With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

The Horrible No Good Stay

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 15, 2017

Wednesday, July 12th – 19th, 2017

I’ve been to  Hong Kong many times. But, I’ve only ever seen the inside of the airport.  It’s a very nice airport.  For the first time I got to leave the airport and enter Hong Kong. I was very excited.

We would spend a week in Hong Kong. Mark wanted to try out accommodations in two different areas. The first place, was one he found on Airbnb. It was some sort of futuristic capsule hotel thing. It was going to be amazing. We would see Hong Kong for the first time ever and stay in a kitschy space hotel.

Best seat on the bus

We landed in Hong Kong and was first greeted by a staff member of the board of tourism. She handed us a free map. We gave her the address of our accommodations and she told us what bus to catch, what stop to get off, and she recommended getting an Octopus Card. We got the card and easily found our bus. We were the first in line. We got to our stop without any problem. Everything went smoothly.

The address was easy to understand. It was something like 140 ABC Street, ABC building, 24 section. We found ABC street, then 130 ABC street. At 140 ABC street there was supposed to be an ABC building, but there wasn’t.

We asked to people around where the ABC building was. They didn’t know. But they only knew the building they worked in. They said they weren’t too sure about the other buildings. One person even walked with us and concluded that the ABC building should be near here; he pointed to a building which was not the ABC building. We thought that maybe there was a typo.

We went to a Starbucks to use their wifi and call our host. It was a headache talking to him. He spoke no English or Cantonese. All his communications were in Mandarin. We used the google translate app to talk to him. We could understand him well enough, but he seemed not to know what we were trying to ask.

We kept the dialog simple. Instead of asking, “What’s the address,” we wrote, “address?” We would run it through a translator and send it to him. He had no idea what we wanted. “Why would people who paid to stay at my accommodation ask about an ‘address’?” The man seemed to be a bit thick.

After 45 minutes of texting back and forth, Mark got a new address. It was about 5 metro stops down the line and nowhere in the neighborhood we thought we would be in when we got the reservations.

We book the place online expecting it to be in one area. In the conformation email we were given a different address and found out that it was actually on the outskirts of where we wanted to be. That was still okay. Now, we were told that we would be staying in a different area all together.

We went to the new address and found nothing. There was no sign for any capsule hotel or anything that would resemble a capsule place. Once again we asked around, but no one had heard of it.

We found a store that had free wifi and contacted the host again. It took another 30 minutes of texting to get more information out of him. By this time I was convinced that he was too stupid to run a hotel or Airbnb accommodations. Later I would realize that it was a bit more sinister than that.

He was going to meet us at XYZ station exit 1. We sent him messages like, “Man = blue shirt, baseball hat, gray pants. Woman = green shirt, black pants. You = ?” We wanted to be able to find him in the crowd and for him to find us. But he didn’t understand. In the end we just when to the designated spot and waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

…and waited.

Then we went back to another store with free wifi. Mark texted him again, asking where he was. He claimed he was at XYZ station exit 1. We ran back there. Out of frustration Mark started to yell, “Airbnb guy!” No one answered.

We went back to the store with free wifi. Again he claimed to be at the meeting spot. He said he was there for the past 30 minutes.

I began to wonder why it was so hard for him to understand us, but we could easily understand what he said. No one who is able to put a room on Airbnb is that dumb. Something strange is going on here. “I think this is a scam.”

I told Mark that we should start looking for another place to stay for the night. Mark groaned. His head began to ache in anticipation of the roller coaster ride it would be to get our money back from this fraudster.

During our adventure we passed a Holiday Inn. It was a bit above our budget, but for one night it would do. We headed to the Holiday Inn and got there just in time to see them close up shop. They locked the doors, pulled down the blinds, then they locked themselves behind iron bars. “Holy hell! Is all that necessary?” I thought, from the other side of the street. It looked like they were expecting the Purge to begin in a few minutes. I could hear bottles clanking in the distance.

We looked down the street. As if choreographed, all the shops and businesses in turn pulled similar metal bars down. The whole town was closed for the night. “Yikes,” I thought. “Are we going to have to spend the night at Starbucks?”

I turned to look at Mark. Before I could even ask him what he thought we should do, some shady looking creep approached us. “I have hotel. You need hotel? Yes… I have!” We wanted to tell this slimy guy to get lost, but he was right. We did need a hotel. So, we followed him.

He took us into a dirty building with lots of little shops and dingy looking restaurants. It felt like everyone inside was staring at us and whispering to each other, “Those two are about to be exploited.” The guy we were following was still working the crowd. There were 3 or 4 other tourists he tried to make follow him to his hotel, but they clearly had better option than we did.

The creep took us to a room with no windows and a bathroom that was oddly wet. Mark and I popped our heads in to look inside, but didn’t like what we saw. But, the creep insisted that we enter the room before we made up our minds. “It’s okay,” Mark politely declined, “we don’t need to both go inside.” The creep would not let it go, “Just go inside, please.” So we went in.

There was one single bed and about 1 square foot of space in the room that was neither bed nor bathroom. He quoted a price that Mark thought was way to high for such a dump. I didn’t hear what he said. I was busy thinking about how much I would rather spend the night at Starbucks and how much I needed to get out of the room, but Mark was blocking the way. To go around him, I would have to climb on the bed. I didn’t want to touch the bed. “…And, why was the bathroom wet!? They could not have just cleaned, it’s past midnight,” I thought.

Sensing our hatred for the windowless room with the one twin bed and the mysteriously wet bathroom, the creep remembered another room. The second room, the one in the photo above, was double the size. It had 2 windows and a moldy, but dry bathroom. This room was still terrible, overpriced, and we did not want to stay in it, but it was slightly better than spending the night at Starbucks (which we weren’t completely sure would stay open all night).

We took the room. But we tried not to touch anything. We slept with all our clothes on. We unpacked nothing. And, we left as soon as the sun came up practically running away from the place.

We paid in cash, giving the money to the creep before he left. The creep showed us the light switch, there was only one, and how to use the faucet. Then he said, “People usually give tip now.” Then he stuck his grubby hand out at us moving it from Mark to me then back as if he didn’t know whether he or I or both would give him money.

I stood there shocked at the creep’s audacity. This was not the type of hotel where tipping happened. Plus, it’s not like he carried our bags or anything. Mark looked at him and told him, “Well, usually people give tips in the morning, depending on how nice the room is.” The creep looked at the room and whined, “I’m not here in the morning, can I have my tip now?”

Mark gently escorted the creep out the room and started to shut the door as he said, “That’s not how things are done. Tomorrow… maybe… it depends…”

There’s no one around to tip…

The next day we found a hostel and met some really nice people who we explored Hong Kong with. They were the bit of sunshine in the rainy cloud that was our time in Hong Kong. But we still had to deal with the Airbnb host we could not find.

The guy went ahead and charged Mark for 3 nights stay, even though he was not smart enough to give us directions. Mark asked him to refund the money, but the host claimed that we cancelled at the last minute. With Airbnb we can cancel and get a full refund, only if it is more than 3 days before the time of our stay. Since, we supposedly cancelled on the night we were to arrive, he just charged us for the whole 3 nights’ stay.

But we didn’t cancel at all. If we did, he would have been able to keep our money. Mark wrote a letter to the higher-ups at Airbnb and explained our situation. After a few weeks, Airbnb refunded all our money back. But by then we were out of Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong this was hanging over our heads. It wasn’t about the money. It was this feeling of being taken advantaged of. This was our first day in Hong Kong and it was a very bad experience.

But, luckily we met some really great guys from Holland. We would go out to eat with them a lot. We did some sight seeing with them too, but mostly we ate. We had a great time with them and it helped us forget the horrible first day in Hong Kong.


Hong Kong
(中華人民共和國香港特別行政區)
(Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China )

How to get there:

You can enter Hong Kong by plane, train, or boat. Most likely, unless you are coming in from mainland China, you will enter by plane.

***Entry to Hong Kong is not the same as a visa to China.*** Do not try to enter mainland China without a visa***.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Hong Kong uses the British style plug.
  • Get an  Octopus Card for public transportation.
    • Get one at the airport
    • Refundable HK$50 deposit
    • You can use it to pay for train, buses, and many other things.
  • If you’re in the market to buy electronics, Hong Kong is the place for you!
    • There is no sales tax, so everything is Duty Free.

Australia Dairy Company

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • 26 – 30 Yuan for a set meal

Hours:

  • 7:30 – 23:00

Notes:

  • I highly recommend the scrambled eggs.
    • They are the best thing on the menu and the best scrambled eggs I have ever tasted.
  • Go early and prepare to stand in line.
    • The bigger the group you go with the longer you will wait.
    • You might be placed at a table with people you’ve never met before.
    • The restaurant will be crowded with waiters wizzing by you.
      • Don’t make sudden moves.
      • Don’t bring big bags with you.
    • The wait staff might come off as being a bit rude.
      • They can be a little rude if they like; the food is legit!

Central–Mid-Levels escalator and walkway system

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Downhill direction: Mid-Levels – Central 6am to 10am daily
  • Uphill direction: Central – Mid-Levels 10am to midnight daily

Notes:

  • This is the longest covered outdoor escalator in the world.
  • There are many stops along the way.
  • Be careful when going from the top of one escalator to the bottom of another (or visa versa). Sometimes, you will needed to cross the street, so watch out for traffic.

Noon Day Gun

Basic information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • everyday at noon

Notes:

  • There are other “Noon Day” guns throughout the world, though many have been discontinued.
    • The one in Edinburgh, is fired at 13:00 and is called the 1 O’clock gun.
  • Be careful when trying to cross the street near the gun. There is an underground walkway that goes from the nearby mall to the gun.

Hong Kong Museum of History

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Closed Tuesdays
  • 7:00 – 22:00

Notes:

  • There are no audio guides, but there are many short films throughout the museum.
    • They are played in 3 languages, English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
  • Bring a light jacket or a long sleeved t-shirt; it can get chilly.

Tim Ho Wan

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:00

Notes:

  • There is usually a line of people waiting to get in.
  • You might be placed at a table with strangers.

Tian Tan Buddha

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Free to see the outside
  • There is a small charge to enter the Buddha

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 17:30

Notes:

Map:

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Travel Tips for Japan

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 10, 2017

2017

You have to bring:

  • Prescription medication.
  • Deodorant/ Antiperspirant
    • You can find it in the store sometimes.

Just about everything else can be bought in Japan.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • Don’t take big luggage on the train.
      • One suitcase or one carry-on only.
      • Backpacks are okay if you put it on your lap or on the rack above the seats.
    • Mail your bigger bags from the airport (in Japan) to your hotel.
  2. Clothes:
    • Uniqlo is the best choice for affordable clothes that can fit larger sizes.
      • Go one size up. If you are a medium back home, in Japan you are a large. Large –> X-Large.
    • They have stores like the Gap here, but it’s more expensive than back home.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying at a hostel.
    • You will need your towel at most onsens (hot springs).
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • You will need these at hostels and at some onsens.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at any convenience store or at grocery stores.
      • You can find many popular brands like Dove, Pantene, Finesse, and Lux.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find it, if you look hard enough.
    • The bigger the city you’re in, the easier it will be to find.
    • Just to be safe, bring extra from home.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • Japan loves sunscreen!
    • You will find lots of brands.
      • They have gels, lotions, sprays, sprits, and the other day I saw one advertised as being extra milky…
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
    • Do not bring Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, or Codeine into Japan.
  8. Other things you should bring
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone

Try Calpis!

General Tips:

Transportation:

  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan.
  • It takes a few days to get a hang of the Tokyo subway system, a few weeks to understand the buses, and about a year to master both of them at the same time.
    • Public transportation is a lot easier in the other Japanese cities.
  • Generally, there is no free parking in Japan.
    • Sometimes shops will have free parking for customers, but only for customers. So, technically, that’s complimentary not free.

Food:

  • You can save money on food by buying bento boxes at convenience or grocery stores.
    • You will be given chop sticks.
    • Some grocery stores will have microwaves to heat up your food and even chairs and tables where you can eat.
    • All convenience stores will heat up the bento you buy if you ask.
  • Some kaiten Sushi restaurants are very affordable. Like:

Shopping:

Money:

  • It has gotten a lot easier to get money from a non-Japanese bank in Japan.
  • Use the Japanese Post or the 7-Eleven ATM.
  • Before you leave for Japan, call up your bank and ask if your bank card will work in ATMs in Japan and if so, which ones.
  • Credit cards mostly do not work here.
    • Sometimes they do, so try it if you really need it.
    • I saw a Discover card logo listed as a paying option at a pharmacy once…

Scams:

  • The are really no scams being run on tourists in Japan.

Tattoos:

  • You will be asked, at most onsens, to cover up any tattoos you might have.
    • I think you can just put a bandage over it.

Visa:

  • To enter Japan, you will need to have a ticket leaving Japan, unless you have a visa already or an ARC.

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan.

Posted in Japan | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Robots & Drink Baths

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 5, 2017

Saturday, July 8th and Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

People have this idea that Japan is a quirky place where strange things happen all the time. This notion pops up mostly on meme posting sites, but sometimes you can see it on the news as a “crazy thing they’re doing in Japan now”. Case in point, the Bagel Head trend. It was called a fad that was sweeping Japan. It was not, but since everyone is conditioned to believe that the Japanese love odd trends and most readers/ viewers had never been to Japan, this falsehood was easily taken up and retold.

Bageling one’s head was no more a trend in Japan than it was in New York or London.

That said, you can find crazy stuff in Japan. But, it’s mostly kept in and around Tokyo where tourists can find it. The thought is, “If this is what tourists expect and are willing to pay for, we’ll do it!” I introduce to you the Robot Cafe:

It’s a shame what happened to Daft Punk.

It is advertised as a robot burlesque show. It has a lot of stuff. There are many things going on during the performance, however at no point did I see any actual robots or burlesque. There is a scantily clad baddie who dies in an absurdly sexy position, but there is no dancing involved. When there is dancing, it’s more peppy than sexy, so not burlesque.

a non-robot performing a non-dance

So, what is the show about?

I saw it. I definitely did. But… I’m still not sure what happened.

This is how I imagine the board meeting to decid what the show would be about went…

Boss: “Okay, we going to do this thing. Any ideas on what it should be about? Remember, no idea is a bad idea!”

Person 1: “I watched Fern Gully last night, why don’t we just plagiarize that?”

Boss: “Yea, that sounds nice.”

Person 2: “Why don’t we have a 50’s Americana style dance off with cheerleaders… like half-way through the show?”

Boss: “Good, good. Keep it coming!”

Person 3: “I like parades. Why don’t we have a parade? … with really unnecessarily loud music to kick things off?”

Boss: “Genius!”

Person 1: “Since you liked my Fern Gully idea, why not have some teen… I mean post pubescent genetically altered martial art amphibians?

Person 2: “Oh, and let’s rip off Tron while we’re at it!?”

Person 4: “I like fire breathing mechanical chickens!”

Person 2: “Maybe we should call it a phoenix?

Person 4: “No, it should be a chicken.”

Looking for the plot of the show as a robot dies in the background.

Boss: “I’ll do all of that! Unfortunately the mechanical chicken will cost so much that we will not have money left in the budget to get any robots. But I think the people will enjoy the chicken much more.”

Mark enjoyed the show. I was just confused. There were zero robots. I think there was one guy in a robot costume, but he was on stage for less than 5 minutes.

At Hakone Kowakien Yunessun you can soak in hot water and enjoy a beautiful view of the nearby mountains. But, this is not why most people go. They go to get coffee poured on their heads, to sit in wine, sake, coffee, green tea, and whatever the special liquid of the day is. This is the kind of kitch I like.

This one doesn’t have as many international tourists. It’s a bit hard to get to and the information online is mostly in Japanese. It can also be a bit expensive at 4,000 yen when most osens cost 500 yen. But, with a little persistence we found an online coupon that got us in for 3,000 yen with a complimentary lunch set. (It’s still expensive, but whatchya gonna do?)

I enjoyed it! My swim suit smelled like wine for weeks afterwards, but it was worth it.


Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Robot Restaurant

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35.694312, 139.702865

Address:

  • 〒160-0021 Tokyo, 新宿区Kabukicho, 1−7−1 新宿ロボットビル

Phone:

  • +81 3-3200-5500

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 15:00 – 23:00
  • 1 hour show
  • Show up at least 30 minute before the show.
  • There are 4 shows a day.

Videos:

Notes:

  • I didn’t really like it, but many people did.
    • The area where we sat was too cramped.
    • The show made very little sense.
    • Honestly, I thought the tickets were overpriced even with the online discount.
    • Had it been a $20 show, it would have been worth it.
  • The food is not that great.
    • Mark and I didn’t order the food. In fact, only one group of people did.
    • It looked like the bento you get from 7/11, which would be fine if it didn’t cost $10.
  • Bring ear plugs.
    • The music is quite loud.
    • Kids are given ear protection, like those worn by people who work on the tarmac at airports. Adults are given nothing.
  • Not too far from the Godzilla head.

Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
(箱根小涌園ユネッサン)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35.239393, 139.045280

Address:

  • 1297 Ninotaira Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa

Phone:

  • 0460-82-4126

Websites:

Cost:

  •  YUNESSUN 2,900 JYP
  • MORI NO YU 1,900 JYP
  • YUNESSUN & MORI NO YU Combo  4,100 JYP
  • Addition costs:
    • Towel Rental:
      • Bath towel 100 yen,
      • Face towel 50 yen
    • Swimsuit rental: Men’s 650 yen, Women’s 1080 yen, Children’s 650 yen
      • Sizes range from men: M~6L
      • Women S~4L
      • Children 70cm~160cm
    • Lunch:
      • Inside the Yunessun area (Fontana): ~600+JYN – 900JYN
      • There are more restaurants outside the Yunessun area, but still in the building: Prices are higher than Fontana

Hours:

  • YUNESSUN: (Swim suit sections)
    • 09:00-19:00(March-October)
    • 09:00-18:00 (November-February )
  • MORI NO YU: (Naked Section)
    • 09:00-21:00

Notes:

  • Shampoo and Conditioner are complimentary and placed in the showers.
  • You should bring your towel or rent one there.

Map:

Posted in Hakone 町, Japan, Kanagawa 県, Tokyo 都 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Final Backpack

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 30, 2017

Tuesday, July 4th – 12th, 2017

When I was in Malaysia I bought a smaller backpack to force myself to drastically pare down my clothes and travel items. It did the trick and really helped me to decided what I really needed and what I should dump or mail back to my mom’s house. Because of if I learned to live with less and I felt lighter. But, for me to go to Iceland I would need a bag that could hold more. It didn’t need to be as big as the pack I started out with, but something between the first bag and the smaller one.

It took Mark a mere 5 minutes to pack away all his stuff in preparation for a change in hotel or a flight. I, on the other hand, took about 20 minutes. Everything in my pack had to be folded just so and packed in a certain order. Sometimes, when the zipper would not close all the way it meant that an item had been placed in up-side-down or backwards.

We were getting closer to the time when we would be in Iceland. At which point, I would have to buy a pair of jeans, a fleece jacket, and a long sleeve shirt or two. None of these new clothes would fit in this small bag. I had to get a bigger one.

I had never really gone backpack shopping with any criteria in mind. My first bag, I chose “something red”. The second one I got because it was “not red”. The third one, the one that turned out to be a bad choice, was selected because it was “small”. This time I knew what I wanted.

Must-have 1: Back Vent

I needed a back vent. Bag #2 had one. I didn’t even notice how useful it was until Mark told me that he wanted a pack with a back vent like mine. “Why does that even matter?” I asked him. He gave me his pack to carry for a while. It was a hot day and it didn’t take long to see why my bag was better.

Without the back vent, it gets really hot carrying a pack, even when it’s almost empty. The back vent keeps your back well ventilated and the sweat on your back can easily dry and keep you cool as you carry your haul.

This pack is both front and top loading

Must-have 2: Front Loading Option

I need a pack that is front loading. Bag #1 was front loading. It makes looking for things so much easier. To find stuff in a top loading backpack, one must first unpack. Completely unpacking might not be necessary; the item might be found before then.

If a pack is front loading, all you have to do to see your stuff is to unzip it. Then you can pick what you want and leave the rest in the bag.

Must-have 3: Small Size

It has to be small. I need it to function as my day pack as well as my backpack. I would put my stuff in a locker at a hostel or in a drawer at my hotel. Then I want to be able to carry around my pack as a light and small day pack.

I also have a fear of being robbed while traveling by bus. When you get on a bus, you have to place any big items you have under the bus. This is where suitcases and backpacks go. Although it has never happened to me, anyone I know, or anyone I’ve heard about my fear is this:

I place my backpack under the bus and take my seat. I’ve got a ticket to the city of Five-Hours-From-Here. The bus is so comfortable that I fall asleep. The bus stops to let off the people going to Two-Hours-From-Here. One of these passengers sees my bag and takes it.

The reason for the theft doesn’t matter. Maybe my bag is mistaken for hers. Maybe it was not stolen at all, but my bag falls out as this passenger gets her own bag. The end result is the same, my bag is no longer on the bus and I don’t notice until I get to my stop.

This can easily be prevented if my bag is small enough for me not to have to put my bag below. If it is small, I can keep it on my lap, by my feet, or above on a luggage rack. This would make me feel much safer.

Must-have 4: But, not too small

It needs to be big enough to carry all my stuff. This time, I would not rely on my memory or a label to determine if the new pack were the right size. I would bring the small bag with me to compare the two. This time there would be no mistakes.

This is just some random area of Tokyo.

Mark and I went to the Kanda district in Tokyo where many of the outdoor sporting goods stores are. We looked through 8 or 9 stores hunting for the right bag. I was worried that I would not find anything that would work for me.

Luckily, I found two packs and had a hard time choosing between the two. In the end I picked an Osprey Sirrus that had everything I wanted in a very nice color. It was a medium sized bag that can be compressed to a small size when being used as a day pack. It was not the great financial deal like Mark’s $12-pack, but I did managed to get it duty free by showing my passport. That took a good $10 off the cost of this bag. And so far, I’m very happy with it.

The smaller backpack and I did have some good times together.

The next thing I had to deal with was the fact that I had 2 backpacks. Being in Japan, one cannot simply throw it out. The small pack had to be disposed of properly.  Mark wanted to take it to a recycle shop. I thought that was a very good idea so I searched the internet for recycle shops near our hotel. We walked to several, but none of them bought backpacks.

On one of our days out and about downtown Tokyo, I thought I would try once more. I found a place near Ueno Park called Mode Off. We handed over the small pack and gave them 30 minutes to appraise it. When we returned they gave us 1,500JPY (a little less than 15USD) for it. “Not bad for a pack I paid about 30USD for,” I thought. I was expecting about 500yen.


Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Photo from: cometojapankuru.blogspot.jp

Backpack Shopping in Tokyo

How to get there:

Websites:

Cost:

  • It’s Tokyo and designer brands…
    • That said, things do go on sale and there are some generic brands. You just have to look a bit harder.
  • Backpack – 6,500JYN (Generic on sale) to 45,000JYN (Name brand, huge, not on sale)

Notes:

  • There are more shops in the area, but I found everything I needed (and some stuff I didn’t need, but wanted) right on this street.
  • There are a lot more outdoor goods shops in this street between the Victoria and the  ムラサキスポーツ, but they do not show up on google maps.
    • Like the really nice North Face shop in a 5 story building where most floors have 2 specialty brand stores.
  • Bring your passport to get duty free.
    • You will not have to pay the 8% tax.
    • Don’t forget to ask about a duty free option if the clerk forgets to ask you.

Tokyo Imperial Palace
(皇居)
(Kōkyo)

&

The Imperial Palace East Gardens
(皇居東御苑)
(Kōkyo Higashi Gyoen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’06.6″N 139°45’10.0″E (Tokyo Imperial Palace)
  • Coordinates 35°41’10.5″N 139°45’33.8″E (The Imperial Palace East Gardens)

Address:

1-1 ChiyodaChiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture 100-0001Japan

Phone:

  • +81 3-3213-1111

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

The Imperial Palace East Gardens:

  • 9:00 – 16:00
  • Cosed Every Monday and Friday

Image result for mode off ueno

Photo from: secondhand-clothing-tokyo.blogspot.jp

Mode Off Ueno

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35.708114, 139.773905

Address:

  • Japan, 〒110-0005 Tōkyō-to, Taitō-ku, 台東区Ueno, 4 Chome−4−2−3

Phone:

  • +81 3-5807-7330

Websites:

Hours:

  • 11:00 – 21:00

Notes:

  • This store and others like it are part of the Hard Off Group, which sells (and buys) used goods.
    • Hard Off – Electronics, Music, Instruments, Software…
    • Mode Off – Clothes, Bags, Purses…
    • Off House – Home appliances, Furniture, Clothes…
    • Garage Off – Big Electronics/ Appliances, Stuff you would put in a garage…
    • Book Off – Books, Music, Software…
    • Hobby Off – Toys, collections, Cards…
    • Liquor Off – Pre-owned but un-used booze…

Sogenji Temple
(Kappa-dera temple)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35.715157, 139.786291

Address:

  • Japan, 〒111-0036 Tōkyō-to, Taitō-ku, Matsugaya, 3 Chome−7 松が谷3-7-2

Phone:

  • +81 3-3841-2035

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 9am – 5pm

Notes:

  • The shrine is very small.
  • If you encounter a kappa, don’t panic.
    • Bow to the kappa.
    • The dim-witted kappa will bow to you in return.
    • This will cause the bowl on the kappa’s head to spill it’s water.
    • If the kappa’s head bowl is void of water for too long, the kappa will die.
    • This will make the kappa run to the nearest body of water, leaving you alone and unharmed.
    • Never follow the kappa to the water!

Kaneiji
(Science Bug Temple)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35.721179, 139.774144

Address:

  • Japan, 〒110-0002 Tōkyō-to, Taitō-ku, Uenosakuragi, 1 Chome−14−11

Phone:

  • +81 3-3821-4440

Websites:

Notes:

  • There is a tomb for bugs who have died in the name of science.

Map:

Posted in Japan, Tokyo 都 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Travel Tips for Bali

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 25, 2017

2017

You have to bring:

  • Prescription medication.

Everything else can be bought in Bali.

Quick disclaimer: We only stayed in hotels in Bali, no hostels.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage.
  2. Clothes

    Beachwalk is a very nice mall.

    • Bali has a lot of tourists. There are many, many shops here with western sizes aplenty!
    • Lots of surfer gear.
    • Lots of swim wear.
    • There are many malls here, from super upscale malls to the regular malls where normal people can afford things.
    • There are also markets where you can haggle over everything.
  3. Towel
    • All hotels provided guests with towels. Some, not all, even provided 2 towels, one for showers and one for the beach or pool.
    • You might bring a towel for use at the beach or buy one in Bali if your hotel doesn’t give you a towel to use at the beach.
    • At some beaches, the rental beach chair comes with a complimentary beach towel.
      • Sanur beach – 50,000IDR / day
      • Nusa Dua – 100,00IDR / 3 hours
    • If you’re staying in a hostel, it’s best to bring a towel just in case.
  4. Shampoo (not needed), conditioner, and body wash (not needed)
    • All hotels provided guests with shampoo and body wash.
      • Most shampoos and body wash were jasmine scented. I loved the stuff so much I ran out and bought some jasmine soap to take home. (Well, not home…)
    • You are never given conditioner.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in Bali.
      • You can find many popular brands like Dove, Pantene, Finesse, and Lux.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant
    • You can find this here, but the brand selection is limited.
      • It’s mostly Dove, Nivea, and other brands I’ve never heard of.
  6. Sunscreen
    • It’s mostly Banana Boat and Nivea.
    • Many (not he Banana Boat brand) come with “skin whitening” (whatever that means).
    • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, and suncreen at a convenience store, but they will be cheaper at grocery stores. Grocery stores will have more variety, too.
  7. Over the counter medicine
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy cold medicine and pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea (Bali Belly), fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
  8. Rentals: You can rent most of what you need.
    • Beach towels and chairs
    • Surf boards in various sizes
      • Comes with a rashguard and a locker for your stuff.
      • You can pay extra to a hire a surf instructor for an hour or two.
    • Boogie boards
    • Scooters
    • Hire a driver for a day
      • NEVER drive a car in Bali.
  9. Other things you should bring
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone
      • You will need this if you want to use Uber.

General Tips:

Here is a Blue Bird stuck in traffic.

Taxis:

  • There is a “taxi mafia”.
  • The best thing is to use Uber, but this can be tricky.
    • There are “taxi drivers” who try to intimidate Uber drivers.
    • It might be best to have your Uber pick you up somewhere away from where other taxis might see.
    • Yes, I know it’s crazy.
  • As for taxis, the best one is the Blue Bird taxi.
    • They are supposed to use a meter.
    • There are fake Blue Bird taxis…
      • I have no idea how to spot a fake vs a real Blue Bird.
    • You can take a Blue Bird to the airport, but not from the airport.
  • There are taxi drivers who stand on the side of the road shouting, “Hello, taxi!” to everyone they see.
    • These are annoying SOBs who will probably rip you off.
  • The flat rate taxis from the airport will rip you off.
    • It’s not a matter of “if”, but of “by how much”.

Money:

  • Get cash from ATMs.
    • I don’t think any of the ATMs charge an ATM fee.
    • They all have limits which are ridiculously low, like 500,000IDR. That’s sounds like a lot, but it’s actually less than $50.
    • The highest one I’ve seem was 2,000,000IDR; around $200.
  • Exchange money at banks.
    • There are tons of money changers that say they take no commission and charge no fees, but that can’t be right.
    • I heard rumors that they just exchange the money at a rate that overly benefits them, or they just give you the wrong amount pocketing what they can.

Scams:

  • Watch out for the hotel timeshare thing.
    • I’m not sure if it actually counts as a scam.
    • You do get robbed of your precious vacation time. And, that’s the real crime!
  • Just watch out for overpriced things.
    • Even overpriced items are cheap when compared to prices back home sometimes.
    • Prices of food in restaurants aren’t too bad. The drinks are where they get you.

Swimming:

  • Do not swim near red flags. They warn of rip currents.
  • Be careful when swimming at beaches with no life guard on duty.
  • NEVER swim at any beach alone.

Visa:

  • You do not need to get a visa a head of time to enter Indonesia.
    • Most people get 30 days.
    • The first day counts as one day and so does the last.
      • If you enter July 1st and leave July 2nd, that counts as staying 2 days in Indonesia, not one, even if you have stayed for less than 24 hours.
      • Many people get in trouble for over staying their 30-day visa because of this.
    • You cannot extend the 30-day stay if you have entered without a visa.
      • If you plan to stay longer than 30 days, you will need to get a visa before entering Indonesia.
      • Check the DGI website for more information.

Animals:

  • Assume all animals have rabies; some of them do.
    • Dogs
    • Cats
    • Monkeys, oh especially the thieving monkeys!
  • Don’t feed any of them.

Indonesia
(Republic of Indonesia)

How to get there:

You can enter Indonesia by plane, boat, or bus.

Most people can enter Indonesia visa-free for 30 (technically 29) days. If you want to stay longer, you will need to get a visa before entering. The visa-free stay cannot be extended. Check the DGI website for more information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110 & 112
    • Ambulance 118
    • Medical Emergencies 119
    • Fire 113
    • Search and rescue 115

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Indonesia. The penalty is death.
  • Do not confuse Bali with the rest of Indonesia. Bali is like the Las Vegas of Indonesia.
    • (Outside Bali) Indonesia is a conservative country. Dress modestly. Act respectfully.

Bali

How to get there:

  • by way of the Ngurah Rai International Airport
    • Also know as the Denpasar International Airport
  • by bus via a ferry
  • by boat

Phone:

  • Tourism information centre 166
  • Bali Taksi/Blue Bird +62 361 701111
  • free ambulance service +62 361 480282
  • Tourist Police +62 361 754599 or +62 361 763753

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Known as Island of Gods, Island of Peace, Morning of The World, Island of Hinduism, and Island of Love.
  • You will need to wear a sarong to enter any and all temples.
    • This applies to both men and women.
    • Some temples will lend or rent a sarong to you.
    • You could also buy a sarong (for about 45,000IDR (less than 4USD)) and use that instead of renting.
    • Never buy a sarong from vendors near a temple. They will charge far more than the cost of renting a sarong, which is sometimes free.
  • Women on their period are not permitted entry to any temples. (However, there is no “period police” and no one checks. It’s just the honor system.)
  • There are tons of people trying to sell you drugs. Just walking down the street in Kuta men will ask in the most unsubtle way, “Marijuana?”
    • DO NOT buy any thing from them. Indonesia has a death penalty for drug possession.
    • Sometimes these “sellers” and scouting for the police who are looking for brides at best and promotions at worst.
  • Do not swim near red flags. They warn of rip currents.
  • Don’t drink the tap water! You’ll get Bali Belly.
    • Ask at your hotel’s reception if you can brush your teeth with the tap water.
    • If you hotel places bottles of water in the bathroom, that means that you shouldn’t brush your teeth with the tap water. Use the bottled water instead.
    • The ice in the drinks at restaurants are okay.
      • Most restaurants do not make their own ice. The ice is delivered daily and is safe.
  • There is a complimentary airport shuttle from Lippo Mall. (From the mall to the airport, not from the airport to Lippo Mall.)
    • First ask the concierge.
    • Spend 150,000IDR, total among your party.
    • You will have access to a free Luggage deposit, free charging outlet, and free wi-fi. (The wi-fi at Lippo Mall is always free.)
    • If you chose not to use this serve and you don’t have too much baggage, remember that Lippo Mall is less than a 30 minute walk from the airport.
  • Blue Bird taxis (+62 361 701111) are the most honest cab company you’ll find on Bali.
    • The trick is there are many fake blue bird taxis and no way to know which is which.
    • Either way, if the cab driver refuses to use the meter, don’t ride.
  • Any taxi from the airport will overcharge you.
    • There are signs in the airport that warn you not to use any unauthorized taxis, but what they don’t mention is that the authorized taxis have paid for a license to charge you 4 times what the normal fee should cost.
    • Blue Bird taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport. They can only drop off.
    • Walk away from the airport and catch/ or call a cab from the road.
      • Look for a witch on a rope.
      • She is near a path that leads to a parking lot.
      • Walk through that parking lot and keep going straight until you get to a brick side walk.
      • Turn left and keep going until you find a path to turn right.
      • Once on a main road, hail a metered taxi.
    • You could also find the airport hotel and perhaps you can call a taxi from there.
    • The airport has free and open wi-fi. (It’s in Indonesian. You have to click on a yellow button, I think.)
      • You can use it to get walking directions to Lippo Mall or call an Uber.

Posted in Bali, Indonesia | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Being in Bali

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 20, 2017

Thursday, June 8th – July 4th, 2017

Looking out for Absolute Petrol counts as sight-seeing, right?

Non-beach Related Activities

Mark and I spent 3 full weeks in Bali and most of that time we were on some beach or another. On our third to last day, we hired a driver and saw some things that were inland. Mark picked interesting things to see in Ubud and I tagged along.

I don’t even trust that stone monkey.

My only stipulation was that no monkeys be involved in the day’s itinerary. I don’t like monkeys. They are sneaky, conniving, little thieves. They will work together. One will distract you while the other sticks its grubby monkey paws into your bag. They’ll take bananas, cookies, smartphones… whatever they can find.

So, I told Mark, “No monkeys!”

Then he said, “Fine. Would you like to see a death temple?”

And, of course I want to see a death temple. I had no idea what that was, but I was sure interested in finding out. Mark told me all he knew about this death temple, which wasn’t much.

“The temple worships the death version of Shiva the destroyer. It’s a very important temple for the Hindu faith and Bali.”

Once I was hooked on the notion of seeing a death temple, Mark dropped the bomb. “By the way, it’s in the middle of the monkey sanctuary…”

Later I had to wash off in Pura Tirta Empul to get the monkey heebeegeebees off me.


Indonesia
(Republic of Indonesia)

How to get there:

You can enter Indonesia by plane, boat, or bus.

Most people can enter Indonesia visa-free for 30 (technically 29) days. If you want to stay longer, you will need to get a visa before entering. The visa-free stay cannot be extended. Check the DGI website for more information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110 & 112
    • Ambulance 118
    • Medical Emergencies 119
    • Fire 113
    • Search and rescue 115

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Indonesia. The penalty is death.
  • Do not confuse Bali with the rest of Indonesia. Bali is like the Las Vegas of Indonesia.
    • (Outside Bali) Indonesia is a conservative country. Dress modestly. Act respectfully.

Bali

How to get there:

  • by way of the Ngurah Rai International Airport
    • Also know as the Denpasar International Airport
  • by bus via a ferry
  • by boat

Phone:

  • Tourism information centre 166
  • Bali Taksi/Blue Bird +62 361 701111
  • free ambulance service +62 361 480282
  • Tourist Police +62 361 754599 or +62 361 763753

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Known as Island of Gods, Island of Peace, Morning of The World, Island of Hinduism, and Island of Love.
  • You will need to wear a sarong to enter any and all temples.
    • This applies to both men and women.
    • Some temples will lend or rent a sarong to you.
    • You could also buy a sarong (for about 45,000IDR (less than 4USD)) and use that instead of renting.
    • Never buy a sarong from vendors near a temple. They will charge far more than the cost of renting a sarong, which is sometimes free.
  • Women on their period are not permitted entry to any temples. (However, there is no “period police” and no one checks. It’s just the honor system.)
  • There are tons of people trying to sell you drugs. Just walking down the street in Kuta men will ask in the most unsubtle way, “Marijuana?”
    • DO NOT buy any thing from them. Indonesia has a death penalty for drug possession.
    • Sometimes these “sellers” and scouting for the police who are looking for brides at best and promotions at worst.
  • Do not swim near red flags. They warn of rip currents.
  • Don’t drink the tap water! You’ll get Bali Belly.
    • Ask at your hotel’s reception if you can brush your teeth with the tap water.
    • If you hotel places bottles of water in the bathroom, that means that you shouldn’t brush your teeth with the tap water. Use the bottled water instead.
    • The ice in the drinks at restaurants are okay.
      • Most restaurants do not make their own ice. The ice is delivered daily and is safe.
  • There is a complimentary airport shuttle from Lippo Mall. (From the mall to the airport, not from the airport to Lippo Mall.)
    • First ask the concierge.
    • Spend 150,000IDR, total among your party.
    • You will have access to a free Luggage deposit, free charging outlet, and free wi-fi. (The wi-fi at Lippo Mall is always free.)
    • If you chose not to use this serve and you don’t have too much baggage, remember that Lippo Mall is less than a 30 minute walk from the airport.
  • Blue Bird taxis (+62 361 701111) are the most honest cab company you’ll find on Bali.
    • The trick is there are many fake blue bird taxis and no way to know which is which.
    • Either way, if the cab driver refuses to use the meter, don’t ride.
  • Any taxi from the airport will overcharge you.
    • There are signs in the airport that warn you not to use any unauthorized taxis, but what they don’t mention is that the authorized taxis have paid for a license to charge you 4 times what the normal fee should cost.
    • Blue Bird taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport. They can only drop off.
    • Walk away from the airport and catch/ or call a cab from the road.
      • Look for a witch on a rope.
      • She is near a path that leads to a parking lot.
      • Walk through that parking lot and keep going straight until you get to a brick side walk.
      • Turn left and keep going until you find a path to turn right.
      • Once on a main road, hail a metered taxi.
    • You could also find the airport hotel and perhaps you can call a taxi from there.
    • The airport has free and open wi-fi. (It’s in Indonesian. You have to click on a yellow button, I think.)
      • You can use it to get walking directions to Lippo Mall or call an Uber.

Nusa Dua Waterblow

How to get there:

  • It’s at Nusa Dua Beach
  • Nearest Kura Kura stop:
    • From the Bus bay go to – The Bay Bali
    • To return go to – The Bay Bali

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 24hr
  • It blow every 10 – 15 minutes

Notes:

  • Just walk through the park.

Jambe Asri Agrotourism

How to get there:

Address:

  • Jl. Raya Uluwatu, Pecatu, Kuta Selatan, Pecatu, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali, Indonesia

Phone:

  • +62 877-6049-7333

Websites:

Cost:

  • The tea tasting is free, but you are highly encouraged to buy a box or two of coffee or tea to take home.

Hours:

  • 9:30 – 19:30

Notes:

  • You will need to hire a driver or take a taxi to get here.
  • This is one of many coffee plantations where you can sample the Luwak Coffee.

Tanah Lot Temple

How to get there:

Address:

  • Beraban, Kediri, Tabanan Regency, Bali, Indonesia

Phone:

  • +62 361 880361

Websites:

Cost:

  • 30,000 rupiah to enter the temple complex
  • some donation to get a blessing.

Hours:

  • 7:00 – 19:00

Notes:

  • If you are staying at a hotel in the temple complex you will need to pay the entrance fee to get to your accommodations.
    • You will only need to pay once, no matter how long your stay is as long as you keep your ticket with you to show the guard.
  • You don’t need a sarong here.

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

How to get there:

Address:

  • Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia

Phone:

  • +62 361 971304

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 8:30 – 18:00

Notes:

  • This is where you can see Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, the Temple of Death.
    • You cannot enter the temple.
    • You must stay out side the gate.
    • This is where cremations are done.
    • Look out for the statue of vampire children.
  • The monkeys can and will try to steal anything they can get.
    • Make sure your values are secured in your bag.
    • Do not bring food you plan to eat yourself.
  • If you want to feed the monkey, give them bananas or other healthy monkey foods.
  • You don’t need a sarong here.

Goa Gajah

How to get there:

Address:

  • Ubud, Bedulu, Blahbatuh, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia

Cost:

  • 15,000 RP

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 16.00

Notes:

  • You can borrow a sarong for free.

Pura Tirta Empul

How to get there:

Address:

  • Jalan Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80552, Indonesia

Cost:

  • 30,000 RP

Hours:

  • 7:00 – 17:00

Notes:

  • You should bring your own sarong.
    • You can borrow a sarong for free, but you cannot get it wet.
    • If you want to get in the water, you will need to pay to rent another sarong.

Gunung Kawi Temple

How to get there:

Address:

  • Banjar Penaka, Tampaksiring, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80552, Indonesia

Phone:

  • +62 878-6221-6435

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 18:99

Notes:

  • You should bring your own sarong or rent one from the temple ticket office.
    • As a general rule, never buy the sarongs being sold near temples. You will never get a decent price.

Map:

Posted in Bali, Indonesia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2017 A Hotel Oddity: Karma Group

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 15, 2017

Thursday, June 20th, 2017

Mark and I had been using the Kura Kura for about 5 days straight. It caused no end of frustration with all the waiting involved, not to mention the few times when the stupid bus didn’t stop for us. So we decided to take a day off and just go to places we could walk to. We spent the morning at Bemo’s Cafe ordering coffees and teas. I wrote for this blog and Mark played games online.

For lunch we walked along Kuta beach to find a nice place near Discovery Mall. We were walking behind the mall and discussing which of the nearby places we would choose, when a guy came up to us to tell us about some deal.

We had seen many guys like him before. They approach by first saying, “I’m not selling anything.” Usually I would walk away as they yelled behind me, “I only want to tell you about this deal!” I’d assumed it was some sort of scam and wanted nothing to do with it. But for some reason, this time I thought I would humor this guy. He gave both Mark and me a postcard each. There were stickers to pull off and he pulled some of them off for us. Mark won a t-shirt and I won a prize.

“Oh, so lucky,” the guy told us. He flipped over my card and showed me that the prizes could be either $100USD, a GoPro, or free accommodations at a 5-star hotel. There were more stickers to pull off to find out which prize I had won, but I couldn’t pull it off yet. “Just follow me,” he told us as he took out his car keys. Mark happily followed.

“What are you doing Mark?” I was surprised at how willingly Mark was following this stranger. “Prizes, Josie. Prizes!”

Even Ganesh thinks we should not get into the car.

We got into this man’s car and all I could think about was how, if you are kidnapped, you should do your best to never be taken to a second location. Even after all those talks I sat through in elementary school where firefighters and police officers lectured us about how not to be kidnapped, here I was just getting into a strangers car… for prizes.

We drove along and the man asked us about ourselves. “How long you in Bali?” We told him that we were on our third week. “No. Don’t say that. Say you come yesterday,” he coached us.

The driver told us that when we win a prize he gets a bonus. But, to get this bonus, we have to fit into certain categories. So, there were several lies we had to tell. One, we weren’t in Bali for 2.5 weeks. We just got here, yesterday. Two, we weren’t married for 6 years. We got married 3 years ago, after 2 years of dating. Three, we weren’t traveling the world. We were on a one week vacation. There were so many lies, I doubted we could hold them all straight.

“But why?” I asked him. He then explain that we were going to listen to a 30 minute presentation, then we would get our prized. I groan inwardly, “This is a timeshare scam, I just know it.”

Right before he dropped us off, he asked us if we needed a driver sometime. We took his card, but never called him.

We got out of the car and walked into an office. We verified our names and ages. Then we were introduced to our presenter. He seemed nice. We told him that we lived and worked in Japan. We couldn’t remember how long we were supposed to have lived in Japan and we contradicted ourselves many times.

We spent about 20 minutes answering the presenter’s questions about life in Japan. Apparently, living in Japan was his plan A that didn’t work out; Bali was his back-up. We told him all about our jobs and how we got them. We even told him about other companies and ways to work and live in Japan. We gave him lots of pointers and tips on how to get a nice job and I hope that’s were he is now.

Then the actual presentation began. The company was called Karma Group and it was a hotel time share. I don’t think it was a scam in the legal sense. It is more like a gym membership, in that it’s great for some people, but not most. But, once you sign up, it’s very hard to get out of your contract. And, you don’t really know all that is involved until after you sign up.

We listened to all the numbers thrown at us. We were given all the information about how much money we would save with their service. He went into the history of the company and why it was founded. The only thing we weren’t told was how much it would cost to sign up.

Before the presentation started, we were told that if we could not afford the membership fee, everything would stop right there and we could leave. I was planning to claim poverty to get out of signing. But when we were finally told the cost, it wasn’t too high. I still wasn’t going to take their word on how much savings we would get from the deal.

After the presentation, we were asked by the presenter’s boss whether we would sign up or not. I told him maybe. I had to do some math and research to see if we would really save any money.

The boss made a little speech about the Karma Group winning vacation awards, about the founder winning awards for tour packages, being on the cover of magazines neither Mark nor I have ever heard of, and how this particular membership deal was voted most somethingest something of the year by some other magazine. “Even ‘George Georgerson’ thinks this is great!” he huffed.

“Honestly, I have never heard of any of those awards, magazines, or people. As far as I know, you could be making it all up. All I ask is for some time to think about it and to do some online research. I never make any major purchases without doing my online research first.” I tried to sound like I didn’t think he was a fink weasel who I wanted to get away from as quickly as possible.

He got mad and threaten me by telling me that if I signed up tomorrow or later, the sweet sweet deal I could get today would be gone. I would have to pay double this and later double that, all because I wanted to do online research. Besides he told me, “You can’t believe everything you see online.”

Well, that was a red flag. Why could I have the deal now and not tomorrow? Mark and I shut this thing down and asked to go.

We were ushered out and taken to an office where the prizes would be handed out. There was a guy in the office already, getting his prize. While we waited a cab was called for us. As the lady filled out the voucher for our free taxi ride back to the mall we were taken from, she asked us about our plans. “Well, we’re just going to have lunch and watch the sunset today,” I said. I hoped this would stop her from asking us to hire someone as a driver for the evening.

“Oh, what kind of food you like?” She asked this casually as she filled out the form.

“Seafood.”

“My uncle runs a seafood restaurant. You want…”

Before she could finish, I cut her off. “No.”

When it was our turn to collect our prizes we went into the office. The lady there had a little chat with us. She too asked about our plans for the rest of the day and tomorrow. “If you need a driver, I have a cousin who…”

Mark cut her off, “We’re just going to relax and have dinner now, thanks.”

“Oh, My nephew runs a nice restaurant…”

“What are the prizes,” I asked before she could go on.

She pulled off the remaining tabs on the cards. Mark got 2 t-shirts, which he left in Bali. And, I got free accommodations at a 5-star hotel.

Some random (non-Karma group) hotel in Bali

We booked the free accommodations at a Karma hotel in Germany. But, the Karma Group cancelled on us about 5 times already. Our 6th attempt is still being held. We are set to go to Germany in October, so we have yet to see how this thing will work out.


Indonesia
(Republic of Indonesia)

How to get there:

You can enter Indonesia by plane, boat, or bus.

Most people can enter Indonesia visa-free for 30 (technically 29) days. If you want to stay longer, you will need to get a visa before entering. The visa-free stay cannot be extended. Check the DGI website for more information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110 & 112
    • Ambulance 118
    • Medical Emergencies 119
    • Fire 113
    • Search and rescue 115

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Indonesia. The penalty is death.
  • Do not confuse Bali with the rest of Indonesia. Bali is like the Las Vegas of Indonesia.
    • (Outside Bali) Indonesia is a conservative country. Dress modestly. Act respectfully.

Bali

How to get there:

  • by way of the Ngurah Rai International Airport
    • Also know as the Denpasar International Airport
  • by bus via a ferry
  • by boat

Phone:

  • Tourism information centre 166
  • Bali Taksi/Blue Bird +62 361 701111
  • free ambulance service +62 361 480282
  • Tourist Police +62 361 754599 or +62 361 763753

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Known as Island of Gods, Island of Peace, Morning of The World, Island of Hinduism, and Island of Love.
  • You will need to wear a sarong to enter any and all temples.
    • This applies to both men and women.
    • Some temples will lend or rent a sarong to you.
    • You could also buy a sarong (for about 45,000IDR (less than 4USD)) and use that instead of renting.
    • Never buy a sarong from vendors near a temple. They will charge far more than the cost of renting a sarong, which is sometimes free.
  • Women on their period are not permitted entry to any temples. (However, there is no “period police” and no one checks. It’s just the honor system.)
  • There are tons of people trying to sell you drugs. Just walking down the street in Kuta men will ask in the most unsubtle way, “Marijuana?”
    • DO NOT buy any thing from them. Indonesia has a death penalty for drug possession.
    • Sometimes these “sellers” and scouting for the police who are looking for brides at best and promotions at worst.
  • Do not swim near red flags. They warn of rip currents.
  • Don’t drink the tap water! You’ll get Bali Belly.
    • Ask at your hotel’s reception if you can brush your teeth with the tap water.
    • If you hotel places bottles of water in the bathroom, that means that you shouldn’t brush your teeth with the tap water. Use the bottled water instead.
    • The ice in the drinks at restaurants are okay.
      • Most restaurants do not make their own ice. The ice is delivered daily and is safe.
  • There is a complimentary airport shuttle from Lippo Mall. (From the mall to the airport, not from the airport to Lippo Mall.)
    • First ask the concierge.
    • Spend 150,000IDR, total among your party.
    • You will have access to a free Luggage deposit, free charging outlet, and free wi-fi. (The wi-fi at Lippo Mall is always free.)
    • If you chose not to use this serve and you don’t have too much baggage, remember that Lippo Mall is less than a 30 minute walk from the airport.
  • Blue Bird taxis (+62 361 701111) are the most honest cab company you’ll find on Bali.
    • The trick is there are many fake blue bird taxis and no way to know which is which.
    • Either way, if the cab driver refuses to use the meter, don’t ride.
  • Any taxi from the airport will overcharge you.
    • There are signs in the airport that warn you not to use any unauthorized taxis, but what they don’t mention is that the authorized taxis have paid for a license to charge you 4 times what the normal fee should cost.
    • Blue Bird taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport. They can only drop off.
    • Walk away from the airport and catch/ or call a cab from the road.
      • Look for a witch on a rope.
      • She is near a path that leads to a parking lot.
      • Walk through that parking lot and keep going straight until you get to a brick side walk.
      • Turn left and keep going until you find a path to turn right.
      • Once on a main road, hail a metered taxi.
    • You could also find the airport hotel and perhaps you can call a taxi from there.
    • The airport has free and open wi-fi. (It’s in Indonesian. You have to click on a yellow button, I think.)
      • You can use it to get walking directions to Lippo Mall or call an Uber.

Posted in Bali, Indonesia | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Balinese Bites

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 10, 2017

Thursday, June 8th – July 4th, 2017

“Suckling” Pig

What’s the food like?

On our first night in Bali, after being scammed by a state-approved airport taxi, we headed out in the night to try Balinese food for the first time. We walked past burger joints and pizza parlors. We turned down German, Italian, and Mexican restaurants. After 30 minutes of walking we found an local-looking place. We went in and were disappointed to find Malaysian food.

We ordered the Nasi Goring, the most Indonesian thing in the menu. The food was meh. It tasted a little over cooked. We assumed that the chef got distracted and left the food on the burner a little too long.

We spent the next week trying to get into Balinese restaurants, but there weren’t too many of them in the areas we could walk to easily. You can find lots of Western food, but you have to look hard to find Indonesian food and harder still to find authentic Balinese cuisine.

Eventually, sometime during week 2 of our stay, I went online to look for the most Balinese meal and where to find it. The dish was suckling pig and it looked delicious. We went to a restaurant that served only this pig and it was highly recommended online.

The place was crowded. We took seats where we could. We sat at a table with people we had never seen before or since. We all came for the pig.

First let me explain something about the “suckling” pig. The name implies that it is a very young pig, one that still drinks its mother’s milk. But the pig they cook is more like a teenager. This pig no longer suckles.

When we were served and dived into our food, Mark and I thought the same thing. “This pig was over cooked.” The meat was dry and, although not burned, it lacked moisture.

After that we tried other Balinese restaurants and came to the same conclusion. The food is always overdone.

By the 3rd week, we were completely over local food. We just went to cheap or interesting restaurants. There of plenty of these to be found all over Bali. And, luckily, there are many restaurants that specialize in non-Balinese food. I think Indonesian food is better and Malaysian food better yet. There are many great places to eat in Bali, but I would choose them based on location, scenery, or ambiance rather than just the food.

A mixture of Balinese and Indonesian food


Indonesia
(Republic of Indonesia)

How to get there:

You can enter Indonesia by plane, boat, or bus.

Most people can enter Indonesia visa-free for 30 (technically 29) days. If you want to stay longer, you will need to get a visa before entering. The visa-free stay cannot be extended. Check the DGI website for more information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110 & 112
    • Ambulance 118
    • Medical Emergencies 119
    • Fire 113
    • Search and rescue 115

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Indonesia. The penalty is death.
  • Do not confuse Bali with the rest of Indonesia. Bali is like the Las Vegas of Indonesia.
    • (Outside Bali) Indonesia is a conservative country. Dress modestly. Act respectfully.

Bali

How to get there:

  • by way of the Ngurah Rai International Airport
    • Also know as the Denpasar International Airport
  • by bus via a ferry
  • by boat

Phone:

  • Tourism information centre 166
  • Bali Taksi/Blue Bird +62 361 701111
  • free ambulance service +62 361 480282
  • Tourist Police +62 361 754599 or +62 361 763753

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Known as Island of Gods, Island of Peace, Morning of The World, Island of Hinduism, and Island of Love.
  • You will need to wear a sarong to enter any and all temples.
    • This applies to both men and women.
    • Some temples will lend or rent a sarong to you.
    • You could also buy a sarong (for about 45,000IDR (less than 4USD)) and use that instead of renting.
    • Never buy a sarong from vendors near a temple. They will charge far more than the cost of renting a sarong, which is sometimes free.
  • Women on their period are not permitted entry to any temples. (However, there is no “period police” and no one checks. It’s just the honor system.)
  • There are tons of people trying to sell you drugs. Just walking down the street in Kuta men will ask in the most unsubtle way, “Marijuana?”
    • DO NOT buy any thing from them. Indonesia has a death penalty for drug possession.
    • Sometimes these “sellers” and scouting for the police who are looking for brides at best and promotions at worst.
  • Do not swim near red flags. They warn of rip currents.
  • Don’t drink the tap water! You’ll get Bali Belly.
    • Ask at your hotel’s reception if you can brush your teeth with the tap water.
    • If you hotel places bottles of water in the bathroom, that means that you shouldn’t brush your teeth with the tap water. Use the bottled water instead.
    • The ice in the drinks at restaurants are okay.
      • Most restaurants do not make their own ice. The ice is delivered daily and is safe.
  • There is a complimentary airport shuttle from Lippo Mall. (From the mall to the airport, not from the airport to Lippo Mall.)
    • First ask the concierge.
    • Spend 150,000IDR, total among your party.
    • You will have access to a free Luggage deposit, free charging outlet, and free wi-fi. (The wi-fi at Lippo Mall is always free.)
    • If you chose not to use this serve and you don’t have too much baggage, remember that Lippo Mall is less than a 30 minute walk from the airport.
  • Blue Bird taxis (+62 361 701111) are the most honest cab company you’ll find on Bali.
    • The trick is there are many fake blue bird taxis and no way to know which is which.
    • Either way, if the cab driver refuses to use the meter, don’t ride.
  • Any taxi from the airport will overcharge you.
    • There are signs in the airport that warn you not to use any unauthorized taxis, but what they don’t mention is that the authorized taxis have paid for a license to charge you 4 times what the normal fee should cost.
    • Blue Bird taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport. They can only drop off.
    • Walk away from the airport and catch/ or call a cab from the road.
      • Look for a witch on a rope.
      • She is near a path that leads to a parking lot.
      • Walk through that parking lot and keep going straight until you get to a brick side walk.
      • Turn left and keep going until you find a path to turn right.
      • Once on a main road, hail a metered taxi.
    • You could also find the airport hotel and perhaps you can call a taxi from there.
    • The airport has free and open wi-fi. (It’s in Indonesian. You have to click on a yellow button, I think.)
      • You can use it to get walking directions to Lippo Mall or call an Uber.

La Laguna

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.670118, 115.144109

Address:

  • Canggu, Berawa Beach
    Badung, Bali, Indonesia 80361

Phone:

  • +62 812-3638-2272

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 11:00 – 23:00

Notes:

  •  I recommend getting the Cheese Tabla (100K).

Babi Guling Pak Malen

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.684742, 115.168905

Address:

  • Jalan Sunset Road No.554, Seminyak, Kuta, Seminyak, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Phone:

  • +62 851-0045-2968

Websites:

Cost:

  • About IDR50k per person

Hours:

  • 8:30 – 18:30

Notes:

  • There is only one thing on the menu, suckling pig.
    • All you choose is your spice level and your drink.

Pirate Bay Bali

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.799644, 115.235433

Address:

  • The Bay Bali ITDC Area Lot C-0, Nusa Dua, Kuta Selatan, Benoa, Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Phone:

  • +62 361 8948138

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 20:00

Notes:

  • Go early for lunch, around 11:30, to get the best spot.

Pangkon Bali Resto & Agrotourism

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.417990, 115.316543

Address:

  • Jalan Tirta No .25M, Tampaksiring, Manukaya, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80552, Indonesia

Phone:

  • +62 812-3712-5577

Websites:

Downloads:

e-mail:

  • info@pangkonbali.com

Cost:

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 20:00

Notes:

  • Like most restaurants in Bali, unless you are part of a big group, it is way cheaper to order a la cart, than to order from the set menu.

Bemo Corner Coffee Shop

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.722044, 115.175752

Address:

  • Kuta Utara, Jl. Pantai Kuta No.10A, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Phone:

  • +62 361 755305

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 21:00

Notes:

  • Come for the coffee stay from the fast wi-fi.
  • They have some unusually flavors of coffee along with the more regular flavors
  • The food is good too.
  • This place has nothing to do with Beemo from Adventure Time. 😉

Warung Subak Pekendungan

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.617072, 115.087861

Address:

  • Tanah Lot, DTW Tanah Lot, Jl. Raya Denpasar, Beraban, Tabanan Sub-District, Tabanan Regency, Bali 82171, Indonesia

Phone:

  • +62 361 4790888

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 20:00

Notes:

  • Don’t feed the fish with table scrapes.
    • Ask the staff for fish pellets.

Map:

Posted in Bali, Indonesia | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bali’s Beaches

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 5, 2017

Thursday, June 8th – July 4th, 2017

Let’s talk Bali beaches

My quest, while I was in Bali, was to find a nice beach to do nothing around. I wanted to swim a little and then drink some fruity drinks, but essentially that is nothing. I didn’t go to all the beaches in Bali or even many of the beaches there. I did go to all of the beaches that an average backpacker can easily get to.

Mark wanted to surf. There were many beaches where you could rent a surf board and even get lessons. When you rent a surf board (or get lessons) in Bali,  a rashguard is complimentary. I think this is partially so they can easily see the people who have rented their surf boards when they are in the water. So don’t buy one if you don’t already have one.

Scroll down for the information.


Indonesia
(Republic of Indonesia)

How to get there:

You can enter Indonesia by plane, boat, or bus.

Most people can enter Indonesia visa-free for 30 (technically 29) days. If you want to stay longer, you will need to get a visa before entering. The visa-free stay cannot be extended. Check the DGI website for more information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110 & 112
    • Ambulance 118
    • Medical Emergencies 119
    • Fire 113
    • Search and rescue 115

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Indonesia. The penalty is death.
  • Do not confuse Bali with the rest of Indonesia. Bali is like the Las Vegas of Indonesia.
    • (Outside Bali) Indonesia is a conservative country. Dress modestly. Act respectfully.

Bali

How to get there:

  • by way of the Ngurah Rai International Airport
    • Also know as the Denpasar International Airport
  • by bus via a ferry
  • by boat

Phone:

  • Tourism information centre 166
  • Bali Taksi/Blue Bird +62 361 701111
  • free ambulance service +62 361 480282
  • Tourist Police +62 361 754599 or +62 361 763753

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Known as Island of Gods, Island of Peace, Morning of The World, Island of Hinduism, and Island of Love.
  • You will need to wear a sarong to enter any and all temples.
    • This applies to both men and women.
    • Some temples will lend or rent a sarong to you.
    • You could also buy a sarong (for about 45,000IDR (less than 4USD)) and use that instead of renting.
    • Never buy a sarong from vendors near a temple. They will charge far more than the cost of renting a sarong, which is sometimes free.
  • Women on their period are not permitted entry to any temples. (However, there is no “period police” and no one checks. It’s just the honor system.)
  • There are tons of people trying to sell you drugs. Just walking down the street in Kuta men will ask in the most unsubtle way, “Marijuana?”
    • DO NOT buy any thing from them. Indonesia has a death penalty for drug possession.
    • Sometimes these “sellers” and scouting for the police who are looking for brides at best and promotions at worst.
  • Do not swim near red flags. They warn of rip currents.
  • Don’t drink the tap water! You’ll get Bali Belly.
    • Ask at your hotel’s reception if you can brush your teeth with the tap water.
    • If you hotel places bottles of water in the bathroom, that means that you shouldn’t brush your teeth with the tap water. Use the bottled water instead.
    • The ice in the drinks at restaurants are okay.
      • Most restaurants do not make their own ice. The ice is delivered daily and is safe.
  • There is a complimentary airport shuttle from Lippo Mall. (From the mall to the airport, not from the airport to Lippo Mall.)
    • First ask the concierge.
    • Spend 150,000IDR, total among your party.
    • You will have access to a free Luggage deposit, free charging outlet, and free wi-fi. (The wi-fi at Lippo Mall is always free.)
    • If you chose not to use this serve and you don’t have too much baggage, remember that Lippo Mall is less than a 30 minute walk from the airport.

Legian Beach

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.703852, 115.164619
  • Nearest Kura Kura stop: Bali Mandira Beach Resort & Spa on the Kuta Line

Websites:

Cost:

  • Things in this area are not too expensive
  • 50,000 IDR for a beach chair for 2~3 hours
    • May or may not come with a complimentary towel.

Notes:

This is where most backpackers will spend a majority of their time in Bali. This, along with other nearby beaches, is a great place to watch the sunset.

  • Shops & Restaurants nearby:  There are lots of everything nearby.
  • Drinks on the Beach:  Yup! There are many little huts selling cold drinks.
  • Food on the beach: There aren’t as many food huts on the beach, but just cross the street and you will find plenty of restaurants.
  • How clean is the beach: Pretty clean, but by no means spotless.
  • Can I surf: Yes. You can also get surfing lessons here.
  • Can I swim: Swimming is a bit tricky. The waves are rough.
  • Can I relax in quietness: Somewhat…
  • Is there a lot of seaweed: There is some, but not too much.
  • Will I be bothered by touts: Yes. But the beach has so many people, that you will not be harassed for too long.
  • Is the beach crowded: Yes.

Kuta Beach

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.716739, 115.168159
  • Nearest Kura Kura stop: Beachwalk Shopping Center on the Kuta Line
    • or J4 Hotel Legian on the Legian Line

Websites:

Cost:

  • Things in this area are not too expensive
  • 50,000 IDR for a beach chair for 2~3 hours
    • May not come with a complimentary towel.

Notes:

This is where most backpackers will spend a lot of their time in Bali. This beach is right next to Legian beach and an easy walk from the airport. It’s hard to tell where Legian ends and Kuta begins. This, along with other nearby beaches, is a great place to watch the sunset.

  • Shops & Restaurants nearby:  There are lots of everything nearby.
  • Drinks on the Beach:  Yup! There are many little huts selling cold drinks.
  • Food on the beach: There aren’t as many food huts, but just cross the street.
  • How clean is the beach: Pretty clean, but by no means spotless.
  • Can I surf: Yes. You can also get surfing lessons here.
  • Can I swim: Swimming is almost impossible. The waves are rough. But, people still try to swim.
  • Can I relax in quietness: Not really.
  • Is there a lot of seaweed: There is some, but not too much.
  • Will I be bothered by touts: Yes. But the beach has so many people, that you will not be harassed for too long.
  • Is the beach crowded: Yes.

Jerman Beach

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.734843, 115.162995
  • Nearest Kura Kura stop: It’s a toss up between –
    • The Aston Kuta Hotel on both the Kuta and Legian Lines
    • The Lippo Mall on both the Kuta and Legian Lines.

Websites:

Cost:

  • Things in this area are  expensive.
  • This beach is right next to several up scale resorts.
    • They are not the most expensive resorts, but definitely not within a backpacker’s budget.
  • I don’t think you can rent a chair here. The chairs are for hotel guests only.
  • You will have to bring your own towel.

Notes:

This beach is very close to the airport. It’s between the airport and Kuta beach. You can see planes taking off and landing, in fact you can almost hear them.

  • Shops & Restaurants nearby:  There are shops and stuff at Lippo Mall. Although the mall is close, this beach is not as close to shopping as Kuta and Legian are.
  • Drinks on the Beach:  Yes, but they are expensive. Bring your own.
  • Food on the beach: You can have lunch at one of the resorts.
  • How clean is the beach: Pretty clean, but by no means spotless.
  • Can I surf: No. There are almost no waves.
  • Can I swim: Yes, but the water is not very deep. You can wade in the water for most of the day.
  • Can I relax in quietness: Yes. Most people head for Legian or Kuta beach.
  • Is there a lot of seaweed: Some.
  • Will I be bothered by touts: A little bit.
  • Is the beach crowded: No.

Sanur Beach

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.68847, 115.26598
  • Nearest Kura Kura stop:
    • From the Bus bay go to – Gallery Coffee on the Sanur Line
    • Return by – McDonalds on the Ubud Line

Websites:

Cost:

  • This is the most inexpensive beach, if you do it correctly
    • Don’t hang out in front of resorts, go to areas between resorts near coffee or burger shops.
  • 50,000IDR/ beach chair an umbrella for the whole morning
    • with complimentary towel and access to a shower
    • If you come too late, they might run out of towels.

Notes:

This beach is visited more by older, mellower travelers who do less partying. Things here are generally less expensive and if you buy your lunch where the Balinese buy theirs, you will save tons of money. There is also a paved walkway which was so pleasant to walk down, I almost forgot to go swimming.

  • Shops & Restaurants nearby:  At this beach, many of them come to you. But there are also some coffee and burger shops along the paved walkway.
  • Drinks on the Beach:  Yes. They are not expensive and if you sit in the right spot you can get them delivered to your beach chair.
  • Food on the beach: Same deal as drinks
  • How clean is the beach: It’s not too bad, but it would be nice if someone would clear away all the seaweed that washes ashore.
  • Can I surf: No. The waves aren’t big enough.
  • Can I swim: Yes.
  • Can I relax in quietness: Yes. There are some touts, but not too many. And some of them are actually selling things like fruit and young coconuts you might want.
  • Is there a lot of seaweed: Yes!
  • Will I be bothered by touts: A little bit
  • Is the beach crowded: Not so much in the mornings. But, more so in the afternoons.

Jimbaran Beach

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.770071, 115.168597
  • Nearest Kura Kura stop:
    • From the Bus bay go to – Le Méridien Bali Jimbaran on the Jimbaran Line
    • To return go to – Le Méridien Bali Jimbaran or Movenpick Resort & Spa Jimbaran Bali on the Jimbaran Line

Websites:

Cost:

  • 100,000 IDR/ beach chair
    • No complimentary towel

Notes:

This place is famous for seafood and sunsets.

  • Shops & Restaurants nearby:  There are some restaurants on the beach and a gourmet grocery store at Movenpick Kura Kura stop. Movenpick is a 10-25 minute walk from the beach.
  • Drinks on the Beach:  Yes. You can sit right in front of any of the many restaurants.
  • Food on the beach: Same deal as drinks
  • How clean is the beach: It’s pretty clean.
  • Can I surf: It doesn’t look like you can, but this where beginners go. There is a surf company there giving lessons and tons of kids and new surfers doing their thing at Jimbarab.
  • Can I swim: Yes.
  • Can I relax in quietness: Yes. There are some touts, but not too many.
  • Is there a lot of seaweed: Not really.
  • Will I be bothered by touts: A little bit. Don’t make eye contact, the ones here seem to be persistent.
  • Is the beach crowded: Not so much in the morning. But, more so in the afternoon.

Nusa Dua Beach

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.805515, 115.233913
  • Nearest Kura Kura stop:
    • From the Bus bay go to – The Bay Bali
    • To return go to – The Bay Bali

Websites:

Cost:

  • 100,000 IDR / 2 hours for a beach chair
    • comes with a complimentary towel
  • Most of the beach chairs are for guests of nearby hotels and hotel chains. There is one place at the end of the beach who will rent chairs to anyone (pictured above).

Notes:

Don’t forget to check out the Blow Hole. This is the prettiest beach I saw while I was in Bali. I heard that there was another beach that put Nusa Dua to shame, but I didn’t see it on this trip.

  • Shops & Restaurants nearby:  There are plenty restaurants and shops near the beach, but most are not on the beach.
  • Drinks on the Beach:  Yes. Depending on what part of the beach you put your towel. If you are renting a chair, you can buy drinks from the same people you rented you a beach chair.
  • Food on the beach: Same deal as drinks
  • How clean is the beach: There is trash floating around… It’s a shame.
  • Can I surf: Yes. If you swim out away from the beach you can catch a wave.
  • Can I swim: Yes.
  • Can I relax in quietness: You can at times
  • Is there a lot of seaweed: Not really.
  • Will I be bothered by touts: A little bit.
  • Is the beach crowded: People come and go. Sometimes it’s crowded, sometimes it’s not. It’s also a pretty long beach.

Double 6 Beach

How to get there:

  • Coordinates -8.697803, 115.161871
  • Nearest Kura Kura stop Bintang Supermarket on both the Kuta and Legian Lines

Websites:

Cost:

  • 100,000 IDR / 2-3 hours for a beach chair
    • comes with a complimentary towel if you get here early enough

Notes:

This, along with other nearby beaches, is a great place to watch the sunset. This is the most popular with surfers.

  • Shops & Restaurants nearby:  There are plenty restaurants on the beach, but very few shops.
  • Drinks on the Beach:  Yes. Just place yourself near a restaurant and start a tab.
  • Food on the beach: Same deal as drinks
  • How clean is the beach: It’s fairly clean.
  • Can I surf: Yes!
  • Can I swim: No. The water is too rough.
  • Can I relax in quietness: You can for a bit when all the surfers go out. But, not so much when they come back to shore. They will go on and on about their feats.
  • Is there a lot of seaweed: Not really.
  • Will I be bothered by touts: Yes.
  • Is the beach crowded: Yes.

Map:

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Bali by Bus… and other forms of transportation

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 30, 2017

Thursday, June 8th – July 4th, 2017

Transportation in Bali can be a little daunting. Who can you trust to get you there without ripping you off? Who will deliver you quickly? Who will show up on time? These are all great questions. When it comes to Bali, I don’t know for sure. But, I have opinions.

It was so much of a scam, my camera couldn’t focus.

State Sanctioned Scam

We learned the hard way that the taxi ride from the airport was a legal scam. Our flight landed after midnight and we saw signs warning us not to use any unproved taxi companies. The sign should have continued, “so we can rip you off.”

The taxi company with the best reputation for ethical fares, legit drivers, and a real customer service office is not allowed to pick anyone up from the airport. You are instead thrown to the wolves of price gouging taxi barons. They will happily charge you 8 times what they really should knowing that you have no other choice. But you do have another choice.

If I were to go back to Bali, I would do things differently. First off, I would ignore all the signs and the overly aggressive taxi drivers. They are all scam artists whether they work independently or with a company. I would never get into any of their cars.

Instead I would walk past the airport witch and through the parking lot. I would walk about 5 minutes and make my way to a street away from the airport. Then I would hail a Blue Bird taxi.

Hiring a Car

Mark and I hired one driver for a day, but we spent many days in a privately hired car. Don’t worry, we weren’t kidnapped or anything. Mark’s cousin and the cousin’s new wife just happened to be in Bali for about a week when we were there. They hired a driver and asked us to join. They paid for the driver, we paid for lunches and dinners.

Having a hired driver is great. You go where you want when you want. You can plan out your day, or leave it up to the driver. When we were with Mark’s cousin they would just ask the driver, Katut, to take them to the nicest beach, or the oldest temple, or some other thing. Then he would plan a whole day around it. At lunch they would ask for a pizza place, a Balinese place, or a place that doesn’t serve fish for example. Katut would usually find a nice place for them.

When Mark and I were alone Mark planned out our whole day, except for lunch. We left that up to the driver. We trusted him and he did not let us down. We had a wonderful meal in a rice field at a splendid restaurant.

Although we had nothing but great experiences with two different drivers, I wouldn’t assume that one could just be picked off the street. We were approached by countlessly many drivers. Most of them come off as pushy, slimy, and a few were down right intimidating. When a driver made us feel uncomfortable we would take their business card, if one was offered, and give vague promises to contact them in the future. Then we would just not follow through.

The Taxi Mafia

Throughout Bali you see many signs like the one above. There is what is called a “taxi mafia”. These are drivers who go out of their way to intimidate Uber and Grab drivers. The effect is that when you call an Uber, on your phone you will see the car get close and then the ride is cancelled. We found one driver, who I think forgot to cancel, pretending to be asleep in his car. His plate number match the one we were supposed to look out for. When we asked him if he was ready to go, he acted like he didn’t know what we were talking about. “I’m not an Uber driver.”

It’s best if you can call for a Uber, Grab, or GoJek away from the highly touristed areas. But this can sometimes be hard if you walk past some taxi drivers. I don’t mean the drivers in the Blue Bird taxis that use a meter, have a photo ID, and ID number where you can see them. The ones I’m talking about are just people with cars. They stand on the side of the road and yell at tourists. “Where you go!?”

I had a conversation with one where he kept yelling, “Want taxi!?”. I tried to ignore him, but he walked along side me screaming at me.

“No,” I told him and kept walking.

He shouted “Where you go!?”

I didn’t think it was any of his business, so I went back to ignoring him. He continued following me. It was a constant “Where you go!? Where you go!? Where you go!?”

By the end of the block I had had enough. I turned around and told him that it was none of his concern where I was going. I recommended that he should find something else to occupy his time and some other place to do it, but I did not put it so politely. I went on a little rant and when it ended all he said was, “But where you go!?”

Never make this mistake

Never ask your hotel to call you a taxi. We did this once when our 10th Uber cancelled on us by pretending to be asleep. We tried to walk away from the Tanah Lot area where we were staying to call an Uber there, but then we ran into Mr. WhereYouGo. We thought that maybe the hotel could help us get a better deal than what we would get with Mr. WhereYouGo.

The guy that showed up to drive us kept asking about our future plans. “How long are you staying? What have you seen already? You know, I just happen to know of many things to see here in Bali.” He danced around the topic of us hiring him for a day. We dodged any definite plans. He handed us a brochure. He offered to take us to a new restaurant. He offered to show us some sights right then and there because traffic where we wanted to go would be heavy. “Instead of waiting in traffic, let’s go see a temple.”

He tried so hard, it was almost entertaining. He came off very much like a used car salesman. We didn’t want to be in his car any longer than we needed, but we didn’t want to offend him. We were afraid if we told him we wouldn’t hire him for a day, outright, he would kick us out his car in the middle of no where.

Blue Bird

We tried hailing a Blue Bird once or twice. Blue Birds cannot always be found everywhere. In some places, like at the airport or Tanah Lot Temple, they are banned. Other places, like Ubud, you can only find them if you are very lucky or you called them ahead of time.

In the Kuta area there are plenty of them to be found. Mark and I just had bad luck. Every one we tried to hail either had a passenger or the driver didn’t look our way. After the 4th cab, we called an Uber. The 3rd Uber actually showed up.

Despite our bad luck, I hear that Blue Bird taxis are safe and have fare rates. They have such a good reputation that there are a few imitators. So watch out for the fake Blue Birds.

Kura Kura

These turtle buses mainly stay in the touristy areas. They are very cheap and easy to use. They don’t really go to sights or attractions. They go to some beaches, but they have a lot of stops aimed at making you spend money. One stop is a coffee shop. That’s it, just a coffee shop. Another is a wine shop and there are a few malls.

The Kura Kura is great for going up and down the Kuta and Legian areas. If that’s what you’re going to do, the Kura Kura is for you. It’s okay for going to some beaches and some areas of Ubud. Taking a non-Blue Bird taxi there can be very expensive. But, don’t miss the last bus back to town.

The downside is that you spend a lot of time waiting for the bus. If you’re waiting at a stop that is not a main stop, like the bus bay or one of the malls, and you cannot be seen from the road, there is a chance that the Kura Kura will just drive past you. This really sucks on the Ubud line that only comes by once an hour. They have a tracker app, to let you know how close the next bus is, but this app only works about 20% of the time.

I would recommend using the Kura Kura once or even getting the 3-day pass. But a 7-day pass is too much waiting.

Overall

  1. Hire a driver for a day to go off the beaten path. Pick a day and see Tanah Lot, visit Ubud, visit far away spots. Plan ahead and tell your driver about your check-list.
  2. Get an Uber when you can. This is the cheapest way to get around one ride at a time.
  3. Hail a Blue Bird when you can’t get an Uber.
  4. Use the Kura Kura if you are going to a Kura Kura stop, especially if it’s a stop in Kuta or Legian.
  5. Never hire some random taxi driver yelling at you on the side of the road.

Indonesia
(Republic of Indonesia)

How to get there:

You can enter Indonesia by plane, boat, or bus.

Most people can enter Indonesia visa-free for 30 (technically 29) days. If you want to stay longer, you will need to get a visa before entering. The visa-free stay cannot be extended. Check the DGI website for more information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110 & 112
    • Ambulance 118
    • Medical Emergencies 119
    • Fire 113
    • Search and rescue 115

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Indonesia. The penalty is death.
  • Do not confuse Bali with the rest of Indonesia. Bali is like the Las Vegas of Indonesia.
    • (Outside Bali) Indonesia is a conservative country. Dress modestly. Act respectfully.

Bali

How to get there:

  • by way of the Ngurah Rai International Airport
    • Also know as the Denpasar International Airport
  • by bus via a ferry
  • by boat

Phone:

  • Tourism information centre 166
  • Bali Taksi/Blue Bird +62 361 701111
  • free ambulance service +62 361 480282
  • Tourist Police +62 361 754599 or +62 361 763753

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Known as Island of Gods, Island of Peace, Morning of The World, Island of Hinduism, and Island of Love.
  • You will need to wear a sarong to enter any and all temples.
    • This applies to both men and women.
    • Some temples will lend or rent a sarong to you.
    • You could also buy a sarong (for about 45,000IDR (less than 4USD)) and use that instead of renting.
    • Never buy a sarong from vendors near a temple. They will charge far more than the cost of renting a sarong, which is sometimes free.
  • Women on their period are not permitted entry to any temples. (However, there is no “period police” and no one checks. It’s just the honor system.)
  • There are tons of people trying to sell you drugs. Just walking down the street in Kuta men will ask in the most unsubtle way, “Marijuana?”
    • DO NOT buy any thing from them. Indonesia has a death penalty for drug possession.
    • Sometimes these “sellers” and scouting for the police who are looking for brides at best and promotions at worst.
  • Do not swim near red flags. They warn of rip currents.
  • Don’t drink the tap water! You’ll get Bali Belly.
    • Ask at your hotel’s reception if you can brush your teeth with the tap water.
    • If you hotel places bottles of water in the bathroom, that means that you shouldn’t brush your teeth with the tap water. Use the bottled water instead.
    • The ice in the drinks at restaurants are okay.
      • Most restaurants do not make their own ice. The ice is delivered daily and is safe.
  • There is a complimentary airport shuttle from Lippo Mall. (From the mall to the airport, not from the airport to Lippo Mall.)
    • First ask the concierge.
    • Spend 150,000IDR, total among your party.
    • You will have access to a free Luggage deposit, free charging outlet, and free wi-fi. (The wi-fi at Lippo Mall is always free.)
    • If you chose not to use this serve and you don’t have too much baggage, remember that Lippo Mall is less than a 30 minute walk from the airport.
  • Blue Bird taxis (+62 361 701111) are the most honest cab company you’ll find on Bali.
    • The trick is there are many fake blue bird taxis and no way to know which is which.
    • Either way, if the cab driver refuses to use the meter, don’t ride.
  • Any taxi from the airport will overcharge you.
    • There are signs in the airport that warn you not to use any unauthorized taxis, but what they don’t mention is that the authorized taxis have paid for a license to charge you 4 times what the normal fee should cost.
    • Blue Bird taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport. They can only drop off.
    • Walk away from the airport and catch/ or call a cab from the road.
      • Look for a witch on a rope.
      • She is near a path that leads to a parking lot.
      • Walk through that parking lot and keep going straight until you get to a brick side walk.
      • Turn left and keep going until you find a path to turn right.
      • Once on a main road, hail a metered taxi.
    • You could also find the airport hotel and perhaps you can call a taxi from there.
    • The airport has free and open wi-fi. (It’s in Indonesian. You have to click on a yellow button, I think.)
      • You can use it to get walking directions to Lippo Mall or call an Uber.

The Kura-Kura Bus

How to get there:

  • They are mostly where backpackers hang out.

Address:

  • Jl. ByPass Ngurah Rai, Kuta, Ground Floor, DFS Galleria, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80362, Indonesia

Phone:

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Single Fare Varies
  • 3-day pass   Rp. 150,000
  • 7-day pass   Rp. 250,000
  • Discounts:
  • You can buy a pass or single ticket on the bus.

Hours:

  • Varies by line

Videos:

Notes:

  • Pros:
    • It’s not expensive.
    • This is the cheapest transportation option.
    • It’s easy to use.
    • The vans have outlets you can use to charge your phone.
    • Goes to many beaches
  • Cons:
    • The buses are often late.
    • The bus driver sometimes doesn’t see you and will drive past you.
    • You will spend a lot of time waiting.
  • Advice:
    • Get a 3-day pass and plan your 3 days well.
    • Remember that for the Ubud line, you don’t have to do the whole loop to get back. Cross the street for a return bus.
    • When there is traffic in the evenings (like during Indonesian holidays), be on you return Kuta or Legian line bus by 17:00. Otherwise it could take 2 hours to get back to your hotel from the Bus Bay.

Blue Bird Taxi

Phone:

  • +62 (0) 361 701 111
    +62 361 8498008

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • From what I hear, it’s reasonably priced.
  • Not as cheap as Uber.

e-mail:

Notes:

  • Be aware that there are blue taxis going around trying to get tourist into their cars by claiming to be Blue Bird taxis.
  • Blue Bird Taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport. You can, however, take a Blue Bird to the airport.
    • To take a Blue Bird from the airport, walk away from the airport and hale a Blue Bird on the street.

Not actual taxis

Random Taxi

Cost:

  • Way more that it should cost.
  • There is no doubt that you are being ripped off.

Websites:

Notes:

  • These are the cars with drivers that ask you if you want a taxi.
  • You will end up in one of these if you ask your hotel to get you a taxi.
    • NEVER ask your hotel to call you a taxi.
    • If your hotel has a shuttle bus, ask about the price before you get in.
  • Get your own taxi.

Hire a Driver

Websites:

Cost:

  • It varies.
  • 50-100 USD per day
    • You might be expected to pay for parking if and when it comes up.
  • Settle the cost and everything before hand

Hours:

  • It’s up to you and your driver.

Notes:

  • Some drivers will have a route to take tourists and will happily just do his thing if you don’t have any plans.
  • If you do have plans, tell the driver before hand and discus all the things you expect to do the day.
  • The driver can give you a tour or just driver you around.
  • You might want to find a restaurant before the day and tell the driver.
    • If you ask the driver to pick a restaurant, he may choose a nearby place or somewhere where he gets a commission.
    • If you trust your driver, then it might be okay to just let him find you a nice restaurant.
  • In the photo above are two drivers we used while in Bali.
    • As far as I know, they were both really good drivers and nice people.
    • With Kadek we had a set plan, but we did ask him to choose our restaurant.
    • With Ketut, we suggested one or two places and he took us to other spots in the area as well.

Additional Notes:

  • It is recommended that you do not rent a car and drive yourself, unless you are used to driving in Indonesia.

Not actual Uber cars

Uber / Go Jek / Etc

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • The only thing cheaper is the Kura-Kura, but this is way more convenient.

Hours:

  • Whenever you want

Notes:

  • There is a “taxi mafia” who intimidates Uber drivers.
  • The best way around the “taxi mafia” is to not call an Uber is a heavily touristed area.
    • Walk a few blocks down the road, then call.

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