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Friday, July 13, 2012

PLANNING FOR THE PHILIPPINES

THE PLAN

After about two weeks in the comfort (aside from WIFI) of Dani's Homestay, I decided to get out.  Ubud (Bali) was pretty nice.  If I could find a place priced and like Dani's with WIFI, I'd have stayed another two weeks.

I didn't expect to find wifi on the Gili Islands (I was correct) but didn't expect to stay there long.  Just a quick pass through.  According to wikitravel.com, it was about $2.50 to island hop.  (They were incorrect, it was 20,000 IDR).

My general plan after checking out the Gili Islands was to head over to the larger island to the east named Lombok and see a town named Senggigi.  Little did I know that this would be yet another mistake.



ON TO THE GILI ISLANDS

I had met up with a couple of Dutch girls on my way to the Gili islands while we were all sitting around waiting for the ferry.  Howard was also there but at that time, I didn't talk to him much.

According to the girls, they had paid about twice as much as I had in order to do the 'fast boat' to the islands.  I had shopped around and found the cheapest ticket I could in Ubud for the slow boat.

We ended up on the same boat.

Buying tickets from a travel agent often can fuck you later.

After we all disembarked from the slow boat, I met up with Howard.  He is from Norway and his actual name isn't Howard.   He has some letters the English alphabet doesn't have and liked the name Howard.  I did see a shadow of pain cross behind his eyes when I mentioned "Howard the Duck".   Yes, he assured me.  He had indeed heard of it.  Howard seemed a bit overwhelmed and lost so I told him he could stick with me and I'd be sure he got sorted out.  He seemed happy so off we went.

Howard spoke of his desire to  learn some 'traveling skills'.  I told him I'd be happy to hang out with him and teach him.  He could buy me a beer if he felt like it.  [Howard ended up buying me a lot of beers, a mixed drink and a few meals.  One of the reasons I eventually left the Gili Islands was because I was feeling guilty about getting so much from him.  Hopefully, he finds the teaching useful.]

On the way to the Gili Islands, we had to stop our bus at a travel agent.  The reason was suppose to be to get tickets for the boat we were to get on next - but it was bullshit.  It was so they could give us a sales job.  The canned speech went on for fifteen minutes and we were not allowed to interrupt nor ask questions.  Fortunately, nobody was stupid enough to fall for their double mark up prices.  Eventually, they had to allow us to continue on.

In talking to Howard, one of the things he had read up about he wanted to do is a 'free diving' course.  It's like scuba diving but without any air tanks.  "One breath, one dive, how deep can you go?"  Not my cup of tea - I enjoy smoking.  The published cost on this two day course is an astonishing $200.  I told him there were a number of factors working against him in haggling this price down:

1.  They are literally the only place in the town that offers this sort of diving.
2.  It is the main reason Howard (not the duck) came to Indonesia.
3.  The owner is a Brit.  I also found out he was totally inflexible on pricing.  (When Howard said it was a lot, he asked "What are you comparing it to?"  Since Howard really wanted the course I resisted saying "We're in Indonesia for gods sake.  How about the buying power?")
4.  Howard isn't good at bargaining and doesn't have a poker face.  At all.

After we'd finished with our non-included in the room breakfast, we headed over there to get him started on the course.  I was told I could pick him up at four in the afternoon.  Felt a bit like a parent dropping their kid off at school.  Weird.   While he was getting his 'learnin on' I did what I usually do - wander around and talk to people.

People who don't know anything much about navigating think you can use the sun for your direction.  This is why many people end up dead in the wilderness.  You need specialized skills - especially if it isn't near dawn or dusk.  Or you're on a different place on the globe than you're use to.   This is why I carry a compass.  Yes, people argue they don't need it even though it is cheap and light enough you never need to think about it.  I just hope not to have to run into their corpses littering my road later.

That being said, a compass doesn't help unless you use it.

I figured "I'm on a small island, I walk at a brisk pace.  I'll just end up where I started."

Unfortunately, I discovered (again) I'm stupid.  I walked about 95% of the way around it.  I didn't recognize where I was, felt tired and got a ride.  All the way back around.

Of course the horse carriage guys  won't mention that - are you kidding me?



NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES ON THE GILI ISLANDS

Reading about the Gili Islands on wikitravel is of course completely different than being there.  When you read things like 'they don't have motorized vehicles, only bicycles and horse carts' you get the impression you won't be run over.

Wrong!

People are either too poor or lazy to get lights for their bikes they drive around in complete darkness.  The horse carts go at reckless speeds throughout the day and into the night.  Dodge or die, but the horns aren't there.  Neither are any sidewalks.  Or street lights.

I'm use to walking on streets in Asia and nearly was hit several times.



HORSE CARTS OF 'RIP YOU OFF'

Because all of the horse cart taxis got together - and they have no competition, they did some price fixing.  They all agreed to make it $15 to go around the island, $7 for half and so on.  It's not that big of island.

These prices are, naturally, only the kind of prices stupid tourists would pay.  Despite their saying you cannot bargain at all, yes I have bargained them down to half for a shorter journey.

People who think "Oh, horse carts would be a neat way to travel"...   Before I got to the Gili Islands, I even had one tourist tell me he liked to get a beer and drink it while riding around in the horse cart.

The roads are alternatively potholes and sand traps.  As it is, when you ride the horse cart, you spend your time hitting your head on the unnecessarily low ceiling while clutching the bar hard.  This tells me that either:

a) the tourist was full of shit
b) he was drunk out of his mind (possibly not knowing what island he was on, or even what country he was in)
c) he enjoyed wearing his beer

I recommend avoiding the horse carts unless you have heavy luggage - which they may charge extra for.



EXTRA TORTURE

Naturally, the natives on the Gili Islands enjoy playing music.  Loud.  And it is over forty years old.  Disco is not dead on the island.  Doyle would have been pleased.

The tourists I saw arrived on the island white and puffy.  They left lobster red...and still puffy.  I'm not sure why 'getting some sun' is done instead of losing some or all of the extra 30+ KG they're carrying.  Losing that weight would have a much more dramatic impact on their appearance.  Unlike me, they clearly care about that.



LOGAN WORKS...WELL, A BIT

Since I was basically working for Howard, I went off to scout the middle island Gili Meno while he was on his second day of his 'free dive' course.  Had I not met Howard, I'd have left after the first day.  The outrageously high prices would have driven me off quick.   Since Howard was delighted to pick up the tab for a lot of meals and beers, I went forth to do his bidding.

Gili Meno is the kind of place you go to with your spouce/partner/fuck buddy when you want to be alone.  I would personally go crazy there after a day.  There is nothing to do but swim, sunbathe, read and eat.

If you don't like the restaurant at the place you are staying, it might be a five to thirty minute walk (unlit roads) to the next.

For two people splitting the costs of a place, it's not too unreasonable.  I did find the cheapest accommodation at a shack called 'Sunset Gecko' for 88,000 IDR.  They told me they didn't have air conditioning nor hot water because they wanted to be environmentally friendly.  I don't put much stock in this because people are still fishing with dynamite (good bye reefs) when they can get away with it.

So, after about three hours, I was bored to death with Gili Meno.  I went back with the prices of all of the places I could actually find the staff of.  I figure if you can't find the staff, don't stay there.  I don't want to have a problem then need to play 'hide & seek' with people to get someone to fix it.



MORE TRAVELER'S TUMMY FUN

Almost my entire time on the island, I suffered yet more 'traveler's tummy'.  While this undoubtedly saved Howard money, it didn't improve my mood.



WAITING FOR GODOT

Howard and I were also waiting for his friend (also Norwegian) named Varga.  Since his last name also started with a 'V', I decided I would call him 'double V'.  I told him it was more 'gangsta' and he was happy with it.



FLYING SAUCERS

During the early mornings on the island, Howard and I heard what we agreed sounded very much like 'flying saucers'.  To my ear, it was like wind going through lengths of tubes erratically.  Kind of eerie and extremely annoying since we were trying to sleep.  Eventually, we found on these noises were made by weird fucking birds who did it as they were flying.  The birds seemed to know we didn't like it and would circle for an hour above where we were staying every morning.  Just one shotgun...  The natives call the birds 'buron dada'.  I have no idea what the proper name would be.



SENGGIGI

According to wikitravel, there is a home stay that is 90,000 IDR and comes with wifi in Senggigi.  This turned out to be a lie.  The home stay itself is not only several kilometers outside of Senggigi but the eight people I interviewed for directions (including the local police and actual concierges from the most fancy hotel in the area) couldn't agree on where they thought it was.  After a few hours, I gave up on finding it as well.

I ended up checking into a place in the actual town itself called Sonya's.  It's a pit (cramped rooms, infested, cold showers, no wifi) but affordable at 100,000 IDR.  The place also has an excellent 'backpacker vibe'.  That means that a bunch of backpackers get together at night to drink and talk without the encumbrance of big screen movies or music playing.   Everyone there agreed it was a very nice time.  Note, we've been drinking the local moonshine (arak).  It's fairly foul tasting but gets the job done.  More bearable when cut with a soft drink.  Also, the lady who owns the place (I call her 'mama'.  She calls me 'papa'.) is a real peach.  [Note for foreign readers, 'a real peach' is a term which can mean 'a wonderful person' or can be used sarcastically 'you're a real peach' to imply the opposite.  In this context, I mean a wonderful person.]  She likes to sit around reading her Bible, we like to sit around and discuss the benefits of snorting cocaine off of hookers.  It works for everyone.



INDONESIAN LANGUAGE

Right now, I've got about thirty or more words and phrases in my vocabulary.  I hadn't planned on it but it happens.  Sometimes, the right word or phrase gets the locals laughing delightedly.  Unfortunately, it's pushed a lot of the old knowledge out so I'll have to relearn some of my other languages when I get back to those countries.



REVIEW - GILI LIFE, GILI T ISLAND, LOMBOK

After some hard bargaining, we got the rooms down to 100,000 IDR and 150,000 IDR.  Honestly, I'm not sure why he bargained with us.  He had customers coming in from everywhere.  High season is pretty busy here.  The room security itself was pretty low.  Clean but spartan.  No hot water.  Decent crash pad but I wouldn't want to live there.  Since we bargained him down, breakfast was not included.  Considering the taste of most included breakfasts within Asia this is actually a boon.



REVIEW - SNAPPER, GILI T ISLAND, LOMBOK

Despite the 10% tax they like to slap onto the bill, the food is the tastiest I had on the island.  They even made a decent hamburger.  Their version of the 'American Burger' has a sunny side up egg on it.  I told them to leave that off as I don't know any Americans who aren't insane who get an egg on their burger.  Hell, even most of the insane ones don't.



WRAP UP ON GILI ISLANDS

After four days, I bid  goodbye to Howard and Double V and headed to Lombok.  As I thought, the islands were expensive.  I didn't realize they would be that expensive but it's a live and learn thing.  I figured Senggigi would be more of a normal town where I could recoup and just sit for awhile.  I was wrong.  It is like the island but without the charm.   It's another over priced coastal place and I need to get somewhere less interesting to tourists.  I did enjoy the Gili Islands.  I even did a bit of snorkeling.  I got wore out pretty quick but saw some neat stuff.  I now understand why SCUBA is so popular.   


Although a lot of people will be disappointed that I am not experiencing 'more of the beauty that is Indonesia', the lack of WIFI has me down.  I want to go and sit and recoup now.  Yes, I've enjoyed what I've done but the need to save money is outweighing 'picturesque'.   


I don't want it to sound like I'm bitching.  I was in an area many people would consider to be 'paradise'.  When you can't afford 'paradise', it's just less fun.  I feel lucky to have been there but I am disappointed my research on Lombok seems to have failed.  Because Indonesia really doesn't seem to get 'room internet' I'll probably be going to find a country that does in a few days.


I'm off to find a 15,000 IDR meal.



PLANNING FOR THE PHILIPPINES

Although I'm probably going to end up hopping slowly toward the Philippines, I've noted that many expats living here have nothing good to say about the place.  I have encountered other travelers who can't sing it's praises highly enough.  I'm curious as to what I'm getting myself into.  The free 21 day visa certainly helps me want to go there.

Because there are so many possible ways to get there, it's more difficult to get the info I need.

Right now, the best I'm able to discover is from DPS (Bali) to (MNL) Manila via Philippine Airline is about $353.  This is a bit more pricey than DPS to BKK (Bangkok) at $232 via AirAsia.  This is strange because it is with stop overs and such.  If I was to go my initial circuitous route (LOP, CGK, BKI, CRK) it would be about a hundred dollars less and I get to see more.  Weird.  I'm still working on it.  I met a fellow traveler who was telling me prices and such of places she stayed at in PH.  Either her memory is going OR the prices have shot up in the last two years OR wikitravel is smoking the crack.  She suggested that I go to Tagbilaran on the island of Buhol.  But I think this may be something that interests her more than it interests me.  I've lowered my requirements for at least a short vacation in Philippines.  I want f*cking wifi in my room with the room at $10 a night or less and that's about it.  I don't think I'm asking for too much here.  If I am, I can get my butt back to Cambodia and get it.  Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions?



LOGAN QUOTES

If my ass were a temple, it would be a windy one.


Nobody who has enthusiastically dry humped an inanimate object into submission can remain depressed for long.



NON-LOGAN QUOTES

"Peace demands forgiveness."  - 'Lost Girl'






PLASTIC BAGS

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but when traveling, save all of the plastic bags you get hold of.  This is not done to achieve some new level of smugness.  "Oh, look at me, I'm not using plastic bags and saving the planet."  No, you're not.  "But if everyone were to do what I'm doing..."  They won't.  Get over it.

The reason travelers should save plastic bags is they are lightweight and water proof.  'Dry bags' are as well but they are rarely see through.  They also weigh and cost a lot more.

You will need a lot of plastic bags for wrapping all kinds of stuff.  Anything that could leak or be leaked upon can be cheaply protected.   Just imagine ink leaking into your backpack.  Yeah, in Asia it is possible.

My SOP (standard operating procedure) when I get to a new place to settle down for a bit is to just toss all of the plastic bags I acquire in a corner.  When I am ready to move on, I replace any that have developed holes or are too big for what is wrapped in them.  The rest I then stuff into one plastic bag and just leave in the room.  It is my guess that this is burned later though someone may choose to use or sell them.

As the immortal Van Wilder said, "Don't be a fool,  wrap your tool."  Although he may not have been talking about backpacking equipment it still applies.



STUPID LAST WORDS CONTEST

In the comments section, see if you can come up with the stupidest last words ever.  Something you'd be embarrassed if it was stuck on your tombstone as your 'famous last words'.

My entry:

"Ah, snap."





SRI LANKA NOTES

According to other travelers, Sri Lanka is very cheap.  Good to know.



A GENERAL INVITATION

I realize that most of the people who are reading this haven't traveled.  Some may never travel.  Some have no intention to travel.

For those who want to travel and can get both time and money on your side to do so, contact me a month or so out from when you are actually ready to begin your journey.  I'm not looking for people to contact me saying "I wish I could travel."

Someone clever said "Travel is just one decision away."

If you're the kind of person who is going to travel 'someday', please feel free to use the Paypal button on this blog to make a contribution to help me get money together to go visit Africa, central/eastern Europe and central/south America.  You'll be able to read about the weird, wacky, wonderful and often painful shit that happens to me there.



PRICES

(Gili Islands)

Taking a horse  cart all the way around Gili T, 150,000 IDR

Renting snorkeling equipment, 25,000 IDR

Renting a horse at 'Stud Horse Ranch' for one hour, a shocking 350,000 IDR

Mixed drink, 50,000 IDR.  That's about $5-$6 - are the prices in America comparable?? (Don't give me that 'you're in paradise' shit either - I am in Indonesia...)

Lunch - on special - with one beer, 80,000 IDR.  Yes, that eats up my 100,000 IDR food/smokes/etc part of the budget really quickly.  Don't forget - the 'nicer' places will stick you with a 15% tax because they feel like it.

Small beer - almost exactly one half the size of the big beer, 28,000 IDR.  Big beer, 32,000 IDR.  Makes no sense.

Island hopping, 20,000 IDR

Can of Fanta, 10,000 IDR

Three day open water scuba diving course (to become a 'diver'), 3,700,000 IDR

Two day advanced course for diving up to 30m, 2,950,000 IDR

[Note, on diving prices I have heard that Honduras and Thailand (Koh Tao) are cheaper.]

5 comments:

  1. I just did some travel, came back from Australia... and got hit with a Customs Search. I made sure to keep a light tone and get into the 'low threat' category...

    You been hit with a full on search yet?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Glad you are getting out of your country Jamas!

    You probably got hit with a customs search just so they could prove to someone it was 'random'. You don't really strike me as the bomb throwing maniac type.

    Not yet hit with a big search. Honestly, with me it goes the other way. I am the guy laughing and joking with the customs people. Sometimes, sitting around with them smoking. This irritates other travelers as they are led off to the room for their anal probing. Just like the aliens.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Last words: "and that's how you safely incapacitate wildebeest."

    ReplyDelete
  4. egg on burger - usually found on an aussie burger.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Last Words: "...well that looks easy."

    ReplyDelete

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