‘Albert Einstein’ travels through Southeast Asia | VailDaily.com

‘Albert Einstein’ travels through Southeast Asia

Luc Pols
Special to the Daily/Luc Pols

Editor’s note: This is the 10th in a series of travel stories from local resident Luc Pols, who is traveling through Southeast Asia.

During my last couple of days in Bali I visited the very famous Tanah Lot temple on the ocean, which was one magnificent site to see despite the throngs of tourists and a couple of hundred stalls/stores you have to cross to get there. I left my moped and Ubud behind to go to the northern coast, Lovina in particular.

Oh yeah, I did get a ticket for not wearing a helmet. There were a lot of roadblocks all over Bali and I think it is due to the fact that the infamous Bali bombers were supposed to be executed for the last six days and they are expecting a lot of trouble and reprisals. At shopping centers, big (read expensive) hotels etc. all cars are checked inside and even under to prevent another bomb attack. In any case, when one of the cops who pulled me over told me the fine was 100,000 Rp ($10), I protested and offered him 50,000. After protesting, he accepted, but I did not get a receipt … of course! By the way, the Bali bombers were executed, resulting in demonstrations and I was told not to say that I was American, so I am going with Dutch, just in case.

I decided to head directly from Lovina, which was quite laid back, but with side-by-side-by-side bars, all having live bands “competing” with each other, resulting in quite a cacophony of noise … a lot of it. I took local transportation for the 50 miles to the ferry and it was fun. Someone even offered to let me stay at their home home for free, but I crossed the Bali Straight instead and stayed in an exquisite hotel in Banyuwangi, with a great pool, luscious grounds with bungalows and breakfast, all for $24/night. I can handle that quite well!

I spent two weeks in the town of Kalibaru. Why I picked it, don’t ask. It looked good on the map, so I got off the train. I walked around town and “the suburbs” and by now I am hoarse from answering to “Hello Mister” and have a stiff neck from constantly bowing to the older generation. I found one Internet connection, not in the $8/night place I’m staying in (recommended by and insisted upon by the local station master), but in the $52/night one down the street. I sat with the local population and all conversations started or ended with Obama or the Bali bombers execution. Even the Indonesians seem to be apprehensive. All I can say is that I am glad I left Bali, because if anything is going to happen, that’ll be the most likely place it’ll take place.

After having seen the Thai/Cambodian border conflict from up close, very close, I don’t want to do that again. Of course, the “conversations” are halting, because my Indonesian is about as good as my Mongolian: non-existent. I guess I am getting lazy in my old age. However, a few beers cross a lot of boundaries and a smile is still the best currency in the world!

I have fallen in the same trap as I did a couple of years ago: traveling amongst backpackers you tend to go for the cheap, not the quality and that has to stop. I paid, on average, $18 per night during the first 55 days of my trip, but some places you would not want to stay in, believe me. This stops now.

I had my first Indonesian train experience, in executive class no less, but it left me with mixed emotions. The train ranks after the European, Chinese, Russian and even the Vietnamese train (in order). At least I have air conditioning but the seats springs came through into my back. However it is better than the bus ” anything is!

I took the morning train, followed by a bicycle tuk-tuk, followed by a Becac, followed by a bus, followed by another bicycle tuk-tuk without speaking a word of Indonesian. Sometimes I scare myself.

Once in Bondowoso, I checked into a beautiful hotel with the largest pool I ever have seen in Asia and prepared myself to get up at 3:30 a.m. to drive to the Ijen Plateau and its volcano. See you next week.

P.S. My hair must be getting longer, because for the first time this trip I was called Albert Einstein three times in 24 hours!

Have a travel essay you’d like to share with Vail Daily readers? E-mail High Life Editor Caramie Schnell at cschnell@vaildaily.com.

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