Monthly Archives: August 2013

Travel Insurance and Per-Unit Costs

A couple of weeks ago, my travel insurance (with World Nomads) ran out, and so I decided to renew my insurance, using per-unit costs to find the cheapest and most cost-effective plan.

Using per-unit costs when comparing products – be it canned fruit, bags of pasta, or travel insurance, will save you money.  If you don’t compare products with per-unit costs, you will waste money that could be put towards a more enjoyable trip or vacation!

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Interlude: Senggigi and the Expertise Assumption

After I had gotten sick of Gili Trawangan, I hopped on a local boat heading to the Lombok mainland, where I stayed for a night at Senggigi. Like all forms of local transportation, the local boat was overcrowded – 50-some people on a boat built for 30:
Senggigi - boat from Gili

Senggigi itself was quite boring – lots of tourist-filled resorts, decent beaches, but not much else. But that was okay, I mostly just needed to get away from the insufferable crowds of Gili Trawangan.
Senggigi - beach 1

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Travelogue: Gili Trawangan

My next destination was then Gili Trawangan, the largest and partiest of the Gili Islands, and a inevitable destination on the backpacker circuit in Indonesia. Thirty years ago it was a newly discovered gem, surrounded by with amazing beaches, scuba diving, snorkeling, and sunsets:
Gili Trawangan - beach 2

Nowadays, however, it is a major tourist destination and known as a “party” island among backpackers. And like the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia, the entire island was strictly for tourists.  There was no local industry. Don’t get me wrong, the place was absolutely gorgeous – especially since there were cars or motorcycles on the entire island – but it was just filled to the brim with tourists.
Gili Trawangan - empty road

(Photo taken early morning, while everyone else was still passed out drunk)

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Travelogue: Padang Bai

After finishing up Kuta and Ubud, I spent two days in Padang Bai, a smallish town on Bali’s east coast, primarily known for being a pit stop before boarding a boat to the Gili islands. And so, every two meters, you would see a shop selling boat tickets. Other than that, I found the town quite charming – there were almost no long term tourists, mostly locals and a few travelers stopping over before heading off to the Gili Islands.
Padang Bai - beach 2

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Travel Stories: Climbing Mount Batur

During my stay in Ubud, I ventured on a sunrise hike of Mount Batur, an active volcano! Practically speaking, this meant waking up and leaving the hotel at 2AM, taking an hour-long drive to Mount Batur, climbing for two hours in the almost pitch black darkness (with torches, thankfully), before watching the sun rise at 6AM. It was freezing cold at the summit, it messed up my sleep schedule, and I questioned my sanity all throughout the climb, but it was worth it:
Mount Batur - sunrise scenery 1 Mount Batur - group photo 2

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Interlude: the Four Types of Travelers

There are four different types of travelers:

First, you have the tourists.
– Tourists aren’t *real* travelers.
– Tourists travel for two weeks of time and and yet bring a roller suitcase holding three weeks worth of clothing.
– The tourist travels with his family of four, including small children.
– The tourist is ephemeral, only staying in each town for a couple of days.
– The tourist spends his time going on whirlwind tour of local attractions recommended by the guidebook.
– The tourist stays at a western resort, mostly eats westernized food at the resort restaurant, and never experiences the local flavor.
– the tourist buys lots of souvenirs – at hugely inflated prices.

Second, you have the wide-eyed backpacker:
– Typically in his or her late teens or early twenties, this traveler is in his gap year, is traveling for a summer, or has just completed school.
– The wide-eyed backpacker has a copy of the Lonely Planet guidebook.
– The wide-eyed backpacker travels with three goals: partying, getting drunk, and getting laid.
– The wide-eyed backpacker has no money, and so will always go for the cheapest option for everything – food, accommodation, and transport.
– The wide-eyed backpacker has all new gear, but no clue on how to travel, how to deal with local customs, or how to avoid getting scammed.
– Once the wide-eyed backpacker gets enough experience, he or she often graduates to become the next type of traveler.

Third, you have the seasoned backpacker:
– The seasoned backpacker is more mature, having a couple countries under his belt, and is traveling to see and experience the world.
– The seasoned traveler knows the ropes for traveling, knows how to avoid scams, and often speaks a bit of the local language.
– The seasoned traveler has the best stories.
– The seasoned traveler is comfortable both on and off the beaten track, both in big tourist destinations and villages with nary a foreigner in sight.
– The seasoned traveler is at the pinnacle of travel, but some devolve into the fourth type of traveler.

Finally, you have the jaded traveler:
– The jaded traveler is in his mid 40s and 50s, and has been traveling for way too long, often becoming an expat.
– The jaded traveler knows about cultural differences, but doesn’t care anymore.
– The jaded traveler has almost relapsed into pursuing the wide-eyed backpacker’s goals of getting laid and getting drunk, and will often start drinking by 10 AM.
– If engaged in conversation, the jaded traveler will always be angry (usually at the host country and its customs).

Bonus: the Asian tourist:
– The Asian tourist is the second cousin to the standard tourist.
– The Asian tourist always travels in a tour group, with people from his own country.
– The Asian tourist always travels by bus with his tour group, visiting tourist attraction after tourist attraction in a breakneck speed.
– The Asian tourist always takes photos, always takes pictures of himself with the tourist destination, and almost always has a DSLR camera.
– The Asian tourist always eats at a restaurant serving his home country’s food.

Which of the four types of travelers are you?

Interlude: Rice Terraces of Bali

Indonesia is known for its rice paddies, and the rice terraces of Bali are especially famous. It’s really cool, how the Balinese people have taken a hillside, transformed it into a series of flat rice paddies, and then built a massive irrigation system to keep it all watered. The irrigation system of the terraced rice paddies are noteworthy enough to have been designated a UNESCO world heritage area!
rice terraces of Bali - scenery 7

There aren’t really any stories to tell about visiting the rice paddies (other than my two Swiss compatriots constantly telling dirty jokes), so enjoy these photos of the rice terraces of Bali!

This is a photo-filled and text-light post.

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Travelogue: Traveling around Bali

While staying in Ubud, I hired a car and driver, and spent some time traveling around Bali, all for $35 per day including gas. Split with my two Swiss friends, that’s about $12 per day to be driven around to wherever you want to go, much cheaper than taking a pre-arranged bus tour.
Traveling around Bali - group photo 4

Our driver was great fun too – his full-time job was actually managing an IT / electronics shop, but his brother (who managed our homestay in Ubud) roped him into coming to give us a tour and traveling around Bali. Surprisingly, it was the first time he had toured Bali, so he had a whole ton of fun.
Traveling around Bali - pointing statue

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Travelogue: Ubud, Bali

After entirely too much surfing in Kuta, I took a break to Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali. Whereas Kuta is filled to the brim with surfers and drunk Australians, this city is a more laid-back destination, with lots of European tourists.
Ubud - lily pond

As a result of Eat, Pray, Love book and movie (where the heroine comes to Ubud to practice Yoga and find love), this city is also filled with 30-some women fleeing from a midlife crisis and trying to find meaning in their life. I had the pleasure of chatting with one Californian gal who boasted of practicing Yoga with the very same Yoga instructor mentioned in the book, and I got the impression she had a really bad case of midlife crisis. I wonder though, was my own trip also inspired by a midlife crisis of sorts?
Ubud - portrait in sarong with temple

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Reflection: Expanding Horizons by Traveling

It’s a well worn cliche, how traveling is great at expanding horizons, but I’m realizing just now how true it is.

It’s that scene from Good Will Hunting, where the professor feels at peace after realizing that even though Will has his genius and book knowledge, he has no real experience. As a graduate of one of America’s top universities, you think you’re one of the intellectual elite. Working in finance, you think you’re on top of the world. Safe within your shell, surrounded by like minded people, it’s hard to not feel like you’re on a great path in life, hard to resist feeling superior to all the other plebs.

But when you’re traveling as a backpacker, you meet people from all walks of life, each with their own story, their own hopes, their own skills. And you realize, there’s no metric you can possibly use to compare lives; people are going about their lives in a way completely alien to your pre-journey self.

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