One hour after meeting my first Couchsurfing host I found myself sweating and shaking in a local yoga studio, being pulled and pushed into unnatural positions that made me feel like I was going to collapse into a quivering heap on the hardwood floor.
The boys just returned from their trek to the supermarket, bearing bags of meat, vegetables, and sauces. The guy in charge, a former sous chef, is giving directions to everyone who is participating in the BBQ tonight. People chop, clean, and slice, getting ready for a gourmet feast that will be cooked in front of our eyes. Another contingent nominated themselves to purchase alcohol and has set off on that journey, effectively avoiding cooking prep but providing a much-needed service. Across the pool from the kitchen is the open-air TV space, where the rest of my hostel-mates are watching The Simpsons. Later, we’ll all get cleaned up, order taxis, and head to the other side of Bali to Kuta, the party beach, where we’ll dance, drink too much or not enough, take care of each other, and stumble home hopefully more or less in one piece.
In a week none of us will see each other, maybe ever again, and we know that. But it doesn’t matter. For now we’re each others’ best friends and tonight we’re having a party, and it’s going to be epic.
when you know the number and expiration date of your passport by heart.
Before I started to doubt their tastes after the fish sausage, the Malaysian guys who gave us a ride were telling me about their favorite dessert, ais kacang (ABC). I wasn’t too clear on the details, but understood it was shaved ice (or maybe ice cream) and then something to do with juice, milk, jelly, corn, and red beans. It sounded like it had the potential to be pretty good, and at the very least would be interesting to try, so I promised to get one the next time I had a chance.
On the tiny, undeveloped island of Pulau Kapas, some of the beaches are connected by these stairways built into the rock. The rest you would have to climb over rocks or take a boat to visit. During this time I was the only one using them, and they were too good not to photograph.
I tried to think of somewhere to compare Pulau Kapas to, but there wasn’t a recognizable enough place which would be a fitting analogy. I think that’s appropriate.
I needed to have a departure ticket in hand in order to enter Indonesia and I was headed there in less than 2 days, so I’d been seriously putting it off, mainly due to general indecision and flakiness: in the past 36 hours my post-Indonesia plans had changed from Borneo, to the Philippines, to India, to Northern Thailand.
But with no time to spare I figured out what my next step will be, and I couldn’t be more happy with how it shaped up: I’ll be flying into Singapore, then taking a long, long train ride all the way up to Chiang Mai. I had totally forgotten that trains were an option for international travel over long distances, but once I remembered they were I knew I had to do it. I’ll be covering all of peninsular Malaysia and pretty much all of Thailand on the way up, and the journey will take 4 days at the very least, though most likely I’ll take longer. I’ve never done a long train ride like that before, and I’ll get to see some ridiculous landscapes and eat some terrible train food. It’s a month away but I’m really, really excited.
So for the first time this trip, I’ve reluctantly pre-committed to a departure date for somewhere I’ll be visiting (although what I’m doing in Indonesia between that time is totally undecided). As it stands now though, I’m leaving for the island of Bali tomorrow, June 17, and I have a flight booked from there to Singapore on July 16. We’ll see what happens in that month…
After waiting an indeterminable amount of time for a local bus to Terengganu, I had just about given up hope; the unrelenting heat may have been a contributing factor. It was almost noon and we needed to make it to Terengganu before 1pm in order to catch the last daytime bus to Kuala Lumpur, 7 hours away. Just as I was almost done convincing myself that staying the night in Terengganu wouldn’t be too bad, the bus pulled up.
I eagerly boarded and then, maybe for the first time on this trip, felt like I was transgressing some pretty important social rules. Everyone on the bus was Muslim, all the completely covered women sitting next to other women, the men sitting next to men, pretty much everyone wearing some sort of head covering. With my bulky bag there were limited places I could sit so I got one of the last empty seats - in the back, next to man. I had seen all the headscarves and religious caps when I boarded, but I didn’t realize the gender distribution scheme until after I was seated and had a good view of the bus. Michelle got a seat a few rows up, and we pretty quickly put on sweaters to cover our arms and shoulders, even though neither of us was cold. At this point I was sitting on the edge of my seat, trying to maximize the distance between me and my male seatmate, not knowing how inappropriate I was being. But the bus continued to be a normal bus and beyond obvious staring no one was acting like we shouldn’t be there, so I relaxed and put my headphones on. I pushed play and the last music I was playing came on, a song by the Lovemakers subtlely titled “Shake That Ass” . Inwardly I cringed even more than I already was, but then slowly allowed myself to smile. There are always people on the bus who stand out. I could still be me. I settled in to my seat and turned the song up.
In the Philippines, one of the more violent insurgent groups is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, more commonly known as MILF.
I’d laugh, but these guys are pretty dangerous. Maybe to make up for their unfortunate acronym?
Like Malaysia (and Thailand for that matter), I didn’t really research this country before deciding that it would be my next destination. I knew it was made up of a bunch of islands in Southeast Asia and on the conservative side, but beyond that it just hadn’t come up in my life much. But as I’m preparing to head there in a few days, I’m realizing just how enormous, culturally rich, and diverse it is. These are a few things I was amazed and humbled to learn recently, especially considering I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to statistics like these.
“Some bikes are better maintained than others so you might want to test your hire-bike close to home for a while in case the pedals have a tendency to fall off.”
- travel guide for the town of Sanur, Bali
Coming across helpful little postscripts like those make me fall a little in love with a place; I’ve just decided that Sanur is going to be my first stop in Bali.
I’ve tried to write longer posts about my stay on Perhentian Kecil, but it can be hard to write about what you love, and each time I started to I wasn’t happy with the results. So instead I’m going to let the photos (along with my shorter posts HERE, HERE, and HERE) do most of the work. Enjoy! :)
I wrote this incredibly enthusiastic blurb on the night I arrived on Perhentian Kecil. It was warranted; we ended up staying 10 days. Go here.
When I told people my next destination was Pulau Kapas, less than 100km south of the island we were on at the time, most gave me a blank stare. Few people had heard of it, but those who had were encouraging. It’s an island that is mostly used by locals for weekend getaways, the few travelers who do find it hearing about it mostly by accident, from a fellow nomad or randomly chance upon the information. I heard about it via a whisper from the hostel owner in Georgetown, who had cautioned me about telling others about it. Now that I’m here it seems to be a common sentiment among those who have made it.