Extras from vaca

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Joel reminded me that I left out a very important detail of our vacation.  After finalizing our plans we realized we were taking flight 666 to Borneo which, if you ask an Indonesian, is the number one top spot in the country for black magic.  The flight also took off into a thunder and lightning storm that added to the spook factor, but luckily we got through it very quickly.

We’ve found Indonesia is quite superstitious and¬†take their superstitions very seriously. ¬†Joel forbid me from wearing my green swimsuit to the beach because local¬†folklore states that it angers the Goddess of the South Sea Nyai Roro Kidul. ¬† I’ve read that the myth actually only refers to the south coast of Java but with Borneo being shrouded in superstition we decided to err on the side of caution and I brought a black suit.

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We also flew Lion Air both ways which is an Indonesian airline that’s famous for their flight delays. ¬†Amazingly both of our flights were on time! ¬†This photo is us landing in Semarang which is always scary because the runway starts only a couple of yards away from the water. ¬†You can hear to landing gear deploy long before you see land which is a bit unnerving.

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A couple more shots from Beach House Resto, my bounty from some shell searching and below the best of our beach selfies. ¬†I got a waterproof Iphone case (for $1.50!) so Joel couldn’t escape my photos even in the ocean. ¬†You can tell when he got annoyed hence the one of him¬†attempting to wring my neck.

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Weekend in Borneo

We spent last weekend in a city called Balikpapan on the island of Borneo.  It was my first trip to an Indonesian island other than Java, where we live!

Balikpapan-mapmap photo credit here

We left from¬†Semarang airport which has only one¬†tiny¬†baggage carousel and no sky bridges- you just walk out onto the tarmac to board your flight. ¬†Upon arriving at the Balikpapan airport we were shocked to be greeted by a giant, modern airport that looks a lot like the new Raleigh-Durham terminal. ¬†Balikpapan’s largest industry is oil¬†so I guess oil money builds nice airports.

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We¬†found a restaurant¬†called Ocean’s and ate there twice because it was delicious and right on the water. ¬†There were people sitting on the very end of this drooping pier during both of our meals¬†but it didn’t look quite sturdy enough for me to venture out.

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Joel and I were celebrating our anniversary so our goal for the weekend was some beach relaxation.  Indonesian beaches are typically pretty dirty so our hopes for a trash free beach are a tall order.

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Our hotel, Le Grandeur, has someone comb the beach daily so there was a stretch that is moderately¬†clean. ¬†However, they pick up only directly in front of their building so you can still see giant piles of plastic bottles on one side and washed up debris on the other. ¬†It’s sort of like if someone were to take great care in manicuring their lawn but then throw all their garbage in the neighbor’s yard-¬†it doesn’t really help the overall ambiance of the block.

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This view didn’t really have us running to the water for a dip. ¬† But the rest of the hotel grounds were well maintained and the pool wasn’t too crowded so we took advantage of that.

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At the public beach on the other end of town we found a bigger, relatively clean area called Kemala Beach that was better for swimming.   There were lots of teenagers hanging out- boys skim-boarding and girls mostly taking selfies.

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These little blue vans called angkots run throughout town- similar to a city bus. ¬†They have a set route but you can flag them down and get in and out where ever you like and they only cost about $0.70 for both of us- very different than the city buses I’m used to in Seattle. ¬†They also don’t have a door on the side¬†which makes it easier¬†for me to take photos of the¬†scooters packed full of helmet-free kids!

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Saturday night we went to dinner another hotel called The Gran Senyiur.  Their restaurant is on the roof so you get views of the city, the coast and the oil ships off in the distance.   Here we are cutting up at dinner.

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We had a monster lightning storm blow through just after dinner which was great fun to watch from the roof patio.

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Our Lonely Planet guidebook recommended a place called Beach House Resto but it was a ways out of town so heading to the airport was a perfect opportunity to check it out.

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We saved the best for last with Beach House Resto and we arrived early enough to get one of the coveted cabanas!  The beach was beautiful and clean and just a few meters away- a delightful view with delicious food.  We topped it all off with a banana split before taxiing to the airport.

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All in all it was a lovely, little getaway. ¬†We’d definitely like to get back to Borneo one day and do one of the wildlife tours. ¬†I think we covered the city exploration this trip so next time we’re heading to the jungle!

 

 

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

Seattle

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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Boatmist

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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