Friday, March 12, 2010

Ok, Ok to be fair

Ok, I wasnt so fair to Malaysian Borneo in my last post. There are some beautiful things to see just need more time and planning than 10 days and hoping to find a guild book at the backpackers AFTER you arrive :%. After another looong bike ride across the state of Sabah we spent 1.5 days at the Poring ( Bamboo) Hot Springs in Kinabalu National Park. Bath tubs and pools are feed directly from a volcanic spring...Actually very relaxing and as the temps can get into the teens ( Celsius) at night not too hot. We also enjoyed some nature walks and bio tours around Mt Kianbalu park, though we didnt climb...too much effort physically and emotionally as again it require booking and guides and an overnight stay, though its a straight path up with a summit you can reach in 5 hours..hassle, hassle, hassle...anyway back in Kota Kinabalu and interestingly enough a real cultural high light here is the night market where all things edible are sold and prepared form the fresh section to the nasi goreng section on to the fried and then the BBQ section. Absolutely great!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Malaysian Borneo

At the moment we are in northern Malaysian Borneo and will fly to Cambodia in a few days. Borneo has been a bit of a disappointment, though much cleaner and "advanced" than Indonesia they are not at all clued into independent tourists. Most tourists that come through are part of tour groups and the whole system is designed around that. So they look at you stupidly and tell you everything has been booked out by the tour groups. We did spend a few days at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary, which was great but other things to see are few and far between. Alot of that has to do with the fact that at least 75 % of the territory is covered in Palm Oil Plantations, which is very, very sad...

We rented a motorbike to travel independently across the state of Sabah. Very much Motorcycle Diaries, but with a better bike. And in the film they dont talk about how painful it is to sit perfectly still on the back of a bike for 8 hours :%. And though this young entropenuer ( much better than the one on Lombok) has a great idea to get travelers to be more independent, he is way ahead of the rest of the country which doesnt really like free movers and thinkers.

And a moment on religion: On Lombok there are huge ornate, glass windowed, tiled mosques every 2 kms in every tiny village between the rice paddies that are still tilled by water buffalo by individuals who will likely starve if one crop fails. Glass windowed mosques dont feed people. Here in Borneo there are catholic churches like there are McDonalds in the US one every 1/2 km. Yet the poverty of those not profiting from Oil and palm oil is close to that on Lombok and the AIDS rate is high. I am silently angry.

Oh Singapore

Where you can get beaten for gum, but they have a great airport: Heading to Borneo after a night at Singapore airport. The best place to have a holiday..Free films, free Starbucks breakfast ( not my fault they didnt ask for my money) and the Singapore police did not arrest me for sleeping on the seats in the terminal, though they did make movements towards their guns when they startled me awake and I was all in self-defence mode :% :$

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A slight of hand and look where you land

Leaving Ubud our plan was to tour around Bali towards the east. We bought bus tickets at the Ubud tourist office to our destination and we were off. Except when the bus stopped at small sea side port and we were asked to get out...It was the end of the line and we weer not at our planned destination. Looking at the tickets again the damn tourist "police" had written down this port not where we wanted to go. And of course here some taxi bus mafioso was demanding a months salary to take us 20 what ot do. This port, Padangbai is actually the port from which ferries leave for the next island to the east, Lombok. So for 4$ a piece we boarded an ancient metal barge and traveled the 70 Kms east took almost 7 hours but we didnt sink so thats good :)

So Lombok is the largely Muslim and less visited neighbour of largely Hindu Bali. Tourism hasnt really taken hold here other that reach the diving/ snorkeling/ partying paradise Gilli Islands off its coast. The Gilli Islands have no police...Something the Bali 9 should have thought about. They are building an "International Airport" here and all those clinging desperately to the tourist industry are very excited about. I think it might bring more evil than good with it. Lombok is poor and though life in the tropics may appear easy, men, women, children and small ponies toil daily through the movements of subsistence farming. No one has it easy, contrary to some opinions i have heard. The land is beautiful though and people are more genuinely happy to see you.

So I met a breed of entrepreneur I hadn't met before until now. Apparently they are quite common here on the islands, namely a guy ( 35 going on 17) in the business of fulfilling the tropical dreams of some rather desperate European woman and he living off the perks, food, drink, and even a house. He is happy to hustle tourists to hotels/ services etc and play reagee music, but these woman are determined to make some cultured responsible adult out of him ( maybe not so responsible). An interesting sociological observation. What I did learn through this whole experience is that Locally brewed palm wine tastes like liking some animal and Lombok Belly feels like digesting gravel. I can not imagine child birth being worse. You can tell, I did not enjoy Lombok as wished I would. I am glad to be back in Padangbai which is actually a great little fishing village with beautiful snorkeling, good food and baaadddd live bands. Think drunk frat boys singing, though they are neither drunk nor in a frat :@.

Ohhh Bali Bali

After the fianly great impression of Mount Cook, while sea kayaking on a glacier lake, a needed rest in Christ Church that included bungy tampolining ( one should not do this after age 10 as it induses nausia , blood circulation issues and internal posterier cramps for hours :O* ) and hellish traveling day that included 3 countries and no sleep for 24 hours, we are now in hot relaxed spicy Bali. After escaping fat drunk half naked anglo- saxon hell of Kuta, we are now in the island's cultural capital of Ubud. Here one finds the height if Balineese temple dacing accopanied by and orachstra of zylophone players chiming along with metal hammers...ots actually really impressive music. Ubud seems quite hectic and very tourist oriented but a mere 100 meters aways from the main streets one finds kilometers of rice palm grass patties. The Balinese live i large family compounds with up to 4 generations sharing what looks like a small temple with several buildings. And to supliment their income some families turn some of their space into rooms for tourists :) So A great way to get to know the people a bit better is to stay at such a homestay. We are staying with a lovely family with an even better puppy :) Friendliness and puppies make life good in Ubud.