Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Toilets in Indonesia

There are some things I wish I knew before coming to Indonesia, so that I would have been better prepared.  Instead, I was confused and had to ask for help, which was an awkward situation in the ladies room.  I want to share this with you, so you'll be better prepared if you plan to visit.  Then, you won't be surprised and will know exactly what to do.

Although there are western toilets, there are also "squatting" type toilets.  These are common in many Asian countries.

Here's the bathroom from the guest room I had stayed at when I first arrived.  

I am familiar with the non-western toilets because of my experience in Japan, but I could not figure out how to flush the toilets in Indonesia and was confused by the large tub of water.  I also learned that you have to face a certain direction (the door) when using the toilet because if not, you won't have enough space.  You'll know what I mean when you get here!

Here's what you need to do to flush...
There's a large tub of water.  Use the bucket and scoop water to use for the toilet.  Pour the water into the toilet, so that it will flush.

If there's no faucet to wash your hands, you can use the bucket and pour water onto your hands to clean them.  I would recommend carrying hand sanitizer.

Carry tissue with you also because toilet paper isn't always available.  Many people use sprayer hoses to clean themselves, so there may not be toilet paper available.

Cooking Schools Ubud - Satri's Warung

While in Bali, I discovered many interesting things about Balinese culture, especially food.  I set out to study Balinese food and attended a couple of cooking schools, while I also had a chance to interview a couple of Balinese individuals too. 

The first cooking school I went to is called "Satri's Warung."  It costs approximately $15.00 USD (or RP 150,000) for a single class.  The class starts and 11:00 a.m. and you can expect to be finished in an hour or two.

At first, it was a little confusing finding Satri's Warung. There was a sign outside pointing to her restaurant.  You have to walk through an alley with paintings hung all over the walls. Then, I noticed I walked into a housing complex.  There was laundry on people's porches and motorbikes parked outside. A friend and I were confused for a second until a man pointed us in the right direction.

Satri was really sweet.  An older Balinese woman, she has had a restaurant for nearly 22 years.  Although she requires a minimum of 2 people per class, she allowed me to take a class with her by myself because I am a student.  I paid my deposit and began class the following day.

Most cooking schools, I learned, are demonstration based.  I watched Satri cook several Balinese foods and I had a chance to try using a pestle and mortar.

She mentioned how Balinese food is spicy and she wasn't kidding!  I loved the food, but she wasn't lying when she said it was hot.  After my meal, she demonstrated how to make Banana Pudding.  When I thought I couldn't eat any more, there was one more dish to top off the meal.

I learned a lot about Satri and I'm glad to have taken a class at Satri's Warung.  It was a quick guide to Balinese cooking and I received a small recipe book too.

If you are interested in a more detailed class with a market tour, however, I would recommend studying elsewhere.  Satri's Warung seemed to be more of a "quick" learning guide to Balinese food.  I didn't learn too much background information about Balinese food, but I did have an incredible lunch for a good price and a quick demonstration on how to prepare Balinese food too.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monkey Forest Sanctuary - Ubud, Bali

Afterw finding a hotel in Ubud, I walked hours throughout the town, exploring the many restaurants, stores, and other fascinating attractions in the area.  I have no idea how I walked as many hours as I did, but I now know that it's humanly possible to walk from 10:00 a.m. until almost 9:00 p.m. with breaks in between.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Ubud included "Monkey Forest Sanctuary."  The first time I went to the monkey forest, I happened to randomly find it because I had been walking throughout the town.  I was exhausted from all the walking, but I decided I would check the park out.  I almost walked in without paying, but turned around after I noticed a ticket booth as I passed by.

I definitely wasn't prepared to enter the park and I should have known that monkeys like to jump on people and steal your things.  Fortunately, I was lucky because it didn't happen to me.

I paid RP 20,000 ($2.00 USD) to get into the park.  Upon entering the park, I noticed cute monkeys everywhere!  It was really fascinating and I would have wanted to feed them if I wasn't so scared.  I noticed that if you feed the monkeys, they'll want more and will start tugging on you pants or shirt to get your attention.

While walking in the park, I heard a screeching sound, but I ignored it.  I thought, "I wonder what that was?" I was on the phone, walking around with my camera and a large bag when I started to see monkeys fighting.  It seems like the monkeys explode with energy out of nowhere, which makes you laugh, but at the same time freaks you out. I also saw a monkey running with a water bottle and another jump on a man who had bananas. After that, I decided it might be better to continue my phone call outside of the park and return to the monkey forest another day.

As I was leaving the park, a young lady started screaming.  A monkey must have jumped on her or might have tried to grab her bag.  When you are at monkey forest, you may hear quite a few people scream because the monkeys, especially the big one's, like to jump or steal your things.

I had a really good time at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.  There are a ton of cute monkeys there.  Just watch out for your stuff!  If you are in Ubud, don't miss monkey forest because it's worth your time.  How often do you get to see monkeys?  The ones in Ubud are also much more tame than in other regions too.

I have many more monkey photos that I'll have to share with you all.  One of the photos I took is now a favorite!

If you do visit the monkey forest, have a great time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Homestay Accomodations in Ubud

After staying the night in Kuta, I caught a bus to Ubud with some friends who were also planning to study in the region.  Ubud, an artsy town full of Balinese culture, is a place I'll definitely return to again in the future. 

When I first got off the bus, it felt chaotic.  I had to grab my heavy bag from the bus and once I exited, I noticed there were a lot of hustlers wanting you to stay at their "hotel". It was surreal.

As I was walking, over and over again people would ask, "Do you have a hotel?" If you answer yes, the next question they ask is, "What hotel are you staying at?" to check.  It was the strangest feeling ever. I really needed a hotel, but I wasn't sure who to trust since in Hawaii, it's uncommon for people to offer you a place to stay.  But in Ubud, I quickly learned, it's common practice and it's easy to find a clean, safe place to stay even if you are traveling alone. 

Although I refused many offers out of paranoia, I was eventually convinced.  As I was waiting for a taxi, an older gentleman asked if I had a place to stay since he had a room available at his homestay accommodation.  It wouldn't hurt to look, I thought to myself.  The first thing that caught my attention was the temple and it looked like a safe enough area.

Then, we walked through the area and up two long stairs to find a large room with a beautiful view of the neighborhood.

I had planned to find a hotel I saw online instead to be safe, but I decided to take a look at the room being offered first and I'm glad I did.  It was nice and only about $10.00 US a night.  It was a great deal and the view from my room was incredible.  I was still a bit unsure and paranoid since it's not normal for people to offer you a room, but I decided I would stay because I felt comfortable with the location.  There were many foreigners living in the surrounding area too, as well as locals.

Here's my lovely room ...

I'm glad I chose a home stay accommodation because it truly was a great deal.  Although I could barely find a place for $40.00 US online, I was able to find a clean and comfortable room for only $10.00 US at a homestay.  When I return to Ubud, I will choose a homestay accommodation again. 

Of course, a homestay isn't a luxurious resort for those of you who need more "comfort."  I'm not a high maintenance girl though, so staying at a homestay was perfect.  I had a bed to sleep on and hot water.  It may take 10 minutes to get hot water, but it was worth it.  In the mornings, I also had breakfast readily available.  Fresh fruit, two pieces of toast, and hot tea.  What else could I ask for?

Try a homestay sometime!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Night in Kuta - Bali

During the weekend, I was more than excited to fly to Bali for a school project. I spent a night in Kuta, where I had the chance to see a part of Indonesia that many people dream of visiting.  It's considered "South East Asia's paradise," and many surfers from around the world love coming here. It's also a popular vacation spot for many Australians too.

After landing in Kuta, the first thing we did was find a taxi outside of the airport to save money.  Then, we started looking for a reasonable hotel.  Tune Hotels, known for their clean, comfortable, yet affordable rooms cost us only $26.00 for the night.  It was nice to be able to take a nice, warm shower and sleep in their ultra soft bed. 

After finding a hotel, we went to a restaurant called Zanzabar.  We enjoyed some pizza and conversation among friends. It was nice being in Kuta.

After having a nice dinner with friends, we all decided to go walking on the beach.  I couldn’t see the ocean because it was too dark outside, but I could feel the intensity of it.  In the morning, I wanted to return, so that I could experience Kuta during the day and finally get a glimpse of the ocean.  The waves were insane.  I wouldn’t recommend swimming there unless you are experienced because there are three breaks and the waves look so intense!  But then again, it could have just been the day that I happened to end up in Kuta. On other days, maybe it's much more mellow.  The water isn’t crystal clear either but looks almost grayish.  The beach looked amazing though!

If you are interested in surfing, there are some schools.  I was surprised to see a Quick Silver school.  But looking at the waves, you would have to be a brave first time surfer to get into the water.

It was nice spending a day in Kuta, but it was time to pack my bags for Ubud.  I wish I could have seen more of Kuta since one day isn't enough to truly enjoy a place.  Kuta was a busy, crowded town full of tourists and I wasn't too sure if it was the place for me, but I would like to return to explore the area.  I am sure there's a ton to see there.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A $4.00 A Night Hotel in Indonesia

It's been a while since I've been able to get to a computer.  Last week Friday, a couple of friends and I traveled by van to Yogyakarta and stayed at a $4.00 hotel for the night.  It was an interesting experience i'll never forget.

When I first walked into the room, I thought to myself, "it looks like prison."  It was simple inside without any adornment.  There was a single sheet on the bed and a pillow.  We added a third bed, so that three of us could fit into a room.

Surprisingly, in the bathroom, there was a western toilet.  For the shower, a single faucet, bucket and ladle to bathe from.  I showered under the cold faucet instead.  There was no toilet paper.  Thankfully, I brought

Here's my shower ... 

After a long night, I returned to the hotel, ready to sleep.  When I turned, I saw a cockroach and a worm near my bed.  I tried to sleep, but I couldn't.  Luckily, I was able to get the roach out of my room, so I could sleep comfortably.  I was able to sleep afterward, but I woke up rather early in the morning.  

When I looked out the window, I noticed birds eating my nasi goreng (fried rice).  It was nice of the hotel staff to offer us food for breakfast, but watch out for the birds.  They know when it's time for breakfast.

If you want to save money, you may want to check similar hotels out because you'll save a ton.  There are cheap hotels around.  Then again, you may want to pay a little more for extra comfort too.  It's really up to you.  I definitely like the extra comfort, but it was nice to stay at a cheap place to save money. 

I'll have to add more pictures once I can find another internet connection...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Amazing Gunung Bromo

The weekend was full of madness and chaos, but I had a blast.  We rode a bus for 11 hours to Mt. Bromo to catch a sunrise and to view the crater thereafter.  It was an amazing trip I'll never forget.  I'm glad I survived the ride.

For 11 hours, we road a tourist bus to Mt. Bromo.  We were supposed to arrive at midnight, but ended up in the area at 0300 a.m. instead.  The madness immediately began as soon as we stepped off the bus.

Once the bus stopped, we were confused about where we were going and if we should grab our bags.  It was total chaos. We were swarmed by nearly 10 men selling hats and mittens once we stepped off the bus.  I felt like I was in Kopeng all over again.  I grabbed my bag and immediately got into the second bus, a mini van.  Although I believe only 10 should have fit into the bus, 18 people later, we were crammed into an extremely tight and uncomfortable van, driving up windy roads for the next 20 minutes.  There was traffic and we barely had time to drop off our bags for the 5:15 a.m. sunset.

It felt like forever in the van, as the driver quickly sped up the mountain at terrifying speeds.  My friend was crammed in the van so bad that she wasn't even on the seat,  but out of exhaustion she ended up sleeping on my bag.  I'm glad she could fall asleep because I sure couldn't.  I was too afraid to sleep. My arm started to go numb because of the bags on my lap and I wondered when we would finally reach the hotel.

Thank God I never brought my laptop because we couldn't make it to our rooms by the time we reached the hotel.  Instead, we tossed our bags into a large room at the hotel and changed quickly before quickly rushing into our next vehicle: a jeep.

The last 20 minutes had already been an insane experience, but nothing could compare to the jeep ride up the steep mountain on unpaved roads.  There's a dream I oftentimes have of having to travel up a steep cliff side in a car and it reminded me of it.  It was dark outside and there was fog everywhere, so it was difficult to see the road.  There were other jeeps trying to surpass us and sometimes, it felt like our jeep would stall out on the mountainside.

With a limited amount of time, I could only think of running up to the peak of the mountain to watch the sunset, but realized it was a bad idea because of the altitude.  There were jeeps and ojeks (motorcycle transportation) everywhere.  Over and over again, ojek driver's asked if I needed a ride. I  almost got hit by an ojek and a jeep in the dark, chaotic night.  I wasn't the only one.  It was pure insanity.

After walking some distance, we finally reached our destination.  We were ready to witness an incredible sunrise!  Unfortunately, the clouds covered the sun and after sometime, we decided to leave.  It was time to move on.  It was, however, an awesome experience to be there with people from around the world!

We headed back to our jeep to our next destination.  It turns out that the sunset wasn't at Mt. Bromo!  We were now heading to Mt. Bromo to see the caldera.  I had a chance to ride a horse and walk alongside the crater.  It was beautiful and an amazing experience.

My friend bargained to get us cheaper rides on the horse, so we ended up paying 25,000 which is equivalent to about $2.50.  But I felt sad for the old man who walked the horse up the mountain with me, so I gave him a little extra.  The horse was small and I know the old man works hard.  Every time someone gets on his horse, he walks up the mountain too.

After climbing the 205 steps needed to reach the caldera, the view was spectacular and completely worth the trek up the mountain.  Mt. Bromo is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life.  I felt as if I was on another planet.

Since we didn't have much time to spare, we had to quickly head back to the hotel.  But we had a small dilemma, as the jeep would not start.  Thankfully, the driver got the jeep to move after sometime!

Once we arrived at the hotel, it was yet another interesting experience ....


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