A Travellerspoint blog

Tropical Thailand...

...Ko Samui

sunny 32 °C
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Our time in Bali sadly came to an end on the 13th August. We jumped in a cab at 3pm with all our gear and headed to the airport for a 6pm flight. We were flying from Bali to Jakarta and then onto Bangkok for the initial couple of legs. Assuming that our flight to Jakarta would be taking off from the domestic terminal I got our cab driver to drop us there. On chatting with the check in agent, I soon established this was wrong as our second leg was international....a new one for me...so on failing to come up with an excuse for Kim, I confessed and picked up the 2 kite bags for the walk around to the international terminal...luckily not too too far!!

That was to be the only hiccup of the trip...our Jakarta leg took off on time and we landed about 7pm....we had a couple of hours to kill there (which involved a bowl of noodles and game of scrabble) before our 9pm flight to Bangkok. Garuda airlines did us proud for both legs, landing us on time at about 1am at Bangkok airport (although I did find out, just before we left, that Garuda has been banned from flying in Europe for failing to meet safety standards...I had no complaints!).

Us In Jakarta
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On clearing immigration and collecting bags in Bangkok, we had time to kill before we could check in for our 6am flight to Ko Samui...we set up camp and found coffee and croissants, and after a quick nap were able to check in about 4am. Once again the Bangkok airlines flight took off on time and an hour later we were landing in Ko Samui, at a tiny little open air airport (basically a runway and a little shaded area for the baggage carousel) some 12 hours since departing (actually more with time differences...its really not that far distance wise).

I found us a bus to our hotel which turned out to be about a 10 minute drive away. We set up camp at the Shambala Bungalows in a place called Big Buddha on the northeast corner of the island. It's a tiny little village...one street of shops and restaurants but with a really nice beach and bay, all of which seem very quiet again. We spent two nights in the Shambala Bungalows, but soon discovered that it's a lot warmer here than Bali....we had gone for a cheapy "no aircon, no hot water" room....but with the pathetic fan in there, it was a little unbearable. We didn't have to walk far (2 doors down) to find another much nicer place for pretty much the same price with all the mod cons, including a mini bar and breakfast...(no complaints for less than 15 dollars a night).

Big Buddha Beach
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The kiting here isn't great....we made a couple of attempts, but the wind is pretty light, and there's not a lot of room for error with a thin beach, boats and piers so we've found other things to amuse ourselves. (although I have to say the bay is very shallow at low to mid tide....waist deep for a long way out, so if the conditions ever did come right it would be a good spot). Also bumping into 2 bathing water buffalo didn't help fill me with confidence that it was going to be a great spot!

Big Buddha Pier
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There are a lot of "Wat's" or Buddhist Temples on the island. As you may have guessed where we are staying is named as it is due to there being a Big Buddha at the Wat here. We can see it from the beach and I have to say when I first got here I was skeptical (shock horror I hear you say!). It didn't look that impressive and I was beginning to think they should have really called the place "Quite Big Buddha", however I stand corrected having visited it up close the other day....quite impressive...as are the other Wat's around the island. They are typically very colorful with lots of bald chaps in orange robes chanting.

Wat's
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We have rented a little jeep for our time here as it's so cheap and works out less than getting around on public transport (the taxi's are a huge rip off....they'll charge you 10 bucks or more for a journey of a few hundred yards). To give you an idea what this particular rental car is like, the windows will fall out if you open them to carelessly...the steering wheel has a bit of rope around it that I suspect is holding it on...the wind screen washer thing does a very good job at washing anyone who may be walking down the pavement 2 streets away, which doesn't really matter as the windscreen wipers don't really do anything...and it goes on...in fact when the guy handed me the keys and the bit of paper where I was supposed to mark off any "dents or scratches" on the little picture of the vehicle...I pondered for a minute before drawing a big circle around the whole thing....much to the amusement of the rental car folk...although I did notice they didn't change it!!! Having said that it's doing us proud and we've grown to love its quirkiness!

We took an initial trip around the island...it's not big...I suspect if you drove none stop you could circumnavigate it in an hour or less. Most of the villages are around the coast....the inland is very hilly and from what I can tell from the map mostly forest. On our first trip we failed to find the snake farm, butterfly farm, crocodile farm and the Ha Lin waterfall, but had fun pottering around looking at the different areas (we may make another attempt at some point!). Once again the trip confirmed our choice in locations, there are some terrible resort towns on the west side of the island that made Kuta on Bali (see previous posts) look idyllic.

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There are lots of stray animals on the island. Kim is single handedly feeding them one by one in her rescue attempts! (what with this and her "War On Sand" in our room...god forbid I don't brush off before coming in...there's almost not enough hours in the day!!!).

Kim & her kittens!
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We saw an advert soon after getting here for the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts (SITCA) that was offering various courses cuisine related....

to digress quickly, the food here has been FANTASTIC...I was worried when we first arrived that we were just going to spend all hours of the day eating (we have restrained ourselves)...so on seeing the courses we thought it would be fun to check the school out.

Turns out that there are lots of cooking classes, but also a Thai Fruit & Vegetable carving course...which runs over three days. It's a lot of fun...challenging, but doable...run by a very tenacious Thai women who will certainly let you know if your "angles are off by a few degrees" or your "cut is 5mm instead of 4mm"! It's a small class...3 hours each day and we have just completed day 2....it was water melons on the 1st day and cantaloupes on the 2nd....and assuming I don't mess up my turnip and pumpkin tomorrow, I will apparently receive a certification in "Fruit & Vegetable Carving" (that's "carving. not chopping" as the teacher likes to say to the "Italian chef" who is also on our course who seems to have a fairly hap hazard technique that has tended to result in his creation looking more weed than flower!)...who knows, maybe I'll be able to find a job at the Thai restaurant 2 doors down when we get home!

Day 1 our watermelons
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Day 2 my cantaloupe & kim at work
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We have plans to take a trip to the marine national park about 30km west of here in a couple of days. For those that have seen it this is where the movie "The Beach" was filmed. Apparently it's about an hours speed boat ride followed by a day of sea kayaking and snorkeling. Should be fun. We may also do a day trip to Ko Tao, which is another island a similar distance away....apparently good snorkeling.

We have another week here before we return to Bangkok....our plan then being to make our way to Ko Samet...another island about a 2 hour bus journey and hours boat trip from the capital.

(SIDE NOTE: We did indeed make national TV in Indonesia...can't say we saw it ourselves, but apparently it was "good good"!)

Posted by msmitheman 05:34 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Goodbye Bali...

...hello Thailand

28 °C
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We are coming to the end of our 2 month stint in Bali so I thought I would write an entry on a random selection of events and sights...including the Sanur Village Festival that has been going on this week.

Food has been a million times better here than in Vietnam (oh no, we're going back there!!!!)....but I have to say it has still been a little on the disappointing side (although there have been some great meals I will admit).

Highlights of places we've eaten in case you ever head over here...

The Spirit Cafe is a small restaurant and bar on the beach owned by a particularly irritating Australian woman. Irritating mainly because she likes to let everyone know that she is the owner...that would be everyone in about a mile radius of the place....as she stands in the middle of the restaurant. They seem to do alright on the food front until they get busy...then it goes downhill....one particularly busy Sunday the waiter came over and before we said anything said "don't order pizza, no more pizza...we just can't be bothered, it takes to long"

Benno's is a typical beach side joint serving both Western and Indonesian food and the usual over cooked fresh seafood. I have to say the food is pretty good, but careful with the deserts...on perusing the desert list for a while Kim chose the Cheesecake. When we tried to order the waiter then proceeded to tell us that they didn't actually have anything on the desert menu (it was a good page long)....just fried bananas (don't bother, they're clearly fried a few days in advance).

Menu's in general are a challenge in your reading skills (and patience due to their size). For example there are numerous restaurants offering Chicken Gorden Blue or even Chicken Gorden Blew....one place serves nodlles noodes and noodels on three consecutive lines of the menu (and in fact doesn't serve noodles anywhere on the menu)....and there's the particularly disturbing cafe up the road that advertises what sounds like a nice porterhouse steak until you read that it comes with "...fried skin on potatoes"!

I have to say though, that by far the best food we've eaten is for breakfast at a tiny place called Randy's next to the hotel here. Our mornings consist of me having the "Canadian Breakfast", consisting of 2 pancakes, 2 poached eggs, orange juice and a pot of tea and Kim having the "Basic Breakfast" consisting of 2 slices of toast, 2 poached (sometimes scrambled) eggs, fruit plate and coffee....all for the pricey sum of 5 dollars (3 pounds)including a tip!

Signs in Bali are quite amusing too.

We have seen many signs along the road advertising "Cat Ovens"...I have since found out that this doesn't involve baking feline creatures for pleasure or even food, but that Cat is actually pronounced Tsat and means paint. Oven is used in the Western sense of the word and in fact refers to car garages advertising a car spraying service where they paint your car and then bake it in a special oven to set the paint.

Kim pointed out a useful place the other day....it was advertising "Genuine Antiques for Sale...." and then in small print below "...made to order".

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The last 4 days here have seen the hosting of the "Sanur Village Festival". This has seen a number of events and competitions going on in the town and on the beach...traditional boat processions, windsurf racing, kite competitions (more later), Bonsai Tree competitions, pillow fight on a pole knockouts, who can walk the quickest around a course with a liquor bottle full on water balanced on their head (some impressive competitors in that one!)....see who needs the olympics when you've got all that!

The Boat Parade
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On Day 2 we headed down to the beach where there was a huge Kite festival and competition taking place. Really quite impressive....massive kites of all shapes and sizes, some that would take a team of people to hold down....I'm not sure what the rules were or who won, but it was fun to watch none the less. Obviously we thought this would be a good time to kitesurf as it was windy....maybe not the best idea but oh well.

getting ready to launch...
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all different shapes and sizes...
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On getting to the beach, we were immediately approached by a television crew....I obviously pointed them towards Kim and walked away...and despite her best efforts at getting rid of them they were pretty adamant they wanted to film us for the piece. This involved us walking down the beach together and being approached by one of the festival organizers (who turned out to also be the chap who owned the local Bonsai garden that we walk through to the beach everyday) to talk to us about how great Sanur and the festival is. I was quite impressed that we managed to get this right in just 2 takes....I'm still not sure what was wrong with the first one though. They then proceeded to film us setting up the kites and heading out onto the water. Who knows whether we'll make the final cut!

Bonsai Winners!
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We surfed for a bit, but the kite competition started getting a little hectic and I feared for our kites a little bit....some of these things are huge...made out of masses of wood and material...they would have destroyed our kites if they'd hit them...and on seeing them crash onto the beach and send people fleeing on multiple occasions we decided to call it a day.

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The festival culminated yesterday in a big parade down the main street in Sanur. We were reliably informed this would begin at 3pm but when we were still waiting at 3:30pm we moved to the local pub, "The Piccadilly", that has an open air bar adjacent to the street....the parade finally came through about 5pm, by which point we were a little tipsy, but Kim managed to snap some photo's and I think it was quite impressive.

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Today is our final day in Bali before we head to Thailand. It will be sad to leave...the people here are great and we've made friends at the hotel and also the local bar (the aforementioned "Picaddilly"!). My biggest surprise of all was how successful the kiting was (Kim constantly reminds me that it was her idea to come here and that she new the kiting would be good!). I don't believe there's many places in the world now where you can have consistent winds and still be the only ones out for most of the time.

We fly to a place call Ko Samui tomorrow, via Jakarta and Bangkok...I actually had no idea where it was until I just added it to the map....so here it is!

Oh and I haven't wanted to blag...but I'm now 2 games ahead....quite the comeback!

Posted by msmitheman 21:09 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

The Gili's

sunny 30 °C
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Monday morning our alarm went off at the stupid hour of 6am. After flashbacks that I was still at work and it had all been a dream I realized that we were in fact still in Bali and were getting picked up at 7am for our ride to Padang Bai to get the boat to the Gili Islands (well actually just the Gili's....apparently Gili means small island, so small island islands I guess doesn't really make sense!). I actually think we were up before the chicken as well...and despite my cockadoodledo attempts to wake it up I think it remained fast asleep until sunrise....little @#$(#@#$!!!!!

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

The obligatory "bemo" arrived on time and we managed to cram our bags inside and get in alongside a french couple and their three kids. It is funny how amazed people are by the fact that we appear to be traveling around the world with 2 sets of golf clubs....none more so than when we turned up at the port to get on the boat to a deserted little island in the middle of nowhere! I think it kept some people in conversation for the whole crossing....I was able to make out various comments between couples in French or Dutch that referred to "les body bags" or "crazshy englishe people"

At 8am we arrived at Pandang Bai, a small port on the west coast of Bali about an hour from Sanur. We "checked in" our bags and went off in search of breakfast as the boat didn't leave until 9am. We thought we had better getting something quick, so ordered a coffee and ham and cheese croissant....but in true Balinese style when they were finally delivered an hour later we were wolfing down the coffee and grabbing the croissants as we ran for the boat!

The "Gili Cat" is a 30 person boat...enclosed, with bench seats and three 100 horsepower engines that propels it to some 40 knots across the choppy waters between Bali and Lombok. After a particularly entertaining safety briefing, of which the only part I understood was the bit about "don't worry when the captain shouts JUMP JUMP JUMP three times we all jump at the same time and swim together" (and drown or get eaten by sharks together I heard Kim whisper to me) we were all set to go. We left on time at 9am and for the first 10 minutes enjoyed being bounced around and thrown off our seats as the captain found "full throttle" and just left it there. An hour later there was no noise coming from anyone on the boat and everyone seemed to have lost their suntan and turned a shade of green or white. It didn't help that it was also extremely hot. I think we were all relieved to finally see Lombok come into site. As we pulled into the port we could see the Gili's, which are three islands, off to the left. The boat dropped a few people off in Lombok and then took off again for the busiest of the islands Gili Trawangan.

After what was actually a very efficient crossing (if somewhat rough) and totally on time, we arrived at Gili Trawangan only to be reminded that things are never easy in this part of the world. The Gili Cat's outboard engines were "fixed" and as there was no jetty it couldn't get up to the beach. So it moored up about 20 feet from the shore. Seriously I could have probably walked in, and certain swam it in about 20 seconds. A wooden boat with retractable outboard engine was launched from the beach and pulled up alongside us, where we proceeded for the next 20 minutes to transfer all the bags from one boat to the next and then all the people who were told to sit along each side. That boat was then skillfully maneuvered (for the next 5 minutes) in a "U" turn before we set off on the 10.4 second boat journey to the beach...where people and bags were once again transfered from boat number 2 to the sand. This all probably sounds reasonable without a jetty, until you realize that the second boat, if turned lengthways was longer than the distance between the first boat and beach and could have just been used as a walkway!

We wasted no time in negotiating a ride to our intended destination, Gili Meno, which was the second island across. I say negotiated, when in fact three people offered the same price and wouldn't budge...anyway, we immediately got our own private ride for the 15 minute crossing.

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We were dumped on the beach at Gili Meno where it quickly became apparent that there really wasn't anything there. You can walk around the circumference of the island in about an hour, and across the middle in less than 15 minutes. A coral reef circles the island and there are about 10 resorts up and down the east side. In the middle there are a few locals that live there (I believe I read the population was a couple of hundred)....and that's about it. No roads, no cars, no fresh water (just bottled), a lot of cats, and a few million chickens!

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We decided it would be safe to leave the kite stuff on the beach and find somewhere to stay. After looking at a couple of places we finally decided on the grandly named "Royal Reef Resort". I'm not sure what was Royal about it, but it was 6 quite nice bungalows next to the beach. We grabbed the one right on the beach front....the photo shows it was quite basic....more gap than wall or roof, a bed with mosquito net, a salt water shower and sink, and the most useless fan I've ever encountered....but perfect for what we were after...especially as it wasn't far from where we got off the boat and I only had to haul the kite bags a short distance in 30+ degree heat.

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I haven't really got a lot to write about our time there as we did very little (this was planned!). We invested in some snorkeling gear before we went which turned out to be a good call. We snorkeled every morning all round the island when the seas were calm, but found the highlight to be off the north east side. The reef extended out for a way and then dropped off to the sea floor about 30 meters below. The coral was unfortunately mainly dead due to blast fishing and storms, but the sea life was excellent. The highlight was probably the big turtles that we swam with on a couple of occasions....but also thousands of fish and other creatures that I have no idea what they were!

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....oh and the jellyfish....Kim pointed this out the moment she put her head under the water for the first time....I tried to convince her that they weren't jellyfish, but the more there were the less convincing my argument became. She got stung a few times, but then took to wearing her rash guard and kite pants to snorkel in (see photo of her kiting in last blog entry!). This pretty much restricted stings to hands, although she did get a nasty one on the arm the first day, I'll give her that.

I did not have kite pants.....and got stung lots. I also read in the guide book that July and August is the season for the "Portuguese Man O War" (look it up, it's savage!) to be found in these parts. I'm pretty convinced that's what got me on multiple occasions.....Kim is less convinced and keeps telling me to get over it!

We spent four nights there and it was excellent....so quiet (are we getting old?)...apart from the chickens....why is it that there are so many but you can't get decent chicken to eat anywhere?

As we had to get back to Gili Trawangan to pick up the boat we decided to head there a day early and spend the night there. We negotiated a boat ride with the hotel owner to get over there. The waves were big that morning though and he couldn't get the boat up to the front of the hotel and had to dock on the west coast. There was no way I was carrying the kite bags round there, so to Kim's dismay we used one of the pony and carts that are the standard form of transport on the island. Little ponies pulling wooden 2 wheel carts. I have to admit they don't look very well cared for, all skin and bones, which is a little sad....and I did feel a little bit bad when we loaded two 50 pound kite bags, kim, me, the driver, the hotel owner and a girl who was hitching a lift over to snorkel on the other side, onto the back of the tiny cart....I also have to admit I had the camera poised and ready as I was convinced the pony was going straight up in the air with the weight we had on the cart at the back. I guess thankfully this didn't happen and somehow we all made it to the boat launch and across to Trawangan.

Trawangan is a nightmare. It has gained a reputation as a "party island" but is basically a big dusty rubbish dump full of drunk (or worse) people. It was not a nice place and we pretty much locked ourselves in the hotel room and watched movies until the boat left the next morning.

The return journey was a mirror of the outward leg (including ridiculous beach to boat transfer) but on time, slightly less bumpy and all went smoothly. We are back in Sanur, once again at the great "Little Pond Homestay"....highly recommended if you're ever here! 2 weeks before we go say goodbye to Bali and head to Thailand! The wind forecast is good from Monday onwards.

Posted by msmitheman 00:58 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

...Kiting Sanur Continued...

...a request for more...

sunny 26 °C
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...a request for "technical" kiting info....and video of Kim..

me - 12m Naish Helix on a custom made 135cm Amundson directional board
Kim - 9m Naish Shockwave on a Lightwave 132cm Freestyle board

wind - averaging 12 to 14 knots

I have to admit I haven't been too good at taking photo's and video, all my shots have come out terrible...however here's a brief clip of Kim riding with me filming from the water and also from the kite cam.

Posted by msmitheman 21:22 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Kitesurfing Sanur

....and the hidden tiles!

sunny 28 °C
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It's been a strong comeback over the last few days....two 300+ scores, multiple 7 letter words!!! Oh, and as I was making the bed the other day, what did I find, but an "A" under Kim's pillow....got me thinking of all the words I could have made, had I had an extra "A"!!!!

This may be a boring post for most as since we got back from Singapore the wind has been consistent and the tide high, so we've been getting a lot of kiting in....but I thought I'd write an entry about it!

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The winds got stronger and stronger all week. The first couple of days were pretty light, but enough to get practice runs in for Kim and for me to mess about. Later in the week, it was perfect.

First the bad...I did have a close call that woke me up and made me be a bit more careful. I have been trying to work on some new tricks that require unhooking from the harness and taking all the weight on the arms and bar while performing jumps and spins.

When it goes wrong (quite often at the moment) it goes wrong pretty spectacularly! This isn't a problem if you're far from shore as you're still attached to the kite by a long leash meaning you maybe get dragged around a bit in the water and end up with a lot of water in your nasal passages, but that's about it! However on one run, I cut it too fine, too close to shore....unhooked, realized I was way overpowered, but couldn't let go as the kite was almost over the beach....panicking a bit, I just pulled the bar in the opposite direction to the beach and as the kite went over the top to point out to sea, I shot up about 20 feet in the air....at which point I couldn't hold on any longer and let go of the bar...and plummeted 20 feet in the opposite direction...down...into about a foot of water. I managed to engage the "spread out as wide as possible and land flat" pose, slapping down onto the water without hitting the bottom....at which point the kite slapped down about a foot in front of me.

I grabbed the kite and walked up onto the beach, with my best "I meant to do that" face on....no harm done...and a lesson learnt not to try things to close to shore! I have since been improving!

Anyway, here's some random video of how not to do a trick....

...and here's a slightly more successful version....

Kim is getting better and better every outing and progressing very quickly....I even saw an attempt at a transition the other day (turning around without flopping down into the water and starting again), which she almost pulled off....next time I'm sure. She manages to get her fair share of bumps and scrapes and drags through the water along the way, but never the less seems to be enjoying it judging by the laughing and shrieking that can be heard from the shore!

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I kited out beyond the reef yesterday. It's a little sketchy as it's very shallow and you have to negotiate your way through the coral and rocks and sometimes huge breaking waves, but once you're through those it's fine. I had spent some time sitting on the beach at low tide (when there's no water), working out where the big rocks were, after my last mishap of hitting one. Once you're through the breakers, the waters fairly calm, a little choppy, but that's it. It's then possible to get some scary wave rides back in over the reef....not a place to mess up and fall!

in the lagoon on the inside the water is so flat and smooth....it's fun just getting up so much speed and bombing along up and down the coast taking in the view.

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We have seen 3 or 4 other kites out this last week, although way south of where we are...I suspect the odd holiday maker. One young girl came over to us the other day to see if she could kite with us for a while....she was there with her non kiting friend for a couple of days. Turns out Hayling Island is her regular spot....small world and sport (for those that don't know, this is where I learnt in the UK). There are quite a few windsurfers out (when I say quite a few, maybe 6 or 7!)...looks like local kids, maybe 10 or 11 years old, who rip back and forth on the oldest gear I can remember. They're very good though. Other than those, the odd outrigger canoe and the 2 terrible jet ski's that get rented out for 30 dollars for 15 minutes (Kim and I are working on ways of disabling them without anyone being able to fix them), we have the whole area to ourselves.

On Monday we up and leave for the Gili Islands for 5 nights. These are 3 small islands off the coast of Lombok (the next major island over), which involve a 2 hour boat journey and island hop to get to. We have picked Gili Meno, the smallest of the 3 and supposedly the quietest....the guide book informs me you can walk around the coast of it in less than an hour and that it's extremely quiet with nothing to do but lay on the beach, snorkel and....well that's it. We thought as it is low tide again next week, we were due a vacation. "Extremely quiet...", well I hope so, but I don't believe that there won't be a cockerel or rooster waking us up at 6am every morning as there seems to have been at every other place we've stayed! It will also be nice to (hopefully) get away from the cries of "transport?", "massage?" or "you looky in my shop?" every time you walk down the street!

Posted by msmitheman 03:43 Archived in Indonesia Comments (3)

Answering My Critics...

...and being unable to reason when there is no reason!!

sunny 28 °C
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Seems some are criticizing my posture on the horse without the full story!!

First off, I was having problems with my equipment...well the horses equipment, specifically the stirrups, which were a good foot too short. For the equestrians amongst you, you'll understand that this makes it fairly difficult to sink into the saddle and grip at the same time. The end result being a rather uncomfortable seating position.

Secondly I had been wrestling the animal for some time and yes I was a little saddle sore.

Thirdly (and the main reason), was the guy taking the photo had tried three times and cut one or other of our heads off (be it the horses, Kim's or mine) of the picture. I was unable to manoeuvre my animal into position for the picture (I think he was busy plotting his next attack and was ignoring me), so I engaged the "lean into position" approach to try and at least get me or Kim into the shot. Of course that was the time the guy taking the picture decided it would be more successful to zoom out therefore making me look like I'm about to fall off the back.

...I hope this clears things up!

We are back in Bali in the same room and hotel. The trip to Singapore was fun. We went on the Singapore Flyer on the last day. A big Ferris Wheel...supposedly the biggest in the work, although I thought the London Eye held that honor! Oh well...managed to get a good view of the city, which appears to be one big building site these days. There is so much construction going on.

An uneventful trip back until it came to getting a taxi back to the hotel (the second part of my blog entry title!). I've decided that 99% of the people you meet in Bali are just trying to rip you off, and it really does get quite tiring. Proven once again when we got to the taxi desk at the airport. You go and prepay the taxi at a desk which has set rates to different towns on the island. The published rate to Sanur being 95,000 Rupiah.

We are traveling with 2 fairly big kite bags, about 5 foot long, and they won't fit in the boot (trunk for you americans) of a car. We have got pretty proficient at getting around with them though, the best way being to put the front passenger seat down and stack them front to back, with me and Kim squeezing in behind the driver. I've tended, however, to point them out when getting a car, just incase this isn't possible to do (seat doesn't go back, partition in the cab etc).

Well I pointed them out to the guys behind the taxi desk and immediately the price went up to 150,000 Rupiah. The argument ensued...it caused quite a scene...

I asked them whether that was because we were getting a bigger car?
No, they don't have bigger cars.
So why more money?
Because you have 2 big bags.
But we're getting the same car that we'd get if we didn't have 2 big bags?
Yes.
Then why is it more money?
Because you have 2 big bags?
But it's the same car!
Yes.
So that's not fair!
95,000 Rupiah isn't fair for 2 big bags.
But it's no different!
So how much if I just take one big bag?
[blank looks, and a lot of discussion]..still 150,000 Rupiah!
So 1 big bag is the same price as 2 big bags?
Yes sir.
So what if I had 3, I've got another one waiting round the corner? [calculator comes out]...

Kim was having her own argument with one of the other guys while this was going on. From what I could hear it was something along the lines of...we'd only payed 95,000 last time we were here....the guys point was that they had put a new sign up now with the advertised rates (which indeed they had). Kim pointed out that on the new sign it said 95,000 to Sanur....he pointed out that that was without 2 big bags!

It was at this point I threw three 50,000 Rupiah notes at the guy behind the counter and stormed off. Unfortunately there are no other transport options at the airport, so we didn't really have a choice.

...once again when we were in the cab, it dawned on me that the whole thing had been over the equivalent of a 15 dollar cab ride instead of 10 dollars...but it's the principle of the thing!

Sunny still in Sanur! We went to the beach with the kites this morning, but the wind was a little light. Still we both got a couple of runs and Kim got going upwind for the first time (which for those that don't know, means a lot less walking back up the beach!). Forecast is better for tomorrow.

Posted by msmitheman 01:06 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Still in Bali

...and losing miserably 26 - 19 at Scrabble...

sunny 26 °C
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...my losing streak started when the 7 letter word "quieted" was played on a triple word score...."quieted"?????...yes the american way of saying "quietened"...grrrrr

Bali continues to be great. We have had consistent winds for kiting. It tends to be a few days on and then a few days off as it's not possible to kite at low tide on the beach side of the reef...no water. I can't believe that no one else kites here as the winds have been so consistent, but I'm not complaining, I'd rather we had the beach & water to ourselves.

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A week or so ago we moved accommodation. The other place was fine apart from the screaming kids that woke us up without fail at 6am every morning. It became too much. We moved further south to the "little pond homestay", a small place (maybe 10 rooms) centered around an even smaller swimming pool (if I stretch out I can reach all 4 ends!). It is actually much nicer, cleaner and quieter than the other place, despite no AC (just a fan) and no hot water. It has wireless internet (sometimes) and is half the price (all of 9 dollars for both of us).

A few weeks ago, we considered moving location for a while as we'd heard of some other potential kiting spots, Nusa Dua and further south of Sanur. We decided to rent a car for a couple of days to check them out. Like everything in this place the hardest part of the car rental process is actually negotiating the price. I'm sure I ended up paying over the odds, as I went to one of the big hotels to rent it...I wanted to be sure I was properly insured etc and it was legit. It still involved a good amount of time haggling...I find it quite draining.

Anyway we used the car to check out the two spots. Nusa Dua is nice, mostly expensive hotels, but a few cheapies. However the beach and more importantly the water seems to have been overrun by jetskis. Loads of them, bombing back and forth like a busy highway...if the noise wasn't bad enough, I didn't like our chances of not being hit on kites, so we quickly ruled that one off the list. The second place south of Sanur was ok, with 2 or 3 other kiters out, but really not worth moving for as it still has the "no water" at low tide problem. In the end we decided on the move of accommodation in Sanur instead, but it was fun checking out different places.

Driving in Bali isn't as bad as the guide books would have you believe. As they drive on the left it meant I got the honors. I quickly worked out that there are only 3 rules of the road:

1. concentrate solely on the area out the front windscreen....do NOT look in your mirrors, preferably remove them if you can so you don't sneak a look...trust me you don't want to see what's going on behind.

2. do not hit anything that's in front of you...even if it's a car pulling out from a side road (remember, they won't stop and look as they're concentrating on what's in front of them).

3. use your horn as much as possible

...if you stick to those rules then it seems to be fine.

Our visas ran out in Bali this week. We decided we'd like to spend another month there, but you have to leave the country to renew the visa. So with that in mind, we decided to take a vacation and booked a return trip to Singapore for a couple of nights! I booked flights on "ValueAir"...yes I agree not a great name for an airline, but cheap and actually not bad at all. All the years of work travel meant I could book a fairly decent hotel on points in Singapore. We have spoilt ourselves with some great food whilst we're here...particularly the Japanese meal we had last night.

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We return back to Bali tomorrow night. I have updated the horse riding entry with some photo's if you want to look back!

Posted by msmitheman 23:11 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

Horse Riding

sunny 28 °C
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Yesterday we booked a 2 hour horse ride at the Umalas stables north of Seminyak on the west coast of Bali.

We were picked up in a very nice air conditioned car from our hotel at 2:30pm (made a change to the Bemo) and driven out to the stables.

It was a great ride through the Rice Paddy's and then out onto the Beach. That whole coast is a lovely wide sandy beach with crashing surf on it....particularly wild yesterday....and the first time we'd seen some other kitesurfers out on that coast.

The stables were lovely....horses well looked after....they were not at all busy, looked like we were the only ones that had been there that day...or maybe that week or month!

however....

In hindsight maybe telling them that we were expert riders who have ridden all our lives wasn't the best of ideas! The hope was that they wouldn't put us on donkey's but I think they took the opportunity to bring out a couple of their horses with "attitude" problems to give them a bit of a run.

We set off with 2 Balinese guides....Abdul and I never did quite catch the name of the other one. They led us down the streets of Umalas (complete with honking cars, mopeds and the mass of Bali dogs running about). Horses seemed well behaved enough. Then we cut through the paddy fields and next thing we were crossing a river on our way to the beach.

It was on the beach that I realized we may have problems! Both horses seemed solely intent on getting us off their backs...although each with their own unique way of doing it!

Kim's horse took the approach of having 2 gears....stop and gallop. It would either just stand there pooing or it would take off down the beach at a gallop whilst employing a tactic of ducking and swerving from side to side. Thankfully Kim appears to be a competant rider and I have to say she did a great job of keeping it heading in generally the right direction and not falling off.

Mine employed a slightly sneakier tactic....on our first canter on the beach it was great...kept its head up and I was able to steer and control the speed. Once it had made me complacent it then decided that it would be much easier if I wasn't on its back. It would take off nicely in a canter, getting quicker and quicker and then just when I was getting comfortable, it would stop dead...front hooves splayed out in front, dug into the sand...head down, hind quarters in the air. Just as I would be untangling myself from round its neck, it would bolt upright and take off again throwing me to the back.

Thankfully neither of us came off, and the guides seemed to be enjoying the show.

It was really good fun though, and by the end we both had them under some sort of control. Neither of us can move this morning....my backside is raw, my back is aching and my calves and thighs are swollen to twice their size. We're taking a day off kiting!

After the ride we got the driver to take us to Kuta for dinner, however on the way he convinced us there was really nice fish restaurants in Jimbaran just further south from Kuta, and one in particular had particulary good food and a great view of the sunset. Realizing it was a scam and he was on a commission we thought what the hell, we'd go anyway.

Jimbaran Bay is a lovely spot overlooking the airport runway (not as bad as it sounds).....the beach has been taken over by restaurants sprawling out onto the sand. It is clearly a tourist trap but not in too bad of a way. I have to say the food was excellent if somewhat pricier than other places we've been eating. Kim went inside to pick dinner and the next thing I knew we had a huge red snapper and lobster being delivered to our table.....really yummy and probably one of the best meals we've had since hitting the road.

A cab ride back to Sanur saw us in bed asleep (ok I was, don't know about Kim) by 9:00pm

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Posted by msmitheman 20:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Don't take Travel Scrabble on your trip...

...and forget to bring a dictionary...

sunny 28 °C
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...and agree to play using American spelling with a American biochemist....

Unbelievably I think the score is 8 all....despite the mass of Z words and the unknown words that get explained away as "oh thats a medical term"!!!!!

Still in Bali and enjoying the beach life. There has pretty much been wind everday although we've become a little snobbish in picking our conditions. Kim is up and riding and getting more confident by the day. She did a big downwinder from up the beach to right outside our hotel last week. I repeated the trip on my own on Friday, at low tide, that was, how shall I say, not my most spectacular moments on a kiteboard!

I decided I was going to brave the head high waves on the reef as they were looking pretty small compared to usual. I surfed one sucessfully despite it being painfully shallow...as I was coming down the wave I could see rocks on the reef sticking out the water. I returned back towards the shore for another run, and on my way out I was sensing I was only kiting in about 5 inches of water (no exaggeration).

The rest all happened in slow motion really....as I was approaching the wave on the way back out, I saw a big rock outcrop almost poking out of the water but stupidly I thought I could ride over it (yes, I know, not around but over)...well the next thing I know, I thumped straight into it with the side of the board. For a split second I just seemed to be stood there, but then obviously the kite powered up and pulled me, minus board, over the top.

Dragging in 6 inches of water without touching the bottom is tough, but somehow I managed to do it, but the waves were breaking over me and pushing me towards shore. I could see my board perched ontop of the rock outcrop and thought there was no way I could get back to it (and expected it to have a huge hole in it anyway!). Luckily a big wave came through and knocked it off and I was able to retrieve it. Unbelievably very little damage.

On returning to the shore right outside the hotel, I thought I may be able to get away with no one knowing, until I remembered that I was videoing the event from a camera mounted on my kite. I have to say its quite a good bit of footage that will be making our "Travel & Kiting in SE Asia" DVD that we are putting together.....(Yep guess what you're all getting for Xmas this year!!!!!!)

Other than kiting we are planning a horse ride (this week) and possibly a climb of the big(ish) mountain/volcano here.

We continue to stay in the Ananda hotel on the beach in Sanur. It's a great spot and has a fabulous restaurant where we are starting to put the weight back on that we lost in Vietnam!

I am getting slightly irritated with all the people trying to sell you things/services the moment you leave the front door. I have started taking a sarcastic approach to this (yes I know, surprise surprise!!!). A typical encounter happened the other day...

Bali chap (obviously a taxi driver): 50% off, 50% off, 50% off
Mike: Off what????
Bail chap: off the price!
Mike: The price of what?
Bali chap: my service!
Mike: ohhhh great! 50% off...really?
Bali chap: yes, 50% off, 50% off!
Mike: off what?
Bali chap: the price!
...I kept this going for a good few cycles, until he got it and started shouting transport, transport, transport....obviously we didn't need to go anywhere!

When you do go somewhere it seems to be in what they call a "Bemo". As far as I can gather, this is a small green, beaten up mini bus with no doors, propelled by a wound up elastic band, driven by a slightly insane Balinese man, who will explain to you that you are his first customer in a week so he should charge you a silly price so he can feed his family this month! I find I have to stop myself haggling sometimes when I can see Kim getting irritated by the fact that I'm arguing over 50 cents...I think it may have gone to far the other night, when we went drinking and clubbing in Kuta (a whole other blog entry at some time!)...we were heading back to our hotel at 5am (they seem to party late here!)...and I made us walk the whole way as the taxi driver man was trying to rip us off...in hindsight he only wanted 2 dollars...and it would have saved us a half hour walk....oops

Posted by msmitheman 21:10 Archived in Indonesia Comments (2)

Kiting & Massage

sunny 28 °C
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Finally settled in Bali and there's sun, good food, and wind!!!!

2 days in a row...supposedly driven by typhoons in the Philippines...glad we're not there at the moment, as it sounds bad! Anyway its meant we had 2 days of very consistent strong wind.

The kiting setup here is that there isn't one! We were the only ones out, which was great. The beach is not very wide but a short walk upwind there's a private beach outside one of the big hotels that no one seems to have a problem us using, and its empty. There is a big series of reefs offshore that creates pretty huge waves, and the inside is almost totally flat and anything from knee deep to about my height. Very much as I remember Boracay in the Philippines.

...and the good news...it seemed to all come together for Kim finally with the conditions, board and kite skills and she managed to get going fairly consistently!

After two energetic days on the water we decided to treat ourselves to a traditional Balanese massage in one of the expensive hotels. A huge Spa complex by the beach. We were shown into this little hut that had 2 massage tables in and handed 2 rolls of what looked like 2 shower caps and told to get changed..after Kim figured the cap wasn't going to fit on her head, we worked out that they were in fact 2 sets of paper underpants....not a lot to them! Anyway in the spirit of things we got changed (me making a special effort to make sure things were all tucked in!....I'm glad Kim didn't have a camera with her!)...and waited patiently.

Nelly and Dina came in (2 tiny Balanese women) and told us to sit in front of 2 bowls of water where they proceeded to wash our feet (poor women!)....of course mine didn't fit in the bowl which caused much amusement to everyone else...including Kim.

Next we layed face down on the tables....I needn't have worried about the underpants as it seemed the first thing she did was pull them down...however we then proceeded to be pummeled and beaten for an hour. I suspect that once we were face down on the table, Nelly and Dina swapped places with 2 burly Balanese chaps, as it was quite the beating, but I can't be sure as when I was rolled over they were back again!

I joke a little, it did actually feel pretty good and after a nice cup of tea (included) I felt it was money well spent!

Today we've got up to sun and no wind.....I think we're both secretly relieved...a relaxing day doing nothing is in order.

Posted by msmitheman 20:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (3)

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