The mini bus had no shocks. We both have sore butts. Nevertheless, we were in Bandung by noon (why the hell did we have to get up at 4:30 am, I'll never know!), and we've had the afternoon to look around and wrap up some postal stuff and E-mailing. This in itself was a chore. This is not a backpacker friendly place - just a big smelly place with 2 million people in the streets. Hotel is marginal - good it's only one night. It took us hours to find an internet place and only after asking around. Still, after everything we've heard about Jakarta, we're glad we chose not to go there and make this our exit point. The Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur is fairly cheap too! ;)
On the itinerary - we're starting to hum and haw a bit because we now know that Sandy and her friend Jayne will be coming to Thailand from the 8th of April to the 23rd or so and we're considering getting ourselves to India right away so we can be back in Bangkok to travel with them on the 8th for a couple of weeks across Thailand (Sandy and Jayne - is that OK with you, 'cause we haven't actually asked...). We we're originally planning to work up the peninsula ourselves and meet them at the end of their journey only, but we'll see. We're going to work on this once we get to KL. I had to buy a cheap "dummy" flight to satisfy the Malaysian outward ticket requirement, but in hindsight, I might have been able to use it to help us with this "new" potential plan. Oh well, a few bucks wasted I guess. It was only $70 CDN for the two of us. Almost like an entry fee... (Indonesia is $25 US)
This seems like a good summary point since we are moving on to another country. I just realized I haven't even said anything about the toilets! Well, as you might expect, most are squat, but I actually don't mind. In some ways it's cleaner, although I've adopted the "take everything off and hang it up first" approach to avoid any nasty mishaps due to the learning (leaning?) curve. Takes longer, but seems to work well. Kristine has had her moments. Like the time on the bus from Denpasar to Probolingo when the door swung open due to the bumpy roads, and she couldn't reach it to close it! There she was, smiling at the passengers, in the middle of the job so to speak. One of them helped her close the door, but admittedly she said, they took their time! Most of the squat toilets are fine (made of ceramic and everything) but some are pretty grungy. For sure a wash your hands thing afterwards.
In fact, hygiene is pretty important period. Things don't heal well or quickly in this humid and hot climate, so you have to take good car of bites, scrapes, etc and especially your feet. They are your No 1 mode of transportation after all. Foot powder is essential, as well as baby powder I am discovering =P.
Here are some random observations on Indonesia:
Most Interesting Jobs: 3 way tie between rock collector guy (takes small rocks from river beds and piles them on the side of the road in various sizes and sells to people who want to build stuff), parking back up man (carries a whistle which he blows profusely as you back up out of your parking spot into traffic; keeps traffic at bay, so you can get out and then charges a small fee to let you pass), and also on the road theme, pothole filler guy (who shovels dirt on a daily basis back into the potholes on the road and then stands beside them to be paid for , maintaining the roadway for you.
Most Tasty Food. Sate with Peanut Sauce. Amazingly authentic
Most Disappointing Observation: Garbage. Everywhere.
The other aspect of all this is the 90 day blues. We just passed three months on the road, and both of us have been feeling a little bit home sick - maybe me more than Kristine interestingly. I find myself daydreaming about picking up the Globe and Mail in a nearby coffee shop on a sunny brisk day in Vancouver, and sometimes I'm not sure if we can handle any more. I think maybe it's just Indonesia combined with the 90 day thing. Every book I read and person I talked to before we left said at 3 months, you'll feel a little homesick. The other part of the problem is that Bandung, our departure point for Indonesia, is well, how do I put this mildly - a disgusting cess pool of a garbage can place. I suppose that's all part of the gig eh?
We did have an interesting "last supper" in Indonesia where everyone ate with their hands (after washing them) and nothing on the menu was familiar to us. Nothing was in English and they didn't have the normal Indonesian fare as I believe this restaurant was Sundanese - different from the other parts of Java. It took longer to order than it did to eat! It was good and interesting though.
Walking the streets at night is a freak show, as is crossing them. Nothing stops, the crosswalks are meaningless, and you just have to put your hand out towards the ground and get going into the speeding traffic. Keeping your pace even, the motorbikes move around you like a fast river around a rock, and the cars actually do stop, if not only inches from your toes. We're reluctant to hold hands because of the Muslim culture, and yet we are side by side almost feeling like we might be alone. The streets here are pretty scary - things have really run down I think since the last political disruption, and consequently many of the places in the guide book just aren't there anymore. Makes for tough night time walking! It's probably not as scary as it looks though, but still not a great stop for backpackers, other than entry or exit.
Indonesia. A great experience, but I think we've had our fill.