Petition to Protect Kutai National Park

As a follow-up to our previous post, we wanted to draw our visitors’ attention to a petition to save Kutai National Park started by our friends Sarah and Pete. The petition encourages the Indonesian government to save Kutai National Park and its orangutans from land claims by Churchill Mining, a British company which seeks to mine within the boundaries of the park.

As you can see from the Google Maps shot below, such mining is devastating to the local environment. The red dot marks the approximate location of where we photographed the orangutan mother and baby shown in the picture above. Many locals we spoke to in the area, who indeed expressed an interest in saving the park, felt powerless when confronted with the overwhelming wealth and influence of the mining industry.  Please support this effort to save Kutai National Park as well as other efforts to preserve orangutan habitat in Borneo and Sumatra.

Kutai NP Educational Campaign Features our Orangutan Content

Orangutan Experience brochure

We are thrilled to write that our posts on Kutai National Park have caught the attention of national park authorities in Indonesia. We were contacted by representatives from Kutai NP who asked to use our photos in educational materials that they will be distributing to schools and government offices across the country. How exciting!

Orangutan brochure

My post titled The Orangutan Experience was translated into Indonesian and included in a 34-page educational brochure which also includes articles from researchers and political figures concerned about the park. As you can see in the first image above Continue…

Bali Pictorial

Those who know us well – especially fellow nomads – have expressed surprise that we spent so much time in Bali, a destination they associate with package tourism and sprawling resorts. In all honesty, I avoided Bali on my first trip to Indonesia ignorantly dismissing the island as little more than tourist central. But guess what, Bali is beautiful.

While it’s true that portions of Bali have embraced the dark side of tourism and a visit to Kuta can leave you cringing as hordes of drunk Australians stumble their way through the streets, the larger island provides plenty of room for off-the-beaten-track exploration. There is much to discover here: Bali’s unique Hindu culture and architecture is visually stunning; colorful festivals and parades occur throughout the year; the sand runs the spectrum from powder white to glistening gold to charcoal grey to jet black; and the lush tropical center of the island provides for great walks. Perhaps the greatest discovery for us was that the scuba diving is absolutely world-class (and I don’t say that lightly.)

We liked Bali so much that we decided to put together a pictorial to share some of the island’s unique beauty. (I’ll admit the pictorial is a bit culture heavy, but – hey – how many more pictures of rice terraces can we post?) 🙂

Indonesia: What a Dollar Can Buy You

Indonesia used to be one of the cheapest places in Southeast Asia. But in recent years, prices in the large archipelago have caught up with those of other countries in the region. Especially areas such as Kalimantan, eastern Nusa Tenggara as well as Papua can be painfully expensive, with transportation and accommodation often being the main culprits.

I know, I must sound like a broken record. Haven’t I complained about rising costs in every other country? The fact is that prices in the developing world are shooting up at lightning speed which makes backpacking on a budget increasingly challenging. And Indonesia is the poster child for such change.

One interesting oddity is the price ratio between Coke and gasoline. Indonesia has the most expensive Coca Cola but the cheapest gas we have seen anywhere in Asia. You would think that the low gas prices would be reflected in transportation costs – but as I mentioned above, this is not always so. In addition to that, Tony’s Coke addiction has set us back quite a bit (as we all know, Coke is to Tony what gas is to a car).

Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable things to go around. Here’s what you can get for 9,000 rupiah or around a buck:

  • 1 load of laundry (about 3.5 kg)
  • 1 creamy avocado shake
  • 2 km taxi ride
  • 4 liters (1 gal.) of drinking water
  • 1 pre-cut pineapple on touristy Seminyak beach, Bali
  • 1 hour of Internet access
  • 1 vegetarian meal in a typical warung
  • 2 liters of gasoline
  • 0.5 liter of Coca Cola
  • 3 packs of local cigarettes
  • 1 mandatory donation to enter traditional Sasak village, Lombok
  • 7 Yakult probiotic yogurt drinks
  • 4 angkot rides (public minibus covering city routes)
  • 1 sleeping mat rental on overnight ferry

Thomas vs. Philip Morrisovich

Monkeys (and Russians) just want to have fun. But when this unsuspecting Russian tourist graciously offered a Balinese macaque a lit cigarette to clear his primate palette, ultra-radical environmental activist Thomas had to put the kibosh on the poor tourist’s Slavic fun.

Alerted from my perch atop a nearby temple by the booming echoes of Thomas’ enraged voice, I just had time to snap a shot of the exact moment he stamped out the cigarette. You could clearly see the disappointment in the poor monkey’s face… and the Russian’s. (Oh, so sad.)

Let’s just say, I’ve never been prouder.

Explorations in Ubud

A massive cloud of laziness descended upon us in Ubud. I guess even nomadic souls need some downtime every now and then. Luckily, the motivationally challenged can find plenty to do within a few minutes of the center of town. Check out our mini-gallery above for some ideas.

Babi Guling

One great thing about Bali, and probably what makes the island so popular, is the Hindu influence and the associated culture and cuisine that come with it. Ubud, in particular, offers many different foods I’ve come to miss while traveling in the Muslim regions of Indonesia – the number one being pork. And not just any old pork.

Several restaurants around Ubud offer babi guling or roasted suckling pig (my mouth is watering as I write this). The pig is usually stuffed with chili, ginger, garlic, turmeric and other secret Balinese spices, and roasted over an open fire for hours while basted with Continue…

Back to Bali

After Sumba, Thomas and I needed a break in Bali. A few months of adventure in eastern Indonesia will leave even the most intrepid traveler inspired yet exhausted. What better place to relax a little than in Ubud. It’s not exactly off the beaten track, but there’s great food, some nice galleries, great walks in the surrounding countryside, and loads of culture.

Bizarrely, despite the fact that we spent almost a month in Bali the first time, we realized we hadn’t really explored many of the temples. Well, there’s no better place for Balinese temples than Ubud!

Travel 101: Packing Your Medical Kit

Our Medical Kit

As a self-proclaimed hypochondriac, I was the one to assemble the medical kit we have been carrying with us for the last five years. Being German and all, I planned for every eventuality and ended up with a medical bag the size of my head. Although Tony often questions the size (and weight) of our medical kit, we’ve made use of almost every article in that bag. Here are some of the items that have proven most Continue…

Predatory Techno-Vampire Tourists

Do travelers scare locals?

In 2000, American ethnologist Janet Hoskins asked Sumbanese villagers to describe foreign tourists who visit carrying their mysterious metal boxes (cameras). The following is an excerpt from that description:

VILLAGER: We don’t really know much about them, but they are supposed to travel around, often at night, carrying metal boxes. They have long hair and disheveled clothing, and they smoke cigarettes dipped in potions that can make you sleepy. They are said to blow the smoke into children’s faces so that they lose consciousness. Then they take the children and hang them upside down, with feet near the rafters and their heads next to the metal boxes. They open up a hole in their heads and use a hose, sucking on one end of the hose to draw out the blood and make it flow into their metal boxes. They collect the blood, then leave behind the children’s bodies.

JANET: Do the children live?

VILLAGER: Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. They are very weak and may have nightmares about what the foreigners did to them. They lose a lot of their strength and often they die afterward.

JANET: What do the foreigners do with the blood? Continue…