Dispatch No. 1
Written Saturday, February 2, 2002 @ 8:35 a.m. at Tokyo International
Airport Internet Cafe. Waiting for flight to Jakarta, Indonesia.
Chasing The Sun.
The sun rises in
the East and sets in the West. Well, we'll see about that. Wake-up at 5:00
a.m. We're there hours before we need to be for security reasons. Layers of
low-paid defense to get to the boarding area only to wait for hours. Flight
take-off running late. We're driving around the tarmac with maybe two other
planes at the Ottawa "International" Airport. Pilot says 15 more minutes
before takeoff. What's happening? There are no planes taking off & none
landing and it seems as though we're looking for a parking spot. I have now
taken a Sunday drive over every driveable inch and compass point of the
We're flying. Off
to Chicago. It just hit me that I'm listening to Sting's live CD "All This
Time" (recorded September 11, 2001) on my portable CD player but the truly
strange part is that I'm also on an American Airlines flight heading to the
most paranoid country on the planet presently. Eerie, weird feeling. The
song which was particularly poignant was "Fragile". Listen to it and you'll
know what I'm talking about. Right now, it makes me think of all of the lost
souls from that tragedy and makes me hope that no more of this nonsense ever
welcoming place. Beautiful, charismatic & vibrant city. Huge sprawling
airport and still expanding. Noted that I was already becoming more & more
of a minority as we approached the international flights departure area and
our flight lounge. Got thoroughly searched by a huge black man who had the
unmistakable inner city Chicago accent to boot. He was a combination of part
comedian, part secret service agent and drill sargeant all rolled into one.
It was actually good to see the security level so high. Well, he & I got
along just great. I didn't tell him that I had a money belt on until he
asked. The wand goes over the zipper of the money belt and he gives me this
curious look which goes to jump back/freaked out/almost horrified when I
pull my shirt up really fast and say with a coy voice: "money belt". As he's
making me go through it, he says to me jokingly (I hope anyway): "I could
have shot you for that!!!" to which I reply with the same tone: "I made sure
you didn't have a gun before I did that." We laughed and he sent me on my
Dispatch No. 2
February 2, 2002 @ 8:45 a.m. at Tokyo International Airport Internet Lounge.
Waiting for flight to Jakarta, Indonesia.
Enter The Dragon.
That's my new
phrase for jet-lag encountered as you travel through time zones and cross
the International Date Line. The feeling is like
battling some sort of addiction as you cross time zones and also get more
tired from sitting on a plane for 13 hours and realize that it's still early
afternoon where you are. It's like a football player running across a field
passing the yard lines to score a touchdown, finally getting there and
collapsing from exhaustion. Great feeling to travel, but I'm pooped.
King For A Day.
Maybe it is El-Al
for security, but it certainly is Japan Air Lines for courtesy, politeness,
promptness and service. I have never been so pampered on a plane in my life.
Air Canada and all other carriers, you should be ashamed of the way that you
treat your passengers.
Dispatch No. 3
February 5, 2002 @ 7:00 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa, Bali (next to
This Is The Life.
You wonder why
you work so hard. The simple things are, to me anyway, the greatest rewards.
For me, it's camping in the Canadian wilderness or
spending time as a sternman on a Maine lobster boat. Right now, sitting on a
darkened plane (in the middle of the morning or afternoon depending on which
side of the date line you are on), passing right over Anchorage, Alaska and
feeling the plane turn towards the Bering Sea, actually watching the Earth
pass by underneath the plane with a screen mounted to the seatback on front
of me. We're at 35,000 feet, it is -53 degrees Celsius outside and we are
cruising along at just over 900 km/h. Apparently, there is much turbulence
coming into Tokyo. Judy almost heaved. I'm sure that you really wanted to
Welcome To The
Tokyo. The most
efficient & organized place on Earth which I have ever been. the airport
runs like clockwork, a well oiled machine. We wanted to check our baggage
through to Denpasar, Bali so that we wouldn't have to bring them to the
hotel. Judy was worried that the clerk we just dealt with on the second
floor Arrivals terminal help desk would not process the request we had just
asked and had written down on a piece of paper. We decided to pick-up our
bags instead at the carousel and do it again to make Judy more comfortable.
We waited for the bags to no avail. I decided to ask the attendants if our
directions would happen and both said in absolute unison: "Already been done
sir.". Only five minutes had passed.
February 1, 2002
Night Of The Long
early morning and a cheap razor. The paragraph title looked good. Scraped
the beard right off of my face with a hotel razor.
See, Japanese men don't have any long facial hair. It feels like having
dived right into a sandy beach face first. I can't wait to get to Bali and
do this for real. Tired. No sleep last night but Judy & I did have a slumber
party...talked & giggled all night long in a trance of exhaustion. Get your
minds out of the gutter.
Rise & Shine.
Got up early.
Actually, I should say we got out of bed early as we did not sleep much due
to jet lag. I say this because I'm delirious and not sure if I did sleep
Dispatch No. 4
Running out of Internet time for the evening.
Written Tuesday, February 5, 2002 @ 7:48 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa,
Bali (next to Hotel).
Saturday, February 2, 2002.
Got free breakfast at the hotel (Nikko Narita). A mix of Japanese and North
American food. Odd. Judy got her sushi & other Asian favourites and I got my eggs, toast & fruit. Then,
we switched just to keep things exciting. Note: Sausages are actually hot
dog wieners. Hotel was OK. Forgettable, but being in Tokyo is still an
experience. Looking forward to continuing the adventure. Still being treated
like a king while Judy is being ignored sometimes. Women are still not
highly regarded here and the fact that she is of Chinese decent does not
help. I guess that's because she is the equivalent of a maid in men's eyes.
We're on the Disney plane to Denpasar today but Mickey Mouse is nowhere to
be seen. Apparently, he got busted at customs due to racial profiling.
Dispatch No. 5
Written Wednesday, February 6, 2002 @ 7:28 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung
Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).
February 2, 2002
Leave Tokyo. Cross over Pacific Ocean. Watching that screen on the seat back
in front of me again. The system tracks the plane's location on the Earth via GPS and gives you a
visual on the screen. It's almost like a video game as you pass by cities, countries and continents. The hours
tick by and suddenly China is gone from the display.
Pass through Borneo and cross the Indonesian Sea and right into Jakarta.
Massive flooding going on and you can see the devastation from the plane. Depressing that you can't do
anything to help the people down there as they deal with the 9-12 feet of
water which has appeared from recent rains.
Arrive Jakarta. Get off the Disney plane (there's strange irony in there
somewhere) as they must clean
it to board new passengers. Airport security march us, with security
personnel at all strategic points (about every 10 metres), around the entire
airport. By the time that we get back to the plane, we're ready to board
again. Not a happy people here, rather intimidating.
Selamat Datang (Welcome).
Finally!!! Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. Had to fill out two extremely serious
looking customs forms which make statements like: "Importing drugs may lead to death sentence." and ask
questions like: "Do you have in your possession transmitters, pornography or music records? If so, list
these items for inspection and go to the RED line upon entry at Immigrasi."
Big dilemma. I have CD's. So, do I mark it down on the form and be honest
and risk the unknown or do I lie? I'm honest but worried to go to the RED
line. Off the plane, incredible heat & humidity and more intimidating
stares. Pass through the document handler agent fast and just happen to
notice an officer smoking a cigarette directly under a "No Smoking" sign.
THIS IS WHERE THINGS GET REALLY INTERESTING. Next step, carry on bags go
through x-ray again. Why? We just got off the plane. Whatever. Off to get
the bags off of the carousel (plane must have been unloaded in less than 5
minutes). I am completely surrounded by.......bag porters of all things!!!!
I had made the mistake of making eye contact with them and they were
immediately in a mad dash to get our bags for us & not let me touch them. I
have since discovered that this procedure is not part of the customs
function. They just wanted tips and I was literally the only "white" guy on
the plane. Everyone else was Asian including Judy. Judy laughs now. Somehow
these guys were able to get my bags to the customs officer (who I thought
were going to shoot me for possessing Tragically Hip CD's) and right past
him legally with a nudge & a wink. They then proceeded to hit us up for a
tip which was obliged by me in my state of exhaustion & confusion. From the
x-ray to clearing customs took less than 60 seconds. No kidding.
Hotel Bali Tropik.
Met the man with the "Rainville" sign from the tour company. Nice guy and
trying hard with English as does everyone else here. Very accommodating, hope we can return the favour.
Driving is insane here on a 30 minute ride to the hotel. All driving lanes
are smaller than ours and seem to magically fit a car and a motorbike
between the road edge and middle line (if there is one). This rule applies
to both sides of the road and passing is natural course. Get to the hotel
but doesn't look like one. It looks like a the most beautiful Balinese
temple. The detailed stone & wood architecture is stunning. We are
surrounded by a charming welcome committee in full dress (hats & sarongs)
and by the tour company staff member who we drove from the airport with.
After traveling so far, so far, all is great. Room is extravagant. We fall
Dispatch No. 6
Written Wednesday, February 6, 2002 @ 8:02 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung
Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).
February 3, 2002
Saturday is a day of exploration of the hotel grounds & pure relaxation.
Wonderful place. temples, pools, religious offerings of food & incense abound, restaurants (three for
breakfast, lunch & dinner), watersports, beach (but over protected by
natural/man made reef hence waves don't make it to shore), a rich
landscaping of temple-like buildings used as restaurants and our living
quarters and every type of tropical tree you can name. Also, at first sight,
a plethora of fat German couples in Speedos and bikinis that all look like
Sat on the beach, played in the ocean and the pool, ate, drank all to our
hearts content. All meals are good, but must avoid North American versions
of food. Meats are usually cooked dry & sausages again are actually hot dog
wieners. We learn fast to stick with & absolutely enjoy the tasty Balinese
food. In our package, everything is free and this is a perfect base of
operations for further exploration to come. We did walk the street in front
of the hotel (Jalan Pratama) today. One side is decadence, the other
poverty. Sad & we feel slightly guilty, but are also happy that our hotel is
locally owned and supports the local community as much as possible. It's
easy to see. We start getting hit up by "hawkers" selling everything from
taksi (taxi) rides to warungs (amazingly delicious food sold by carts) and
have to say "tidak" (no, thank you) when not interested. The warungs, by the
way, have better food than any hotel. A specialty is Nasi Goreng (Rice,
chicken & satay served in a banana leaf).
Dispatch No. 7
Written Wednesday, February 7, 2002 @ 9:15 p.m. atIQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa,
Bali (next to Hotel).
February 5, 2002
Go Ahead & Explore.
Exchange rate = CDN$1.00 - 5,900 Rupiah (rp)
I needed clothes in a bad way as I only brought a few t-shirts and shorts.
So, we decided to do some shopping as we plan our week ahead. Taksi costs
10K rupiah return for a 30 minute ride to local Galleria
(outdoor shopping centre). Pick up a t-shirt for less than 12,000 rp
(CDN$2). Stores & vendors are suffering as we might have seen a dozen people
in this sprawling 20 acre mall. Wet season & after effects of NYC's
September 11 according to locals. Get back to hotel & go out for some
snorkeling on the nearby reef. The most colourful fish that you have ever
seen. Dream a colour, and they are there to be discovered. Judy loved it
after being timid at first and wants to go back ASAP. Played volleyball in
the late afternoon. Guests versus hotel staff. Good competition. Tourists,
of course, won but earned it dearly. There was me, a fat but young, athletic
German who says nothing but "ya" (yes) and schnell (sp? which means "move
it") and Nikko the Crete who is the cheapest person I have ever met as he
tries to barter the poor locals down to the last rupiah. After rinsing the
sand off in the ocean and jump in the pool I swim over to the water pool.
There, I meet Ian & Heidi from London, England. They both work in a casino
there. Judy is sleeping in the room. We meet them later for a drink and hit
it off with good conversation. Off to dinner where the theme was
"international cuisine". Boring & tasteless. We all head over to Cempaka (an
a la carte hotel restaurant) with really incredible local Indonesian food as
an alternative. We proceed to get looped until only 11 as the sun & humidity
takes its toll. While we were there it also rained more in the 20 minute
downpour than it rains in a few months during summer back home.
Also, the power went out a few times but, of course, we were feeling no pain
by now. Interesting...as the power went out, everything goes totally black. I swear that you cannot see
one inch in front of your face. No kidding. Capped the evening with a fully
clothed jump in the pool, drank a litre of water & passed out. First great
sleep in days. Note: Refreshing downpours every night but clears up by next day. Almost 90+
degree weather everyday.
Tuesday, February 6, 2002
Home Of The Kuta Cowboys.
Before I start, I must let you know that there is much more going on than I
am sending you in these e-mails.
For example, the peace of the temple-like hotel, the hustle & bustle of
everywhere else outside of the enclave. Today, we go to see the sights of
Kuta, the city that truly never sleeps. Famous for beaches, nightlife, cheap
shopping and "Kuta Cowboys" (local men in great shape who seem to draw women
from all over the globe for, well, you know). Also, this day is for my attempt to
bodysurf some of the best waves in the world. Get there and it is as crazy as they said it would be. Hawkers
trying to sell you everything and then we hit...the beach. Even more
hawkers. About one per minute or five at a time. You get used to them fast
and they understand the word "tidak" and move on rather quickly. The beach
is not the cleanest says Judy as I become entranced by the waves...they are
so HUGE!!! Nirvana!!! I bodysurf for two of the best hours of my life.
That's all you can take in the full sun and we got sunburnt even after that.
I rented a boogie board for 17,000 rp (about CDN$3). Embarrassing at first.
I was out in the water for no more than five minutes wondering why I
couldn't catch the waves like I had done a few times before when the kid who
rented me the board paddles out & motions for me to flip the board over. I
was using it upside down. Every few minutes I look to see if Judy is alright
on the beach crowded with other tourists and all I can barely make her out
for the swarms of hawkers hovering around her. I owe her one for putting up
with that and for letting me play in the water.
Just Do It.
I can't put a finger on it yet but one has to visit Bali at least once in
your life. Forget Cuba, the Caribbean or any other hot place. Even with all
of its failures, this place is truly my Valhalla. Hinduism everywhere. A
deep-seated happy people even amongst the poverty. Capitalism at its most
raw, it absolute finest. (i.e. Bartering for everything). The beauty, the
tradition, the heat, the humidity, the rain (all of which you get used to
fast). I must admit that I was scared shitless for Judy & I when I got off
of the plane in Denpasar wondering what the hell we had just done but, I
could easily make my home here. However, I would only do so if invited or if
I could provide desperately needed jobs. The curiosity level between the
people that you speak with & yourself is amazing. If you are willing to
share & open up a little by letting your guard down, so are they. With a
little Bahasa Indonesian language, you can get a long, long way and get to
know about the people...the good & not so good.
February 7, 2002
We got up late, had breakfast, did some sea kayaking out by the reefs. I
flipped once and felt the true power of the ocean. She is definitely in
charge and locals respect her as such. I'm at the internet place now and
have finally caught up with my notes so you are now reading this in real
time (sorry, Bali time is always lazily late). I'm going to send this now
and have a Bintang (local beer) with Wayan, a very cool young kid (about 20
years old) who also owns this small internet shop. We'll talk about life &
things...whatever goes. So relaxed.
Goodnight to all.
Dispatch No. 8
Written Saturday, February 9, 2002 @ 9:43 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa,
Bali (next to Hotel).
February 6, 2002 - Saturday, February, 9, 2002
Time flies when you are having fun. To keep it short this time as I have to
get back to my drink, we have been busy doing nothing and some tours around Bali.
In the last few days we have seen the Kintamani region known for the active
Mount Batur volcano (beautiful & big); the lake beside it, Lake Batur;
incredibly talented Balinese wood carvers in Kemenuh village; more
traditional dances than you can shake a stick at like the Barong, Keris,
Kecek and Fire dances. The Fire dance is where a man literally puts out a
raging fire with his body; the Holy Spring (Fountain Of Youth) at Tampak
Siring village; Stone carving at Batubulan village (all kids under 16 who
work here, sad); Silver & gold craftspersons at Celuk village (again, the
kids); the town of Ubud (more artists with talent than some sixties hippie
convention without the drugs as that carries a death penalty here).
Lots to do, more on the way. Stay tuned. Having a blast.
Dispatch No. 9
Written Tuesday, February 12, 2002 @ 10:15 a.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung
Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).
February 10, 2002 - Tuesday, February 12, 2002
We have seen more incredible things in the past few days. The Tanah Lot
temple where I was blessed by Hindu priests. They call it a floating temple as it it perched on a rock
about 10 metres from the shore and is inaccessible during high tide. Stunning. While there we spoke with
some children from a local school as wearing baby blue "English Class"
t-shirts. They come to the temple to speak with tourists and use their
English skills. A shy curiosity for them and only the brave ones (or ones
who get pushed front & centre to us by their peers) get to talk. It's really
cute. We had monkeys climb all over us and the holy monkey forest at Alas
Kedaton. I thought that Judy would absolutely freak, but she loved them
almost more than I.
Met Pierre from Quebec City a few days ago. We decided to go back to Kuta
and do some more bodysurfing yesterday (Monday). Taksi cost 20,000 rp
(approx. CDN$3.50) each way. Rented two boards for two hours at 25,000 rp.
The prices are all insanely low and, unlike some tourist cheapies here, we
always give a handsome tip and they are thankful. It was a great day.
Speaking of tips, we are always quite generous because the average income
for a worker at a hotel is US$80/month (yes, it's true). There have been a
few times that I have given a good worker a little extra
for their family. I, along with Ian and Pierre, have all quietly given some
extra cash for really good service and tell them to take their family out
for a nice dinner and for a donation to their village temple.
Where Do You Start.
There is so much to do on this rather small island (1.5 hours to drive
across) that it would take a lifetime to understand how it all comes
together. This place, Bali, is an island in the middle of an archipelago of
a 1,000 islands which are part of Indonesia, a rather beautiful country
which is rather politically & religiously conflicted. But, you just don't
see it here. On Bali, you see mostly a smiling, trusting, happy people
dedicated to their Hindu (on Bali it is 96% Hindu, 3% Muslim & 1% Other)
religion and practice it daily, like clockwork, making offerings and timing
their work to coincide with their village festivals. True, there is as much
poverty as there is affluence, but everyone manages with what they have and
are just like us...trying to survive and make a dollar. The big difference
between the Balinese and the rest of the world is that they know dearly what
brings true happiness. It's family, friends, respect of everything living,
health and a joie de vivre that I just can't seem to put a finger on yet.
This is what would take a lifetime to figure out. Money is just a small part
of it, not like many of us back home who I now am starting to regard as just
Time Running Down.
I can't believe that we have been here for ten days already. Confirmed
flights this morning. Feeling momentarily sad but I do know that I will be
back to spend more time with my new friends and family like
Wayan here who runs his own Internet shop. This young man, maybe 20 years
old has, without second thought, offered to close his shop today to take me
(& maybe Judy if we could fit all of us on his motorbike) out to wherever I
want to go. He would do this without expecting any money and probably lose
some by closing his shop to potential customers. A question for all of
us....would you do this for a stranger? Think
The Last Hurrah.
Valentines's Day is Thursday and we'll be flying out.
Judy doesn't know this yet, but thanks to my secret keepers (the hotel
staff, Ian & Heidi from England and Pierre from Quebec City) she will have one of the greatest dinners she has
ever had. For a few dollars, we will be enrobed in traditional Balinese
dress and have a private romantic dinner on our last evening here. It will
be next to the temple in the middle of the open courtyard under a hand made
tent blanketed with natural fauna and leaves from various trees.
See you soon.
Dispatch No. 10
Written Saturday, February 16, 2002 @ 1:04 p.m. at HOME, Ottawa, Canada.
Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - Saturday, February 16, 2002.
Forgot to mention that we went to a rather good Japanese restaurant on
Monday with Pierre, Ian & Heidi our new instant friends. It feels like we have known all of these wonderful
people for years. Almost had to stay and wash dishes at restaurant as the bill came to a staggering
400,000 rupiah (about US$40) but, Judy was happy as a sushi roll, so it made
it all worth it.
Surfing, Surfing & More Surfing.
On Tuesday, Judy stayed at hotel to catch some more rays and hang with Ian &
Heidi. Pierre & I decided to go surfing again. Well, actually Pierre decided for both of us as he is now
addicted to surfing and he just had to go to Kuta one more time. We had
another blast. Caught some huge waves, some must have been over 10 feet at
the maximum. Nice way to wind down the vacation. We went down Poppies Gangs
I & II again also. A "Gang" is another name for an alleyway where you can
find just about anything like stores, small warungs (food stalls/small
eateries), losmen (someone's house you can stay in for about $5 -
$15/day)...anything. Just imagine those southeast Asian alleyways in
Hollywood movies. Something like in "The Beach" except without the hanging
Stopped at a warung with Pierre and had two large Bintang (beer), a Bakmi
Goreng (stir fried noodles w/veggies and some chicken) for me and a plate of calamari with veggies and
rice for Pierre. It was delicious after a hard day's bodysurfing. Total cost
was CDN$7 including a big tip.
A Calm Before The Storm.
Got back to the hotel just in time. We had a few drinks with Pierre, Ian &
Heidi and off to an outdoor dinner in the 30 degree heat and >80% humidity
(as it had been like the whole time here). Watched another Barong dance put
on by the hotel and had a few more FREE (emphasized because everything here
at the hotel had been free) drinks at the lobby bar.
The Sky Is Crying.
It feels as though the sky is crying today. Permit me to be so bold as to
believe that it may be for all of us who are leaving over the next few days. Ian & Heidi left for Kuala Lampor
this morning, Wednesday.
We said our goodbyes and exchanged e-mail addresses. Sad. Rain all day for
the first time but it is a welcome relief. Cools things off to about 75
degrees (hehe) and reduces the humidity temporarily. We spent
all day after lunch lounging at the lobby bar and I believe that, except for
dinner, we were there all day until almost midnight chatting with Pierre about every topic known to man.
Gave the lobby bartender, a small man named Yastika a 100,000 rupiah note
for good service. Told him to use it for his family and for
his village temple. It almost made him cry. He doesn't get many tips as this
is an all inclusive and there are many cheapies here. 100,000 rupiah (about
US$20) represents a week's salary.
Thursday is our day to leave. Check out at noon and hang out at the hotel
all day as our flight is not until 10 p.m. On the beach all day and play
some volleyball late in the afternoon. Staff dropping by or stopping us to
genuinely say goodbye, thank us for staying and to ask if we will come back
again. As we pack our bags into the bus, our Hotel manager runs out with
some staff that he put together and waved Indonesian & Canadian flags at us
until we left the property and were down the street. This stunned the other
people on the bus who were also heading to the airport one of whom stated
that they didn't get a thing but the bill when they left their grandiose,
big cube of a hotel. Hotel Bali Tropik is now our little secret.
After 27 hours in airports and planes, I knew we were home when we hit the
tarmac at Ottawa with a big thump on our rude, emotionless flight on
American Airlines from Chicago. Judy slept through it all. Made it
through customs easily and got picked up by my parents who offered to do so.
Dad drives the car around to pick our bags and us up, a cab pulls in behind him and honks at us even
though it took me less than 15 seconds to toss the bags into the trunk. I give him the "just a minute"
finger (though I felt like giving him the other one). Honks again long &
loud. I go over, as a whole line of people waiting for a bus transfer are
looking at us, and say "welcome home huh?". He smirks and the guy getting
into his cab smiles at me and motions for the cabbie to continue on refusing
to get in. The line laughs and I heard a few claps. This guy won't get to
me. Things are different now. I have seen a part of the world that not so
many have seen and experienced things about a culture & people that amazed &
inspired me. No way, cabbie, I'm home at last.