Satays, Beaches and More Beaches

Lombok Island is one of my favorite destinations in Indonesia. The first time I landed in Lombok was a little over a decade ago.  I was amazed. I decided then that I will come back. Well this time was the perfect time to do that and see how things have evolved.

Instead of flying to Bali I flew directly to Lombok airport and then find a transport to the Gilis.  After finding a couple of willing passengers to fill out a private taxi, the negotations began. You see, my Bahasa consists of 5 words. Thankfully one of them applies to ’empak orang’ and IDR 250.000 (IDR250.000 for 4 pax in a taxi. Get it?) After some haggling, off we go.One of the passengers I found out was spending only the weekend on the islands so I offered to share my cottage. Boat transfers followed and then before we knew it me and my new found friend were gulping down cold Bintangs on our side of the beach in Gili Trawangan.

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For over a week and a half a pattern has emerged – eat breakfast (pancakes), swim/dive/engage in some water activity/walk/bike, catch sunset and then the night begins.

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my home in the Gilis

Diving and snorkeling is the most popular activity on this island (apart from drinking obviousballs!). I’m a fan of tropical fish and corals so I made it a point to do a couple of diving. It did not disappoint. The green turtles are my favorites.

When you are feeling lazy there is always the chilling at the beach thing.

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Bikes abound to explore the rest of the island. I found the norther side to find the nicer beaches.

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Since most are based in Gili Trawangan, then you can always hire a boat to chill or snorkel at the other Gilis which I absolutely enjoyed doing.

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sunset point

As soon as the sun sets, time to ditch the bikes and find your way to the night market for some delicious meal.

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the famous night market

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fresh catch every day for dinner

Once the belly is full, then time to party!  Every night, a different venue will host the main party (that doesn’t stop you from picking your own bar/spot). Then before closing time which is usually 1AM, ask the locals where the after party is.

Okay I have to say that being a connoisseur of underground dance music, I find the sets a tad too Top 40’s in most venues. The exception is the Sama-Sama reggae bar and Ombak Bar that really does beach party music with good fire dancing even.  Anyway, make sure you are fully inebriated before going to the after party which will usually the Top 40 music. The party comes to a full stop on the island before the morning prayer.

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one of the mosques on the island

The Gilis of today has certainly changed from what I saw a decade ago. It has become a hectic island from numerous bikes, the depressing state of of the horse drawn carts and tons of people. The irony of mosques blaring calls to prayer while the island is surrounded with people in various state of undress and under the influence. Will I return again? Hell yes. To party.

After a week and a half of partying non stop it’s time to get out from lalaland and do some actual surfing. I based myself in Kuta in Lombok in a nice Balinese villa. Kuta is tame compared to the Gilis. It is something I needed after the craziness a few days before.

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the rare Balinese themed villa in a predominantly Muslim area

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pool a few steps from my room

I got lucky to meet some crazy local surfer dudes who took me to the nicest spots around the mainland. Of course mad driving was part of the adventure. Luckily no animal or human was harmed and lots of laughter and fun was had.

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one of the popular surf spots for beginners and intermediate level

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In between surf breaks, the beach which was a few minutes away from my cottage was a perfect spot to read a book and just chill.

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Overall I had the best time in Lombok. I wish I had more time to explore more of the island. That would be another reason to come back no?

Olá and 再見

I recently spent a week in Hong Kong and Macau for a work gig. It’s good to be back. I’ve always liked Hong Kong. Back in the day when I was just starting my career, I’ve always gone there often on business trips and ultimately build some friendships and fond memories.

One thing about small countries is that its is so packed you can accomplish many things in a couple days. Yes, no need to remind me that they are prefectures of China yada yada.  I still consider them a country of their own.

First off, Macau has been designed to be the Las Vegas of Asia. So all the big hotel/casino names are here in all their grandiosity and glamour. Much of what you see here is a replica of The Strip in Vegas.

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My day time is usually full so I only get the chance to walk around at night. The crowd of holiday-ers are noticeably less than Vegas so you could walk around with much less weaving in and out. Also majority of the visitors are from mainland China so they tend to be in groups and only come out at day time (they spend the nights in casinos).

It is relatively safe to walk around alone. Of course you don’t leave your wits and street smarts in your hotel room safe. If you want to get away from the fancy restaurants in the hotel resorts Taipa Village is the place to go. There is a smorgasbord of restaurants and stalls offering Portuguese and Chinese delicacies. Ah yes, and the famous egg tarts. And slabs and slabs of jerky. Pork, Beef, Stuffed… they have it. And the best thing is they offer you slices as samples. Next stop to sample are the pastries. Macau is also known for their pastellerias. There are also hawker type stalls for your street food fix.

Funny thing is I came across the only store that has people lining up. When I checked it out everything was written in Chinese. Also most of those lining up where from the mainland so yeah there was some lost in translation going on.I joined the cue for a bit but then decided since I don’t really know what are they buying and no pricing in Arabic numbers, I decided to bail out. Needless to say I was curious.

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What are you guys lining up for?

So most nights I would walk around this area, occasionally stopping for  food or beer. Amidst the Portuguese designed buildings are small pockets of restaurants offering a fusion of Portuguese and Chinese food.

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There is no shortage of restaurants – Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, etc. Oh yeah and a pub. How can I forget the pub!

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Going beyond the main tourist area, it is lovely and peaceful.

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street art

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Next stop, Hong Kong

The ferry crossing to Hong Kong was uneventful. Well except some girls loudly discussing the season finale of Game of Thrones which I haven’t watched it at the time. Talk about spoilers!

It was raining when I arrived in Hong Kong. That basically set the tone for the remainder of my stay. So instead of planning for a beach day I spent some time reacquainting with my old haunts. Needless to say I did a lot of walking. And crossing streets.

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Hong Kong is so jam packed I like weaving in and out between the main and smaller streets to get to your destination faster.

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Oh yeah and Victoria Peak just because I was close by the Peak tram station.

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The off and on rains prevented some quality beach time. Oh well.

Then its time to have the reunion with friends. Just like any other major city hub there is a vibrant night life   that needs to be taken advantaged of. Needless to say, there was a lot of fun along with consumption of copious amounts of alcohol.

Then off to catch a plane with a hungover. Yeah tell me about it. I’m getting too old for this shit.

So long Hong Kong and Macau. Thanks for the good time.

 

Life on a Cold Road

I had the fortune of going on a road trip in the dead of winter. This time we were heading towards further West. Packing up our old but trusty car with all sorts of survival mode things, we headed our way to I-70. Now you see Colorado is a beautiful state. And no, not because of their famous botanical product but because of the beautiful nature they were blessed with. Some of these you can see while being on the I-70. As soon as we crossed to Utah things changed dramatically. There were less trees and boulders started becoming more prominent. Landscapes are vast and mostly empty (I can’t blame people, it’s winter). This is where you crank up the volume and sing/yell whatever was on the radio. Err… actually I take that back. If you are not a country music fan, make sure to bring you favorite tunes with you. Lots of ’em.

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The only stop we did was to drop our postcards at this cute post office in the middle of somewhere. That was rad haha!Oh yeah and of course we have to miss one turn that set us back about an hour. Thirteen or so hours later we arrived in warmer Las Vegas.

So being a tropical person that I am I give a little clap every time the thermometer climbs up one level. Oh and to peel off two layers of clothing felt great. Sooo… whatever could you do in Vegas? First, a long hot shower. Then food!

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warm deliciousness brought to you by one of Wolfgang Puck’s resto in MGM

Since this is Vegas we  tried our luck at the tables. Ha! Let’s just say that the house wins most of the time. I did have some fun time though in between drinking and watching my piles of chips go up and then slowly disappear. I also learned how to play Crapps or Crappps however you spell it.

We did play tourist for a bit with the gorgeous weather and all.

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We had a full moon for the backdrop in Sin City.

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Speaking of sin, we went to the old town. The Strip takes most of the limelight these days but the old town was where it was happening before the Strip came to life. Some might say this is the seedier side of the city nowadays. Lo and behold…!

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Look, I decided many years ago that there are certain jobs I wouldn’t take even at my most destitute (you see I was traveling full time when I had this moment of clarity). These would be:

  • Masseuse – I’m a massage addict. When you get a good masseuse, it’s heaven! I however don’t want to be that person giving service
  • Body Waxer – Sorry no. I don’t wanna be removing hair in every nook and cranny of people’s bits.
  • Emptying sewage – self explanatory

Now I think I may have to add one to my list. That is being a half naked human piece of entertainment, standing outside on a cold winter midnight. Damn Dude! Or does that head dress give some warmth? Anybody know…?

After a few days of our pockets getting lighter and lighter, we decided to cut our losses and head to Arizona for some family time and fun. But first we stopped by the Hoover Dam. Truly it is an engineering marvel.

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We were lucky to catch a glimpse of a beautiful sunset over what I assume is part of the Red Rock Canyons.

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In the next two weeks, we would camp ourselves in Elloy for some serious sky diving. Now that is one hell of a party!

Serendipitous Thanksgiving

The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us. – Ashley Montagu

This being my first Thanksgiving in the US of A, my friend decided to drag me out to Grand Lake in Grand County, Colorado for the Thanksgiving week. Yes, a week! Since most of this trip I haven’t touched any guidebook or done any advance reading like I always do when doing a trip, I had no idea what was in store for me. Well, what can I say, I fell in love!

We made our way to Grand Lake at night and even then aided by a full moon the drive up was very scenic.  The next morning was a nice weather and so we did what respectable half-sober people would do – play in the sun and the snow. Suffice it is to say that that was the pattern for the remaining days – wake up, drive up to the bar for some bloody mary’s and mimosas for breakfast, power up with snow mobiles, wander around and retire to the bar. Pretttyy good if you ask me.

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view from the bedroom

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fine day indeed!

During our down times, we would pause to admire Grand Lake.

The locals tell me that this is the deepest, natural lake in Colorado. All I can say is it is beautiful.

I do have a penchant for small towns. And this town is as small as can be. You can tell when you walk into our watering hole that everyone knows every one including the nitty gritty details of everyone’s lives. “Hey Dixie, was that a new puppy you were walking this morning?” “Hey Ricky, everything fine with your new blinds?” Bless.

downtown Grand Lake

we’ve spent too many hours on this bar

Now the greatest challenge comes at night. See, we like to go out and party. However we also like to be responsible and not drink and drive. That leaves us leaving any kind of transport (car, snow mobiles, boards) and walk to the town. Now what happens when it’s time to go home?

This.

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Walking up the hill to head home at 3AM. No, it’s not enjoyable at all. But, as you’ve assumed correctly, this did not stop us from doing the same thing. How else are we supposed to enjoy Thanksgiving week?

‘Til next time!

 

 

The Colours of Autumn

It has been a while since I was in a place where Autumn/Fall happens. I have to say it is my favorite weather whenever I am out of the tropics. Why? It is not too hot. It is not too cold. Pretty colours everywhere.

Right now my wandering feet brought me to the US and I am embarking on a road trip with the central West as the starting point (yes I may have made that up). The first leg of the trip is towards the MidWest and boy oh boy,  it has been pretty so far.

home base for now

how's that for a start of a road trip

how’s that for a start of a road trip?

Perfect weather, perfect company and well, we have a lot to go… stay tuned.