Camping in Deokjeokdo

21 07 2013

Over the last two plus years, I can say that I’ve traveled in Korea more than most Koreans. There are a handful of places still on my hitlist, but Deokjeokdo wasn’t even on my radar when my friends Katie, Stef, and Na invited me to go. In the last year or so, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of camping gear, but haven’t really had many opportunities to camp. I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to crashing in pensions in the mostly empty big rooms on a pile of blankets. Not this time! Camping time!

We searched Naver maps and blogs to find all the best info on Deokjeokdo, which mostly turned out to be wrong and outdated, so we had to wing it. I’ll try and give some more realistic advice for your adventure!

First thing, is that there are only two ferries that go to Deokjeokdo each day. The first leaves at 8, the second leaves at noon. For the sake of travel time, go for the 8 AM boat, because you’ll want as much time on the beautiful beaches as possible. Getting to the ferry terminal is a fun experience, because you’ll get to try and negotiate with terrorists, err, taxi drivers. Since the ferry is so far out, the drivers from Oido Station wouldn’t budge for less than 20,000 won. The estimate is 13,000 won on Naver, but since they have to come back to civilization, they want extra moola. Without traffic, it’s about a 20 minute ride.

Here’s a map to give you an idea of how far out of civilization it is:


We got ferry tickets to Deokjeokdo for 9,800 won each way, and the boat takes about two hours. Make sure you get there early, because tickets tend to sell out on summer weekends according to the tourist info line.

While on the boat, do your best to avoid the little kids with shrimp chips. They feed the seagulls from their hands. You will get pooped on. There is indoor and outdoor seating, but the ground is a little dirty. I recommend bringing a beach mat with you (you can find these at Daiso for next to nothing.)


Once you get to Deokjeokdo, there are several options for beaches. There are not, however, several options for taxis. Try to be the first off the boat and you might find a cab that can take you. Many pensions offer pick up, but the actual cabs on the island are tough to find, and no matter where you go, it’s 15,000. There is a bus that runs around the island, but if you’re in a big group with lots of gear, it’s just easier to grab a cab. Here’s the number of the man we used when we were going back: 010-2055-5855. I didn’t catch his name, but he speaks some English, even though I couldn’t understand him on the phone. I spoke Korean with him the whole time while giving him directions to where we were, then shows up speaking English. Oh well, my Korean skills are improving!

While we were on the ferry from Bangamori, a Korean business man came up and started chatting up Katie, then he proceeded to put whitening cream on Na, and bought us a couple beers. He invited us to go fishing and diving with him, explaining to us how he owns a factory in China that makes makeup brushes, and that diving and fishing is expensive, but he’ll take us and cover it. OKAY LET’S GO!!! But only 4 can go. The other 4 in our group had to find a way to get to the beach. Alone.

I didn’t really like that idea, and our sugar daddy of the day noticed. He had us all pile into the back of a Bongo truck with all our gear, but he had to stop for gas first. I should probably mention that Deokjeokdo is famous for bike riding, and massive 18% grades on hills. Steep stuff.


Not our best idea…


Weak engines and 10 people and gear in the bed of a tiny truck on a big hill at a gas station means crashing backwards into a cement fence and a pretty brick flower bed. Thank God for those otherwise we might have had some serious problems.


Then, they dropped us off at Seopori Beach and went off to lunch… and never came back. Oh well. I’ll dive like crazy next month in Malaysia! 🙂

We set up camp up in the trees back from the beach. It wasn’t even noon and it was HOT. Weather reports suggested 90F for the high. It definitely felt like it. Make sure you bring a frisbee or a soccer ball or something, because this beach is huge and flat at low tide. There’s even some mud for playing! The girls had their own mudfest and were covered head to toe.

Here are a few pictures from my phone:




Komusta from the Philippines!!

8 08 2011

Hey all!

I really haven’t updated much, but that’s because there’s just been a lot of deskwarming and classes, so not much to tell. However, my friend Lauren sent me a message on Facebook about Bali… which brought us to the discovery that we had the same vacation dates, and the discovery that Bali was too expensive to get to for this last minute vacation. Through scouring the flight sites, we found a cheap ticket for her, and then it became us. That was never a plan before that fateful facebook chat.

I’m impulsive, and I know it. I am a Phillips.

It was a really last minute decision (like 3 days before the flight last minute) and so far, it has been totally worth it! Our whole first day was in Busan, because that’s where the flight was from. Our train was super early, as it was the only one still available, while the flight was late at night (we landed just before 1 AM.) We killed time in cafes and a Lotte department store. After all, we had about 7 hours to burn.

When we got to Cebu airport, it was a little overwhelming and disorienting. We just needed a taxi that wasn’t going to rip us off hardcore, like all the books and blogs told about. Strangely, the taxi we took, which was a local metered taxi, was a lot cheaper than the fixed rate guys (almost $5 cheaper.) We stayed at Cebu Guesthouse, which was about as basic as you can get in a sketch “historic and traditional” neighborhood. But hey, for $6 per night, you can’t expect much! It was kind of funny seeing Lauren’s reaction to a few things, but that’s mostly because she’s never been in travel situations like I have. I think she’s more of the all-inclusive/no-bug-net-needed breed.

We had planned on splitting the trip between Bohol and Boracay, a little yin and yang to our travel types. Bohol has my kind of places, and is a little more rugged, and everywhere you look, people are singing praises about the diving. OBVIOUSLY I would want to go there, since well, the last time I went diving was over a year ago in Thailand, and one of them left scars.

Mind you, we’re only here for 5 days/5 nights. We had heard that flights to Boracay are super cheap and leave from Cebu almost every hour. That would have meant that we’d spend Sunday-Tuesday AM in Bohol and leave Tuesday afternoon for Boracay, returning mid-Thursday for our flight home. However, prices for the flights to Boracay have somehow managed to get jacked up, at nearly $250 round trip. Nope. I’m not going to drop that much money for literally a day and a half.

Lauren isn’t diving/snorkeling, so she says that she’s bored. I still don’t know what we’ll do for the next few days, but I’m fine here. I’m on a beach. I went diving today and it was pretty awesome, it’s sunny and cooler than Korea, and the people are pretty nice. All around wins!! I’m thinking we’ll rent a motorbike tomorrow and go check out the Chocolate Hills and the Tarsier Preservation Center. It looked like it was going to rain this afternoon, so we pushed off that plan from today. So we chilled at the beach and got pedicures. Life is so hard for travelers here.


It’s a cake walk.

Life is awesome. 

AND I saw my first frog fish today. It was white and hiding in some coral. It looked creepy as hell! Google it.


You’ll get pictures when I get home!

Naked Culture Shock

22 03 2011

A couple weeks ago, Mychaela planned on coming to visit and stay for the weekend. She has a really nice apartment in a high-rise that has a roof with a killer view of her neighborhood. As we’ve discovered here in Yongin, I can’t exactly say the same for my living situation. There are a few major pros and cons, but there is one huge difference that I’m perfectly okay with: I live in a real neighborhood. The kind where you get to know your neighbors and know which students from your school live nearby. The kind where there’s a neighborhood cat and the new baby next door whom you can hear so clearly sometimes it was as if she were in the room. The kind of neighborhood that has apartments that are visited by religious missionaries… but more on that later.

Friday night, we had planned on meeting at Bojeong Metro station at 7:30, then come back to my apartment to drop off her wonderful gift (A PILLOW!!!). Friday night traversing Seoul by subway apparently takes 3 hours, not the 2 hours it took me on a Sunday night. Mychaela finally walked through the gates at 8:54 PM, just 6 minutes before I was ready to leave the station and go home. While waiting, I had been chatting with an older Korean gentleman who appeared to be waiting for someone as well, speaking English really well. He said that he worked with US soldiers during the Korean War and became a teacher afterward. His daughter lived in Philadelphia, teaching Korean at a school there. “You two would be great friends, but you seem to have traded places.”

Bicycle chain heart: North Seoul Tower

We got back to my apartment to realize that we were both exhausted from a trip much longer than expected. We got dinner at an Italian place and had a Korean beer in a “German Beer Garden.” (False advertisement!! They only had Cass, which is the Korean version of Coors.) We crashed at my place and got up to make plans for Saturday and all its wonder. We had planned to go into Seoul later in the day so that we wouldn’t spend 10 hours walking around. The irony of that statement would later come back to bite us.

We grabbed lunch at my favorite cafe, Coffee Verdi, and saw a few of my students. They’re still in the “She’s a real person who exists outside of school” realization phase. We caught the bus to Ori station, where we decided that traffic was so bad that we’d just take the subway. First destination was to Seoul Station, where Lonely Planet says it should be a 15-20 minute walk from the station to the tower. Lonely Planet lies. [I feel like I should edit those books for a living. I could re-write the Indonesian version with a little help from my Fulbright and Indonesian friends. That book was a mess.] That short walk was actually about an hour from the station to the tower. For the distance and the fact that it was 90% stairs, we made really good time. The view was worth it! We got to the tower around sunset, which was the one thing LP got right. Transitions in major cities are always really cool to see. That was always my favorite thing about Jakarta: seeing the sun go down and the lights turn on. Flashy.

Photo Island view of Seoul


Locks of Love at North Seoul Tower

The North Seoul Tower is known for its locks on the fence. Couples in Korea see this as their Mecca. The migrate toward it, hike up the hill, sign their lock and latch it to the fence. Some messages are really heartfelt, others are friendly, others have Bart Simpson on them. There are strange benches, which at first I thought would be weird to sit on, as it would look like you broke the bench, but in reality, they were designed so that when a couple would sit on them, they would inevitably lean together, inducing snuggle.

After it got dark, we walked down the hill on the road that has the buses we apparently didn’t know about. We checked out the Namdaemun street market, which is a 24 hour market up and down the streets of the neighborhood. Fake bags, ginseng gift shops, fake sunglasses, delicious food, and a boatload of optical shops and camera stores. Once I save up, that DSLR will be mine. Oh yes, she will be mine.

The chaos that is Myeong-Dong

I had heard the week before that there would be a fundraiser for a women’s rights group in Itaewon, the multicultural hub of Seoul. The fundraiser was to have a burlesque show and dancing. It could be fun, and if not, the money goes to single moms. (I really don’t mean that in a stripper joke sort of way, either.) Turns out, every single foreigner in Korea had heard about this show. The place was packed and we all had to get pretty up close and personal, and unfortunately that included with the drunk US Army guy with the bottle of Cuervo who incessantly shouted, “I LOVE VAGINAAAAAA!!!!” All in all, it was pretty fun. My favorite act was a girl with a hula hoop. She killed it. Check out the video of Betty Hoops:

I really appreciated her friends’ comments after her performance. “Where did she learn to do that?” “It’s a Northwest thing. Everybody can do something awesome like that here.” Haha, we do all have really random hidden talents!

Borrowed flash at the Burlesque show

Borrowed flash at the Burlesque show

After the show, everybody performed a mass exodus from Bedlam out into the streets of Itaewon. It was about 11:30, so Mychaela and I figured it would be time to head back towards home. We get on the subway, and when we were supposed to transfer to the line that would take us home, we ran into a terrible dead end. The station was closed, we couldn’t transfer, and the train we were on definitely left already. Yaksu station. What the hell is in Yaksu? Nothing. A taxi from there would cost us $50 to get home. A dingy hotel would set us back at least $40.

Then it dawned on me. Audra’s suggestion. “If stranded, find a jimjilbang.” A jimjilbang is basically a spa, but open 24 hours, and you can sleep there. Game on. Now, we just had to find one. We walked around for about an hour trying to find one. It wasn’t too cold, my feet were fine, and I really didn’t mind. The logo for a jimjilbang is basically a soup bowl with three wavy steam things coming out the top. I feel like I’ve seen it as a ramen noodle logo before. After talking with a random Korean man at about 1:30, he showed us in the way of one of the nearly sacred, gender-segregated, traditional public bath houses. We wandered some more and finally found it.

steamy hot soup? or a hot tub?

steamy hot soup? or a hot tub?

We checked in at about 2:15 AM. We were given what looked like a cross between prison inmate uniforms and the robes of a Buddhist monk. Orange and stretchy. After walking in to the ladies’ section, we were immediately faced with about 4 stark naked, middle aged Korean women. They must have seen our obvious looks of confusion, since they instantly tried to help us out of our shoes and show us to our lockers. Once we got our inmate robes on, we wandered around, checking the place out. A giant tub with two women scrubbing the life out of the skin of another. A mother and her 20-something daughter sitting on the ledge of another, hotter pool, chatting as if it were time for afternoon coffee, not really noticing that it was 3 AM, or that they and everyone else around them were naked or nearly so. No wonder it’s such a lively tradition. You have a pure and simple goal: Relax and get clean.

Downstairs, there was a large common room with about 40 sleeping mats and foam blocks for pillows. At first, we didn’t see any women. I was a little apprehensive to sleep in a “common area” that was clearly composed only of men. As I loitered and stalled to try and convince Mychaela to sleep in the “cave” between the floors where I saw women sleeping on mats, another woman walked in, sat down near the TV, and made herself at home. We decided it was a legit common room, and not just a place for the boys to hang out and watch the boob tube. We claimed our territory and crashed. And by that, I mean me. I crashed. Mychaela doesn’t really sleep anyway. I, on the other hand, can sleep anywhere, anytime, and under nearly any circumstance…

…except when the guy on the next mat down tries to snuggle with my feet. I had been dreaming that something fish-like was trying to bite my feet, and when his hand grabbed my foot, I’m pretty sure I kicked him in the face. Fight or flight reaction? Definitely. In my dream, I was swimming away. Mychaela was awake at the time and watched the whole thing. I guess it was hilarious. Creeper-sleeper probably didn’t think so.

We made it back to Yongin at about 9 AM, where we immediately crashed, yet again. Just a short nap, right? Well, you might know me and my napping habits; they’re just like my ability to sleep anywhere. They can never be short naps. Around noon, a knock at my door woke us up. I looked like a slob in a ratty t-shirt, so I threw on my peacoat to class it up a little bit. At the door was one of my students and her family, who were going door to door passing out Jehovah Witness magazines. My hair was, well, morning hair. If you know me, you know the terror that is. They didn’t run away frightened by the sketchy fuzz ball waygook (foreigner) when she opened the door, so I’d say they’re good people.

Free Hugs Korea: Way less sketchy than Warped Tour.

Time to explore my area a little more. I’ve spent a lot of time in Seoul for the weekends, which is spendy, but really cool. Here’s to checking out Yongin and the outskirts! Cheers!

Is this for safety or being realistic? (Please see any K-drama show if you don't get it.)

What happens when you get on a bus with only an incredibly vague idea of where you’re going.

14 03 2011

My first weekend, last weekend, in South Korea was fairly low key. Friday was weird at best. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink water for nearly 24 hours. The no food thing was fine, but I was thirsty all day and after talking to students in each class, I was raspy and sounded like I had emphysema. As soon as I was finished, Mrs. Lee and I went out for dinner at Jokumeon, a restaurant that serves traditional Korean food in courses. All I wanted was water. Tea and soup were decent substitutes. Delicious substitutes for water. Come visit me and I’ll take you there and you can eat all the delicious food. So good.

Yay words

Yay words

Saturday was a day of intense cleaning and grocery shopping. My cupboards were starting to be bare, so I got groceries which were the cheapest option for everything, but still ridiculously expensive. Thankfully my friends Audra and Clayton gave me basically everything they had left in their kitchen cupboards when they moved out. I guess that’s slight compensation for the fact that my school still hasn’t paid me for my relocation allowance, which would really help with, you know, relocation expenses. That has to wait until I get my Alien Registration Card, which is going to be here nearly a month after said relocation. Can I blame this on it being Asia? Other GEPIK teachers already received theirs, but it seems that my school’s administrators can’t transfer that just yet. Somehow they waste that much in a day in paper that I reuse in my lessons, but I can’t get that in cold, hard, won. I get to wait.

Mychaela and I tried to make plans for Sunday, but since I have no real reliable way of communicating, I went to my school Saturday at about 1 PM to use the internet under the guise of “preparing Monday’s lessons” (printing, etc.) I tried to find her online so I could give directions, and thankfully she showed up on skype. Unfortunately, that was just as all the other teachers were leaving. I had a key, so Mrs. Lee and Esther told me to lock the door on my way out. Administrators were going to be there in a meeting for a couple more hours, so I was safe, in theory. In theory. Twenty minutes later, I was on my way out, locked the office door behind me (for which I didn’t have a key), and headed for the main doors.


Staff parking door. Locked.

Cafeteria door. Locked.

Oh no. I was locked in the school, locked out of my the offices, and had no phone. Oh. No.

I ran back to the administrators office, hoping to find the alleged meeting. Nothing. And the door was locked. Oh no. I ran up and down the halls and the stairs and was almost panicking. I started to feel like I did when Carrie and I were trapped in her room when the bedroom doorknob broke and she failed at throwing the keys over the fence to her co-teacher. (Luckily, her co-teacher was able to climb over the pointy wrought-iron fence like a champ.) Luckily, I found one of the weekend janitors cleaning the floor in a 4th floor classroom. I seriously speak zero Korean. I can read and write more than anything, but that didn’t help me at all at the time. I had to try and visually demonstrate the fact that I was locked in the school. It involved my keys and a lot of head shaking and some movement/terrible dance to indicate that I really wanted to go home. I had plans on Sunday and I didn’t want to stay in my school over night, especially with its constant state of freezing temperatures. Finally he mumbled something and shuffled out the door and down the stairs with me following like a puppy that really needed to go outside. Ahh, freedom.

Insadong-gil Market

Insadong-gil Market

Before the freakout fiasco of being locked in my school, I made plans with Mychaela to meet at Anguk Station in Seoul near Insadong-gil, a famous street which houses a weekend market and dozens of art galleries. It is home to delicious street food, humorous bilingual demonstrations of how to make honey candy that looks like one of Lady Gaga’s wigs, over-priced oleh-oleh style trinkets and a shop that has the most adorable bags (the designer has a love of red-headed girls and Audrey Hepburn. I feel like we could be BFFs.)

Youk Shim Won

Youk Shim Won

looks like my little sister :)

looks like my little sister :

After a fun lunch at a bento joint, we got coffee and mapped out our plans for the rest of the day. Turns out, I really wanted to see Mychaela’s neighborhood and her school… and go to RotiBoy. As it turns out, her apartment is exponentially nicer than mine, and by that I mean it’s clean, has real flooring, and everything works. The one advantage I have is my oven, which I hope to use soon. We walked over to her school, passed a restaurant called “Dino Meat” and nearly got ran over by a motorcycle on the sidewalk. (Seriously, the roadway was free and clear. Why must you ride on the sidewalk made of track materials?) Her understanding when she signed her contract was that she would be teaching 2nd grade. Wrong! She’s teaching 5th and 6th grade. (I’m teaching 2nd grade, which translates to the 2nd grade in the middle school, which is actually 8th grade in the Western world. Flip!) Her apartment may be nicer than mine, but at least I’m teaching kids at an age I was expecting!

After a quick tour, we walked back towards the Daehwa metro stop. We searched for a while but couldn’t seem to find my beloved Malaysian bakery. I smelled it before I saw it. When we got there, we were told the best thing you could possibly be told. “It will be about 5 minutes before they are ready.” Yay! Delicious, buttery, hot-as-hell-but-I-can’t-stop-eating-it, coffee-glazed BUNS. I made a fan out of Mychaela. I got one to go for breakfast the next day, and I was so excited to test out my oven on it.

Silahkan, RrRRRRRoti Boy!

Silahkan, RrRRRRRoti Boy!

I hopped onto the Line 3 train headed south to go home. I was so glad that I got on at the end of the line, because just two stops closer to Seoul and the car was packed with chatty, iPhone wielding, Korean people/sardines. I was also really glad that I had my book. (Currently reading “Freakonomics” and finding it to be a really interesting read. Mom should read the chapter about information hoarders!)



Welcome to South Korea!

3 03 2011

Hello beautiful people around the globe!

I have arrived and gotten situated safe and sound in Gugal-dong, my new home for the next year. At the airport, Mychaela and I went our separate ways within seconds of getting out the security area. Our respective Mr. Kims (because nearly 1/3 of all people here are some sort of “Kim”,) took us to cars heading in different directions and we loaded up and took off. Another girl, Sofia from Texas, rode with me. She lives about 45 minutes from me. She seems pretty cool. Adventurous. We could be friends. I got out of the car and packed all 5 of my bags up 3 flights of stairs to my apartment.

It looked like somebody still lived in it and never cleaned up their mess from dinner the week before. Upon moving things into the room, I broke the rule of “no shoes” and kept my boots on. It was freezing, but my floor was radiating this wonderful warmth, like heated seats in cars. BUT IT WAS THE ENTIRE APARTMENT FLOOR. It was too icky to appreciate it to its fullest (and by that I mean snuggle up and lay on it,) but that would come soon enough.

Mrs. Lee, my primary co-teacher, met with me about 20 minutes after I arrived. I was gross from being on an airplane and lugging around what could have easily been corpses in my bags. (They were that heavy, but I didn’t get charged!) I tried to get myself looking cleaned up and orderly, so I tried to push buttons to figure out the water. (Yes, buttons.) No luck. Wet hair is better than the fuzzy ball I was wearing on my head, so I just went with it. As soon as my head is drenched, she knocks on the door pushes the doorbell that rings with her voice through the wall. Everything is so techno-savvy. I really gotta catch up with this country.

She comes in and says, “Oh, the cleaning lady from our school came here.” And by that I think she meant, “Look, washed dishes on the floor.” I then learned that it is considered bad luck to clean a place before the new person moves in. Not emptying ashtrays is not something I would consider being good luck. I consider that something that gave me a nosebleed. It was that smoky. That and the fire-damaged walls and the smoke filled wall paper from a fire across the hall that took place over New Year’s. Apparently my neighbors are idiots who smoke and take off nail polish in front of one of the heater fans on a couch. Brilliant. Let’s hope they learned a lesson… or three.

I walked around the neighborhood with Mrs. Lee to see what’s around, and I was kind of surprised at what my tiny block had to offer. Full sized gym with a POOL ON THE ROOF on one side, a grocery store that sells $4 tubs of ramen noodles in the middle of it all, a Dunkin Donuts, a 7-11 (snicker… Thailand… haha) and a Pappa Roti on the corner. Roti Boy is far superior, and I found one on a map. It’s on my weekend adventure list of things to do.

On Tuesday, I met up with friends Audra and Clayton who live in the next town over, so they hooked me up with tons of information and goodies from the end of their Korean adventure. I got at least 4 pages of notes in my journal just from getting to their apartment and going out for dinner. I might have a new favorite Korean dish (since you know, this is about the 4th time eating Korean food. First time with Donald, second time making my own hoddeok at home, third time on the plane… actually, it was the 4th time. haha!) Cooked in giant pan, there is a giant stack of mushrooms, sprouts, onions, tomatoes and tofu. It simmers in a spicy red sauce like soup. Delicious! Apparently translated to “Boseot Jeongol.” Whatever it’s called, it’s delicious. I may have to go back.

I still have to buy sheets and blankets, but I have yet to get my relocation payment… so there are all of these sneaky fees and doctors appointments that I have to pay out the ears for. I’m not even going to mention the 2o hours of fasting due to time constraints and lunch breaks for doctors. (I am far more thirsty now than I ever was in Indonesia while fasting.)

Anyway, the few kids that want to talk are cool, the rest are shy. The English teachers are all women and are all super cool and friendly. I have my own desk right off the bat, along with a dinosaur of a work computer, but it lets me listen to 94.7 fm (WIN!) I feel like I’m adjusting well, and I am ready to dive in head first to teaching on Monday.

Off to get me a phone that works. Talk to you soon, lovely people! Pictures up when I have internet at my apartment 🙂

My Toes are Back in Business: Story of a last minute mountain climb

21 12 2010

It’s only 8 months later, and my last toe is back to normal, FINALLY, but I figured I’d share with you a story of an adventure of epic proportions. It’s about experiencing a religious holiday in a foreign country without any religious ties. This story isn’t exactly about Jesus and the resurrection. Easter weekend wasn’t exactly full of colored eggs and rabbits. But there were volcanoes, racial slurs and clownfish.

One town to the next was like night and day. It some cases, it actually was.

Literally the night before, Carrie and I decided that we were going to climb Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani. We ran to Royal, got flights, food and headlamps, and went back to school, packed, taught, then caught a plane. Now, those of you who know me will know that I’m determined, strong willed, and am always looking for something that challenges me, but I’m not exactly the kind that seeks out mountains to climb. This time, I did.

For her first time on a motorbike, she didn't do so bad!

We flew to Mataram and took a taxi up to Sengigi Beach. We decided to stay the night, rent motorbikes and then head up the coast and into the mountains to Senaru. Senaru is the closest base camp for hiking to the giant crater of Rinjani, which is still a very active volcano. So active, in fact, that the new dome that is building up inside the crater/lake spews lava. Sweet, huh?

Beautiful coastlines all around the island

View from Senaru, our basecamp

Well, we got to where we would leave from, crashed for the afternoon and left at about 11:30 PM. We would be climbing all night to get to the rim for sunrise. Read that again. We climbed a mountain. IN THE DARK. Surprisingly, I didn’t do too bad. I didn’t die, and I didn’t run out of water on the way up. That part was on the way down. We climbed through jungle and that was actually the easier part. When we started getting closer to the top, there was a lot of volcanic ash-dirt. Powdery, soft dirt that rolls right out from under your feet as you’re climbing and decending. I crashed a few times going up and even more on the way down. We made it to the top of the crater at about 7 AM.

I almost made it to the top for sunrise, maybe next time.

Trail down into the crater. No thank you, I can see the lava from here. I'm good.

As far as we could go. Now to go back down...

Back down the mountain

View from Gili Trawangan. View of Lombok's Gunung Rinjani, which we climbed the night before.

After hauling it back down the easiest part of the mountain, we were about 2 hours from the bottom when it started really raining. The trail started running out from under us and down the mountain. Tripping over roots and branches through the densest part of the forest made me switch into rock-hopper mode, and I basically hopped down the last few miles of jungle covered mountain. This is why my toes got destroyed. I wouldn’t know it until a few weeks later when 4 of my toenails fell off.

Yep. Fell off.

When we got back to Senaru, I took off the wet, stinky clothes, tried to take a shower, and discovered that there was no water to our cabin at that time. I was so tired, by that time I didn’t really care and slept. All afternoon and into the evening. We chatted and planned out our plan of attack on getting the motorbikes back to Senggigi and getting us through the chaos at Bangsal and out to Gili Air or Gili Meno. I despise few places, but this is definitely one of them. Lonely Planet refers to the harbor as a “gauntlet,” and though most of the book is wrong for the rest of the country, it was VERY, very right in that regard. After more much-needed sleep, our sore bodies rolled out of bed and stiffly loaded up the bikes.

Back down to the Coast

We made our way from Senaru, down from the highlands through the most beautiful farm land back to the coast, rode back to Senggigi, returned the bikes and found a ride to Bangsal. I hate that place. Instantly you’re surrounded by people trying to sell you a jank ticket, or telling you that you “can’t go to the island today, you must rent a hotel room and come back tomorrow, blah blah blah.” Once we got to the ticket booth, we tried to buy our tickets to one of the smaller Gilis. No luck. The boats had already gone for the day, but we could still go to Gili Trawangan, the party island. We were so sore that as soon as one of us mentioned massages and laying by the beach, we didn’t fight it. It was just 10,000 Rupiah, or about $1.00, so we just went with it. Found a place, showered, and went out in search of a massage. Our room was hot and kind of creepy. There were strange cat paintings and the largest Cicak I’ve EVER seen. It was more like a Komodo Dragon than a gecko.

Why the cat paintings? Indos don't even have cats like that! I guess we'll never know?

Massages, good food and plenty of beach time and snorkeling just couldn’t go off without a slight hitch though. There was one guy who constantly harassed us as we walked around the island. Racial slurs, sexist comments and other just really vulgar things that constantly spewed from this guy’s mouth really got on our nerves, and we ended up speaking with a couple of the hotel managers who gave the guy a citation. Didn’t really help the situation much though. The Gili Islands don’t have police on them, so it’s up to local citizens and business leaders to maintain order in a place where every bar sells “Magic Mushrooms,” guaranteeing a trip to the moon and back.

Transport? Transport? Transport? Transport? No thank you.

“No transport needed?” Well THANK GOD, because all the guys who are chanting it every 5 feet are getting annoying.

Just kidding.

Jimmy the Divemaster

28 07 2010

On the northern tip of Sulawesi there’s an island that has no cars, just motorbikes and carts and boats. There isn’t really a road either.

This wonderful little island called Bunaken.

Some of my favorite people EVER

The first time I went there was shortly after our AMINEF Mid-year conference. I went snorkeling the first day and saw some of the most amazing things underwater. More Dorys, Nemos, and Marlins than I could ever handle. I’m talking Finding Nemo, not actual Dory and Marlin fish. Unforunately, I didn’t re-apply the SPF 70 after Jimmy, the divemaster, decided to take us on a second round of diving/snorkeling with the group of Romanian divers. Therefore, I discovered later that afternoon after the second trip that I had the worst sunburn of my life.

It was totally worth it, but I was in serious pain for literally two weeks.

The first time I went there, Emma and I hopped up to Manado after our mid-year conference. It was a nice escape/delay from coming back to Surabaya during final exams and the semester holidays that weren’t exactly scheduled until the very last minute. Sadly, due to the sunburn, I couldn’t dive. I couldn’t move to put on a wetsuit. It was so bad. Using the mandi was hard enough, but cold water made it a little bit better. I was exhausted and in pain and I couldn’t eat. It was weird. Emma went diving with a similar sunburn condition… I think she has a much higher tolerance for pain.

She came back raving about how cool the dive was. I wasn’t certified, but I knew I had to come back and experience life underwater, but at much greater depths.

So I did.

Just 3 weeks later, I was back at Bunaken. I wasn’t thrilled with the flight, but I got there … 17 hours on a plane for a flight that should have taken just 90 minutes. Thanks, rookie pilot!

ETAs from all over Indonesia, plus Kal’s cousin Princeton converged on MC Homestays and made it our own for the long weekend. I snorkeled, I swam, I played with BIO-LUMINESCENT PLANKTON at night underwater!!! Saw turtles, a shark, lots of cool fish, baby clownfish, all the good stuff.

Then, I went diving.


Life underwater at depths just beyond our reach is so different from that at the surface. Baby rays, nudibranchs, giant anemones, corals that you only see 100 feet underwater, and Anna with a camera and her “Flat Stanley.”

teeny tiny


Nudibranch. These are my favorite underwater guys 🙂


*** Please note, these underwater photos are not mine- credit goes to Julienne & Ashley! Awesome photos ladies!

When your next door neighbor seems a world away

8 06 2010

This post is coming to you from Thailand.

Yes, Thailand. Ao Nang, to be exact. I’m in a world with 24-hr electricity, more cars than motorbike, Snickers and SUBWAY. I had that for dinner last night and I was almost at home. They lacked the required pepper jack cheese. Anyway.

Over the past week and a half, I have been outside of Indonesia, and I must say, I miss it.

I’m in a place right now where even during the low season, there are more foreigners, or “farang” in Thai, than there are Thais. Even in Bali, I was still a part of the minority. In that environment, I was able to see the day to day Balinese culture and how it mixed with the tourism industry there. Here in Thailand, I still have yet to find any part of the Thai culture. That’s probably because I’m in the touristy places, but still, where are the Thail people?

Most travel guides tell you that Thai people are incredibly hospitable and friendly. I’ve only been able to find a single instance of that “famous hospitality.” Donald was in the pharmacy and I was looking in an art gallery dodging the rain. I noticed a tiny woman smashing shells with a hammer and a bowl of what looked like chili sauce. They were trying to pry out snails any way they could. It was kind of funny. The smasher woman’s friend offered us a sample and an explanation of what they were doing. “Famous food in Krabi, try it!”

The snails were delicious, and so was the chili sauce. She said that “foreigners think it’s too hot.” Try me, I lived in Indonesia. Sambal! Sambal! Sambal! Enak!

Another thing that is pretty weird to me is the fact that (besides how freaking MAHAL SEKALI everything is…) everything is owned by foreigners. Dive shops especially. Most of the dive companies here are foreign owned. On Ko Phi Phi, there is not a single Thai guide. We went with Melanie from Sea Frog Divers, who was German, and really cool, and I think it was a British guy that owned the place. It was like I was in Europe or something. Weird.

I’ll talk about environmental issues later, when I’m not paying an arm and a leg for internet. Just ask me about the visibility and temperatures during my dives here today and I’ll cry and run away to Bunaken.

Speaking of which, wanna go? (

Also, there are banyak stories of Indonesia that I still have to tell. Photos to post. I’ll deal with that once I get home… I know you’re dying to hear about destroying a guest list, getting pooped on at the zoo in front of my friends and students and my karaoke adventures in the VIP room with the principal, teachers, staff and Javanese love songs. And Bunaken. There’s a few stories in that one. I’ll tell you aaaallll about it when I get home.

So I’m in Singapore.

1 06 2010

And I already miss Indonesia.

This is a general message so everybody knows what’s going on.

Tomorrow, I go to Thailand, leaving this financial black hole in the dust. I’ll get back to Singapore on the 21st to get my bags, then back to OREGON!!!! on the 22nd. 11:45 AM. Be there or have something better to do, it’s okay, really.

I’ll be sure and tell all the good stories and review all the good places when I get home. Non-stop adventure has it’s issues for writing. 🙂

See you soon, beautiful people!

When stranded in Bali, just walk

27 04 2010

That’s what I did.

Not exactly what I enjoyed walking past before walking through the monkey forest from my bungalow, but whatev. It was still crazy with the Full Moon festival and New Years!

New Years was an interesting experience. There’s only so much crunchy granola and more extreme yoga than Pam K. I can take. I went to Ubud, (same as the day trip from last time I was in Bali – where Wayan’s office is.) and chilled with Carrie, Courtney, Kelly, Lolly, Lolly’s sister Sarah. We vegetated with the help of Kafe (get the salad bowl), Bali Buddha (get the banana bread), Mojo’s Flying Burritos (just go there), and just chilled. I had been running around doing this, that, and the other thing for the rest of  December that it was nice to slow the pace down. I decided the night before to hop on a train to Bali. Yes, there are trains that go “between” islands, there is just a bus transfer over a ferry. I didn’t plan too well apparently, but this is Indonesia, and plans usually don’t go according to plan.

I couldn’t get a return ticket to Surabaya.

Planes, trains, busses, or travel cars were ALL BOOKED after the new year. I could (for $350,) fly first class from Bali to PAPUA, then fly to Jakarta and back to Surabaya and be back for class Monday morning, or I could wait until Monday morning and fly back to Surabaya through Mataram (Lombok) for $75.

You know me, I’m borderline frugal, and I’m not allowed to go to Papua.

Bemo drivers in Bali creeped me out after the first 3 attempts in getting to a nearby beach from the airport. Too many empty angkots and too many, “you can stay with me” suggestions with raised eyebrows. Ew. No thanks. I’ll be less frugal than normal and spring for a taxi to the next town over.

He must have thought that when I said, “surfers, backpackers, murah,” I meant, “Nusa Dua, Club Med and Hilton: MAHAL.” Because that’s exactly where he dropped me off. Hysterical. The Ritziest place in Indonesia. So ritzy, if fact, there might have actually been a Ritz.

I walked past scores of 5 star resorts and walked into Club Med’s lobby just out of curiosity. I was turned away since I didn’t have a prior reservation. I was told to go to the reservation office. Apparently I was shunned since I had a backpack and a plastic bag instead of a hired bellhop and a Gucci like all the other Bule guests.

I kept walking. I finally started to see a few locals after I walked past the St. Regis. The main line of bule hotels behind me, I could actually talk to a few people without having to pay them. Thank god. I asked if there was a homestay or cheap place to stay, and the answer was “di atas di sana.” On top over there, pointing to a hill at the end of the beach. Closer to the hill were more confirmations. Di atas di sana. Okay. At the base of the hill, there were people that stopped me to converse, to practice their English, and to interrogate why there was a bule by the not-Nusa-Dua beach. “Walk to the top of the hill and follow the road to the end, there’s a backpacker place where the surfers stay on the right.”

Well, apparently that was also hilarious to somebody. I walked all the way up there, got a few great pictures, then kept going. That hill was endless. I finally made it to the top of the hill where the road ends, and there was literally nothing. Cows. A few houses and a trail to a temple on the cliff. None of those places housed surfers or backpackers. I kept going out of desperation and frustration from the botched directions. If anything, I could call a taxi to come rescue me, (then I would have rather gone to Papua for how far from civilization I was!)

Just then, a motorcycle rode past. Bule? No way.

Yes way.

He stopped. “Are you lost?”

Buddy, you have no idea.

In a place like Indo, it’s usually safe to hop on a motorcycle with strangers. I can’t tell you how often I’ve paid to do it, but this time it wasn’t an ojek. Simon was visiting from Canada and was the hero of the day. We ended up hanging out for the afternoon since we were both traveling solo for the day. He was flying out that night and I was flying out the next morning. We went around the southern part of Bali and it was great. The temple on the cliffs, Pura Luhur Uluwatu, was really beautiful at sunset. Nothing but water from there to Africa.

Open water all the way to Africa. Rad.

In exchange for saving the day, I took him on the motorbike down from Uluwatu/Leggie’s Bungalow at Bingin Beach Hill to the airport. I think I really got the good end of the deal. I was near the beach, I was on a bike, and there was that infinity pool at Dreamland that I could literally spend an entire day in watching the boogie boarders below. It was rad. There will definitely be more solo trips before I’m back in Oregon. Maybe I’ll take one when I get home, too.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu. Beware of the monkeys!

PS, Just because it has pretty colors, doesn’t mean you should eat it.

Soft shelled crab and grilled shrimp. NO THANK YOU. Tidak enak!

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