Next Stop BORNEO!

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Exciting news here- we’re getting started with our holiday travel early with a weekend trip to Balikpapan, Kalimantan on Borneo Island! ¬†Joel wanted a little time¬†away since he missed out on Singapore so we started looking up cheap direct flights for a Friday to Sunday lazy beach weekend. ¬†Balikpapan checked all the boxes, not to mention Joel has always dreamed of going to Borneo.

Balikpapan is on the eastern coast so miles away from the forest fires¬†that made headlines this fall. ¬†It’s an oil city on the coast that is said to have still have a nice beach area. ¬†Being a short trip we probably won’t make it to the¬†crocodile farm¬†or¬†orangutan sanctuary¬†but we’re still excited to finally make it to the exotic and enchanting¬†island of Borneo!

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It’s Singapore time!

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Hello friends! ¬†I’ve been a little MIA¬†for a bit and unfortunately it’s because I was sick yet again. ¬†Long story short- more bacteria in my system, another hospital visit and now finally feeling healthy and peppy again. ¬†My sickness forced me to push my scheduled trip back a week but I made it out of the country on Monday just before my visa expired !

I stayed in¬†Chinatown because it was central to all my visa¬†errands which I got done first thing¬†on my first day- go me! ¬†¬†Chinatown was perfect for the solo traveler- block after block of¬†hole in the wall food stalls and tiny restaurants and bars. ¬†Not having much time for sightseeing, I kept my Chinatown antics to just eating and sleeping, but I did swing by the colossal¬†Sri Mariamman Temple, apparently the city’s oldest Hindu temple. ¬†But being on the hunt for coffee and breakfast meant I couldn’t¬†stay for service, only stopped long enough to snap a couple photos.

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Second on my agenda was Christmas shopping!  I had a long socks and underwear list so I looked for the closest Uniqlo.  I found one in Bugis Mall which is a five story mall that is connected by sky bridge to another giant mall- perfect!  Joel had recommended Arab Street to me for some more boutiquey, hip shopping so I dropped my mall bags and headed that way for browsing and dinner.

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The Arab Street area was indeed brimming with shops and restaurants. The stores ranged from trendy vintage spots to custom perfumes bottlers to persian rug joints to clothing stores selling traditional Muslim dresses and hijabs to stark, modern boutiques with trendy accessories.

There were so many¬†Mediterranean restaurants I was sad that I had to choose just one place to eat! ¬†You never know how much you’ll miss hummus until¬†there’s no¬†hummus. ¬†I ended up at a Turkish place eating juicy, roasted chicken over rice while enjoying a pretty grandiose view of¬†Sultan Mosque.¬†

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On Wednesday I flew out at 1:40 (direct flight- thanks Air Asia!) so I had the morning to take a stroll down Clark Quay Waterfront.  The colorful shutters and buildings along the waterfront were so dang cute!   Clark-Quay-color-shutters

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It was too early for any of the touristy spots to be open which made for a nice, quiet morning stroll. ¬†The trees along the walkways were done up with Christmas lights and the office buildings had towering fake trees with ornaments. ¬†There’s still a disconnect in my brain with this weather and the holiday season. ¬†I can’t wrap my head around a 90 degree Christmas, but nonetheless the lights and trees were a good,¬†festive¬†push in the holiday direction.

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Sadly I didn’t make it to the Marina Bay Sands¬†complex. ¬†Photos from the SkyPark on top is¬†definitely on my to do list for my next Singapore trip. ¬†Being here only Monday night through Wednesday afternoon was just too short to see it all! ¬†Living in the third world country like Indonesia means that you travel to places like Singapore for your higher end goods and services so trips are most often filled with errands, doctors and shopping lists. ¬†Joel and I want to carve out some time next year to get here for some relaxation but with so many exotic places to travel our dance cards are looking pretty full.

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The excitement from my trip must have been contagious because by the time I got home Wednesday night Joel and I were already planning our next getaway!

Date Night!

Well we’re still on the hunt for real nachos. ¬†Each time we see them on a ¬†menu, Joel and I get very excited that we may get to experience a little mexican food bliss. ¬†But once they hit the table we’re usually let down. ¬†Our previous experience was ordering nachos that¬†were labeled new & improved! on the menu but arrived as a bowl of cold chips with a side of cold shredded cheese. ¬†I can’t imagine the dish they were improving upon.

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Last night we stumbled upon a¬†restaurant called Fifty Seven. ¬†Their theme is a bit scattered as the name and Chuck Berry music seem to reference 50’s Americana, but the decor is Japanese motorcycle posters and a vintage, British telephone booth with a Union Jack flag. ¬† Their¬†nachos did come with guacamole which was a vast improvement, however instead of cheese there was a warm yogurt sauce. ¬†Yes, it was strange. ¬†Joel’s comment- ¬†This is obviously a case of someone who has only seen photos of nachos online. ¬†The highlight for me was the nude lady drink stir in my tea which I forgot to put in my purse- dammit!

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We left there and headed over to an Indonesian restaurant called Ikan Bakar Cianjur for entrees- vegetables saut√©ed in peanut sauce and fried tofu and stink beans. ¬†Their specialty is ikan bakar (grilled fish) but Joel wasn’t interested so I’ll save that one for next time.

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We concluded date night with a walk through Gang Lombok for dessert.

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Gang Lombok is a night market where dozens of vendors set up booths selling all sorts of delicious and sometimes strange goodies. ¬†I topped off my dinner with a vanilla bubble tea. ¬†Maybe next time I’ll try the waffle cone that you can fill with mashed potatoes, fried chicken and cheese. ¬†I’ve never had my chicken and mash in a cone but I like all those things so why not roll them all into one, right?

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I did try the durian ice cream from this vendor and sadly I was not into it. ¬†Maybe trying durian for the first time in ice cream wasn’t my best idea. ¬†I really wanted to like it but it just tasted too much like onion ice cream, not really my thing.

Missing the Seasons

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Seasons are a big deal in Seattle. ¬†Summers are short and incredibly sweet, winters are long but temperatures are much milder than people imagine. The hardest part of the move to Seattle from North Carolina was not the rain but the darkness. ¬†Being so far north, the days get very short in the winter, like 4:00pm-get-your-ass-to-bed-cause-it’s-DARK kinda short. ¬†Winters really make you yearn for some sunshine so when Joel came back to the PNW after two years in Jakarta, it was hard to get on board with his worship of grey skies. ¬†How could he be sick of something that we Seattleites crave so badly?!

Well it’s taken about six weeks but I’m sick of the damn sun. ¬†In Indonesia the sun is¬†very similar to the¬†loud dance music they play in the malls- it’s inescapable! ¬† It’s just so damn bright and hot all the time. ¬†I’ve always been okay with sun if it comes with beach and yes I know I live in a coastal city on a tropical island, but the beaches in the city are so polluted that the water isn’t somewhere you’d want to swim. ¬†It’s pretty depressing.

So I’ve found myself living vicariously through my facebook feed- hiking in a puffy vest, baking holiday bread and prepping for Thanksgiving. I never imagined I would miss a Seattle¬†winter but here I am browsing through typical PNW misty, grey photos feeling like I’m missing out on 40 degree weather.

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No post on missing out would be complete if I didn’t mention Blanche. ¬†I miss Blanche so bad! ¬†¬†Anytime the doorbell rings on a TV show and no one barks I get a little depressed. ¬† I know Blanche is in good hands (staying with my friend Melanie in Raleigh) but it doesn’t make the distance any easier. ¬†I hope she knows that I’m thinking of her and coming back to smother her in smooches real soon!¬†Blanche-and-mommy

Pagoda Avalokitesvara

We’re still attempting to hit all of the in-town tourists spots and Pagoda Avalokitesvara¬†was definitely on that list. ¬†We came here a couple weeks ago on the way to Ungaran, but in the midst of getting sick I never got these photos up. ¬†So here they are!

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Pagoda Avalokitesvara is part of a Buddhist monastery and the highest pagoda in all of Indonesia.  It was completed in 2006 so not really a historical point of interest, but the architecture is pretty fabulous.

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There were different Buddhas all around the exterior of the pagoda.  I read afterwards that the Buddhas holding the little boy and girl are where families come to pray for a baby boy or girl.  Glad both sexes are equally represented!

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Getting sick, then well, then really really sick, then all better

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Oh what a week it’s been! ¬†But actually today is the tenth day¬†of our sickness ordeal. ¬†It started on a Thursday when I wasn’t feeling well. ¬†When Joel got home from work he suggested that I see a doctor sooner rather than later. ¬† Joel’s friend David is from Semarang and still well-connected here, so we asked him for a doctor recommendation. ¬†He got on the phone, found a doctor and sent the doctor to our apartment within about an hour. ¬†This is again another example of how Indonesians are incredibly hospitable and helpful. ¬†The doctor said I most likely had a virus and gave me medication. ¬†We were thinking maybe the flu¬†because the vaccine I got can’t¬†cover all strains and coming to a different country means all new flu types that are new to my system. ¬†I started my medicines on Friday morning and was hopeful that I was on the mend.

After a couple of days I was starting to feel better!  Then it all changed and I got way, way worse.  We called the doctor back and he came again on Tuesday morning.  My second diagnosis was amoebic dysentery which really freaked me out.  I did take some comfort from wikipedia telling me the last notable death from dysentery was in 1942.   So again I started my (new) meds and was hopeful I was on the mend.

The doctor said I’d start to feel better in a day or two. ¬†He was great about staying in touch to check in with me and after a day and a half when I was still in pain he said it was time to head to a hospital for injections. ¬†At that point it had been a week- a week of nausea and pain, lots of pain, and I was feeling like I might never be 100% healthy again (yes, I think I was delusional at this point). ¬†I cried like a little bitch at the thought of having to deal with a hospital- the waiting, the paperwork, the waiting-¬†in my decrepit and deranged condition. ¬† So Thursday night at 9:30pm Joel scooped up his teary, emotional mess of a fianc√© and we cabbed over to Rumah Sakit St. Elisabeth- AKA St. Elisabeth’s Hospital. ¬†The emergency room there was way better than I expected¬†and after about 90 minutes the¬†consensus was that I was checking into the hospital for the night.

As they wheeled me to my room,¬†we were thinking that I’d start the medication that night, but then we learned I wouldn’t actually get it until the next day- a fun, little Indonesian to English miscommunication. ¬†The next morning I saw the doctor and they took samples to get a confirmed diagnosis. ¬†Then finally Friday morning, I got my first round of meds pumped straight into my IV- it was glorious. ¬†I ended up having four rounds of the medication (originally thought I’d only have three) but after only the first bag¬†I¬†felt like they were pumping sanity directly into my body.¬†¬†I did end up staying two nights and it wasn’t until Saturday morning just before check out that we learned I’d had bacterial dysentery all along. ¬†I still can’t believe I got a disease that I had only heard of from the Oregon Trail video game in elementary school.

Joel was a trooper through the whole ordeal! ¬†The first night slept on a dinky little pull out sofa in my room and then had to get up and go straight to work all day. ¬†The second night I made him go home and get a good night’s rest in our bed, but was still back before 7:00am on Saturday to buy me donuts and fill out all the discharge paperwork.¬† He even played photographer when the nurses asked for a picture with me as we were leaving (asking for photo with the white lady is still a common occurrence). ¬† ¬†Joel also took care of the bill. ¬†Two nights in the hospital, two days of doctor fees, all my medication, lab work, nurses, food and even a new toothbrush and toothpaste for me to keep- grand total $293. ¬†That is a badass hospital bill!

Here are some photos from my stay at St. Elizabeth Hospital…

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This was my snack of tapioca balls with a baggie of milk on the side.

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Here’s me right after the news that I was going home. ¬†I feel like a WNBA star wearing Joel’s workout shorts!

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The beautiful hospital grounds that I got to see for about one minute on the walk out.  I missed them on the way in because it was midnight and I was on a gurney.

On a side note, during this whole process we got an email from Joel’s parents that his beloved dog Jackson had gone to live on the puppy farm in the clouds. ¬†Jackson was very old, blind and mostly deaf but it was a devastating blow none the less. ¬† Here’s a picture of Joel and Jackson snuggling at the beach this past summer. ¬† We miss you Jackie!

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Weekend Getaway at Balemong Resort

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Tropical resorts are not what comes to my mind for Halloween weekend, but costumes and trick-or-treating aren’t really a thing in Indonesia. ¬†Halloween is Joel’s favorite holiday so I thought a little getaway might cheer him up and Balemong Resort really delivered.

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The structures and decor¬†at Balemong are traditional Javanese- intricately caved wood and joglo roofs.¬†¬†We found the resort just browsing through Google maps and there were not¬†a ton of photos or info¬†online. ¬†I’ll definitely be reviewing them online and adding some more photos to their page on¬†Trip Advisor¬†because they deserve it.

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The resort is located only about 20 minutes south of where we live in a town called Ungaran. ¬†Because we’ve been¬†getting around via taxi, we haven’t ventured outside the city so this was my first up close and personal view of Indonesian rice paddies. ¬†They look so peaceful, but the moisture of the paddies means mosquitos, tons and tons of mosquitos! ¬†Something about my body chemistry just beckons mosquito bites. ¬†They don’t seem to bother Joel as much which is really unfair. ¬†I feel like they should split their time evenly between both of us. ¬†But you can’t reason with mosquitos so I just suck it up and wear lots of repellent.

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All of the walkways have different mosaic patterns. ¬†We took lots of walks around the grounds just exploring the different buildings and checking out the vegetation. ¬†Good sidewalks and walking paths are something that I really miss about life in the US so I tried to spend as much time as I could walking around and enjoying¬†the cleanliness and serenity of the¬†resort. ¬†Of course we’d break up our walks by heading back to our villa to enjoy some quality time with our air conditioner.

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