Sorry for the long delay, however, you could only imagine how busy I have been seeing the sites, shopping, diving, eating the Balinese food and doing a little partying too. Not to mention the internet connection speed is slow and power can be sketchy.
Well, let's get to it.
Saturday - Sunday: 2.5 hours to Houston, 8.5 to Honolulu, 7.25 to Guam, 5.25 to Bali. Holy crap....I think my brain was mush. We arrived around 9 pm and I think it was Sunday, but I am still not sure. I did find out it was a full 12 hours ahead of home. Yes, I did travel exactly 1/2 the way around the globe. At least my villa was killer compared to the rest of the gang. I was right by the ocean, scored a solo room with a king size bed, an outdoor shower, and AC. More than I could ever ask for! Oh, and in the rush at Guam, our fearless leader, Mike, was detained because he didn't have an open page in his passport that said Visa. Unfortunately, he had to fly to Manila that night to locate the closest US Embassy and then transfer through Hong Kong to Bali. We finally saw him 2 days later!!
Monday: 7 am breakfast and yes I am something wrapped in a banana palm leaf. 8:30 am tour that was suppose to be only 5 hours.....and begin.....Exchange $$ to Rupiah (9000 to $1), see a traditional Barong Dance, travel by bus to Ubud to the Monkey Forest and then shop on Monkey Forest Road. Full out bartering and super deals. I didn't see anything (even silk) over $50 and you start at 40% when making an offer. I could do so much damage here it's not even funny. Take a look around your house and find out how many items are from Indonesia, then take the price at 75%. Then you'll understand where I am at. After this, we had a very good lunch over looking a rice patty. In the early afternoon (way past our estimated 5 hour tour), we hit an off the road wood carving family. We visited their temple (mostly Hindu in Bali) and then bartered some more for killer wood crafts. I bought 1 sandalwood Buddha and 1 Hibiscus laughing Buddha! Finally, when we were all too tired to stand, our tour guide took us to a child labor silver crafter. Thankfully, I didn't have any desire to buy anything and it was a little too overpriced anyway.
Tuesday: 5:30 am swim, breakfast and off to a bar to see the Indians play. Our hotel was in Kuta Beach about 1 - 2 miles from the Bali Bombings. Everyone is very, very nice and thankfully there are few street vendors. 6 of us decided it was 5 pm somewhere and bar crawled through the rest of the game! Great fun! Then I got a $17 hot rock massage, relaxed, and went to dinner at a lovely Italian place. 1 liter Bintang beer and an 8 piece pizza was $7. Nice! Off to the hotel bar, late night swim and beer, and bed.
Wednesday: 5:30 am beach run (tide in a night and out in the AM), swim, breakfast and off to Ubud for some serious shopping. In 2 hours I believe I finished Christmas shopping and I'm only down $150. And the extra suitcase better stretch....yikes! Since we are traveling with a guy who use to export goods from Bali, we had an expert local. He took us to Cafe Wayan (Cafe 1) where we sat on the floor for lunch and ate the most flavorful food. Stuffed to the gills, my bill was $120,000 R = $12. On our van ride back to our hotel, we took pictures along the way of wild cows, a gas station, and stopped at a market to buy Ramadans (hairy red fruit). For dinner it was Thai and Bintangs.
Thursday: 6 am swim, breakfast and once again back to the airport. Garunda Indonesia = 2 checked bags not over 66 kg and 1 carry on not more than 15 kg. Let's just say I wore something 'girly' and smiled A LOT. I did have to pay $20 US for the heavy dive bag but got away with murder on the carry on. Our plane was a Boeing, but it looked like the wings had touched the runway a few times in the past. Whew! 1 transfer later and we made it to Manado, North Sulawesi by 1 pm. Back on a bus and into the jungle. After 1 hour, we arrived at Kima Bajo.......AMAZING place. We are on the side of a volcano, 8 degrees from the equator, and we are on the ocean.
Friday: 5:30 am swim, breakfast, diving...hmmm.....liking this so far..... 45 minutes on a skiff north to the equator. Mandolin Wall = macro life galore, jacks, triggers, nudibranchs of all colors, leaf fish, pipe fish, puffers, etc. All the sand is black as night from the volcanos and the viz is around 60 feet. During our surface interval, we visited Banaken Island, which is the National Park/Islands in this area. Completely 3rd world. The locals were selling t-shirts 3/$100,000 or about $10. I even had to stand in 2 family photos (camera phones only) - white girl in a flower bikini and braids. Not a site to see in this part of the world everyday! How flattering! Our second dive we were also on a wall. 1 turtle the size of a dining room table, 2 smaller turtles swimming, nudibranch, 2 eels, sea stars, crabs the size of a dime, banded shrimp, pipe fish, parrots, file fish, and a whole bunch of stuff that I can't identify! Less current the dive 1 and this one was called Lekuan I. Another 84 degrees of paradise.
Right now, I'm off t0 dinner. I hope the darn Indians get their act together! We are off to the Aggressor tomorrow afternoon and won't be connected to any outside news for 1 full week.
Enjoy and miss you all (I think I do anyway!)