Spice Islands

Eastwards Ho! Equipment purchased, 10 flights booked and off we toddled to Indonesia. We stayed overnight in Warsaw before our flight to Istanbul in a super little hostel in the new old town of Warsaw. Bunk-beds with all the ensuing claims to sleep up or downstairs. The Cannon was perfect for us.

Flight number one. We flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul where we had a seven hour lay over. I determined to reduce DVT by walking every part of it, and I can attest to the fact that it is big! Very big!! Then we had an 11 hour flight to Jakarta. The flight was great and the service excellent. Never have so few lavatories been serviced so often, by so few, for so many.

Jakarta. Tired and hung down like overdecorated Christmas trees we trundled into full view of the cab touts. Shouts of Hey Mister, Hey Boss and simply hey assailed our ears. We had originally planned to take  a bus from the airport to the station at Gambir. I had travelled down to Bandung many years ago by train and enjoyed the experience. Sadly our visit coincided with Ramadan and so there was not even room for a slimmed down cockroach. This meant we had to book a hotel, the illustrious Dreamtel Jakarta. Thus a taxi, and the first of many haggles. But to haggle one needs an idea of the going rate. We paid 300,000 IDR for a taxi across town. The lovely people at Dreamtel told us later that it should have been 200,000IDR maximum. Guard up! The hotel was clean with a funky glass elevator that Will Wonka would approve of. The room was good, a double shared with the children. Aghhh…The view was a little less pleasing. A brick wall, although painted off white, about 30cm from our window. Breakfast was very good and the guys behind the counter helpful and a couple spoke good English. Heads up with the Bluedird taxis with meters and asking suitable questions about tolls being included in prices and off we went from Jakarta the next day by plane. The flight was about 3 hours late. About 10 staff behind the counter could giggle flirt with each other beautifully, but giving information was not their forte. We flew up to Sumatra, landed, which was eventful and bumpy, waited 20 minutes and set off for Yogykarta. The flight attendant pointed out a few general facts and asked us to pray to God for a safe flight. That was reassuring for one and all. Yogykarta. Little did we know but we were close to the airport. The taxi driver again charged over the odds. The place we stayed was clean and again we shared with the kids. Breakfast was a greasy mess and the coffee so sweet one shot of it would have given a whale diabetes. We valiantly strolled down the side of the dual carriageway in search of munchies. Amazing to watch whole families, babies included, all perched on weaving mopeds and scooters. Grabbing a taxi, with the meter agreed as arbiter of cost, we set off down town. We spent the evening on Maliobor Street. Locals looked at us as though they hadn’t seen foriegners before!

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Cabaret with String Quartet

One size fits all

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Evening at a cabaret. Four gentlemen, Grupa Mozarta, entertained us with classic snippets, classic renditions of rock/pop classics. They were funny, self-deprecating and obviously accomplished musicians with a cheeky sense of humour. Even the rain couldn’t dull the evening. Bravo, encore!28579443133_67500f834c_o

Whether the Weather (app)

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Bob Dylan sang, ”You don’t need a weather man, To know which way the wind blows.”

Bob, get with the times, man. As I meandered through the Telegraph I spotted and article entitled, ”When should I hang my washing out. Met office app will tell you.”

Really? Folks now need an app to judge weather conditions that are not conducive to the drying of wet or moist fabrics and materials! Evolution has furnished us with highly evolved senses to be aware of the world around us. And, and this is a big AND, a brain!

A brain. Fully evolved (in some) for the assessment of conditions around us.  What next? When to use the W.C. app, hunger app? Time for a another triple burger with cheese, app?

Now excuse me. I’m just going to check my ”will the circular wheels on my bike turn when propelled forward, app.

 

 

Memories of Koh Samui

Arrived via a small ferry. Chose a place to stay from the hawkers at the quayside. Onto the small van like vehicle and away.  Accomodation. One of six, or maybe eight small chalet style places in a neat row. Think I can still spot them on Google Earth search. Clean inside with a backroom with a hole in the ground and a tiled mandy for washing. Great.

 

Hot, hot hot. And don’t forget humid. No namby pamby aircon for us. Budget constraints meant we had only a fan on the ceiling. On reflection on the floor would have been rather troublesome.  Fan, you were lucky! Okay but a fan so slow the flies hopped on for a rest. Our neighbours were German lads with their ‘temporary’ Thai girlfriends. True love runs deep.

 

The beach, (Lamai I think), was a little stroll away. Somebody told us that it would be even hotter when we got to Indonesia. It was not. At that time Koh Samui was not overly commercialized. Plenty of hippy style chill out places to doss and chill. I remember  one good hotel with one good pool. The problem. The clientele was entirely German. We snuck in and tried to blend around the pool. However  the hotel staff saw us for what we were, thin and poorly dressed, and we were forced to scuttle away. We left heads held high, and feet higher.

The girls with me adopted a little doggy. She was sweet and they christened her Lucy,  They fawned on her. I remember them being heartbroken on the day we moved onto Penang in Malaysia.

Food was sadly western if required. I remember eating a super hot soup which had the words crab and hot in the title. I liked it, my body not! When ill there was a well equipped medical centre. Nearby weer shack like phone booths for that call home, to reassure you why you were there1

Nightlife was fantastic. Well certainly after a few glasses of Mekong whisky. The full moon party was full on craziness.  Starting with the almost embarrassed tipping of small amounts of water over people, it rapidly grew into a frenzied water battle. Then dance the night away. Magic.

Eating crabs on the beach at a barbecue, watching the sun rise. Great stuff. In the end we left Koh Samui, but Koh Samui never left me. After Koh we needed a rest.

Spontaneous Camping

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Finished cycling in Sweden. Cycling around Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk finished. So what next? On the spur of the moment camping and Malbork came up. Visit the largest castle in the world by area, wallow in history and watch a reenactment. What better?

Where to stay. Hey, let’s try camping! But we have no tent. No worries, we’ll buy one. And the sleeping bags, the mattress and the air pump, too. Out of the shop heavier with goods, lighter with money and full of determination.

Arrive at the site. The weather is not great in Malbork. Upshot. The campsite is half-full. Loved how the owner sucked on his stubby pencil, scratched his ear. He simply didn’t know how to fit us in. Wonderful stuff!

Allocated a spot. Open the new packed tent and instructions. The clouds are looking ominous. Having not put up a tent since my teens, and my wife possibly never, we went about our business with nervous bravado as the seasoned neighbours next door looked on.

Does this carbon rod go here? Why is that short? Does this go in the ground? What we have no mallet/hammer! Then a kindly gent with the same tent came and offered some help, and one end of the tent was taking shape, and the rest we could manage. Thank you, sir!

Done and dusted and quite comfortable (it says here). Next day we were packed and ready to leave. An older man and his grandchildren looked at an identical tent in confusion.

To his aid we went, and up went his tent. From near novices one day, to experts (nearly) the next.

It’s evolution baby, evolution.

Cycling and Sustenance

Today we did about 50km by bike. Now I know, to some that is a nothing. But this was not like how the crow flies. I’m talking about rain sodden country paths churned by tractors. Paths so narrow that the leaves keep thwacking into you, and roots so old and shiny that tires side slip on them. It was tiring, and basically it went to build up an appetite.

Gratefully we hauled into a small old boat on a lake, grandly called a barque, for a spot of lunch just as the heavens poured their generosity on us once again. First up was foie gras  – goose, which was okay.IMG_2637

For the wife the starter was a lot better, tasty spicy chicken. Selflessly I helped her with it;-)

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Next up for me Lamb chops. Tasty but a cream dressing or even a gravy was substituted by the overuse of oil. But all in all tasty.

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For the apple of my eye sandacz, which was served with a very hot spicy sauce. Delicious!

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All in all a tasty repast which helped us back on our way, and which we burned off and arrived home, again just before the rain. All in all a beautiful ride and good vittles.