“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

We arrived into Kota Kinabalu and found a cheap hotel which we were a bit surprised to discover was in the parking garage of “Asia City.” We spent some nights here planning our travel around Borneo and had plenty of opportunities to watch B-rate movies. Every night “Red Dawn” played, we must have “watched” it five times. I wouldn’t recommend doing this.



Obviously shared bathroom did not mean shared shower.

We flew south to Kuching and stayed in a little Chinese guesthouse that quickly felt like home, and it wasn’t in a parking garage -score. We indulged in egg banjos (sandwiches sold on the street for $1), admired all the cat statues around town (Kuching means cat) and walked along the riverfront. We could have gotten stuck here for a month, but hanging out in cities is not why you go to Borneo.

IMG_5079DSC02010DSC01988DSC01685DSC02030 So we headed to Bako National Park to do some hiking and see wildlife (green pit vipers, lemurs, stick insects) and get harassed by monkeys. I did not take the posted warnings serious enough and had Macaques jumping on me trying to steal my plastic bag – they know food is usually inside. One morning, one jumped on our table and ran away with our bag of coffee and powdered milk. We saw the little devil on the roof covered in white powder, obviously the coffee was not to his refined tastes. DSC01982DSC01954 DSC01809DSC01776DSC01745DSC01737DSC01735DSC01691 Next we had a week at Mulu National Park which is known for an extensive cave system. So what did we do? We saw caves – lots and lots of caves. Including an adventure cave, which was as advertised – climbing up and down ropes, watching out for bats, snakes and spiders, and squeezing through small holes. We also did a canopy walk on some rickety little walkways that were a little scary for me, but overall pretty incredible. Ezra did a hike up to the pinnacles, which the park is known for, with our new friends Heinrich and Christofer. And we all did a hike to a gorge which basically meant wading upriver through rapids and floating back down. Best. Hike. Ever. Unfortunately I have no pictures to show for it. DSC02710 DSC02692 DSC02687


Swirling bat exodus from cave

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Heinrich was the real deal, the closest I’ve ever met to a real traveling minstrel. He’d been hitching and walking around with his ukulele and living with aborigines for the past two years.  He was only 20 but was grounded and humble about his experiences. Christofer was from Denmark and was smart, funny and compassionate. He was traveling and volunteering with his girlfriend and was also in his early twenties. I look back at my own youth and cringe a bit. He taught us about J-day in Denmark, which is basically a holiday that is centered around the debut of the holiday beer. This is a major event apparently and we spent hours talking about it. When I go to Denmark, which I fully intend to do after chatting with him, it will be for J-day!


So basically no ninjas or knights allowed aboard

And then there was Clara. The sweetest little girl we first met with her parents in Kuching and then showed up in Mulu. We took to each other right away and she would come up to us and tell us stories about her friends and ballet studio, giving us hugs and bits of food from her plate. We became friendly with her folks and they joked we were her new parents. I always find it inspiring to see families traveling with young kids. It was sad to say bye to the little darling. IMG_5254 Our last week we wasted some days in a town called Miri and then headed back to Kota Kinabalu via bus and ferry through the Sultanate of Brunei. A Finnish couple (another awesome duo we met caving) warned us that a day there was plenty. When we arrived we found they were right. With alcohol illegal, we had only tea and coffee to lubricate our weary bones, and since we weren’t interested in shopping, and everything was closed on Friday…we heeded their advice and got out of town. Only about 24 hours in this little country,  it might be a new record. I can honestly tell you almost nothing about Brunei. It has a beautiful mosque, a stilted water village, huge mud skippers and lots of shopping malls. That is all I can tell you. I’m sure its wonderful, but it also wasn’t cheap, so we needed to flee. DSC02829 DSC02817 DSC02790

the ring of fire – indonesia

“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but – well, I want to go places and see people.  I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

To sum up my feeling for Indonesia I just need to say that it was love at first sight.  From the people to the array of cultures, religions and the food…. oh the food.  I never knew you could make so much magic with tempeh and tofu.  I have simple wants, it’s true.

After Papua we flew to Jakarta and wandered around the seedy harbor – which was in part where the spice trade was born.  Hit up Chinatown (of course), and met some nice Jakartans with whom we had a few too many beers while we talked religion, politics and learned a few bar tricks, all of which involved fire.

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The next few days were a whirlwind of touristic activities but after being in remote New Guinea for a month we had the energy for it.  The erotic fertility temple of Candi Sukuh had all the phallic images you could ever hope for??   We checked out the location of the Java Man’s discovery and admired a few skulls.  On to Mt. Bromo we witnessed one of the most incredible sunrises with our new Dutch friends.  They taught us about the Dutch colonization of Indonesia and in a bizarre twist they had learned half-way across the world from Holland, decades before, their grandmothers had actually known each other during the colonization.  Another murderous day in a minivan, blaring karaoke in our hotel lobby and up again before the sun to volcano hop on over to Mt. Ijen.

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Mt. Ijen was perhaps one of the most memorable days. A couple sulphur porters wanted to be our guides and were so nice we couldn’t resist.  However, every time we got to a hill he grabbed my hand and ran me up.  Out of breath and heart pumping I wondered why I was getting this special work-out when no one else was.   Down in the crater the sulphorous fumes were noxious.   These guys may make up to $10-15 a day for carrying up to 400 pounds of sulphur.  This is triple the amount they can make picking coffee and their motivation for working one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.  It was incredible – beautiful and horrifying.  This lake has the same pH as battery acid.

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It’s just as easy as another van, bus, ferry, bus and taxi and we’re in Bali. We decided to stay a couple days in Denpassar to be close for when my parents arrive.  I didn’t do much other than eat, study up on some Bahasa Indonesian and get some essential oils mixed by my “bartender of perfume.”  Then my parents arrived and it was so wonderful to see them.   We started their adventure out right by dragging them up hundreds of steps ladened with all our luggage looking for our cute little place in the rice fields.  Then Ezra lost his wallet so we spent the next hour up and down looking for it in the dark.  Even so, we were so happy to be together and they were good sports the whole time.  We spent a few nights in Ubud walking around town, catching up and took a little stroll through the monkey sanctuary.

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Further south we went to a cute little surf town of Padang Padang and just enjoyed the chill atmosphere and took a dip in the water.  There were more beautiful sunsets at temples and plenty of monkeys to keep you on your toes trying to snatch your glasses or bags or as we saw one do… a flip flop from off a girl’s foot.

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We head back to Java to the town of Jogjakarta to see the Buddhist temple of Borobudur and Hindu temples of Prambanan.  We watched a cool shadow puppet show (ask my dad how he liked it – he got a good little nap) and the Ramayana ballet did not disappoint with lots of fire. We also met some of the most incredibly kind and friendly people.  There was a group of students that we met at the Sultan’s palace that were studying English and befriended and chatted us up for hours.  Addresses, emails and phone numbers were exchanged and I think my parents will have many new pen pals. We did Java proper and now on to Kalimantan in Borneo.

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Our three days on a houseboat felt a little surreal as we went up the river looking for Orangutans.  Watching these hairy beings you couldn’t help feeling connected somehow watching their human mannerisms.  We also saw proboscis monkeys and it was hilarious watching them taking a running start and jumping as far across the river as possible.  The shorter the amount of time in the water means the less chance of being eaten by crocodiles. We had a great first day and then unfortunately my mom got pretty sick and as she was lying on the deck of the boat with a fever, in the heat and the jungle passing us by,  I couldn’t help but think “we’re in the middle of nowhere and I’m killing my mother!”   Even though she insisted we stay I made an executive decision to head back a night early and once in a cool room and with a good night sleep she bounced back.   In the end she thought it was a bit of an exotic experience.  I on the other hand still feel a bit traumatized and don’t think I’ll be dragging my parents into a jungle again anytime soon.

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Indonesia was a special place.  I really like archipelagos and with so much to explore I have no doubt we’ll go back. Whenever someplace new, whether it be a small town back home or someplace half way around the world, I can’t help but ask myself if I could live there.  We overstayed our visa (whoops) and just played dumb as we were called into the immigration office.  But no problem, just a small fine and we were sent on our way with an invitation to come back.  Oh yes, we’ll be back.