Sunday, March 14, 2010

Adventures in Indonesia: Shopping, Shells, and Ants


Oh my followers it has been awhile. We are in the final stages of our trip…just eight days and a wake-up left (which is both a very sad and exciting thing to think about) We are currently back in Bali after a short trip to the Gili Islands. We last updated from our hotel room in Ubud and I know we promised you a crib video from our really cool hotel suite but we have not had a stable internet connection since then. We have found a little portion of the world that does not have wifi, internet, or ATMs readily available…crazy!

We must break the news to you all that we will not be seeing any Tangs on this trip. Our blog title is a lie and we are sorry (however we have seen enough darn mosquitoes to make up for the lack of tangs). However it is very hard and expensive to get to the few areas in Indonesia where there are wild orangutans and once you get to these spots you aren’t even guaranteed a sighting. With our budget and time constraints we decided it would be more responsible to stay on Bali and to visit the Philadelphia Zoo and their orangutans when we get home. (a moment of silence for the gorilla ghosts- Adrianna you know what we mean) We are very saddened that our dreams of tangs went down the drain just like our dreams of Laos.

Ok back to Bali..

Bali is Hindu which is different from the rest of Indonesia which is mostly Muslim. It is very green and lush with terraced rice plantations everywhere. So pretty. The area around Ubud and our hotels had Hindu statues everywhere. It is very interesting and different from anything we have seen so far.

In Ubud we stayed at a fabulous hotel in our own little private villa with walls around it. We had our own swimming pool and a tub the size of the titanic so we think of it as two pools…plus the public pool at the center of the resort. There was a huge bed and an outdoor shower and it was wonderful and quite fancy…however it is the wet season here and rooms are reduced so it was a deal. The whole villa experience was like a little piece of heaven that you forgot where you were..until you looked at the bottom of the pool and there was a random cartoon tile mosaic of a penguin. It was so random that you knew you had to be in Asia still. We got to the room at midnight after our flight and were greeted by staff with welcome drinks in hand. Then we were put into a golf carts with all our luggage and carted down the our villa…we were still expecting a standard bungalow or hotel room type of deal…even though the website said private pools we assumed it mean our room opened up onto the pool…a private entrance. (Wouldn’t you think the same thing??) SOOO then we pulled up to our own gate and our bellboy opened it and there was a house! And a private pool! It was a beautiful villa with floor to ceiling windows set in a big garden with so many flowers and butterflies and a fountain. We were in shocked…such a state of shock that we miss calculated our conversions and tipped the poor soul stuck with answering all our questions and driving us around in the middle of the night only about 40 cents! Opps! (No worries…we tracked him down later and fixed our mistake)

We immediately took a swim and just walked around our villa in shock that we were there. The next morning it still hadn’t set in but our breakfast arrived and was set up on our patio so we figured we weren’t going to get kicked out or anything. We spent that day in our pool and lounging around our villa…cause that is what you do when you have a villa. Duh. And we decided to take the 5pm shuttle into the central Ubud area for some dinner and shopping at the markets we read about there. Our old friend the market…we hadn’t seen a good one since Chiang Mai and had high hopes for Ubud. So we used a watch and arrived at the shuttle pick up point at the correct time and got onto it and our watch showed that the drive was exactly 25 minutes like we were told. We got into the town and got to the market just as they were closing up shop and got a few good luck, last sale of the night prices and then headed for some drinks and a walk through town. We were great on time so we found a movie store and bought 11 blackmarket dvds for $15. Still with plenty of time left we got some drinks and ate an appetizer. The watch was saying it was about 8:02Pm and since we had an hour before our return shuttle we walked back past the shuttle pick-up point and got some dinner. We then got to the pickup point about 15 minutes early. Nothing was there but then again nothing is on time in these parts of the world so we didn’t think anything of it until about 9:05 when still the other people on the shuttle were not there and the shuttle itself was not there nor were there any other hotel shuttles. Strange.

We stuck up a conversation with a taxi driver and mentioned how we were waiting for our shuttle at 9pm but it was a little late. And we asked him what time he had on his phone and he told us 9:40pm. We didn’t believe him because our watch said it was just after 9. Caitlin walked up to a tourist couple crossing the street and asked what time it was 940PM. We were sooo confused and it felt like some sort of twilight zone/scary movie scene/kidnapped abroad situation. Another taxi diver asked us oh you are staying at Furama right? We were even more freaked out that this man knew what hotel we were at especially because the hotel is 30 minutes from town. The watch was ticking right and keeping time but somehow we entered into some sort of time space continuum and lost 45 minutes of our life and 10USD on the taxi ride we now had to pay for. Still freaked out as to what happened we got into the taxi and headed back to our hotel.

In the Taxi, our driver took a different way than we took to get to town. It was getting super scary and our driver just kept talking and talking…just as we were planning our escape from this kidnapper we pulled onto a road we recognized. We escaped the Bali Mafia kidnapping we were picturing and were returned to our villa. Soo strange. We STILL cannot imagine what happened to the watch…it is once again working but we can never trust it again.

The next morning we headed back into Ubud for some prime shopping in the market…and boy did we shop our little hearts out. Our luggage is full and heavy and we don’t like to move it. When you shop early in the day the shop keepers all want your sale because the first sale of the day brings good luck. When you hand them the money they kinda smack you with it and then touch it on all their wares before putting it away. In Cambodia it was all about getting good karma with a sale…Indonesia is all about the luck. Shop keepers make flower water and it is good luck to flick some on all the stuff at their stand…Caitlin even got some on her. Between that and the good luck sales…we got it covered.

Next up we took a taxi (it was only a short but hot hot walk so we oped for the taxi) to the Scared Monkey Forrest on the outskirts of town. We got our tickets and headed in with a little apprehension because we have heard of the monkeys stealing from you and jumping on you…we pictured them kind of like pigeons. We had a plastic bag filled with stuff and since there was no bag check we had to take it in with us. We walked in and there were monkeys everywhere! Cute babies and their mamas, ones stealing bananas from tourists, sleeping monkeys, sitting monkeys, jumping monkeys, and then the creepy monkeys whose eyes followed us and our plastic bag. They thought were hiding food in it! When in reality it was just Joshua Mizanin’s stupid hat that he requested. Finally a few monkeys were so intrigued by the bag that they decided to check out for themselves what was in it….with their teeth and little claws. Fighting the urge to drop the bag and run we remained calm and the guides throughout the sanctuary would yell at them and they would listen. But sometimes the guides weren’t around and we had to employ our best nanny voices to save Josh’s freaking hat. Finally after the granddaddy monkey was going after us we decided to stuff the bag into Caitlin’s bag. We bent the hat and got it in and proceeded through the sanctuary. However part of the plastic was still visible and there was still potential for an attack. Debating the value of dropping the bag and running was now out of the question because the goods the monkeys were after were now in the same spot as Caitlin’s wallet and many treasures found at the market. We hightailed it to an exit and can now say we have been to the Scared Money Forrest in Ubud and lived to tell the tale. We can also say that Josh Mizanin better wear that silly hat every day for the stress and monkey attacks we put up with to bring the sucker home for him.

Back in our monkey-less villa, we spent our last evening in Ubud doing school work and watching movies and swimming in the pool. The next morning we woke up super early and were on our way to the Gili Islands!


The Gili Islands are a group of small islands right off the coast of Lombak which is about an hour and a half boat ride from the port in Bali. There are 3 main Gili Islands and we were staying on Gili Air which is the island closest to Lombak (you can see Lombak from the shore and it looks like you can swim there but apparently the currents are really strong). The islands were kind of like the Goldilocks and the 3 bears story, one was very crowded and had crazy nightlife, one was almost deserted with no nightlife, and Gili Air was in the middle and just right for us.
Pulling up to the islands was a beautiful sight. The water was all different colors of blue and the islands were lush with trees. Our boat dropped us off at Gili Trawangan(sp?) which is the busy island and we had to hire a private charter boat to drive us to Air because we had apparently missed the public boat. By private charter boat do not think we were on P. Diddys yacht as bow candy, but rather on a rickety wooden tarp covered boat that could produce motion sickness on even the strongest stomach. Finally we got to Air and waded onto shore with all of our luggage (people are starting to look at us like we are crazy with all these bags.) On the Gili Islands there are no cars or motos (or ATMS, WiFi or powerlines for that matter- a huge shock to our Flashpacker souls) so we had to hire a cimodo- which is basically a horse and very small buggy. Do not think of an Amish horse and buggy- this thing was old any tiny and we had to cram ourselves into it with our 2 backpacks, 2 rolly suitcases, 2 carryone straw beachbags (RIP to Kates) and our driver. It was quite the bumpy ride and more than once we cringed as we thought the whole thing was going to flip. Finally we got to our bungalow and some nice men carried our bags up to the room for us. We quickly threw on our bathing suits and went in search of some beach. Unfortunately there isn’t much beach on Gili Air- it is very rocky and there isn’t much space for a beach. The draw is more for the vibe and the views and the underwater attractions. However we discovered that this place is a coral graveyard. We found an area on the corner of the island where heaps and heaps of coral had washed ashore and also a large coral sandbar not too far out in the water. We spent the better part of an afternoon picking out coral and shells…and more coral. The next day we did more of the same thing not realizing we were only exploring a small part of the island. On our third day we ventured down the “happening” side of the island where there was a really nice restaurant, another good coral searching spot, and some good off shore snorkeling. After a day out in the sun we decided we deserved a nice happy hour. And let’s just say it turned into a happy night. After 8 gin and tonics we had a nice dinner and then 2 40 size bottles of Bintang beer. As this point we were our happy talkative Kate-selves (for those of you who have had the pleasure of being at Dockside with us you can imagine what these poor Indonesian bartenders had to put up with).

When we left the restaurant it was pouring rain and our hotel was at the compete other end of the island- a good 15 minute walk down a dark dirt road with no lights so we decided it was a smart and safe idea to stop at the open bar next door to the restaurant. So we sat there and had 2 more Bintang’s and told the bartenders what songs they should download on their itunes and we showed them pictures of the huge lizards we had seen on the island which we thought had to be Komodo Dragons because they were just so flippen huge. However the bartenders told us they were not Komodos just “BIG f’in lizards”. Eventually the rain stopped and we decided to head back to our beds because we had an early snorkel trip to wake up for. The walk back home was quite amusing- complete with jogging, a pit-stop with nature, and one fall on the only piece of concrete on the entire island which left Kate Curry with a nice scraped leg like a five year old. We video blogged this walk home, including the fall and a select few of you at home might be able to view it but it is quite a scene so we cannot post it online.

9am came a little too early and the G&Ts hadn’t warn off yet so we missed the snorkeling boat. It’s a shame because we were guaranteed sea turtle sightings as well as some really cool coral reefs- but what are ya gonna do? It was only $8 a person anyway. So we slept off our hangover and eventually pulled ourselves out of bed- we had to switch bungalows or we might still be laying there. After we switched to air conditioned bungalow (where the air conditioner didn’t work) we ventured out for a bit of sun. We showed our face on the busy end of the island where we were quite popular. You know you make an impression on a place when 3 bars and a snorkel shop in a row all know your names and drinks of choice. It’s a little embarrassing- but what are ya gonna do. We were going to snorkel down at the coral graveyard again but the waves were too rough and it started pouring rain so we ended up walking back to the hotel drenched in rain- but we didn’t complain because it was the first fresh non-salt water shower we have had in awhile.


The next morning we left Gili to take the fast boat to Amed which is back on Bali. The boat ride was a little bumpy but enjoyable with the Bob Markley CD and Akon tunes we got to listen too- they love Bob Marley and Akon over here!! Everywhere you go its Buffalo Soilders and the shotting of sherrifs.

We arrived in Amed and were taken to our hotel. Amed is a cluster of villages set on the hillside overlooking black stone and sand beaches with plenty of dive sites just off shore. Our hotel room is up a steep set of stairs on a cliff side and we have a wonderful view of the Bali Sea. Our hotel is really just a set of three bungalows and there is a pull bell up here that we can ring for staff to come up and take orders or answer questions. It was very eclectic and unique until some jerky guest broke it yesterday…but Kate Curry apologized and it was fixed this morning.
Our first day we just hung out by our hotel and collected some black rocks (they are the new coral and shells don’t ya know?) And discovered that there are some sort of critter that lives on the roof of our bungalow and likes to stomp his feet and chase and jump all throughout the night. The staff looked at us like we were crazy when we asked what it was however we know it’s there. Our bungalow is two stories with a bed on each story however we both sleep in the downstairs bed because the unidentified things that go bump in the night is a lot closer to the upstairs bed.
Our second day here we decided that it was time to try out the motorbike again because otherwise there is absolutely nothing to do or nowhere to go here. We also needed to find internet and the ATM so we rented two bikes from our hotel. Weelllll it was rough starting out and Caitlin might have a scar on her leg for awhile to show her toughness for the time in Bali where she got into a motorbike accident. We had helmets on, no worries moms. However when people have had motorbikes around them and have been riding on them since the time they were big enough to fit in a hammock on the front they neglect to describe how the gas and brakes work. They show you which is which but give no details or tips or words to wise about pressure. However Caitlin made a quick recovery and while we both will be leaving Indonesia with battle scars we believe that we became pretty good riders yesterday. We got up to 50kms an hour even..which is saying a lot because when we left the hotel and for the first 30 minutes I am not sure we got past 15kmph. It is all hills and mountains and switchback turns here too. We set out to find the ATMs which we were told was 25k away. And while it might have been that we were not told of the mountains we would have to cross and the heavy duty traffic and trucks we would encounter on the road. Almost 2 hours later we got to an ATM annnddd our cards were promptly rejected. We were given directions to another one which took pity on our poor, rupiah-less, sweating and lost souls and dished out the money. Our trip was not in vain. We made it back to Amed in an hour and we even were able to take in the beautiful scenery on the trip through the mountains. It is soo luch and green and there are terraced rice fields and little huts and streams everywhere. Gorgeous. While we did gain some confidence on our motos, we were unable to get an pictures. But trust us it was really pretty.

Today we decided to save some money and take out just one moto to go to a snorkel sight not too far from our hotel. Going was slow getting there was we adjusted to driving with two people on the bike. Kate was our driver and it was a little wobbly but we soon got it and down the steep hill to the beach we wnt. We snorkeled and saw some really cool tiger fish, angel fish, and lots of huge blue star fish, and lots of little neon guys. And then it was time to face the mountain again. Kate’s driving expertise was not good enough to get us up the hill. Kate took the bike and Caitlin walked up. But then the driveway met the road at a steep steep incline and we faced our biggest predicament yet. With a ravine on one side and a huge hill with oncoming traffic (Moms shut your eyes for this one) we were really at a loss. Caitlin took over the driving and somehow got the bike back onto the road and Kate jumped on the back and up the road we went. We had gotten a little bit of a local audience at this point but we proved them wrong and made it up the hill and back down again and to our hotel. Whew! If we weren’t sweating from the 900 degree heat before the mountain we were after. It is amazing how different the motos drive with two people vs one. But now we know how to do…if you don’t have to enter the road with a sharp turn at a steep incline were good to go.

Well that has caught you all up on our trip. We have three more days here in Amed and then two in Sanur, and then two in Jakarta before flying home via Hong Kong, Taipei, Alaska, JFK, and the New Jersey Turnpike, ahhh!! We have another snorkel trip planned here and then some beach time in Sanur so we will keep you updated when we find internet again.

Love to all!

Three more nights in Amed and then we should be able to post pictures to show you all how pretty pretty the Gilis were!

UPDATE: Well since we typed this posting up last week things have happened. We got sick of Amed. It is so pretty and laid back and relaxing. And nothing to do got a little boring for us at this point in our trip. Plus our bungalow was in the wilderness with many many critters running about and so many ants. Literal ants in the pants! So we came to Sanur a day early. Tomorrow we fly to Jakarta and have two nights there and then we are home bound. We will update you from Jakarta on our final days in Amed and Sanur.
UPDATE2: The pictures are taking really long to upload here...we will try to post more from our hotel in Jakarta. check back for more pictures!


  1. i was starting to worry where you were! i cant believe you guys will be coming home this week. do you have a favorite country?

    again, your pictures are b-e-a-utiful! cant wait to see you both very very soon!

  2. So many things to comment on. First of all, I was so in need of hearing of your adventures. They always put a smile on my face, make me laugh, and yes add a few gray hairs.
    About the monkey forest. I needed your rendition because mine lacked the fear and drama. I made Josh read it today and he enjoyed it, yes he laughed several times. I'm not sure if it was your terror he enjoyed or that he was a subject of your blog. He was getting a little worried when mention of tossing the bag came up. He says he really wanted that hat and will wear it. He's still upset i didn't get him that stupid Russian hat.
    The villa was gorgeous, I'd like to go there. Why is it that you want to come home?? Only kidding. At least we don't have ants and roaches.
    The motorcycling . It struck terror in my heart. Caitlin, you being thrown from the bike I was just recovering from, but the tales of both of you girls riding on the same bike hit a whole new level of parental terror and then you guys bragging about how good you got at riding. I have fears now of Caitlin buying a motorbike on the intranet, and you thought I was upset about the kayak.
    That 40 min time loss story was very strange. Will be so happy to have both of you home again and hear your stories in person and see all your amazing photos. The boys and I miss you both. Enjoy your remaining time away. Be safe, cannot wait to see you guys.
    Love you both,

  3. Well you are on the short time list, this was a great blog really enjoyed it. Glad you will be home soon. But what an adventure you guys have had a lifetime trip. Talk to you soon travel safe. Love AP

  4. What MaMa Miz said!!!!!! Glad to hear you are safe and will be home in 1 day and a wake up, plus 18 hours....It will be so good to see you. Stay safe and love to you both,


    ps...thanks for letting us know you had on helmets!!