Tagged: lake

Mount Kelimutu, Flores Island, Indonesia

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I landed in Maumere at 3pm. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to talk down the price of a car (a lot) or if I would have to stay overnight and get a bus in the morning to Moni. One of the taxi drivers overheard me reject the price of 500,000 rp ($38)- I knew it was going to be a price like that. He told me he has a friend who drives a car of people for 100,000 rp so I told him to take me there. After waiting in his friends car for 20 minutes they both approached me and said it would actually be 275,000 rp. I said no and told them to take me to the bus station, but after negotiating we made a deal at 150,000 rp ($11.50.) I agreed for two reasons- one being that I was in the middle of no where in Maumere and I didn’t think they were going to drive me anywhere else, and two because if I stayed overnight and took a bus it probably would have cost me more than 150,000 rp.

I ended up being the only passenger for the majority of the trip; we picked up a local along the way. The ride took a little over 2 hours even though every website said it would take 3-4 hours. I finally found the tropical jungle I assumed all of SE Asia would be. The land in Flores is green lush mountains overflowing with palm trees, palm stalks, bamboo, sugar cane, etc. The road was skinny and winding, and my local driver blared Balinese and western dance music the whole time. As usual locals stared at me as we passed through villages.

In Moni I stayed at Palm Bungalows. I was the only guest and the bungalow was terrible mostly because of the bathroom which was the worst I’ve seen yet. It was private but un-usable. There was no running water in the sink or shower. The sink had a pool of floating ants in it, and the shower was an actual tub with floating spiders. The toilet was western but with no flush, and the garbage can of water must have been sitting there from the previous guest, whenever that was. It smelled terrible and there was a water bug living in the toilet tank that regularly made appearances whenever I wanted to pee. I did not get to wash my hands or body the whole time I was there. However, luckily I only stayed one night and it only cost 100,000 rp with breakfast- $7.70.

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The room was terrible but the owner Robert was an amazing host. I had dinner at the guesthouse with him and his two brother-in-laws (not his actual brother-in-laws but his male family members.) We had two red and white rice, sautéed greens, sautéed vegetables, fried mini fishes (you eat the whole thing,) fried edamame and crackers. The meal was cooked by the women of the bungalow who did not actually eat with us. After dinner we sat around talking and smoking cloves.

Moni is the small village below Mount Kelimutu, the Volocano attraction. On top of the volcano rests three different colored lakes (they all change over time and have been blue, green, white, brown and red.) Most recently they were green, blue and brown although the brown was apparently turning red. Every website said to get there for sunrise but as usual I didn’t do that. Also, it is currently rain season and Robert said now is not a good time to go for sunrise.

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I woke-up at 7am, had breakfast (an oil and sugar soaked pancake,) then Robert took me to the volcano for 200,000 rp- $15. We drove up in his brand new Toyota SUV with an added surround sound system and blue lights. He was very proud of his car but I thought it was terrible. A gas guzzler that’s too big for the tiny roads which meant we inched along, while listening to blasting western music. (Hotel California started playing which he thought was the Backstreet Boys.)

We got to the entrance and I had the pay the entrance fee of a whopping 150,000 rp; Indonesia tourists pay 50 cents. We parked and Robert joined me for the walk-up because I was the only tourist there. The cement stair trail took about twenty minutes to reach the peak. On one side there are two lakes, and on the third is on the other side, making it impossible to get a picture of all three together.

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The view was incredible, as were the size of the lakes on top of the mountains, however the lakes themselves were a complete disappointment. All three lakes were the exact same color, and deep turquoise. The color was sharp against the gray rock but it was the same color as the ocean in the Caribbean.

I took photos and posed for about one hundred photos with a group of local tourists. One of them insisted on taking a picture with me every place I moved to take my own picture; they were following me around the site. As much as I wanted it to stop there was no point in being rude since the area was deserted in so I played along.

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We headed back to the guest house and switched cars to a SUV pick-up truck. Before I got in Robert had four young boys vigorously clean the interior and exterior of the car, for me.
When then got in and drove to Ende,
picking-up a backpacker hitch hiker along the way.

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Robert took me to the airport and the earliest flight I was able to book was for the next morning. He offered his home to me and I gladly accepted. That day Robert, the Finnish backpacker and I relaxed on Robert’s porch. We drank fresh coconut milk made by one of his daughters, had a local lunch, and relaxed again. In the early evening the other backpacker left for the ferry and I made myself at home.

I bathed myself in their traditional shower, a concrete room with a huge garbage can filled with water and a pail. I was given a bedroom- a mattress on the floor and a fan, which was more than I would have asked for. We ate a big family dinner in the main room on a smiley face and a princess mat. Robert, his mother, his two daughters (10 and 14,) and his two nieces live in the house, and three of his male family members joined us. We shared red rice, fried river fish, sautéed cabbage, and an omelet.

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After dinner Robert and I went to Star One Pub and Karoke, a new club in town that he hadn’t been to yet. The club consisted of a main room, about twenty karoke rooms, and a girl viewing room. The viewing room had a one way mirror so from the bar we could see in at the girls but they couldn’t see out. The bar was filled with local girls who snuck in their own alcohol because the drinks were very expensive (normal club prices.) The bar is too expensive for regular locals but popular for business men especially from Java and Bali.

A local guy played piano and the locals girls sang karaoke. A few of them had amazing voices. We danced, drank Bintang by the pitches and sipped local liquor, a clear alcohol that tastes like a mix of whiskey, tequila and wine.

The next morning I took an early flight from Ende to Labuan Bajo.

Mandalay, Myanmar

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We arrived in Mandalay and went straight to our local’s cousins restaurant for lunch. Italy and I ate fried chicken with a bunch of little side dishes. We then went to our accommodation to change for the night.

I stayed at Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse which I saw on many blogs. The hostel was amazing. Mama started the hostel out of her home ten years ago to learn English. The girls that work there come from families that couldn’t afford them so Mama took them in. A few years back the government found out about Mama’s home hostel, which was apparently illegal, so she bought another building around the corner and expanded. The hostel is now the place to be for backpackers. The breakfasts are huge (eggs, toast, a hot side dish, fruit plate, coffee, tea, juice) and she’ll feed you until your stuffed. You get complimentary water bottles everyday and free refills. Free packaged snacks when you buy beer and every night there’s free peanuts and watermelon to snack on. She treats you like family, the way your grandmother would. Every single night she’s overbooked and if anyone shows up and there’s no space she’ll let you sleep on her floor. The place really feels like a home in the best way.

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After setting in our local picked us up with his cousin and we drove to Mahamuni Pagoda to see the large golden sitting Buddha. Like most temples women are not allowed in the front near the Buddha so I stood back and observed all the praying women while the men went up.

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We then drove to U Bein Wooden Bridge. It’s made from timber and is the longest wooden bridge in the world. Our local and his cousin sat behind while Italy and I walked the bridge. If you walked regularly it would probably take about 20 minutes to get from one end to the other, but we stopped continuously along the way to watch the fisherman. There were local fisherman fully dressed (some with helmets) standing in the middle of the lake with fishing rods not making a single move. The better fisherman had a string of alive fish attached next to them. Apparently they stand there from sunrise to sunset daily.

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After our stroll we headed back to the boys. I got a coconut and tried the dried mutton that was already on the table. When our local paid the restaurant didn’t have enough change so they offered him a cigarette instead.

After the bridge we went to a liquor store and the local bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Platinum, which apparently was released in 2015. We then drove to Mandalay White House Hotel for a “pool party.” A DJ party next to a pool. There were two other older westerners there who were guests of the hotel but Italy and I were definitely the ones the locals were looking at. We went through a few bottles of Johnnie Walker that night.

The next morning Italy left for Bangkok and our local picked me up at noon for a day outside the city with his cousin and dj friend tagging along. We drove to a local restaurant outside of the city. The restaurant is known for serving different types of meats and that day they had mountain goat, rabbit, hog, mountain cat, deer, and snake. We got dried goat, rabbit, hog and fried eel. We also got Myanmar beer’s of course.

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After lunch we drove on winding mountain roads to Pyin Oo Lwin city. We went to the small waterfall, which was more like a multi-level babbling brook. However there was a old wooden bridge there that was fun to run across.

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We then went to the national park, to the botanical gardens. We walked around a massive landscaped park area that had a pond. There were musicians playing on one side and local tourists lounging around. We went to a coffee shop inside the park and I had a cappuccino which almost tasted legit- too much milk and cold.

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Later that night I went to see the Moustache Brothers with a guy from my hostel. The brothers became famous in the 90s as comedians who repeatedly made fun of the Myanmar government which led them to prison more than once. The main brother passed away last year but the second brother still runs the show from their house downtown. He’s the MC, his cousin (the third “brother”) is a clown, and his wife and sisters are traditional dancers. The show itself wasn’t that amazing but the brothers personality shines. It was great seeing locals go against the government and risk their lives to do so.

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Fyi. The locals here love Obama. He’s visited twice since being in office and whenever someone finds out I’m from America they just scream Obama in my face in a jolly way.

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The next day I bicycled to Mandalay Hill with a guy from southern France. We drove throughout all the temples near the hill (didn’t actually go inside any) then parked our bikes and made the long walking journey up. The walkway stairs had multiple levels of temples. Every time we thought we were at the top we weren’t. When we did eventually reach the top we thought the view was terrible. All I could see was pollution in the air. I decided to take my photographs halfway down when I could actually see what was in the city.

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We then biked to Amaravarti Spa to get massages. I got a Thai massage which was incredible. Along the way we saw a group of about ten cows walking in the middle of the Main Street. They were completely on their own and stopped at a local deli to try and break open the pastry wrappers sitting in the front. It was absolutely hilarious. We had to stop just to laugh as the store women came running and screaming down to the street.

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The next day I just chilled around at the hostel with a few other people who were also leaving later that night. We drank some beers and feasted of free peanuts and watermelon.

I splurged on the VIP bus to Yangon. The bus had reclining seats and mini-tv’s like an airplane; however, the movies were all bootleg AVI films most of them completely un-watchable. When the bus started the stewardess handed out orange soda and pastries then sang a song in a soothing voice.

I got to Yangon at 6am and headed straight for the airport. The cabbie took a short cut and drove through Okkalarpa village on the way which was especially rural and cute. I left the airport terminal since I couldn’t check in for another 10 hours and headed across the street to Food Center and camped out there for a couple of hours, then I went to the airport hotel to see if they rented rooms hourly. The receptionist was incredibly rude to me and tried to charge me $50 for 5 hours, which is a rip off and I did not do. I later asked if I could use the wifi and she said $5 for an hour, which is also insane. I didn’t pay for anything but chose to camp out in that lobby versus the airport for a few hours. Later I caught a flight to Kuala Lumpur at 7pm that landed at 11pm. I was planning to sleep in KL’s airport in terminal 2 but I was forced through immigration and couldn’t get back in. I ended up renting a Capsule bed in the airport for $30 for 12 hours. It was expensive but I just had to. And the hotel was actually really cool. Storage containers are transformed into double decker capsule beds, and bathrooms are also in containers. The color scheme was turquoise, yellow, black and teak, which made the whole thing look modern and relaxing.

I woke up and caught a flight to Penang at 1:30pm the next day.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

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I arrived nearby Inle Lake at 4:30am and got a cab with fellow passengers to town. After paying the $10 entrance fee into the lake area I spent over an hour driving around looking for cheap accommodation that apparently does not exists. All the single rooms were fully booked and I ended up at Gypsy Inn for $15 a night, the cheapest I could find. Located on the bottom floor behind the main structure, my room had pink walls and was empty except for two metal single beds. The shared bathroom was outdoors.

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On top of Inle Lake lays the small town of Nguangshwe, where all the guesthouses, restaurants and life is. The town is brown and dusty with local businesses and a central market. I woke up late after my early arrival and took a walk through town. I had lunch inside the market- fish curry which she spent thirty minutes making fresh in front of me. The fish was like a tilapia and the curry wasn’t curry at all. After lunch I bought a papaya (which ended up being the best one I’ve had in SE Asia so far) and then I walked back to the guesthouse. There is absolutely nothing to do in town. Nearby town there’s a winery, hot springs and pagodas but that’s a day trip in itself that no one has raved about.

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The next morning I took my Inle Lake boat tour with two older Dutch men and one young Malaysian boy, whom I met on my bus from Bago (and who stayed in my hostel.) Our boat pulled out of the town at 6am just in time to see the sunrise on the lake. The first two hours of the tour were the best. It was before the other tourists were out and we were able to see the lake in its true nature. Moving down the inlet we saw local women doing laundry and washing dishes in the lake. In the main lake area we saw fisherman retrieving their nets, and others changing their fish traps. However, they didn’t seem to be retrieving much of anything- one fish here and there.

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We circled around local water villages on the west side of the lake. All the houses were on stilts in the water which reminded me of our Fire Island houses. Long small boats are the method of transportation here. We saw kids being taking to school and adults working in their home. Many of the homes had attached farms (also piles in water) with pigs and chickens. We then stopped at a lotus textile shop, a silver smith shop, a boat making shop, and a blacksmith shop to watch the locals at work. The experience was very touristy as expected.

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We were dropped off for lunch at one of the many tourist restaurants on the water. I had the Inle Special Fish, which was decent but not nearly as good as the grilled fish I get on the street. The dish was oily and overpriced.

The bonus stop on our tour was Indein. The town is famous for it’s market and pagodas. The market was all tourist shops; however, the Shwe Inn Tain pagoda’s were beautiful and plentiful. Handfuls of old ruins and handfuls of new pagodas standing right next to each other. The old crumbling clay next to new fresh clay, cement and gold. The old ones are very detailed while the new ones are more simple. I wandered through trying to capture images of all the different types in one shot.

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On the way back we stopped at a floating garden. Here rows and rows of crops lay floating on the water. Our boat guide jumped onto them so we could see them move and they truly were floating. It’s winter so we didn’t see much growing but it was cool to float by patches of grass that waved with the water.

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After the garden we stopped at a monastery for a few minutes. I ended up spending most of my time there watching locals eat different foods from banana leafs. A group let me try whatever it was they were eating- it was pickled spinach in some type of dough. Acidic but not bad.

Then we headed home. There was a boat zooming next to us that had about 20 seagulls flying on top of it for at least 10 minutes. The people on the boat were throwing pieces of bread into the air. One of the Dutch men on my boat decided to throw pieces of banana into the air and soon all the seagulls were on top of us. It felt surreal but I was also terrified they were all going to poop on me.

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We saw the sunset just as we were pulling back into town. A full day on the boat- sunrise to sunset. I left an hour later on an overnight bus to Bagan.

Yangon, Myanmar

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I flew into Yangon airport with Vietnam Airlines. I got an eVisa online, and contrary to what it says it requires you do not need to have a return ticket booked to enter Myanmar. I stayed at Sleep In Hostel downtown near Chinatown. I paid $12 a night for a 8 bed dorm. It’s pricier than I’m used to but Myanmar hostels are just starting to open and there is no competition yet.

Yangon is nothing like Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, which is what I was hoping for. There are a few western tourists but the city streets are local still. The locals are also very polite and traditional- all the men wear long wrap skirts daily. What surprised me the most is how many locals speak English, more so than in Vietnam or Thailand.

I went to 19th street (the heart of downtown) my first night and had a few beers with a Australian dorm mate. The street food is incredible. Rows of vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta dishes, grilled meats, snacks, etc. There are push carts selling a corn and black bean concoction that I refer to as the Mexican stand. 19th street is full of street restaurants with stands where you can choose your protein and raw vegetables that you want cooked. There were random westerners but for the most part the city was packed with locals having a night out.

One thing that caught me by complete surprise is that when you want to grab a waiters attention you make a kissing sound. This is throughout the whole country and hard to get used to. I kept thinking rude men were trying to get my attention.

We met a London taxi driver who gave us tips on Myanmar. He travels the world for three months every year when business is slow.

My first day Australia and I went for breakfast. Prices are not on the menus so you just hope for the best. He ordered noodles and I ordered Mala Curry. First we were served tiny bowls of broth which tasted like Chinese wonton broth. Then the dishes were served- his in a tiny bowl and mine was a massive main course. The curry was different from Thai, Indian or Vietnamese curry. It’s brown with peanuts and sesames. It doesn’t have the traditional curry taste I am used to, but it was delicious. The plate was different noodles, different mushrooms, cauliflower, green beans, snap peas, sprouts, scallions, other vegetables I didn’t recognize, chicken, tofu, pork and a few hard boiled quail eggs. His ended up costing $1.20 and mine was $1.50. I couldn’t believe it.

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After breakfast we parted ways and I walked two miles, past the People’s Park, to the famous Shwedagon Pagoda. Like all famous monuments I see the pagoda was being restored and the bottom was completely covered in scaffolding. Nonetheless the gold shined through and the entire site was spectacular. Shwedagon is completely plated in gold and adorned with real jewels including diamonds. It stands tall in the middle of the site and it’s surrounded by tons of other pagodas and temples. Buddha’s are sitting and lying all throughout. Some temples are more decked out that others with mirror paneling, shiny tiles, detailed tile work, etc. One Buddha has LED lights halo-ing around it. The entire site is gold and combined with the bright sunshine it appeared fake, but I assure you it is not.

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After the pagoda I walked towards the big lake, Kan Daw Gyi Lake. On the way I stopped in at Happy World, a small outdoor amusement center in the middle of Kandaw Mingalar Garden, a manicured park that looks like it belongs in the SIMS. Lollipop trees and a small pond with duck peddle boats. I had a ice coffee at the cafe near the entrance before continuing my journey. I read the price on the Burmese menu before ordering and it said 80 cents but when I tried to pay that the waiter said no and brought me over the English menu where coffee is $2. Yet another place that rips tourists off.

Kan Daw Gyi Lake is massive to say the least. There is a $2 entrance fee which I did not expect but it was worth it. I chose to walk the lake via a boardwalk that winds and goes straight down it. There are fountains and lily pads in the lake, and random small islands of gardens and praying areas. It was 90 degrees out so a great day to be outdoors. At the east end of the lake is a massive dock- a restaurant with two gold plated ducks in the waterfront.

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From here I walked south then west along downtown. I randomly ran into the government square which had City Hall, the Supreme Court, and the Sule Pagoda. Next to the pagoda were a bunch of pigeons with women selling corn to feed them, which turns out is common here.

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I was walking along Maha Bandoola Road which is the Main Street downtown for street markets. The main sidewalk was crowded for over thirty blocks with stands selling everything from soap to do-it-yourself fried meat stations. Side streets were packed with street restaurants.

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I was planning to take it easy but ended up going out with a German bunk mate and a local who he met earlier that day. We shared a taxi to the locals house where we waited for him and his wife to get ready. The local man was 34, and his wife was 26. He’s a tour guide for a living and although he spoke some English I’m actually surprised he’s able to be an English tour guide. He was very friendly and took us to his house without any questions. He lives in an apartment building in the east end of downtown. Walking up the stairs we past a few dead cockroaches. His apartment was a lot bigger than I expected. We walked into one large open room with three leather chairs on the left, a shrine, a old TV, and a woman playing with a baby on the floor. The apartment was home-y but barren. The ceiling had beautiful molding and two chandeliers. Past the living room was a small room with a double bed, and past that was a big kitchen with a twin sized bed. Our local shares the twin bed with his wife. Eight people live in the apartment and I only saw the two beds. I met his brother, his brothers wife and their baby daughter.

His wife stepped out in a short tight red sequined dress and heels, not at all what I expected or was dressed for. The four of us took a taxi to a local night club area. Before going to the club we sat at a street restaurant and drank whiskey with beer, and tried a few local dishes. Steamed chicken, friend chicken, fish salad, fried mutton, and fried broccoli. I wasn’t that hungry and only ordered the steamed chicken but they kept encouraging me to try the local dishes so I did. At the end the bill came and they just handed it to us. I have no problem splitting a $12 bill with my mate for a local experience but I did not like the way they just handed us the bill. The local and his wife were the ones who kept ordering food, and they drank half the alcohol. It was another situation that really put me off about being taken advantage of as a tourist.

From there we took the elevator to the top floor night club. There was a security check then we entered into a real club, but we were the only ones there. The local said it will get busy, that apparently it does every night. Two hours later there were less than 10 of us on the dance floor. I’m not sure if that’s crowded for a Myanmar club. There were multiple security guards standing in the middle of the dance floor (about one guard per person.) There was also a lady security guard in the bathroom. Me and the wife were the only girls dancing with “the crowd;” all the boys were conservative and enjoyed dancing more with each other. Separately there were three local girls dancing, one of which was a ladyboy. The local girls wore tiny outfits and 6″ platform stilettos.

The next day I went back for more curry and spent a day planning Myanmar, which I should have done when I had real wifi. Later I went out with a friend of a friend from home who just moved to Yangon. We went back to 19th street and had the grilled food station. The waitress carries a plastic carton and places whatever you choose inside. We got a whole fish, squid, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms and okra. The food was simply grilled and delicious. After dinner we went to 50th Bar, an expat spot. It was the first truly American looking place I’ve seen since being away. It was a fancy pub with shiny wooden walls, a bar with leather seating, and a huge circular staircase in the middle.