Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A lazy day

Yesterday we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art but unfortunately we did not think the exhibits were very good. (we did not go to the Annie leibovitz photography exhibit and maybe that was better) Perhaps we have been spoiled by other museums!

Today we walked 6kms round trip to see a an antique mall. Some nice items to check out. We also went by a Lotus Elise dealer, amazing cars. We are heading to Peace Harmony again tonight for dinner. Tomorrow we plan on going to paddy's market to search for a beach blanket and then hang out in the park reading one of the many books I brought. The evening will be spent in the harbor watching the fireworks.

The blog photo is a lovely tree in one of the parks.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cheaper than I am lazy

Or "how I walked the entire route of the monorail to save $5" Sydney is quite expensive for food, transport, and hotel. The monorail was 5 per person one way! We have walked about 10 kms a day!

Yesterday went to the botanical gardens where there were thousands of flying fox bats! As I stood looking up wide eyed with a gaping mouth and local wisely warned me to watch out for falling bat poop. thankfully there are no incidents to report. Plus an amazing assortment of birds; cockatoos, little parrot like birds, Australian magpies etc etc as you can see from the photo. And lovely ponds and plants. We also saw the opera house which is an amazing feat of architecture! And we had a great veg dim sum at Bodhi Restaurant. We went to the Australian Museum as well but I was not that impressed with it. It was mostly filled with taxidermy animals which I hope were collected from road kill or confiscated from poachers! There was an interesting (and rather sad) section on the Aborigines and the invasion and colonization by Europeans.

We took a cab last night to get to this great vegetarian bar/restaurant, Yulli's, that was rather far away but then we walked back. On the way home we cut through Hyde park and saw all these curious possums in the trees along with more of the flying foxes bats. We also walked by a local HIV and social service agency and I was impressed to see they had an after hours needle vending machine!

Today we plan on slowing down a bit as our legs hurt from walking on the cement. We are going to see the museum of contemporary art and check again to see if the Peace Harmony veg restaurant is open yet. A lot of things close for part or all of this week.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Last Continent!

I am now in the planning stages for our December 25, 2010 departure to Australia, which will mean we have been to all seven continents. As usual I will blog about our adventures and where possible include clickable links to websites that offer more information.

I have selected the itinerary; landing in Sydney and staying for a little over a week, then 5 days in Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock), then nearly 2 weeks in Brisbane and area and finally back to Sydney for 2 days and our flight home. Sydney will have amazing fireworks for New Year's eve, Uluru will be a great place to relax and explore the desert, and Brisbane offers opportunity for for animal reserves and snorkelling!

I have purchased the required SPF30 sunscreen from Kinesys, which performs well and rates high on "health, environment and society" from the GoodGuide ranking and is not tested on animals. By this point in our travels we have most of the required gear. However, I picked up a new Lug Travel Purse for this trip so I can leave the bigger one at home. I have filled my carry on with vegan snacks; Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks, Nature Path Organic Granola Bars, and Camino Dark Chocolate.

I have the books selected: Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, That Bird Has My Wings, Justice: What's the Right Thing To Do?, & Pass it On: Five Stories That Can Change the World (being that this last one is a super short book it might be read before we even leave!). If I finish the other books I might also pick up the book; Deep Down Things: The Earth in Celebration and Dismay.

I have purchased carbon offsets for the flights from the Canadian company Less which received a high ranking in the David Suzuki "Purchasing Carbon Offsets Guide" What is a carbon offset you ask? A carbon offset is essentially a way to support reducing carbon emissions in one area (like investing in solar cookers in a developing nation) to compensate for a carbon emission such as a flight. This handy film tells you how they work; Carbon Offsets Video.

And of course the airline tickets are purchased and the accommodations booked!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


We arrived home on Friday, January 22, 2010 to Canada's wicked winter weather. To view the photo album please click; Indonesia Album

We are slowly adjusting to the frozen wasteland and the brutal jet lag. I am waking up at 5am and I am NOT a morning person.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Getting Schooled by a Mad Momma Monkey - Ubud, Bali

This morning we went to the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest, filled with wild long tailed macaque monkeys (aka moustache monkeys). We paid the park entrance fee, even though we could just visit the monkeys hanging outside the entrance as well. My previous hypothesis proved correct again; where ever there is tourists and monkeys, there will be someone selling bananas. I bought the obligatory monkey bait, and since I had no bag to hide them in, I was quickly liberated from my bananas. When a squealing pack of monkeys run at you, you give up the goods.

Hungree Monkee by Devil.Bunny.

They are super friendly, a little too friendly in fact. One scaled up the side of Jason and tried to take his umbrella out of his bag pocket. Jason snapped some great shots. He took some amazing pictures of mommy monkeys and their teeny tiny babies. When he was going in for a close shot of one of the babies, his or her mommy came running up and slapped Jason across the forearm. Jason said it was quite gentle but she was letting him know he was too close. The monkeys have hands that look eerily like human hands, right down to the fingernails. We also watched some inventive parenting with a watchful mommy hanging onto the end of her tiny infants tail while he played.
Stay! by Devil.Bunny.

The photos are copied from Jason's photo stream. To see them in higher resolution check out this link:

Other than that it has been a repeat cycle of walking around, eating (mostly at this great super veg friendly place Bali Buddha), pool, reading (almost finished my 4th book) & sleeping. When I am on vacation I feel very in the moment, giving my full attention with out worry of what comes tomorrow. All we have is this one precious moment.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Goa Lawah - Bat cave photos

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Critter capers

I thought I'd better get a blog up so those who are not on facebook know that I have not disappeared. We've been taking it pretty easy in Sanur beach area.

A few days ago we took a speed boat out to manta point and 2 other sites for snorkeling. We were informed that the 50 minute ride was a little choppy. Tossing around in a dryer would have been smoother. I actually have a bruise on my left shoulder from slamming into the side of the boat repeatedly and violently. There were 6 tourists on board and all but 2 tossed their cookies, often several times. I and the Swedish guy where the lucky ones. He took medication and I was medication free. Sadly it remains my one superpower to be able to take violent transportation and not puke. Of course perhaps I did not puke because all my energy was focused on hunkering down and holding on for dear life. Unfortunately, as previous evidence has alluded, Jason was one of the 4 pukers. He puked so much that he actually blocked out large sections of the boat trip.

We did make it to the first stop, manta point, which is this area by a rocky cliff where the giant mantas gather to have the fish clean them up. The waves were insane and I could not get off the boat to snorkel even though the guides said go ahead. It's funny, on vacation I always become acutely aware that I am now and adult and that others will freely allow me to put myself in danger. Even with my little vest I am sure I would have drowned. The guides went in as did 4 of the other snorkeler/divers. Jason had to endure sitting on the boat (with me) while the rest did their thing. It's hard to believe but once the speed boat stopped it seems to get even more gut wrenching and it bobbed up and down, back and forth, like a cork. I am very disappointed I missed the manta rays but we went to 2 more sites and i snorkeled at both. I got a great picture of a moray eel with my waterproof camera (most trip photos will be posted when we get back). At the last site the painful realization manifests.... we still have the same ride home. Truly this was Jason's last boat ride.

Other fun stuff; apparently the big lizard (the water monitor i mentioned in a previous post) loves bread. I couldn't help myself and fed him a little from my table, which he gobbled up. There is nothing quite like a 2 foot lizard with forked tongue begging for a little bite of bread. I realized soon that the lizard was eyeing up the adorable pair of birds that were trying to get their share of bread. This put an end to the bread buffet as I did not want to be responsible for the side of bird.

I have come across some interesting signs which reinforces why I don't buy antiques when travelling; "Antique furniture: Made to Order" Now perhaps there is something lost in translation and they mean reproduction furniture, but who knows. We saw a lot of fake antiques in China.

Today we went to the Goa Lawah AKA Bat Cave Temple which is a Hindu temple home to thousands of fruit bats. The temple is built around a large cave filled with the bats, and apparently hungry pythons on the ground waiting for their flying fast food. We did not see the pythons but we saw the mass horde of squeaking bats, with wing spans of 1 to 2 feet. They are quite adorable but they stink, like really stink. Bat poo is nasty.

After the Bat Temple we stopped a little road side Hare Krishna Vegetarian food stand. We each had a dish, an order of rice and 2 bottles of water for $2.00! So far the cheapest meal in Indonesia.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Moustache monkeys & mangosteens

Today we took a car and driver and explored north Bali. We stopped at a large Hindu temple where I saw two cats swiping the offerings left by devotees.

We also went to large botanical garden and stopped at a Buddhist & Hindu temple. It was ok but am very spoiled by the amazing Buddhist temples we saw in India and china. At a later stop, We did a short 20 minute hike down too a large, breathtaking water fall.

The highlight was the monkeys I call moustache monkeys as they look like little old men with moustaches. Their real name is long tail macaques. They were gathered on the side of the road and of course I had to stop by and see them. And anywhere monkeys and tourists gather there will be someone selling monkey treats. I bought some bruised, over priced bananas as I am a sucker for monkeys and the old kukum (grandma) like lady selling them. So in reality I supported local women and fed monkeys. A word to the wise when feeding monkeys toss them the food, do not hand it to them. Sure they are adorable and sweet but you can't trust them. They are like little people with a low moral code, and high thrill seeking. Thankfully I already know that rule and I was not monkey mugged. And leave your hat, glasses etc in the car (as the driver insisted I do).

On the way back we stopped and bought mangosteens, my new favorite fruit! Mmmmmmmm

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Luckiest bird in the world

We took it easy today and basically hung out at the pool. While at the pool a great Aussie woman rescued a little baby bird that plumeted into the pool from an overhanging ledge. She placed him on the edge and he ran soaking wet into the flower bed.

Unfortunately there was a 10 inch Water Monitor Lizard in there who promptly chomped onto the bird. We both started yelling at it and the lizard jumped into the pool and took off. She recaptured the bird and we located a folded up banana leaf bowl and placed the bird in it and then in a tree. I did not hold out much hope.

I stuck around and watched the area for a few hours (hey it's vacation, no agenda!) and the little guy sprang back and jumped down from the tree all dry. His one wing is missing some of the key long flight feathers but he can run really fast. The lizard came back and chased him but the bird out ran him and I came up to guard. (I know a lizard has to eat but he can eat some anonymous creature I don't know). The birds parents showed up and are hanging out with him.

I hope he can recover with the big fall, near drowning, traumatic rescue, and lizard chomping. When I left the Aussie lady was back and delighted to see him alive. I departed and she was keeping an eye on him.

In other news, Jason finally met his goal of being a "nacho nacho man" in Asia with today's lunch of... You guessed it, Nachos! Trust me, from our experience, Mexican food is hard to come by in asian countries.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tuna Roll Deja Vu

For those who don't remember the Great Tuna Roll Incident of 2008, click on the underlined section for a recap. I seriously feared a repeat today. We went snorkeling around Bunaken island after a boat ride from Manado. I can always get out of the boat. The problem is getting back in, which I must say is an act against physics. They did have a ladder this time but of course it did not have enough rungs on it. It had a scant 2 rungs with the bottom one skimming the surface of the ocean. So imagine this, me trying to hoist my legs up to shoulder height and then stand up on the bottom rung. Again, that just goes against physics. I managed to shimmy my knees up to the rung, which resulted in burning calf cramps, and then yank myself into a standing position. I am left with a huge bruise on the left knee but the good news is the obscure dent in the right knee has popped back out. I vow deep knee bends and repeated practice exits from the 2nd rung in the pool ladder before the next snorkeling trip. At least I did not have to be rolled in like a giant tuna.

On the trip we saw a variety of fish with the highlight being a leather back turtle! The coral was not as vibrant as in other trips and was quite damaged. However, we saw a great deal of soft coral which was new for us. My awesome new inflatable snorkel vest worked great, giving me that little bit of buoyancy and feeling of safety. The new shorty flippers were also terrific and such a space saver. Unfortunately either I missed the back strip of my upper legs with sunscreen, or it wore off. So now I will sit on the plane to Bali in the morning with searing bacon butt. We will be heading to Sanur beach area in Bali which looks great. We are taking a little break from the more rustic hotels and going to the Bali Hyatt. I am looking forward to the giant pool and the non-smoking atmosphere. (Did I mention that it seems most men smoke here, and you can smoke pretty much everywhere?)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Observations from Planet Indo

The title of this blog is in homage to the book I read on the flight between Barjamasin and Manado, Lost on Planet China, a funny account of one man's trip through China. So here are some of my observations of Indonesia:

Fire Ants
Now I know if you have been following me on facebook you are probably tired of me ranting on about the fire ants but I must rant a little more so you can get the full view. To recap; While in the orangutan tour I stumbled into the middle of a huge gathering of army of fire ants. Naturally I was most concerned with leaping gazelle like (ok drunk giraffe like) out of their way to avoid harming any of them, and taking a sandal full if them along for the ride. I shook them all loose but one of them was victorious in leaving me a swollen burning big toe.

I looked into these little creatures and apparently they diabolically bite in a circular fashion in order to remove the maximum amount of skin, spray the area with an acidic substance that burns and also calls over all their buddies to join in the attack. Now that's just mean. To see this in action click on "Fire Ant Bite" to get a glorious photo of their handy work.

Paradox of Security
When entering into malls and hotels there are metal detectors, security guards and people checking under cars with mirrors. The domestic flights at the airports are interesting. First off I have yet to be asked for my passport. Secondly there are signs pointing out the limits on liquids and the need for them to be in a plastic bag. I was worried about my 15ml of eye drops but then I saw people going through with thermoses, 2 litre bottles of water, 500 ml pop bottles and so on. By the way, opening a pop bottle on the plane after a change in air pressure means it will explode all over. Trust me, I saw it happen. Then on one flight, despite the clear no smoking signs, I could definitely smell cigarettes from the general vicinity of the cock pit, that and the door between the pilots and the passengers failed to remain closed. As interesting as it is, the flights and travel have all been good and safe :)

I am a Walking Freak Show
Again I know I mentioned before on facebook that people stare, point and laugh at me. However it continues to the point that today children followed me around the grocery store pointing wildly and laughing hysterically. One of the children followed me out into the street, staring like a deer in the headlights. I am not sure if his expression was awe, shock, fear or some combination. I think I would attract less attention dressed as a Sasquatch, then again with my stature and frizzy hair perhaps I do resemble one.

While we were careening down the winding road to our first hotel in Manado we came around the bend to find a dog in the middle of the road taking a crap. Like right in the middle of the road, and the speeding taxi was not about to stop him. I would think it would scare it out a little faster, but no, the taxi swerved around him and we continued on. There are dogs all over Manado & according the the guide book some people do eat dog on this island. Jason has taken to calling the dogs NumNums, which is an attempt to make it less disturbing. That being said, it is no different than the momma boar and her boarlets (Bacon and her Bacon Bits) discussed in the previous post.

Smell Adventure
I consider myself a fairly seasoned traveller and I have some across my fair share of smells around the world. However I have topped my previously "worst smell ever" (experienced in Thailand) with a smell on the street yesterday that can only be described as fermenting feces and fish heads. Sadly many areas lack proper sanitation and water systems. Access to clean potable water is a big issue now and I think it will become even more so in our changing climate.

Tomorrow we plan on snorkeling Bunaken Park and then the next day we fly to Bali. I am hoping Bali will offer a bit more to do, better accommodations and better food than we are currently finding. Today we switched from our hotel that was outside of Manado to one that is right downtown. The previous hotel was far out, higher priced and had worse food selection.