Day 1. My server broke the Apache connection into net, possibly due to a Windows XP hot-fix that the online Windows Update wanted to install. Despite last minute attempts, I had to leave unhappy, knowing that the server is offline and e.g. the FTP services (or this blog) do not work. The last two weeks had been a steady increase in efforts to get everything done in time, and now the last twenty minutes sort of spoiled everything. Bus trip to a Helsinki airport hotel was bleak.
Day 2. Early breakfast in the hotel, then into the Frankfurt plane. Tired, really tired. Clearly, I need this holiday. All winter has been spent multitasking, high-intensity, with research, teaching, DiGRA matters and various administrative staff thrown on top of everything. The Finnair flight was ok, even if I was not so into the omelette. Next, the almost-inhumanely long haul into Kuala Lumpur. At least the menu in this 777 looks promising.
Wow. That was a long one. After almost 17 hours of travel, early morning in Malaysia looks dark but hospitable. The KL Airport was very new, clean and apparently well organised. The familiar feelings of jetlag are also hitting in. Everything takes twice the normal time and effort, head feels dizzy. Next to the KL city centre with this (also new, and quite empty) Express train.
Day 3. The boundary between days became quite blurred; arriving to hotel early, around 8 am local time, we got right to bed and slept c. two hours. It was finally very hard to get up and go out to explore city. Jetlags are darned things. The day itself ended up being an interesting, even if a bit superficial overview of the central parts of Kuala Lumpur. The city projected a rather pleasant, even if not particularly personal image of a modern Asian metropolis: clean and imposing, friendly and dominated by Western brand names. The older Chinatown was different, of course, but even those pirate market splendours were of a rather moderate and friendly version, if compared to the bazaars of Cairo, for example.
Very late night now. Arranging the connection flights and accommodation for the continuation of this trip took some energy, but at least we managed to have a quick dinner with Ilari, Laura’s brother who is currently as an exchange student in a Penang university.
Day 4. Spent this day going around Kuala Lumpur, fixing the trip & hotel details, looking around. The tropical butterfly park was real spectacle for an old lepidopterologist. This was also the Valentines day; we had a bubbly bottle of our own (and some sushi) in the hotel room.
Day 5. Early morning the check-out and then via train system into the Air Asia morning flight into Bali. Not exactly on the schedule, but it worked fine. After some deliberation, we took a taxi into the Sanur village, which is popular among tourists. Beautiful, fresh flowers everywhere. This is south of the Equator, and it is even hotter than in Malaysia. Almost killed ourselves by simply walking around the block. The beach was not exactly up to the expectations, so we decided quickly to move on. (Long stretch of very low water growing seaweeds, hiding many spiky sea-urchins.) The dinner on the sand, under the stars, close to the billowing sea was a beautiful experience, though.
Day 6. Night was a bit restless, and wake-up a bit too early. But we wanted to have a ride into a holiday resort in Nusa Lembongan. The island is very beautiful, and our bungalow fine, even if the whole deal was a perhaps a bit pricy. But we did not know a better way to get here, so we took the package deal and were given a lunch and some “holiday action”, after a motor yacht took us over the Badung Straight from Bali. The “Coconuts Beach Resort” has a very beautiful view, but you cannot go straight into the water as we were promised in our previous hotel. The high temperature, combined with the hundreds of steps of stairs really consumes energy. Surrounded by coconut palms, white beaches and coral reefs, we spent the first day mostly by lying on the bed, snoozing and recovering. Its a bit too hot now. The view was great in the dinner: there was a far-away storm with never-ending lightning somewhere beyond the sacred Mount Agung in Bali.
Day 7. After spending the night by trying religiously avoid mosquitoes (hundreds of people die in Dengu fever in Indonesia every year), we were not as well-relaxed in the morning as we would, but the day is looking again fine.
Later. Morning was spent snorkelling at the sea, and even if seaweed and dust in water were blocking some of the visibility, we spotted dozens of coral fish species. The anemone fish were particularly big and noticeable. Back, it appeared that our air conditioning was broken down for good. We relocated in the hut closest to the pool, which seemed a good idea thinking about my knees and how it felt climbing all those stairs in over 30 degrees temperatures. The adventure of the evening consisted of walking around most of the Lembongan island. We saw some of the village life, with schools, shrines, houses, temples, and some rather poor but happy-looking people. The main source of income here comes from seaweed farming (weed is sold to cosmetics industry for its properties), but farming and fishing are also done. The tourism industry is probably most at the hands of Balinese, who have both boats, hotels, car transportations and island resorts all linked together. The walk took almost two hours, and even if it was close to sunset, it was a bit too exhausting. Sore feet and dehydration. Went to sleep early.
Day 8. Relocating again today. Our feet were too sore to do anything, so we just went back to the beach we had visited earlier to take some colourful (and poisonous?)spider photos. Then relaxing, checking out the resort and getting into a sailing boat (a smaller one this time) that took us back to Bali.
Day 9. Looking for something nice for our last night in Bali, we ended up into the Nusa Dua Spa and Hotel, which supposedly carries five stars as a proof of luxury. The Raja Restauran was actually the best we had visited on this holiday, but it was also the most expensive. After dinner we went to see some traditional Balinese dances (Legong) in the hotel. Nice, but a hotel ballroom is hardly the most authentic environment. After a restless night the breakfast was good, and we were a bit surprised to find it included in our room (we’d got an economy price from an Internet service to start with). This day we tried to get snorkelling, but there was a real infestation of medusas in the sea. To get to the reef (c. two hundred meters away) would have demanded paying to the boat-keepers at the shore, and we decided not to. Looking at the wild life of a local squirrel instead.
Day 10. This day, we did some shopping in the Nusa Dua village area (bought couple of sarongs and sash). Otherwise there was not so much to do; even all the temples seem to be closed. Taxi to the airport, and a (very well-cooled) flight with Air Asia back to Kuala Lumpur. Late dinner was hard to find.
Day 11. Early start from Corus Hotel. This time our carrier was Beryaya Air. There was only a couple of other passengers in the whole Subang airport. This is clearly off-season; the temperature is too high, and there is constant humidity that will fix your shirt into skin. On the other hand you can get good deals, like we did next in the Bangkor Island Beach Resort. This was previously known as the “Pan Pacific” one, and proved much nicer than the alternatives we saw. First day was spent in the sea, swimming & snorkelling, and looking around the area. Breakfast & dinners are included in our package deal.
Day 12. Second day in Pulau Pangkor. A boat trip, with more snorkelling (getting clearly too relaxed to write these notes..
Day 13. Attempt to walk into the jungle path (too hot). Had a motorbike instead, and drove around the island. Handling the gears of that moped was a bit tricky. Small villages, one of them bit more town-like. There are not so many historical or cultural landmarks in Pangkor. Not much to divert you from laying around at the sun!
Day 14. In the morning, we finally got into the jungle, having got a tip of a good path from a local. These dense, hot and humid forests a certainly an experience. Even if we did not see any wild animals, we saw some tracks, on the path and near a waterhole. More resting.
Day 15. Enough of this laziness. Checked-out from our resort hotel and took a ferry into Lumut, which is a small harbour town. Then with an express bus back into Kuala Lumpur. Last night was spent shopping in the Kinokuniya bookshop, then into bed.
Day 16. This was a very long day. The Malesian Airlines flight was delayed for more than two hours to start with – and no explanation was offered to the passengers. After more than 15 hours in the plane, we were juggled around in London Heathrow and ended missing our connection flight home. We were given some bus and hotel vouchers and sent into freezing London night, without luggage, without money, in our summer clothing, to find our way into a place to spend our night in. Supposedly there is good explanation behind all this mess, but as we heard that also Laura’s parents were similarly delayed as they were flying back with the Malesian, I cannot but advise to avoid the company by all cost. At least I won’t fly it ever again, if I can avoid it. Radisson Edwardian hotel is quite comfortable, though.
Day 17. We should have been home long time ago… Up in a London airport hotel around 4 or 5 am, some sausage & eggs style breakfast, and then back into Heathrow to fight our Quixotic battle against the airport chaos. We had the whole show: delays, missed connections, mysterious double bookings in the system, no bookings in the system, fix of the previous fix in the system that got wrong, missing luggage, incompatible luggage system codes (resulting into complete incapability to track the aforementioned piece of luggage), and so on and so forth. Makes your jet-lagged brain to have that special spin. I just wish this holiday to be over, at this point.
Later, in the Helsinki plane, somewhere over Holland, I wonder how to summarise this trip. I have been reading “Guns, Germs, and Steel” (by Jared Diamond) that I bought from Kuala Lumpur during this return flight, and that seems to capture one dimension: how the seemingly far-away and exotic cultures and places come together as parts of some kind of global vision. South-East Asia is not so far away from Finland, the cultures of the East continue to dazzle with their richness, multidimensionality (and shabby, smelly street-level realities), but our human destinies are shared and intertwined. Circulating the globe, you start to feel more responsible for it, as an integrated whole. 10 000 years of human history seem suddenly a short flash, the Recent Era, as geologists say.
Evening. Home at last. 1400 unread messages in the inbox, unpaid bills, mountain of newspapers beneath the door, the usual chores. Travel is a strange thing.