A Travellerspoint blog

With family


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We flew from Bandung to Kuala Lumpur to connect to Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915] today. Upon arrival we learnt that Mum's car was in the garage getting fixed. So we prepared ourselves for a long and boring stay without wheels ... they are so so so essential in Kuching especially when not living in a central location.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Factory Outlets


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large_5550_13202108153477.jpgThe green countryside before arriving into Bandung.
Rather than fly out of Jakarta [Jakarta-travel-guide-864113], we thought it would be different to fly out ot Bandung to KL/Kuching. We'd save a little on lower departure taxes out of a regional airport ... and the distance from Jakarta to Bandung is only 3h by train.

The train journey went quickly and was uneventful. Note that the mobile-ticketing service on the Indonesian Rail website has a completely different meaning ... it means that you buy the ticket from a van that comes to you (subject to a minimum purchase)!

After checking into the Novotel, we went to "Jeans" Street ... a street full of factory outlets (possibly copy rather than genuine) for which Bandung is famous for. Just as we were about to spend up after comparing the bargains, it started pouring. It was too wet to run from shop to shop so we taxied back.

It seemed like a waste of time being here ... but fortunately we were able to go out again after dinner. With some presents and a pair of Burberry trousers in our clutches, we felt a little more productive.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

The big Durian


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large_5550_13200222754505.jpgView from David's apartment. Building on the right is the Shangri-La and has a gorgeous garden pool which isn't in the picture.We made our way to Labjuanbajo Airport early for our Wings Air 0830 flight to Denpasar-Bali for our connection to Jakarta [Jakarta-travel-guide-864113].

We never expected a traffic jam in a little town like Labuanbajo. But today was the day that locals were departing for their Haj in Mecca. The main road was chocka as was the outside of the airport. Thankfully, Indonesian airports allow entry only to passengers and not well-wishers. In any case, the Haj flight wasn't till later in the day.

In Jakarta we would spend 3 nights with a friend David who is setting up a business importing personal care products from New Zealand into Jakarta. Indonesia is a big country and Jakarta (the big Durian) itself has a population of nearly 10 million people ... so there's a decent market!

After resting up, we had a couple of beers at a posh wine bar overlooking a major intersection (Jalan Sudirman)and landmark buildings, before dining at a food court in a mall.

The next couple of days would be rather relaxing. His apartment complex had a nice pool and the basement carpark had a very good massage spa where 90 minute treatments were about IDR90,000 to IDR150,000 (with Happy Hour discounts of 25% during certain times of the day).

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Dragon safari and snorkelling - Day 2


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large_5550_13196238422792.jpgSunrise while parked at Komodo Island.
Dragon-spotting on Komodo [Komodo-travel-guide-1311652] Island

As we've kept ourselves on New Zealand time in order to make early flights and dives, we woke up naturally at 5am ... assisted by the sunrise. Breakfast was cheerfullly served at 5:30am and we were at Loh Liang, the National Park base for Komodo Island at 6:00am.

We had to wait briefly before the rangers turned up for duty. We chose the medium walk which we understood would take 90 minutes but it only took us about 45 minutes.

The trek took us through wooded areas at first, where we saw wild boars and deers. Later on in the open areas, we saw some komodo dragons. Being cold- blooded (reptiles), they like to sun themselves in the morning then rest in the shade in the afternoon.large_5550_13196238433945.jpgConvoy of outriggers returning to Kampung Komodo at sunrise.

We were pleased to have done the trek early for two reasons:

1. It gets much hotter later in the day.


2. Zillions of people were starting to descend on Komodo Island from Silver Shadow, a large cruiseliner. There will be a long wait for guides.

Snorkelling

During our after-dinner chats with the Captain, he indicated that our snorkel at Manta Point could be very good. There are sometimes up to 50 mantas there at a time ... on a good day. Sometimes there's only a handful.

As we've been disappointed before, we prepared for the worst! We saw only two mantas during our snorkel.

Our second snorkel was only about 15 minutes from Labuanbajo [Labuanbajo-travel-guide-1315619] itself, at Pulau Bidadari (Angel Island).large_5550_13196238443847.jpgTaken soon after our early morning wake up at about 5am.This was surprisingly good. Kim described it as an overstocked aquarium. There were lots of angel fish, parrot fish, butterfly fish ... thus making a very colourful experience.

Torrential end and recommendation

We cruised into Labuanbajo harbour with dark clouds looming. The heavens opened up and let down a strong dowsing as soon as we reached the tour shop to return their snorkelling gear. We had to wait a while before returning to our accommodation but were grateful that we weren't caught in the storm.

We were very pleased to have chosen the 2 day (Rinca/Komodo) trip over the 1 day (Rinca only) but it all depends on one's situation:

1. Rinca is much closer to Labuanbajo and dragons are so easily seen underneath the ranger's kitchen. It would certainly be the recommended option for people who don't have much time.large_5550_13196238452905.jpgPeople out at Kampung Komodo early, perhaps to get the best fish from the fishermen.

2. The 2 day trip gave us time to also see Komodo Island and snorkel in a few more places. The extra time on the boat was also very relaxing. This would be the recommended option for those who have the time.

3. However, one needs to be wary of going only to Komodo as there is a possibility that you could see absolutely no dragons on a bad day. This is after all, a National Park and you're dealing with mother nature.

Our lovely boat

Our boat was a 40 footer with two diesel engines and two propellers. It had a spacious deck (with a dining table), a bridge-room (with the Captain's bed) plus a kitchen (with kerosene stove and ride-on coconut grater) and a sit-down toilet.

We certainly weren't roughing it. Meals were simple but generous. There was free-flow of coffee, tea and mineral water. Mattresses and sheets were supplied at night.

We paid IDR800,000 per person on a twin-share basis. If we had found two more people, it would have been IDR600,000 per person. Some places were charging IDR600,000 but had as many as 7-8 passengers. We may or may not have had the best deal but we dealt with nice people (especially the Belgian lady) at PT Flores Remo Tour on the main street of Labuanbajo.

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Dragon safari and snorkelling - Day 1


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large_5550_13196227314875.jpgWelcome aboard! This is our boat for two days.
Crew, stowaway, freeloader or extra passenger?

We pushed off from Labuanbajo [Labuanbajo-travel-guide-1315619] harbour around 7:30am on our lovely comfy boat with what I thought were 4 crew members. As it turned out, one of them was an Indonesian passenger ... I think the crew had smuggled him on even though we had paid for the entire boat ... only because we couldn't find anyone else to join us.

Instead of getting upset, I didn't mind as he was rather interesting ... I learnt that the guy "Lucky" had been travelling around his home country (plus Timor Leste and parts of Malaysia) by motorbike for the last four years and has another year to go. What an adventure! He's writing a book as well.

The boatride to our first stop, Rinca [Rinca-travel-guide-1327566] Island took two hours.large_5550_13196227323253.jpgUnfortunately we could not afford this one.We saw a few dolphins along the way. Once at Rinca, Lucky would leave us ... he would join another boat to return to Labuanbajo so he can start riding on the Trans-Flores highway in the evening.

Dragon-spotting on Rinca Island

Once on Rinca Island we walked to the National Park office to make our payment. We didn't have to go far beyond that to reach the ranger's kitchen where a whole group of Komodo [Komodo-travel-guide-1311652] dragons were resting.

They have a keen sense of smell that can reach 5km. So they've come to the kitchen but it is all in vain. Being a National Park, nature takes its course here:

1. there's a dragon with a broken arm that cannot move well; it cannot hunt and is skinny ... it is starving to death.
2. there's another one that's old and it is starving to death too.large_5550_13196227347764.jpgArriving at Loh Buaya on Rinca Island for the first Komodo dragon site.
3. gone are the good old days when visitors would be entertained with the sight of a dragon slowly swallowing a whole goat that's been tied up.

Our walk continued into the scrub, the green jungle and also the savannah area. We also saw a few dragons in the wild. One can easily see the trail they leave behind as they drag their tail in the dusty track.

Komodo dragons aren't nice creatures:

1. They eat their young.
2. They are cannibals.
3. They don't bother creating their own nest; they take over a megapode bird's nest ... hopefully after the bird has finished with it.
4. They still kill and eat villagers every now and then.

Snorkelling

Our first snorkel was at Pulau Kambing, less than 2 hours away from Rinca Island.large_5550_13196227351460.jpgKomodo dragons on Rinca Island like being under the rangers' kitchen because of the smell of food. But as this is a National Park, they don't get fed. There are a couple that are dying due to injury/infirmity which limits their ability to hunt.Visibility was good and marine life adequate.

However our second spot at Pantai Merah (Pink Beach) was pretty amazing. The coral was colourful and the fish very plentiful ... in both quantity and variety. Unfortunately it clouded over a little and the light conditions meant that we could not admire the beauty of this area at its best.

Pink Beach wasn't really pink ... but there were nearby beaches that had a bright pink tinge to it from afar, depending on the light condition. It was rather strange ... it would look pink, then it wouldn't!

Flying Fox Nightstop

We parked up next to Pulau Kalong (Flying Fox Island) which is just off Komodo Island. This is where large bats (about 0.5m across) hang out during the day. Strangely, they are described as Flying Foxes by the locals.

They take off during sunset to hunt for fruit and return in the morning.large_5550_13196227364382.jpgWith the dragons on Rinca Island.While it is a nice little sight, it certainly isn't "Wow!" The Captain advised that on Rinca, the sky goes black with bats flying off. We were also entertained by some eagles swoopinging to catch fish.

Our presence also attracted a couple of rowboats laden with a souvenir-seller each. We bought a carved wooden komodo dragon simply to support the local economy. I don't think the local villagers get very much out of visitors here.

The humidity went up after sundown and while it was cooler than the day, it felt less comfortable. Lights went out after 8pm and we fell asleep soon after.

Do all Christians love dogs?

Having done my share of travel across Indonesia, it has become my observation that Christians in the Archipelago "love" dogs. In the highlands of Medan [Medan-travel-guide-866970] the delicacy is known as "B1", while in Sulawesi [Sulawesi-travel-guide-1314354] it is "RW" and in Java [Java-travel-guide-1294722] "Guk Guk". I've been told these euphemisms exist so as not to affend Muslims who cannot eat dog as it is prohibited by their religion ... I find that strange when pork is traded openly without causing offence.

I simply couldn't resist asking our Catholic Captain about this. Sure enough, Flores Christians love their dogs too and refer to them as "RW" as in Sulawesi! I can't wait to go to Maluku and Papua so that my theory can be validated across the entire Archipelago.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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