Saturday, 14 June 2008

Bartering in Bali

Looking for a ticket out of Kuta Beach, we headed for the Perama tourist shuttle bus office just down the street from our hotel. The guide book quoted a price of 40,000 Rph to our next stop - Padang Bai. We were greatly relieved that this was the ticket price. No bartering was necessary.

Buoyed by our early morning success, and with one day left in Kuta Beach, we headed for the shops to get our Bali staples - sarongs, swimming shorts, t-shirts and bags. First stop, Jen got a good price on a bag. Next, I drove a hard bargain - getting a pair of shorts for a very special price of 130,000. Two shops later, however, shorts were being sold for only 30,000. Ooops.

Lunch (and evening dinner as we were lazy) was spent at the lovely vegetarian cafe - Aromas. Absolutely amazing food, beautifully presented, in a relaxed atmosphere. The memory of hawkers and pressure salesmen quickly disappeared.

Our afternoon was spent in the pool, getting haircuts and late afternoon beach relaxation. We chatted with a couple of vendors on the beach. Bambang sold sunglasses and wanted to practice his English, whilst Vanessa sold foot massages and was very effective at this. She knew all the right buttons to press and, as the sun was setting, both Jen and I were getting the soles of our feet massaged. Jen found it divine, whilst I thought the toe yank-till-it-clicks part could have been left out.

Photos today - lunchtime fresh coconut drinks and the Aromas garden. No photos today of us - the haircuts were very good though.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Selamat pagi Kuta Beach (Good Morning Kuta Beach)

We've arrived safe and well to Kuta Beach on Bali. The journey out of the airport was made much easier by having our visas in advance, following the aircrew to the ATM machine, and being met by our hotel driver. We drove through the busy night time streets of Kuta in the humid tropical air. Mopeds and other bemos (minibuses) weaved around us as we made our way to the hotel.

This morning we woke to sunshine and a lack of drinking water - a situation easily fixed by being directed to the local Circle K convenience store. Prices vary greatly - Volvic and Evian are 20,000 Rph whilst the local 'Aqua' brand is only 3,000 Rph.

Our early nervousness and culture shock has eased a lot over our first day. The hawkers selling everything on the beach offered everything to us at a bargain price - or so they said. Although they are annoying, we got used to them fairly quickly. Note to self - do not hire a sun lounger from a guy called Fast Eddy - we paid twice the price for half the time. He then tried to sell us some watches afterwards. We're learning quickly how to barter well - and to check with others what they paid first!

The hotel here is very relaxed and easy going and very reasonable for what you get. In the evening, the lizards come out onto the ceilings to hunt insects attracted to the lightbulbs.

The food here is lovely and mildly spicy. This morning I had my first Indonesian breakfast - spicy fried rice with a fried egg on top. This evening, eating in the open air, we had very tasty fish on lemongrass skewers and beef in a spicy coconut sauce.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Japan Round Up

Our first Gulliver's Travels experience was during the last night spent in Tokyo.Described as 'your home away from home', space was rather cramped as you can see from the picture.  

Not wishing to try out the showers we decided to head for the local baths for a wash.    In the pouring rain we wandered aimlessly around Asakusa before pausing for breakfast.  Eventually we found the hot baths and the discomfort of finding it was soon forgotten.  I finished bathing before Jen so waited outside.  However, for the second time this trip, a lady went to find Jen and scorned her that her 'husband' was waiting'.  Jen thinks that she would make a terrible 'Japanese wife'. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Last full day in Japan

Our morning was spent walking around the environmentally challenged Lake Kawaguchi. A combination of over-development, over fishing and pollution meant that the spot-the-dead-fish game became a little bit too easy. It was extremely sad to see the natural environment in such a poor state. However, one ray of light was the fisherman who was casting off in the opposite direction to where all the fish were (as we could see all the fish from the bridge). We're convinvced the fish had big smiles on their faces. Lots of cloud and no postcard views of Mt Fuji.

Waiting at Kawaguchi-ko station, Jen couldn't resist applying her eye for proof-reading and spotted this gem in the ladies lavatory.

Leaving Kawaguchi-ko, we were lucky enough to catch the Thomas Land express (see photos below). For our younger readers - Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends are alive and well and working the Fuji Express line. As Thomas chugged his way down the winding track, the music of John Denver seemed to eerily fit the weirdness of the journey. (Jen is disassociating herself from the John Denver link!)

Our journey continued to Tokyo. Note to self - the term 'special rapid' service does not mean that the train goes any quicker than walking pace.

Our hostel tonight overlooks the Asahi brewing company headquarters (the golden turd or Unko Biru as it is known here in Asakusa).

Our evening was spent at the 100 Yen shop (inflation has pushed the prices up to 105 yen though) and a blow-out sushi dinner. A fitting end to our Japanese experience. There's time tomorrow for one final bath house and then we fly off to Indonesia.

The journey continues...

Tuesday, 10 June 2008


Today we walked up Mitsu-toge-yama (1785m), the highest peak on our trip so far. The peak is famous for its views of Mt Fuji but these eluded us for most of the day. However, after 4 hours we reached the summit to find the spectacular Byobu-iwa climbing crags and a very interesting mountain hut.

Reinhold Messner
had visited this hut during 1976. The hut was also home to a very big and lovely dog (not sure what his name was).

On the way down we took advantage of the cable car. This gave us some great vistas looking over towards Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Fuji-san frustration

We glimpsed it. The weather forecast was good. But without ice axes and campons, Japan's highest mountain remains out of reach. It would be little more than a classic trip up Ben Nevis, Britain's highest mountain, in the late April snow. We spent a couple of hours looking for a gear shop to hire the necessary equipment (that we'd left behind in Finland). Two very frustrated mountaineers looking at the summit from the Visitor Centre car park.

The Japanese barbecue managed to lessen the mountain fever a bit though, with the help of a little sake (blue bottle in the picture). Unfortunately, the fish were still alive/in the process of dying on the plate. We got told to cook them last. I guess it's OK to stick a sharp wooden stake through a live fish, but not to cook it alive.

Olo on tänään turhautunut, koska näimme vihdoin Fuji-vuoren (3,776m), mutta sen kiipeämiseen tarvittavat varusteemme (jäähakut ja -kengät) ovat varastossa Suomessa. Emme nimittäin halunneet pakata ylimääräistä kamaa vuoden reissua varten. Huomisen sääennuste on täydellinen, joten kiipeilyolosuhteet olisivat olleet kaikin puolin otolliset! Kovasta yrityksestä huolimatta emme kuitenkaan löytäneet kauppaa, josta jäähakun ja -kengät olisi voinut vuokrata. Fuji-sanin valloittaminen saa siis jäädä seuraavaan Japaninvierailuun. Onneksi löysimme tosi kivan japanilaisen grilliravintolan, jonka tarjoilemat herkut ja sake-juoma hieman lievensivät turhautuneiden sankareiden mielialaa.