Bye bye Bali

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
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Trip End Jul 15, 2008


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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Friday, February 23, 2007

Feb. 22, 2007 Thrusday
Kuta, Bali
 
We've found a small used book stall around the corner so we've picked up a couple volumes to while away the time.  Irina even found a book by Ann Rice she had not read and Arvid picked up a yellowing copy of Joseph Conrad's classic Lord Jim, which is set in the old Malaysian archipelago are traveling through now.   Here's a bit from the book describing some of the characters drawn to this part of the world:
 "They were attuned to the eternal peace of the eastern sky and sea.  They loved short passages, good deck-chairs, large native crews, and the distinction of being white."    
We were feeling more and more like those indolent seamen described in Lord Jim.  We are 'east o' Suez'.  Tropical malaise could be setting in. We have to get out of Bali but it is proving pleasantly difficult.  We finally settled on a date to leave that would get us to our next destination, Surabaya, by the weekend.  But just before we were to leave our hotel we got a call from the ticket agent telling us that a demonstration by villagers in East Java had halted the trains, so we rescheduled our departure.  This delay turns out to be a good thing because it means we can meet again with Yanti and Luhur.  And by another bit of good luck, Peter and Jenny, a couple we had hoped to meet in Hong Kong arrive at our hotel.  So we are able to introduce the two couples and the six of us party in Bali. 
 
Feb. 26, 2007 Monday 
Surabaya, Java
 
Sunday afternoon we took a taxi to Denpassar (Rp50,000) and boarded a bus which took us to the western Bali port of Gilimanuk for a ferry ride across the Bali Straits to Ketapang in Java.  From there we boarded a night train to Denpassar.  The combined bus, ferry and train ticket cost Rp117,000 per person, and that was first class.  We could have flown from Kuta and the wastrels who spend the day setting at the Secret Garden Bar thought we were mad not to fly considering the cheap price of flights in this area.  But we wanted to travel by surface transportation so we could experience the country we were crossing.  But it was sundown by the time we reached the straits and we didn't arrive in Surabaya until 7 AM.  [GPS 07 14.599s 112 44.499E]   So we just had an uncomfortable ride and fitful sleep through the night on the train.  Cockroaches kept running up the wall next to our seats, we tried to see how many we could kill; kind of a travel game.  Our friends, Chris and Endang met us at the station, much to our great surprise and relief.  We had not discussed this with them and had planned on getting a taxi and finding their place on our own.  But that is just the type of people they are. 
 
We are going to spend two nights at Chris and Endang's 11th floor high rise apartment in a new section of town.  Surabaya is a modern town of sprawling suburbs and like LA it has no proper old center city area.  After catching a short nap, we took off on our own to knock about the city; mostly visiting shopping malls, which is what we would do in LA.    Just to add a touch of danger to our Surabaya stay Arvid wanted to take the becaks from one mall to the other.  Becaks are those three wheeled bikes peddled by a guy in the back half our size with a bench seat in the front for maybe two persons; it was a tight squeeze for us.  With cars, trucks and motorcycles sharing the same busy streets it looks suicidal.
 
Tonight Chris took us to a restaurant and museum in the former home of the founder of the Sampoerna cigarette company.  The founder was a street peddlers turned billionaire after he discovered the medicinal properties of tobacco mixed with cloves.  The brand became known as Kreteks because of the sound made when the pieces of ground clove burn and pop.  You don't want to be wearing a silk shirt when you smoke these.  The odor of clove cigarettes is distinctive to Indonesia and we've smelled them on the buses and streets since we got here.  The patriarch started the company after the turn of the century and it now commands 70% of the local market.  The best ones are hand rolled, with a slightly tapered form, keeping thousands of Indonesian women employed.  The original model is pretty strong in nicotine, making a Camel straight seem like a girlie smoke.  But they are smooth and the clove flavor makes them a perfect match for a red wine or port.  Anyway the family sold out to Phillip Morris a few years ago for tens of billions of dollars.  And the way the Indonesians smoke they'll make their money back in no time at all.  It wasn't just on a whim that Chris brought us here.  He's an international tobacco broker; there are probably only a dozen of them left in the world. 
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