wanted to drop me off at the edge of town, I had him take me to the ocean. It was not the unspoiled beauty DSC_2566promised by the drunken Norwegian last night.   There were no hotels. None.  Not on Agoda, not a Hotels.com, inquiries in the street pantomimed yet obviously understood, nope the nearest was back in Phetchaburi.  I walked around for just a few minutes and inquired about transport to Bangkok.  This time I could talk. “Bangkok?” and the response was a point.  A few turns later and the next time I was told I was at the depot.  I saw a guy sitting at a table and invited myself to sit with him.  He was quite pleased and immediately took out his phone, pointed it at me and said “Facebook?” I gave him the thumbs up and he snapped away.  A couple of other people joined us.  Their expressions said it all, “Look a white guy.”  I had my picture taken three more times order one of whatever the lady was already cooking.  She got on the phone and soon a guy came over to tell me that the meal was free.

I gave one of them my phone number and told them through the guy who spoke english that I would send them the pictures I had taken.  I bought a ticket for the van, took a seat.  The driver showed up and directed me to sit shotgun. Nice people. It started raining and I added this boring shit to today’s blog entry.  See?  I told you I would be more current with my new notebook.