Oh Flores…

Flores is the kind gorgeous that grabs hold of you tightly, Lonely Planet proclaims.

But as we trudged away from the fifth dingy hotel, still yet to find a room in Labuan Bajo, the ‘next big thing’ in Nusa Tengarra didn’t seem as charming as promised, with its corrugated iron roofed shacks and dour hotel staff who seemed affronted that we’d wish to sully their establishment with our presence.

It took leaving Labuan Bajo on a car tour to see what the guide books were so excited about.

Driving along impossibly steep and winding roads, corrugated iron roofed huts were suddenly quaint, surrounded as they were by palm trees and stunning mountain views.
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See?

Anyway, there are rocky streams emerging from the jungle, reminiscent of Bali’s countryside. Except these ones are lacking the obligatory pile of debris lying next to it.

The stunning jungle landscapes, volcanoes and coastline make up for the vertebrae-shattering drive along still-developing roads.

It nearly makes up for the people in the towns and cities, who seem begrudgingly reliant on tourists. Friendliness is only found in the countryside, and the male population haven’t yet heard that cat calling and leering isn’t OK any more. Walking down the street felt intimidating and I was extremely glad I was travelling with a couple of other people, as doing Flores on your own wouldn’t be fun.

Seeing the sun rise over Gunung Kelimutu was fun, however:

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And posing with a Komodo dragon was also fun (if slightly terrifying):

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So, I’m glad I’ve seen Flores as it’s truly the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. And I got to see dragons and a hobbit, which is kind of cool, right?

Those Christians are right, yoga is evil.

In my previous post, I alluded to the amount of yoga I’ve been attempting since arriving in Indonesia. Some of those experiences are just too special to keep to myself.

Particularly the Flying Yoga class. The idea is that you work in pairs or groups and suspend each other in mid-air using your amazing yoga poses and strength. If you possess any, that is.

But before we got to that part, we had to warm up.

The first task was to introduce ourselves, by saying our name – and revealing which animal we’d be and why. Never one to take such things too seriously, I said in a dippy-sounding voice, that I’d be a unicorn, because they’re ‘magical’.

Next, the Brazilian guy co-leading the class (reminiscent of Salvadore of Couples Retreat) whipped out a ukulele.

He then started singing chants to us, which he explained were to encourage the spirit to enter us. We were to join in. I was slightly concerned as I’m not sure I want some strange spirit entering me, and the fact that  I was desperately trying to hold onto the laughter that was threatening to explode out of my big gob meant that my chanting was limited. So I don’t think I was spiritually violated. Phew.

Once the naughty spirit had penetrated everyone else, we started the bonding exercises. The first of which was to hug the stranger – I mean new-found-BFF – next to us for around 30 seconds.

I’m British. I don’t even hug my mother for that long.

After more warm ups involving invasion of my personal space, I felt not only violated, but concerned that I’d stumbled into a commune, and would be asked to contribute my financial assets, and take place in the compulsory orgy that evening.

Luckily (or disappointingly), my paranoid fantasies were not realised and we just did some yoga. It was a bit boring really.

Even so, I declined to be put on the mailing list. I’ve read about grooming.

Not sure I’m cut out for this

Well this really is overdue, isn’t it? Oops. I’ve just been so busy since I came to Indonesia. Seriously, I’m exhausted.

Lying on the beach (Bali, Gili Islands, right now…), doing meditative yoga (Ubud), and eating fresh seafood (everywhere) really takes it out of you.

Every few days I’ve had to have a massage just to rid myself of the tension that comes with being on the road.

Anyway, must dash. Someone just brought some fresh juice over to me. No rest for the wicked and all that.

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Bali, you’ve got a tough act to follow.

I’ve just arrived in Bali after spending 1 1/2 weeks in Sarawak. I literally had to force myself to leave, or I’d have left myself no time to explore Indonesia. There were still things I wanted to do and I felt so at home there it was hard to tear myself away.

Looking back, I realise I didn’t really know what to expect from Kuching (the city in Sarawak that I based myself in), so it would have been difficult to be disappointed. But in actual fact, it was better than I could have envisaged.

As well as trying a myriad of new things (kayaking, caving, jungle trekking, bee larvae), staying in Kuching has given me an insight into Sarawak culture that I’ve never had as a tourist before.
This is down to the guys at Singgahsana Lodge, where I stayed. When the brother and sister-in-law of one of the receptionists asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner on my first night, I was pretty sure it was out of pity, as I was sitting at the bar on my own like one of those sad old men you avoid in the pub. But then when they invited me to join them and a bunch of friends at Damai beach the following night, I relented and decided I didn’t care if it was pity driving their generosity.

And so, I was introduced into their group of friends, along with Leah, a German tour guide/intern who’d moved to Kuching a couple of weeks earlier.

Through my new Malaysian friends, I learnt things about Sarawak and Malaysia that I’d never have found out on my own.

Like the fact that, according to one government official, wearing v-neck tops indicates that a guy is gay. And if a girl hangs out with other girls a lot, she’s probably a lesbian.

Or that your rates for loans are determined by your ethnic group. (Seriously).

Politics aside, I also found out that they really like to eat innards. That they love to drink. And that a Chinese/Sarawak barbecue is possibly the greatest eating event you can attend. Seriously – they had sweet and sour chicken, pork belly and SUSHI – all home made – amongst the more conventional barbecue fare.

So Bali had better be pretty fucking amazing, or I’m going back.

The Singgahsana Gang

What did you do this weekend?

I saw some orang-utans, kayaked down the Sarawak river, went in some caves, swam in the Sarawak river, swam in the sea, prepped for tomorrow’s 5.5 hour hike up a mountain to live in a Bidayuh village.

If I knew how to write ‘In your face’ in Malay, I would. But I’m not quite up to that level yet.

Apologies for short post, off to dinner soon where I’m going to eat ostrich meat stuffed with mozzarella. YEAH.

Expect a more detailed post when I’m recovering from the harrowing hiking over the next few days.