From "Bali Disappointment" to Heavenly Gili Islands...
Friday, 24 June 2011 16:05

* by Kurtuluş Cumhur Korkmaz...

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I missed my friends, simple as that. This was the motivation behind why I bought my flight tickets right away and also the thought that was on top of my head during the long flight. After taking the train to Frankfurt, I took the flight to Singapore with a Dubai connection. Travelling to the other side of the world is extremely exhausting; I looked for an accommodation in Singapore to spend the night since I was going to travel to Bali the next day.

 

DSC_0683I knew Ismail & Ozcan were going to meet me at Denpasar Airport, at least for the sake of their own good. After a short flight of about 2,5 hours I landed in Bali. It didn’t take that much time that I realized the different flora all around the place and the sharp incense in my nose. I have done the passport control and left the airport building; feeling the scorching sun on my face and seeing my friends after a year was enough to make me happy. We took the cab way back to Kuta and did a short accommodation hunting tour. We found a place to stay and dropped our bags off, as we didn’t want to miss the daylight and wanted to start exploring Bali.

 

DSC_0636Bali is a highly touristic island, located between Lombok and Java Islands, with a population of around 4 million people and has a fusion ethos under a strong Indian and Chinese cultural influence. Hinduism and highly developed tourism industry make the island different than the rest of the Indonesian islands. Bali is such an interesting spot with its narrow streets, persistent street sellers, temples on every corners and especially the plates of rice and flowers offered to god on banana leaves, literally all around the place. Even though the island significantly suffered from terrorist bombings in 2002 that killed 202 people-mostly Australians, it recovered from the incident and the number of tourists had a surge once again in recent years. We started travelling the island from the famous Kuta beach. We watched the sunset on Kuta beach. I have seen the tides for the first time in my life. We head back to our hotel for a power nap before tasting the Indonesian food and going out to the famous club “Sky Garden” located right in front of the spot where the bombings happened in 2002. Going back to food, I must admit I loved every type of different stuff that I tried during my stay. Even now, I wish we had some Soto Ayam soup, a delicious dish with noodle and spicy chicken.

 

DSC_0687Most of you must have thought why this post is entitled Bali disappointment. Well, I always imagined Bali with white sand beaches, palm trees and turquoise water. We tried 3 different beaches (Kuta, Uluwatu and Blue Lagoon) and neither of those met our expectations, even tempted us to jump in the water. 2-2,5 meters high waves make Kuta a heaven for surfers and such an inconvenient place for swimmers. We tried and got tired shortly. Blue Lagoon is definitely not the same place where we have seen lovely Brooke Shields when we were young -It was full of mud. Among the three beaches Uluwatu Beach was not too bad for swimming. We enjoyed the monkeys coming down to the shore. On the way back to Kuta we also gave a chance to the “Uluwatu Temple” (Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple). Constructed on a pretty high cliff with an amazing ocean view and invaded by monkeys, I must admit that it was overall a nice experience.

 

DSC_0665Next day, our destination was Ubud that is famous for its art galleries and dancing centers. I bought my traditional Balinese clothes there and saw dozens of art galleries and got a good Balinese massage (less than 7 Euro), but I would still pick the latter whether Ubud is a bohemian haven or an empty promise. But I would like to share with you a quick information that I learned from Ismail on the way to Ubud. I asked them whether they knew about the “Special Luwak Coffee” written on panels. Then, Ismail explained to me that it is a shitty coffee. He wasn’t joking on the shitty part. Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world and it is produced with the coffee beans first eaten by an animal called “Luwak”, which looks like a cat, then passed by its digestive tract. The special acid in the animal’s stomach takes away the strong taste of the beans and gives the coffee a mild taste at a very unreasonable price. (75 USD for 200 grams!) I liked the idea of marketing the shitty coffee beans to the Istanbul posh community in a posh district such as Nisantasi. People that don’t mind paying 200 dollars for a Kobe beef shouldn’t be saying no to our Luwak coffee, right?

 

DSC_0939We were pretty sure that we had to find an alternative place after the 5th day in Bali. Deep investigations on the Internet led us to Gili Islands. We chose to go to Gili Trawangan, the biggest among the three Gili Islands. Next day we took the speedboat and left Bali for Gili Islands with huge expectations. After an hour-long trip, we were in Gili Trawangan Island. Gili Trawangan is a small tropical island with a population of 700 people. But I remember the very first step off the boat right into the sea and how captivating the color of the water was. It wouldn’t be such an ambitious claim if I were to say Gili Trawangan has the most beautiful sea and the beach I have ever seen. And it holds a record of having an Irish pub with the smallest population on earth. That’s why we went there after dinner. Also, a guy told us that there was a big party at Irish Pub and he tried to sell us weed. Irish Pub in Gili is slightly different than the rest of the Irish pubs in the world. It is an open-air restaurant by the beach that serves delicious seafood and variety of grills turning into a pub after 9 pm. We really enjoyed our time in there and met many travellers. I was impressed by a story of a British lady who visited the Island 30 years ago when she was 20 years old, and never made it back to England.

 

DSC_0901The beauty of the Island really makes it very hard for visitors to leave. Next day, we had a better understanding of this feeling when we had an amazing snorkeling tour in the coral reefs next to the tropical fishes and sea turtles. On the way back to the hotel, we sat along with 2 young local people playing “Wish you were here”. This was the first time for me on a tropical island, watching an amazing Pink Floyd performance by these youngsters with the view of ocean in front of me. This was exactly one of the images that I could have thought if I had done a round the world trip.

 

IMG_0382Seeing each other after a long time and laughing like crazy reminded me (Aycan, Dilek&Koray would agree) that doing something with Ismail & Ozcan and being on the road together was the thing that I missed the most. As in the last scene of one of my favorite movies “Into the Wild”:

“Happiness only real when shared”

PS: Thank you guys for the amazing time!

 

PS by BTBŞ : Kurtuluş is one of the founders of the idea of the Round The World Trip, we were planning to hit on the road all together in the beginning. Hence it is possible to mention that he is also traveling with us spiritually. It was very nice, very special  to turn this into reality for 12 days...

 

Seeing the tapir with you (which we couldn't even see in the world's oldest rainforest) was awesome, by the way this song should be a memory of Gili islands in all our minds...

 

 

 

 
Mister, Mister, Jakarta & Yogyakarta
Monday, 13 June 2011 08:18
DSC_0158Many people were staring at me when I opened my eyes. Some of them were sitting on the chairs except the one I lay down while many of them were waiting on foot. I straightened after getting rid of my drowsiness quickly, it took a few seconds to realize that I spent the night in the airport. Some people sat on the chairs that I emptied. We didn't have any problem during check-in this time and took apart in the flight. This was how our journey to Indonesia, the most 4th crowded country of the world that is formed of 17508 islands in total, started. Indonesia is a huge country in terms of kilometresquares and formed of only islands. That's why it may take months to travel all of it. We decided to travel only in Java and Bali islands because of this reason. The capital, Jakarta which is located on northwest of Java island was our first point.

DSC_0271We started to have our first observations right after our plane landed to Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. We met the first fact that will be a trouble to us after the shuttle to the city center got into the traffic jam of this chaotic city. My memories about the hours spent in traffic jam in Istanbul were back after spending minutes in the traffic jam in Jakarta. The installation of metro lines were addressed to 2026 here and there were many constructions regarding the roads, bridges and tunnels which also reminded about me a similar city. After a long while, we decided to use CouchSurfing in Jakarta. We met David, who will host us and whom we communicated before in front of his office building and went to his home. 2 Germans were waiting for us there. Did I mention that we meet Germans in every city we travel ? After leaving our bags, we went for a dinner altogether. There was a local dish in the menu, mie ayam blom in Bahasa Indonesian or we can call it Stupid Chicken Noodle.

DSC_0248After the long years as a colonial of Netherlands, Indonesia declared liberation after the 2. World War. Many ethnical groups live together in this country which has some of the nicest natural beauties but there has been many disasters in recent history. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are some of these. Most of the population are muslims but it's possible to meet people from different religions and everyone is free to live according to their beliefs. A nice example; Istiqlal Mosque with a capacity of 200.000 prayers and the biggest catholica cathedral are next to each other. Hearing the prayers on the otherside after getting out of the catherdal and hearing the bells after getting out of the mosque was really nice. Jakarta is one of the most dynamic and weird capitals of Southeast Asia. The religion factor is very strong but on the other hand there are some clubs that are opened on Thursday evening and closes down on Monday morning. National Monument, Kota which the city is first established and Sunda Kelapa are also other attractive places.

DSC_0162The two Germans were replaced by two other on our last night in Jakarta before we head to Yogyakarta which is our second stop in Java island. Their stories are a bit different. They came to Indonesia to volunteer as teachers with the sponsorship of German government. Both of them teaches English and French in a little city, one for 10 months, the other for 4 months. The interesting part of this story is that one of them is just 19 years old while the other is 20. I guess heading to a such adventure far far away from home before starting university is a sign of vision difference. Thinking that the farest point that my dreams can reach was Bosphorus in same age, it is easier to tell what I mean.

DSC_0454It was very early in the morning when we got on the train to Yogyakarta . We very very tired since our unwell sleeps on the uncomfortable and hard seats were disrupted by the people who are wondering in the corridors all the time and selling anything; food to souvenirs. There are two important items in this city which is also known as the university city. We went to the first of them next day; Borobudur Temple. This Buddhist Temple is believed to be built around 8th century but it was out of sight because of the religion changes in the country for long time. That's why it was covered by volcanic ashes and bushes when it was found again. The temple is full of reliefs and when one circumbulates the temple floor by floor upstairs, it is possible to read the Buddhist teachings through these reliefs. The circumbulation ends in the top floor where there are 72 stupas with Buddha monuments in them. The interest of people to us was more surprising than the temple itself actually. The number of shy students who wants to have a photo with us increased minute by minute. We didn't refuse any of them, this was the price to be famous !!!

DSC_0567Before the 19 hours bus journey to Bali island, we visited another historical temple, Prambanan Hindu Temple. We reached the temple through the houses which are covered with volcanic ash because of the eruption of Merapi Volcano closeby. The temple was interesting with the reliefs on tall temples although some of them were destroyed after the earthquake in Yogyakarta in recent history. We found it weird to visit all special Hindu temples out of India while we were not allowed to visit them in Nepal and India. We were aroused by interest in Prambanan Temple too. All of the "Mister" callings were being replaced by the digital voices of cell phones in a few seconds. After the shots consecutively we ran out of the temple, we had to catch our bus in a few hours.

DSC_0562Our long bus journey to Bali through double laned and extremely crowded roads took hours but we slept mostly so didn't feel much. It was much before we learnt to sleep in any condition. We didn't stop sleeping even when the bus on the ferry to Bali. We were still feeling sleepy when we arrived to the capital of the island Denpasar but we had to wake up since there was only a few hours to Kurtuluş's arrival. We planned his journey from Luxembourg to Bali weeks before and if we don't meet him in the airport, this may result in serious damage of our health and the rest of the trip.
 
Özcan