All-points bulletin, Lombok style

We were only going to be in Lombok for 2 nights due to the crappy flight schedules from JB to Lombok (no return on a Sunday), so our only full day there was Friday, August 22nd.

The day in general was awesome.  We had a wonderful breakfast, lunch and dinner together as a family at the table in our villa’s gazebo.  We were lucky because The Oberoi offers baby turtle releases for their guests, but they only had 2 baby turtles.  We got to the beach early and Zoe was able to release them both into the ocean.  It’s a neat experience that reminds me of times spent watching baby turtles on beaches in south Florida when I wasn’t much older than Zoe.  We also spent about 5-6 hours in the pool, which was the best part of the whole trip.  Finally, it was nice to enjoy some mojitos and Singapore slings with Carol as the day wound down.

The only part of the day that was bad came after we had eaten breakfast, released the turtles, walked along the beach, swam in the ocean a little bit, put Zoe and Logan into a hammock to check it out, then made our way back to the villa.

When Zoe and I got into the ocean I gave Carolyn everything out of my pockets so they wouldn’t get wet, including my wallet.  Looking back on it I should have put my wallet in the safe in our villa together with our passports.  Carolyn put my wallet into a little snapping pocket on the papoose since she was carrying Logan in it.

After Zoe and I got out of the ocean my shorts were obviously soaking so Carolyn kept my stuff.  When we got to the hammock Zoe got in first and after she was able to swing a little bit Carolyn put Logan in.  When Logan had enough we walked back to the room and I asked for all my stuff back.  iPhone, check.  Work phone, check.  Wallet — ahhh, where in the hell is it?

Carolyn lost my wallet somewhere between the beach and our villa.  She immediately took off to look for it and left me in the villa with the girls.  After she was gone for about 30 minutes a guy showed up at our villa with some Cokes.  I explained that I didn’t order them and he said they were complementary from management.

Carolyn showed up maybe 50-60 minutes after taking off to search for my wallet.  She found it.  Well, she didn’t find it, but she eventually made her way to the front desk after not seeing it anywhere along the path from the beach to our villa, and she told them that we’d lost my wallet.  The radioed their staff and Carolyn said everyone – cleaning crew, security guards and groundskeepers were all searching in the area for it.  Apparently it had fallen out at the hammock when Carol took Logan out of the papoose to put her into the hammock, and just after we had walked away a groundskeeper had come by and found it.  When everyone started searching he came up to Carolyn and handed it over.  She thanked him and gave him some rupiah and came back to the villa relieved.

I had been frantic because I had no idea what we’d do if it wasn’t found.  I didn’t care so much about the $300 or so in cash, but I did care about the credit cards and my driver’s license.  How would we pay our hotel bill at checkout the next day without any credit cards or debit card to get cash from an ATM?  How would we pay the departure fee at the airport to leave Indonesia?  How would we pay for parking at the airport in JB when we got home?  What happens when I go to rent our car in the US in late September without a driver’s license?  We would have been royally screwed.  I was so happy that the resort had asked their staff to search and that it was found and turned back over to us.

It only lasted for an hour or less, but it was a tense hour.  The rest of the day spent in the pool was perfect after that…

Here are some of the photos from our second day in Lombok:

Shaking in Lombok

Two weeks ago, on Thursday, August 21st, we went to the airport here in JB early in the morning and took a direct flight to the Indonesian island of Lombok.  Lombok is right next to Bali, and it is billed as “Bali twenty years ago” — a less touristy and built up version of the more famous island next door.

I posted a blog a while back where I mentioned that AirAsia had opened some new routes from JB, well right when they opened those new flights I purchased the tickets for this trip to Lombok because the price was good (Rm763 for round-trip first row priority seats for our family of four — $240).  Since we saved a lot on the flight we decided to splurge on the accommodations.  We rented a private pool villa at The Oberoi Lombok.

We got to Lombok around 9:45am, but we didn’t have any US dollars or Indonesian rupiah on us, so Carolyn and the girls had to wait while I was escorted outside of the customs and immigration building so I could go to an ATM to withdraw enough rupiah to pay for our visas on arrival.  Unfortunately I did not pay enough attention to how much the visas would cost for our family and the exchange rate.  The visas are $35 each, so it should have been $140 for our family, but since Indonesian ATM’s spit out Indonesian currency instead of US dollars, I needed to consider the exchange rate.

One US dollar was worth around 11,650 Indonesian rupiah, but I figured incorrectly that 1.5M (that’s million — IDR1,500,000) would be sufficient.  Sadly, after trekking back through security, back past the guys in customs and back through the immigration area, the guy behind the window that had already turned me away said he needed 1.72M rupiah, or about $19 more than I’d withdrawn…  He wouldn’t accept a credit card and wasn’t entertaining my suggestion to take less, so for a second time I was escorted back out of the building by an official.  This time I went to a money changer window and handed over enough Malaysian ringgit to cover this fee — RM600 ($190).  I took my millions of rupiah and went back, paid for the visas, had them put into our passports, then headed over to immigration.

Already about 45 minutes had passed so the line at immigration was almost completely gone.  We had been the first ones off the plane since we were along in the first row, but we were the absolute last people in the building to pass through immigration and customs.

We eventually got out of there and met our driver from the Oberoi.  Carolyn and I searched around for a duty free shop at the airport because the one at Senai Airport in JB had been closed since we flew out so early, and they didn’t offer any duty free items on the plane.  We were told be the guy who met us that they plan on building a duty free shop at the Lombok airport within the next year.  Since there was no chance to purchase any duty free alcohol to enjoy on the trip I asked our driver if there was a store he could stop by to allow me to purchase something.  He basically had no idea where to go.  Unlike Bali, which is a non-stop party, Lombok is very conservative and the majority of people are Muslim as opposed to Hindus on Bali.  No alcohol.

The drive from the airport to the Oberoi took just under 2 hours.  The distance wasn’t too far, but it was only two lanes (or 1.5 in some places), with all sorts of vehicles, bikes, chickens, and so on in the way to slow us down.  It was fine though because we were on vacation.  Actually Carol and the girls were on vacation because from the time we got out of the airport (10:40am) until about 7pm I was on my phone non-stop with work because of a problem.

When we got to the resort it was fantastic.  The open air check-in like all the resorts we’ve stayed at in Malaysia and Indonesia.  The normal “please have a seat over here” and then delivery of tropical fruit drinks while they have someone come explain the resort to you.  We were led up to our villa, which we were told was one of the best on the property.  It was superb.  Our pool looked good, there were plumeria blooms all over the place (including around our necks), the guy that showed us our room explained everything and we settled into our room.

Shortly after settling in we ordered room service for lunch and we ate at the gazebo overlooking our pool and a palm tree filled garden.  After lunch Zoe and I walked around the property – down to the ocean, over to the front lobby to feed the fish in their pond (Zoe ate some of the bread, but quit once I caught her), and then we went back and got in the pool for about two and a half hours.  It was fun to swim with the family in our own pool.

We ordered some mojitos and Singapore slings and relaxed at our villa for the rest of the evening.  As the sun was going down we were shaken up pretty good when an earthquake hit.  I started yelling for Carolyn to grab Zoe and I grabbed Logan from her crib and started heading out the door just as it stopped.  It shook for probably 8-10 seconds, but it was shaking hard.

The first thing I thought of was the tsunami that hit Banda Aceh in Indonesia on Christmas a decade ago.  Jean and I watched a movie about it and I just kept thinking about how fast the water rises and that there’s nowhere to go without a car.  I went out on the patio and checked to see how high up I could get the girls and Carolyn, and I asked Carol to call the front desk.  She called and they said that they hadn’t received a tsunami warning but they’d let all the villas know if there was one.  We never heard from them about it after that and we didn’t get swept out to sea, so apparently there was no tsunami.

We’ve been to Indonesia a total of 3 separate times now, but we’ve been in an earthquake twice.  Once in Yogyakarta when we were at the zoo with my dad, and now in Lombok.

Here are the photos from our first day in Lombok:

The escalator trials of Bali

On our final morning in Bali we woke up and had breakfast downstairs, then shortly afterwards we were driven to the airport.  Last time we were in Bali we flew out from a different terminal, but this time we went through a very modern and nice terminal, and through multiple security checkpoints.  We eventually got inside, where we waited and for them to post which gate we’d be flying out of.  Zoe had some ice cream while my dad was able to find a bag of Cheetos.

They posted our gate number just 40 minutes before we were supposed to leave, so we went there and waited for about 15-20 minutes.  While we were waiting Zobug played with a bunch of kids, some from the US.  Once we finally started boarding I was the 3rd person heading down the escalator towards the plane, behind a really feeble elderly lady trying desperately to hold on to a stroller with a young boy riding in it.  When she boarded the escalator she almost let go of it and struggled really hard to get around in front of it.  She looked really awkward fumbling with it and I was nervous that she was going to let go and this kid and his stroller would start flipping over to the bottom.  The lady was with a younger man, presumably the kid’s father (3 generations, the kid, the kid’s father, and the grandmother).  I thought “Why isn’t the guy dealing with the stroller instead of this older woman who probably weighs 75lbs soaking wet?”

I coming down the escalator directly behind the older woman pushing the stroller, maybe 5 steps up from her.  I was holding our stroller and three carry-on bags, Carolyn was behind me with Logan in the papoose and holding Zoe’s hand, behind Carolyn was the guy who was traveling with the woman/stroller/baby that were in front of me, and my dad was behind this guy.  At the bottom of the escalator the lady in front of me tried to jump around to get back behind the stroller but she waited too lady, and just as she should have been pushing the stroller off of the bottom of the escalator is fell backwards and knocked her over too.

This all happened so fast, and like I said, I was at most 5 steps behind them.  The stroller, with the little boy in it, and older frail lady all fell backwards and the escalator continued to moved along beneath them but they were stuck and couldn’t get up while everyone on the escalator continued quickly towards them.  I lifted our stroller up in the air, along with 3 carry-on bags attached to it, and threw it all over the handrail of the escalator to the ground level I was approaching rapidly.  The lady and kid in front of me were yelling and people behind me were gasping and yelling.

I stepped down one step and was literally on top of the stroller and lady, then I grabbed the stroller with my left hand and the lady underneath her arm with my right hand and picked them both up off the ground and stepped forward off the escalator just as Jean, Zoe and Logan came up right to my back.  I walked the lady and stroller forward to get us out of the way of everyone else.  The lady’s knee had a huge gash in it where a big piece of skin was completely ripped back, but she pulled up these long socks over it and started saying “Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” over and over as I turned to make sure Carol, the girls and my dad were all ok.  I couldn’t believe that happened, but I was really thankful that I didn’t lose my footing and fall on top of the stroller and lady and end up causing Carol and the girls to fall and get hurt.  With this stroller and lady blocking the exit of the escalator, and both of the unable to get up themselves, there was literally nowhere to go — a wall on one side and a 5+ foot jump over the other side depending on how far up the escalator you were.

Nobody hit the emergency stop button, and even worse was that once we got down nobody stopped to check on this lady or the kid in the stroller, they all just ran past us to try and board the plane first.  It is remarkable how selfish and uncaring some people are.  I was also surprised that the man traveling with this lady and child didn’t thank me or say anything.  If someone had lifted Zoe and Carolyn up I would be extremely thankful that they’d helped them out, but maybe it’s a cultural thing to ignore people who help your child and wife or possibly mother…

At any rate, we finally got on the plane and the lady went back and forth to the restroom more than 5 times on the 2.5 hour flight, putting paper towels on her knee where she’d torn it open in the fall.

Once we cleared immigration and customs in Singapore we quickly found the lady picking us up to take us home, and when we got out of the airport we were greeted by a common site in ‘Pore, a gorgeous sports car.

Here are some of the photos of our departure from Bali and our return to Singapore enroute to JB:

Found some babi guling!

Several weeks ago a vendor that came into my office to chat mentioned that the two famous foods to try in Bali were “crispy duck” and “babi guling” (suckling pig).  I was determined to try one during our visit, and this morning Jean went on a mission with one of the staff members from our villa to find some babi guling.  He took her to two different spots – one was a famous joint that is well known and the other was a local joint.

The famous place had 3 pigs on spits roasting over coconut husks and some guys putting together satay.  Normally they don’t allow anyone in the back because they try to keep their secret recipe secret, but Jean was actually allowed in the back because she went with a local and he convinced them that she wasn’t there to steal their trade secrets.

The local place was much cheaper (Rp 25,000 instead of Rp 80,000 — $2.50 instead of $8.00 for a meal), but since I tried both I have to say that the famous one was much better.  Jean said locals were actually lined up out the door at the famous one but the local place was almost empty.

Anyhow, here are the photos of the babi guling:

Into the biggest pool of them all

We woke up really early this morning and caught a cab down to Jimbaran Beach where we spent about an hour and a half walking up and down the beach and letting Zoe and Logan enjoy the small waves.  Hopping over waves in the ocean is a completely different experience than floating around in a 20 foot long pool, but Zoe and Logan both enjoyed this huge pool (the Indian Ocean) just as much as they do the villa’s small freshwater version.

We were basically the only the Westerners on the beach, but there were several locals out for a morning swim or tossing their nets into the surf to try for some fish.  After we had enough of the beach we caught a cab back to the villa and went swimming for about an hour in the pool before breakfast.  After breakfast we moved to another villa and we’ve been here ever since.

Carol did take a taxi to Naughty Nuri’s to pick us up some lunch, and I swam with Zoe and my dad several times today, plus Logie and Carol joined us twice too.

Here are the photos from our morning on Jimbaran Beach:

A little more time in the pool

Well, yesterday evening and today were more of the same – swimming separated by periods of watching tv, napping and playing with the girls at the villa.  Carolyn did go out to Kuta for shopping yesterday, and she spent about 2 hours going to supposedly store, Surfer Girl.

This morning we planned on getting up early and heading down to a beach south of where we’re staying, but we stayed up until about 2am so we didn’t wake up early.  Instead we got up 5 minutes before the staff came in to cook our breakfast at 9am and again we were in the pool as soon as we finished breakfast.  We did hear about all the cold weather sweeping through Alabama and Kentucky and we’re glad we’re here in the tropics, but we hope all of our family and friends are ok.

Right now I’m at the villa waiting on my lunch to arrive while Zobug sleeps on the couch beside me.  Poor Zoe started getting a runny nose yesterday and now she is really sick with it running non-stop and her throat hurting.  I feel so badly for her…  I’m feeling better myself, but my cough is still there.  Carolyn, my dad and Logan all went shopping a while ago and they’ll probably be gone for another 3-4 hours.

Tomorrow we plan on trying to hit the beach early once again, but I suppose it depends on whether we get to sleep at a reasonable time or not tonight.

Here are some shots from the past day and some shots of our villa in Legian (pronounced “LEH-GEEE-AN”), where Zobug and I are spending all of our vacation time:

Finally, the relaxation I’ve been needing…

Today we woke up at 7:45am, just before the staff rang our villa’s doorbell so they could come in and make us breakfast.  Zoe and I went downstairs to let them in; one lady cleaned up our kitchen area while a guy prepared the meal.  Carolyn, Logan and my dad came down soon afterwards and we all sat down for breakfast – omelettes, fresh fruit, fruit juice and some toast.

As soon as breakfast was over Zoe and I changed into our swimsuits and hopped in the pool.  By 9:15am everyone was in the pool, including Logan.  We swam for over an hour.  Logan loves being in the pool almost as much as her sister – she was laughing and smiling non-stop after the first couple of minutes where she was not really sure what was going on.

After swimming Carolyn and my dad took some clothes to a nearby cleaners to have them washed, then Carol went back to the ATM while I posted blogs and my dad laid around.  Zoe played with her new Disney Princess book and Logan slept.  After a while we had the staff come clean the villa and then after Zoe asked me 300 times I got back into the pool with her and we swam for another hour.  Zoe and I were in the pool in the middle of the day and today is a beautiful sunny day, about 85F, so the sun was beaming down on us while we splashed around in the pool.  We both got a little sunburned so we had to get out and put on sunblock after about 30 minutes, as soon as my shoulders and face started to feel burned.

We’re ordering lunch right now, so hopefully that’ll arrive in another 45 minutes, then Carolyn plans on doing a little shopping and I plan on maybe taking a nap and then swimming again.  I want to do the same thing tomorrow, eat, swim, play on the computer, sleep, repeat.  I’ve been needing this sort of relaxation for a while and it feels great.  I’ve had a bit of a lung infection, but it’s getting better so I’m enjoying myself and not constantly coughing right now.

Maybe on Thursday we can go to the zoo or the beach or something, but right now I’m content with laying around our villa and swimming whenever Zoe decides we’ve been out of the pool for too long.  I haven’t been inside since arriving here about 28 hours ago, except for 8 hours last night while I was sleeping.  The downstairs of our villa is open air, so I’ve either been in the pool, on the couch or sitting at the table.

Here are the photos from the first half of this lazy day:

Swimming in Bali

On our approach to the airport in Denpasar, Bali, I saw yet another volcano!  The cliffs along the coast were also amazing, but seeing a volcano is more impressive to this blogger.

We landed, grabbed our luggage and made our way out of the domestic arrivals area, where we quickly spotted Igede, our driver.  Igede is really friendly, just like all the Indonesian people we’ve met, and we were off to our villa in Legian.

Zoe has been saying “Zoe go to Bali and go swimming” for weeks, and now that we were finally in Bali she was excited about swimming; she was so excited that she was even telling us “I’m excited!”.  We told Igede when we wanted our breakfast cooked — they provide a cook to prepare your breakfasts in your villa, then we put on our swimsuits and got in the pool.  We were in the water by 1pm.

Carolyn went for a walk to Seminyak, stopping at an ATM, a couple of shops and at a restaurant where she decided we needed to eat dinner.  Later Carol and my dad took a cab back to that restaurant, Mozzarella, to pick up us up dinner, plus Carolyn picked us up a dvd from a store across the street.  After dinner we all watched The Wolf of Wall Street, which is definitely not a family movie.  If our girls were 4+ years old we would not have watched it because it should definitely have an ‘R’ rating.

After the movie my dad hit the sack and Carolyn and I stayed up a while longer, but we were asleep before midnight.

Here are the photos of our arrival into Bali and our villa where we will be staying for 5 days:

So long, Java!

Well, we made it off of Java alive…  Yesterday, Monday the 27th, we left Jogja early in the morning and took the 1 hour flight to Bali.  The airport in Jogja is nuts, but at least the domestic departure area is 100 times better than the “International” arrivals area, where they had that ridiculously tiny baggage claim area.

We met a nice Indonesian family while we waited, and the best part of leaving Jogja was that once we broke through the clouds on our ascent out of Java I was able to finally see Merapi!  Not only Merapi, but another 3 volcanoes too!!  Check out the photos below; you can clearly see Merapi and another cone near it, then in some of the photos you can see the tops of two more cones way off in the distance.  I would have loved to have see them without any clouds.

Here are the photos of our departure from Yogyakarta, Java:

Shaking around at Gembira Loka

After visiting Prambanan we tried unsuccessfully to get a close-up view of Mount Merapi, a nearby volcano.  Indonesia lies on the western arc of the Ring of Fire, which is a ring of volcanoes and active tectonic plates causing earthquakes that circle the Pacific Ocean — the same Ring of Fire that causes earthquakes in California.  Indonesia has 127 active volcanoes, and of all those the most active is Merapi, which happens to be only 25-30km from our hotel here in Jogja.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing an active volcano, and I’ve seen all the photos of Merapi burping smoke into the air.  I had asked Budi to take us there to see it, so we drove for about an hour after leaving Prambanan.  Budi said that during the dry season (June-October) you can see 3 volcanoes from downtown Yogyakarta, including Merapi.  Unfortunately the sky has been very foggy/cloudy and we haven’t been able to see them at all.  We thought getting really close to them would help to see ’em.  It didn’t help…

We drove down a little barely-single-lane road for a long time, passing by people carrying huge loads of grass on their bikes to feed their livestock with, and lots of people out in the rice fields working on their crops.  Everything is so green, it’s a beautiful country.

We finally started climbing up the foothills of Merapi and were passed by a bunch of lorries carrying rock from Merapi so that locals could use them to crush and make bricks for housing or to use for more artistic endeavors like sculpturing statues and making fountains.  We paid our Rp 9,000 ($0.90) to enter into the Merapi area and shortly after that we ended up at the end of the road where only old Jeeps continue further to take tourists up to higher parts of Merapi if the authorities will allow it.  The end of the road was marked by a dusty parking lot full of tour buses and a string of vendor stalls, plus lots of touts and chickens running around.  Budi said on a clear day we would be able to easily see Merapi spewing smoke only 4km (less than 2.5 miles) from the parking lot where we were.

Budi told us that Merapi erupts every 4-5 years and that he could remember about 5 eruptions since he was a little boy growing up in Borobudur, which isn’t any further away from Merapi than Jogja.  He told us about how it erupted in 2010 and killed over 100 people and wiped out several kampungs (villages) that existed on the mountain.

After not being able to see it we decided to press on to the next stop instead of waiting around and hoping the clouds moved on.  On the road leading up to Merapi, just before it deadends, there was a little abandoned looking home with some lovely graffiti of an Indonesian mother and her baby on it, so I had Budi stop so I could hop out and take a photo (it’s posted below).

It took us about an hour to get back into downtown Jogja for the zoo, called the Gembira Loka Zoo.  The zoo was getting pretty busy just as we arrived, and to me it was strange that large groups of middle aged men (30-50 years old) were visiting the zoo together.  I can’t imagine groups of 5-10 older men taking a day to visit a zoo in the US.  Zoos are usually for families or dating couples.  Anyhow, we enjoyed the zoo.  It wasn’t nearly as rundown as the JB Zoo, but the entrance price was pretty close at only something like Rp 15,000 ($1.50).

The zoo has lots of additional activities, like speed boat rides down a canal running through the center of the zoo, and camel rides, but we spent our time looking at their collection of creatures.  One interesting activity that they offered which we’ve never seen was a little kiddie pool about 12 inches deep and basically a circle with a diameter of about 15ft, full of little fish that your child could splash around in with a small net and a plastic bag, gathering fish to keep as a pet.  When we got to it there were about 6-8 children jumping around trying to wrangle up some minnows.  Zoe wanted to get in but we managed to move her on to the touch pool where several koi and a turtle were swimming around.  Zoe enjoyed rubbing the fish and petting the turtle on its head.

My favorite part was the two small monkey exhibits; they had proboscis monkeys and a few VERY LOUD Muller’s gibbons.  Both species are from Borneo, which we hope to visit sometime soon.

We did have a scary experience when we were exiting the Bird Park enclosure around 12:15pm.  Zoe and I were ahead of Carolyn, Logan and my dad, just around a corner and over a small bridge when I noticed people up in front of looking around frantically and starting to yell about something and running in different directions.  I grabbed Zoe’s hand and started to backup, nervous that some animal may have escaped from its enclosure.  All this happened in only 3-4 seconds and I was seriously afraid one of the two 500lb tigers I’d seen 30 minutes earlier had gotten out and was stalking zoo patrons, but then I started to feel strange and noticed the water in the pond under the bridge we just crossed was sloshing out loudly.  It was an earthquake!

Once I realized it was an earthquake I grabbed Zoe and moved out from under this awning so nothing would fall on us and I yelled for Carolyn.  The shaking probably lasted 30-35 seconds, of which I noticed about 25 seconds because those first few I had no idea why everyone was scared and running — I really did think an animal was on the loose.  Just after the earthquake stopped Carol, Logan and my dad appeared and they were saying it was loud where they had been because all the bird cages surrounding them were flexing and clanking.

We continued through the zoo and made our way to Budi’s van and he wondered if we’d felt the earthquake.  We loaded up and took off for our hotel.  I forgot to mention that Zoe and Logan had about 15-20 different people request to take photos with them while we were in the zoo, all of which we agreed to because they were all very friendly and remarked about how cute they thought our girls were.  Zoe had her hair rubbed and Logan had her cheeks squeezed all afternoon long – they probably hated it but Carol and I were flattered.

Back at the hotel Carolyn came upstairs and fed Logan and then she took off alone for about 2-2.5 hours.  Budi took her to Malioboro street to do some shopping while my dad and I watched Logan and Zoe.  We ordered room service and tickled Logie until she was screaming from laughing so hard.  Zoe fell asleep.  Carol finally came back with a couple of bags of souvenirs and some new onesies for Logan, then Carol and my dad both took naps while I worked on the blog.

Late last night, around 10pm, I went downstairs with Zoe and bought her a slice of tiramasu and then took her to the hotel’s restaurant for dinner.  We ate slowly and talked for about an hour, then we went to the lobby and listened to a group sing and play the piano, and finally we made our way back to the room just before midnight.  When we got back to the room Carolyn got up and while she was in the bathroom I felt the room shaking as a second earthquake was moving Jogja around.  I went to my dad’s room and he was awake in the dark and said he felt it too and asked, “Are you ready to book the first flight out of the dangerous city?”

Here are the photos from the second half of our day out in Yogyakarta:

Trying to top Borobudur with Prambanan

Seeing the Buddhist temple at Borobudur during sunrise was the reason we came to the Indonesian island of Java, but after reading up on Yogyakarta after getting this trip setup, I found out that a second UNESCO world heritage site was even closer than Borobudur to Jogja.  Prambanan is a Hindu temple about 30 minutes from downtown Jogja, and it was built in the 9th century.

When I text messaged Budi last night about the things we wanted to do today, Prambanan was the first thing on the list.  We woke up this morning around 4am, got ready and had breakfast at 6am, then Budi picked us up at 6:45am and we headed off for Prambanan.

Budi had already purchased our Prambanan tickets for us (Rp 198,000 each for adults, kids are free), and when we arrived the site was almost empty.  We spent over an hour walking around checking out each of the structures, and we even put on hard hats to go up into the main building.  Zobug had a blast running around all over the place, and even told me “that was cool” after we came out of the main building.

Here are the photos from our first stop this morning — Prambanan:

Heading to Jogja

Yesterday, Friday the 24th, we woke up, ate breakfast and then had our driver, named “Budi”, pick us up at noon from our hotel in Borobudur. We drove the hour back down to Jogja (Yogyakarta’s nickname), stopping at McDonald’s along the way so we could pickup some chicken nuggets for Zobug.

We eventually made it to our hotel in Jogja, where we ate lunch while we waited to check-in to our rooms. The restaurant here is much better than the one at the Manohara, so we enjoyed our lunch. Zoe had several “macaroonies” (macaroons) and she absolutely loved them, but I’ve never seen her turn one down yet and she always wants some when we go to Paragon in Singapore. After lunch we went up to the rooms and laid around and discussed what we’d like to do on Saturday. Budi, our driver who picked us up at the airport and who transferred us to our hotel back in Jogja, had offered to take us site-seeing wherever we wanted for 10 hours at a rate 550,000 Indonesian Rupiah (about $55 USD).

Late yesterday evening I sent Budi a text message to let him know that we wanted to do our site-seeing trip with him and that we’d decided to do it on Saturday instead of Sunday. I also sent him an itinerary of the places we’d like to visit, and he agreed. With our Jogja plans finalized we moved on to dinner and had take away from Holycow.

Here are the photos from yesterday, including some of a street performer who danced in front of our van while we were stopped at a traffic light just after arriving in Jogja (we also saw a guy with a monkey on leash that dances on little stilts, but I didn’t get a photo):

Around the Manohara

Yesterday after we’d had breakfast and gotten cleaned up, I relaxed in the room while Carolyn walked around the hotel and temple grounds to take some photos.  After about an hour and a half she returned, and I was thankful because Zoe was awake and Logie was going nuts.  Carolyn fed Logie and then they all met up with my dad and went out to the main entrance of the temple for a few hours to shop for souvenirs.

When they returned we all went for an early dinner at a restaurant about 10 minutes away, called BS Resto.  We had decided that while our hotel has a fantastic location and a friendly staff, the restaurant is horrific.  BS Resto was excellent.  We had some beef satay, fried fish, fried duck, grilled squid and grilled prawns, plus two different types of fried rice.  Zoe ate quite a bit of her fried rice, my dad was attacked by one of his prawns, Jean drank some soup from a little wooden cup, and I fed Zobug some “pink” ice cream that she loved.

Here are the photos from the second half of our day (January 23rd, 2014):

Sunrise over Borobudur

This morning we got a wakeup call at 4am, and we were at the little breakfast restaurant right at 4:30am to get our sarongs and flashlights.  Since we’re staying at the only hotel that is inside the Borobudur temple compound, we get a special rate for the early morning ticket into the temple.  As a guest at the hotel your normal entry ticket to the hotel is included with your stay, but using the normal ticket you can’t enter until 6am.  With an early morning ticket you can go inside at 4:30am so that you can climb to the top of the temple and watch the sunrise.  Normally the early entry ticket is like $35+ (USD), but as a guest at the Manohara Hotel you get a discount ($23).

Since our only reason for coming to Java was to see Borobudur, we did the early morning visit.  You have to wear a sarong, which is a wrap you wear around your waist, that looks like a skirt.  It was pitch black so you get a flashlight, and after everyone got their sarongs on and had their flashlights a guy from the hotel led us to the gate.  The five of us were joined by about 10-12 other people.

The stairs leading up to the top of the temple are steep and the steps are really tall, like 12-18 inches high each.  I held Zoe’s hand as we went up, and she made it all the way to the top on her own even though she had to lift her foot almost to her ear for each step since each step was so tall.  My dad followed behind us and Carolyn was behind him with Logan in the papoose.  We made our way up to the top about 10 minutes before the sun started to come up at 5:15am.

The most photographed and well known part of the temple complex is the series of stupas on the top couple of levels, each with a Buddha statue inside.  As the sun came up the rock structure changed from black to blue to brownish tan and finally to grey.  It was amazing to see the colors change so drastically within a period of 45-60 minutes.  It was a great experience and we were really lucky because it is during the week, it is the rainy season (which means much fewer tourists), and we’re staying at the Manohara Hotel, so we were some of just a few people up there to take it all in.  With the security guards included, I bet there were fewer than 20 people at the top from 5am-6am.

The surrounding jungle was covered in a low hanging mist and little swallows were zipping around everywhere, together with the fresh morning air and a cool breeze, it was spectacular.  Zoe loved it too; as soon as Zoe and I took our last step to reach the top she looked at me, smiled and said “that was awesome, daddy!”.  It was awesome…

Zoe was upset that Buddha was “trapped’ inside the stupas, but we assured her that he was happy there.  She also enjoyed looking inside the mouths of the different statues and kept asking if the lions would bite her.  We all finally made our way back down to the bottom once the sun was up, then we headed back to our hotel as touts followed us to sell trinkets.

We had a breakfast that was just as horrible as last night’s dinner, then we went back to our rooms and got showered to get all the mosquito spray off.

Here are the photos from today:

Zoe tries to become a Javanese dancer

Yesterday was a long day.  We woke up early and left home at 6:45am.  Woodlands was packed and our driver tried 3 different approaches to the border crossing before finally settling on one.  Once we got to Changi we stood in line to check our luggage and get ticketed for our flight, but after waiting for 15 minutes we were pulled out of line and directed to a different area.  We waited there for another 15 minutes and finally checked in.

We went through immigration and on into the airport where we had breakfast and then found our gate.  Our flight was supposed to leave at 11:10am and we got to the gate as people were already lined up and going through security, but as soon as we got into the back of the line everything stopped and then everyone in front of us walked away.  It turns out the flight was delayed until 12pm, so the security people told everyone to come back.  We decided to move up to the front and just wait, but within 10 minutes a lady came by and said the flight was now delayed until 12:50pm so we should just go sit down.

We walked around a little bit and eventually just sat down, and finally the gate opened at 11:30am.  We went inside the gate area where we waited for over an hour.  The plane didn’t show up to the gate until 12:50pm and we didn’t taxi down the runway until 1:30pm.

Our 2 hour flight to Yogyakarta, Indonesia went by quickly.  At the Yogyakarta airport things got a little bit crazy.  We stood in the “Foreign Passport” line until we were almost at the front, then some official came up and informed us that we needed to go all the way back and purchase our visas-on-arrival, which were $25 (USD) each.  My dad and I bought the visas while Jean and the girls waited, then we were able to go basically back to the front of the line and proceed through immigration.

The visa-on-arrival window, the 4 immigration officers behind desks, the one and only baggage claim conveyor and two customs x-ray machines surrounded by Customs agents were all crammed into a tiny room about 20ft wide by 60ft long, and then our entire plane’s worth of passengers were in that same space too.

I asked a customs lady if Carolyn and the girls could go on through and I would hand over our customs declaration after getting our luggage, and they let them go on through.  Shortly after that some guard opened up the baggage claim area which was literally a conveyor about 15-20 feet long with maybe 6 feet off to one side where all passengers from a 737 were supposed to grab their luggage and smash their way through the packed-in crowd.  It was insane…

Our luggage was towards the end, so we had to wait for the huge crowd to slowly move through customs and out into the arrival area.  Once my dad and I got out of there I exchanged some money at a ripoff money exchange booth and then we walked outside and found a guy named “Booti” holding a sign with my name on it.  He led us up and out of the airport, went and picked up the minivan, and then loaded our luggage.  Booti was a nice guy who fell to pieces with nervousness after he smacked Zobug in the forehead with a suitcase on accident.  We told him it was OK as we tried to calm Zoe down; Zoe was screaming and crying, and Booti felt terrible.  Everyone calmed down and we hit the road.  On the way to the hotel Booti stopped at a McDonald’s and Zoe got some chicken nuggets.

Around 5:30pm we pulled up to our hotel, which happens to be at the base of Borobudur, which is the ancient Buddhist temple we came here to see.  Unfortunately the temple grounds close at 5pm, so since AirAsia screwed us by being so late leaving Singapore we missed going in to see the temple in the afternoon.  Instead we registered, listened to a few old men playing some music in the lobby area, then checked into our rooms.  A few minutes after checking in I took Zoe and we met Papaw to go on a short walk around the area.  We walked over to the path that leads to the Borobudur temple and then we crossed the road to admire the rice fields.

As the sun went down and thunder starting sounding in the distance we headed back and told Jean that she and Logie should join us for dinner.  We went to the hotel’s outdoor restaurant, where we were the only people there.  Since this is the rainy season and a weekday, the hotel doesn’t have many guests.  We proceeded to eat the worst meal I’ve possibly had in my life — my “ribeye” was the most disgusting piece of meat I’ve ever had and the cheese omelette had part of the cheese’s plastic wrapper inside.

The best part of dinner didn’t involve the meal at all, but the entertainment.  A different band of old men and an elderly female singer setup behind us and started playing, then around 7:45pm a group of 3 young girls did this golden deer dance that Zoe absolutely loved.  She stood right beside the little stage and kept turning around smiling at me.  After the golden deer dance was over another act (2 older girls) took the stage and did this hunter dance that Zoe liked even better.  She ran over to me at one point and said, while almost starting to cry, “Daddy, Zoe wants to dance now.”  I told her to go ahead and dance, but she just smiled and ran back to the edge of the stage and sat down to watch.

After the shows we left and went to the hotel’s Audio Visual room and watched part of a 30 minute film on the Borobudur temple, but when it repeated the second time around it was in Japanese, so we left.

Here are some photos from yesterday: