Paradise has bad traffic

I’ve finally returned from my trip to Indonesia and Singapore. It was my true intent to write posts as I traveled. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be possible. We were on such a blitz of traveling there was not be a moment to even breath, let alone write a post. While I had a great time, the trip was nothing like I anticipated.

My friend wanted to plan this trip since he’s from Indonesia and had family there to make recommendations. We were under the impression that the recommendations would be for special little places known only to locals and would provide us with a unique experience that only a native Indonesian would know how to plan. Instead, we ended up with packaged tours arranged just days before we left that were way overpriced and kept us stuck in traffic for 10 to 12 hours a day, for days and days in a row. We were all thoroughly exhausted having seen so much but not really experiencing much—except, that is, for intensely bad traffic which seems to be the hallmark of Indonesia.

We stayed with his family in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, and they were absolutely the best. They were extremely gracious hosts that went far beyond what they should have done for us. I really enjoyed my time with them and they were truly wonderful. We had great conversations and they went to great pains to ensure we had a good time.

When we got to Bali, though, we spent most of our time in a rattling tour bus being scuttled from tourist trap to tourist trap while our friend was constantly on his iPhone arranging his late night trysts (or sleeping because of them). We actually paid to have touts try to sell us stuff! And pay we did. This trip was far more expensive than my trip to Brazil for New Year’s celebrations in Rio. And Brazil is not known for being cheap, whereas Indonesia is one of the cheapest places in the world. We managed to get an extra “free day” so we could enjoy the beach and get a nice spa treatment, but that was just too short amount of time to really relax.

Our only moment of relaxation came on our tour to Rinca and Komodo Islands (something I had to insist on with my friend when he planned the trip). This was everyone’s favorite part of the entire trip. Probably because Labuoan Bajo is a quiet, beautiful little town overlooking stunning turquoise waters and verdant islands popping from the sea. Even better, there was hardly any traffic and no cell phone service. The people were wonderful and the scenery was amazing. And, of course, there were dragons! It was a really unique and exciting experience.

All good things must end. I ended up with a seriously bad sunburn from falling asleep on the boat in the sun. I thought I had been resting for 10-15 minutes. Instead, I had been in the sun for over an hour after having snorkeled for over an hour before that. No one woke me up! I actually had blisters on my back the sunburn was so bad.

We went back to Bali for one night (which I spent convalescing because of my sunburn) and then to Singapore. We were supposed to stay at a “family friend’s condo” while in Singapore. It took us two hours to find because our friend didn’t get the information for it. When we finally found the place it turned out to be a tiny room with only two beds (there are four of us) that is rented out to whomever is willing to pay the high rate, and is shared with tons of random people. When we saw it we so surprised that we opted to go find a hotel instead. That was a fun experience at midnight. We ended up a shitty hotel that prostitutes frequent—not sure if that was my best decision ever, but I had finally reached a breaking point. Nothing in this trip was remotely like we expected. Eventually I found a nice hostel that we stayed at and we made the best of it.

Singapore ended up being nothing special. We were there for much too long. There is not much to see or do (unless you like malls or $25 Singapore Slings). Singapore is a very sanitized place and there is a low-level of fear among people that they might do something wrong. Not exactly what I consider a very fun place. To make it even better, our friend ditched us most of the time to hang out with guys he met online. That didn’t enhance the Singapore experience.

In the end I was thoroughly exhausted from this trip.  I spent so much money and didn’t really get an opportunity to relax. I still had a good time despite everything, though I don’t feel like our friend really gave this trip much thought. He just went with whatever the travel agent recommended which was all packaged tours. Most of the time he was completely disengaged from us and the trip anyway. He just wanted to go to malls or  bury his face in his iPhone. That was disappointing to say the least. In the future I will definitely plan my own trips. After all, I do own a travel agency. One must appreciate the irony!

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