Kuala Lumpur (A Rant and a Survival Tip)

We spent a week in Kuala Lumpur. I almost blissfully forgotten that the city was true to it’s name. “Lumpur” means mud in Malay.Behind the bustling backdrop of a city that never sleeps,¬†lay the bodies of people who would be the poster faces of poverty. No they’re still alive, but they seem lifeless. When they are not sitting on the streets begging for coins, they are sleeping on any surfaces they can find that aren’t already occupied.

It’s hot & humid there. And dusty. And most of all dirty. At the back of restaurants we see scurrying rats and mice scourging for scraps, and street cats waiting to pounce on potential preys. Some cats are much smarter and come up to hawkers and open air restaurants and wait for diners or staff to throw them scraps.

Construction goes on 24/7. Since it’s everywhere no one complains about it and since it’s so many, who is going to complain? In a city like Kuala Lumpur, life is fun if you have the monetary capacity to afford comfortable living spaces, and an overall quality of life. You also have to live by night time.

During the day the heat is intense and dirty. The constant traffic of cars doesn’t help either. The heat amplifies when you’re walking closer to vehicles. It’s best to take the monorails or LRTs to get around. The network stops at most major places which are great if you’re there as a tourist and only want to go to those places.

By night time, it’s still warm but without the sun over-bearing it’s rays above you, it’s more bearable. We stayed in Kuala Lumpur for about a week and decided to escape to the highlands for some chill time. By that I mean Cameron Highlands, though before leaving there’s some highlights of Kuala Lumpur that are definitely worth sharing.

  1. Nearly every cafe has Wi-Fi (and sweet coffee)¬†–¬†If you don’t want to shop, or see tall buildings, this was one of our favourite ways to pass the time in KL. We own a¬†web store¬†selling our¬†wearable art. For those that travel and work online this is what KL is so good for. You have hundreds of cafes (and I don’t just mean Starbucks) to pick from. Our top pick is the Old Town Kopitiam Sungei Wang for the friendly manager, choice of outdoor or indoor seating, large servings of special Malaysian coffee, good Wi-Fi & A.C, and powerpoints for your laptops and chargers. Also that interior! It’s old-school and so cosy! 
    Address: AS116, Jalan Sultan Ismail, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    Trading Hours: 10am – 10pm

     

  2. FREE BUSES –¬†Paying for public transport and being stuck in traffic for it isn’t really everyone’s favourite things to do. So at least escape one. There is no way to avoid traffic on the roads of KL but the free purple bus (more lilac than purple) from the Pasar Seni train station¬†will allow you to enjoy some A.C while en route to Pavillion & Starhill Mall. You may also meet colourful characters. We met an elderly Indian man with a funky personality who gave us a break down of our future and personality through the spelling of our names. It was great! Visit¬†GoKL for other free bus routes.¬†Image result for gokl buses
  3. CHEAP EATS –¬†14659438566_8b5e82a912_oOne of the things I miss greatly about being in Asia is how cheap it is to feed our tummies. Mind you they aren’t always the healthiest options, but I love my dirty Asian food! It can be pricey too depending on where you go but this paragraph is dedicated to, and in gratitude to the random street vendors that sell a huge variety of food. From kuihs (Malaysian style cakes) to fish crackers to street burgers. Breakfast costed RM2 each, the stalls in front of Low Yat, facing Berjaya Time Square had just what our tastebuds wanted. Large powdered donuts for Cl√©m and fried vegetable pancake for me! Lunch were sushi train visits which obviously costed a bit more, and night time meant we got to visit the burger boys! At RM2.30-RM3 for a banjo (egg) burger made before your very eyes, how could you refuse? Look out for the Ramly burger stalls!

    There are also plenty of shawarma places around the heart of the city and roti canai (Indian flatbread) is abundant @RM1.50 per serving. We once had a night out with drinks and devoured 8 pieces of roti canai with some really good dahl curry. This was at 5am by the way, this city never sleeps! Below is what RM1.50 will get you, one roti and 3 dfferent curries (fish, dahl and chicken).

    roti-canai

 

4. Natalie’s Guesthouse –¬†59583897In the midst our accomodation hopping, trying out all the affordable accomodations to find one that feels like home, Natalie’s Guesthouse hits the spot. It’s not luxurious, it definitely falls in the cheaper budget accomodations @RM40 per night for a room with a fan. It was RM60 for one with A.C. Bathrooms and toilets are shared and are located with the communal kitchen where guests can opt to cook healthier meals if they wish to get away from street food. Towels are provided and coffee & tea are on a self-serve basis. There’s also Wi-Fi and you get reasonable security; guests are given a code to key in for entry after business hours. You can request a laundry service or handwash them yourselves. There’s soap and a bucket provided. It was super old-school style! I just loved it! The Filipina that looks after the place is really lovely and will dote on you like a mother. The place is really basic and can get quite warm but being born and raised here, it just reminds me of my grandmother’s house in the village and I thought it was something really special to find in the heart of KL. Also they had a promotion on Booking.com @ RM36 per night at the time! P.S they also have a rescue cat who sometimes cosies up into your room if you leave your door open.
3

 

There’s also a laundry area and chill out/smoking area with murals at the back. We are definitely going back there when we return to K.L!

Address: 135, Jalan Petaling, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, KL, Malaysia
Standard

Journey to France: Day 77

To everyone who is travelling/considering travelling,  I just want to share with you a very,  very overlooked but important tip.

Please never leave your backpack unattended by yourself.  Even if you are in an area with authorities.  Even if you are in a crowded place where you think everyone will be able to see something suspicious happening.  Even if you ask a friendly fellow traveller to watch it.  Even if you have left your bags unattended before and nothing happened to them.

Just don’t do it,¬† it is not worth the loss of anything. Be it something of value or even if it’s just your underwear. Never give anyone the opportunity to take what belongs to you.

I had my Samsung Galaxy S2 tablet stolen a few days ago.¬† I packed it in an underneath,¬† zipped compartment on the top of my backpack.¬† To access it one needs to undo both clips and flip the top over. To anyone who is familiar with that model tablet will know it doesn’t come cheap due to its fast processor,¬† high memory and of course the brand.

We had previously left our bags unattended or in the hands of others before and we never had any issues prior to this.  In Dumas port, Sumatra we left our bags with a family at the port while we went off to buy our ferry tickets.  By the time we came back the family had already left to board the ship and they left our bags vulnerable the waiting area! Nothing was stolen at that time however.

Another time we left our bags unattended, the same day my tablet was stolen,  was at KL Sentral station,  at the KTM interstate ticket counter. We had 50 people before our turn and thought we would walk around at the floor below to pass the time.  We were confident with so many people around,  no one would try to take our bags so we left them at the back against the wall.  Plus, they were both about 15kg each in weight. When we returned our bags were as they were.

With took this confidence with us to the waiting platform for our trains. We left our bags again at the back against the wall and went into the newsagent next door to pass the time.  Next to where we left our bags sat a Caucasian lady who also was a backpacker. So we were sure no one would come up to our bags with people so close by.

When we returned it was time for our train.¬† I lifted my backpack onto my shoulders and the sounds of the undone clips clacked,¬† the top flipped onto the back of my head. I didn’t think much into it and asked Clem to help clip them back for me.

When we were about to pass the gates to our platform I suddenly thought of doing a quick tap in my bags to make sure my tablet was still with me.  I grabbed a fistful in my small bag, nothing.  I tapped the top of my backpack.  It felt very deflated. 

I asked Clem to check if my tablet was in the top sack so I wouldn’t have to take the backpack off.¬† He said it wasn’t there. I felt a lump in my throat and my heart suddenly felt heavy.

He ran all the way back to the cafe we last stopped at.  He had 10 minutes before the train departed to run about 3 blocks and back.  I was so sure he was going to come back with my tablet but he didn’t,  but he made it back in time for the train.

I had the 3 hour journey to Ipoh to undergo the stages of grief for an inanimate object; denial, anger, detachment,  seeking replacement and finally acceptance.

Standard

Journey to France: Commentary

I have days of journal entries to catch up on but before I may allow myself to resume with the entries, I hope to take the opportunity to provide clarity to some questions about our travels & why we have chosen to travel this way.

Catching a flight from Australia direct to our destination would actually be much cheaper than how we are traveling now. These days flights are If we had flown we would only need to pay the flight which would include meals for the hours we are travelling. We would also not have to pay for visas to all the other countries we are flying over as we would not be entering them.

Why are we making ourselves susceptible to changing environments & uncertainties? Why limit yourself to 15kgs in a backpack that you have to carry around with you when you have to move from place to place? Why wait by the side of a road and be dependent on someone going your way to give you a lift?

Because it is exciting! It is a challenge with rewarding outcomes that cannot be expressed in words. The gentle thrills and satisfaction of the adventure cannot be created in any other way other than to live it. The experience is unique, one of a kind. These days we are so blindly subjected to believe that our capitalistic society is the most idealistic way to live that we dont even realise the trap we are in. Anyone can take a plane to fly to anywhere. It does not require wits to do so and it definitely does not require a special skill set. But how many will have the courage to approach a stranger, form a friendship and then travel with them temporary. How many would have the ability to trust a stranger?

Through hitchhking we have met people with brilliant ideas about the world and society, we have and will continue to learn different ways of living which broadens our understanding of the world and most importantly of people. We realise and see the beauty in life and people. That the world is not as dark and dangerous as the media makes it out to be. The media is selective but they are missing one thing we have, first hand experience.

Through travelling from country to country we get to see places, connect with people, have experiences. It was something I have dreamt of doing since meeting my first bunch of travellers who were working in Australia in the same company as i was. Hearing their stories; the sights they’ve seen, the waters they swam in, the winds they woke up to and the sounds they fall asleep to, made me yearn to have the same experience. But as all euphorias, it is always a better experience if they find their way to you.

Last year I took a somewhat spontaneous trip on my own to Germany. This was via flying as I was fully employed and could take just about 2 weeks off work.¬† I decided to fly to meet my friend Lisa in Mannheim. That was about it for my plans. When I was there, aside from spending time with her and her family I took a day to wander off alone. I took a train to Gernsheim and from the train station it was a walk to the Rhine river. I spent the day there perched in a tree, watching the boats passing by, they unaware of my watching them. I didn’t wander back to Lisa’s till about 9-10pm and that night finding my way back to her house in the dark, and relying on the few Germans i came across to help me. I was lucky 1 out of 3 of them could somewhat speak English.

It was either that same night or the one after, I sought bus tickets to Amsterdam. I found one for just ‚ā¨25 or something relatively cheap. In two nights i was on that bus heading there. I only had a bed for tonights in a hostel there. On the first day I wandered around the picturesque city and only realised by sunset that I had been wandering for 6 hours & that Dutch names were much more challenging to pronounce or rememebr than German. In the end i procured a map and wandered all the way back to the hostel. My ankles were in pain but I was exhilarated from the slight adrenaline of the event. After my second night I asked the hostel receptionist if they had any last minute drop out for a bed. They said no, but recommeneded their sister hostel, 40kms out of Amsterdam, at a beach called Noordwijk. I wasnt left with much choice so I said yes and took a train to the hostel.

It was a life changing decision for me, as simple as it was. When I arrived, and I did not know what to expect. I had never even heard of Noordwijk before, let alone how it looked like. But my night there had changed how I decided to travel for the rest of my life. That night, I didnt even sleep in the bed i had booked. I found company in a group of backpackers at the hostel. One local mature Dutch man, 2 19 year old Irish boys, 1 Asian australian guy, an Australian girl in her 20s, some Chileans, and an American man (those were the only ones I could recall but there were about 18 of us). We brought our instruments and conversation out to the beach. We laughed, we philosophised and we dreamt. We ended up falling asleep on the sand underneath the stars, with the sound of the waves hushing our excited thoughts of new adventures to be had the next day.

My next experience was in Fiji. I booked one night in a hostel by the ocean, the next morning was a whirlwind of adventure. I found myself on a boat heading to Mana Island. I had no idea what to expect, it was partially my decision to go there. I had intended to head to a different island but the cost of the boat was much more than I expected so I chose the cheapest island to head to which was still $80 Fijian Dollars. On the boat I started conversation with an Irish girl because she had a colpurful bag and an erratic personality. We instantly clicked and wandered around the island together and we still keep in touch.

One of the days back on the mainland, I went to a port & hitchhiked a timber barge to an island back in a day. This was the island that was initially too expensive for me to go to. That was when I realised there are always other ways of getting to your destination, other than the conventional way. And the experience was so much better than taking the conventional boat. I had nearly the whole boat to stretch out and fall asleep on, waking up to see a turtle swimming close to the surface of the turquoise waters next to us.

I made friends with one of the island’s staff members and he took me back to his village where his large family took me in as one of their own. They shared what little they had with me, and they really had little. They were a huge family, the parents, his pregnant sister, her husband, their nieces, basically about 13 or so of them were living in an area where the government had cut off all water and electricity to the zone after Cyclone Evan (2012) had destroyed their house and all basic facilities around them. The 4 nieces slept in a tent and the other 8 + myself slept in a 5x5m corrugated iron shelter. Yet they shared their food with me, they insisted I spend my last remaning days in their humble home, they looked after me like one of their own. It was my first time living with a complete stranger and his family in a¬† ondition that was out of the ordinary travelling way and hamefully I had not realised until i was staying with their family, that away from the gorgeous turquoise waters and glamorous hotels, majority of the local inhabitants were really poverty stricken.

And yet they were happy! They were kind! They were accepting of others! They were generous with others! They were everything I had imagined beautiful people to be!

It was not as comfortable living with them in such conditions but the truth is, it is livable and it is a whole new experience of travelling to learn how other people live, and what they can live without. Most of all it sparked my passion for humanity. I gave all my clothes to the girls. And went back to Australia with just the clothes I had on me.

I said to myself I wanted my next travel to push it’s limit. I wanted to live of on as little as possible for as long as possible, and i wanted to live in various conditions. I wanted to experience everything I could and push my boundaries. So here I am, that’s why I decided to travel like this.

To have a travel partner for life, as was found in my fiance, was just some kind of luck I can’t explain other than the universe has a wonderful way of bringing things together and helping you realise it when you are ready for it.

Standard

Journey to France: Day 42 (11th March 2016)

Our host in Lampung, Adi, and his family reminded us on a daily basis to take trains and buses and to not hitchhike. They mentioned of their previous couchsurfers (male ones) and how they hadn’t taken their advice into consideration and got robbed by the very people they hitchhiked with. We spent 5 days with them deciding what to do. When they told us we couldn’t sleep in the same room let alone the same bed we initially planned to spend a day or two maximum at his house. We had never spent a night apart since the day we met. Even during our arguments we had never let one go to bed without the other.

But Adi and his family were more than¬† accomodating and we ended up spending 5 days with them. The days were hot and dusty but Adi was always up to take us to spots around Lampung that he was excited to share. To be honest there weren’t any amazing sights to see but you don’t always find an attachment to a place because of the place. (More details to come in next post).

Adi’s mother was constantly feeding us South Sumateran food; mostly mi goreng, tempe with a bit of chilli due to Clem’s intolerance for the vegetable, and nasi uduk for breakfast. Otherwise it was constant various snacks made from tubular vegetables such as yam and tapioca. And of course coffee!

His parents were delighted to have their first traveller who could converse with them. They knew nearly null English and although my Malay was probably scraping beginners, they still took opportunities to indulge in conversation with me and brought me to their friends to “kongsi cerita” (share stories). Their home itself was unique, i had never seen one like this¬† before, though im unsure if their home is standard in Southern Sumatera. There was no stove top, they used coal to heat their water in their ‘kitchen’ which seemed to have been built around an authentic well.

In the well, his mother rares fish to consume the mosquito larvaes. The water then gets siphoned by a pump into the bathroom. The bathroom is a standard Indonesian toilet or better known as Turkish toilets in the western world. All in all, the house wasn’t anything lavished but it had its own flavour.

At night, the rituals were to burn mosquito coils in every room and rub insect repellent lotion on your ankles. I said goodnight to my love and went to my room to sleep. I awoke again at about 1am as i was feeling too hot to sleep and the mosquitoes were much hungrier and vicious tonight. I was waking up to a new bite everytime I had managed to stop scratching the previous. I went out to get a glass of water.

Adi and his family were awake too and in the living room. They had been feeling feverish and Adi’s dad was performing twp traditional methods of healing the body from such feelings. He was performing a cupping massage on Adi’s back where he lights a coal on Adi’s skin and quickly covers it with a cup so the flame quickly loses oxygen and dies out, creating heat and suction inside the cup. When he pulls off the cup they believe it to “tarik angin” (pull the excess wind) our of the body. It leaves a red ring on the skin that disappears in an hour or so. Prior to that he also performed a coin scratching method where you scratch orderly lines on parts of your body. The marks left are red, like a scratch except they usually scratch the same area over and over again until the skin gets sore.

I drank my glass of water and went back to bed. At about 4am i woke up again. I was feeling very nauseas, I stumbled my way in the darkness to the bathroom. Not even a second passed before my gut reflexes activated and heaved my dinner out. The familiar burning feeling when you have just had stomach acid passed through your oesophagus and throat was spicily unpleasant but from experience i knew I would start feeling better now… I just need to go back to sleep.

I had to walk past Clem’s room before arriving at mine, but didn’t feel like sleeping alone and was being a sook. I pushed the door into Clem’s room. He had a small fan in his room so it wasnt as hot. He was also fast asleep on the little bed. I was like a caterpillar. I crawled into the bed, next to him, nuzzed and curled up in his warmth.

My stirring around woke him up. He asked me what was wrong as he kissed me and I told him I was feeling sick. He brought me water, a bucket and more kisses and hugs until i eventually fell asleep again.

Two weeks after we had met, Clem had said to me he wanted to have children with me. He had never in his life wanted to have children before. I told him at that time I still didn’t want to have any. 5 months later my views have changed.

Below are photos of parts of Adi’s house. 1st is the small 1m x 1m courtyard where they also cook and boil their water. 2nd is the kitchen area and well. Photography by my Cl√©ment Duliege.

image

image

Standard

Journey to France: Day 37 (6th March 2016)

Our couchsurfing host picked us up and completely spoilt us with delicious Indonesian food.

Clem had looked up natural attractions along the Bandung area and found one that particularly stood out. It was called Kawah Putih (white crater). It was a sulphur lake, with natural waters streaming into the suplhur pool emitted by the volcanoes. Clem has seen a couple of volcanoes in his time, ive yet to at least be in a 10km radius to one. So we decided to head there.

Our host, Reyner, was gracious enough to drop us at a bus station where we could take a bus to Ciwidek and from there change buses to the Kawah Putih entrance. The minibus was 12000IDR per person so it was about $1.40 AUD. We could afford that, plus the driver was honest with the price and didnt try to ask for more from us. Being seen with a Caucasian in Asia means you get a lot of attention, both good and bad. Most of the time ill begin speaking Indonesian with a us driver or shop owner and the moment they see my fiancé they immediately swap to terrible, terrible broken English and heir attitude changes to a very fake, hospitality attitude. And they also gve outrageous prices for the service, thinking we must have money due to the power of a western country currency.

But this bus driver was honest. The minibus had 10 seats including the driver seats, we somehow had 15 people in the van, including the driver. We had 14 when we left the bus station and i thought, cool its Indonesia , they wont leave till the bus is full. But then along the way the bus stopped for another lady and her big bag. Asia is remarkable! It honestly makes me proud in a way as its so comical of asian culture to sacrifice comfort for efficiency first. Unless you’re wealthy of course, then you can afford both.

When we arrived at the bus terminal in Ciwidey, we were swarmed with “taxis” and “bus drivers” even before our minibus stopped. They all knew right away that we were probably going to Kawah putih. We ignored the flock of harrassing drivers and made it to the actual bus stop where a minibus was waiting to fill up it’s last remaining seats. There were a mix of Indonesians and Caucasians in the bus.

Travelling in Indonesia has taught us to always ask the price first before getting into any vehicle or accepting any food/service. Clement asked them repeatedly what the price was, but the men (we didnt know who they were as the driver was already in the van) kept trying to get him to get in the van. He asked for the 5th time before I raised my voice in Indonesian, “berapa harganya?”. He again tried to push us in the van and i asked again. He at first said 14,000IDR per person and his friend spoke Sundanese really quickly to him and he then said 20,000IDR each. I asked the Indonesians taking the minibus if that was the price they paid and they refused to reply. I knew they understood me as they were having a conversation with me prior to my question.

Yeap, we were pissed off and just walked off. They yelled back at us to come back but we kept walking. We had hitchhiked enough times in the past 2 weeks to know that we could easily get a ride to where we needed to be. So for the firsttime in our trip, Clem and I looked at each other and both agreed without doubt that hitchhiking was how we would do this. We would definitely not be taking any of these minibuses, unless we met a driver just as honest as the last.

On our way out to the main road, an informal yellow minibus (only the green and yellow ones were actually on route to Kawah Putih and Lake Patenggang) stopped us and offered to take us for 20,000IDR too and we said no, he then quickly dropped his price to 15,000IDR.

We kept walking. I asked for an old box so we could write our sign on. There was a man in uniform, i believe he was directing traffic in that intersection, who we started chatting with. He saw we wrote “numpang gratis” and realised we were hitchhiking. He asked why didnt we just take the bus? I said it was because the drivers were dishonest. They refused to disclose their prices and then said it was 20,000IDR each. The man in uniform said it was 8000IDR on weekdays and 10000IDR on weekends. The prices the driver gave us were way wrong.

The man in uniform must have also felt sorry for us because he also helped us to wave vehicles down to stop for us. He waved down a large ute and asked the family in it if they could take us up the hill towards Kawah Putih and they said yes!

We happily hopped in the back. I hoped the bus driver from earlier saw us and that he would be greening with envy for he lost two customers.

The man who gave us a lift went the extra mile for us. It seemed all Indonesians that we hitchhiked with were doing as such. They really went out of their way to look after us and to make sure we were safe. This is our experience in Java anyways. For a country with 300 million people or so, they seem to value the life of another. Well these are the ones that helped us anyways.

This man took us 15 minutes further than his destination to drop us right at the entrance of Kawah Putih. We took a photograph with his family. (Im sure it was because of Clement). Next we had about a 10km hike up the mountain to the crater itself. We had been fed so much deliciouz food yesterday, the hike was happily welcomed. On the way up however, we had a car stop for us to give us a lift up as they said it was far and tiring to walk. The lift was happily welcomed too!

Being at Kawah Putih was amusing, it seemed my fiance was more of the main attraction than the actual crater. Locals kept coming up to him to take a photograph with him. The crater’s lake itself was an amazing light aquamarine blue. The smell of sulphur wasnt that strong but every now and then the winds would push a cloud of smoke towards us and you inhale a significant amount of gas that irritates your throat enough to cough. We didn’t need masks though and we spent about an hour or more there.

It wasnt quite the strenuous hike i had in mind, but it was beautiful especially sharing the experience with the love of my life.

It’s amazing how quickly humans can adapt to their situations and surroundings. When we left the crater, i had no doubt in my mind that we would be able to hitchhike our way to our host’s home, or to a landmark anyway.

It took us only 3 cars to get back home. Everyone was friendly and again tried to gaive us money and offered to take us around the area. I was so exhausted i just wanted to head home, also the other attraction in the area didn’t really fascinate us.

I had broken sleep the night before, we woke up at 7am that morning, and speaking a second language after not using it for 8 years was draining me so much. On top of that verbally fighting off the flocks of “taxi” drivers and speaking loudly over the sound of traffic took the energy out of me.

Even after our 7000IDR delicious and generous portioned lunch wasnt enough to regain my energy.

When we got back our host took us to the top of a hill over looking Bandung city for some Sundanese food.

I’m not sure when we will be able to sleep well, shower, and eat this well again. It has only been about a month since we had stayed somewhere long enough to become vegetables, but I am starting to miss it very much.

Today we are hitchhiking to Merak from Bandung to catch a ferry to Sumatera. Everyone has been telling us what a dangerous place provinces in Sumatera can be, especially Lampung (where the ferry port is) and Riau. I was so nervous i tired myself to sleep last night.

We had two options, to either take the highway which joins to cities like Palembang, Pekanbaru and Medan, or to take the west roads which meant going through mountains and little towns or villages. We have another couch surfing host in Lampung so we will just ask him for his advice when we get there. Sumatera is over twice the size of Java! We wouldn’t want to stay in a dangerous province for too long.

I was told to keep my necklace and ring away when we get the re to not tempt thieves who can and may stop you at knifepoint/gunpoint. This isnt me being dramatic, this was words we received from nearly every Javanese we spoke to when we asked about Sumatera. One Javanese who gave us a lift and fed us bread and juice advised us to take the western route. Even if they are small roads, it would be safer to go through villages as the western population have Javanese residents who have purchased land there to become farmers.

image

Standard

Journey to France: Day 26

Our stay in Bali has only been a few hours sort of 3 days and already the impression that was left is, if you do not have the moeny to lavish on the island, not only will you not get the time of day, but you will also get extorted. You hear people complain about coming here and being treated like Dollar signs, but it can get more severe than just being perceived as a walking piggy bank.

This morning Cl√©ment and I were at the front courtyard, piecing together the frames of our chicken coop (it is looking prety cosy). Ayu, Kelly’s Indonesian helper, came in through the front gate and her eyes were looking timid and nervous. The gate  was a solid gate so we couldnt see what was happening on the other side before that. She was followed by a number of Indonesian men, hey weere in khaki uniform like those you see in Bollywood movies made in the 90’s/2000s. One man stood out first for 3 reasons;
1. he was he only one wearing a blue, short-sleeved collared shirt with white batik designs
2. He had his eyes shifting around as he walked and seemed to have this idea he had authority over every cubicsquare of space he stepped in
3. He spoke first

He asked me in Indonesian what we were doing to which Ayu and I cheerfully replied, “rumah ayam”. He said he wanted to perform a check in the house. Ayu was quiet and Clem could only speak in English to them. The man said he couldn’t speak English (he said that in English). He seemed to have practiced that sentenced so many times that he could say it abruptly and without prompt. So I continued to speak in Malay (it was close enough). I told them to wait at the front and went to search for Kelly.

It didnt take long to find her. When I told her there were people who claimed to be officers, she let out a sigh signifiying exhaustion and annoyance. She asked Ayu to say she wasn’t around but Ayu was too shaken to perform a face to face fib. Kelly came out to the courtyard and immediately asked them to leave, that they were not invited in the house and were trespasing on private property. I translated.

The man replied saying he was an officer and was here to perform a check for official business to draft a report. I translated.

Kelly stood her ground and repeated they had to leave. I translated this and this seemed to annoy him. He stood his ground too.

I asked him for his official letters/notice/papers acknowledging this “check” or “report” that he spoke of. This seemed to offend him and he replied rudely and loudly “surat apa?” (What letter?) “I am a government official and i want to go inside and check the house.” I translated.

He tried to push past us ladies to get through the door.

Kelly raised her voice back and told them to leave immediately. She shut the door behind her. Her adopted street dog was barking on the other side. He threatened to call immigration to which we all laughed back at him and told him we were all here legally on tourist visas and were on holidays. This seemed to anger him even more seeing that he was losing his self assumed authority. He pretended to shift through some raty papers in his had and again pressed to enter the house. I asked him again for his papers that authorised him to do so and also added that it was strange that he neither had papers, nor did he know the simple fact that he needed permission of a private land owner to step foot on the property.

At his point i was practically shouting at him as he kept talking back over me louder and louder and lacking professionalism. He claimed to be a good man with good intenions to which i responded that he would not be so forceful and be shouting at me and Kelly in this way. This really pissed him off and the rain had started to come down heavier. He retreated to his men who were on the otherside of the courtyard underneath the shade. They seemed to be afraid of getting their uniforms wet. After a few minutes, the chief or whatever deemed his title to be, came to terms that he wasnt getting into the house and showed his self to the door along with his men. All except one.

This man was standing on my right the whole time. Ayu was between us. He didn’t follow the rest of his group. I hand signaled to him to the door to which he suddenly stepped forward and raised the palm of his righ hand ready to hit me, his eyes were so wide open I recalled seeing the full white of his eyes around the iris. Kelly immediately started shouting at him to not touch me (in Englis) and poor, little Ayu (she must have been only 4’10, she was tiny) was begging him to not hurt me (in Indonesian). I screamed at him in Malay to get out! That we did not want him here. My heart was beating so fast.

He then with the same hand he raised, grabbed my face from underneath. I felt the cold palm of his hand under my chin and his fingers around my throat. He yanked my face to his and growled at me asking me who was I, where was I from and who my father was to raise a daughter who could talk back to a man like that. I was so angry at his actions. Angry because what he was doing was ego driven rather than necessary, and also angry with how he seems to believe he could treat women. Heart beating out of my chest, I pulled his wrist off my throat and slapped his hand back to him. I screamed out for Clem, “Darling!” as loudly as my throat could handle without burning. I quickly looked around and to my dismay, realised Clement was no where in sight. I was close to tears.

Kelly was shouting at the man who laid his hand on me, hrstarted speaking too loudly, too angrily and too quickly in Indonesian for me to understand what he was saying but I didn’t care. I screamed again for him to GET OUT!! He seemed satisfied that he had instilled fear into me and walked out the door of the gate with a smirk. Good men do not find satisfaction in causing misery.

The moment the door closed behind him I couldn’t stop mself from bursting into tears. I was angry, I was frightened, i was appalled at the extreme lack of respect these men had for women. I quickly realised if Clem had been around then, he wouldn’t have dared to touch the hair that fell off my head. But he took advantage of the situation knowing there were only 3 women, one elderly, one extremely petite and me.

My darling came back just as the man left. He had gone to tell the others in he house to lock all the gates as Kelly had asked him to. He held me and I sobbed in his arms.

Kelly said she had never seen these men before but had been visited by the Pegawai Desa (village peace keepers, the irony) before and they had tried to extort money out of her by interrogating her daily life and trying to find faults with what she was doing. She thinks they may be of the same status but different groups.

It was much later when we were talking to Eddy, her male helper about them that he said they were not Desa officers but Jabatan officers (District officers), they were a rank higher than Desa. He confirmed Kelly’s suspicion that they were also hear to find faults and to try to “fine” her and extort money from her where possible. To do that however, they needed proof and to obtain proof they needed to get in, and to get in they needed permission. The only flaw in their plan.

We don’t know who told them to come here. Eddy says they normaly perform rounds around the district between 10am and 1pm. Ayu had never seen them before as she lives in a different village. Kelly thinks someone in the village may have gotten jealous or just unsatisfied that they had a caucasian in the area living on such big land with such a nice house. She thinks someone may have made a call to those men and upon hearing she was a woman of wealth, decided to come and harrass her.

The whole day I couldn’t stop thinking of how that man spoke to me and physically handled me. My mind was constantly in flashback to what I could have said back to him or what I could have done different to have avoided the unpleasantness.

My darling took me for a ride on the motorbike to clear my mind. We had also rented it for 210,000IDR a week so we wanted to get pur $22AUD use out of it. We rode along Jalan Goa Gong and each time we came to a fork or intersection or split, we would take turns deciding a direction. Left, straight, right, backtrack, right, straight and our last right brought us to Pandawan Beach. We sat overlooking the sea and just chatted, joked around, laughed, kissed and endlessly traded “I love yous” and compliments to each other.

We rode back, he was driving our scooter on the sidewalk in an attempt to overtake tour buses in traffic, and a successful one too. Although he made me so nervous as his passenger. He seemed reckless but he was completely in control and kept gently taking my hand to kiss the back of it as he drove. He had all these skills and experiences that made him a fearless, independent man. I had to know why he loved me.

To which he replied, “because you’re amazing” he replied.

Before I met him, I was working in an office, I didn’t know how to swim (I was even too scared to put my head underwater), and i had never even been on a motorbike.

“I don’t understand what makes me amazing. There are so many like me (definitely some better, but I didnt want to say that).”

“That’s just the way it is. Of course there are so many like you, and there maybe even better.” (He was unafraid to say it). “There are so many like me too.” (I have never met anyone like you). “There are people who are better than us, and there may be people who we might get along more with. There are people (couples) who never argue. But we met, and we fell in love, and we are still together”

“And we are still in love”, I continued.

“And we are still in love”, he repeated.

And he was right. There will always be someone better looking, better dressed, better off than ourselves. But that’s not the factors of love. Love is when a + b = x, x being the resulting happiness of the union, then the other unknowns will never have relevance, nor will they have a place in the equation.

Standard

Journey to France: Day 8

1.34pm

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 25. The morning started with our tent malleably moving with the heavy wins. My darling turned over sleepily and in some pain and gave me a soft kiss and said in a low voice, “Happy birthday my beauty”.

I love the names he has for me “ma cherie”, “mon amour”, “ma jolie Tiffany”!
The love and passion in his everyday words are so gently flamboyant. Love is in existence in its purest form.

The winds were still s trouble ong, pushing against us, creating frosted glass waters. There were jellyfish in abundance. We packed the tent and bathed ourselves out of a public restroom sink.

Our day was spent sheltering our heads in the tidy public library of Ballina. Im starting to lose the novelty of hitchhiking as it gets more and more frequent. The last lady, Pat made a detour exit to drop us off at Ballina on h err way to Brisbane. The plan was to get to Ballina to obtain some farm work.

The search for farmw9rk provrd to be draining and unsuccessful. After a lunch of marinated tofu brtween two slices of bread and a supermarket style ice coffee, we decided to turn to Helpx. Not sure why we never attempted it earlier but it was better this way.

Not long of searching, we were replied by a man who lived not too far away in a rainforest. I’m writing this, my love is making me a late birthday cake.

The family was lovely and made a dinner of kueyteow, my favourite Malaysian dish. A bottle of wine was opened at the mention of my birthday and we finished our meal with ice cream. The chit chat came naturally with our Helpx host, Jay-sen and Kim. Leroy was pretty involved as well as he continued to suck on his gravy doused broccoli piece. I could see the enthusiam in Clem’s eyes as he watched the chuby bub.

The rainforest property itself was a contrasting compliment to the house. While still being kept under human watch, the wild is still in motion. There were eagles catching rabbits, large spiders building larger webs, and snakes roaming the forest floors. Waterfalls varied in sizes, governed by their terrains. The waters were fresh, crisp and cool.

The house is a soft red with vines covering a sprawled half of the facade. At the front was the gazebo and the pool. We just came back from picking the red chillis at the vege garden. Along the way were dozens of established strawberries. Hese people really could live from their garden. My love made a passing comment that our garden shall have it all too.

Im wrapping up for now as we will start making an orchid basket and continue playing in our rainforest playgrpund playground, as well as feeding the animals.

image

Standard