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|Updated..1 May 2001||
Singapore, Borneo, KL, Bali, Australia Feb/Mar/Apr 2001
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India/Bangkok Travel Diary: 24 Nov 2000 to 31 Dec 2000
Burma/Laos/Thai Islands Travel Diary: 1 Jan 2001 to 20 Feb 2001
20 Feb 2001 Singapore meet up with Andrea, Lufthansa filght attendant, at 0615 and fly together from Samui to Singapore on Bangkok Airways. arr Changi Airport, breeze through immigration and customs, go to govt hotel reservation service, great difficulty finding room, all full for golf tournement, finally get great room at restored colonial Regalis Court Hotel ($58) near Orchard Road, walk around see shopping mall after shopping mall. Have excellent Chili Steamed Crab, see twisted good film "Quills" at the lovely Shaw House Mall (most things in Singapore seem to be named Raffles or Shaw), talk to sister Leonora in Chicago!
21 Feb 2001 Singapore Meet Justin's friend Shirin and her daughter Tara in Four Seasons Lobby. Go for excellent South Indian dosa breakfast in Little India. tour around historical district, see very well preserved and still used 110 yr old Sephardic synagogue. get Malaysian Airline ticket to Borneo, find it extremely easy to book Scuba trip to Sipadan island, read State Dept. and Australian Foreign Service reports on Sipadan kidnappings, consider alternative destinations. Go to have scratched eyeglass lenses replaced, order a new funkier pair of glasses, have haircut, am shocked to discover that importation and sale of chewing gum is forbidden in Singapore. Go to Shirin's for dinner party, fantastic flat with great artifacts from Southeast Asia, meet many interesting Italians, decide definitely to visit Bali, have great homemade Indian food, interesting warm lentil dessert.
22 Feb 2001 Singapore Pick up Air NewZealand Ticket from Auckland to Papeete, go to Lau Pa Sat Hawker Bazaar (food court with hundreds of different stalls selling Malay, Chinese and Indian specialities), eat big plate of smoked duck and noodles ($2.40), go to Singapore's Computer Centre Sim Lim Square and buy memory chip for palmtop computer, walk around little India, eat weird Japanese fruit jellies, hear about violence in Kalimantan. Go out to Muhammed Sultan Str (nightlife area), find cool bar having Heineken NYC Jazz night with bottles of Heineken on promotion for only $9 a bottle, starving, return to Lau Pa Sat Bazaar and get excellent Malay Muslim plate of chicken noodles, walk through Boat Quay then on to Raffles Hotel Long Bar, see amazing Phillipino jazz band while drinking a refreshing Singapore Sling ($12)
23 Feb 2001 Singapore go to Newton Hawker Center, have unusual durian juice and chicken noodles, pick up some photos. Meet Justin's, Gisele's and Jorinda's friend Eleanor and her boyfriend Ian for dinner at delicious Western restaurant, Grill on Devonshire. Get great travel advice about Borneo (where to stay when climbing Mt. Kinabalu, accommodation in Sabah) and north Australia, hear stories about extremely large hairy poisonous spiders and reptiles; go for drinks at the top of the M, cool seventies style observation bar on the 38th floor of the Mandarin Hotel.
24 Feb 2001 Singapore Meet Shirin for coffee and see her new, very feng shui and tranquil, holistic women's health clinic. get camera fixed at Peninsula Mall, decide to stay in Singapore overnight. Engorge on massive succulent prime rib at very typically Singaporean restaurant, Lawry's. Arrive 9pm for Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo, THE BEST ZOO EXPERIENCE I've ever seen. Journey through Himalayan Foothills, Nepalese River Valley, Indian Subcontinent, Equatorial Africa, Indo Malay Region, and South American Pampa on a tram, See nocturnal animals in natural habitats: Flamingos, Deers, Hyenas, Giraffes, Bongos, Malay Tigers, Leopards, Babirusa, Bearded Pig, and giant 40 kg South American Rats (Capybaras), then walk on trails through a bat cave, around a marsh, and near a fishing cat stream. Perfect zoo. Go back to Newton Hawker Centre for another durian juice.
Singapore appears to be a urban utopia: no crime, no litter, no visible poverty, no drugs, no chewing gum (the importation and sale of chewing gum is prohibited by law [seriously]), no dissent, business friendly, green parks, excellent clean handicap accessible air conditioned tourist attractions, shopping malls, fantastic and varied food. It just feels almost too perfect and more than a little Stepford Wifeish.
25 Feb 2001 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia Fly Malaysian Airlines from Johor Bahru to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. Borneo is MASSIVE; it is the third biggest island in the world (287,000 sq miles, only Greenland and New Guinea are bigger; Australia is not an island, it is technically considered to be a very large fish) and over 3 times the size of Great Britain. The southern 70 percent of Borneo is the Indonesian state of Kalimantan (which is undergoing extreme turmoil now) and the north part is divided into the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah and the tiny Sultanate of Brunei.
Stay at decent Promenade Hotel ($40/nt). Orange sunset along the South China Sea, eat very good lamb chop dinner ($2) and satays (10 cents a skewer) from Hawker Stall on the boardwalk.
26 Feb 2001 Kota Kinabalu big breakfast in hotel, make bookings for Kinabalu Park and Hot Springs, buy supplies for trip, go to Borneo Action Adventures and take hours hashing out itinerary with patient and knowledgeable Etna, Srilin and Rob. Rob explains about the unavoidable and ubiquitous leeches that live in the jungle. "It's not so bad when they are actually sucking on you, just put salt on them and they fall right off. It's when they are crawling all over your sweaty skin, and you can't get to them, when you really feel uncomfortable." I just thought, "Thank goodness I am not squemish whatsoever, at all." I then began to consider how well the last three weeks in Thailand spent tanning, drinking, reading and eating, have prepared me for my imminent journey into the heart of Borneo...
27 Feb 2001 Kinabalu National Park have taxi stop at Malaysia Airways to fix some flights on way to bus station, have slowest clerk in history, get shared mini van ($2.50) for the 2 hour trip up to Kinabalu National Park, buy local fruit, lada, that look like little potatoes and taste like a grape and grapefruit, meet Carrie (Aussie) and Dagma (from Germany) on van, get to park HQ, pay cllimbing fees and insurance($12), lush forest, take flora orientation, see wee and large carnivorous pitcher plants and world's smallest orchid, explore park amazing fog rolls in at sunset, have dinner with Aussie couple who won't make the climb, stay in park cabin ($18)
28 Feb 2001 Kinabalu National Park have breakfast and get guide Dapit (for two days, $15), start climbing at 9am from Timpohon Gate(6000ft) in a mossy cloud forest to reach basecamp Laban Rata Resthouse (10700ft) at the edge of the treeline at around 2pm, feel pretty exhausted, have massive noodle lunch with Carrie, Dagma and French girl Catherine, share heated hostel room with funny German couple, Eric and ingrid, with smelly socks, go to sleep at 8pm, can't sleep at all
1 Mar 2001 to Poring Hot Springs Park get up with the Germans at 2am, have some breakfast, leave 330am for assault to summit (13455ft), pitch black, wearing all my clothes, wet and cold! last 1500ft use ropes on the granite rock, total relief at top, and see sunrise 620am and jagged peaks all around, start climb down at about 7am stop in Resthouse for an hour, then run down the last 3000m in 2hrs, thighs and knees are throbbing from descent.
share hour long cabride ($17) with Carrie, Matt (recent university graduate from England) and a German couple to Poring Hot Springs Park (40km away) and soak in hot steamy sulphur pools. go to 41m high canopy walk with Matt which disappoints as no animals are to be seen and it entails a1000ft hike up and down to reach, have dinner at Hot Springs and meet Carrie's blonde hostel roommate Tamsin, from England, who explains how simple it is to travel completely free around the world by having men buy you things. Stay in bunk at Serendit Hostel ($3). and sleep like a baby.
2 Mar 2001 to Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary get cab with Matt to Ranau, get to bus station early decide to take side trip with cab to see world's largest (up to 1 m across), rarest and smelliest flower, Rafflesia, at a special sanctuary 10km away. It is pouring down rain and the Rafflesia seems to be in the garden of someone's house. we pay $3 each and see a dead flower and a very soon to be dead 10cm across Rafflesia. They only bloom for 5 days, we came on day 8 and 6 respectively. take mini bus to Sepilok ($8 and 4hrs).
Arrive 1:30 at Sepilok Jungle Resort ($15 for a/c room), have lunch and walk 150m to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC). SORC teaches orphaned, injured and displaced orangutans the jungle skills (finding food, building nests, and climbing) needed for integration into the wild orangutan population. There is a nursery for adorable abandoned baby orangs who wear diapers, are fed milk every couple of hours and sleep in basket cribs. We see about 10 intermediately rehabbed orangutans on a feeding platform fighting with other monkeys. Great place. Matt leaves for Bali, I return to hotel to try arrange ride to Sukau in the morning.
3 Mar 2001 to Sukau take cab ($50) for 3hr trip to Sukau, the last two hours of which are on the worst most potholed road I have ever been on in my life. amazed cab survives trip. take little boat from jetty to Proboscis Lodge . take river trip with the other two English guests, Steve and Jane (a British Airways flight attendant), searching for the uniquely Bornean proboscis monkeys and other big fauna on the Kinabatangan River area. See big clan of proboscis monkeys, macaque monkeys, kingfishers, pythons, vipers sleeping in the trees, eagles. have nap, dinner with the English couple (who are also the only other guests), travel talk, take night boat ride out with searchlight. see sleeping proboscis monkeys, lots of little crocodiles, owls, half moon, no other lights. misty, muddy river, sleep well legs are still sore.
4 Mar 2001 Sukau Wake up at 5:45am, get hot cocoa, go to jetty for sunrise boat trip to look for monkeys, quiet misty morning, find 2 awakening proboscis clans (a clan is one male, 4 to 5 females, and around 8 babies and juveniles) on main Kinabatangan River, take small tributary to get to Ox-Bow Lake. feel like journey up the river in Apocalypse Now, narrow waterway, jungle on both sides, gnarled trees overhanging with vines, macaques squeeling, crocodiles lurking on shore and swimming stealthily in the water with only their eyes visible. return to Lodge for good breakfast at 8:30, say goodbye to Jane and Steve.
read until lunch and await newbies, meet Adi and Caroline from South Africa and Zimbabwe who are working in Poland, afternoon trip with Jojo (a guide), just me him and boat driver and we to another river in search of elusive wild orangutans, we find 4 harems of proboscis, and two huge poisonous snakes on an overhanging branch that Jojo has to drive the boat completely underneath to confirm, "yes they are very large and they are definitely the aggressive, highly toxic yellow banded mangrove snakes" he assures as I am directly beneath them. go for dinner, incredibly jealous that other boat saw FOUR wild orangutans(rare) AND a wild boar swimming (very rare). People get very competitive about sightings of rare animas.
5 Mar 2001 to Lahad Datu have 3 hr 6am birdwatching cruise with Adi and Caroline, see lots of snakes and birds, have breakfast, discover that my ride to the junction (the 2hr nightmare, potholed, muddy road) is going to be a little complicated than sharing a ride with other guests in four wheel drive airconditioned comfort. First I get little boat to the tiny river town of Sukau, a nice girl leads me to the "bus station" area where I may find a ride on a truck to the junction. The "waiting area" for men is the courtyard of the mosque and I am invited to sit with some smiley white skullcapped men, one of whom speaks some English and is eager to help me. (Women have to wait in the dusty road). Pickup arrives, determine that it isn't going to the junction directly but via another small town so the trip will take a little longer and do I still want to go. I squeeze in back with my pack (the truck had a metal tube frame with two facing padded benches and a dirty canvas top), it is a dusty, long 3 hours, smelly, there are dead and live chickens rubbing against me. Finally get to fly infested area for bus to Lahad Datu, another hour wait and hour and half journey, sprinkled with major downpours, town feels extremely sketchy, full of Filipino and Kalimantan refugees, stay overnight in Executive Hotel ($20), good room nice hotel
6 Mar 2001 to Danum Valley get picked up for 3 hr dirt road drive transfer deep into the world's oldest rainforest to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, excellent cabin, welcome drink, get orientation from my guide William, he is very low energy and is a Dusun (Christian tribe local to the Danum area who are closely related to the Dayaks of Southern Borneo). I buy my leech socks which look like chrismas stockings, but are made of canvas and fit above your socks and tie around your pant legs so leeches can't get on your feet and legs. We are off to the jungle trail, see lots of insects, big millipedes, a baby tarantula, wild boar. go to the 100ft high canopy walk and see more big spiders, super hot and sticky. Night walk, meet Willliam after dinner, he seems pretty blase, see some interesting painted harlequin frogs, another wild pig, and a tiny mouse deer. Near the staff quarters we see a large grey fishing owl sitting on a post, as we turn around, a clouded leopard jumps under a nearby cabin 6 feet from us. Majestic grey with black spots, the big cat slinks around for about 20 minutes then runs back into the jungle.
7 Mar 2001 Danum Valley get up 6am for early morning walk. unescorted. go to Canopy walk, another bigger clouded leopard springs from the landing 4 feet in front of me and goes into trees. I'm a bit shocked. after breakfast walk to Coffin Cliff to see coffins and bones of guide William's ancestors that were placed in little caves high up on a cliff overlooking the camp (more than a little creepy), up to the 1000ft Viewpoint and then go for swim in a natural waterfall pool. William explained his warped view of the events in nearby Kalmantan province: "The Madurese (Muslims) cheat the Dayaks (Christians), rape their women and are violent" This,to him, gives the Dayaks moral justification to hack off the heads of any Madurese they find and eat their hearts. Even children are culpable by group association. He told me that the Dayaks were noble because they used machetes and that we (as Christians) had to be vigilant against the Muslim who are violent and cowardly. His logic defies me and he frightens me alot.
In the afternoon, we hike upriver 2km with big inner tubes and then float down the Danum River back to the lodge. I manage to keep the conversation focused on flora and fauna, very relaxing, misty with a few little rapids, eagles, little crocodiles. Finish Naguib Mahfouz book, excellent writer and characters; night drive with English Bird Watchers, see Samba deer, the wild pig, and a greater flying squirrel high up in a tree.
8 Mar 2001 to Semporna 6am walk, take wrong turn on trail and wander for two hours in jungle, really really hot and sticky, leeches all over my body, keep having to stop and flick the slimy things off, finally stumble back upon main trail and get to breakfast, 3 hour transfer back from lodge to Lahad Datu with English BirdWatchers and funny Danish couple, get flat tire 20ft from enormous male wild orangutan in nest, then another 3 hr packed local minibus ($4, 17 people in Datsun Van) to Semporna on Sabah's southeast coast, find and stay in Lee's Resthouse ($12), good Chinese food
9 Mar 2001 Sipadan Island go to Borneo Diver jetty at 9am, meet codivers: Lisa (marketing exec from London), Ulrica and Tomas (Swedish), Martyn (Dutch), Lasse and Jacob(Danish), take one hour boat to the baby island Sipidan.
10 Mar 2001 Sipadan Island first dive, Midreef, spectacular see huge barracudas and school of jacks and more sharks and turtles, second dive, Turtle Patch, enormous 1.5m turtles and school of three hundred silver Jackfish, big bumphead parrotfish and a moray eel; third dive, Hanging Gardens, giant Napoleon fish; decide to do night dive and take Advanced Open Water Scuba certification class (entails 5 specialised dives and exams). Rashid is our instructor and class is me, Lisa, Miyuki (from Fukuoka, Japan) Carl (English professor in Japan), and James (a jolly slow Liverpudlian). watch PADI instructional video on night diving, have our night dive along wall, very crowded with divers, disorientating, sleeping sharks and turtles, lionfish. watch deep diving video. play guitar and have singalong with Eljer and others at the Drop Off. Ulrica, Tomas, Yoko and Martyn's last night
11 Mar 2001 Sipidan early morning "deep" dive, afternoon dive, say farewell to Ulrica and Tomas, late dive at Staghorn Reef see baby hammerhead shark, underwater navigation dive, go down with compasses and try to find things underwater. early night at Drop Off
12 Mar 2001 Sipidan Morning Multilevel dive, Rashid can't equalise and I successfully take over the group dive plan. rent underwater camera for our Naturalist Dive, see sharks and other big fish but no turtles, graduate and get certificates as Advanced Open Water Divers. stay up playing bizarre fun card game with the Lasse, Jacob, Miyuki, Carl, Ploy and Lisa; Drop Off bar late with Ploy, Eljer, Lasse.
13 Mar 2001 back to Kota Kinabalu breakfast, ferry back to Semporna, 2 hour minibus to Tawau, flight to Kota Kinabalu delayed due to massive rains, stay at Promenade Hotel again, fantastic Chinese dinner at Dynasty Restaurant with Lisa, go to hotel's very cheesy Le Rendez-Vous Karaoke Lounge
14 Mar 2001 Kota Kinabalu say goodbye to Ploy and her Uncle at breakfast, rafting trip on Class IV Padas river cancelled due to flooding, go to Malaysia Airways office to try to get to Brunei earlier, cab has fender bender on way, flights are full, get some pictures developed and scanned
15 Mar 2001 Brunei fly at 7:20am to Labuan and then take ferry to fly to small state of Brunei, check into the Sheraton, get upgraded to suite, have lunch buffet, wander around "city", go to the Sultan of Brunei's massive amusement park, Jerudong (admission free, open 5pm to midnight). What I had hoped to be able to write...
Jerudong Park was pretty good. It was like an enormous understated Ali Baba Disneyworld in expansive jungle surroundings. When you arrive at the front gate, you are assigned a "genie"(appropriately costumed) to guide and drive you around the park in your "flying carpet" (a plush refreshment stocked electric golf cart). My genie, Yasmina, was a lovely almond eyed 23 year old Bruneian ballet dancer who dreamed of one day visiting the United States of America.
You first stop at the "safari oasis" where you discuss what types of rides you enjoy, how much time you have at the park, and your general expectations for the evening. Then your genie works out a schedule for your visit that that won't overlap with other guests and force sharing of rides. As we sat sipping chilled rose petal water overlooking giraffes, elephants and flamingos at a watering hole, I told Yasmina that I liked rollercoasters and scary adventure rides, that I had about four hours to spend there but didn't want to be rushing around too much as I had been under a lot of stress recently on Sipidan Island with my Advanced Scuba Course and exams. Yasmina quickly outlined a program that began with some easy classic feel wooden rollercoasters, slowly graduated to the mammoth modern steel and looping coasters and other high adrenaline rides, and finished with a soothing head, neck shoulder and foot massage in the Sultan's Spa; everything free, of course.
The rollercoasters, rides, scenery and animals were superlative and usually Yasmina and I were the only passengers on each ride. Fortunately, Yasmina spoke English and was fascinated by my unembellished tales of growing up in the tough automatic weapon filled streets of Chicago and of life in the frenetic world of a derivatives trader in NY and London. But after 3 hours of gruelling amusement park activity and making up things, I was quite relieved when we finally pulled up to the Sultan's Spa Pavilion for my massage! Although I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, I felt humid and sticky at times and suggested providing some sort of cooling system for the park. A nice English couple, Nick and Laura, with whom I shared a taxi home, found the experience as a whole very nice, but their genie a bit intrusive, the park itself too sterile and the massages too rushed. All in all, a thumbs up for Jerudong Park.
16 Mar 2001 Kuala Lumpur take 8:30 ferry from Brunei back to Labuan, get noon flight to Kota Kinabalu, then fly via Singapore to arrive in KL at 5pm. take 1hr taxi from airport for 90 ringgit ($20). meet Justin at Crown Princess Hotel. go out for dinner to meet Anita whom we'd met New Year's Eve in Bangkok, at Grappa Restaurant. Jack Slevin, old trader friend from London, and his father, from Chicago join us at the restaurant for great meal, go to Planet Hollywood then Hard Rock Cafe. For some reason the best places in KL seem to be these cheesy American franchises.
17 Mar 2001 Kuala Lumpur Call Manuela in the morning who has backstage passes for Justin and I. go 80km to Sepang site of the Petronas Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix, given VIP passes, allowed to freely roam around the Paddock area, amazingly Justin and I are allowed within inches of the fabulous cars. see all the drivers, get tour of Ferrari garage (which is next to Manuela's office). Cars are incredibly loud. In evening big street party in KL for the Grand Prix, met up with Anita and entourage of pretty Malaysian Indian lawyers.
18 Mar 2001 Kuala Lumpur Race Day! Leave hotel at 10am for taxi to race, sit near the start, run into Argentinians I'd met in Borneo. amazing race: with restarts, downpour in the second lap, crashes, mishaps, Ferrari finish first and second. I sit with Jack near start; Anita and Justin are sitting in another section. huge taxi fiasco after race when Justin loses our taxi, takes hours to find and return to city. have great dinner with Anita, Jack and Justin at teppanyaki restaurant in Shangri-La, go dancing at Hard Rock Cafe and drink too many frozen margaritas. Great end to fabulous weekend.
19 Mar 2001 Kuala Lumpur Recovery Day. Justin returns to England, bad hangover.
20 Mar 2001 Bali, Indonesia fly Malaysian Airways from KL at 9:30 arrive Bali noon, Jack and I decide to stay in Kuta against advice that it is overtouristic, went to beach, great surf waves, amazing shopping here... clothes, candles, primitive art. have huge fresh mixed seafood platters at little local restaurant, go to Paddy's big disco bar and get large jungle juices, meet funny Javanese girls, Ivana, Dada, and Ina, that adopt Jack and I, taken to late night Club 66 which features a big swimming pool and 30m bungy jump.
21 Mar 2001 Kuta, Bali move to Hard Rock Hotel, expensive and a little bit cheesy. For example, guests are called "stars", your room key is a "stage pass", you don't sign for things--you give your "autograph",etc. mostly Japanese and Taiwanese tourists are staying there. It does have an amazing big pool with beach parts, water slides, and sand. get excellent hour and half Indonesian oil massage ($20) from Purna at the spa there. go to Macaroni Club hear some cool jazz, go to Paddy's
22 Mar 2001 Kuta, Bali Jack and I go for afternoon at The Spa at The Villas hotel. The spa is a blend of Moroccan harem den and an Indian maharani's palace infused with smells of cardamon and sandlewood, with gentle ethnic music tinkling in the background, After showering and changing into little cotton diapers, I was led away by my diminutive Balanese therapist, Yani, to a private treatment room. There I was beckoned onto silk cushions while Yani gently scrubbed my delicate feet in a clay bowl filled with warm water strewn with rose petals and laced with natural salts. Only then was I helped onto a cloth draped massage table. For an hour, with my face nestled in a cradle, Yani massaged fragrant oils deep into my skin and then tenderly scrubbed my back with Pandan leaf. After turning over, she repeated the treatment to my other side then spent 20 minutes on a sumptuous facial massage.
Next I was led in a stupor to the sauna where Yani applied a thick mask of bananas, cucumbers and honey onto my body. After baking for 15min and smelling like cooked salad, I entered the Shower Rain room, where hundreds of jets sprayed warm water over my body caressing the glaze off. When I returned to the massage room my massage table had transformed into a porcelain and clay bathtub. Warm water was thick with goat's milk and fragrant flowers--rose petals, frangipani and gardenias. after 20 min luxuriating in the tub, I had another shower to rinse, and then Yani moisturised my unstressed body with lotion. The Serenity Package Afternoon ($66) was a truly sublime experience, but not one that I could realistically endure more than once or twice a day.
Jack and I float around town for a while, then find La Lucciola restaurant in Seminyak and have a phenomenal meal sitting outside watching the sun set over the beach. Start with creamy Banana Dream cocktail ($3), goat cheese tapenade filo packets ($2.50) and chili salt squid with wasabi sauce ($3) and rocket salad. The mains were lamb chops on parmesan mash ($6) and a tender duck tagine ($6.50); best meal for months. go to Cafe del Mar in the evening, run into English girls, H and Lucy, go to Club 66. It was a fantastic day in Bali
23 Mar 2001 Ubud swim at pool, take 1hr $10 taxi to Ubud, the cultural and arts center of Bali. stay at spectacularBali Spirit Hotel with room overooking lush gorge, have good one hour traditional balinese massage ($20) near river; masseuse notes that I seem to have very little tension in my shoulders, back, neck or any part of my body. see Legong and Barong Balinese Dancing in Peliatan, wonderful costumes and Gamelan music, meet Chris and Cathy from Napa Valley, go for excellent rijstaffel dinner at Cafe Wayan. I love Ubud: great culture, scenery, food, massages, shops, hotels.
24 Mar 2001 Ubud have superb lunch at stunning Casa Luna on river, wander streets looking at the Ogoh Ogoh which are giant paper machier depictions of evil demons and monsters. at 6pm ten huge ogoh ogoh are brought in great processions to the local soccer field and then paraded around the packed streets and abandoned on the outskirts; symbolically ridding the town of evil spirits and bad influences. Amazing atmosphere with crowds, music, fireworks, and big scary illuminated ogoh ogoh monsters. try to get dinner at Ary's Warung, go to Sai Sai Cafe for dinner, town is deserted before Nyapi curfew and we can't find taxi, contemplate walking through the monkey forest in the dark, then beg two motorcyclists to take us back to hotel.
25 Mar 2001 Ubud Nyepi Quiet Day, this is the first day of the Balinese Saka calendar and their holiest day. Balinese and visitors must stay in their homes and hotels and refrain from making noise. Feel like under house arrest, but have relaxing day at pool, reading, playing cards with Jim and Kelly from the Marshall Islands. There is a literal curfew imposed on the entire island from midnight on 24th until 6am on 26th.
26 Mar 2001 Ubud shopping for masks and wood sculptures in Mas, go to Bird and Reptile Sanctuaries, see Komodo Dragons, big pythons, and huge bats, have decent $3 foot massage at Beji Ayu Beauty Cetre on Monkey Forest Road, go excellent duck and avocado lassis at Cafe Wayan, run into English Donna from Vang Vieng, Laos and her boyfriend! drinks at Sai Sai Cafe, complete lunatic from California starts ranting to us about global conspiracies, kidsworld, gold in Sumatra, and his discussions with Chronos and Jupiter meet big group of Germans and some Irian-Javanese, again can't find transport home, actually begin walking through monkey forest, turn back after 100m when Jack becomes scared of the unknown frightening sounds we hear emanating in the pitch darkness, we wake people in a hotel to take us back to Bali Spirit
27 Mar 2001 Ubud Jack and I take car to Rocky Temple up to the volcano Mt. Batur and Lake Batur, scenic lunch on caldera overlooking mountain. Then we go to Chedi Hotel Spa for incredible one hour Mandara Massages($60): this involved two massage therapists "working together in harmony for each guest applying 5 different massage styles (Shiatsu, Thai, Swedish, Balinese, and Hawaiian Lomi-Lomi) and using a unique blend of natural aromatherapy oils." Although it sounded like it could have been horrible, it was completely marvellous and felt like a well-oiled choreographed massage ballet on my body.
After wandering around the beautiful grounds of the Chedi for a while, we went back into town to see traditional Balinese Kechuk, Fire and Trance Dance. The Kechuk Dance has lovely costumed dancers enacting the Ramayana story accompanied by 100 men chanting and gesticulating. It was quite engrossing and intoxicating. The trance dance had a very young girl in a trance, dancing to the chants of 30 men and 30 women, very fascinating. The Fire dance had a man on a straw horse spinning around in a trance kicking burning coconuts into the audience, very strange.
28 Mar 2001 to Kuta, Bali go on sculpted skulls shopping spree with Jack, Jack bought a wild pig skull, flying bat, and water buffaloes,pick up masks, try to ship everything, check into Poppies Cottages very nice bungalow, with outdoor bathroom, go to Mexican Restaurant, Maccaronis for drinks, Paddy's, the Double Six club, meet more Javanese--Dewi and Linda, very fun
29 Mar 2001 Bali very unpleasant massage and body scrub from local place($13), dinner at Poppies restaurant with Jim and Kelly from Ubud, drinks at Maccaroni's, Paddy's dancing with Dewi and her friend
30 Mar 2001 Bali go to Sanur for Australia tickets, go to Nusa Dua sit on beach, meet Jim and Kelly at La Lucciola for another excellent dinner, last drinks at Cafe del Mar see Ivana, go to airport for Quantas flight
31 Mar 2001 on to Darwin, Australia fly early to Darwin (01:40am), exhaustive customs search, check into Novotel Atrium hotel ($60), nap. go out at night to Australian Pub, full of redneck aussies, avoid fights. change into togas and go to Discovery disco toga party, treated like VIP's as we are the only non-employees dressed up.
1 Apr 2001 Kakadu National Park Jack and I get picked up at 7am by our Kakadu Dreams tour leader, Wazza, for our 2 two day 4wheel drive Land Cruiser adventure. Meet group: 2 young Norwegian girls, Maria and Julie; 2 Northern English teachers, Kirsteen and Ruth, and Finnish couple, Maukka and Laura, drive hour for Alice River Crocodile Feeding Cruise, hang large lamb chunks on long poles over railings, 7 to 10 foot long crocs slither to boatside and leap into air to grab meat, works great until boat engine breaks down 2 miles from finish. stuck on river, some worry as there is no way to evacuate boat and swim croc infested waters to shore, wait hour for dinghys to ferry us back to dock. drive to Kubara, hike for hour to see primitive 5000 yr old ochre and blood rock paintings, cool free rock climb up 250m to Castle promontory, great view over Aboriginal lands. then the rain comes... hard... harder. climb down wet slippery rocks, walk back in rivers, never been so soaked. camp out in Cooinda, three groups crowded under big damp tarp, kangaroo stir fry dinner, drinking games and card tricks, forced to share a tent with lovely Kirst and Ruth and eat chocolate, Jack forced to share a tent with the young nubile Norwegians.
2 Apr 2001 Kakadu, Australia wake up after very uncomfortable sleep, drive then walk 8km to lovely 70m high Motorcar Falls, frolick in pool under falls, then go to Small Gorge Falls, stunning 3 levels of cascading falls and natural pools, heavenly. Count road trains (semi trucks with 3 attached trailers) along drive and return to Darwin in evening. Meet up with new "Kakadu Dreams" t-shirt clad group for our free dinner and dancing.
3 Apr 2001 Darwin sleep blissfully late, meet group for lunch and drinks at pub, buy large painted didgeridoo (strange aboriginal wind instrument). meet Kirsteen and Ruth for frozen margaritas and great dinner at Twilight restaurant. Go out to bar and see Wazza, Laura, and Maukka.say goodbyes.
4 Apr 2001 Cairns, Australia Jack and I fly early on Qantas (0530), check into Holiday Inn (60US), book Dive Trip and Rafting Trips, do laundry, dinner of Ostrich(excellent lean meat), Kangaroo(tough and gamey), and Crocodile Sausages (not too good).
5 Apr 2001 Cairns leave 630 for rafting trip on Grade 4 Tully River with Raging Thunder, great river, 44 rapids, excellent ride but we didn't flip or fall out. return to hotel 7pm.
6 Apr 2001 Cairns Jack and I get pistol shooting lesson at Cairns shooting club. fire 22, 9mm, 45, 44 magnum and 50 calibre semi automatic handguns at paper targets. extremely loud and a bit scary firing the larger weapons
7 Apr 2001 Great Barrier Reef, Queensland take 830 am low level 45 min flight over reef to Lizard Island, transfer to the Scuba dive boat Nimrod Explorer. meet other 16 divers, drive out 2 hours to the cod hole. very stormy seas, many people vomit. do orientation dive at the Cod Hole with Jack, we get lost and miss most of the coral and fish. second dive in late afternoon to feed the giant potato Cods, Darryl the divemaster brings a bucket of dead fish, we sit in around him in a semicircle down 40 feet as thirty 200lb to 300lb five-foot potato cod and red bass swarm around us in feeding frenzy, amazing site. I'm still sea sick and throw up in my regulator. Lots of characters on the boat, 3 stereotypical obnoxious traders from NYC, Jennifer and John (cute couple from San Francisco), a quirky Australian teacher, two fun girls from Bermuda. Night dive at the Pixie Wall, buddy with Stefan (German neurosurgeon), see lots of lobsters, shrimps, phospherescent plankton, big napoleon wrasses, couple of white tip sharks, throw up three times.
8 Apr 2001 Nimrod, Great Barrier Reef do 8am dive at Challenger Bay with ship capt, great colored corals, antheas. Fantasia site, Clam Garden site has enormous century old clams, lionfish, corals. great food aboard, diving visibility limited due to stormy conditions (about 40feet)
9 Apr 2001 Nimrod, Great Barrier Reef Steves Bommy, lionfish, lobsters, nudibranchs. Temple of Doom, HUGE grey reef shark, clownfish trigger fish barracudas, jacks, antheas. stay up playing silly card and drinking games with the NYers, Jen, John, Jack and Amy (a Bermudette)
10 Apr 2001 to Cairns return from dive trip at 8am, check into Holiday Inn with Jen and John, rent car, drive to Wild World, a tacky zoo feed kangaroos, wrestle Clifton the koala, drive to Port Douglas, drive up to Daintree Rain Forest and Mossman Gorge, eat dinner at Raw Prawn, go out to the fun filled backpacker packed Wood Shed pub
11 Apr 2001 Sydney, New South Wales Jack and I fly 6am to Sydney, check into Le Meridien Hotel, walk up to the Rocks area. get first glimpse of the sublime Opera House. Walk around city and take tour of the Sydney Opera House. around 5pm do three hour Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, get outfitted in overalls, fleece, cap, headlamp, harness, safety clamps, go in group of 12 with guide, very windy, breathtaking views from 135 meters above the city, eat dinner in seedy Kings Cross area
12 Apr 2001 Sydney Jack returns to Chicago, get very mediocre haircut. Go to Michael and Loretta's (musician friends I met in Luang Prabang, Laos) house in Surry Hills for dinner party. Full of strange saxophinists, lots of fun and wine
13 Apr 2001 Sydney meet up with Jennifer and John in morning go to Sydney Easter Show at the Olympic Park have VIP foreign visitor passes, see sheeps sheared and some award winning poultry, show is nightmare crowded with 130,000 people. go to Bondi Beach for excellent dinner with Louise (Justin's friend I met in London)
14 Apr 2001 Sydney beautiful day, run into Jennifer and John in morning at The Rocks, take super fun 2 hr Harley Davidson motorcycle tour to Manley Beach and North Point, amazing views of the Harbour, great beach, driver Harry from Lebanon, interesting Mideast discussions. see Australian Ballet modern performance at the Sydney Opera House and dinner on top of Customs House
15 Apr 2001 Sydney Take bus to Coogee (southern beach of Sydney) to Laurie (friend from Chicago) sister's (Robin) house for Easter day party. The house is beautiful and has incredible views over beach and cliffs. Fun family day with many many 4yr olds running amok. Robin's husband is Simon Poidevin, a star athlete and former captain of Australia's rugby team and and is a stock trader for Citigroup.
16 Apr 2001 Sydney Drive to Royal National Park with Michael and Loretta, see loads of Japanese fishing perilously close to waves on exposed rocks, meet Aussie Vietnam war vet lifeguard, get decent fish and chips, amazing beaches and cliffs.
17 Apr 2001 Sydney Meet Laurie and Robin at Museum of Sydney, watch multimedia performance of early settler stories. have unch at Quay Side restaurant near Opera House. visit Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour, amazing reef exhibits with massive sharks, pelagics and mantas. Great dinner at Otto estaurant in Wooloomooloo with Robin, Simon and Laurie. Sit outside with views of harbour.
18 Apr 2001 Sydney Drive up to the Blue Mountains with Louise, great scenery, see the Three Sisters mountain. The little red BMW rental is crushed by local tour bus, drive it back the 2 hrs to Sydney. Dinner party at Louise's, excellent prime rib meet very interesting people: comedian Gary, francophile Sonia, Uruguayan Paul, Jacky, and options trader Robert.
19 Apr 2001 Sydney Meet up with Ian Maxwell, friend from London Business School at Sydney's oldest pub, the Lord Nelson at the Rocks area. Ian works with Simon at Citigroup. Several pints later, we end up in Chinatown eating Peking Duck.
20 April 2001 Gold Coast, Australia fly to Coolangatta, picked up by Rob at the airport, drive to pub at Burleigh, meet traveller Brad. Stay at Rob's parents' fabulous house on a river in Benawa Waters near Surfer's Paradise. Meet Rob's cute 4 yr old, Robbie. go out with Jack and James to Indian Restaurant, go to Jupiter's Casino and do well in blackjack and craps
21 April 2001 Gold Coast go to Rock n Roll n Punk Party at Alison and Adrian's fun party, met some other very sarcastic people.
22 April 2001 Surfer's Paradise BBQ on river and clubbing at Surfer's
23 April 2001 Gold Coast go to Wet 'n Wild with Rob and Robbie, great rides, trick little Robbie into going on scary rides, Mammoth Falls, Terror Canyon, Speedcoaster.
24 April 2001 to Byron Bay rent car and drive down to Byron Bay. Byron is sort of hippie hangout and is the eastern most point in Australia, we find room in Backpacker's, run into Danes, Jacob and Lasse, from Sipidan at the Cheeky Monkey's restaurant and bar, go to Capamongas bar and meet Norwegians and Israelis.
25 April 2001 Byron Bay spend day on fantastic beach, body boarding, go back to hostel, meet funny Canadians, Irish girls dinner at Cheeky Monkey's
26 April 2001 Byron Bay beach again, drive around Byron Area, local pubs
27 April 2001 Byron Bay beach and body boarding again, meet Aussie Lisa and Maori/Swedish Anna-Stina at hotel bar, win trivia contest and get dinner voucher
28 April 2001fly to Sydney beach in the morning, drive back to Coolangatta up scenic valley in pouring rain, fly back to Sydney
29 April 2001 on to New Zealand fly Sydney to Auckland 10am on Qantas, stay at great hotel The Heritage for $52US. Have dinner at Tony's Steakhouse on Lorne Street, glass of excellent NZ red, starter of smoked NZ salmon with avocado, succulent NZ lamb chop with baked potato. I am completely stuffed and happy. Dinner costs just $17US.
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