Tagged: village

Mount Kelimutu, Flores Island, Indonesia

IMG_7286-0.JPG

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.

IMG_7337.JPG

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.

IMG_7532.JPG

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.

IMG_7533.JPG

IMG_7534.JPG

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.

IMG_7295.JPG

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.

IMG_7365.JPG

IMG_7363.JPG

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.

IMG_7535.JPG

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.

Taman Negara, Malaysia

IMG_7540.JPG

Sweden and I traveled to Taman Negara via a four hour mini-bus then a three hour long canoe ride along the river. We arrived at 4pm and checked into Julie’s Hostel. The dorm has seven non-bunk beds with two ensuite bathrooms and AC for $7 per night.

IMG_7539.JPG

Taman Negara is the oldest rainforest in the world at 130 million years old. Last year there was a major flood and a lot of the rainforest was damaged which is visible along the water banks. The tiny town across from the rainforest is where the accommodation, restaurants and general store in located. The accommodation is up a hill while the restaurants are on barges on the water (the are also a few on the one street up the hill.)

IMG_7545.JPG

We had been planning to stay three nights and two days but we changed our plans when we found out how little there is to do besides trekking. We decided to spend our next day doing all the activities (day and night trekking,) and leave the day after.

We woke up, had breakfast on one of the barges, then headed out on our own for day trekking. First we walked to the canopy walk- the longest in the world. There were five walks that were very sturdy.

IMG_7542-0.JPG

IMG_7541.JPG

Then we walked up to Bukit Terisek view point at 344 meters. But we found a taller peak right before with a nicer view. We trekked back down the mountain which ended up being an adventurous path through destroyed trees. We stumbled upon a massive fallen tree that we were able to climb onto and walk on. It’s roots stuck in the air about 15 ft high. From there we skipped over streams and eventually made our way to Lubuk Simpon, the swimming area. It was a separate part of the river that was lagoon-like. The water was too cold for my liking but it was refreshing to jump in none the less.

IMG_7546.JPG

We made it back by 5ish, had lunch on another barge, then went out for an evening jungle trek. Some girls we knew did it the night before and said it was great- they saw spiders, scorpions, snakes, etc. But our trip ended up being not so great. There were two groups with kids right before us on the path who kept screaming and scaring everything off. At one point two boys were arguing over who spotted the tarantula first and by the time we got there all we could see was one leg sticking out of a hole in a tree. Through the whole walk we saw a few stick bugs, a grasshopper, the leg of a tarantula, half a scorpion, and the wing of a colorful bird hiding in a tree. I guess you either luck out or you don’t.

After the tour we grabbed beer and burgers in town with two of our roommates. The next morning we left for Kuala Lumpur.

Sapa, Vietnam

IMG_5663.JPG

We arrived in Sapa Friday afternoon. We stayed at Go Sapa Hostel on the top of the hill right above the Main Street in town. The hostel was recently renovated and now resembles a Scandinavian lodge- wooden, sleek and modern. While the hostel is designed well it is not made for winter months. The common area is completely outdoors (a small fireplace does not provide enough warmth) and the rooms are freezing at night.

The town looks exactly like a European ski village. A small Main Street packed with western restaurants and cafes- Italian food is the most common. Local women dressed in traditional costume line the sidewalks selling traditional clothes and accessories to tourists.

IMG_5781.JPG

IMG_5780.JPG

The weather was better than we expected although still not ideal. The daytime was warm and sunny but around 4pm the weather dropped and nighttime felt like winter, minus snow. I wore multiple layers everyday since none of my clothes were actually winter clothes.

IMG_5782.JPG

Our first night we walked all around town and had dinner at one of the few Vietnamese restaurants. A bunch of the restaurants in town have set menu options for dinner, which we decided to have. For $5 we each got pumpkin soup, spring rolls, tofu and eggplant baked in a clay pot, rice, and fruit for dessert. All the portions were actually size so the set menu is a fantastic deal.

After dinner we went home to relax. There are a couple bars in town but none seemed too appealing. There’s one western spot that’s overpriced and one local club that’s too loud for a mountain village town. Our room that night was icy. We asked for a heater from reception which didn’t make much of a difference in room temperature, and we were told the next morning that it’s $2.50 a night to use it. We didn’t use it again.

I woke up the next morning with what I think is the flu. I felt awful but determined to see the rice terraces, which was the whole point of coming to Sapa.

IMG_5785.JPG

IMG_5772.JPG

We walked to Cat Cat Village the next day. The walk took about 25 minutes down a winding road. Although the village is original it is now designed for tourists. A pathway leads you through the houses and shops. Local women sell local costumes and accessories on the side of the pathway, and local children wander the pathway selling jewelry. There were pigs, chickens, buffalo and dogs roaming the grounds. The famous rice terraces were everywhere and could be seen from any angle. The terraces were beautiful although not as green and lush as they appear in the summer months.

IMG_5776.JPG

IMG_5788.JPG

IMG_5773.JPG

IMG_5775.JPG

At 2pm there was a traditional dance show in the town theater near the waterfall. I admit I didn’t watch much of the show because I was busy taking pictures of three local boys who came in and sat in front of me. They were about 4 years old, all covered in dirt and excited to watch the show. After the show Scotland caught their attention with his iPhone6 and we all took photos with them.

IMG_5777.JPG

We then walked through the remaining part of town, over a creaky bridge, and caught motorbikes back to town. Scotland and I rode the same motorbike, it was the first time I rode one with three people. That night a bunch of us went into town and Scotland and I shared a mixed meat hot pot. From there we went to Mountain Bar and Pub (the western expensive bar.) I drank tea and we all played foosball on the oldest table we’ve ever seen- if was covered in about an inch of dust. The game got incredibly intense which was fun.

I woke up the next morning just as sick as the day before so decided not to go out with the group for the day. I missed seeing all the good stuff- Silver and Love waterfalls, going to Ta Phin village (with the most famous rice terraces,) and Tram Ton Pass, but I couldn’t force myself out for a second day in a row. Instead I slept in, then went to Le Petit Gecko and had an outdoor lunch of tuna Niçoise salad and ginger tea. After lunch I had an hour foot massage, bought an Asian pear, then headed back home to relax.

When the group came back they said the day was ok but not spectacular and that they mostly just biked around the whole time. The waterfalls weren’t running, and the village was similar enough to Cat Cat village from the day before. I’m happy I decided to stay back and relax.

That night I went to dinner alone at the local restaurant. There’s a section over local restaurants above the Main Street and I thought that would be the best place to get plain noodle soup. I walked into the first place mostly because I didn’t have energy to search and they all looked identical. My dinner ended up being a nightmare and I wish I had looked around.

IMG_5790.JPG

Pai, Thailand

IMG_3590.JPG

IMG_3468.JPG

IMG_3399.JPG

IMG_3491.JPG

I just spent 8 nights in Pai, known as the village of hippies, vegans, hot springs and drugs. The village is north-west of Chiang Mai, approx. 3 hours on a windy road through the mountains in a minivan. It’s mainly 2 roads (3 traffic lights), lined with shops, bars, restaurants and street food vendors. Everyone is hippied out and looks incredibly relaxed. Like a beach town minus the beach.

Most hostels and hotels are located just outside of the village. I’m currently traveling with a friend from Calgary. The hostel I stayed at my first and last two nights is called Common Grounds. It has an outdoor common area with pillows on the ground, tapestry draping from the ceiling, white Christmas lights and plants all around. In the middle of our week there we stayed at SpicyPai Backpackers, which is bungalow style. Multiple dorm bungalows and a few lounge bungalows, with a fire pit outside. The hot springs are located just up the road.

My first night I got a hair wrap (red, taupe and aqua.) Our second night we ate dinner at Mama Falafel, an Israeli restaurant that was recommended by Lonely Planet. The hummus wasn’t real hummus and the service was slow. I definitely won’t be going back there. That night the bar street was packed with people and late night everyone shifted just over the bridge to Don’t Cry- an outdoor bar with 2 fire pits. The next morning we actually found lox and bagels, which was delicious.

The foreign works at out hostel don’t wake up until around noon and then they lounge around the common area all day and night, just like the guests. One worker said that if he writes two emails in one day that he’s done a lot and takes a nap. If he told me that while I was home I would think that’s ridiculous, but here it makes complete since. Our first day we woke up at noon, went out to breakfast, inquired about trekking, had a papaya shake, got a thai massage, had a banana passion fruit shake, and shopped around a bit. The whole day was exhausting. It definitely has to do with the heat but in general the culture in Pai really is hippie.

Even the dogs are hippies. Dressed up in crazy outfits, lounging in guesthouse common areas, bar seats, on top of motorbikes, etc. They’re all adorable.

We moved out of town to SpicyPai on our third day. The hostel is in the middle of mountains and has amazing views. Directly behind our dorms sits the white marble Buddah in the middle of a mountain. It’s about a 20min walk from town but too hot to walk. I hired a motorbike taxi to take me to the hospital one day and up pulled a motorbike with a cage attached to the side. The cage had one bench on the side and a few bars around to hold onto. It was more terrifying than a tuk tuk. I kept feeling like he was going to smash me into something, but luckily I survived.

I made the decision not to rent a motorbike. I’m not comfortable driving one and I know I’ll wind up hurting myself and possibly whoever I hit. Unfortunately having a motorbike is the only good mode of transportation, and apparently in Vietnam and Cambodia too. To get to the hot springs from downtown Pai it costs around 600 baht, versus a motorbike which is 100 baht for the whole day. However, literally every single person I’ve met who rides one has crashed at least once, and many people walking around the town have bandages on their arms and legs. At the hospital I saw about 30 people come in post-crash. One guy broke his arm, another girl scratched up half of her body badly, including her face. This one guy was in a wheel chair and couldn’t stop heavily breathing and crying. And yet even with all these crashes everyone continues to ride, most without helmets.

On our fourth day we rented a taxi for the day with some girls from our hostel- a girl from Queens, an Aussie, and a Brit. We went to the Mae Paeng Waterfall first. I went swimming in the middle part of the fall and had the hardest time getting out because the rocks were too slippery. My other friend from Queens had to drag me out, funniest thing ever. Next we went to the Chinese Village where we ate Chinese food (I had my favorite wonton soup from Guangzhou that I used to eat at the trade show everyday) and we rode a 4 seat wooden Ferris wheel pushed around by two guys. Then we went to the WWII wooden bridge and headed to the Canon for sunset. The canon had a bunch of small pathways which led to farther points to walk on. Beautiful scene although the sunset was pretty unimpressive. The sun disappeared but there was no coloring.

The next day we went to Fluid pool. 60 baht to get into the Western haven. A large pool with a long patch grass down one side. Colorful tweed plastic mats are provided and are spread throughout the grass, everyone overlapping. We went for our friends Bday and seriously enjoyed the decision to go there. Everyone is good looking, the drinks and food are delish and the music is like a quite DJ. We went back again the second day. We closed the pool down on both nights after sunset, and I saw the most amazing sky at the pool on the first night- thick blue and white vertical streaks.

IMG_3716.JPG

IMG_3789.JPG

IMG_3774.JPG

IMG_3666.JPG

IMG_3818.JPG

The next day I left for a white water rafting/ stay overnight at a village/ trekking trip. Our tour guide for all the activities was Jako from Pai Adventures. Jako spoke English almost fluently, which he taught himself from speaking with tourists. He’s 33, has a girlfriend and 2 kids, a boy and a girl. His origin is Tibet, from the Lahu tribe.

The white water rafting was really fun. 6 hours long with about 20 patches of white water. Nothing too crazy but well worth it. Jako kept steering us into rocks to make it more fun. At one point we all jumped out and floated down the river on our backs for about 20 minutes with the current. There was one patch where we got stuck on a rock with a strong current. Three people initially fell and got tumbled along. I fell trying to get us off the rock, and then I fell again when we got stuck on another rock. But my first fall was epic. My Canadian friend tumbled into me and we both fell backwards. My camera panel snapped off when Jake was dragging me back onto the boat but luckily the camera is still working. Along the river we stopped at a waterfall and then at a hot spring. The hot spring was just a small stream of water but it was cool to touch and see- it was at least 110 degrees. The highlight of my day was when we spotted a black monkey swinging from a white bridge. He then jumped onto the bridge and quickly walked off, like a little human.

After rafting we went with Jako back to his village, called Lookaulam. The village has 600 people, 150 families. There’s a general store, a school with a volleyball net, and a rice sifter machine in a shack. That’s it besides the homes. There were 6 of us who stayed that night. Me, my Canadian, 2 boys from Madrid, and 2 girls from Holland. We slept in an empty house that Jako built. Thin mattresses, sleeping bags and mosquito nets. We ate dinner that night on Jako’s porch. Yellow curry chicken with potatoes, and mixed vegetables and wild mountain rice (from his village.) After dinner we bought some of the village local whiskey, which tasted like tequila, and drank and talked with Jako and his male friends all night. Thai girls don’t drink and socialize, they can’t be hungover at work.

It was impossible to sleep. There were a million roosters crowing all through the night, and a few dog fights. Jako says he can’t sleep in the city because of the noise. The village is far worse.

We woke up at 7am to take a walk through the village and then headed to Jako’s house for breakfast. He made us an American breakfast, scrambled eggs with toast, tomatoes, onions and chopped pineapple. It started to downpour while we were eating but luckily the rain stopped just in time for our trek. Unfortunately all the mud was wet when we started so it made the beginning of the trek twice as hard. The first 45 minutes was straight up hill. It was definitely a struggle. Halfway up Jako’s fat sister passes us with a huge basket of water, food and working tools on her back. She was going to work in the rice fields for 4 days. If she can do the climb so can I. We trekked for 5 hours through the jungle. We saw a canon/cave, the tallest corn stalks I’ve ever seen (I’d guess 20 feet,) the rice fields with the locals working, bamboo, a massive spider in it’s web, 2 new puppies who tried to follow us, and much more. I gave myself a war paint face but by the end of the hike I was completely covered in mud, bug spray, sunscreen and sweat.

That night back in Pai Canada and I went back to Almost Famous, our regular spot. Here I met two guys from Bordeaux and had the chance to practice my French a little. From there I went to a reggae bar called Roots, which is located along the river behind town. There was a gymnast and fire performer who performed solo and together. He’s from Cali and she’s from Switzerland and they’re living together in Pai now.

On our last night Canada and I met up with some girls from SpicyPai for drinks at Spirit bar and we finally got to sit in the tree house and drink. From there we met up with the guys that work at our hostel. We drank with them for the rest of the night and listened to live music at a Jamaican bar called Irie.

Had a dragon fruit/ passion fruit shake, and our last breakfast at Om Garden- 5th breakfast there. This time I got a BLT with bacon and a friend egg on top. Yum.

Off to Chiang Rai today.

Bars:
Almost Famous (laid back and only 50 baht for a cocktail, 150 for a bucket). 20 baht deposit to take bucket out of bar
Roots- Jamaican bar along river

Late night bars:
Don’t Cry (just out of town, has fire pits)
Sunset- fire show, Jimmy

Restaurants:
Om Garden – breakfast and lunch
Hemp Healed the World- nighttime veggie lady outside

IMG_3584.JPG

IMG_3530.JPG

IMG_3554.JPG