Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I'll Happy Everyday Because You Make Me Fun

I cannot make up these things and I am pretty sure you cannot either. But some smart and educated people who already speak one language well would try to translate their feelings in English and come up with things like this: "I'll happy everyday because you make me fun".

This particular one is the cover of a drawing book this little young man brought to Gili Meno. He came with his family, I came with mine, we are all together here, a party of twelve. People get scared when they see us. Women, fear in their eyes, asked me on the boat if they are all mine. Eight children? No, just some of them.
I could have tried for ever to get all the children to look at me at once


I was a little bit scared of coming to Bali. After two months in the first world it takes a little adjustment to be back in Asia and I had no idea how it would go. It went well. There are hordes of tourists and mobs of touts, but they mind their own business and I mind mine.

There is a book, you might have heard about it. "Eat, Pray, Love" - I cannot believe that you read it and that you actually loved it. It is about this rich spoiled New Yorker who gets two hundred thousand dollars to go and spend four month each in Italy to eat, in India to pray and in Bali to love. She does it. She writes a book about it and they make a movie with Julia Roberts in it. We don't know how much money she has left in the end, she made a few millions from the book, it doesn't matter for our story. What matters is that my daughter Maria, little interest that she had in planning this trip, read the book and wanted to go to Bali. It might also matter, that Liz Gilbert had to write another book after that, "Committed", which happens to be the best book I ever read. It made Bali and Ubud familiar names in our household. And back to "Eat, Pray, Love" it changed the history of long term travel and it changed Bali. She also spent a few days with her future husband on Gili Meno, and surprise-surprise, we'll go there too. It is a tiny speck of land on the side of the island of Lombok, sandwiched between the bigger sister islands of Gili Air and Gili Trawangan. There are 300 people living here, mostly serving tourists who come for a few days to get away from everything. There is a track in the sand around the island, used by people, some bicycles and carts pulled by little horses. There is no source of water. There are some decent beaches, some coral reefs. Not much. That's the attraction.

We spent the first few days in Kuta or maybe Légian; is hard to tell what's the difference. It is the busy touristic region of Bali where you don't want to be. We rented a house on Airbnb, from this American guy who moved here a couple of years ago and has his own fashion line and manufactures clothes and slippers in Bali. We spent a morning together talking about stuff, we learned a bit about life on the island and the challenge and fun of having a business here.
The waves on Légian

Our residential complex in Kuna - the smoke is for the mosquitos
The house has two levels, it could use some cleaning and better kitchen facilities, but we realized after a bit that the Australian standards should not be applied here. The "private pool" turns out that it is private for the whole complex - we didn't have a chance to use it anyhow. We had to barricade the entrance to the yard to keep two dogs out of the place, the dogs were right, it was their home before we came. The beach was far and very crowded in the late afternoon, one day we had a nice walk. We thought of returning for a surf lesson for Ioan, but didn't have a chance yet. Ileana cooked some pasta and noodles, but for two evenings we went out to eat where the locals do and had what they had: rotisserie chicken and hamburgers, kebabs and hotdogs.
Dinner
We moved after that to CandiDasa, in East Bali. I booked the last two rooms on booking.com but when we get there, we are the only tourists. Everyone wants to be a guide and take us places but we spend the time in the hotel yard, with a pool on the side and the sea at our feet. We take a couple of walks on the main road, we try to visit a temple, the entrance dogs bark us away. A lesson that I should have learned long ago comes back to bite me. I shouldn't keep my eyes open in the pool but I always do, after a while my eyes are burning, I cannot see anything; no tour or temples for the day. Traditional Balinese dancing at the restaurant in the evening: the five and eleven year old daughters of the owner, each dance for a few minutes. Maria wrote about it here.
I cannot remember names of flowers, but this is special

Lunch in a restaurant above the sea

View from the oposite side - Ileana is waving

A tree grew through this column

Candidasa - East Bali

It's real, it's alive, and it went back into the sea

Another view of East Bali
What I liked in Candidasa

Somewhere else, some people enjoy the sunset



The next day we meet with our friends and we take on to travel like we didn't do yet. The technical part is easy. For $60 each a fast boat takes you to the Gili Islands (translated would be "the island islands"). Using slow regular transport it takes less than $60 for the five of us. It also takes a couple of days, a cab, a huge Indonesian ferry, a van, a bemo, a tiny boat and a horse cart. An Indonesian ferry is the kind of thing you hear about all the time in the news. Ours is in fair condition and almost empty. We cross the Wallace line, I feel a couple bumps, but there's nothing to worry.
(If you don't get the joke is not my fault, blame your parents. Alfred Wallace was the British biologist who, independent from Charles Darwin, discovered and proposed the theory of evolution based on natural selection. He asked Darwin for advice and support. Darwin, who had his own work locked in his drawer for the previous twenty years finally got the courage to come out with it. A couple of mutual friends presented both theories together in London. Even in that time, Darwin was the most famous of the two. While few people heard of Charles Darwin in America and his theory is still illegal in some school districts, we never heard in school in Romania about Wallace. He is put alongside Darwin in the Melbourne museum and alone, as in the important one, in the Northern Territory Museum in Darwin, the city. Wallace noticed that there is a clear difference between the flora and fauna of two groups of islands in Indonesia almost like an imaginary line separating them. It's now named "Wallace line", it is the deep sea water between the islands of Bali and Lombok. During the last glacial era, the oceans were about 120 meters lower and many of the current islands were connected by land, while there was still water on the Wallace line. Some plants and animals never cross oceans. Humans did, and this is how the aboriginals got to Australia.)

So I felt the bumps as we crossed the Wallace line. When we arrive in the port after five hours we are faced with a union. I call it union, Chris calls it mob, we agree that sometimes there is no difference. We have to submit to their requested fare for transport to Senggigi, that will bring us closer to Bangsal. A tiny port on the island of Lombok, it is the place to catch the regular boat to the Gilis. We read that we could charter a boat for $20, the regular ticket price is $1. We were offered boats for $50 to $100.
Suzanna is a Dutch girl who married an Indonesian man. She even looks like a Dutch. Her husband could not get used to life in Holland so they moved here. They now have a couple of babies and started a bed and breakfast business. As Senggigi has long stretches of prime beach with plenty of expensive hotels by the main road, it was good to find something small, quiet and cheap. After spending the night at Suzanna's place, for $15 per room, next morning we catch a bemo to Bangsal for $11. A bemo is a local minitruck with two benches in the back, a little smaller than my van at home. The guy turns around and takes us in the opposite direction. He somehow explains that the road by the beach is bad and busy and he knows another road. After going back as much as ten kilometers, he turns toward the interior of the island and gets up on the mountains. Squeezed in the back among the backpacks, eleven of us didn't have much of a view, but I can see western tourists paying premium prices for discovering the "real life" of the locals.
Of note, a kilometer in Lombok is longer than one in Bali. Not as bad as in Nepal, but still. I would reckon that is 10 to 12 kilometers in USA or Australia.

View from Suzanna's garden - she thinks it is better than from her previous cubicle

Some of us, there was no way to get all in the picture

We become a local attraction and we get followed
In Bangsal we brace ourselves for what was supposed to be a very tough experience, passing through aggressive, mean and well organized touts with the only purpose of deceiving tourists. We bribe ($2) a local police officer, or maybe just a gate keeper, to let our bemo get through to the pier. In the port we find the ticket office, the scheduled boats are gone, we want to charter one, around $18. After some unsuccessful attempts to find a boat, the clerk tells us to give $9 to this local who has already chartered a boat and get on with him. The guy gets on the boat, several others as well, some supplies and all 12 of us. When we get on the island the local is gone, we cannot pay our share. We promise ourselves that we will find him in the next few days and pay him. We never could. Obviously he didn't care about the money and we got on the island for free.

I got to stay alone at the end of the boat

After a good lunch at the restaurant by the boat jetty we decide on an away team that would circle the island looking for some accommodation. Three adults and a little baby take on, followed or preceded by a cart with a horse. We find all of the eastern and northern coast occupied, when we finally find some rooms we accept to get in the cart to return to the restaurant. We make one stop only at Biru Meno, on the southern tip of the island, after passing by some abandoned resorts and a lot of empty land. We change our minds and decide to stay at the new place, they have family rooms and mosquito nets. There is this young nice man all smiles, he answers any question with yes and gives us anything we ask for, until we ask for a discount. We accept the standard price, but he thinks for another minute and cuts the price by 10 percent. (?!?) In the next few hours and the next day, I think he is alone in managing the bungalow resort, he does everything. He cooks, he cleans, he sings, he sweeps the beach and he plays the guitar. He would learn Italian from some couple, learn some special recipes from other tourists, later he would fix electronic circuits. One day he spends a few hours playing guitar with Ileana and learn one of her songs. He turned out to be just one of several people working here, but I couldn't stop admiring him. He would end up becoming another one of our fans on Facebook, maybe he didn't know what he is getting into. But all jokes aside, there are a couple billion people under 22 in the developing world - what do we do with them all? It is a serious question and I hope that you'll look for an answer.

We take the rooms at Biru Meno for "some days."
Ileana Ruxandra stays behind with the baby and Chris and I return to get the children and the luggage. The poor horse carries the luggage back, we walk. I pass by the "crazy" guy who spends $11 every day to feed the baby turtles, an impressive single handed approach to conservation and animal protection. It turns out that we stay only a few minutes from the shop and restaurant and boat jetty, we would return on a couple of occasions to get some supplies. We spend the next five nights at Biru Meno and have a quiet and relaxed time. A little bit of snorkeling, some diving, a little bit of sun. The kids play all the time. Ioan finishes his open water scuba training. (we got mermaidsbeyond fear) We spend a lot of time at a nearby restaurant, Kontiki, they have better and cheaper food and some Internet connection.

At Kontiki, Ioan has to show where Romania is

On our side and  -
on their side, right across the water

Happiness is a 


Snorkeling

Those of us who cannot dive


We plan to get back to civilization soon, but surprisingly the ladies are ready to go, Chris had two fantastic dives and is pretty happy with what he got from the island, I am in the minority, so - in just a couple of minutes - it is decided to leave tomorrow toward Ubud. I'll happy everyday because you make me fun.


Last view of Biru Meno on Gili Meno

Crossing through Lombok, I thought I was recognized
(the driver quickly clarified that the children did not get taken out of school for us, the president of Indonesia was coming shortly)

5 comments:

  1. i've been there before, stay for 9 month, best time in my life..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't think like that, the best time of your life is presently coming... Thank you for your comment.

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. A different take at: http://www.goinganyway.net/2012/07/26/salt-sand-and-swordfighting-at-gili-meno/

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