Yesterday, I read a post named “ Silly things I made during my travel “ by a blogger whom I follow.
Then , I was thinking about the silly things I made during my wanderlust years. There are countless number of events including
Riding a motor bike, unskillfully and had a fall paired with a fracture of my arm in Thailand,
Going to Komodo national park when I was having period ( Do you know komodo dragons can smell the blood from a few kilometers away and can bite you straight away as they are forever hungry carnivores. )
Swimming in river of jungle ( Taman Negara ) in Malaysia ( without knowing how to swim ) and almost drowned.
Before you get irritated with my silliness, or should I call it more like stupidity, I would like to write about Amazing Bagan.
Bagan is situated in central part of Burma, standing on the Eastern part of Ayeyarwady River. Bagan Era existed from 107 until 13th century and reined by 55 kings, there are lots of stories behind. For example, there was the time, people left pretty ladies for the human sacrifice at the area of big bird who only wishes to eat beautiful girls. It makes more sense to think that giant bird cannot be defeated by villages and instead of letting it come to village again and again , runing everything randomly, the villagers decided to choose girls to feed the bird. I was making joke with my best friend that I would not be eaten even if I was born in Bagan that time. Haha. According to the legend, the bird ate 4300 girls until it was killed by a hero. There is a display of the statue of bird as well as the tunnel area where girls used to hide from the bird.
Some pagodas were built by a dedicated hero whose spirit still linger around the pagoda. For example, near Dama Yazaka pagoda, the tourists was taking photos and later he could see the image of a man wearing an ancient attire in his photos. Creepy! Isn’t it?
Some pagodas were built to compensate for the sins of the kings or to show the remorse. For example, King A Laun Si Thu made the mistake of vowing “ I am the most powerful King ever in Bagan” although there are 44 kings previously. He became blind because of his inappropriate statement, punished by the spirits of the previous Kings. To counteract his mistake, he made the statues of 44 Kings in gold and worshipped in the pagoda called “ Kadot Palin “.
Another example is Dhammangyan Gyi pagoda which was built by crule King “ Narya Thu” ruled AD 1163-1165. He killed his father and brother as he wanted to get the power. After the cruel killings, his guilt haunted him and had continuous nightmares. He asked National Counsellor, a monk for the advice to get rid of nightmares. The monk asked him to build the pagoda. To outdo his predecessor, he recruited the best architects from the country and made a statement that “ all the bricks should be strong and should align to adjacent bricks without any gap in between. If a pin can be inserted between two adjacent bricks, the hand of the bricklayer responsible will be chopped off”. The pagoda could withstand the earthquakes even though there is some dark stories behind. ( Bear in mind that, whatever the Kings did, was not reflection of real Buddhism and Buddhism would never allow anyone to kill for any kind of compensation. The building of pagoda cannot compensate for the sins too. It was just a cultural belief of that time )
Some pagodas have happy stories as they were built by good Kings who ruled the country with rule of Laws and justice.
I think I am getting lost in the stories of pagoda which can be very long. Really, Bagan has many stories, many types of buildings built in different Eras. When Myanmar Government ordered the residents to move out of area of ancient buildings, the place became deserted at night. It has been a good decision ever as people can destroy our archaeological value.
When I visited Bagan in 2014, me and my friend decided to cycle in the ancient city as it will give us access to a small lanes and hidden areas. As it was in February, it was not so hot . However, Bagan is always a bit more hotter than other parts of Burma. We hired battery bike and cycled them to various temples. We cycled across the river banks, near pagodas and remnants of unknown buildings, etc. We felt like we were back in the past, exactly 2500 years ago, lost in all old buildings.
But we didn’t notice the battery bike need to be charged. So in the end, the battery ran out and we were stranded in Middle of Nowhere in Bagan. It was quite far from the town and very deserted. As it was getting dark, I recalled stories my friends told me. There are still lots of spirts around Bagan and they decided to come out at night to have a stroll around pagodas. Some are pretty ladies wearing ancient Attire and they like to hire the horse wheel cart. The drivers of these horse wheel cart are used to the spirits and usually allow them to get on the carriage. Upon getting off, the ladies would offer them gold coins in return of gratitude. Some drivers were freaked out and ran away as soon as they see that sort of girls on the road.
Back to our story, while we were alone on the highway at twilight, I was more concerned about spirits and ghosts than the robbery. As usual, I am full of imagination and I would not know how to react if the spirits came out and talked to us . So we tried to get a lift from passing vehicles. Unfortunately, the road was rarely used by travelers and for a long time, we couldn’t see anyone. Then some private cars passed by us without offering us any lift. Finally, a motor bike stopped for us and offered one of us a lift to go back to town. It means one of us would be left behind with two bikes without battery. None of us wanted to be left alone. So we declined the offer. Then the biker said “ it is getting dark. I am worried for your safety. I will wait until we get another bike. However, who will take care of the bikes? If the bikes are unattended , someone will steal them. You should call to owner”.
So we desperately tried to contact the owner of the bikes. We were worried we would miss the bus as it was only one hour away from the departure time. We were supposed to go back to Yangon on the same day. Finally, the owners of bikes came to rescue us. They took back the bikes so that we could safely go to the bus station with the gentle men who gave us the lift.
Next time, I would charge the bike every 4 hours. Don’t worry.
Note: These photos were taken in 2014 before the earthquake of 2016. So some buildings were damaged due to earthquake and you might not find the original pagodas anymore.
First of all, I am very grateful to my Indonesian girlfriend Dea Sihotang for inviting me to join her trip in Indonesia, East Nusa Tenggara. Dea did extensive backpacking trip for five months in East Nusa Tenggara for her new book.
At first, it was my idea to spend my birthday at a beautiful place and my idea was confirmed by Dea as she also needed her days off writing because she became so overwhelmed by a lot of information and extensive travelling. Some of my friends discouraged me not to go there as komodos are top predators and very unpredictable. They can run at 12 km per hour, can swim and also can climb the trees especially young komodos. They can be very fierce and can even eat their own babies. Baby komodos need to climb the trees to be away from big ones as they can eaten by adult komodos.
Secondly, komodo island is very far from civilization and you need to hire a boat to go there. Usually, the boat men are very skilful and know how to sail very well. But on the other hand, boats can be poorly equipped and there has been cases of shipwrecks when the sea become turbulent.
Thirdly, everything regarding komodo island is very pricey. The price for the one day trip for boat is 100- 200 us Dollars per day and it can be more expensive if you go alone . It is better to go with a group as the price will be lower if you can share the cost with other travellers. Anyway, it’s a worthwhile trip and you would never regret it.
Indonesia has 17,000 islands and komodo is one of the island of Indonesia. Komodo national park consists of three main islands called Komodo, Rinca , Padar island and numerous other small islands ,making it as total surface area of more than 1800 km. Komodos only exist in komodo and Rinca island and already extinct in Padar most probably because of lackof food there. Komodos eat deers, wild boars and buffalos. At the time being , some people said goats were killed and given to them to keep them satiete so that they will not harm to visitors. There are around 2300 komodos in komodo island alone. Dedinitely, its expensive to maintain the park.
To go to Komodo island, you have to reach a small town called Labuan Bajo. It was once a fishing village before komodo island became a tourist attraction. Nowadays, Labuan Bajo is a touristy place with a lot of Italian restaurants and divers who come from all over the world as Komodo island is also famous for its rich marine biodiversity. Komodo island was established in 1980 and declared as the world heritage list in 1991. As it is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, Komodo island belongs to all the people of the world and everybody is responsible to maintain the uniqueness of the island.
I am not a travelling journalist and here, I am merely mentioning things I have seen and done in Komodo island. My aim is for the readers to have a glimpse of komodo island and you can jot down your comments in case if you point out any mistake in this article.
First of all, I flew to Bali from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Then I took the domestic flight by using the company caled Nusatrip. http://www.nusatrip.com/id
The flight is around 1.2 hours and you can check out various airlines. ( please take note that some airline only give you 10kg luggage and some airlines gives you up to 30 kg, for example Wings Air does not give you any food in flight and only gives you 10 kg while Garuda airline can offer you up to 20 kg luggage plus meal). I found out the domestic flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo is more costly than my international flight from KL to Bali. ( it is partly because I got the discount from KL to Bali with Air Asia. If you book earlier , you might get cheaper price for domestic flight. For me, I paid over 1.6 millions Indonesian Rupees , 130 US D for return domestic flights )
Labuan Bajo is a beautiful town , but it is too touristy and some beaches are polluted. I am very sad to say that and I blame this mostly on the tourists. My friend said the local does not make it better as well.
For transport in Labuan Bajo, there are plenty of Ojeks ( motor bikes ) and public coaches which are cheap. The Ojek drivers are very skilful and can drive smoothly at uneven lanes. You can pay them 5,000 -20,000 IDR for the ojak. Taxi prices are fixed and written on the board at airport based on the distance of your hotel to airport. ( tips: you can bargain it too. it’s because it was written 90,000 IDR to Gardena hotel, but I got the taxi with 60,000 IDR, strange, right?)
I spent three nights at the hotel called Gardena hotel because the hotel is not expensive and you can have the lovely view . I paid 200,000 IDR per night for two people . If you have a friend to share, it will cost you only 30 RM ( less than 10 us D ) per night.
The Gardena hotel is a budget hotel and if you don’t mind spending more money, you can also rent the rooms with air con . I advise you to bring a lot of cool clothes , sunglasses and sunscreen as Labuan Bajo is famous for its heat and humidity. I went there in March which is the winter season,, however, I found the town extremely hot and I kept on sweating and it was impossible to sleep without air fans. The temperature that time was 31 C and it was quite similar to Malaysian temperature, but I found out the heat was unbearable most probably because of lack of wind. At night, there are lots of geckos making noises and their noises are quite fascinating.
Here are the views of Gardena hotel. The stairs are pretty tiring especially if you have to climb up with your luggage. However, the staff are very friendly and the breakfast, pancakes are delicious. You can sit at the table with a cup of coffee, overlooking the sea.
There is a restaurant called Chit Ma Bon near the Gardena hotel . My advice : Please don’t eat there, the food is terrible. ( sorry , hope they will improve the taste of food in the future )
If you stay at Gardena, you have a wide range of food choices as it’s near to the market and a lot of restaurants. It is also near to Money changer, stores, bakery and a lot of travel agencies where you can inquire about your boat trips and trips to other parts of East Nusa Tenggara. My personal experience is I do not really like the food from Labuan Bajo. It is also because I didn’t try a lot of restaurants there. Some said sea food is very fresh and delicious. ( unfortunately, I am not a fan of sea food, so I did not try any sea food , may be you can try as there are rows of shops selling fresh fish barbecue near the market ).
However, I really enjoy fruits there. They import fresh and juicy fruits from other towns especially avocado. A lot of restaurants are modified to cater the taste of Italian people.
Regarding money changer, the rate at Labuan Bajo is much lower compared to Bali. So it’s advisable to change your money at bigger cities rather than in Labuan Bajo although there are a lot of ATMs and money changers there.
Another hotel we stayed in Labuan Bajo is Sylvia hotel. It has private beach and the rooms are well maintained. The beach is beautiful and they give free kayaking boats which you can use to go to the nearby beautiful island. The hotel charges 550,000 IDR per night ( which is around 180 RM). But the good thing about hotel is they give free shuttle bus service to and fro from airport. We stayed there on our last day so that we can get free transport service to airport. In case if you want to spend time at their private beach, you have to pay hotel 100,000 IDR ( 10 us D) per head or spend the same amount per head for your meal at the hote’s restaurant. Some of my friends stayed at cheaper hotel and did that.
There is also a spot near Sylvia hotel where you can take photos of amazing view.
Regarding the boat trips,please do the survey properly before you commit to one travel agency. They can say different kind of price depending on the number of tourists. We were supposed to go for two days one night boat trip with 1.2 million IDR per person ( around 100 us D per head ). However, the travel agent cancelled the trip at last minute as the other tourists who were supposed to join got sick and cancelled the trip. It was quite frustrating as we had already booked our flight back to Bali and finally , we decided to go just for one day trip. If you can, please arrange the trip as soon as you arrive at Labuan Bajo and find the agent which can offer you the best price. Usually one day trip is 50 us D to 70 us D depending on how you bargain. For example, we got the one day trip with 650,000 IDR while our travel partner had to pay 900,000 IDR for the same trip. Also, please make sure you know their itinerary. Some people prefer to go to either Rinca or Komodo as it’s practically the same and komodos exist in both islands. We have not been to Rinca but we are told by other tourists that trekking in Rinca is better than in Komodo island. Most tourists don’t know how beautiful is the Padar island. For me, it is so far the most beautiful place I have ever been . It is the farthest island and you need at least three hours to go there. Apart from that, hiking takes time to reach the summit. So it’s the best to start journey around 5 am.
Let me tell you my experience. We were told by our tour agent that we needed to wait at 5.30 am in front of our hotel. But he didn’t turn up and we needed to call him. Then after we arrived at port ( just near Gardena hotel), we were quite confused because we didn’t know which boat was ours. There was a lot of discussion ( argument ) between our agent and the boatmen and finally we could start journey only around 7 am. ( I have to say that we are lucky because our boatmen are very skilful and helpful )
The name of senior boat man on the left is Bapak Jailani. His phone number is +62812-3838-4079. He can only speak Bahasa Indonesia.
His partner kept on laughing at me because I was doing some funny things inside the boat to cheer myself.
Well, I know how extremely lucky I am to be on that trip. But mind you, there are following reasons I was also scared to be in boat.
I do not know how to swim at all. And it is the rainy season and the boat is small. Luckily, they borrowed the life jackets for us only after I reminded them ” where are our life jackets?”, hahaha. SO please make sure you ask about life jacket and also check them whether they are ok or not before you start the trip.
I had already known women cannot go to komodo island when they have period or menstruation. Well, I know my period would coincide with the trip. So I took some pills before I flew to Bali. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the pill for 12 hours and instead of postponing my period, I induced my menstruation stupidly just the day prior to the boat trip. When you have blood, komodos can sense it and can prey you . So I was feeling very vulnerable and praying on the boat that I would not be chased by komodo. In case if they chase, I know I would not have any chance as I can run only 5 km per hour and they can run 12 km per hour although we weigh more or less the same. 😛
I didn’t expect the trekking to be difficult. But when the travel agent saw my Hushpuppy heels, he gasped and said ” Hey, you can’t go to island with that kind of shoes. Either you go with better shoes or go with bare feet. It is not hot there “. And I am telling you that it was a total lie. You can hike there with bare feet only if you have experience of walking in the fire with bare feet. The padar island is extremely hot and the lane has many small stones which can make you slippery and fall down. I quickly went to local store and purchase the slippers only with 5 RM ( yes, these slippers are not good enough to hike padar as it caused me almost fell down a few times.) My advise is ” please get the good trekking shoes if you want to hike Padar island”
The view on the way to Komodo island is very beautiful. There are many islands, most of them do not have many trees, but very green because of thick grass. Dea saw a dolphin and when I tried to see it, it disappeared into the sea with a splash. According to the boatmen, it is very common to see dolphins and some islands have salt water crocodiles and nobody dares to go that island.
The trip to Padar itself took three hours and both of us fell asleep during the journey as we needed to wake up very early. Luckily, there was only a short rain and the weather was quite favorable.
We went to Padar island first and the water around the island is transparent and clean although there were lots of rubbish , brought by tides towards the island. I was very sad to see that. I hope tourists will behave in the future not to destroy the beautiful island.
It was the narrow lane and the hike is not as difficult as the descent. The only problem is the island has not many big trees and it can be extremely hot unless you arrive there very early. The sweat oozes from every pores of my body and my lips became extremely dry. I had not been hiking for many years and if Dea was not there telling me ” you can do it , you can do it’, I might have stopped at midway. haha. Anyhow, the view is beautiful even at the bottom.
This is the area I sat down as the heat became unbearable and I became very dizzy. It was partly because of my period and excessive sweating making me dehydrated. So I sat near the big stone and took the above photo. Later, when I closely looked at the area, I found out I was sitting near the hole which might belongs to an animal like snake. So I prayed ” please let me sit here, don’t come out from your hole”, haha.But it was a very nice rest and I could feel the breeze from there.
When I descended , it was more difficult than the climb as I could not get the grip with my slippers and I ended up stepping on small stones. Luckily, my boat man came to rescue me and helped me to go down . It was surprising that he didn’t even wear the shoes under that scorching sun.
I found a guy fell down there and some people who came after us were asking each other ” Are you sure you want to hike this?” Basically, I am proud of myself that I made it. Once I arrived back at our boat, our travel partner from France was very surprised to found out I finally made it till the top . He raised his eyebrows and said ” Did you really make it?”. His face was so funny. But even before I made the answer ” yes” , I became very sick and threw up three times. It was embarrassing to be sick and it was even more embarrassing to throw up into the beautiful flawless water. I think it was because of heat and too much water ( I should have brought some soft drink ).
My nausea disappeared and my stomach felt better. But I felt so weak that I needed to lie down on the boat, in curling position. My lips were dry and my skin was hot. I kept on thinking about cold coca cola, cold lemon juice, cold vanilla shake, cold fruits, hahaha. How strange is it! We yearn to be away from civilization to be near to nature and when we are with nature, we yearn to have things from cities. I tried to close my eyes, and imagine the touch of cold tin with sweet, delicious juice on my lips.I could even imagine the water drops forming on the tins. I was very tired, but I was also content and happy. Yes, in fact, I was extremely happy because it was my birthday and I was at the most beautiful place of the world. Thank you, thank you and thank you.
After the Padar island, we went to the komodo island. I found out a village near the komodo island has lots of goats and they use the goats to feed komodos. There was a mosque and children were playing on the bridge. They look content and joyful. I am sure all of them can swim well.
My wish was granted when we arrived the village because my friend Dea bought coca cola for me. It was the best coca cola I have ever had in my life . 🙂
Finally we were at komodo park. They charge 75,000 IDR for Indonesian citizen and 230,000 IDR ( 3 times of citizen ) for foreigners. Even my tour agent told me to keep my mouth shut as I just look like an Indonesian. But I had no desire to provoke komodo as I was having a period and I also don’t want other people to be chased by komodos because of me. SO my plan was just to sit in the boat. My tour agent assured me komodo cannot climb inside the boat. But it was very sunny and finally I decided to sit under the shade at the entrance.
Alas, as soon as we arrived, we spotted two komodos from far. They are young komodos and not as big as others. ( A komodo can weigh up to 300 lbs) They were lazing under the sun and my friend saw a komodo hissed fiercely once it was approached by another komodo. I found them very bossy and solidatory . It seemed like they don’t want to friend with each other. And all of them looked like they were domesticated and they are so much used to the sight of humans. There were events that komodos attacked and killed an 8 year old boy and devoured the foot of a ranger as he fell asleep with the smelly socks. But komodos are like other animals and they will not harm you unless you provoke them. So far, I just saw komodos are more disturbed by humans than they disturb humans. They have aura and it was written that they have saliva with 50 strains of virulent bacteria which can cause septic shock to the victim. Their jaws are also powerful and can crunch the bones of buffaloes into pieces. I asked the guide who was sitting at the entrance what happened when komodo died and he said ” Nobody eat them here, their friends eat them when they die”. His answer made me have goose bumps especially two komodos was just near my sight. I kept on pleading the guide “please don’t go far and stay near me” because I was very scared as my friend and boat men went inside the park to see more komodos.
Well, I have been informed that the government tried to increase the population of deers which are the main food for komodos. But I never expected I would see a lot of deers at close range. They are big and beautiful and not even scared of humans. I found their eyes mesmerizing especially when they came near to me and looked at me. I was very happy to see the deers, ( much much more than seeing komodos) although people laughed at me when I told them I was trying to avoid komodos as most tourists are eager to see komodos. While I was sitting at the entrance, the guide near me suddenly lept up and chased out the small cobra which approached me. I was even not aware of that. ( well, if you don’t say that as adventure, what experience will you call as an adventure, wink!)
On the continuation of National park, we found a strange island with lots of deers. The boat men told us that nobody dares to go there as there are lots of salt water crocodiles there. What an interesting place !
Finally we arrived at the pink beach. There were not many pink beach in the world and FLores is one of them. The reason for pink color is because of the pink color coral which disintegrate and blend with sand. Unfortunately, its pinkness depends on the water level and as we went there at monsoon, the pink color was not that obvious. According to our boat man, he said, he even know a beach which is almost orange in color, but we could not go there because it was already late and the orange color boat is far.
We were promised we would be sent to Kanawan island which is a very beautiful island. But it was late and we couldn’t go there anymore. On the way back, it was dark and we could see the beautiful sunset with bright pink color sky mingled with grey and blueish clouds. I never think camera is enough to capture that.
The strange thing which happened on the way back is suddenly, the boat man hurried towards the front of the boat and said ” be careful of current” and I could see very shallow water while we were very far from shore. And he also said we should be careful of fly fish which might jump up into the boat because of light inside. He said sometimes these fly fish can hurt us.
In fact, I am very thankful to our boat men for their kind service.They really looked after us and even guided me towards the beautiful coral as I cannot swim. Later, I will include their address here as I found out tour agent took one third of money just for connecting the tourists to boat men. I was sad to know that. Out of 2.2 million IDR, tour agent took 0.8 million IDR. Isn’t it irritating to know that? But my friend said it is already good enough for boat men because if they fish, they might only earn 0.1 million IDR per day.
To sum up, here are the tips if you want to visit Komodo island
1) It is better to take your time and visit other parts of East Nusa Tenggara rather than komodo island alone as the trip is costly. You can go to a lot of interesting places in Maumere, Bajawa Wae Rebo and Kelimutu lake.
On the website, the price are more expensive, but if you go there, you can bargain on your own and can get cheaper price. However, if you want to make sure your trip is well managed and you have time constraint, it is the best to book the trip ahead. Usually, it takes 8-10 days to visit famous attractions in East Nusa Tenggara.
2) Go with a group of 4-6 people. You can get cheaper price for boat trip.
3) bring your sunglasses, sun screen, cool clothes and hat and above all, GOOD Non Slippery Trekking shoes
4) Make sure your boat is equipped with functioning life jackets
5) Make sure your snorkelling set is good . ( I could not snorkel as my snorkelling set has holes and the water kept on coming inside my mouth)
6) Make sure your itinerary includes PADAR island. Most tourists don’t know about that. Bring dehydration juices with you.
7) DO not buy things from souvenir shop at Komodo island. Things are more expensive than in airport.
8) Give some tips to boat men . They deserve it.
9) Do not litter and bring back only memory and leave only your foot prints.
10) try not to have period during your visit for women.
For more information about East Nusa Tenggara, you can follow the travel website of my friend Dea.