Posts Tagged ‘Traveling’

Songs to #journey to – the compiled list

February 28th, 2011 No comments

Not too long ago, I sent out a request asking for people to send me their suggestions for songs that evoke for them the concept of journeying.  As promised, the results are shown below.

First, the list of songs that I received:

  • Hell Hath No Fury – Klute
  • Sting – David Kira
  • Simple Minds – Mandela Day
  • Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part 2 – My Morning Jacket (don’t be frightened away by the title)
  • Another Noon – Jon and Roy
  • Holes to Heaven – Jack Johnson
  • By the Time My Light Reaches You I’ll Be Gone – Blu Mar Ten
  • Song About My Dog (Subwave Remix) – Bop
  • This Dark Matter – London Elektricity

My friend Eric Lamsa suggested “Who Let the Dogs Out” by the Baha Men.  However, that song is already in my #BestSongsEver playlist, and so won’t be included here⸮

And the list of my own songs that have been tagged with #journey since I posted my initial request:

  • Cada Beijo – Bebel Gilberto
  • Empire – Hybrid
  • Amor Amor – Nino
  • Flirting Shadows – Sehnaz Longa
  • Beautiful (Spen’s Dub Mix) – DJ Spen
  • Trying to Find Myself – Nick Holder
  • Shiraz – Sharif

This has been a neat social experiment.  It’s interesting to hear what journeying sounds like in different people’s ears.  Most of the music that I choose generally has an exploratory feel to it, like Cada Beijo, or Flirting Shadows.  Other songs, like Hybrid’s Empire, get tagged with #journey because I liken them to a specific part of a journey.  Empire evokes the imagery of Jason Bourne travelling to his next rallying point.  When I sit on the bus and listen to this song, I don’t just feel like I’m passively being driven somewhere.  I feel like I’m assessing everyone around me, aware of my surroundings, and planning what my next move is going to be.

Some songs speak about the start of a journey to me – Beautiful, by DJ Spen, is a good example of this.  Very slow to build, it makes me think of the very beginning of a journey.  I don’t yet know what will unfold, but I’m following a direction and something new lies along that path.

Thanks to everyone that participated.  Check out some of these songs if you’re looking for something new – I can’t guarantee that they will all be to your liking, but there are definitely some great tracks here.

What was the deal with that backwards question mark?

Did you catch it?  If not, go back and see if you can find it.  The punctuation that you saw (it’s at the end of the sentence talking about “Who Let the Dogs Out”) is called an “irony mark“, and it’s languished in obscurity for far too long.

The irony mark was originally suggested by the French poet Alcanter de Brahm (alias Marcel Bernhardt) at the end of the 19th century to indicate that a sentence should be understood at a second level (e.g. irony, sarcasm, etc.).  In this case, my use is there to indicate that my statement should not be taken at face value (if you’re having trouble following here, it indicates that I was being sarcastic about Baha Men’s hit being a good song).

As we continue to move more and more of our communication up into the cloud, we are becoming increasingly separated from the subtle verbal and visual cues that connote context in our communication.  Emoticons offer one way to provide people with an indication of what we really mean.  For example, people usually put a smiley at the end of a sentence when they’ve been a jerk and want to get away with it⸮

While emoticons are functional, they’re clunky and inelegant.  There’s something nice and clean about punctuation.  It fits coherently with a proper sentence, while an emoticon can be jarring to the reader.  We’re pulled out and away from the words and reading, and made to visualize a face – effectively translating the emoticon (as time progresses, I think this is becoming less and less a factor, and more natural to everyone).

The irony here (no pun intended) is that the more our verbal communication gets pushed up into the digital medium, the greater the punishment we inflict on correct grammatical structure and proper punctuation.  If “R U up 4 it 2nite” qualifies as a proper sentence, it’s pretty unlikely that people will start using esoteric punctuation like the irony mark.  But that’s okay, because you can help carry on this crusade.  Proper punctuation does matter, it does have a place, and it does connote a meaning in a way that is subtly different from an emoticon.

Have I sold you yet?  Well, if not, that’s okay; I like the mark very much and am happy to bear this torch on my own.  That will likely be the case, as actually getting a mark to print out on your screen requires a bunch of fiddling – ultimately you either need to copy the symbol from a web source (wikipedia works), or fiddle with your keymap.  But if you care about irony as much as I do, I welcome you to light your torch off of mine and fight off the darkness.

“c u l8r”⸮


Wrap up

November 22nd, 2007 No comments

Well, I’m back on the West Coast, and I’m happy to be here. The honeymoon was an awesome time for Bay and I, and represented one of the first times either of us has really gotten the opportunity to explore another country and its culture on our own. For myself, it was the first time I’d been able to do that outside of trips with my parents, and for Bay, I think it’s fair to say that it was the first time she’d ever gone to a country that was completely unique from what we live during our day to day lives here in Victoria (I’m not counting Hawaii in that, because I didn’t find that all that different. Bay might say otherwise, which is fine – everyone’s experiences are unique).
When I last wrote, we had spent a couple of days in Kuta, and were mostly relaxing. I was enjoying incredibly cheap massages (totally innocent, for any of you that may be thinking otherwise, though I’m sure there are plenty of places in Bali that would cater to those of you with more illicit thoughts), and running around the many areas in Bali that you can go for under five dollars.
We were having a great time, and even managing to work out every morning. Some of you will think, “Working out on your honeymoon? Learn to relax!”. That’s fine, if that’s how you relax, but by working out Bay and I both spent the days feeling very positive about ourselves, and not at all guilty for eating the way we did (plus the extra beers I was drinking in the evening felt like I’d earned them).
Bay wanted to get more beach time, so we made specific plans to plant ourselves on the beach and just bake in the sun for a while during the coming days. We would wake up, work out, swim in the pool, and go for a massage. On our way back to the beach, we’d stop at the Circle K Mart (these are everywhere in Bali. I guess they won the convenience store wars here) and I’d buy some beer.
I was sitting on the beach and reading the book I’d brought with me (The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Stephen Erikson (oops, I had the wrong author originally. Thanks Graham) – one of the greatest fantasy fiction series I’ve ever read, and I’m qualifying that by saying that I’m a big fan of the Wheel of Time series). I leaned down and took a sip from my beer, and queued up the playlist that I’d made at the start of the trip. As I put the beer down and settled down into the deck chair I was in, Orbital’s incredible track, Halcyon + On + On came on.
First, an aside about this track. Halcyon + On + On was one of the first tracks I can remember bonding with one of my longest friends, Graham, over. I believe that a couple of my friends at the time had over-indulged in what some people would call “shitty malt liquor”. Graham (who hadn’t been drinking) and I were driving to get some snacks, and he played me this song, which he’d managed to make a shitty recording of off of the radio. What a great cut! It’s rare that a group or an artist comes along and makes a track that is both exquisite and accessible. Accessibility requires that a large number of people can listen to the song and appreciate it (which is difficult, since different people appreciate things at different levels – it’s difficult to appease all of these people, on all of these levels). Achieving accessibility is one thing, but to do that and also make a song that is of exquisite quality (meaning that is has depth, and, as an extension to that, a timeless quality to it) is very difficult – maybe even the holy grail of any form of expression.
Anyhow. Halcyon + On + On came on my iPod, and I laid back and looked out over the beach. It was at that precise moment that I knew for sure that we would be coming back here. Bay had come to this conclusion sooner, and I think I had as well, but this was the defining moment. I looked at the beach, that, by Hawaii standards, wasn’t that nice, but was beautiful in its own right. I watched the people, walking along the beach – some hotel employees, some tourists, some locals, and some just people trying to sell crappy imitation watches to people on the beach. And I drank my beer. And I lay back and read. And I listened.
I’m not really very sentimental. Okay, sure, I cry every time Happy Gilmore ends, and I also had to hold back one or two tears when I watched Lisa reunite with Colin at the end of The Simpsons movie. But by and large, I don’t get overly emotional. But, when I feel something, I let myself feel it. That’s why I don’t mind the tears coming when Adam Sandler buys his stupid Grandmother’s house, and that’s why I let the happiness wash over me in Bali. I felt it.
Your experience may not be the same, but Bali was the tropical experience I knew existed but never felt that Hawaii fulfilled for me.
Anyhow, that’s the sentiment I took away from that moment, forever captured in this blog, which will probably fall off the face of the planet when the internet is sold to Arabian Diplomats for the last 200 barrels of oil.
On Friday we did our usual during the day, including more shopping, and passing through a long winding alley called Poppies Gang. I believe that Gang means an alley in Bali, though I’m not certain. This was pretty cool, because I’d read about it in our guidebook, and it was a solid dose of culture. Loads of small offshoots on this little alleyway, mixed in were local stores selling garbage, bracelets, leather jackets, super gaudy suits (orange and white pinstripe anyone?) and large consumer shops (Billabong stores and the like). I thought it was pretty cool just to walk down this and take it all in.
Once we were done that, Bay and I took a sunset cruise that we had signed up for. When we went to Hawaii with Ben and Ashley, we had done something similar, and it has been really romantic, and pretty cool. Well, this was certainly not a romantic cruise, but it did turn out to be pretty cool. When we signed up for the dinner cruise, our booking agent (named Kaliman – Holy shit did I love saying his name) let us know that the usual cruise he would book was in dry dock, and that this one was mostly geared towards Koreans and Australians – “would that be a problem?” “Of course not!”, we said, being as open-minded as any good Canadian (and yo, a human in general) should be. It wasn’t until we were actually on the cruise that we realized what that would actually mean.
We didn’t feel out of place. We just noticed that… The festivities were slightly different from the way we would normally get down. There was a dance floor, but initially it was mostly dominated by a singer dressed in 80’s that sounded very karaoke-esque. I don’t know a lot about Korean culture, or even Asian culture in general, but I get the impression that they like karaoke more than I do. Next up, we settled down for dinner, and then out came.. THE DANCERS.
The dancers were three girls doing what I could be best described as “Look how sexy I am when I dance; Oh my dear sweet flarquon I can’t wait until I get to stop smiling; Jesus I feel way less confident about this than I’m meant to”. The dancers were alright, but they just felt… off. Bay and I are bad critics for this. We both love dancing, and we both analyze it. If someone is trying to pass themselves off as a dancer, they better be willing to have their technique looked into, because we love and appreciate good technique. Anyhow, these girls were up there, so we had to respect that, but it just felt so decidedly unsexy. It’s like if you took a robot and made it watch the sexiest pole dancers in the world, and then said, “Okay, you do that now”. No matter how well that robot watched, its not going to be sexy.
Well, these robots watched good, but they weren’t sexy. Oh well, credit to them, they were out there, and they were trying. Next up, we had some short Indonesian guy roll up and start doing some cabaret (basically stage comedy – not stand-up comedy like you would normally expect… think along the lines of Jerry Lewis’s mannerisms when he used to do magic tricks and the like). As someone that studies comedy, I could tell this guy was talented, even if his schtick was pretty corny. Little did I realize he and I would become much closer as the night moved on.
After cycling through a few more dance routines, karaoke routines, and cabaret magic tricks, Lord Indonesia, in all his five feet of glory, came out in a dress and wig and pantomimed typing to some hyper-fast music that would have had ravers begging for mercy. When the music ended, he announced that he would need two volunteers from the audience. He first chose the older Japanese guy on the one side of the stage, and, as I looked around and felt my testicles shrink up into my forehead, I realized I would be the other guy chosen. I resigned myself to make him regret choosing me and walked up there.
The deal was that we mimicked the same typing routine to the same music, whilst wearing a dress and one (1) fake boob. Not two. Just one. It was all good though, I had a lot of fun with it, and Bay happily took pictures as I made an ass of myself. The guy doing the cabaret seemed only mildly irritated that I was taking every opportunity to make my own jokes and upstage him, and the older Japanese man that was up there with me was a really great sport. Thinking back to 10 years ago, I laughed at how quickly I found myself following in my dad’s footsteps (see footnotes), and had a great time. Plus, at the end, when the Japanese people were taking a picture, I did a really great job of smooshing my fake boob into the cabaret guy’s head – that’ll be a great print for over the mantle.
We finished that up and I went back down and sat. At this point, the DJ was finishing up his tracks, and we were starting to near the end of the cruise. I felt a little bad for the DJ – he’s probably gone through a few classes to learn how to do this (we saw numerous adds for DJ schooling in Bali, plus, any decent DJ has gone through the school of hard-knocks and taught himself some of the skills, at a minimum). However, he was mostly just playing accompaniment to the cabaret guy and the dancers.
Still, as he played his tracks for the end of the night, I saw a Korean (I think he was Korean – please forgive me if I’m wrong) doing some toprock on the dance floor. Bay was about ready to leave, but I insisted we stay. I hate taking the initiative on the dance floor, but if you give me an opening, I’ll get in there and do my thing. Well, this was a pretty valid opening. I watched his toprock for a while, and then moved onto the dance floor and busted out some of the popping that I’ve been working on for the last month or so with Steve and Graham. What a rush!
It felt great to get out there and blow out the dance floor a little bit. I had wanted to check out some of the clubs in Bali (which has an amazing night-life) but Bay wasn’t really up for it, so it was great to blow off some much needed creative steam that way. I gave the guy that had been doing toprock a big set of props as we left the boat, and we walked towards the exit. The staff of the boat were down, and I got some compliments when we walked off – always really nice when you care about what you do.
The next day we packed our gear and headed off on our shopping tour. This tour took us through the biggest market in Bali (at least, I think it’s the biggest), and before that, we stopped at a silver processing area and a painting area. So, by now, we’d learned our lesson. “Oo, that’s very neat, but we’re not going to buy anything today” we cooed, as we appreciated the artists at work, knowing that they were likely sponsored or commissioned by the tour in order to gain more money out of tourists. Some of the silver was really nice, but at the prices they were asking, we could have gotten the same thing in Victoria. The painting place made the assumption that I had been born mentally retarded, since throughout the entire thing there were roughly 1.5 guides letting me know that, “You can buy this in different colors”, “We can help you pack this”, or “This is just a picture, it’s not actually reality, you poor demented soul”.
We knew what was up this time, and saved our money for the market. Good thing too, because the market was Doooooooooooooooooooooooope. Balinese people like to barter when they trade goods. Well, I was well-trained for this. I had watched my mom waste what was probably 20 minutes of our lives haggling with a salesman in Mexico for a red purse over the equivalence of one dollar. I was ready to haggle, but with my own style.
Guess what else requires a keen ability to barter? Trading Magic cards. That’s right dicks in school that made fun of me, it paid off. The second I stepped into the market the old instincts started to come back, and I was ready to square off with any of the vendors. I’m making it sound like a battle, but it really wasn’t. The Balinese people are really awesome, and bartering with them is as fun, or as hard, as you want it to be. I love playing games with people, and if you’re willing to go there, that’s what bartering is about. After the first couple of times, you get a feel for what the value of a good actually is, and at that point, you’re just playing with the person to try and give them some quantity of money around that. I was loving it, and even went as far as to hide behind another stand and peek out at a woman shouting offers at me until she gave me the price I was offering. This was serious fun. The greatest reward of all came when we got back into the bus and Bay mentioned to some other people how I was good at this sort of thing. I know it’s difficult to relate that kind of feeling, but it’s a pretty cool when your wife/fiancee/significant other recognizes you in this way. Call me a boner, but I think I beamed the entire way home after that.
We took the bus the rest of the way home, let the guide off (who again was Jana), and then got dropped off at our hotel. I spent a brief moment of regret wishing I had gotten Jana’s e-mail address, and then, just like that, our vacation in Bali was at an end.
We woke up Sunday, headed out to the pool and beach to catch some sun, and then made our way to the airport. Next stop, Hong Kong!
However, before I move on to Hong Kong, I want to write up my impressions of Bali. Here are some of the pros, cons, whatevers, that you can attribute to the place, in no particular order.

  • The people
  • These people rule. They are so generous, and so kind. When I enter a shop and someone comes up to me to offer help, my first instinct is, “fuck off”. Yah, that’s crass, but it is what it is, and that’s what I’ve had bred in me from our Western society. Naturally I approached Bali with this same kind of suspicion. When three different people pointed out to me that I could try on the shorts I was looking at, and that I could also get them in those colors over there – I naturally assumed they were all after the commission I represented. The weird thing was that when I went up to the guy that had originally helped me, he told me to “just go up to the desk, they’ll help you”… Well, how will you get your commission then?. He won’t.. They won’t. It’s not about commission. It’s about helping. It’s really hard to get used to, when you come from our side of the world, but it is what it is, and once you understand that, it’s kind of refreshing.

    I’m not naive. I know that a time will come when demand starts to meet supply, and then at that point, maybe it really will be about meeting your budget, or getting your commission. But until that happens, there’s no need to see this as anything but genuine generosity.

  • The people
  • Sometimes, these people suck. It’s rare, but now and then, you run into someone that has his own selfish interests in mind. The thing is that it’s hard not to be understanding, kind of like a parent might be of the child they have to scold, because they are just doing the best they can, with what they have available. Bali relies completely on tourism to sustain itself, so it’s natural that things like timeshare scams are going to crop up. Once you get the feel for these people, it’s very easy to just say “No, thank you”, and move past them. I didn’t find hawkers in Bali nearly as obnoxious as some of the other places I’d gone, such as Mexico or Jamaica.

  • The culture
  • Bali has so much culture to offer, and in so many different ways. Even the tacky, touristy area of Kuta is a culture in its own sense – much more so than I felt the major malls of HongKong were. Over the course of a day in Bali, you can see the largest temple in the regency (23 individual temples on top of a massive hill complex), a beautiful view overlooking a huge rice-paddy complex, a Balinese traditional village, and learn how they create the sarongs worn in their temples. Yes, I did just mention a tour we took, but even so, the culture is massive in Bali.

  • The scrilla
  • Oh man, our money goes far in Bali. That doesn’t mean you should go there and wave your money around like a dick, and it doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to anything more than anyone else that is there (we had one massive dongbone complain for the better part of our trip to the market in Ubud – see the footnotes for more details)

    So, I had originally intended to write about Hong Kong, but really, it would be impossible to do that justice after a honeymoon in Bali. It turns out, I want to write more, but about something different. I guess this is the end of my discourse regarding Bali. Stay tuned for more!


Checking out the temples in Bali

November 7th, 2007 No comments

Round two.. It seems odd that I’m writing more in my blog than I would when I’m at home on my normal schedule, in spite of the fact that I’m halfway across the world in an exotic paradise. Guess that’s the way it goes though.
When last I left off, it was two days ago, and Bay and I had just finished a night out in Kuta. We’re back in the same town again, and are enjoying it for all that it’s worth.
Kuta is so weird, loud, and noisy. Everywhere you look, there are scooters, cars, tourists, buildings in disrepair, and good restaurants. And in spite of all that, the place is totally enchanting (I ripped that word right out of a travel brochure). The funny thing is how everything just sort of works. The traffic is mayhem – there are scooters weaving and dodging between every car, and cars are constantly pulling out in front of each other, or just off to the side of the road to stop and try and get a pedestrian to get for a taxi ride. On top of that, pedestrians are constantly cutting across in front of traffic, or just barely squeezing by a bunch of scooters already in the process of doing the same. The thing is that this is so constant that people just seem accustomed to it.
Bay and I were considering this while sitting in the fourth story of the sky garden lounge (more on this later) impressed with how there’s barely any road rage. We figured that it’s probably just because of how often it happens. Back home, if someone cuts in front of you, you can take exception to it, because, by and large, that occurrence is an exception. However, in Bali, it would take a lot of energy to get annoyed everytime someone busted in front of you, since it’s happening roughly once every ten seconds on the road.
Aside from chilling in Kuta, we went on our first tour yesterday. This was a full day tour (8:00AM to 6:00PM – exhausting!), and took us to a Batik processing place (where they make sarongs), a typical Bali village, and the largest temple in Bali. As I said before, there are temples in virtually every single home, and office, and work place here, but the one we saw on this tour was incredible.
First things first though – we got on our tour bus, and were immediately told that we would be stopping at a Batik processing place. that’s fine, it’d be interesting to check out the technique they use to create the patterns on some of these sarongs (that’s what Batik is). However, we were also told that we would need to wear a sarong to go to the temple at the end of the tour, and that sucked. See, we had checked our brochure very carefully.. all we saw was that we needed to wear long pants (no shorts or skirts) and cover your shoulders.
Suddenly we’re on a tour and we’re told we need to buy a sarong. Not only that, but once we rolled in there, these sarongs were pricey – relatively speaking. See, it’s hard to stay annoyed for too long, because pricey over here means it cost $25 USD. I know, I know, that’s really very little to us, and these people don’t have a lot of money, so it’s doing good in the long run. Still, I resent the principle of how this was put forth.
Anyhow, Bay and I buy our sarongs after I bargain the kid selling them to us down to $42 from $50 (no, I’m not being a dick, that’s part of the custom here), and Bay pays one of the ladies out front demonstrating how they make these designs to draw on her white t-shirt (fortunately she happened to be wearing one of her plain t-shirts). The design was pretty cool, and our guide (a cool guy named Jana – pronounced Yana) told me that we should probably give the lady between 5,000 and 10,000 rupiah for it. That’s roughly 50 cents to 1 dollar. We get back into the bus, and head towards a typical Balinese village.
The village was pretty cool – very idyllic, with a small narrow road that runs through the whole thing, and on either side, fences, which open up into Bali houses. A Balinese house typically has about four buildings, each one essentially a room. One for sleeping, one for cooking, one for gathering with family members, and one for conducting ceremonies (typically this would be things like the cremation of a loved one that has passed away – this is a very important ritual to the Balinese). The village was cool, but it was weird, because we were basically just walking through someone’s place and checking it out. I asked our guide about that, and he explained that the people that own the place are paid money to let this happen, but still… it feels like you’re getting a bit of a slanted view of what an actual house is like. Either way, I got some dope pictures and will put those up when I get back. Bay was called beautiful multiple times by the people living there, and we interacted a little bit with the kids and the locals. Then, back to the bus for the big temple.
Guess what? We get back on the bus and are now told that if we’re wearing shorts, we’ll need a sarong. If we didn’t pick one up earlier, we can rent one there, or buy one. If you have pants on, you don’t need to worry. Gee thanks, after we’re initially told that we’ll need one either way. Oh well, our guide was a really good guy, and I can’t fault him too much. He’s just doing his job, and it’s all part of the experience right? Basically the tour ended up costing me an additional $21USD than it otherwise would have. That’s reasonable I suppose. Still, the one shitty thing is that it would have been nice to support some of the actual townsfolk instead of this processing plant with marked up prices..
The instant we get off the bus at the temple, we’re besieged with about 15 booths selling sarongs, and ladies trying to get us to buy. Our guide warned us about this, as well as kids trying to give you flowers (then asking you for money) and people offering to drive you up the hill to the temple on their motorbike. We made our was past them and hiked up to the top, then checked out the temple.
It was pretty rad – this wasn’t just one temple, it was about 10 of them, each fairly large, and each one decorated in a different style. Very beautiful. Not only that, but they’re at the top of this long hill (ten minutes walk), so they overlook a great view. It was pretty awesome once you were up there. The only drawback was that once again there were people trying to get cash from us – people offering to take you inside the temple (strictly forbidden, and this ends up costing you a bunch), sell you postcards, give you flowers, take your picture. You learn pretty quickly that there’s no such thing as a free gift here, and just reject offers to take a pamphlet or flower from someone (“it doesn’t cost you anything boss!”). That being said, you also learn to accept it for what it is – really great people that live in a beautiful but impoverished land. They’re just trying to make a living the only way they know how. So, basically, you learn not to blame them, but also not to weep when they say things like “Come on, help me out” – yes, it’s sad, but everyone here wants you to help them out, and they all deserve it. You learn to be generous when you can, and leave it at that.
After the temple, we went for lunch at this incredible restaurant atop a great hill. Valleys surrounded the restaurant from all sides, and it essentially looked out over rice paddies in every direction. I got some great panoramic shots and our server was really nice – she was very interested in learning about other languages. I saw her talking to a Croatian couple that Bay and I had chatted with (also on their honeymoon) and asking them how to say hello in Croatian (I think it’s “Koala” or something like that).
Today we started off with a good fight, and semi-ended it just before going in for our complimentary 90 minute massage. If ever you find yourself in a fight with a loved one, I recommend that you plan to do it right before a comlimentary massage, because it’s damn-near impossible to stay angry at someone when every muscle in your body is being relaxed. Our masseures were really cool, and very good. We left promising to come back, but after walking around town and seeing the prices elsewhere, we’ll probably just get a massage somewhere in town – the price for an hour-long massage is about $5USD. Talk about pampering yourself!
We spent the rest of the night shopping and enjoying some drinks at some of the really swank places in Kuta. As I said, we just finished a couple of drinks at the Sky Garden Lounge, which overlooks the main strip on Kuta. It’s pretty awesome sipping local beer on a beautiful roof-top patio and look down at all of the traffic and people coming and going in this diverse town. It’s time for dinner now, so we’re going to walk around the strip and find a place to eat.
Oh also, I’ve been making a point to try each of the beers available here, and take a picture of the beer before each one. Coming up after I get back will be a review of all the local brews.
Bay and I are having an awesome time and have already made an agreement to come back. Once you’ve made it over here with your flight, your money goes very far, and the various places you can go are incredible. It’s overwhelming at first, but once you’re used to the local customs, you feel very safe, and it’s easy to walk around and explore.
Oh, one last thing – you’ll probably notice this is a lot of writing. Normally I edit all of my writing, because I’m anal-retentive, and I hate reading poorly edited stuff. However, that adds on about another hour to the process of writing a blog entry, so that will have to be foregone for now. Later!


Keeping it real in Bali

November 5th, 2007 No comments

Alright, this marks the very first of a brand new category over here on my blog: Traveling!
I’ve never had this category before because I’ve never done any traveling outside of my youth. Obviously this is an exciting time for Bay and I.
This blog is being written from an internet cafe in Kuta, Bali. I’ll start off with a brief description of the trip over here, and then move full swing into a description of our hotel, the tribulations we’ve encountered thus far, and the island itself.
The trip over here was good, if not long. 18 hours of flying in an airplane will certainly take it out of you. Bay and I caught an earlier flight out of Victoria to arrive at Vancouver International at 9:00PM. From there we had a 6 hour lay-over waiting for our flight to Hong Kong airport at 3:00AM. That’s a long time! Fortunately, Bay and I had both cheated on our no-spending rule leading up to the honeymoon and agreed to allow each other to get one treat for the trip. I bought a Nintendo DS (and a card online to hack it so that I could download games. The express postage (will arrive in 4 days or less!!) did not arrive within the two weeks prior to me leaving, so I was left with the four games that I had bought before hand. Still pretty good, but a little annoying. In any case, I played with my Nintendo, Bay listened to her iPod, we both listened to DJ Superimportant talk on his cell phone across from us in his loudest voice, and we did a healthy amount of sleeping. Oh, we also had a couple of drinks at the Whitespot in the airport before heading over to our gate.
The most interesting part about Vancouver airport was how quiet and deserted it felt. Airports are really interesting places. You see people from all around the world, wearing their own styles, talking their own languages, and following their own questions. We walked all the way from the domestic arrivals point to the international departures – essentially the entire length of the airport, and it felt like we were walking through an abandoned site. You know how in apocalypse movies, after the catastrophe has occurred, there’s always this point where the heroes are walking through a place that is normally thriving, but now its dead and nothing is happening? Well, that’s what Vancouver’s airport felt like to us. I’m not complaining – it was just … creepy, almost.
Our flight to Hong Kong International airport was looooong. 13 hours in fact. For those of you unsure of what that would feel like, grab 13 stray cats, put them in a bag, and bag them against a wall for 13 hours. Then shoot yourself in the head. The bullet to the head part really clinches the feeling. Honestly, this was a good flight. I mean, it’s never really pleasant being in a confined space for 13 hours, but Cathay Pacific did a good job making us comfortable. Every seat had a video screen in front of it that you got to watch, and there were plenty of channels to check out. My trust Nintendo pulled double duty for me, and I pet it on the console to let it know I cared about it. I caught up on some CSI and House that I had missed in the wedding lead-up blitz, and a little bit of sleep. Oh, I forgot to mention, before getting on the plane, Bay and I had a brainstorm and impulse bought two travelling pillows for 30$. Those are the U-shaped pillows that fit around your neck. This was a clutch move! Those little bad boys helped make sure that my head and neck were comfortable the whole trip.
Our food was actually quite good, and we were treated to wine free of charge throughout the flight. I took quite a few breaks to stand up and do some stretching, which, although some people might feel embarassed doing, I just told myself that everyone else on the plane would be wishing that they’d been as intelligent as I had when they got off. As far as the back and the legs are concerned, it was the right move. I managed to make it off the plane and feel relatively refreshed. Oh, one last thing – facial moisturizer. The plane had complimentary facial moisturizer in the bathrooms, and this was really helpful – nothing makes you feel more human and refreshed than running some of that over your face.
We stopped in Hong Kong airport for a few hours, grabbed some Burger King fries as our first “exotic meal” (hey, we don’t even HAVE a Burger King in Victoria, unless you count Colwood, and even people FROM Colwood don’t count that), and checked out the airport. Our travel agent was right, Hong Kong does have a very nice airport.
We flew out to Bali, and arrived at around 12ish. Wow, this was overwhelming. Bali’s airport is very beautiful (much like the rest of the island), but there was a lot going on, and we had no idea what order to do it in. First step we had to buy our Visas. These cost 10$, according to our information, but 20$ according to the guy that ran us through. Even if he was lying, what were we going to do? Then, after getting our visas, we went got everything stamped and picked up our luggage. THEN, after that, we went through some weird customs thing. We got in line and immediately realized we’d chosen the wrong line after the guy on our end was meticulously looking at people’s luggage, while the other guy was simply taking customs forms and waving people along. That situation was half-remedied when our guy decided he was bored of his job and walked off, half-directing our line to get in the other line. Fortunately the people in that line were nice and let us awkwardly get in front of them, and we got waved through.
We were told that we’d have someone waiting for us to drive us to our hotel, but good luck picking him out amidst the sea of people holding up signs at the exit of the airport. Seriously, there was about a hundred faces staring at us, each holding up a different sign. Eventually a nice taxi driver walked us over to the information booth and the lady working there paged an employee from our hotel (the Grand Mirage). They hooked us up with the right person, and he took us to our ride.
Some other Joe Random showed up and helped carry our bags (something I’m always immediately wary of). As soon as we got to our ride, he held out his hand and said “give me a tip”. Ugh. I have to give the people of Bali some slack though. The island is pretty impoverished, and they really got boned by the terrorist bombings that happened here a few years back. It wasn’t even based on their own religion (which is predominantly Hindu) – it was apparently Islamics from Java and other surrounding islands. In any case, I sure hate being asked for tips, especially in what sounds like such a demanding manner. I suspect this was part language barrier, part necessity for the guy helping us, and part just custom in the wake of the reduced terrorism following those bombings. Bay gave him a 5$ USD bill, which we later learned is a massive amount, and our guide apologized, telling us that this wasn’t typical.
We hopped in the car and he and the driver began taking us to the hotel. As we drove, he introduced himself as Augus (I’m sure I’ve spelled that wrong), and pointed out sights. Goddamn, Bali is beautiful and hot. But not so hot that I find it unbearable. Right now the temperature is about on par with the hottest day we had in Victoria. Literally every block has a small temple where people can pray, and the architecture is really cool. Augus took our information and gave us pamphlets for the stuff we needed to do. Then we arrived at our hotel and checked in.
Everyone was super friendly, and we were exhausted. First things first though, let’s check into our hotel, get some money, have dinner, then go to sleep, on Bali’s time (I read that one of the secrets to fighting jet lag is to wake up and go to sleep on the local time – going to be sleep wouldn’t be hard considering we’d been up for over 36 hours… it would be staying awake). We left the hotel after checking in to go find an ATM. Everyone had told me that we really didn’t need to buy much money, since we could just use ATM’s. We rolled up to the ATM nearest the place and put in our Visa cards, ready to do a cash advance, since the convenience would be worth it. Hmm, that’s weird, it says there’s a problem with the card. We tried multiple cards and multiple techniques, but nothing worked. There’s not a lot of things that will stress you out quite like being in a foreign country, not being able to speak the local language, and not having access to any money. Bay and I managed to keep our cool and assume that we would determine a way to deal (there’s always something that can be done, even if it means getting Mom and Dad to wire us money), and decided to take a walk to the beach. On our way, some guy rolled up and accosted us.
I use the term accosted because that’s what everyone here tries to do. I’ve been lucky enough to travel with my parents to places like Jamaica when I was younger, so I’m somewhat acclimatized to this kind of thing now. Plus, every second block in Victoria now has some jerk in a colored vest asking you to stop to talk to them about [insert charitable organization here]. I wanted to keep walking, but we were tired, fresh into the country, and stressed out. He gave us his spiel, and hey, look at that, we had just won 500$ free if we went to this place and talked to these people, and they would do something benign like show us a hotel room. Yah right, because Bali is hemmoraghing money and is desperate to give away 500$. He wanted us to arrange a time to meet him, but we managed to get away and left it at that. Lesson learned – don’t make eye contact with people hawking stuff at you, and if they persist, be friendly and keep walking. Don’t slow down because that means they’ll stop you and get going. Normally I would be my typical awesome-jerk-self and blow the guy off in one of my many jerkily ways. But I’m outside of my element, and I don’t want to just be a jerk on principle.
Anyhow, we went to sleep, and woke up at 10:00 AM, just in time to run downstairs and catch breakfast. We worked out, which felt awesome, because how many people will work out on vacation (Bay and I). After that we met with the tour representative and booked our tours. Last step, call Visa. We got in touch with them, but they didn’t have the solution we wanted. Apparently, since Rupiah (the local currency) are worth about 10000 to 1 Canadian dollar, the bank machine showed Visa that we were trying to withdraw 5 million dollars CDN. That’s practical.. They suggested we try some things, none of which were really practical, and we hung up. Hmm, things aren’t looking good. We went for a swim, bought some drinks and charged them to our room (how else are we going to pay for things at this point?), and then headed back to the ATM to try our bank cards. I withdrew the smallest amount possible, and HUZZAH, it worked. Man, that felt INCREDIBLE. So now we’ve got the money problem solved, and we’re loving it.
We took a taxi into Kuta today, which is the crazy seedy busy overdeveloped part of the island. It’s so insane here – you walk down the street and simultaneously can see the incredible tropical flore and fauna, a beautiful hindu temple, a starbucks, and an abandoned super complex, which waS probably originally a 5-storey night club (no exaggeration – there are multiple of those here). The super complex would have become abandoned after the huge-tourism drop-off following the bombings.
We’ve spent the day walking up and down the streets, fending off people trying to sell us sunglasses and bracelets, checking out stores you would see at home (Roxy, a Polo store roughly one every block, and many other surf shops), and enjoying find dining. We spent $17.50 to have 6 beers between us, two main courses, and two appetizers. Good luck accomplishing that in Victoria.
Anyhow, it’s time for us to head – we’ve got to be up at around 7AM tomorrow morning in order to get on our tour bus and head out to some of Bali’s temples. The island is incredible. It’s extremely diverse and we’re getting some great pictures. The people are very friendly (although there is also a lot of attempts to get you to buy stuff too), and the weather is great.
More updates to follow.