Saturday, March 30, 2013

Paul's Country Review: Indonesia

When Christine and I were having some lemonade, sitting at a small beach front cafe, a man came up to us selling his paintings. This is how most of the people of Bali exist; selling bracelets, necklaces, sarongs and a variety of other things you don't need. This painter was very nice and nowhere near as persistent as every other hawker in Bali, so we had a look at some of his work. There was nothing special in the quality or skill of the work and he was quick to point out his shortcomings saying that 'I will get better with time'. I don't know what it was about him, but I liked him.

This isn't the guy but I like him too

While flipping through the paintings I came across one that I liked; a simple scene of rice paddies, the volcano in the background and the sun behind it. I handed the paintings over to Christine so she could have a look and we began making our "secret" gestures to each other (they are in no way as subtle as I think they are), which we do when deciding if we want to buy something. She points out the same one that I like, we agree on it and we (Christine) begin(s) negotiating. At this time, he says something that stuck with me the rest of our stay in Indonesia. While holding up the painting that Christine and I have chosen, he says that the painting looks really good from a distance, but isn't really that good when you look at it up close.

Gunung Batur from the side of the road

That simple sentence summed up our whole time in Indonesia. You could be driving down the road, come around a bend and come across a beautiful temple or a stunning series of rice paddies, climbing step by step, up the side of a mountain.

Naturally, you'll get out so you can capture this with your camera. Its a beautiful shot and you're blown away by the scenery. You bring your eyes a little closer to a lazy stream winding its way through the field and notice empty soda bottles, soda cans, food containers and other junk floating by. At your feet, you are standing in garbage.

This is Indonesia, or at least the parts that we saw, but I imagine it will be consistent across the islands. Bali's primary revenue generator is the tourist. Not tourism, that would suggest that there is some kind of plan or governing body that makes decisions for the good of future tourism. No, the tourist comes and Indonesians step over and undercut each other for your money. Some of the prices offered don't even cover the services rendered. In the process of selling they are destroying their land, not realizing that if things continue in this way, people will stop coming to Bali and their livelihood will disappear.

If you look at the boat on the beach, that's all garbage next to it

Indonesia is crowded, dirty, noisy, hot and humid and I love the place. Well, really like the place. It has its moments of beauty; its history and culture so extremely fascinating I can overlook most of the noise and trash. What broke my heart was watching this trash wash up on almost every beach we came across. It will be interesting to see what Bali will look like in 10 years, if there is a Bali.

Melaka, Malaysia

We took an early morning bus from Singapore to Malacca (Melaka), Malaysia on March 28. It was about a 4.5 hour bus ride with stops at the Singapore and Malaysia borders in a pretty comfortable luxury bus.

It cost the two of us 50SGD

Upon arriving at the bus station, we took a taxi to River Song Residence - our accommodations for one night. Although the room smelled like mothballs when we opened the door, the room and location of the place was very convenient - right along the Melaka River. After dropping our stuff off, we headed towards the must-see places (after a quick lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe).

Pretty flowers walking along Melaka River

You can see the Church of St. Francis Xavier in the background

River Song Residences was right along the Melaka River

Our first Hard Rock Cafe on the road

Malacca is a lovely town and the locals are all very friendly and helpful. There's a mall on every corner - which was nice to duck into for some air conditioning when our clothes were soaked from sweat. Yeah, it is that hot and humid here.

Markets and Christ Church Melaka

Colonial building window

Christ Church Melaka with fountain

Church of St. Francis Xavier

Streets of Melaka

Statue of St. Francis Xavier; Paul punched him so hard, his hand fell off
St. Paul's Church

Window of St. Paul's Church

From the inside of St. Paul's Church

We then wandered into the Flor d' Mar Museum - which is inside this pirate ship.

Ladies and gentlemen, we're in Melaka and what appears to be a pirate ship
Look at Paul's face as he winds up to punch Alfonso De Albuquerque

A'Famosa Fort (aka Porta De Santiago)

Come, join me in this fort that took us hours to find

I like the contrast of the white walls and Paul's (sweaty) purple shirt

Canon in front of A'Famosa Fort

The back of A'Famosa Fort

This is the only remaining part of the ancient fortress of Malacca built by Alfonso D'Albuquerque

St. Francis Xavier Church by Melaka River

River cruise

We also walked around Little India in Melaka

That evening, we did the Jonker Walk, which is basically walking down Jonker Street. It's too bad we weren't here on a Friday night because it's a lot more lively than what we saw. There are night markets that are open until Midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.

The beginning of Jonker Walk
Walking down Jonker these lanterns caught my eye

Cool art on doors
They don't want you to forget that you're doing the Jonker Walk

Friday, March 29, 2013


We arrived in Singapore on March 26. Had a lot of laundry and errands to run so it was a pretty quiet day.

One more stamp!

But on March 27, we ventured out and even took the easy to use MRT (subway).

Super clean subway station! 

Easy to understand arrows so riders getting on let people off first

What? No smelly homeless guy taking up a whole row? 

We first headed to Orchard Street and landed at the Ion Center - which is a gigantic mall. And good thing we did because it started pouring. We had shelter, AC and entertainment for a couple hours.

Entrance to the Ion Center and MRT

After the rain stopped, we headed to Sentosa (which you get to through another mall called Vivo). Sentosa is home to the Merlion. What is a Merlion you ask? Legend says that when Prince Sang Nila Utama first landed on the island, he saw a lion. Taking it as a good omen, the prince named the city Singapura - Lion (Singa) City (Pura). The fishtail of the Merlion symbolizes Singapore's humble beginnings as a fishing village.

Yes! We got a picture with the infamous Merlion!

Baby Merlion

Being harassed by Paul

We then took a cable car to Mount Faber, the highest natural point in Singapore for some great views of the city.

Taking the cable car

View of Singapore from the cable car (going up)

View from Faber Bistro

When two people come together to ring the Bell of Happiness, it signifies an ever blossoming romance, while the echoes that follow are blessings to the couple for everlasting happiness.

Bell of Happiness

We're already very happy and feel so blessed but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ring the bell!

View of the harbour (going down the cable car) - see all the cargo ships?

After dinner, we walked around Little India.

Lots of shops in Little India

Busy street in Little India