Monday, November 19, 2012


I stayed one more week in Goa alone before continue my travel to Indonesia. My last trip in India - a night bus to the airport in Mumbai, went typically in Indian style. First I waited for the bus for more than an hour, and then it passed me and stopped 500 meters after the bus station. I was terrified that I will miss it so I  ran with both backpacks, I fell on  the asphalt  face down and for long time after I remembered this trip with all of the wounds I got. However, I caught the bus, but it got broken before we even got out of Mapsa. Apparently India would not let me go. We stopped for an indefinite period of time and after about an hour I asked the driver if I will catch my morning flight from Mumbai. He was obviously worried and immediately stopped another bus where I was moved to. It was quite a luxury bus with air conditioning and free water and sleep comfortably in two seats. I paid for the cheapest crowded local bus so this was unexpected luxury to me. I was even early for the airport so I had to wait outside - waiting inside the airport is paid here! So I said goodbye to India and my heart was already missing this wonderland.

Blue Lagoon Beach, Padangbay

After spending a night at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, I landed in Jakarta in the early morning. I decided right away to escape the big city. I caught the first train to Jogjakarta (or as they call him - Jogja). It is the rainy season now. Everything seems to be submerged under water and the train is boat on rails. On both sides I see rice fields, villages and again rice fields, villages... almost no empty land. Java is the most populated island of Indonesia and it shows. However Jogja is a very nice city, relatively cheap with lots of delicious food and smiling, friendly people. I go for a walk on the famous boulevard Marlboro (?) and people greet me and talk to me. One man asked me where I was going and hearing my answer he exclaimed: "Wow, it's very far if you walk so much you will become black like me" "I like to be tanned"- I answered,"in Europe people even give money to get tanned". In Asia (and Africa) on the other hand I saw advertisements of whitening creams and everyone is trying to look more white. We laughed together at the human quirks and then we continued our way. A group of students want to take pictures with me and almost knocked me to the ground. Another man walked for a long time with me and told me where to buy cheap batik from the local batik school. People seem very nice and so far nobody is annoying me and wanted  any money for something. After India everything seems luxury to me and people seem quite rich. The food is wonderful, but not for vegetarians. The traditional breakfast is nasi goreng (nasi- rice, goreng-fried) - fried rice with egg, chicken and vegetables. There is a lot of fish, but the most wonderful thing is the numerous types of exotic fruits like all kinds of bananas and mangoes, selat, my favorite mangustins and the smelly durian. Besides batik and puppets made of buffalo skin, Indonesia is known for its vast variety of birds. Unfortunately many of them are in cages and most are exported to Europe and the world. Everywhere you can hear birds singing, sometimes even talking parrots greet you "Hello". It was Christmas and decided to make a gift - buy the cheapest bird (0.25Euro) and let it free. The sellers thought that it slipped from my hands so they gave me another one. Two birds for the price of one! Christmas promotion .

girl from Bali

school-girls from Java
singers in Jogja Palace

in Yogya

Puppet-maker in Java

The Christmas Eve was my loneliest ever. I sat alone in the nearby restaurant in Yogya. It was my first Christmas alone and I missed my family so much that I spent hours on Skype to share the holiday with them. There was nobody else to speak Bulgarian around. The first days travelling alone were the hardest and I felt  how different the journey is now. No one to share my sudden happiness or surprise with , I often have to laugh alone and of course all the duties and responsibilities were now completely in my hands. There is nobody to blame, nobody to ask for advice. Complete freedom.
The next day I decided to hitch-hike to Borobudur - an ancient Buddhist temple about 60 km from Yogya. My first hitch-hiking alone went more than well. I had hardly lifted my thumb and immediately a luxury SUV stopped with a driver with indeterminate sex inside. By the end of the trip I could not understand is it a man or a woman, but he spoke very good English and he left me 10 km before Borobudur. Shortly after a big Toyota pickup stopped with a little boy who was barely seeing from behind the wheel. "How old are you" - I asked  him confused. "17" - he replied after a slight pausing. I think he was no more than 15. Anyway he drove me to Borobudur and finally I arrived faster than any bus. The temples are impressive, surrounded by lush jungle, hills and volcanoes. There are thousands of local tourists and all of them wanted a photo with me, I barely had time for anything else. Students from a local school interviewed me about 15 times. They had to make this for their English class. At least I had someone to talk to and in fact I was enjoying it sincerely.
Borobodur and mount Arjuna (3339m), the highest volcano in Yava


one of the many groups of students interviewing me

In Yogya I went to a local reggae concert where I met many expats and locals from different parts of Indonesia - from Papua, Sumatra, Kalimantan ... From each one I learnt something about Indonesia. After closing all bars people sit on mats in front of the nonstop shop on Blvd Marlboro drinking beer or eating rice with chicken. It was wonderful to meet locals who spoke perfect English. We talked all sorts of topics and it was so interesting that I stayed until 6am. Without noticing I stayed too long in Yogya and it was time to head to Bali. There I had meeting with one Bulgarian friend - Elena to spend the new year eve together. More than an year ago she hosted us in Barcelona at the beginning of our journey. It was a pleasant surprise that the road met us again in a new place for the New Year.
I took the local bus to Bromo - the most famous volcano in Java. Here in the bus is allowed to smoke, although sometimes the windows could not be opened. However, each bus has bags for puking hanging from the handles and the passengers regularly used them. It's worse when they don't have time to grab a bag and puke directly on the floor. There is no need to describe how rough are the rides. I arrived in Bromo early in the morning. But the weather was not good in the mountains and although I woke up before sunrise for three consecutive mornings I never saw a sunrise. There were clouds covering the sky all the time. I climbed Bromo which is only half an hour of walking but local tourist hire jeeps to go there and then horses to take them up the stars! I decided at least make a walk around the crater. The crater is very steep and sandy, sometimes I almost fell inside. Just when I was in the middle of the way a terrible rain storm started. I was afraid that the muddy sand will get a lot more slippery and I rushed forward. It went very extreme, I was stumbling in the sand deep to my knees, falling and rising, muddy to the ears, but got out alive and well and all wet I even hitched a SUV back to the village. The next day I climbed a few more times to Bromo and the hill overlooking Bromo, I hitched about 4 SUVS and 3 motors in the area around the volcanoes, but all the time the weather was cloudy and rainy. Otherwise hitch-hiking in  in Indonesia is very good and the people are very nice. Again it was full of Indonesian tourists who do not seem to like walking. They hired jeeps, if the jeep cannot go they took horse, and where horses can not go- nobody went. 

Bromo in fact is the brown crater on the left
village around Bromo

after 3 hours of waiting, the clouds started opening up and I was rewarded with some view
in the local restaurant

my favorite friends- the monkeys, in monkey forest, Ubud

From Bromo I decided to hitch-hike to Bali. With two jeeps and one carI got to the ferry port in the evening. On the ferry a large group of Indonesian tourists were filming me with all sorts of cameras from all sides. It turned out to be a 40-member family going to Bali for New Year. They had a whole bus arranged especially for this long family trip - from Sumatra through Java to Bali. It was already dark, I did not want to sleep at the port so I asked them for a place in their bus. This is how I joined the family, although no one spoke English. But  the Grandfather somehow explained me that in the 70s he was an ambassador in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. He loved Yugoslavia. I asked him did he speak Serbian. "No," he said, "I speak Yugoslavian." So we spoke in Yugoslavian, what a strange surprise. They took me in the bus with air conditioning and toilet, They treated me with dinner and water and we arrived late in Denpasar - the capital of Bali. The family had rented an entire hotel and I was allowed to sleep on the bus outside the hotel. In the morning we parted, and I headed to Ubud. Public transport in Bali actually did not work and I was too far from the main road. Since everyone here have bikes, city buses (bemos) were quite empty and deserted, so they operated as taxis for single travelers. I had no choice and I started walking, I had 12 kilometers to the main road. Soon a woman with scooter stopped and drove me several kilometers. I had the huge backpack and wasn't even waving. After her a second woman with a scooter drove me straight to the bemo stop for Ubud. The bemo, of course, was empty and I had to wait to be filled, so I decided to continue to hitch-hike and the first car stopped - a Smart (a car I had not seen since Europe). The man drove me straight to the center of Ubud. Here I first encountered Balinese religion and customs. Everything looked very different from Java. Flowers, trees and gardens, wonderful decorations and solid wood furniture. It was early morning and people were preparing all the gifts to the gods in beautiful baskets, knitted from banana leaves. Gods ate a lot every morning - rice, fruits, sweets ... In Kuta I even saw them giving Them pizza. Temples are more than houses, and the smells of incense were filling the air. Hinduism in Bali is quite different from that in India, but not less enchanting and colorful. I walked around the temples and the famous Monkey Forest - a forest full of curious monkeys that sit on your head and pull your backpack. Here monkeys are sacred and never hurt (or eaten like in Africa). It was a stunning example of the coexistence of monkeys, humans and gods in one forest. The next day I rented a bike and rode than 10 hours, with a lot of pushing up, but nice downhill after. Passing through small ways, rice paddies and villages, until the rain started pouring again.

For New Year's Eve I went to see Elena in Kuta - Bali's party place that we didn't like a lot. It was full of drunk people walking and on bikes, the beach was dirtier than African beaches and the water was really brown (untypocal for Indonesia). We went to a couch-surfing party in a huge villa with pool in the south in Unauatu. It was a strange new year with different people from different places who do not know. There were Malasian, Indian, Hong Kong, Indonesians, Europeans and we were the only two Bulgarians. But I was most surprised by the Italian who spoke fluent Bulgarian (7 years living in Sofia) and the Indian who could swear in Bulgarian (had a Bulgarian girlfriend)! At least on the New Year I heard some Bulgarian speech.

Gili Meno

Gili Air is at the horizon
the salty lake in Gili Meno
Lombok at the horizon

On 1.1 I said good bye to Elena and immediately left Kuta direction north. Again I found myself in the middle of Denpasar, away from the road. It was raining, I walked and hitchhiked and when I was wet and almost in despair a car finally stopped. Although he was going exactly in the opposite direction, the man decided to help me. He said it was 1 day of the year and he can not leave me on the street in the rain. He said he was a Christian and invited me to lunch with a typical Indonesian Nasi Champur. He told me about his business with fish massage - small fish that eat dead skin on the feet of tourists. He said that the business is very successful. In the beginning he imported the fish from Turkey, now he exports it to the Canary Islands. He had also a restaurant where he made the special coffee Luak - the most expensive coffee in the world. A skunk-like animal is eating coffee beans and then from his faeces they prepare this exotic coffee. He invited me to the opening of his restaurant in Kuta, but nothing in the world could take me back there. He drove me to the bus stop outside Denpasar and even bought me a ticket to the next town - Klyungung. There I couldn't find a cheap place to sleep and continued the hitch-hiking. A family with a new car took me and asked me where I was going. I had no exact idea so I asked them where they were going. They had no idea too. They were just having a ride with their car. I told them that I was looking a cheap hotel to stay in the night and after a little drive around they brought me back in Klyungung in a hotel for 2,5 Euro per room. The food in Indonesia is very cheap - for 0,50 Euro I eat like a king (local food, of course), but without a tent to find shelter in the rainy season is not easy. The cheapest guest-houses are at least 5-10 euros per night. And there were wonderful places for camping, especially on the thousands of small islands.
I went to Penelokan where there is a lake and several volcanoes. This time I had luck and the weather was wonderful two days along the lake. I walked and hitchhiked on the road around the lake and a boy with a motor-bike took me around his village on the opposite side of the lake and we started climbing the volcano illegally. Some other locals invited me to a cockfight, but refrained from this bloody adventure. They put on their feet small sharp blades and let them fight to the death. Although it is illegal, it is popular throughout Indonesia. Everywhere cocks are transported in  cages, in Bali I even saw a pink and orange rooster painted for the fight.

kids making the typical Bali masks

one of the numerous volcanoes in Bali

Pura Bezakih - the biggest temple in Bali

the ceremony in Pura Bezakih

food for the Gods
From there I hitch-hiked to the biggest temple of Bali - Pura Bezakih. There were few cars and I only got on bikes, sometimes three people per bike. I reached the complex of temples and began to walk around with my backpack. They said that it is forbidden for foreigners to enter these temples and they were open only for ceremonies. In the great temple there happened to be a ceremony all people were gathering in white robes and bowls of fruit and other gifts for the gods. Not only that they let me enter and watch the ceremony, but also I was blessed and I drank holy water. I met with a covered bakpacking girl from Java and we hitchhiked together back to Klyungung. From there I found a bemo to Padangbay where I hoped to find better Balinese beaches. Padangbay is a small village with a harbor and regular ferryboats to Lombok. I bought a mask and a snorkel second hand after much bargaining and I immediately rushed to explore the reefs around. The better place for snorkeling, however, ware the nearby Gili islands and soon I headed there with a local ferry (about €4, 5 hours). The ferry is non-stop and I took it at night to sleep on the deck. With another bemo and a lot of walking I got to the port where boats go to Gilis. The cheapest and surely the most extreme way is by public boat where they bring all the provisions - rice, sugar, fruits, fish, water (!) and at least 30 Indonesians, sitting on it or standing up in the small wooden motor-boat. In the rainy season, the ocean is was very wild and from time to time we all exclaimed in escitement when a big wave is coming. Still we arrived successfully at Gili Meno. The island is wonderful and not so built up as the other two. There are small beaches with white sand and trees. I missed the tent again. Next time in Indonesia - with a boat and a tent :). If it was not the rainy season I could sleep outside, but it was good that I found shelter because every night it rained. A brand new bungalow for 5 euros with breakfast. The owners were just preparing a ceremony for making it holy (they were Muslim) and they were so nice that they invited me and gave me two sets of food, water and juice. In the daytime it was sunny and I spent most of the time with the mask and snorkel around the island. For the first time I saw a sea-turtle very closely. There was all strange wonderful fish and corals that I had never seen before. The islet is actually a small pile of sand. So small that you can walk around it for an hour or two on the beach. Inside there were villages and even a lake, salty one. From the shower there was salty water coming and drinking water only came by boat from Lombok. I managed to take water from places that have 20-gallon refillable bottles and not to buy numerous bottles. I saw no boats to transporting the empty bottles back to Lombok. The island had the most fearful cows I have ever seen. If you go 5-10 meters close they started running like wild horses. I had never seen cows running like this. Once a cow tied to a tree was so scared from me that it started running around the trea and after two laps she ran away with the rope and the tree. And I was just walking down the road.
I went with the boat to the nearby Gili Air, where I met Ivan - a local gigolo with a Russian name. He treated me lunch and told me the story of his life which  I do not know if I wanted to hear. Indonesia is a popular with sex tourism for women and the island you can often meet a 50-year-old foreigner with a 20-year local boy. Most are even married and have built bungalows here. I went to sleep in an open building where Ivan stayed and I even left luggage there when I went to swim. I was told that there was no thieves on the island. If someone steals the whole island will first kick his ass and write "thief" on his back and then will directly take him on a police boat to jail. Indonesia as a whole seemed pretty safe, I never worry about my security here and on the train I even leave my luggage unattended. Everybody around is so friendly that I can not imagine to rob me.

Komodo Dragon

I went back to Lombok with the idea to extend the visa for another one month and to go to the islands to the east. However, the latter five days were very rainy and that made me think of evacuation to the dry season. Instead I bought a ticket to Thailand and decided to devote more time to Indonesia next time - with a tent in the dry season. I had more one week visa left and spontaneously decided to hitch-hike to Flores and Komodo - home to the famous Komodo dragon, hoping to escape the rain.
I hitched a car to a main village in Lombok, where I took a bemo to the ferry-port in Sumbawa where again I hitched a bus that crossed all Sumbaua to the ferry to Flores. So after 24 hour trip got Labuambadjo, Flores. So close to Australia...But the rain did not stop and here it seemed to be even worse. Locals told me that they have not seen the sun since three weeks. I was wondering if it is worth it to take a boat to Komodo in this weather. However, I came down to here and decided to see Komodo Islands anyway. I had an unexpected luck - just as we were leaving with the boat the sky seemed to open up and the sun shone on us for the first time in a long time. Two days on the boat we had wonderful weather and when we got back the rain started again. We saw several Komodo Dragons that looked very lazy and harmless, but much more exciting for me was the underwater world around the islands. Swimming with a large sea turtle about an hour, talking friendly with her and even she let me touch her three times. Coral and fish were like from a cartoon movie, but the most wonderful was the enormous manta-rays. I had never swam with fish bigger than me and it feels amazing. Dozens of mantas floated beneath me like giant birds, waving his wings. I was immensely happy. I was diving down, wanting to hug them. Beautiful days!
It was time to get back to Bali, I was closer to Australia than to Bali. For thirty hours I managed to change three ferries (4-5 hours each), two buses, one bemo and a bike. When I stepped on the land in Bali all my world was spinning. I rested for the last two days and I said goodbye to Indonesia caught a plane to Thailand. Indonesia has some 14,000 islands, I managed to step only on 10 of them, so there are more 13900 to time
Komodo island
baby Komodo

with the bike around Bali