Monday, October 27, 2008



Destination: Bangkok, Thailand

Number of Days there: 4

One thing unexpected: We didn't like it nearly as much as last time...

Times we took the: Bus: 2 Train/Subway: 1 Taxi/Car: 2

Estimated KM walked: 7km

Where we stayed: New Siam Hotel II - 840 Baht/US $22 Somewhat of a chain, with New Siam I, Riverside, and III all occupying most of a city block II was right in the middle both in price and style. Air-con, a small pool, hot water, and decent beds it represents a good value.

Favorite Restaurant: The street vendor specializing in pad thai near Lumphini Park (an absolute steal at 35 baht - $1 with all the trimmings!)

Best of: The very well trodden Emerald Buddha/Grand Palace/Reclining Buddha circuit, Lumphini Park, The sheer abundance of food stalls everywhere - you never go hungry with staples like Pad Thai, fresh curries, and Tracy's personal favorite - Mango Sticky Rice.

Worst of: Cabbies who refuse to use the meter ("Broken" or "I give you better price", sure pal), the temporary political turmoil going on puts a general damper on the spirit of things

Back to where the thought of this trip first originated, we landed in the brand new airport in Bangkok and made our way down to Khou San Road, the heart of the backpacker area. We were excited at first to be back here having such fond memories of all the "Thousand Smiles" that we encountered just over two years ago. Well, a lot has changed in those two years - the Prime Minister, Taskin at the time, was not only removed from power by a bloodless military coup, but at the time of writing this had just been sentenced to two years in prison for a land fraud scheme with his wife. While he is no longer in power himself, his party is still quite "in control" of parliament and there are demonstrations frequently by opposition.

While the political turmoil did not effect us directly, you could tell that it has set the city of 12 million on edge. Just walking the streets and particularly in cabs or one on one situations, you could feel it in the air. Despite how they felt about the situation, the environment it had created left a certain uneasiness and thus they in turn were not as friendly and outgoing as on our last visit. At no time in point however, did we feel our lives in danger or threatened. For all the troubles going on around us, other than the not-so-friendly atmosphere and the usual hassle or two from tuk-tuks and cabbies, Bangkok was still Bangkok. A beautiful old city sitting on the river with majestic Wats (Temples) and the Grand Palace surrounded by the sprawl you would encounter in any major city in the world.

We decided to spend the first day figuring out how to vote abroad. We both had thought about how we were going to vote while traveling and felt that Bangkok would be the best spot in SEA (South East Asia) to do this given the huge number of ex-pats living here. After a short cab ride over to the American Embassy, we arrived right at lunch time so decided to take a stroll around the lovely Lumphini Park and grab some lunch ourselves. The food stalls lining the park on the north side had the best food stalls we have encountered so far....and cheap! Pad Thai for $1, oh about heaven on earth! Heading back to the embassy and passing though, as you would expect, tight security we did our patriotic duty and voted with surprisingly little trouble. They even mailed our ballot directly to the county magistrate for free (thanks to Fed-ex for making that possible!) Tracy even helped another man spell "Barack Obama/Joe Biden (for the record, he asked us how to spell it, not how to spell McCain/Palin) on his write in ballot. He also asked her if she knew was running for the Senate in Florida...a very informed voter indeed, but hey, at least he put a vote in the right direction in a hotly contested state. To read more about our feelings on this year's election, read our next posting on voting.

Feeling all patriotic, we left the embassy and took a stroll down Sukhamvit road. Home to most of the upscale hotels and shopping malls, Sukhamvit had its fair share of places to duck in for a little air-conditioned relief from the heat (you would think after 3 months of being in the tropics we would be used to it by now, but hot is still hot!). Later that night we met up with another couple from the US, Wandering Shawn and Wandering Dawn, as well as an ex-pat living in Bangkok, Nomadic Matt for a few drinks and story swapping.

The next day, we got up and hit the tourist circuit again, revisiting the Grand Palace, Wat Praw Keow (home of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Po (home of the reclining buddha). Still as impressive as last time, the ornate decorations and shimmering Wats are still a sight to behold, not to mention overrun by every tour group imaginable. Touring in the heat can take its toll so we took the rest of the evening easy by relaxing by the pool at our hotel.

Chatuchak Market is reportedly one of the largest markets in the world, if not the largest. What started out as a small flea market, has moved three times as it has expanded over the years to its present day size. Tucked into small booths and stalls, thousands (literally) of vendors sell anything from furniture, to old books, to clothes, to, of course, countless souvenir buying opportunities. After taking a "free" tour of the old city again courtesy of the city bus (who knew the same bus had a different route going one way than it did going the other??) we spent the afternoon planning our future route and sitting by the pool.

After catching up on some e-mails, and doing some more planning, we got our train tickets for the night train to Ubon Ratachani in route to our next destination - Champasak, Laos.

To see more pictures of Bangkok please click here!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another quick stop in KK

Our flight to KL/Bangkok was leaving out of KK so after waving goodbye to the turtles and sharks, we hopped on a night bus from Semporna (75 RM - $25 US). The bus was touted as a VIP bus which normally means frigid AC and business class seats. It was the end of Hari Raya and the place was packed, they had 5 buses heading to KK instead of their usual 1. We quickly determined that since we were one of the last to buy our tickets, our bus was easily the worst of the bunch. Hint to other travelers...the onboard bathrooms are NOT a convenience. They are a smelly blight on the world of bus travel. I haven't yet managed to step into one and I hope I never have to...
We arrived later in the morning than expected and took a taxi into town and stopped to pick up a few last minute items at the market before high tailing it to the post office to take advantage of Malaysia's cheap shipping rates! We shipped home 10 KG for about $35...not so bad. Now lets just hope it arrives, it will only be 2-3 months :-) That night we gulped down our very last mee goreng (fried noodle), said goodbye to Malaysia and prepared for our morning flight to Bangkok!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Muck Diving in Mabul

Dive Company: Scuba Junkies
Total Dives: 7
Dive Locations:
Artificial Reef - Depth 19.8 meters for 63 minutes
Froggy's Lair - Depth 16.2 meters for 47 minutes & 15.2 meters for 61 minutes
SeaVentures - Depth 16.8 meters for 57 minutes & 17 meters for 50 minutes
SWV - Depth 21.5 meters for 61 minutes
Eel Garden - Depth 14.9 meters for 46 minutes

Mabul is the muck diving capital of Borneo and it's called muck diving because the visibility is often poor. There are a number of beautiful natural reefs that are home to often seen creatures but the beauty of Mabul lies in the artificial reefs that are home to creatures rarely seen elsewhere such as frogfish, crocodile fish, ghost pipefish & scorpion fish. The variety is endlessly fascinating!

Here are some of our favorite photos from Mabul:

Yes, in case any of you are wondering that IS a toilet in the middle of the ocean. There are surprises everywhere down there.

To see more photos of Mabul please click here!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sibuan, aka the Sunburn Island

Dive company: Scuba Junkies
Number of Dives: 3
Dive Sites:
Froggy's Lair - Depth 28.9 meters for 60 minutes
Left Shoulder - Depth 22.2 meters for 55 minutes
Mandarin Bay - Depth 14.3 meters for 54 minutes

Here are some of our favorite pictures from Sibuan.

To see more photos of Sibuan please click here!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Dive Operator: Scuba Junkies
Number of Dives: 2
Dive Sites:
House Reef & Mid-Reef

Kapalai was once one of the top 10 dive destinations in the world. A resort was built on top of the reef and caused irreparable damage to the reef so much of the coral and life has been destroyed. There are still a few interesting things to see but it's not the same as what it once was.

To see more pictures from Kapalai click here!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Turtles & sharks oh my...diving Sipadan!

Dive Location: Sipadan
Number of Dives: 6
Dive Sites: 5

In a word Sipadan is fantastic. It's so beautiful that it's one of those places that it's almost impossible to believe actually exists. Diving in Sipadan is a sensory overload, on one side you see a graceful turtle swimming through the water and then you hear a ting in the water and see your dive master pointing at a school of thousands of Barracuda. Through the school of Barracuda you may also see a white tipped shark. There were so many during our six dives that it was impossible to even count the number of turtles and sharks! That's great diving! Our one piece of advice is to book Sipadan ahead because it's a national park and they limit the number of dive permits to only 120 per day. We dived for six days and we were only able to secure permits for two of those. IThe diving around Sipadan is also world class, particularly Mabul, so it's definitely worth sticking around to dive the other islands.

To see some of our favorite pictures from Sipadan please see below!

To see more pictures from Sipadan please click here!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Uncle Tan's Jungle Resort: The Hilton it ain't


Destination: Uncle Tan's (a camp along the Kinabatangan River)

Number of Days there: 3
One thing unexpected:
Estimated KM walked: About 5kms
Where we stayed: There's only one option - a hut in the middle of the jungle with three mildew filled "mattresses" protected by a wire cage to keep the monkeys out

What we liked: All the animals and the nice river cruises. Spotting the Sun Bear on the way out.

What we disliked: Disclaimer: They warn you ahead of time that the accommodations are basic, it still does not mean we have to like it :-). No one takes a shower for the 3day/2night visit. If you choose to shower it's a cold bucket of muddy river water with a scoop on the walkway in front of the "toilets" with no privacy. The toilets are of the squat variety but hey, it was much better than the longhouse! The room was literally a wooden building with a piece of foam on the ground for a mattress and smelled of, well, mildew and people not taking showers for 3 days :-)

After resting our weary muscles for only one night (mistake #1) we got up and went to flag down the bus on the side of the road outside of our hotel. We had asked the hotel before we climbed the mountain to book us a bus ticket and they kept saying don't worry about it, you can just flag it down without a ticket. Considering they live here and we don't, we trusted them (mistake #2). After waiting on the side of the road for over an hour and watching about a dozen buses whiz by waving there hands motioning to us "we're full", one of the ladies from the hotel came out and said, "oh, you still here?" We explained that all the buses were full so far to her so she went in to check. Sure enough, all the buses were full for the rest of the day due to Hari Raya. "Hold on, I make sign for you to help" she says after giving us the bad news about the bus situation. She returned a few minutes later with a piece of paper that read "S'kan" (short for Sandakan, the next town past Uncle Tan's) and showed us the proper way to hitchhike our way there. We asked if hitchhiking was considered safe and she reassured us that it was saying "it's a school holiday so many families will be going to S'kan". We looked at her skeptically and tried to convey our discomfort with this situation but determined to get to Uncle Tan's on time we held out the sign reluctantly. We figured Tracy had a better chance given the number of honks and yells from the numerous truck drivers plying the road over the course of the past hour and a half. After 10 minutes without any luck, the same lady from the hotel came out and told us that "her friend" was heading that way and that he would take us! Her friend ended up being someone else staying at the hotel that was going home and had room in his car for us. Either way, we were saved from the unknown and after a bumpy four hour ride in a new and nicely air conditioned vehicle with a very friendly man from Sandakan as well as a few of his co-workers (thank you Nicholas!) we arrived at Uncle Tan's base just in time.

From the base you travel another 2 hours in a van to where you board the boat to go to camp. Along the way, you pass row after row of Palm plantations. It's sad to think that all that land used to be rainforest and the clearing continues to this day, even government sponsored in some cases. Recently, fortunately, there has been some resistance and there are plans in place to start increasing the size of wildlife refuges. They might be the ones ripping up the rainforest, but it's the world's demand for the products that really fuel this activity. The same thing is happening in Brazil as well where they are ripping up rainforest to plant soybeans.

It takes another hour and a half by boat to get to camp and then a half a km walk from the river to camp. Along the way we passed a troop of proboscis monkeys, macaques (cheeky monkeys), several Hornbill's, an eagle and one couple saw wild orangutans! The 3D/2N program consists of three river cruises and two jungle treks broken up by resting, eating & viewing wildlife from the lodge in the middle of the jungle (there was PLENTY of it). The cost of the whole tour was 320 RM (just over $100 US so all in all a pretty good price). The first activity was the night river safari where we saw a small crocodile, a pit viper snake (how did they even see that in the dark!?!) some more monkeys and a really cool Kingfisher bird.

Wake up call is at 6:00am for another river cruise where we saw more of the same wildlife as before and back in camp, the cheeky monkeys arrived. They apparently know when the feeding times are and if you don't guard your food, they WILL take it. All the same, monkeys are monkeys and still out of the ordinary how bad they can be. After breakfast, we took a mosquito filled jungle trek where the guide talked mostly about the trees and history of the park. He explained how the refuge is broken up into 9 lots scattered along the river broken up by the plantations of palm trees. To keep the elephants out, the plantations build huge trenches making it impossible for them to cross so they are not allowed to roam free between the lots. Currently, they are cut off from 1/3 of the lots, but Uncle Tan's and a couple of other similar companies are trying to buy back some of the land and make "bridges" between the lots so that the Elephants and other wildlife can have access to all that they can. Upon returning to camp, we heard one of the staff say that the cheeky monkeys had broken into one of the huts. Sure enough, in the hut next to ours, they had gotten in and destroyed the place. Medicine was chewed into, wallets and passports were lying all over the ground, and anything and everything was scattered and chewed. They even got into the "rat" proof bucket (yep they got jungle rat problems as well) that had a sealed lid where you put food and medicine. We offered to supply some malarial tablets, toothpaste and triple checked our door to make sure it was locked! Cheeky monkeys indeed! Tracy made sure all valuables were locked away (cheeky monkeys can't open combination locks!). We went out on another river cruise where we saw more of the same animals as before, and more than I can remember the names of! That night we did a night jungle safari where we trudged though the mud in search of insects and bugs. We saw lots of spiders, a moth that would not fly off my arm without a little nudge, held a scorpion that also loved my arm and many other creepy crawlies. That night we stayed up and waited for the civets to arrive at camp as well (and they did).

The next morning we had breakfast and got on the boat back to civilization. On the way out of the jungle, we spotted a sunbear up in a tree, a rare spotting indeed, and a couple more crocodiles. After being dropped off at the jetty, there was a van waiting to take us to our next destination - Semporna for some diving (and long, hot showers). All in all, we felt like the tour was well worth the money spent and a great opportunity to see wildlife, but make sure you set your expections at a notch above camping!

To see more pictures of Uncle Tan's click here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy birthday Jason! The death march begins, our ascent up Mount Kinabalu!


Destination: Mt Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia

Number of Days there: 3
One thing unexpected: How horribly out of shape we are!
Favorite Restaurant: None

Times we took the: Bus: 2 Train/Subway: 0 Taxi/Car: 0; Motorcycle: 0
Estimated KM walked: TOO MANY (around 21 with 9.5 being straight up hill)
Where we stayed: 2 nights at Kinabalu Rose Cabin (RM 84 - US $28) & 1 night at Laban Rata on the mountain (RM 330 - US $110 including food)

What we liked: Kinabalu Rose - beautiful view of the mountain from our private balcony; Laban Rata - it's the only place on the mountain

What we disliked: Kinabalu Rose - It never felt quite warm enough though that it probably because of the mountain wind. Laban Rata - Where do I begin? Over priced, not enough heat & I saw a rat the morning we left. A RAT. SICK.

If you could do anything in the world, what would you do on your 29th birthday? I asked Jason that same question several times and he decided he wanted to climb a mountain. Silly husband, what? Climb a mountain? I thought he was a bit insane but then again I opted for a spa day for my birthday...we obviously have very different ideas of appropriate celebration activities. But, since that is what he wanted to do, we did it! We packed our warmest clothes and our hiking shoes and headed out for Mt. Kinabalu! Happy 29th birthday Jason!

We got off to a rough start and overslept our alarm (this is prone to happen when you're surfing the web til 2am) and missed the early bus so we grabbed a taxi to the bus station (25 RM - $8) and took the next bus to Mount Kinabalu (2 hours - RM 20 each - $7). We arrived at Kinabalu Rose and headed up to the park office to pay for our trip up the mountain. Sutera Sanctuary has a monopoly on the mountain so if you want to climb Mt. K you have to stay with them. It's rather pricey at 165 RM ($55) each which includes a dorm bed & 2 meals (dinner the night you arrive & breakfast after you reach the summit). This was the reduced price after several negotiations. It was originally 228 RM but included 4 meals. We opted for 2 meals (lunch the two days on our own). In addition to this the park office charges a park fee, permit fee, insurance & guide fee which is another 165 RM ($55). After visiting multiple desks and getting everything sorted out we were ready to climb the mountain! We headed back to our hotel for dinner & a good night's sleep before starting our trek.

A bit about Mount Kinabalu...4095 meters, it's the tallest peak in SE Asia and one of the easiest to climb. That being said, it's definitely not a walk in the park. It's over 9 km long and with a significant rise in elevation (the hiking trail starts at 1866 meters). You start day 1 with about a 5 hour hike uphill to the Laban Rata Lodge (though those that are super fit do it in between 2-3 hours - we are so not one of those people). You have roughly a 10 hour rest period at the lodge, they feed you dinner and then they get you up at the ungodly hour of 2am so that you can start the 2:30 am ascent to the summit. The ascent is done completely in the dark using headlamps. Looking back down the hill about 1 km in I saw a line of lights going up the hill like ants. In all honesty if I knew then what I knew now I probably wouldn't have made it to the top. The trail leads straight uphill over huge rocks and at is marked by ropes that you can use to guide your way. The ropes are also used to drag yourself up to the top at the particularly precarious points... Mom/Dad, I know what you are thinking. If any of you know my Dad, he is Mr. Cautious and this is definitely not a Dave approved type of activity. I think I'll feel differently about this in a few days after the memory has dimmed a bit but we'll see. In any case, we made it to the top with the last 500 meters being a total struggle for breath in the high altitude not to mention the cold wind. Brrrr! We made it to the top for sunrise and it was beautiful but so cold that as soon as it was over we headed down.

We all thought going up was the worst and I think Jason would say that the last scramble for the top was the the most difficult for him but for me it was going down...the whole way, all 9 km of it. First of all, our legs were dead tired and felt like spaghetti but it was also bad because we could see what we climbed up. It was scary! Imagine the face of a mountain, above the tree line and crawling down from it. We walked down using our walking sticks, using a Z pattern and also the ropes in the extremely steep parts. I didn't think the trail going down was ever going to end. Once we reached the bottom I was thrilled to be on flat land!

Now that a week has gone by I can say that I'm glad we climbed the mountain but I wouldn't do it again. With each passing day I forget more about the bad parts of the climb and remember how personally satisfying it was to make it to the top so perhaps in another year I'll be up for it again :-) It took us 3 days to recover strength in our legs and it's now been a week and the blisters on my toes from the descent are finally starting to heal. It probably didn't help that the day after the climb we headed into the jungle for 3 days and then started diving but hey, we're busy people. We've got stuff to do and a schedule to keep!

To see more pictures from Mt. Kinabalu please click here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Finally, an excellent Internet connection in KK!


Destination: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Number of Days there: 3
One thing unexpected: How lazy we became.
Favorite Restaurant: Mee goreng at the strip mall across from Borneo 1 (RM 4 - $1.30 US)

Times we took the: Bus: 2 Train/Subway: 1 Taxi/Car: 2; Motorcycle: 0
Estimated KM walked: Not very many
Where we stayed: Tune Hotel - $15-$19 per night

What we liked: Western style rooms with 5 star beds & showers with unlimited hot water

What we disliked: The hotel was located way north of town at the 1 Borneo shopping center

Our flight to Sabah was a bit late so we arrived into KK after the shuttles finished for the night so we took a taxi to our hotel. Our hotel offered free wireless Internet so between the two of us we essentially fought over the computer every waking moment of the day. It's amazing how addictive it becomes when you're connected to the "real" world. The night we arrived we stayed in and picked up a pizza (Pizza Hut) & ice cream from McD's (I can't believe I'm even admitting to it but there you go) and then stayed up until 2am surfing the web. This set the stage for the remainder of our days in KK. The next morning we took our one and only trip into town to visit the Sunday Market. I had my hopes set rather high and thought that there would be a lot of crafts to browse but it was just a regular market with some fruit, a little bit of food and vendors selling odds and ends. The one redeeming item was Pau which is a Chinese bread that comes hot and stuffed with coconut and sugar (yummy and a steal for $.25-$.30)! Other than that the market was rather disappointing. After visiting the market we strolled around town, stopped to talk to a travel agent about tours and diving and headed back to our hotel. We then spent the next two days exploring the shopping mall, picking up odds and ends (hats & gloves) for our trek up Mt. Kinabalu, booking our own cheaper and independent tours, surfing the web & enjoying the comforts of a western hotel. It wasn't very exciting but it sure was nice! We were able to finally upload photos & videos as well as talk to our families over Skype. Our 3 day "mini" vacation went by much too quickly!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jakarta - One quick stop


Destination: Jakarta, Indonesia
Number of Days there: 1
One thing unexpected: No hawkers...but we did have a tour guide attach himself to us
Favorite Restaurant: We only had 1 meal in Jakarta but the nasi lemak at Sate Khas Senayan was delicious!
Times we took the: Bus: 0 Train/Subway: 1 Taxi/Car: 1; Motorcycle: 0
Estimated KM walked: 4-5 KM
Where we stayed: Bloem Steen Homestay - RM 70,000 (about $7/night)

We took an executive class train for the 10 hour journey from Yogya to Jakarta (executive means that it has padded seats, AC & snacks) for 200,000 Rupiah (about $20 US each). Our trip was uneventful and almost pleasant, we read books, the newspaper & even watched a movie! We transferred to our hostel, Bleom Steen Homestay, and settled in for the night. Knowing that our time in Jakarta would be quite short we opted to see only one sight, the National Monument. Dubbed "Soekarno's final erection" it was eerily reminiscent of the Washington Monument. It towers over Merdeka Square at 132 meters and is composed entirely of Italian marble. After the obligatory photos of the monument we took the elevator to the top for smog filled views over Jakarta including great views of the largest mosque in SE Asia! Having overstayed our time we rushed back to the hostel and grabbed our bags for the trip to the airport. We checked into our flight and went through customs only to be stopped...we overstayed our visa by 1 day. DOH! When we booked our ticket out of the country we "thought" we had been extremely careful about our visa dates. Thankfully they were more than willing to take a cash payment (finally a use for those Singapore dollars burning a hole in our pocket) as opposed to sending us back to our embassy to take care of it. With lighter wallets (that extra day cost us the same as our original 30 day visa), we headed off to Sabah to hike Mt. Kinabalu, take safari on the Sungai Kinabatangan & to dive Sipadan!

To see more photos of Jakarta please click here!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Man that's a lot of Buddha's: Borobudur Temple


Destination: Borobodur Temple

Number of Buddha's: 504

One thing unexpected: Our tour guide explaining Buddhist culture was a Muslim observing Ramadan (fasting all day)

What we liked: Massive structure that has stood the test of time including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and bombs

What we disliked: Can we possibly build another store in front of the entrance, wherever that is?!?

Determined to get to the temple for sunrise and avoid organized tours, we hopped on our rented motorbike and sped north of Yogyakarta towards Indonesia's #1 tourist destination. I never really understood why bikers always wore long pants, jackets and gloves until now. At 5am in the morning, that's a cold ride! Add in a few bugs in the face and the occasional exhaust from a diesel truck or bus and you have the makings of a pleasure ride through the countryside. We arrived just in time, ran in and up the temple to see....clouds. After wandering around a bit and snapping a few photos, we went back to the main gate to get a tour guide. We find that for places like this, you really can't do it justice unless you know what you are looking at. With over 2000 different stories carved on the numerous layers of the temple it helps to have someone there explaining a least a few of them. The carvings are all the way around the bottom three layers and are meant to symbolize cause and effect scenarios. If you do this bad action, this will happen to you, etc. The carvings themselves are well preserved for the age of the structure (around 1100 years old) and you could spend days looking and interpreting all of them. We spent about two hours. Once we reached the top of the structure, the second time, our guide said he would wait for us over there, pointing to the one shady spot on top. Since he was fasting forRamadan and was going to have to make the 2-3 hour tour four times that day in the heat without food or water, we understood and said ok. After taking a quick little tour through the museum, we were greeted by about a dozen people holding up various souvenirs, most of which are far to big to fit in a backpack to lug around. Shaking them off, we jumped back on the bike, fought the smog and traffic all the way back to Yogyakarta where we promptly jumped into the swimming pool at our hotel. Sometimes you just have to do it!

To see more pictures of Borobodur and a couple of surrounding temples, click here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Prambanan & Ramayana Ballet

Destination: Prambanan Temple - Java, Indonesia

Number of Days there: 1
Favorite Restaurant: The buffet restaurant at the ballet was surprisingly very good. At 70,000 (roughly $7) it was rather pricey but there were few options around the temple and time was short so we gave it a try. Tasty food and yummy fruit with ginger tea!

Times we took the: Bus: 0 Train/Subway: 0 Taxi/Car: 0; Motorcycle: 1
Estimated KM walked: 3

After spending a day in Yogya we decided to get the heck out of dodge so we jumped on our motorbike (those things are pretty handy but not fun to ride in the sun or traffic for that matter) and rode up to Gunung Merapi and then over to Prambanan. Prambanan was erected in the middle of the 9th century and is the largest Hindu temple in Java. The main temple, Candi Shiva Mahadeva, is dedicated to the goddess Shiva and contains carvings depicting the story of Ramayana. There are several outlying temples that flank Prambanan as well and are considered part of the same complex.

After viewing a beautiful sunset we headed over just west of the complex and bought tickets (50,000 RP -$5) for the Ramayana Ballet. The story of Ramayana is considered one of the most famous Hindu stories (at least in Indonesia). It tells how Lord Rama's wife, Sita, was abducted and how Hanuman the monkey god and Sugriwa the white monkey fight with Rama for the release of Sita. The ballet was really beautiful (the men playing on their cellphones next to me must have though so too)! It featured 50 dancers, a full gamelan and the final couple acts even had fire!

To see more pictures from Prambanan please click here!