pushing on

To say that I have been slightly lazy in updating this blog of late would be an understatement. The half hearted attempt of posting an update based around facial hair was pretty embarrasing, so I apologise for that. Interestingly it got the most comments both on here and on email than every other tale I have told so far…..I suppose I did ask the question ‘should it stay or go’ and the general consensus was it should at least be trimmed back a touch. For the record it is staying for now and maybe longer if we were to win the first test in Brisbane next week. If you pardon the pun, it is growing on me and I like it. So there.

Well we are on the subject of facial hair and cricket, I suppose I should point you in the direction of the photos attached to this blog that include a snap taken with the latest buddy I’ve met up with. See, Pat and I have cheated Indonesia somewhat thanks to the cheapest and most efficient budget airline I’ve ever used, Lion Air. We have spent the last few days with Winslow here on the stunning isle of Gili Trawangan, just off the east cost of Bali. I first met Winslow on the infamous India tour in 2008 and have followed his travels enviously at times from my office desk. Meeting up with another mate from cricket has just added to the growing sense of excitement that is building for the Ashees. The moustache he currently has attached to his face is not a joke, altough it may look like it. He and a few of the other Barmy Army lads are sporting ‘mo’s’ for the charity fundraiser, ‘Mo-vember’!

Perhaps the lack of travel updates of late has stemmed from the shift in attitude over the last week or so. I arrived in the capital city of Jakarta with the full intention of catching a twelve hour overnight train to the easten Javan city of Surabaya. After a night chilling out in yet another brilliant hostel, it became clear that if we wanted a proper chill out in Bali, then we would have to fly. A check on our new favourite airlines website showed us that we could fly direct to Denpasar for less than £30. A no brainer. We could get to Bali in just a couple of hours for less money than a combined trip of train, ferry and countless buses could. If it was the start of the trip then I’d have been gutted to miss out on such an adventure. But over six weeks into the trip and not having spent more than three nights in any one place, my body was thanking me for getting to Bali and having some chill time.

And boy the Gili islands are set up for that. I’m writing this in an internet cafe that is a matter of feet away from the crystal clear blue waters that are lapping gently against the picturesque white sands. The most taxing thing I’ve done here since arriving a couple of days ago was to walk an entire lap of the island yesterday afternoon. Hardship or what?

The last time I posted anything travel related was just after escaping Pekanbaru town centre and getting to Bukittinggi in one piece. Bukittinggi was a smart little town. As soon as we got kicked off the bus we were greeted by even more smiling, inquisitive locals. The town of itself is small for Indonesian standards, home to just over 70,000. Being a small town boy myself, I instantly related with the place. We walked through the bustling markets, posing for photographs and seemingly saying hello to every single person we passed. Local school kids were jumping up and down with excitement as we trekked the streets with our backpacks, looking for a place to stay. The backdrop to the city was a beautiful mountain, covered in glorious mist. All in all it was a pretty spectacular place. It used to be quite a backpacker hotspot, though with the introduction of budget airlines, less and less people are visiting. The only downside to the town was the 4am alarm call we received from the local mosque. Now, I respect peoples cultures and faiths and can put up with a simple call for prayer. This is a hugely populated Muslim part of the world and this cry for people to come and pray is a big part of many locals day. Our local mosque wasn’t happy with a simple two minute call for prayer. Oh no. They decided to broadcast to the whole town the whole ‘freckin service. For nearly three hours at full blast we were force fed the mornings prayers. The last hour was spent listening to a child read passages from the Koran. Yes, a small boy coughed and spluttered his way through tales from the Koran.

Despite this we were sad to leave Bukittinggi. It seemed a real hip, friendlly town with the potential for some cracking discovery and adventure by day and smash up’s by night. Arriving at Padang airport with no flight booked was a first for both me and Pat. We got lucky, piled on the next flight and arrived in Jakarta just hours after leaving Bukittinggi. Jakarta has got a pretty bad rep. The Lonely Planet describes it as a hard city to love. They are talking shit. Sure it is a huge, sprawling Asian city and the pollution from the traffic isn’t the nicest thing in the world. But once again, the people there were just so friendly. We found a little park with a fairly large monument that was a cool hangout in the city centre. Watching the locals play basketball and football while the sun went down was superb. The nightlife for a Muslim city was superb. The plush, modern shopping malls came as a little bit of a surprise. Despite what the LP says, this was easy travel, a nice change from the reasonable hardship faced in Sumatra.

Our arival in Bali was interesting. The airport infamously charges crazy rates to get anywhere on the island. Now me and Pat are our similar ilke when it comes to not liking to being ripped off. Instead of just paying one driver a flat, overpriced rate to take is to Padangbai ferry terminal, we decided to follow the guidebook and catch the local buses. Four of them to be precise. Arriving in Padangbai just after sunset we were jumped on by some touts trying to sell everything from hostel rooms to ferry tickets. If it was me that was a bit snappy in Pekanabaru, it was Pat here! Before we even got out of our last minivan, there was one guy in particular that wouldn’t take no thanks for an answer. For about ten minutes he followed us round the ferry terminal we had gone too, checking out the what the score was with getting to the Gili islands. Now, there are only so many times you can be polite to a person that is waving an overpriced ferry leaflet in your face……after getting told in no uncertain terms by Pat to leave us alone, he reappeared from nowhere then trying to sell us a room in a hostel! I nicknamed him Paul Daniels.

So on a bit of a travel wind down do I feel at all guilty for skipping Java? Nope, not at all. Getting to Gili several days early has been a godsend, though I’m not sure my liver agrees after a crazy all day, all night session on our first day here. This might only be a small island, but there are plenty of tourists here. We incredibly bumped into Winslow within minutes of setting foot on these fair shores and ended up spending the whole afternoon crawling the many beach bars. It was like being back in Bangkok, partying and drinking away till nearly 5am and not waking up till gone midday, just in time to spend the afternoon by the beach.

My god, maybe I am turning into that ‘traveller stereotype’ more and more each day……


7 Responses to “pushing on”

  1. 1 Martin Chapple
    November 19, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Looks great!!!

  2. 2 Michelle
    November 19, 2010 at 7:15 am

    I was going to go to Gili T but chose Nusa Lemboggan instead! Try and get there if you can – its probably quite similar though – maybe less tourism tho…. I am supremely jealous!!

  3. 3 Matt
    November 19, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Glad you’re having a fun, relaxing time there before the kick off next week! Glad you’re liver’s acclimatising before OZ 🙂
    Say hi to Winslow from me.
    BTW, if you’ve got 10 minutes – Swanny’s video tour diary is definitely worth a watch (Belly’s got a link to it on his FB page) – be funny if all the English lad’s ‘do the sprinkler’ in the grounds (you’ll understand obviously when you watch the video).

  4. 4 Donna
    November 19, 2010 at 10:17 am

    I am glad to read you are having fun with your mates Richard and not feeling guilty about you choices – who cares you have got loads of life time to do all these places when you want to! Some lovely photo’s of scenary and of you and your mates – you look pretty happy!! I want to be there too!! I am glad you decided to keep the beard for now!!! I think you are much more than any stereo type traveller or not!! Have fun..its cold, dark and wet in the UK!!! You are not missing anything!! ‘Push on’ son indeed!

  5. 5 Donna
    November 19, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Sorry got to say ‘Lion Air’ – priceless!!

  6. 6 Donna
    November 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    And – all that call to prayers and the service being sent out to the masses …well its seems to me it has got to be a more potentially enriching experience than that which the UK chooses on mass i.e. Celebrity Big Brother, X Factor and or yes sorry to say it but East Enders..just thoughts…

  7. 7 Sara
    November 21, 2010 at 5:12 am

    Shame the people you ‘bump’ into eh !!
    Glad to see you are resting up before the chaos starts & you are keeping your blood/alcohol levels under control!
    Looking forward to bumping into you in Brissie babes

    Sara xx

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