Isen Mulang is a week long Dayak festival. This festival celebrates anything and everything Dayak, which is the native tribal culture here in Kalimantan. It brings in people from all over Central Kalimantan to participate and compete in cultural events and competitions. They compete in everything from food competitions to traditional sporting events.
The week kicks off with a huge parade that involves all of the local and non-local Dayak groups that participate in the festival. It showcases the cultural differences between each region's Dayak tribes. Each region's Dayaks have their own traditional costumes, dances, and food. It's the biggest thing to come to Palangkaraya and is the most interesting cultural event that I've seen take place here. The parade includes every group from every province of Central Kalimantan, which consists of 33 different provinces. Thousands of people flocked to watch it and be a part of the festivities.
Every event that took place during the festival was a competition. Each province had competitors competing for trophies, and bragging rights, to be the best in Central Kalimantan in several different categories. The winners from each competition move on to the national finals. The categories are Traditional Cooking (Malamang and Mangenta), Decorating Traditional Boats (Jukung Hias), Racing Traditional Boats (Jukung Tradisional), Fire Football (Sepak Sawut), Rowing Tug of War (Besei Kambe), Traditional Blow Darts (Manyipet), Traditional Fighting (Lawang Sakepeng), Traditional Singing (Karungut and Lagu Daerah), Chopping Wood (Maneweng, Manetek, Manyila Kayu), Traditional Dance from Jungle Villages (Tari Pedalaman), Traditional Dance from Coastal Villages (Tari Pesisir), Traditional Games (Balungu), Catching Mud Fish (Mangaruhi) and a few more. They also ended the week with a beauty pageant of couples from each province to see who would be crowned Putra Putri Pariwisata which is Prince and Princess of Tourism.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend every event since I work during the day and these events started every morning at 8am. They also scheduled several events at the same time in different locations so it was impossible to see everything. I was able to make it to a few events though. The decorating traditional boats was pretty impressive. It involved teams from each province decorating a boat and dressing in their traditional costumes.
Most of the events took place in the mornings and I was lucky enough to attend a few. I missed all of the cooking competitions and most of the traditional games. The rowing tug of war (Besei Kambe) was interesting. They had two 2-person teams rowing against each other in the same boat, in opposite directions. The team that moved the boat past a certain point in their direction, won.
Traditional fighting (Lawang Sakepeng) is a wedding tradition where the groom would have to fight the father of the bride to prove that he is capable of taking care of his new wife. The dancing competitions are split into two regions, jungle villages (Pedalaman) and coastal villages (Pesisir), because their dances are region specific. I was able to see a few of the dances of the Pedalaman.
The traditional blow darts (Manyipet) competition was like any target shooting event.
In the evening, the singing competitions took place followed by the dancing competitions. It seemed like the entire city of Palangkaraya showed up to these competitions. I've never seen this many people here in one place. It was really exciting to see everyone come out and be so supportive of the Dayak culture.
At night, they had the Sepak Sawut games, or fire football. It's pretty intense. They played a tournament between all of the provinces. I was only able to watch a couple of games. To prevent serious burns, the players cover their arms and legs in toothpaste. The ball is covered with fuel and then it's just a normal soccer game. It was very impressive to watch, and very difficult to shoot.
The week ended with the Putra Putri Pariwisata, which is a beauty pageant to choose who will represent Central Kalimantan in the national tourism competition. Just like pageants in America, this has three categories including talent, question and answer, and the tourism category in which each couple had to promote their province in a language other than Bahasa Indonesia.
I was extremely lucky to be able to witness, and be a part of, the Isen Mulang festival. It was exciting to be able to learn more about the Dayak culture, and to not just witness it, but the honor to photograph as much of it as I was able to. Dayaks have a beautiful culture and I'm very privileged to be able to see a small part of it.
Check out the gallery below for more images from the festival and feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading!
I've posted before about the traditional market at night. This one is during the day. The traditional market is one of my favorite places to go here in Palangkaraya. You can find some really great deals, it's a great place to people watch, and you really experience the culture of living in the city here.
I went back a few days in a row after finding parts I had never been to before. I found the indoor part of the market which is just as cramped and on top of one another as it is outside. It just has a roof over your head instead of tarps. They sell EVERYTHING here.
I love going to the market because it's never the same experience. There are kids playing, or working, different shops opened and closed at different times of day, and always something interesting to photograph. The people are friendly and every face is one that I want to photograph and post here. I could walk around here for days and still find something new every time I go.
Then I found the food market where they sell fruits, vegetables, chickens, fish, and whatever else they eat here. The chickens are sold alive or dead. I haven't seen them kill a chicken in the market but they do butcher the dead one you buy right there. The fish market is pretty cool. It's all the local women who sell whatever their husbands caught that morning. That have these little pools set up in front of them and you just point at one, they grab it, smack it in the head with a knife to daze it, and then they cut it up for you. I really enjoyed checking this place out. The women loved me there and I heard them all calling me handsome and trying to get one of their friends to marry me. Pretty hilarious.
The fish market is full of life. It's really a photo goldmine. I could stay here all day and shoot thousands of images. I would have too if it stayed open for that long. The lighting hits the moments in such a way that I fell in love with the place.
Sadly, a few weeks after I shot all of these, a large part of the market burned down. The food market is still there and is about a hundred yards from the indoor part that was lost. The top image of the girl and the two girls with the rice was shot in the part that was lost. Most of the images in the gallery below were also shot there. The market is pretty huge so there's still plenty to photograph. No one knows how the fire started but it took out a large portion of the market as well as the homes of the people who lived above it. Business goes on as usual around the burned down part but I don't have any photos as I found out about it well after the fact.
Check out the gallery below for more from the Traditional Market.
A friend of mine invited me to visit their village, Tumbang Manggu, which is about a three hour drive from Palangkaraya. Taking a road trip Kalimantan is way different than a road trip back home. For one, there are no rules to driving here, that in itself can be pretty terrifying. The route we had to take to Tumbang Manggu is constantly winding back and forth, up and down mountains, and I don't think there was one patch of level asphalt. My back took a pretty bad beating from being bounced around the car the whole time. At one point we had to leave the road because it had been flooded over and had to take a ferry across the river, drive through another village, and take a ferry back to the main road.
Villages are small and don't have paved roads. After getting off of the first ferry we had to drive through a muddy road to get through the village.
And then we had to get on another ferry to get back to the main road. The ferries are small, as you can see. They can hold about four cars and a bunch of motor bikes. Just to show you how tight they get, this is our car. Our back bumper was actually hanging over the edge.
And these ferries are basically three boats with a platform on top holding them together. This is the front of it.
We took a total of three ferries in the span of 30 minutes to get to Tumbang Manggu. It's a little village on the river with no paved roads. It's a nice little community. There's not much there except for a logging factory. I was able to walk around and take pictures. This is the main road.
While walking around I stumbled upon a wedding celebration. I was immediately grabbed and brought in to meet the bride and groom. They wanted me to take pictures of everyone and everything. It was pretty hilarious. I only stayed a few minutes and continued exploring the village. Not far from the wedding I found some kids playing in the river with a fishing net so I stopped to take some photos.
There were quite a few of them just playing in the river. They were playing right next to a ferry so I hopped on and took a ride. I noticed when I did this that I had acquired an entourage. These kids stayed with me for the rest of my walking tour.
We left the ferry and walked around the village. The kids found a Rambutan tree and decided to stop for a snack. Rambutan is also known as "hairy fruit" and is probably one of the most alien looking things I've ever seen in my life. It's also quite enak - that's delicious in Bahasa Indonesia.
The kids climbed the tree and ate some hairy fruit for a bit and then we went our separate ways.
I walked onto the logging factory property and looked around. I found this old crane.
The factory was closed while I was there so I wasn't able to see much but I did find these gigantic trees that they log there. They were as wide as I am tall.
My friend showed me their school while we were on our way to the market.
And this is the market.
It's nice to get away from everything you know once in a while. You prove to yourself that you can live without the everyday luxuries that most people take for granted.
I only spent about two days in Tumbang Manggu. It was a great experience seeing what village life is like in central Kalimantan. If given the chance to go back, I would definitely go.
Check out the gallery below for more photos I shot in Tumbang Manggu.
I went to a river neighborhood a few weeks ago which is a neighborhood on stilts next to the river. It was very different and quite beautiful. I've never seen anything like it before. These houses are all built about ten to twenty feet off of the ground because the river can come up pretty high during the rainy season. It's almost like a rickety Atlantic City boardwalk with houses.
All of the families that live on the water rely on fishing as their source of income. As you can see, the water is not up high yet but some of them are able to catch something.
Along with fishing, they also have stores that are set up right out of their houses. This is typical all throughout Palangkaraya.
The boardwalk is very rickety. And they have no problems driving their motorbikes on them. You hear the boards jump up and down as they're driving too. It's a bit terrifying to hear when you're not used to it. The neighborhood was pretty big too. I walked around for probably an hour up and down "streets". Nobody seemed to mind me there but not everyone allowed me to photograph them. These ladies used their babies to block their faces.
It was a very cool experience to walk around this place. The kids, as usual, are super friendly and love their photos taken. I hope I get another chance to go back to some of these places.
Check out the rest of the gallery for more photos.
A couple of weeks ago some of the teachers from school invited me to go on a boat ride with them on the Kahayan River here in Palangkaraya. The boat ride takes you up the river in one direction for about 45 minutes, turns around and heads back, then goes about 45 minutes in the other direction, and turns around to conclude the voyage where it began. There were a total of 8 of us and the boat was called KM. Lasang Keras Garu. There's not a whole lot going on on the boat itself. We were all just talking and having a good time. This is us.
The river is a major source of income for the people that live on it. There are a lot of house boats and I was told that these people are all fisherman. You can really get a sense of the fishing lifestyle from these pictures. You don't see anything like this back home. The river is used for everything from bathing, doing laundry or the dishes, and even drinking. They have a filtration system that cleans the water and then they drop in iodine tablets.
I wouldn't swim in it though.
This post is pretty short but check out the gallery pics and feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.
I'm back! I know it's been a long time since the last time I posted on here. Sorry for those of you that have been waiting and thanks for still coming by to see what I've been up to! My computer crashed over a month ago and I lost all of my photo editing software. Living where I am, it's very hard to get what I need and downloading anything from the internet can easily take days, if not weeks.......anywho.....
While I was without software, I was still able to go out and do some shooting. One night I went to the Traditional Market. The traditional market is basically set up like a flea market but in MUCH tighter spaces. And they sell new items. Everything from shoes, clothes, and toys to tv's, playstation 2's, and tools. They also have places to get your hair cut, get something to eat, and in some instances, sing karaoke.
Everyone comes to the traditional market to get a good deal. I've bought some things here but I mainly like to go to walk around. Being the only foreigner that I've ever seen, I'm more of a spectacle and get a lot of attention just from being there. Everyone is friendly and everyone wants me to buy from them. It's pretty entertaining. I'm sure I will be buying a bunch of stuff here before I make it home.
It is a great place to catch a good deal. I can get a pair of Levi's jeans for around $5. Now I'm not trained in determining whether they're legit or not, but checking the tags, I'd say they could be. I did buy a pair of basketball shorts here with the "official" NBA logo on them, but after closer inspection, I'm pretty sure they're knock-offs. Not that I care. In all honesty, I didn't notice the logo until I got home. I saw a pair of black shorts and bought them. It took a few hours for me to realize I was the proud owner of a pair of Spurs shorts.
While walking around this time with my camera, the first thing I saw was someone getting tattooed. As much as I love tattoos, I'm never going to get one here. Ever. After walking for a few minutes, a group of kids found me and decided that they'd follow me around for the rest of the night. They were funny and loved having their picture taken. Most of the "shop" owners were ok with me taking their pictures and only a few didn't allow it. All in all it was a fun night.
I have yet to visit the traditional market during the day but I hear there's a lot more going on. I'm sure I'll be able to get over there one day in daylight and be able to write more and post another gallery of pics. I hope you enjoy!
I was sent to Singapore by the school I work for in order to get my visa. I've been here on a tourist visa for the past two months which is the maximum length of time you're allowed to be here on one. Since you can't get a new visa directly from a tourist one, I had to leave the country. No complaints here. I want to see as many countries as possible. So I got a free trip to Singapore.
The school wanted me to fly there and back in the same day, but since there's no direct flight anywhere from Palangkaraya, it would take two flights to get there, and I refused to take four flights in one day. So I talked them into letting me stay for two nights. It's not a whole lot of time but just enough to do some site seeing.
The first thing I noticed when I got to Singapore was how clean it was. I read about it being clean, but you really don't have an idea until you see it. It's basically perfect. And it's not clean in the sense that there are trash cans everywhere for you to put your trash either. You can rarely find a trash can. You're not allowed to eat or drink in most places, can't really smoke anywhere, littering is out of the question, and you get fined up the ass for any of these offenses. And they take their jobs very seriously.
Their public transportation is the nicest, cleanest, and easiest to navigate that I've ever been on. You can't get lost. And you can't eat or drink on it. That's a $500 fine. I had a can of soda with me and realized I could be in a lot of trouble if I took a sip. Luckily, I had already finished it but couldn't find a trash can. I had to pocket it.
After not being able to get too many pictures of orangutan (which I covered in my last post) I did some research and found out that Singapore has a very famous zoo, so I decided that would be my first stop. I haven't been to a zoo in at least 10 years so I figured it would be fun, and I'd also be able to get some fun shots out of it. So I spent the day there. It's pretty big and they have a lot of animals. Surprisingly all of the animals are active too. It's not like going to some crappy zoo, paying an ungodly amount to get in, and then walking around to see sleeping animals. I actually got a bunch of pics of animals looking directly at me, and a ton of orangutan pics.
I got to see this guy...but I forget what he is. Some giant flightless bird from New Zealand. I saw hippos, white tigers, elephants, a bunch of different kinds of monkeys, and well, things you see at the zoo. I'm not gonna name them all. I was there for about six hours and still didn't get to see everything.
They had this one exhibit, though, that you could walk in and it was filled with ring-tailed lemurs, giant bats, tiny little elf deer, different kinds of birds, butterflies, and a sloth. Yup, a sloth. And these animals have no problems with people so they come right up to you. I was so excited that I hastily tried to switch lenses on my camera and watched as a lens cap slowly rolled off of a deck and into an area I couldn't walk into. Didn't care, better a lens cap than a lens. More importantly, there was a sloth eating upside down next to a bat and I wanted a picture of it. So here's what I got in exchange for a lens cap.
When the zoo closed I moved on to the Night Safari which I thought would be really cool. Unfortunately, it wasn't. It was just a night time zoo that wasn't lit that well and filled with nocturnal animals. Some of the animals you couldn't even see at all. But I'm still glad I went. It was a fun day and I got a lot of fun pics. Check out the gallery for more.
The next day I woke up to rain. A lot of it. I was disappointed because I really wanted to walk around and take pics of Singapore. I had to instead check out the other thing that Singapore is famous for, shopping malls. I'm not much of a shopper, but I did have a lens cap that I needed to replace so at least I would be a little productive.
Singapore is literally miles and miles of malls. Everywhere you go there's a giant mall. And across the street from it? Another giant mall. Sometimes they even connect to one another. And everything is pretty expensive. It took me a while but I found what I needed and ended up paying about double for it than I would have in America. Oh well. Such is life. Because of the weather I ended up having to check out a few different malls for half of the day.
When the weather finally cleared up a bit I decided to check out Little India. It's just a district where it looks like India. Not very exciting. In fact, it was just more shopping but for Indian things. I walked around for only about 30 minutes and had enough. Next stop, China town.
China town was also more shopping, but it was a little bit more exciting than Little India. This had more of a street fair feel to it and there was more to look at. More people to watch, salesman trying their best routines on you, and tons of junk to buy. One salesman actually got me into his store with a good pitch. He started talking to me about my tattoos, which always gets my attention, and asked if he could get a picture of them. Then he proceeded to try and sell me some silk shirts. Even gave me a free beer. I enjoyed the beer but walked out empty handed. He never took that picture either. I found an Indian temple after leaving that shop and stopped in. It had a lot of colorful ceilings that I took some pics of. They'll be down in the gallery at the end of the post.
I walked around for about an hour and then wanted to check out the Singapore Flyer for the sunset. The Singapore Flyer is a giant Ferris Wheel on the bay that you can see the whole city from. It's 541 feet tall. I was hoping for some really cool sunset shots but the weather wasn't working with me. But here's me in it.
That building over my left should is the Marina Bay Sands. It's a giant 3 tower building with a boat structure on the top connecting the towers. It also has a very upscale mall, museum, casino, and other attractions in it. After the Flyer, I wanted to walk over there and get some really cool night shots. I took quite a bit. First was the Gardens by the Bay which is in those domes. Then I walked under a bridge towards the Sands and got some really cool shots of the skyline and the bridges.
I started hearing music on my way over that blue light bridge and eventually found a light show was being put on by the Sands on the bay. It was really good timing and I found a nice spot where I could get some different shots of the Sands where no one else was standing and then some awesome shots of the light show itself.
After the light show I went into the mall and had some dinner and then decided to go to the very top of the Marina Bay Sands. Here I was able to see the whole city and get a couple shots. This was the end of my night, and basically my trip. The next day I was leaving and going back to Palangkaraya.
Check out the gallery for more images!
A couple of weeks ago I was able to take a boat ride up the Kahayan River to see orangutan in their natural habitat. My friend Allen was able to arrange this little adventure with some of his friends who work for the Orangutan reserve. So Allen, Reni, her brother Bayu, and I drove to Tankiling, which is about 35 kilometers from Palangkaraya. I thought we were going to some tourist place but instead we drove to a spot next to the river and just got into a boat. We took the blue one.
I was super excited to go on this boat ride. It's honestly one of the things that sold me on coming out here in the first place. As soon as we get on the boat I put my camera together and get a giddy grin on my face. Then I was told that we have to go through two checkpoints and that I will have to hide my camera at them. It wasn't the first time I had to hide it so I was fine with that.
Here I am on the boat.
The first check point was quick. We pulled up, pretty much waved, and then left. I had my camera out and ready. It wasn't long before our first orangutan sighting and it was a baby in a tree! It was amazing. The cutest little orangutan about 30 feet in the air hanging out with it's mother. It was a lot tougher to take pics of them through all of the foliage but I managed to get a few.
We kept going up river towards the feeding areas. These orangutan are taken from a rehabilitation center not too far from here and set free on this island to keep them protected. Since orangutan can't swim, they can't leave. But this island has no food for them to be 100% on their own so they're actually fed by the "orangutan caretakers" daily. They're fed some sort of vegetable everyday. The orangutan are on a feeding schedule so they are usually waiting at the drop off for the food to be delivered. You have no idea how excited I was to see this take place. From what I was told they walk down, grab the food, and saunter away.
We drove for about 20 minutes around the island until we reached the second checkpoint. As we come around the bend, before reaching the checkpoint, I see an orangutan lounging in the shade on the beach. Now this is where things take a disappointing turn. I was told to put my camera away. I think, no problem I'll hide it under the seat again, this will be quick and then I can put it back together. Nope, I'm told to dismantle it and put it away. I'm not allowed to be taking pictures of any of the orangutan on the reserve. My heart sank. All I wanted to do in Indonesia was take beautiful photographs of orangutan in their natural habitat. Now I'm here and I'm being told to put it away. We had to get off of the boat and talk to these rangers and, of course, their first question was if we had any cameras with us. Obviously, the reply was no. I went to take a picture with my phone and we had to explain that it was a phone and not a camera. They were serious about their jobs.
And then it happened. I look across the water and see a mother orangutan take her baby by the hand and walk to the water to get a drink. The lighting was perfect, the moment was perfect, you couldn't have dreamed of a better moment to photograph, and I couldn't. Now I know what you're thinking. I should have just done it. What's the worst that could happen? But I have to respect my friends who brought me here and their friends who took the time to take us out here. As disappointing as it was to not capture that moment, I'm still happy I was able to witness it.
We had to wait at the checkpoint for about 20 minutes before they would go and feed the orangutan and then we would follow. I was able to slyly put my camera back to together and get a few shots off after the feeding, but was instructed to be very quick. After the quick shots, we went back to the car. It was an incredible little adventure and even though I wasn't able to get all of the pictures I wanted to, I still got a couple and had an amazing experience.
On our way home we saw a traditional Javanese dance taking place so we pulled over and I was able to snap off a few shots there as well. Being the only white person around, I seemed to have taken a lot of the attention off of the dancers as everyone wanted to look at me. The whole crowd was staring, people coming closer, and a lot of cell phones were taken out to take my picture. Very friendly people. We were only there for about 15 minutes before it started raining.
A great day and a great experience. As usual, here's a little gallery of the images I took. It's smaller than the rest but some good ones. Hope you guys enjoy them!
August 17th is Indonesia's Independence Day. Being an American, I have a certain expectation for what occurs on this day. I'm used to barbecues, parades, fireworks, and booze. Lots and lots of booze. This is not the case here in Indonesia. For one, they don't drink like Americans. They also don't have parades, barbecues, or fireworks. What they do have is a flag ceremony. This ceremony is pretty special and simply honors the Indonesian flag. My friend Andin told me of this ceremony and had me wake up super early on a Saturday to attend it. She picked me and we went to the Governor's office only to find it deserted. We were both told it started at 8 and were confused as to what happened. Instead, she decided to take me to her high school as they may have been doing some celebrations of their own. They weren't. This day was quickly becoming uneventful. As we were about to leave the school, a few cars full of students in uniforms pulled up and we were told that the flag ceremony was being held 2 hours later, so we had some time to kill.
We finally made it to where the ceremony was taking place which was at the football (soccer) stadium in the middle of town. It's a very big ceremony too, at least here in Palangkaraya. The Governor comes to town and a lot of military personnel are there and are part of the ceremony. Many politicians are present in the crowd, which is also filled with schools and regular spectators. Andin took it upon herself to tell the military people, the ones blocking the entrances with big guns, that I was an American reporter. Being white and having a camera, it worked and I was given access to wherever I wanted to go with my translator in tow.
I walked right up to the red carpet and waited for the Governor to arrive.
Once he did, the ceremony started. It consists of a bunch of different branches of the military standing in formation on the field, along with a couple of high schools, surrounding a giant flagpole. The governor and vice governor stand at attention and salute them for quite a while. Then, another set of military personnel come out marching with a single female carrying a ceremonial tray (for lack of a better term). They march up to the governor and the girl walks up to him to receive the flag.
After she gets the flag, she rejoins the marching brigade, they do a lap around the field, and come to the flagpole where she hands it off to be raised. It's simple, but quite impressive.
Everyone in attendance then salutes the flag and 4 armed soldiers stand around it on guard for the rest of the day. After the ceremony, the press that was standing around me the whole time decided to make me part of their story so I was briefly interviewed. There was also an old Indonesian army veteran there that was 113 years old. You read that right. He was in incredible shape for his age and he was just as excited to meet me as I was to meet him. I had to get his picture. Here he is.
The rest of the day was uneventful. I went home after this and didn't do anything. Like I said, they don't celebrate their Independence the way we do.
The next day, Andin told me that her high school was celebrating that day so we went back over there. Schools throughout the country all have games and activities that everyone participates in, including my school. I wanted to go to this high school because they had one activity I couldn't find happening anywhere else. It's called Panjat Pinang which translates (roughly) to climbing a nut tree. So they have this tree, probably about 30 feet tall, and they cover it in oil. They hang a whole bunch of prizes at the top and then have teams of 4 kids try and climb it to get the prizes.
The history behind this game is that it was created when Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch. The Dutch colonists created it, basically, for their entertainment and would place wagers on who would make it to the top. Now it's a tradition. It's pretty hilarious to watch kids try and climb it. Eventually, the teams make it up, after numerous attempts and only after the majority of the oil is wiped off by the climbing participants.
The next day, my school had their celebrations. These consisted of a day of games for all of the kids. The older kids compete in basketball, tug-of-war, and a bunch of other games. One is a form of bobbing for apples, but instead of water and apples, they stick coins in the outside of a watermelon and then cover it in butter. The kids have to get the coins out with their teeth. It's just as gross as it sounds. They also have to fill a bottle with water from a sponge in a "whisper down the lane" type fashion and pass a rubber band to one another with straws in their mouths.
The younger kids have different competitions. They had to see who could put on a uniform the quickest, drop a straw into a bottle, drop a pen in a bottle that's tied to their backside, race while balancing a marble on a spoon, tug-of-war, and a hands free eating contest.
All in all it was a fun day. They even made us teachers compete in the hands free eating contest and tug-of-war against the all male security team. We didn't win, but it was fun. I took tons pf pics throughout the day, but, unfortunately, don't have any pics of me competing. Sorry guys. But check out the gallery of the weekends festivities.
I had a little over a week off from school, due to the Muslim holiday Lebaran which is the end of Ramadan, so I decided to go to Bali. There isn't a direct flight from Palangkaraya so I had to fly to Jakarta and then to Bali. It wasn't that bad. The flights were short. I made it to Bali on Friday, August 2, at 3:30pm local time. I had booked a room at a place called Ubud Hideaway which the website said was in Ubud. After driving an hour to Ubud from the airport, and not being able to find it, my driver had to stop some place and ask if anyone had heard of it. Luckily, the last person he asked had and gave him directions. Little did I know that this place was not, in fact, in Ubud, but an hour further north of where I thought I was staying. It also wasn't called Ubud Hideaway. It was called Raffles Holiday. I was not happy.
When I got there I started flipping out and let them know how I had been deceived and wanted a refund. They convinced me to stay one night and I would receive my refund the next day. Now, I was angry. I wasn't even close to where I wanted to be, nothing was within walking distance, and I was literally stuck at this place. The staff spoke English, which definitely helped things, and they were super friendly. But I was still stuck. The only other people staying there that night was a Japanese family who didn't speak English, so I was alone yet again. Not a happy camper. Then they showed me to my room. I was almost floored by how beautiful this room was. I had my own bungalow with a private outdoor bathroom. It was gorgeous. I immediately started feeling bad for coming off like an asshole. This, in my mind, is what paradise looks like. I went to order some food and found out they served beer. I was home.
I woke up the next morning, in my unbelievably comfortable bed, and made the decision that I was staying for all of the nights I had booked there. I didn't care how far away I was from where I wanted to be. I'll take their free shuttle and stay in this beautiful place, away from the crowds.
I got breakfast, which was pretty delicious, and hopped in the shuttle that dropped me off in Ubud. I immediately started wandering the streets in the direction of the monkey forest. All of Ubud is basically artsy shops and is full of tourists. There are many temples as well. I made it to the monkey forest and was amazed at how there were monkeys everywhere. Now, they know that you're there for them and they are expecting you to feed them. They are not shy. If they suspect you have food on you, they'll check. And they like water bottle too. So pretty much whatever you have, they want. They are adorable but some of them are straight up scary. I didn't have any food and wasn't looking for a wild monkey to come run my pockets. They left me alone so I was able to get some great pictures of them. There are also a few temples in the monkey forest that I was able to go into. You have to wear a sarong in order to enter any Hindu temple and they provide them for you at the entrance.
I walked around the monkey forest for hours and then left to meet up with my friend Russlee. She's the one that got me the job in Palangkaraya. We had some food and then she took me to Goa Gajah - the elephant cave temple. This is a temple with a cave in it that has an elephant carving. Pretty self explanatory. We walked around here for at least an hour and had a nice little adventure. This place is beautiful. The actual elephant cave looks like it wanted to eat me.
After Goa Gajah we went to see some rice paddies in Ubud. It was extremely serene. It's such a beautiful place. Then I went to see a traditional Balinese fire dance. After the dance, I caught my shuttle back to my bungalow.
The next day I had hired a driver to take me on a tour of Bali. We started at the rice paddies of Tegalalang. This is the place you see on postcards. Absolutely breathtaking. Next we went to Gunung Kawi which is a temple with these giant sculptures in the side of a mountain. My driver hokie doked me into buying my own sarong for waaay too much money, (I'm pretty sure he made a commission off of it). Here's a picture with me in front of the relief carvings at Gunung Kawi in my new sarong.
After this temple we went to Tirta Empul Tampak Siring, which is a water temple. This is a temple that has water coming from a holy spring flowing under it. The day we went happened to be a special day so there were hundreds of people there praying, making offerings, bathing, and being blessed. It was pretty spectacular. I really lucked out on that.
After Tampak Siring, we went to a coffee plantation where I was able to see all kinds of coffee, tea, spices, herbs, fruits, and whatever else they grew there. I was able to taste 12 different kinds of coffees and teas that they grew there. I also got to see the Luwak, which is the animal that eats coffee beans, poops them out, and gives the world its most expensive cup of coffee. I thought it was terrible. Not worth $5 a cup in my opinion. Here's a pic of the Luwak being fed a coffee bean.
After the coffee plantation I was taken up to Kintamani to eat lunch while over looking Mount Batur, which is one of the active volcanoes on Bali. It was a beautiful view. I had a really expensive, crappy lunch but the view alone was worth the price.
After lunch, my guide wanted to take me back to Ubud, but since he hokie doked me into buying an expensive sarong I talked him into taking me to another water temple. It wasn't as nice as the other temples I had been to, but at least it made me feel like I got my money worth out of him. I met up with Russlee and got an amazing massage at a beautiful spa for $10! I love Bali.
The next day I checked out of my bungalow and hired a driver to take me the three hour drive up to Amed, which is on the northeast coast of Bali. It's a small beach and fishing village that's not overrun by tourists. It's also supposed to have some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in Bali. On the way up there my driver took me to Goa Loah - the sacred bat cave. It's a little temple right across the street from the ocean with a cave that thousands of bats live in. It was pretty crazy to see all of these bats just hanging out (no pun intended...or was it?). This is the entrance to the temple.
After this temple we drove another two hours towards Amed and stopped at Tirtagganga Water Palace. This has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It's full of fountains, ponds, pools, and statues. It's a big palace devoted to the holy water that comes from these springs. They have stepping stones that go through one of the pools that I had to walk through. Every step I took I was expecting the stone to give out and I would fall in the water like that show MXC that used to be on Spike TV. Anyone else ever watch that? That show was hilarious. Anyway, they never gave out from under me but I definitely slipped on one and almost lost it.
After leaving here it was another hour until we made it to Amed. When we got there, it was pretty easy to find a room. I just walked around until I found one with a balcony overlooking the beach. It was amazing. I couldn't have asked for anything better. I immediately jumped in the ocean and had a nice little swim. After my swim, I left my room to get the wifi password and a random guy stopped to talk to me about my tattoos. He invited me to a Hindu ceremony which ended up just being a crazy house party with the locals. It was awesome. I got drunk off of palm wine and arak. It was a blast.
The next day I snorkeled all day. It was so relaxing and amazing. You can literally walk out of the hotel into the ocean, and snorkel right there. Incredible. The amounts of fish and coral that are right next to the shore was astounding. I did this for a few hours. That night I went out to a bar with my new friend and met a scuba instructor. So the following morning, I woke up early to watch the sunrise and then went scuba diving for my first time at the USS Liberty wreck. It's an American Naval ship that was sunk by the Japanese in 1942. It's only a few meters off of the shore and about 60 feet deep. I took a 30 minute introduction class and then went right into the ocean. I was able to to go 12 meters deep, about 40 feet. I was allowed to actually go through the wreck and even saw a sea turtle, which I was told is pretty rare. It was an incredible experience. I was proud of myself for doing it. That night I took my first pictures of the Milky Way. It was incredible how clear it was sitting on the beach with no light pollution. I was amazed at how easy it was to get some shots. I also saw a few shooting stars.
The next day I left Amed and headed to Kuta. That was a mistake. Kuta is like a dirty, beach resort Times Square. I hated it. I stayed one night and left to go back to Ubud the next day. In Ubud I found the first ever Ubud Village Jazz Festival. I bought a ticket and was even allowed to bring my camera in. I photographed the bands including Indonesia's most famous guitarist, Dewa Budjana. It was a great night.
Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up a little under the weather with what they call "Bali Belly". I'll let you guys figure out what that means on your own. I was able to leave my room for a few hours late in the day and then got ready to leave Bali the next morning at 5am.
It was really an incredible trip and am really happy that I went. Even doing the whole thing alone wasn't that bad. I had no one telling me what to do and was able to do anything I wanted. The freedom I had was great. I would definitely do something like that again.
As usual, there's a gallery of images below. Check them out and feel free to leave me a comment. Thanks for following! Enjoy!