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After a very successfull adventure in South America in 2001-2002, it is time for another big trip.

Once the travel bug enters the brain, it stays there forever.

Already a year ago I started dreaming about doing a trip to South East Asia.

And as I said last time "You know how these dreams come and are always there, but you never actually start working on realizing them.

Now is the time to do it."

Keep on tripping!

Wim, August 2004

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01/03/2005 Indonesia

We take a taxi from Denpassar airport to Kuta, the famous surf beach of Bali. We expect it to be very busy...  read more

07-13/01/2005 Kuta, Bali, surfing paradise

We take a taxi from Denpassar airport to Kuta, the famous surf beach of Bali. We expect it to be very busy, not cozy and probably just a short break. In reality, it is mainly as we expected, except for the fact that we want to try to surf, and that keeps us busy for a week. We take some classes at first, a few hours for lots of dollars. But the result is that we can easily stand up on a long board, without any help. Then we just rented boards on the beach and motivated each other to keep trying and going. Must say we can't take a big pipe yet, but we are able to do some standing and little turns on the whitewash of a wave. A week is not enough though so we'll have to come back before leaving for another continent beginning of March. 

During the surf week we also became regulars for lunch in Warung Indonesia, where you take from a buffet and pay for what you take, mostly less then 8000 Rupiah (1 Euro = 12000 Rp). We also regularly enjoy the happy hour beers with Joe and Gem in Poppies 1, and go for dinner at a Thai place with great curries.

We sleep cheap for just 50000Rp a night, and later during the week book a flight to Flores, the biggest island of Nusa Tengara, the part of Indonesia east of Sumatra, Java and Bali. This flight is cheap because it is next Friday the 21st, so we have some time to go west first, to Java ! 

14-15/01 Java 

BorobudurAlthough I have a terrible hangover, we get in into a night bus to Yogyakarta, starting point to get to the temples of Borobudur. Now, we already have spent 3 days in the ruins and temples of Angkor, Cambodia, and I must say that Borobudur is nothing, nada, null, compared to all that. Especially after a 16 hour night bus, and a temple full of school kids on there cultural trip of the year, all wanting to practice there English with us, and even more wanting a picture with that orang putih (white people, us again). We fled the place to find a quite bench behind the museum, slept there for 2 hours, then waited for 5 hours in the bus terminal and took another night bus to Probolingo, final destination Cemoro Lawang, at the crater rim of Bromo volcano. 

16-17/01 Bromo volcano

 Its cool up here, and I don't like it that much, cause I feel sick. The place we stay is cozy and people are nice. The glimpse we had on the volcano was already amazing, but the real deal is the morning jeep tour to the viewpoint and the crater rim the next morning. A sweet English - Tsjech couple give me some 'morning nurse' pills to ease my feverish feeling. 

In the morning everything runs perfect, still some clouds hanging in the big crater, but the two volcanoes inside are clearly visible. The big one in the back is puffing up a huge black mushroom every 15 minutes, awesome. On the way in the crater, towards the foot of mount Bromo, the clouds magiBromo and friendscally start to dissolve. We hike up 10 minutes to the Bromo top, toss a bunch of dried flowers inside the toxic smoke and take postcard pictures. After the unsatisfied feeling of Borobudur, this feels much better. O yes, it is very touristy, but at least it is for a understandable reason. The same evening we arrive late and exhausted back in our 'losmen' Taman Mekar 2, and crash in bed.

18/01 Kuta Bali

Don't do much today, no weather for surfing, plus I still feel a bit weak. Only feverish in the evening so I don't worry about it, this always happens when I am over exhausted.

19/01 sick puppy

But I wake up and still feel bad. I start thinking worst case scenarios: Malaria ? Dengue ? Something else, typhoid maybe ? Sofie supports and convinces me to go the a local clinic (for westerners ;-). Quick service, and I must say, the best needle shot ever for taking blood samples. and some people know how much I like needles... 

Results come in 5 hours later: Dengue fever. 

The doctor asks me if I can swallow, eat, drink, take medication. Because my levels are quite low of something (white blood cells ?), and if it drops another 30 percent I will be unable to feed and nurse myself, which means she wants to put me on a drip, in a hospital ... Aaaargh But as I say I can eat, she decides to let me eat by myself. Just come back tomorrow and we'll get some more precious blood and check the results, once again.

20/01 Dengue, the final

We're supposed to fly tomorrow, and I get nervous that they'll put me somewhere in a hospital. But luck is ours, I feel better when waking up and the results concur, its ok, the levels look better. So we can start our anti-malaria tablets, we're leaving for Flores tomorrow !

21/01 to Flores

Its a good and cheap flight. And before we know it we are in Maumere, eastern Flores. The goal is to get back to Kuta, Bali, in about 5 weeks, by boat and bus. First stop Moni.

22/01 Moni

The bus to Moni picks us up at 8 am. Good service, we think, but at 10.30, we reach the Maumere bus station again, after driving around town several times and picking up customers, a pig (put on roof, next to our begs, let's hope it doesn't shit), coconuts and a chicken. Finally we leave and we reach Moni at 3pm, knowing that this should have been a 3 hour trip... Moni itself is a bit cooler, and Arwanti homestay, with large bungalows and space, is the perfect place to recover a bit more from my illness. Too bad the stomach is upset as well, probably from all the pills they gave me.

23/01 Kelimutu lakes

Normally peKelimutu lakeople come to Moni to go to the Kelimutu volcanic lakes to see the sunrise ! But we seem to be missing something rather important, the last few sunrises we did. So we decide to have breakfast at a decent hour and check the weather then. So do our neighbors, and together we charter Tam's car to the top. The clouds are not present so we can see all 3 lakes, one is so bleu it seems a trick of the eyes. The other two are rather dark, one black the other brown, I think the locals called it 'coffee with milk' and 'hot chocolate'. The strange thing is that these lakes change colors over the years, the brown one was more white like, 10 years ago. Another, story is the disappearance of the Dutch guy, Willem, 5 years ago. They found one of his shoes, unlaced, on the crater rim of the volcano. Local theories talk about strange disappearing, magic or voodoo, but me and Sofie soon explain it as - man sitting down to remove ruble from his shoe, so he unlaced it, and lost his balance, maybe because of the shoe, maybe because the wind blew the toxic volcanic fumes in his nostrils, and he tumbled in, very unlucky, never to be seen again. We don't wander to the crater, but can walk a bit closer to the blue lake for a better picture, and indeed, the sulfurous invisible cloud does make breathing harder, and my eyes start itching as well, lets get out of here... 

We walk the rest of the way back down. The last hour through gardens, small towns with naked children and pigs running around, sucking on mangos, all of them as dirty alike. A waterfall and pool just before the finish, and then another candle light dinner, as the electricity in town fails again for a few hours. This is what we're traveling for.

24-25/01 Moni

I finished my antibiotics for the Dengue fever, but my stomach now reacts on that, so we stay another few days relaxing, enjoying the candle light dinners and coolness of Moni.

The next step is to get to Riung or Bajawa. To get to Bajawa we can aPalm tree sunsetrrange a through bus, to Riung we'll have to swap busses in Ende. But swapping busses means a lot of hasle, handling the bemo mafia, and long hot days in dirty and cramped buses. Because we also need internet soon, to book some flight tickets before they will become more expensive, we have to spent time in Ende, the only town with reliable internet available. Luckily Tam, our driver before, comes to the rescue. For a good deal of money, he'll bring us to the internet, and then all the way through to Riung, showing us the tourist spots as we pass them.

Riung is small, merely a fishing village, with a beautiful ring of islands at the coast... 

26-27/01 Riung

We arrange a boat to get to the '17 islands' national park the next day. They have 20 plus islands , but 17th is the national celebration day in August, so that sounded nicer. The park is famous of corals, deserted beaches, some giant lizards, and huge bats. We are mainly interested in the deserted beach and snorkeling the corals. The boatman brings us to some nice coral blocks, where weOur private island see squid for the first time, and then drops us on our island. We have the whole island for ourselves for the rest of the day, enjoy sunbathing and running around the island naked, getting a sun tan all over. This can be paradise, luckily it is not discovered yet. I imagine how beautiful Thailand may once have been as well, before it got concreted and bombarded with bungalows.

28-30/01 Bajawa

Bajawa is a cooler place, just like Moni, surrounded by old Ngada villages, where they still practice old animist beliefs. Every family has a temple where male and female is represented by little huts, Ngadhu and Bhaga. A wooded pole is used for making animal offerings, old monolithic stones are still present and have spiritual meanings. We visit Wogo village, the local market of Mataloco, get guided by a friendly old local to a bamboo and monoliths forest. 

Newly shaped volcanoWe also take an early bemo to the village of Ngoronale, from where we hike all the way upto Wawo Muda. This is a collection of volcanic lakes, the little version of Kelimutu, with the difference that these lakes got shaped just 3 years ago, when the mountain exploded and the farmers found out they were sitting on a volcano. The setting is perfect, you can still see the scorched trees, the mudslides, the not yet shaped lakes, the new crater rim. The best thing is, no other tourist, no shops on the way up, and the pretties hill walkOld guide in animist village of Flores. We wander around half the crater, and meet some wild boar hunters ! They still use a spear, and dogs to help track them down. The old man starts chatting with us, and the first part of conversation is understandable, but then he seems to forget we only know some basic words of Bahasa, and he rambles on about everything in the world, we have no clue. On the way down the rain starts poring and he offers Sofie an umbrella, yes, even pig hunters have umbrellas !

The last action is getting to Bena, the most traditional Naga village, and just as we are about to leave, we see Tam's car across the street. He had some new customers, Steve and Heidi just arriving and checking in. We ask if they would like to join to get to Bena, as the next day, they will also leave with the early bus to Labuanbajo. So we get in Tams car again and get some great views over the hills, the magic volcanoes and the pretty Bena village.

31/01 To Labuanbajo

It is a long ride, Steve and Heidi keep an eye on the bags in the back, me and Sofie grasping for air in the front. We all check in in the Gardena hotel, nice setting and one of the best diners in town. Sea food hot plate every night !

We also meet Darren and Jane, and soon we sit together to check out where we'll go diving.

1-3/02/2005 Labuanbajo, Komodo national park

We decide to go with Reefseekers, a dive shop that before operated on the Gili islands as well. The owners now have an island here, where they are building luxuary cottages, and from where they organize dive trips in the Komodo and Rinca national park. We check out the Dutch owned Golo hilltop guesthouse, and meet Catherine, the dive instructor of Reefseekers again. she is very knowledgeable and very experienced, and it is a very nice dive experience going with her under water. Darren dives with Marco and Frank, Me and Sofie go in with Steve and Heidi, both Ko Tao trained dive masters. This is their first diving since they did their training in Ko Tao, so its going to be fun. Batu Bolong, a kind of pinnacle has quite some current, and me and Sofie have to get used to different buoyancy. We have very thick wetsuits, and load of extra kilos, so we need to do some inflation before we get it right. The underwater life is good though and we see plenty of what we already know, but even more of what we don't. Just loads of nudibranches, types of corals and fans we haven't seen before, big coral coveHeidi and Sofierage, almost 100% in some places. During lunch break we stay near a current where regularly Manta rays are spotted. We do some snorkeling, but only Jane, the non diver sees one. Me and Sofie fear that we will never see any, as it is some kind of curse, but then both of us see one, jumping out of the water. The curse is over, we gonna see lots of them ! And so we do, the second dive at Tatawa Besar is just amazing. About 15 mantas, most of them about 3 meter width, circle and show, sometimes 4 in a row. There magic, angel like movement is jut too impressive. To make it even more perfect, we spot two big turtles, and some white tip reef sharks. The next day the weather is not that great, our first dive is cancelled as the captain says it is too rough, so we move over and do two channel dives. In one the current is too weak, so we wander around and enjoy the small drift and small sea life, the second one has loads of current. The drift gets so strong the we hook up with the other group and Marco even gets confused and decides to hang out with us. When finally the boat picks up the girls, who stayed under 15 minutes longer (more air), the waves are hitting hard maybe 5 meters high at some times. But our captain is great, and the dives were good, and 'antimo' is the perfect anti sea sickness pill !

04/02 Perama boat

Only Darren goes out today, with Marco and Frank, and get some nice spotting. We get to the bank, where they give us a ridiculous rate for our Euro travelers cheques, but we have to pay the dives, and the Perama boat cruise. We could have stayed, and gotten to Serayu island for a few days, but we decide to hook up with our new friends and go on the two day 'cruise' to Lombok.

The first night we already sleep on the boat. Me and Sofie stay on the sundeck, which means stars in the skies and beach sand to lay down on. Luckily it didn't rain.

05/02 Komodo dragons

We leave early, and head to Rinca, one of the island where the famous KomoKomodo dragondo dragon lives. At the park HQ we spot about 10 of them, waiting for kitchen left overs. On the sweaty 1 hour walk the park rangers only manage to locate one more. This beast is quite impressive. If it charges and attacks, you better run fast, or climb in a tree asap. If it bites you, you'll die of the infection of all the bacteria in its slimy mouth.

After this a stopover for snorkeling, and then we meet the rough see. It takes them till midnight to find a calmer spot where the cook is able to actually prepare some food. The night is windier, but me and Sofie stay on the open roof deck, until rain drops wake us up. As the lower deck is getting full, the friendly staff offers us a bunk bed inside, just for a few hours of perfect sleep.

06/02 Lombok

We stop after breakfast at MoSteve and Heidi, Darran and Jane, me and Sofieyo island, and walk up to a nice waterfall. The Perama staff shows us how to do it, sling the big rope, and let yourself go to fall in the fresh water. Soon, all of us enjoy the coolness. Some more snorkeling and finally we board main land, and transfer by bus to Sengiggi, where we'll depart the next day to the Gili islands.

07/02 Darrens Birthday

It is Darren's birthday, and we join him and Jane to Gili Trawagan, the biggest island of the 3 Gilis, the party island it is. We have a good time out for his birthday, even went dancing in the bleu Merlin ! The next day we transfer to the perfect guesthouse, right in front of the nicest beach and snorkeling part of the island. 2 luxury chalets in front, 5 normal bungalows in the back. 

08-16/02 Relaxing Gili Trawagan

What initially was the plan to stay a few days on party island, and then move to the quieter ones, turned around to staying on party island all the time. Why ? Because it is low season, it is a perfect relaxed atmosphere, they have the greatest sea food and restaurants, and of course we enjoy hanging around with Jane and Darren. We snorkel, watch movies, have beach BBQ, try mushroom effects when the power is down, anSunset on Gili islandsd see some good movies in an Irish pub. Life can be worse than this, it is difficult to leave, but we have to move on one day. Oh, and the last 2 days, we moved in the luxurious chalet in front, from where you can see sunrise over the ocean, whit the only sweet shower of the island, in an outdoor garden ! We love it.

17-19/02 Padangbai, Bali

Perama boat and bus and boat again brings us to Padangbai, on Bali. Here we want to do some more diving. The Liberty wreck, a freighter sunken by the Japanese during WWII, and just off the beach one hour from Padangbai. The town Padangbai itself is super relaxed, and we meet the Germans Marco and Frank again, and have a good night out on the beach Reggae bar. 

The Liberty wreck dive is just fabulous. The first dive is more looking at the structure and size of it, looking at some detail here and there. But the wreck is the perfect habitat for corals, plants and fish life. We see a beautiful white frogfish, do a swim through and enjoy the beauty of it all.

The next day we go for two dives nearby. Ratka of the dive shop says it is a bit tricky with the currents, and indeed when we get there she doubts of going in. But she does, and after 10 minutes of mainly kicking and fighting the current, she cancels the dive when we are at 10 meters deep. What happened next was a night mare for Sofie. As the currents started shifting a whirlpool shaped. Although it looked quite innocent, it suddenly flipped all our positions relative to each other around and then Sofie was dragged under, in just a split second. From about 3 meters deep, to maybe 8 or 10. That is to quick, and she screamed out the pain swims straight up, her left ear bleeding. Ratka helps her out of the water, and then the boat itself starts sliding, so hard that Darren is sucked under it, and misses the propeller by just half an arms length. Then the boat starts moving and they forget that I am still hanging on the shaky stairs on the side, between the boat and rocks 3 meters away. Just to say, never go diving with 'OK divers' in Padang Bai ! She rinsed Sofies ear, and checked that she is ok otherwise. After two dives in quieter locations, without me and Sofie, we get back on land and Sofie is scared. The next day we head straight to Kuta, and to the medical clinic.

20-21/02 Kuta

The doctor says it will heal very slowly, up to a year. For now, no water in her ear allowed, so no surfing or swimming. Antibiotics for 5 days, so no drinking either. It is our last week together, so not much of a party. 

I try some surfing with Darren. Sofie and Jane get a tan on the beach. Sofie is allowed to go shopping, so at least she can do that. in the evening me and Darren drink for Jane and Sofie, both on antibiotics. We even stay up to see the FA cup match between Chelsea and Darren's team Newcastle ! Newcastle kicks Chelsea out 1-0 !

22/02 Doctor checkup Sofie goes back to the clinic, as her pillow is getting quite stained with yellow spots. No problem says this new doctor. But she does now better what the next steps are. The eardrum is damaged too much to grow back, so a transplant might be necessary in a month or more. The rest of the ear is not damaged, so hearing and balance are all going to be ok. Flying shouldn't\t be a problem if she takes Actifed before, to clear the system. Some more antibiotics, so no drinking for another 5 days...

23-25/02 Shop'n surf We do some shopping, me and Darren try surfing again, and we have some nice evening dinners and chats. But to al comes an end, and Darren and Jane move on west wards. We had a great time together , 26 days in a row. Hope we'll see them some day in Duncaster.

26-28/02 Ubud

Me and Sofie get away for a few days from hectic Kuta, and travel 1 hour north to Ubud. At the long slopes of a volcano, terraced with thousands of rice fields, and the cultural center of Bali, this is the perfect getaway. We walk between the rice paddies, see traditional dances and gamelan music in the water palace, and eat some real Emmental cheese and dark bread... Lets not forget the swimming pool under our bungalow room. Some last relax together.

01-03/03/2005 The end (of South-East Asia)

This is it, the last days are shopping, some last surf, good food and talks about how it all was. 3/3 we fly to Kuala Lumpur. After I get a connection to New Zealand, Sofie goes back to Bangkok and in a few days back home...

I'll update this page  later with thoughts and facts about the whole South-East Asia experience, but I first have to let it sink a bit. It has all been great and fun. Very different experience than South America, but very rewarding as well...

Next plan - New Zealand for 2 months - Melbourne to Sydney in 1 month - Snow boarding New Zealand for 2.5 months - home

Keep on tripping,