Friday, 25 September 2015

The Lost Passport

I've always prided myself in being quite a 'good' traveller. I've been through many travel situations and have handled them decently. My brother and father frequently like to incredulate over the fact that even though I get lost cycling from my house to my friend's house, I manage to navigate Aberystwyth, Wales to Auckland, NZ. Aeroplanes are my thing.

Now, however, I have lost that travel-confidence.

Many firsts: First flight missed, tick. First hearing of own name on airport loud speaker, tick. First passport lost, tick. First passport lost after still having it at passport control, tick.

Not that any of them will happen again. Learn from your mistakes and all, eh.
Awesome Bali airport (runway on the left), courtesy of Google
So, the story. Time to leave Bali. Got to check-in. Showed our passports, got our boarding passes. Then, security. Showed our boarding passes, they confiscated a pair of scissors I had managed to smuggle into Indonesia, but clearly not out of it. (Actually, on our way to Bali, the x-ray dude, after x-raying my bag, asked me if I had a pair of scissors. I took them out, but he was happy to just look at them, and then I got them back...)

Then, immigration/passport control. Showed the immigration dudes our passports, and then proceeded to lug our massively oversized carry-on bags to our gate. (Yes, we were them annoying people with huge carry-ons...) It was a veeeeery long way, you had to weave through the shopping centre and do a U-turn at some point before you got to our gate which, obviously, was the one furthest away.

We got to our gate, and I went shopping for souvenirs, then shopping for food. The lady at the shop complimented me on my fun bright neon yellow Gangnam Style-top. 

Then, it was time for boarding. 10.40pm, ready for an 11.10 departure.
Except I couldn't find my passport. Well, I couldn't find my purple folder. My purple folder where I keep all my important documents, including my boarding pass and my passport... And I had had it at passport control, twenty minutes ago.

I rummaged through my bag. Then I rummaged through Nikki's. I rummaged through my brain trying to think where we'd been between immigration and the gate. Answer: nowhere really. No idea.

Panicked, I left Nikki to go through my bag again while I ran off to retrace our steps. It was just a bit difficult coz we'd literally only stopped twice on our way from passport control to the gate... I asked the ladies at the toilet's about my passport. I ran to customer service to talk to the lady, who told me I should go talk to security.

After a few wrong people I realised she meant the people at immigration. I started running to immigration. I stopped to take off my flip-flops because they were impeding my run. I got to immigration, trying to state as clearly yet quickly as possible to the security man hanging around, “I've lost my folder which has my passport and my boarding pass. What do I do?” He was confused, then went to tap the shoulder of one of the immigration officers at the desks.

You've lost your passport?” Mr Immigration Officer was flabberghasted.
When does your flight leave?”

He promptly left his desk and the passenger he had been in the process of dealing with.
My memory is a bit unclear here due to my distraught state of mind. There were many airport officials, many mobile phone calls, many radio walky talky thing calls, and a little nagging feeling of deep, deep embarrassment at the back of my, er, soul.

No lost and found purple folder.

It was five minutes till take-off – or so I'd estimate, I made a point of not looking at clocks... I had to run back. Fingers crossed, fingers crossed Nikki's found it...

No she hadn't.

You know when a situation gets so serious it goes beyond feelings? That's how I felt, rummaging desperately through my bag, knowing it was hopeless; our gate officials pressing us seriously for our decision, saying that the flight has to leave NOW; hearing our names on the airport loudspeaker (that was an exciting moment, if only I could've savoured it more...); Nikki next to me, keeping herself together but still very clearly panicked, asking me what we should do, not accepting me telling her that she should go without me (we figured at the end that would've been a very stupid option, since we only had one source of money between the two of us, my Finnish debit card...), her asking “what do we do?” and me, telling her hopelessly honestly: “I don't know.” I felt so, so responsible for her, since I'm the experienced traveller out of the two of us... and it was horrible. Amid all this, however, I did remember to make a point of putting on my hoodie so as to cover my ridiculous Gangnam Style-top. Now that would have been just too tragicomic.

We told the airport officials we're both staying at the airport. They went off to tell the plane that it can depart without us. I went off to find a suitable corner to sit down and cry uncontrollably in.

Nikki came over to comfort me, bless her <3 , and the Friendly Main Airport Official Guy let me borrow his phone to phone to my parents back in Finland – not that they could really help in any way, I guess mummy and daddy are just the default sympathy <3 I couldn't get through immediately because in my unhappy state of mind I first dialled my own number instead of my dad's number...

While on the phone to my dadsykins, the airport officials told us we had to go to Counter 2. Apparently the folder had been found!?!? Quick goodbye to dadsykins, then we followed these airport officials to the customer service. There, there was a man, and the man was holding MY PURPLE FOLDER. With its joyful elephant and horse and singing bird and very, very ironic 'Good luck!' on it. I wanted to cry again.
With the famous purple folder on the next day
It was apparently found near the 'Last Wave' -restaurant. (Irony, yes, again.) We hadn't eaten there. But then, I realised, that we had actually stopped there. Last Wave had an awesome sign in front of it that I had had to take a picture of. So I put down my folder on a table, put down my bag, took my camera, put away my camera, picked up my bag... and didn't pick up my folder. Yes yes yes, imbecilic human being alert. (Or should I say half-baked. Or moronic. Or out to lunch. Oh I love you online thesaurus.)
The picture
Aaaaaaahhhh relief. But, well, our flight had left. So we were escorted out of the airport. I felt like a criminal being caught just before the final escape.
Look at our cool VOID stamp
We were taken back to a check-in desk opened purely for us, where the check-in dude looked for new flights for us. Next day, same time. 75 dollars each. Which is, yes, 150 dollars more money than I would've want to spend, but it was very, very reasonable-priced taking account it was cheaper than the original tickets we'd bought.
We had to take a pic of our info just in case
Then, magically there was a taxi waiting for us, and we took this taxi back into central Kuta. Where we got to walk down most of the length of Legian, the main party street, with them massively over-sized bags. We found a hotel with a pool, aptly called 'Matahari', 'sun', one of the words Eric had taught us only a few hours previously on the beach, and so we booked a Deluxe room there at about 1am, had a night swim and then went to sleep. Still in Bali. <3
Our pool
All in all, a horrific experience, and so incredibly embarrassing, but I must dedicate a special mention for Bali airport staff. All of them were so helpful, so friendly, despite my problem being probably the most dim-witted one possible. All the officials were such STARS and so, ah, lovely. THANK YOU BALI AIRPORT.

Lesson of the day: Do not travel in a Gangnam style-top.


Attempt 2, the successful one

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Surf life on Bali beach

Good afternoon pumpkins of mine, 

So, this was meant to be the last day at Bali, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, we actually had two 'last' days. They were both spent similarly - primarily on Kuta Beach pretending to be a surfer pro. So, I will combine the two beach days in one entry LIKE A BOSSSSSSS

So, Bali is known for its beaches. And especially for surfing. So what better place to try it out than here at the Surfer's Wet Dream!?

Since swimming is prohibited...

Through our hostel, we booked a '2½h beginner's course'. We were picked up in the morning from our hostel (well, we followed the lady by motorbike) and taken to Kuta Beach, a bit further on than where we went a few days back.

We were introduced to some of the surf 'gang', including our to-be teacher, Eric, who was the epitome of A Bali Surf Instructor, dark with long, wavy, flowing dark hair and a wide cheeky grin, shamelessly wearing a very, very thick white layer of suncream on his face – them surfers need to know how to handle that sun! Also a talented and witty musician who gained lots of points from us when he stated that he was now going to sing “a Finnish song”, whose chorus went like this: “Mitä kuuluu? Mitä kuuluu?" and the verse: "You want to go toilet? Nurkan takana, vasen!” and it was adorable, the random phrases people here know in Finnish :')
With our surf teacher!

It was just me and Nikki as 'students'. First we were on the beach, practising getting up on the board. Right foot 90 degrees, left foot 45 degrees, with some level of space in between your feet. Simple theory, simple on the ground, but obviously a whole different story in the water.

So, then we went to practise in the waves. Nikki was an instant pro – she kept upright for most of her first attempt. I kept upright for the most of my, probably, twentieth attempt. It must be admitted, I don't think I was born to be a Surfer Girl (despite what my awesome new bracelet may say...) I felt like a man, I just could not focus on more than one thing at a time. (Sexist jokes are still allowed, right??) When I remembered to distance my feet from each other, I forgot that I shouldn't look down. When I remembered not to look down, I was way too far to the left. When I was positioned centrally, I forgot to bend my knees. Most of the time, however, I forgot to do all of these.
Me not distancing my feet enough 
It didn't feel this crowded....
Nikki shows everyone how it's done 
Luckily Eric was a very patient teacher and despite my frustration after every five attempts, I continued trying and, well, I did progress. I got gradually better, and it was wonderful to notice!
After our first sesh!
Nikki continued being pro – Bernie, the main surfer dude, said that she could become really good if she had the opportunity to practise!
My illustration of us surfing for my bro <3
We had had plans of going to this famous beach club, Potatohead, for sunset, but the surfer gang invited us to stay at the beach, and Nikki had hurt her foot, so we ended up hanging out on the beach, chatting with the guys, drinking traditional Bintang beer, taking pictures, getting covered by sand, learning Indonesian and teaching Finnish, aaaaaaand just general beach hanging about. It was awesome.

This pic took a lot of positioning believe it or not... also, see awesome matching bracelets!

Sunset was a bit cloudy, and, unfortunately, after that it was time for us to leave.
Still beautiful though!
 We popped by to the apple cider restaurant, Jokers, to say bye-bye, and got an awesome group pic of us, the musicians (who we got to chat to quite a bit throughout our stay) and some of the lovely waiters and waitresses, who were all such smiles. :)

Dude with Finnish gf is on the right (a.k.a Chester's doppelganger)


Then comes the story which I've dedicated its own blog entry to.

Short version of the story (WARNING! SPOILER): We missed our flight.

Soooo the next morning we came back to the beach. :P 
Fancy seeing you here!
breakfast smoothie

We actually found (quite easily!) a place to swim as well! Well, 'swim' = play in the waves. So much fun. And the lifeguards spoke Finnish to us. Literally everyone knows Finnish. 

Same as yesterday without the surfing – we had lunch at this lovely hotelly thing near the beach, and just lounged about. It's surprising how time can fly and you can have so much fun doing nothing! And I wouldn't really describe myself as a beach person...

Oh, noteworthy incident: Nikki and I were walking on the beach, and of course loads and loads of other people desperate to get us to buy their surf courses came to talk to us. One of them was very clearly into Nikki, chatting to her, trying to get her to come surfing, while I waited patiently in the background. Then he turned to me. “Ah, is this your mum?”


Is this the age that it starts........

(Just to point out, I am two years older than Nikki.)
Note aeroplane!!! 
Well, I would like to think it was Nikki's youthfulness and slimness and cool neon-cappedness that made her seem younger than her age, than me seeming massively older than my age..... But since then we have happily established that I am her milf <3
Mother daughter beach selfie
A lovely afternoon, and the sunset was less cloudy this time round. 

Playing doggies
The musicians
Nikki and the matahari tarbanam
The above is possibly my favourite pic from the trip. So sad to leave, for a second time... 

All in all, a BRILLIANT trip. As I mentioned in earlier entries, my expectations for Bali were definitely not easily reachable. Did they fulfill the expectations? In all honesty, I don't know. World, Bali is not paradise. However, Bali has bits of paradise.

But saying that, I can say that out of all the places I've visited so far on my trips, I could actually see myself going back to Bali. Like, I loved Thailand, and especially Malaysia, I loved it so much, but you have to resign yourself to the fact that the world is big, and if you want to see many places, you can't really go see the same place multiple times.

Bali was just somewhere I could imagine happily hanging out at without a packed, set agenda. You have the beautiful beaches, and you have beautiful scenery (a lot of which we couldn't even see this time round, like the mountains in the north!!) close by, you have scrumptious food and, above all, you have WONDERFUL people. And that is the main thing. Everyone from our new friends to the random girl or guy at the corner shop, everyone was FRIENDLY. Smiling, apologetic if they weren't able to help. You just felt so... welcome.

Bali, as my towel, and my bracelet, and my top say, I love you.

Next entry is my airport story. And then, onwards to new, hopefully Vietnamese entries...

Terima kasih and CYAAAA,

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Uluwatu, the monkeyful paradise

Wazzzaaaaa my dearests,

Today was the day for Uluwatu, venturing even further south. Uluwatu is famous for rich couples and rich families staying at cool resorts, with nothing much else around. But many places also claimed it had the the nicest, most peaceful beaches around. And scenery in general.

For some reason, even though I felt so unwilling to go and hang out with monkeys in the Monkey Forest of Ubud, it didn't seem such a bad idea to visit the Monkey Temple of Uluwatu, mentioned somewhere online as 'notorious' for its evil monkeys ('evil' in both the sense that they had the distinct possibility of carrying rabies, as well as an even greater possibility of being a thief whose talents exceed even the most skillful Vietnamese human pickpocketers).

We left Kuta southwards, past the airport and past Jimbaran, into more hilly scenery. After about half an hours drive google maps froze so we had no directions... “We're in the middle of nowhere,” Nikki commented hintingly after quite a long time of 'aimless' driving, or well, following that one road. “A few more kilometres,” I promised her, not completely believing in myself. But, I turned out to be right! Our road ended at some templey looking place which turned out to be The Templey Place!

In the end, South Bali is no Saigon – there was one 'main' road (and let me show you a pic of the mainness of it...), there was hardly any way you'd go the wrong way unless you literally drove into a rice field.
The main road
So, Monkey Temple. Firstly, lucky it was not that time of the month for either of us, otherwise we wouldn't have been allowed in. (True story.) (Not that they would have had any way of checking....... I hope)
See #4
We got stunning purple sarongs (sarongs?) which seemed pretty pointless because, with some people, they covered less than their own capri trousers. I asked the ticket dude if it was safe to take my bag in or if the monkeys would take it, and he was quick to offer his services as a monkey guide for 100,000. Erm, maybe not, though, ta.
Not a monkey in sight!
To reassure you, mumsie, the monkeys were not bad at all. And there weren't even many of them. 

Monkey statue
Monkey guide
And we only witnessed one stolen item, here we have Boss, Tofu Boss, posing shamelessly with his newly acquired sunglasses...

They promised you that if a monkey did steal something off you, you'd get it back. But it's not encouraged to distribute your stuff willy nilly to them (I exaggerate) because they have to be bribed with fruit or other goodies, providing them with an unintentional 'prize' for stealing that object.
They also had funky large lizards
More risqué was this cool area where we took pics (along with other tourists, and guides even!), and only after we'd left we noticed a sign very, very strictly forbidding going onto that area due to cliff fallings and whatnot...
And the temple itself? Well, I can't honestly say much about the temple itself – you weren't allowed in, and to be completely honest, for me, it wasn't that much about the temple. It was about the views.

Now let me tell you something. Especially rereading my previous entry about Jimbaran, I didn't sound massively enthusiastic about any of the scenery. The thing is, everything we saw in Bali was beautiful. Of course it was beautiful, it was Bali! My expectations were very high, much higher than I think anywhere else I've visited. So, it's hard to completely appreciate the sheer beauty of it without thinking “well, is this worthy of the word paradise?” (which it often, actually, wasn't) So, like Jimbaran beach yesterday, had it been on our Malaysian holiday, I would've praised it no end. But, it's Bali. You'd hardly expect a dump.

BUT ANYWAYS. Uluwatu Temple was probably the best scenery I saw on the whole trip. It was BREATH-TAKING. The ocean, so vast, so BLUE, and the waves that I've so often described so poetically as WIDE and POWERFUL (note sarcasm with the word choice of 'poetically'... but it's true!! They were wide and powerful!!). And this temple hanging on a cliff. A stunner.

Nikki was tired
Practising the normal Asian pose
Patiently yet hintingly waiting for about ten minutes for the French tourist next to me to finish taking selfies

After sweating enough at the Monkey Temple, we awoke google maps from the dead and decided we'd venture onwards to the closest 'beautiful beach' (according to various travel sites as well as one of my favourite bloggers who visited Bali back in 2012), Padang-Padang.
We had to take the long route coz the road was closed
So, paradise beaches. When you see them in photos they are not packed with tourists. I guess it was stupid of us to imagine otherwise. But at least the water wasn't packed...
Pretty paradisey, right? 
It was beautiful. Like, absolutely stunning. Just take away the tourists.

We were superhungry so went to sit at this dodgy-looking eating hole where the table was seriously leaning so much that we were hesitant to put bottles on it. However, the food was surprisingly scrumptious and the restaurant ladies sincerely friendly and nice! I expanded my Ozzie culinary knowledge (yes, Bali is very Ozzie, if you haven't gathered by now) and had a jaffle, a toasted sandwich which was very nice! And Nikki's chips were home-made - they were still potatoes when we ordered.

So, Padang-Padang was beautiful, but once again, as we'd been pre-warned to be fair, it was not a beach to swim at

The beach
When we went too far – the water reached probably the top of our thighs – we got whistled at (with a whistle :P) and told to come back to shore. (Or at least, that's what I think happened, I was never able to place the lifeguard in the flocks of people on the beach, but...)

The best bit of Padang-Padang was venturing over the jagged rocks onto the more uninhabited areas of the beach. Such a long beachline, absolutely beautiful. Now this was Bali.

Many funky live sea creatures...
One of my fave ever pics :)

We even saw more monkeys – wild, unadvertised ones! 
Another fave pic: monkey, surfer, beach. Parasta.
Some were even carrying babies!! But then they became more and more numerous, and started hissing at each other, so we left the scene.
But not before taking a sneaky pic
A few pics of the sunset and the mafia monkey...

Then, it was time to go 'home'.

Stopping once in a while for pics... LOOK AT THAT 

We spent the evening back at our Joker's bar (the one with the apple cider and the brilliant music). Coincidentally, one of the musicians who came to talk to us afterwards turned out to have a Finnish girlfriend! We found many curious links to Finland and the Finns here at Bali... 

Possibly the best day. I LOVE driving (riding... but it still sounds weird to say riding. It's a bike, not a horse) Bali streets, especially in the more rural south. Uluwatu Temple was a definite positive surprise, and Padang-Padang beach fulfilled them paradisey Bali beach expectations. A stunning day.
The map, now also including our Jimbaran route (blue) and rough (well, they're all rough) Uluwatu route (mauve)
But tomorrow: SURFAGEEEEE

Auf wiedersehn,

What does it say?