Happy black Wednesday!!! Especially sad to not be home during the holidays, I’m a festive human being and I live for stupid things like baking an absurd amount of cookies and listening to Christmas music 3 months a year. PS I started listening to Christmas music 3 weeks ago, if you were wondering.
For Thanksgiving this year my friends & I are trying to host a huge Thanksgiving at an airbnb in Bangkok, wish us luck! I also treated myself to a little Black Friday shopping at Chatuchak Weekend market in Bangkok last weekend. The deals are better; and the clothes are cuter, I want to do a post on it at some point. Just to illustrate my point this weekend I bought a jumpsuit, a bottle of perfume, a 2 piece skirt/crop top matching set, a new pair of shades, and some string lights, and it altogether only set me back about $30US. I love Thailand.
Sometimes when you travel, it’s better not to plan ahead, and to just take things as they come. This is especially true when backpacking Southeast Asia, when there’s no financial benefit to booking ahead of time, a lot of accommodations don’t even exist online, you find your best travel information from other backpackers, and your plans tend to change at the drop of a hat.
Epic pano of the struggle morning that’s about to ensue. Breathe if you’re hungover.
For example, check out my post on the passing of the King and the cancellation of Full Moon. Yes, I still went to Koh Phagnan, but the people I originally planned to meet up ended up getting stuck up in central Thailand. I also ended up taking an overnight ferry, and had I bought my ferry tickets ahead of time I would’ve been screwed.
Backpacker’s reference – book things on booking.com if you are going to book things ahead of time. A lot of their listings require 0 deposit ahead of time, so if you change your mind it costs you nothing.
So in Bali, my friends & I went in with that kind of mentality. Yes, we had an idea of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do, but we didn’t pay for anything ahead of time, and we took everything as it came. The only exception was Kawa Ijen, which we reserved on Air BNB, and even then we didn’t hand over any money ahead of time. Even with our hostels we paid one night at a time, and extended our stay in the morning every day. The only issue I’ve ever had with that is having to move rooms.
Our hike we were leaving in beautiful Ijen.
That being said, we didn’t really plan anything after Ijen. We just assumed that we would go back to Kuta, because we didn’t put any thought into it and that was close to the airport, and we had crossed all the hikes and temples we had wanted to see off our lists. So we booked our transport from Gilimanuk(the Java ferry port on Bali) to take us to Kuta.
Sleep-deprived after our 1AM hike, halfway to Kuta we realized that we didn’t really want to go back to Kuta. Yes, we had a fabulous time in Kuta, but (further explained in my Krazy in Kuta post) Kuta wasn’t anything super special. It was like the Balinese version of every other Southeast Asia party destination. So our first sleepy, groggy thought was to go to the Gili Trawagan.
Keep in mind, we hadn’t put any planning into this whatsoever. We called ahead and realized that we wouldn’t make it to a ferry that night, so we decided to continue on to Kuta and catch the first ferry in the morning.
Left: The only picture I have from Captain Gross, ooooops I mean Goose. For some reason free pancakes were a thing at every crappy hostel in Kuta. And by free pancakes I mean make-your-own mediocre pancakes with whatever gross pancake mix had been sitting out in the heat for a couple days.
Right: One of many scary private-chartered transports we took throughout our Balinese trip. I thought Thai driving was horrifying, and then I got to Indonesia.
So we crashed at a gross party hostel in Kuta for the night(Captain Goose, would 150% NOT recommend), complete with a green pool and overpriced rooms, woke up early, and headed off to Padang Bai, the alleged ferry port that would whisk us off to the mystical Gili Trawagan. In my defense, Captain Goose slightly led us astray. They offered some kind of package that included transport and a ferry ticket to Gili Trawagan. We asked if we went to the ferry port in Padang Bai if we could get a ferry to Gili T, and without blinking an eye they said yes. So we purchased transport straight to Padang Bai instead of going with the package we offered, because after doing a little research we thought we could do the transport to Gili T for cheaper than the 150,000 rupiah/person package they offered, seeing as a ferry ticket to Gili T from Padang Bai only cost 40,000 rupiah. We were all feeling a tad broke at this point in the trip, so the thought of saving money got us all kinds of excited and probably slightly clouded our judgment.
That was the Achilles heel of the entire operation – you CANNOT go straight from Padang Bai to Gili T, unless you pay an absurd amount of money to charter your own private speedboat. By absurd I mean 500,000 rupiah a person, which is $37US a person. For Southeast Asia that’s like penthouse-level pricing. I’ve also heard many horror stories of those speedboats tipping, so I wouldn’t recommend the speedboats. Not that the ferries are much safer.
We woke up at 6AM, hopped into our hired car, and took a 30-minute drive on out to Padang Bai. This was the first annoyance of the operation – the ferry wasn’t until 8AM, and the hostel had us convinced that we had to leave so early to avoid traffic. Which was probably partially true, as traffic in Kuta is so horrifying that its borderline worth of a Stephen King novel, but I’m more convinced that they trolled us into booking our transport with them and their driver had another private pick-up at 7. One of the things that I didn’t like about Kuta – it was a freaking minefield of tourist traps.
The second annoyance of the operation – our hired driver took us straight to a transport company, that was trying to sell us a private speedboat to Gili T. The hired driver from our hostel. Captain Goose, you’re pretty high on my shit list after this whole fiasco. The transport company also tried to lie to us and say that there was no ferry available because it was low season, a fact that I knew was wrong after spending time on the phone with ferry companies during our drive from Gilimanuk to Kuta the night before. Maybe I’m just getting cocky because I’ve been in Thailand for so long, but nothing pisses me off more than when people try to trick me into a tourist trap, as it’s insulting to my intelligence.
Rice I bought from a street vendor at the ferry port, the only good thing to come out of Padang Bai. In Indonesia, you can buy these little packets of rice and chicken and other goodness for only 5,000 Rupiah. Although this woman charged me 10,000 because she saw that I was a foreigner. You win some, you lose some. Of course I had to buy unknown food from a random street vendor after getting food poisoning and complaining about how I need to stop being so cocky with spice and street food. I’m my own worst enemy.
Status update on the crew at this point – everyone aside from myself had gone out the night before, despite being sleep-deprived after two back-to-back sunrise hikes. I’m not weak I swear, I just was still on the road to recovery from food poisoning. So our crew consisted of 7 people fighting a hangover and a sick imp, AKA me. More accurately it was probably 3 people that were still drunk, 4 people fighting a hangover, and a sick imp. And it was 6:30 in the morning. Recipe for disaster and I haven’t even gotten into the meat of it.
Thailand is freaking wonderful. Yes, I’m biased, but the 54% return rate of tourists backs this statement. Whenever you miss a ferry to an island, you can barter at the dock with random Thai guys to charter a private speedboat to any island that you wish. We made the mistake of assuming that this would also hold true in Indonesia, which was not the case. I mentioned above that they charge about 500,000 rupiah a person for private transport, and the furthest that anyone waivered from that number was 400,000.
At the ferry port, we learned that the ferry didn’t go to Gili T, it went to Lombok and Gili T. Indonesia is a country that consists of thousands of islands, so why we thought that you could obviously hop from Bali to Gili T in one fell swoop is beyond me. If you take anything away from this post take that – you CANNOT go straight from Bali to Gili T. You have to go to Lombok first, a neighboring island that’s supposed to be very nice as well.
I was the first one from our crew that had to catch a flight out of Bali. So, it was at this point in the operation at which I put my foot down. I wasn’t spending a ton of rupiah and an even bigger ton of my time(proportionally speaking) to get to Gili T and only be there for 24 hours. One of my friends had decided to stay behind in Kuta with an Indonesian boy(closer to the airport), so I figured if anything I could go back and meet up with her. But then another friend realized they also had a flight coming up soon and wanted to stay. And then the domino effect happened; everyone decided that staying on the mainland of Bali would be a better idea. But, as discussed in a paragraph above, we didn’t really want to go back to Kuta, as there was so much of Bali to see.
At this point in the trip we were in Padang Bai. Padang Bai – the middle of freaking nowhere. People only really go to Padang Bai to get on the ferry to Lombok, so we didn’t want to waste our time there. While we were all sitting at breakfast dying, I blurted out the first city name that had been listed on our Bali-planning Google doc “Canggu!” Given that no one was in a position to do any critical thinking that point and decide otherwise, we decided that Canggu was the next stop in our Balinese crusade, and we decided to bargain with one of the horrid transport companies near the pier to get there. I’ve mentioned this in earlier posts but in Bali there’s not much public transport, the best way to get from place to place is by hiring a private car. It’s also very affordable, especially when traveling with a large group.
Being that it was low season, and we were a large group of walking dollar signs – oops I mean people – several guys from the transport companies had been circling us the entire time. You know in dramatic cartoons when someone’s about to die, for example in the Lion King, and vultures start circling? That’s what it was like. We were ignoring them, but they literally followed us from place to place. Some of them were even waiting outside the little restaurant we had hidden in to eat breakfast.
My breakfast, AKA 30,000 Rupiah for over-priced mango juice from said breakfast place and 10,000 Rupiah rice that I snuck in from outside after seeing our waitress eating her own with her hands(standard in Indonesia) in the corner. This is Nasi Ayam, or chicken rice (Nasi = rice, Ayam = chicken), and in the back you can see sambal sauce.
I was sensible enough to realize that our large group was drawing unwanted attention, so I left the hungover kiddies eating their breakfast, grabbed my intimidating friend Brad, and went off to barter for another private transport. And just like that, our pumpkin turned back into a horse-drawn carriage, and we were off to one of my favorite places in Bali, Canggu.
The promised land coming up, AKA Canggu.
TO BE CONTINUED