Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bring Your Own Life Jacket

It's been awhile coming, but here's the final climax of our trip over the New Year holiday. To get to and from Gili Trawangan, you can take a small boat from Lombok or you can take a speed boat from Bali. We chose to go from Bali.

Because there's a big demand for passengers trying to get to the Gili islands from Bali, there are several companies that offer transportation services. Our trip to Gili Trawangan was uneventful, but when we were on our way back, although it was a beautiful day, the seas were really rough.

At one point while we were crossing the approximate 50 miles between the islands, we started hitting some really large swells. For some reason, this French guy (wearing matching flower print shirt and shorts) stood up to talk to his friends. As we hit a huge swell, he immediately fell in his friend's lap, then went flying up in the air and hit the ceiling and then fell down to the floor again. After that the captain slowed down and we got back to Bali uneventfully.

Because the New Year holiday is one of the biggest travel times of the year, we had to take Merpati Nusantara Airlines, which is less reliable than some of the other options. It was delayed about an hour, but then we were on the runway ready to take off. The captain hit the throttle, but then the plane went quiet and we headed back to the terminal for repairs. We waited at the airport for five more hours and they finally had to pile all the passengers and luggage onto two small buses to take us to a hotel promising that the plane would leave at 9 am the next morning. But it didn't. Hill and I were among the lucky ones because we insisted on getting the cell phone number of the manager and we were able to get on the following day's flight, a mere 24 hours delayed. Unfortunately the majority of the other passengers were stuck back at the hotel and left to wait yet another day.

The following Monday, we were back at work and we heard people talking about a boat that sank off the coast of Bali the same afternoon we were crossing. Apparently one of the other fast boat shuttle operators, Lian Senggigi, started taking on water and the boat sank, luggage and all, 700 meters from Bali! It was really lucky that the boat was so close to Bali because many people had to swim to shore or were picked up by local fishermen.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why does it always rain on me?

If there's one theme in our stories from Indonesia, it must be that things never run perfectly smoothly. That rule was in full effect during our trip to Gili Trawangan.

We stayed at Hotel Vila Ombak; probably the nicest hotel on the island. They had just finished a row of new cottage rooms a month before and we were in one of those. It was a nice place with a good pool and definitely a step above the backpacker dives for $10 a night.

But then it rained. While we were sleeping on our first night, we heard the rain pouring...into our room. It seems in their rush to finish construction, they neglected a few details. By morning, the curtains were dripping water and anything we set close to the walls was soaked.

We moved to the room above us the next night and later figured out why our room had flooded. On the balcony to the upstairs room, several inches of water pooled and drained into the room below. (We noticed that after we moved, a new couple immediately moved in below....'cause that makes a lot more sense than fixing the problem....)

But there's more. Because it was New Year's Eve, the hotel organized a huge party and built a stage over the ocean and several huge tents to cover the seating on the beach. The dinner was compulsory and overpriced, but we figured it would still be fun.

But then it rained. The roof they built started leaking. And then water started pouring through and onto the tables. Tablecloths were soaked and water glasses were being filled by rain, yet the waiters were still bringing people to these tables, saying "Here is your table, sir".

And then the roof collapsed. Not the whole thing, but it collapsed onto the table next to us. We thought about making a run for it, but decided that the rest would hold after they started cutting holes to let water drain through the roof. So we grabbed our umbrella and stood in the buffet line to get their crappy food (we found much better food under one of the other tents after we were already full).

But here's my favorite part. They brought a famous Indonesian DJ to perform, and all the kids who never drink came over from the main island. Because the ferry boats going back didn't return until the morning the party kept going all night. Or at least the music did. Our room's thatch walls didn't block the sound, so it sounded like we were inside a club. At around 2 am, we put in ear plugs and tried to sleep. When the music finally stopped at 9 in the morning, I said to Hillary, "I'm not sure I can go back to sleep now that it's so quiet." Luckily right then, construction started up next door!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Happy New Year!

To celebrate New Year's Eve and to take advantage of a few holidays back to back, we went to a tiny island called Gili Trawangan that's an hour by speed boat from Bali. It was the perfect place to go to get away from Jakarta: the only vehicles allowed on the island are bicycles and horse carts called cidomos. Just to describe how tiny the island is, we were able to bike around the whole thing in about an hour.
We spent five nights there and really had a chance to relax. We lounged on the beach, ate great food and did a couple of scuba dives. The water was the clearest we've seen in Indonesia and the white sand beaches were the perfect place to spend the whole day. We had an amazing trip, but this is Indonesia: there's always adventure in even the simplest of things. More to come later. Enjoy the pictures for now.