Summer Vacation - Part Two
After a long morning hike, a 3 hour flight delay and a Pizza Hut and Bintang feast in the airport (the most basic, most common beer in Indonesia), we made it to our next destination - Lombok*! In the morning, we had breakfast, played some cards, and had hired a driver to take us beach hopping for the day!
After a long morning hike, a 3 hour flight delay and a Pizza Hut and Bintang feast in the airport (the most basic, most common beer in Indonesia), we made it to our next destination - Lombok*! We had a late night check in at a very rural beachy stay. We sat under the main hut eating toast with chocolate while they got our rooms finished. There were colored lights in the corners of the ceiling that reminded me of Christmas...or Christmas in July. And there was some slightly creepy, ambient music that played while we waited.
In the morning, we had breakfast, played some cards, and had hired a driver to take us beach hopping for the day! Leaving around noon, we started at Selong Belanak where we spent our time lounging on the sand, playing in the ocean and eating grilled corn on the cob. Yum! Next stop was Kuta Beach. There were many islanders ready to sell us their merchandise as we checked out the beach. Luke and I met a little boy about 12 years old who asked where we were from. We told him the United States and his response was, "Ahh! Washington D.C.!" After a bit of confusion, we realized he was telling us the capital and had asked us to quiz him. This boy rattled off every countries capital before I could even finish the country's name. He was a brilliant boy and excellent salesmen. After a few minutes of conversation walking next to us, he asked if we wanted to buy a bracelet. As much as I wanted to buy one from him for his impressive performance, we told him no thank you and continued on our way. Luke and I's walk down the beach was gorgeous but actually very painful since the sand was made up of tiny little broken shells and rocks. Beach three was Seger. This beach was very low key. Almost deserted. There was a path of rocks that went straight out into the ocean and led up to a huge rock that Leah and Luke's dad walked along, while the rest of us walked up the side of a small cliff to get a different view and take some photos. Behind us, there was a grassy dirt area. To our left was the start of the ocean, then the rock path, and on our very distant right was some more of the island and the sun. The water was shining so hard and it was freaking gorgeous! A short photo shoot later, and we were moving on to our last beach, Tanjung An. This was a slightly more populated beach where we decided to walk up to a huge cliff where we could see the sunset better. We made it just in time and joined the other 50 people that were already there as the sun slowly made its way behind the island. It was a pretty cool day getting to see all of these uniquely different beaches. The rest of our evening was spent in the car on our way to the new hotel off the coast of the southwest Gilis.
Jeanne made some friends that loved ice cream and couldn't stop giggling
On Sunday morning, we soaked up the sun and enjoyed our gorgeous views. Looking out our big hotel room doors we could see the small pool about 10 yards in front, and 10 yards further was the beach. Beyond that were a few beautiful islands in the distance, one of which we were headed to next. That afternoon, we took a 10 minute boat ride to the next island and checked into our rooms. Again, we were RIGHT on the beach. Luke and I opted for a sunset walk around the island and he set up his GoPro in the sand. It turned out to be a pretty cool time lapse and I can't wait for his next video!
Monday started bright and early with a cup of "Cowboy Coffee" and then some snorkeling! Much of the coffee we had throughout our trip seemed like they put a scoop of coffee grinds and some hot water in a cup and mixed it up so we referred to is as "Cowboy Coffee" the whole time. We put our gear on and got to snorkeling! This was my first time and I'm not much of a water bug so I was a little nervous. We got out there and within 10 minutes, I decided to go back in for a life jacket. The man came out with the largest possible life vest and helped me adjust it by tying knots all over the place. He then waved me over to follow him and he started making a bottle of fish food to give me. I watched him tear up some bread into tiny pieces and put them in a water bottle. Next, he walked over to the shore and found a sharp shell to poke a hole through the lid. He continued finding larger shells to make the hole bigger and then filled the bottle with water. He shook it up and showed me how to use it. His little English consisted of acting it out and then saying "fishies" with a swarming motion towards him. I was so excited to go back and use it. Next thing you know, this big orange blob with a snorkel mask and a bottle of fish food walks over and yells out to the group about her prized bottle of bait. Trying to avoid being right on top of the fish, I eventually hand Luke the bottle and he leads the way. With his GoPro in one hand and the bait in the other, he lures them all in and its incredible! Hundreds of fish were all around us fighting for the food. Some of them even caught on and started following us. Check out Luke's clip of the fishies below!
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After a RIVETING morning, we went in for some breakfast and then headed back out to a different side of the island. Luke continued snorkeling while I kayaked around him making sure no boats came near. After a full morning spent swimming with the fish, we decided it was time to eat...FISH! Later that afternoon, we cleaned up as best we could with the salt water shower in our rooms, and headed to the next hotel. We checked in, got a real shower which was the most delightful shower I think I've ever had, grabbed dinner and promptly proceeded to bed before our early morning flight.
We arrived in Yogyakarta* on Tuesday and started the day off with the buffet breakfast at our hotel. Of course, the buffet breakfast wasn't all we had imagined. There was a traditional buffet style table with big dishes of fried rice, noodles, hard-boiled eggs and other traditional Indonesian foods as well as a few pastries and an omelette station. It was a lot of food, and a lot of trying the new foods. After breakfast we headed out to explore the area. Luke and I started with the Palace of Yogyakarta while the rest of the group went to see the Taman Sari Water Castle. When we met back up, we all felt that the two palaces were...extremely dull.
Wanting to check out something non-palace related, we headed to the batik mall nearby. This mall was about the size of a small mall in America. A few floors, a food court, lots of people but WAY more crowded. And all of it was clothes, fabric and batik. Batik is a type of "resist" artwork using melted wax on cloth to prevent dye from absorbing certain areas. It is a long and difficult process to make just one small piece, but the end result is beautiful! More on this later. After the mall, we found lunch at a small restaurant filled with locals. The majority of us ordered Tekwan, or fish ball soup. It consisted of glass noodles in shrimp broth and each bowl had 10 fish balls in it (basically a dumpling with fish in it). It was really delicious and one of the more local foods we had eaten while we were there.
Wednesday breakfast was more fulfilling as we found a nearby restaurant with western style food! I'm all for trying new foods and especially the local food, but I just love my American breakfast. Afterwards, we walked a few feet to a batik shop where we all got to make our own batik piece! They were all about one square foot. You could use stamps, make your design by hand, or a little bit of both. Luke and I both opted for stamps since there was less risk in us screwing it up, but his family did a lot more of the hand design and theirs turned out awesome! It was one of my favorite things we did in Yogyakarta as a woman stayed with Luke and I each step of the way. We picked out our stamps, practiced on one piece of cloth and pressed down on our actual piece. Then we each practiced with the hand tool by writing our name on a practice cloth (and let the pros write it on our real one). Next, they took us to the dying station. We could choose between green, red or blue fabric. I chose blue, Luke chose green. She dyed them, then rinsed off the wax, ironed them then sewed the ends. It was incredible to watch it come together each step of the way and to even have a souvenir to take back home with us. All of this for 50,000 IDR or about $3.80 USD!
Woman in the beginning stages of Batik, applying melted wax to a piece of cloth. Me, trying my hand at it. Luke's Batik hanging at the dyeing station. They ironed, cut and sewed it up right there.
We hired a driver for the day to take us to Borobudur Temple, a Buddhist temple from the 9th century, that was about an hour outside of the area in which we were staying. I walked up a decent number of stairs and took in the view. Besides the hundred people at the top taking pictures, and asking to take pictures with us (it's a thing, not sure why), the landscape was gorgeous! After Borobudur, we went to a second temple that had closed, but we were able to walk around the outside of it during sunset which was just as cool as it would have been to go inside.
On Thursday, Luke, his sisters and I hired a driver to take us to Goa Jomblang Cave. There, we were each lowered into a giant hole in the ground two at a time, just outside of the cave entrance. After about 30 people had been lowered down, it was our turn. Luke and I step up, get strapped in, and were told to sit back. We both sit back and all of a sudden the guy lowering us down is pulling back harder and screaming "NAYNAYNAYNAYNAY!" with the most horrified look on his face as other men ran towards him to help.
Because that's what you want to hear when you're hanging on by a rope over a 200 ft drop.
Thankfully all was good, and we were successfully lowered to the ground. Once everyone was down, we took a short walk down some stairs, into the dark cave and walked up to a cliff with a river beneath it. The coolest part though, was the hole above it that the sun beamed through. It was the perfect time of day to see the sun's rays hitting the rock just in front of us. It wasn't a big cave tour, but it was incredibly cool to see. We were raised back up by an entire village of people. There were 20-30 men deep that just grabbed the end of the rope and walked the other way! We watched them pull up the next people, went to have some lunch and were on our way. Next stop - rafting at Goa Pindul Cave! This one was pretty low key. We were introduced to our guide, grabbed a life jacket and a tube, and then we all held on to each other's tubes as the guide drifted us through the cave explaining the different parts. He spoke little English but was really funny and got his points across. It was a nice relaxing end to our adventures.
We headed back into town, cleaned up and met the parents for dinner. We went into the Malioboro area and found a great restaurant! A number of people but not overcrowded or too loud, variety of food, and a selection of drinks. Unfortunately, I can't even remember what the name of the food that I ate, other than it being some type of soup, and some type of Indonesian pasta. Both were probably Luke and I's favorite Indonesian food we had on the trip, which made for a perfect ending to Indonesia.
Friday was spent in Singapore* for Luke's family's last day, and our second to last day of vacation. We walked through Chinatown and Little India that afternoon and saw tons of street vendors selling anything you can imagine. We visited a couple of temples, one of them being the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. There was a huge golden Buddha in the middle of the first floor with golden trinkets and statues in every direction you looked. On another floor, you could see the Buddha Tooth Relic...placed delicately in a box...in a closed off room...with golden statues of lions all around it for protection. This floor was extremely quiet as it was designated for meditation and prayer. The top floor contained a small rooftop garden and a prayer wheel. The prayer wheel is a big vertical column that you can spin as you walk around it. It is supposed to bring good luck if you walk around it once.
At this point, we were all dragging. So we grabbed some sushi and a beer at a nearby restaurant which gave us just enough energy to find the outdoor theater. We started losing hope as it was night time and we hadn't found any music or run into a lot of people even though we were sure there was something going on. After asking a local, we found our way to the theater right on the river where a pop-punk band was playing. They were really good! And the city lights were in full force which gave it even more ambiance. When they finished playing, a light show on the river happened and it was pretty neat with a lot of different lights and fountains dancing throughout the bay! We walked back towards Luke's and my hostel and found a burger joint for our last meal together. We talked about the trip and our time in Korea and shortly thereafter, it was time for hugs and to say goodbye.
It had been a long day and we needed to figure out our plan for our last day so we went straight to bed and passed out. We stayed in a capsule hostel with queen size mattresses. A capsule hostel is one where you are in a room with many other beds in it, and each bed is in a "pod" so the size of your mattress is the size of your pod. Ours was a queen so it was good for two people. It included two universal wall plugs, a light, a shelf, and a pull down curtain. Our pod was on the top so we climbed up a ladder just like a bunk bed and stored our belongings in a cabinet underneath. It was pretty cool and it was a very nice hostel to stay at!
When we woke up, we were in no hurry to leave. We had breakfast at the hostel, packed up, and talked to the guy at the front for his suggestions. We headed to the Gardens By the Bay which, although is ideal to see in the evening because of its beautiful lights, was still really pretty to see in the daytime. There, we paid to visit the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. Both attractions were filled with huge, beautiful displays of "artificial nature" (huge massive greenhouses with real and extraordinary plants organized in a fairy tale like way), but they were still awesome to walk through and read about. My favorite was Cloud Forest, full of greenery. We walked in and immediately saw a gigantic man made waterfall. There are about 7 or 8 floors that you walk along so you see people high up, and then way down at the bottom near the entrance. The Flower Dome was a more of a fantasy land with gorgeous flowers and artistic statues everywhere. It also had a couple of levels to walk around, but not as exciting to us as the Cloud Forest.
View of Singapore from Level 33
We finished our day with a beer at a really fancy restaurant called Level 33. You walk into an office building and go to the elevator. The elevator has a button on the outside that just says "Restaurant". You walk into the elaborate elevator and there are no buttons. It just knows where to take you. At this point we know we're probably going to splurge a little on a beer and then head out. But the view was incredible. We made it just before sunset, but we saw the boats out on the river, the city buildings, the Gardens By the Bay, and pretty much the entire city. It was the perfect, relaxing finish to our vacation that allowed us to take a deep breath and take it all in before heading home!
*Here is a map of these locations if you just want to quiz yourself to see if you were anywhere close.
Photo credit to Luke, Erin and Leah for some of their dope pics!