Sunday, July 12, 2009


I packed up my backpack for the last time this morning, a ritual I have repeated every few days for the last ten weeks. It's bursting at the seams by now. Realizing this morning that I would not have to stuff all that crap in there ever again brought a mixed feeling of relief and nostalgia. I fly back to Bangkok this morning and from there switch over to a suitcase to make room for some things I've bought along the way. I fly back home on Tuesday.

While I'm mildly tempted to write some kind of grandiose valedictory post about the trip, words really can't do it justice and I've certainly expended more than enough here already, so suffice it to say it's been pretty epic.

Thanks for reading



Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In Chiang Mai

Took the night train in from Bangkok last night. I think I'm just going to take it easy here in Chiang Mai. Trekking into the Northern Thailand hills is a very popular activity around here but I think I'm going to take it easy and skip out on that. Tomorrow I take a Thai cooking class on a farm outside the city, then on Saturday I think I will take a massage class, and then before I know it I'll be home...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Election Day

As an astute observer of politics, it's exciting for me to be here on Election Day.  Indonesians go to the polls today in the second presidential election since the fall of Suharto's military regime.  The campaign has been civil and peaceful, a welcome development for the world's third-largest democracy.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is widely expected to trounce his opponents and be re-elected to a second term.  Everyone I have spoken to here plans to support Susilo, with one gentleman I spoke to yesterday predicting that Susilo would win 90% of the vote in his village in Lombok.  The people I have spoken with describe Susilo as a smart and capable leader, and CNN this morning tells me that the economy is doing well and Indonesians are happy to see him combating corruption. 

Of course there's really only so much you can understand as a visitor but it is fascinating to me to see this nonetheless.  They seem genuinely excited to have the opportunity to vote and participate in a peaceful election and it's quite remarkable to see.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kuta Lombok wrap-up

Lombok is the next island over from Bali.  I spent the last few days in Kuta, a beach village on Lombok's southern shore.  There's not many visitors here besides some die-hard surfers. It's probably about as far off the beaten path as I've managed to get during this trip, and it was great.  

They've been saying that Lombok is the next Bali for years now but there's never really been more than trickle of tourists here.  Apparently they are constructing a new airport that would be Indonesia's largest, set to open in 2012 (of course this being Indonesia it's anyone's guess when, or if, it will ever be finished).  I can't help but imagine how different everything will be once that airport opens, which makes me especially glad that I was able to visit now.  

On Sunday we rode out to watch a surf competition for young surfers under 16.  The only way to get there was to take a motorbike and so I checked out a motor scooter and rode for the first time.  It was awesome - the scenery was stunning with rolling green hills and volcanic cliffs jutting out over the lush blue sea.  We had to dodge chickens, cattle, goats, and even some children on the road.  I could not have picked a worse possible road to ride a scooter for the first time, though, as much of the steep road was unpaved and full of big rocks and even the paved sections were riddled with potholes.  I managed to break a piece of plastic shielding off the bike, but the parking attendants (paid them 50 cents to watch the bikes) patched it up nicely.  I met a guy who bloodied up his toe pretty badly on that ride, so I was lucky.  Trying new things is fun.  I'm thinking of getting a motor scooter now.  Don't laugh, I'm serious.

We also tried to go out and surf on Monday but there were no waves.  Truly tragic, actually, that I came out to one of the world's best dive areas and the weather was not in my favor.  

I was walking along the beach and a small group of Indonesian girls invited me to  join them at the top of  a big rock and being curious as to how the hell they managed to climb up this big rock, I did.  Then the girls (9-12 years old) proceeded to speak with me in stunningly good English for 10 minutes or so about America and Barack Obama and all that good stuff.  The girls had even give themselves English names - Lucy, Linda, and Claudia.  When I remarked, skeptically, that  "your name is not Lucy..." the girls energetically retorted "it's my business name!"  Then when I was sufficiently buttered up, they ambushed me and tried to sell me their bracelets.  I kinda knew this would happen, so I can't really complain.  At that point a bunch of other kids appeared out of nowhere and climbed up this rock so I was surrounded by like 10 kids trying to sell me finally I bought a few bracelets...

Lombok is very rural...

View of Gunung Agung, the highest volcano in Bali, from the Lombok Strait 

Leaving Indonesia to fly to Bangkok tomorrow and then night train to Chiang Mai.  I've loved every minute of Indonesia and I'm pretty sure I want to come back here and spend more time exploring the country.  With 17,000 islands and 200 million people, there's a lot to see...

[I have only a week left in my trip and I'm beginning to find blogging a bit laborious so updates from here on out may be brief if I post them at all, sorry...]

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I have found my paradise

I got to Kuta (Lombok) yesterday and it's amazing. A secluded
white-sand beach dotted with little more than a few inns and some
shops. It's totally relaxed - and quiet - here. Met up with a good
group yesterday - 2 English girls and a Danish guy - in the van ride
over and we went out to the only bar in town last night and had a good

Kuta has some of the world's best surfing and there's a big surf
competition at the next beach over so we're gonna roll over there
after I shower and eat.

Kuta's a good place. I'm likin it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Chillin on the Beach

Gili Trawangan is alright but a few too many tourists here for me. It's supposed to be this little unspoiled beautiful white-sand island but of course once the word got out everyone mobbed it and now there's a bunch of resorts and so it's a bit ruined.

The nice thing about traveling for an extended period of time is the flexibility to change your plans. So I've decided tomorrow morning I'm going to hop over to Kuta, Lombok, which is supposed to have some amazing beaches and scenery but be quieter and friendlier than Gili Trawangan.

Also I've been in a bit of a mentally-winding-down mode for a little while now that I know my trip is coming to an end but I don't think that's a good idea, seeing as how I still have 11 days (which is longer than most regular vacations!). So I also changed my plan next week - instead of lounging in Bangkok for 5 days (which I've already done), I'm going to take the night train up to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand and explore a bit. It'll get me back in backpacking mode a little bit and by the time I'm done with that my trip will actually be over...

Yesterday's sunset. Amazing.

There are little geckoes everywhere. Sometimes big geckoes. This guy was crawling around my wall last night. But the geckoes are good because they eat the mosquitoes.