Monday, October 17, 2011

50 Pound Boombox on Your Shoulder

I got back from two weeks of vacation and there were lots of stories and interesting moments to say the least.

First up was Singapore. Singapore is so Westernized it's ridiculous. Which was a welcomed change at first from always eating Pad Thai, food from the market, or "cooking" pasta. Plus, the Singapore airport had a Quizno's, which made it my favourite airport on the trip. Instantly, the first thing I thought was that Singapore is the exact opposite from Bangkok. It is clean, great roads and beautiful buildings, drivers who drive in the lanes at a speed limit, clean air, and the best part was being able to speak English to somebody that you don't work with! We had a great chat with our cab driver from the airport, he was super friendly, and had only had been speaking English for two years, which floored us, as there was no hint of any accent or anything. He is either really smart, or a liar, but either way he was really helpful so I gave him a good tip for being a great guy. Then, I realized that Singapore is super expensive, as the Singapore dollar is basically on par with the Canadian dollar, except everything is so so so expensive in order to compensate for the previously mentioned beautiful buildings, modern landscapes, and cleanliness. To put it in terms that people who know me a little better than most will understand, for example: two rum and Coke's were $24 dollars, as in $12 a drink. Ironically, this was almost worth it to me since it was Captain Morgan's spiced rum, my first spicy diet in six months! 

Anyway, we did a hop-on, hop-off tour bus for a day, which was a good way to see the city, since it's quite large. I had planned on doing a fair deal of shopping, but with prices being... pricy, and the fact that it was all name brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada, you can see why I ended up not buying much outside of pitchers of Tiger beer and eating healthy at Mcdonalds, Burger King, TGIF Friday, and pizza joints. It was a welcomed change, but we were unsure on how long we needed to stay to see it all. We did the touristy stuff, took touristy pictures at locations like the Singapore Flyer, but by day five and stumbling across a liquor store while walking through the Little India part of town, we picked up a $45 dollar bottle of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum (an absolute steal!) enjoyed our last night in Singapore by picking up mix and chips and drinking in our hotel room while watching the Last Action Hero, one of Arnold's most underrated movies!

And we had a Singapore Sling - only $16! Basically a steal for a drink I've never had an am only ordering because I'm in the place with the same name.

We caught a plane in the morning to Yogyakarta, Indonesia in the morning, which was on time and everything was going according to plan until we arrived. On the plane, I remember that I forgot my twenty-five US dollars I needed to stay in Indonesia in Bangkok. No big deal I thought, I'm not the first person this has happened to. I explained this to the teller taking money, and she says that it's alright, and that you can pay in Rupiah (the Indonesian currency). Indonesia has a ridiculous inflation rate on their currency, by the way, so it is 250, 000 Rupiah - the equivalent to 25 USD. "Okay, that's fine, where is the ATM so I can take out Rupiah?" Oh, all you have to do is take a left there, and then another left. Easy right? Except that the 'left, and then another left' is after where you have to clear customs! Really?! 

Luckily for me, airports in Asia are stupidly lax, so after having to surrender my passport to the teller, basically ensuring to her that I'm not up to any shenanigans and will obviously have to visit her again after I get the money so I can get my passport back to pay for my Visa. To continue this nightmare, after explaining to the customs officer that I need to just walk past them, aka: skipping customs to take out money so that I'm actually legally allowed to be in this country, they give me the nod and I'm on my way. This is a small hiccup at the time, which later turned out to be a large belch, as while frantically speed-walking and ignoring people asking if I need a cab ("no, I'm not even allowed to be in the country yet!"), I find an ATM. Oh yeah, this is the part where I realize that I also forgot to bring my Canadian debit card. No big deal, I have my Thai debit card, which is a legitimate Visa card, so it should work. Should work. It did not work, and after three failed attempts and at the cursed bank machines, and one unhelpful security guard who shrugged his shoulders when I asked why it wouldn't work, I had to make the awkward walk of shame backwards and the wrong way into customs where Natalie was patiently waiting with all of our bags, I had to explain that either a) I'm an idiot that doesn't know how to operate a bank machine, or b) that the machine wouldn't accept my stupid Thai debit card and I have no viable way to pay for my existence in this country.

So I explained option B, and she used her middle finger that I was number one, broke up with me at the customs part of the Yogyakarta airport, and told me to figure out how to get home myself and that she would send me a postcard. Awkward.

But really that didn't happen, and she was a sweetheart and went to the ATM herself while I guarded all of our bags from.... well, nobody, everyone else on the airport had cleared customs since they were smart enough to bring American cash with them in the first place. Anyway, while I wore the dunce cap and waited for her to get back, I was relieved to see her show up with the cash. Turns out the ATM at the airport really didn't accept our Thai card, and she used her Canadian one to bail me out. So, I cleared customs about 40 minutes after landing, and still had no way to access money in Indonesia. Needless to say, she paid for the taxi and I was still quite on edge. 

Very long story short, I sold my body for money while we were in Indonesia and I'm not ashamed of it. Also, we learned that there was a machine out there that liked my card, so I was able to pay for things.

Yogyakarta was cool, although sketchy at first. Again, now if Singapore is the exact opposite of Bangkok, then Yogyakarta is the exact opposite of Singapore. But not the same as Bangkok. We were in a "touristy" part of town, so we arrived and really didn't know what to do when we got there, since who has even heard of this place? We walked past the seemingly endless market of the same array of t-shirts and hats, and people asking where we were from. 

"Oh, Toronto/Vancouver?"

 Yes, and yes. It's just easier than answering "no, from Winnipeg actually" then walking away so that you don't get roped into buying whatever useless junk they were selling. Then all these people were asking if we had seen the art exhibit. So we answered no, and this kind man walked us into a section of nowhere where we quickly picked up on the fact that we had just been roped into a local scam, ala the tuktuk drivers in Bangkok. There were two other suckers sitting together, and while we all shared the same glances that were easily interpreted as "shit, you too?", we politely listened to the man claim he painted all of these, and stared at the free hot tea that they brought us. No thank-you, I would not care for the scolding hot tea that I didn't ask for on this lovely +35 day. We left, and the guy told us that we should get something since this was the last day of the art gallery, and that it shut down at 4 PM. As we left, we both noticed the weathered painted sign that was clearly fastened to a lamp post, indicating that this art exhibit had probably been going on for oh, about the last 15 years. We took our chances that we were missing out by not purchasing anything and moved on to consume about 10 large Tiger beers.

Again, we were quite disappointed in the shopping, but we spent our money wisely on doing a number on our livers and eating 6 meals a day. It's vacation, you're allowed to do that. We also took part on day tour things, which included checking out a few temples and taking the kinds of pictures that if put on Facebook, everyone would immediately multiple click until it gets to the drunk pictures. We didn't take the whole thing seriously either, but decided to humour ourselves by talking in lisps and making fun of people. You know, embracing the culture. And having random people bring their kids up to you for pictures, since you know, we're white. Also, if you child starts crying after you pick them up and bring them in front of us to sit on our laps, that probably indicates that they don't want their picture forcibly taken with a complete stranger. 

Then we hit up a beach and checked out the sunset. You can't swim in the water, since you basically die from the waves, so we did the next best thing and rented ATV's on the beach, which was so dope.

We got away from our touristy area one day, since it definitely lacked just a simple place to sit down and have a cocktail and a bite. We found some places on the Internet and decided to check them out, and were impressed. Everyone is super friendly, that should be said. We had a group of four University students who were studying Business come up to us and ask if they could videotape us just ordering and conversing with the waiter. Sure! No problem. Except, unfortunately for them, it was 2 PM and we're alcoholics, so all we would order is large beers, which we would split as so they wouldn't get warm. It did not make for an exciting video - "One large Bintang please, two glasses." "Thank you" when it arrived. So while they pulled up seats next to us for the next hour and watch us order one beer at a time, and secretly hoping we'd get crazy and you know, maybe order lunch (nope), we struck up small talk and they were really nice, and practicing their English. They gave us some key chains for being good sports, which by being good sports, I really mean getting day-drunk. 

There were lots of cool things we did in Yogyakarta, one of them was not whatever they did on The Amazing Race that made it look so cool. So, after three days, we peaced to Bali.

Bali is Bali, which is awesome. I love Bali. We were there for eight days, and luckily for us, we don't need to occupy every day with some planned event. For example, our event for day one was buying ten pairs of sunglasses then swimming in the pool. You know, really cultural things. And drinking Bintangs. A million Bintangs. And eating pizza, like 10 pizzas. And spending $15 dollars on cookies and eating them in bed watching Terminator 2 (more Arnold). Vacation stuff. We did end up going surfing, which was slightly terrifying, since in the morning leading up to surfing, we got hit with a minor earthquake while eating breakfast (pizza) at an outdoor restaurant. It was actually on the other side of the island, but when the ground moves for ten seconds, shit gets real. Also, for lunch we had an aftershock- which is a shock, after as well. Surfing was sweet, I really wanted to do it the last few days that we were there but the waves were too manly for this guy.

We ended up finally getting our shopping in, and while some days you just don't want to be bothered by people calling you "boss" and comments about "honeymoon price", we picked up some sweet swag, a lot of gifts for Christmas, and 30 pairs of sunglasses. And I finally found shoes, which is the best part of this blog. 

Overall, it was a good vacation, and it was good to get away from work for a bit, which is where I'm writing this from. It's camp for the month of October, and myself and Jon are doing the Sports portion of it, which meant sweating it out in the hot gym today and playing dodgeball and then swimming in the pool for two periods with the K's. I have dressed many small naked children today, which is not the most fun thing I've done all day. Oh, and one of the kids (about 3 years old) started peeing in the middle of the change room floor while we were both trying to help them change.

At least it wasn't in the pool, right?

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