Monday, April 28, 2008

Into Malaysia

Well, now that we know that Lott is exactly 5140km south of me... I have crossed into Malaysia this morning, which, among other thinga, also means that I've been able to find decent internet to post pictures with. But first, about this getting into Malaysia... I showed up in Pontianac, on the Southern, Indonesian, side of Borneo yesterday afternoon. After taking a detour to see the equator I was back in town getting ready to jump onto an overnight bus to Kuching, across the border in Malaysia. Incidentally, this was all set to be my 5th consecutive night of insufficient sleep:
1) get up at 4:00AM to see the sunrise at the Bromo Volcano;
2) take overnight bus to Yogyakarta
3) get up at 6AM to get a pre-cloudy view of the local volcano, Guang Merapi (this after being up till 1:30 drinking with Aine, an Irish girl staying at the same hotel as me, but I still got the better end of that deal as she had to be up 4:30 because she was going with an excessively early morning tour)
4) take overnight train to Jakarta to catch my flight to Pontianac

By now, I was definitely getting good at sleeping on trains and buses... My bus was supposed to depart at 9PM, I leisurely showed up around 8, 30 minutes before we promptly took off at 8:30, and spent the next hour driving around town picking up passengers. By the time we left, the bus was pretty full - I mostly slept until we hit the border at 4AM, but I was aware that we kept stopping and more people kept getting off than on. Around 4, we were at the border, and I would've happily kept sleeping, except that the driver decided to put some loud atrocius music on. This brought to my consciosness the fact that the bus was now only half full... At 5, the border opened (6 on the Malaysian side... apparently the two different parts of the island are in different time zones!) - the border crossing was in the finest of Central Asian land crossing traditions - slow and poorly organized. (At least the people here know what the concept of actually forming a line means!). After taking an accidental shortcut around about 45 minutes worth of the line when I asked one of the border control guys if he could deal with me, was told no, he apparently couldn't, but then was led right to the front of the line, I finally got back to the bus about an hour and a half later.

At this point there were six of us on the bus. Plus the driver and the ticket taker dude. Apparently the rest of the passengers only wanter to get to the border crossing point?

On the way across Malaysia now, we suddenly heard some bursting sounds coming from the back of the bus and saw sparks near the ceiling. The bus was stopped, we all spilled out, the driver looked at stuff in the back and talked excitedly in Indonesian (or Malaysian... yes, I'm still an ignorant tourist, I feel bad), put everything back together, and we drove off. Another 30 minutes passed and we pulled into a town of Serian, where I found that the problem had been deemed to be a flat tire, so we were at a repair station, installing the spare. I went off searching for food, which quickly turned into a search for an ATM, as it dawned on me that I only had Indonesian currency on me. By the time I got back, the repairs were all done, but that wasn't the odd part - the surprising thing was that the rest of the passengers had now left! Maybe they just didn't trust our bus, but I suspect Serian was where they were actually heading. So, for the last 40 minutes of the trip, I had the bus all to myself... which I found to be a little strange, but, by about 9AM, I was riding into Kuching, Malaysia in style, in my very own bus. And then, naturally, I immediately caught a taxi to the airport and got on an Air Asia plane to Kota Kinabalu, on the Eastern side of Borneo. The Sabah province (of which Kota Kinabalu is the capital) is famous for some amazing dive sites, and I intend to visit a few of them over the next few days. Speding a full night here, in my own bed! Well, in a dorm-room, since Malaysia is back to having hostels for cheap housing options (but they are actually cheap, unlike Australia/New Zealand), but I fully intend to get a proper night's sleep tonight!

And on that happy note, A few pictures from my seven days in Indonesia:

The beautiful sandy beaches of Bali... This is Padong Padong beach, where I stayed for two nights, met a bunch of people who were there just to surf for several weeks or months, and tried surfing myself, but failed miserably...

Guang Bromo, an active volcano on the island of Java. That's Bromo's smoking crator in the foreground, and neighboring Guang Batok in the back, which is a less active volcano. Guang is Indonesian for volcano btw

I did make it up to the Bromo rim in time to see the sunrise. And it looked pretty spectacular, with the sun coming up over the mountains and the gathering low clouds in the valley

The smoking crater emits lots of foul-smelling sulfurous gas. I really can't imagine the State of Washington would let anyone this close if St. Helens (or Rainier) was smoking this much!

Further into Java, the spectacularly huge and intricate Boroburdur Buddhist Temple. Built between the 8th and 10th centuries. Then lost until the middle of the 19th century. I just couldn't figure out how you can lose something this humangous!

Stuppas, stuppas, and even more stuppas at the top of Boroburdur

Candi Shiva Mahadeva, the central temple at the Hindu temple complex of Parambanan, dedicated to Shiva

Somewhat surprisingly, the primarily Hindu Parambanan complex also contains this Buddhist temple: Candi Sewu nearby. The two religions apparently got along quite well here in Java. Oh, and I was there too...

The afore mentioned, but not particularly good looking, Equator Monument (Katulistiwa) in Pontianac, Indonesia

Malaysia, by the way, is pretty nice so far. Culturally, it appears dramatically different from neighboring Indonesia - it seems much more closely related to China, as a matter of fact (of course the British did encourage the Chinese to move into Malay en masse when they controlled the place). It's also not quite on the insane Singapore levels of cleanliness, but it's certainly the cleanest country I've been to yet in SE Asia. Especially after seeing the dirty slums of Jakarta and the smelly, dust and trash covered roads and canals of Pontianac just yesterday.


dlott said...

You're making me feel bad for just bumming around Dunedin not go go going up the coast. On the flip side, at the pub last night with a Scot, a Czech, and yours truely, we came in third at quiz night. This despite not knowing anything about rugby, cricket, or NZ prime ministers! We also got a prize for getting exactly 63 points. So now we've got $120 in bar credit to use and I'll be sticking around for at least another day (Mt. Cook forecasts are also crap).

Alex said...

We came in third at a trivia quiz in Auckland too... and we were way out in the lead after the first round (countries/capitals), but then apparently the locals knew just as little about NZ and Easter trivia as Buster and I did, so the next two rounds didn't go so wel. Worse yet, only the first two places got prizes!

b mathew said...

Nice pics, didn't realise there were so many Stupa's in Malaysia? PS If you guys ever need me for music or film trivia...lemme know :P