Back  Home  November 2001 January 2002 Maren & Kirk

December 2001 Daily Diary

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(Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia (Bali), WA Australia)



We made sure we got up really early in the morning so that we would be able to get a seat on the bus.  We were lucky we got there before 6:00 am, 10 minutes later we were going to sit in the aisles.  Actually they filled the bus until the aisles were not only full, but till all the seats had 3 people in them, instead of 2.  We offered a place to an older Swiss guy who was standing in the aisle.  The scenery along the way was really nice. Everything was green.   We arrived in Vang Vieng at around 11:30 am.  There we searched around for hotels and guest houses for an hour and finally took the hotel we first looked at.  Things were much more expensive than the guide book had noted.  We have heard so many positive things about Laos, especially that it was not touristy and really cheap. This town is really made out for the tourists and nothing else, at least anymore.  It was also much more expensive than we had expected.   It is much less touristy than Vietnam, and the people are more friendly and probably more genuine,  but the same rules apply as anywhere else in the world,  they want your dollar more than anything.  In Vang Vieng we decided to walk around town and along the river.  There we saw the local children playing in the river, the men fishing and the women doing the washing. Later on Kirk took a dip in the river. It was fairly cold, but refreshing.  We later walked to the Paulis cave which was about a 4 km hike from town.  To our surprise there was an entrance fee to enter the cave.  We were not sure it would be worth it, but it turned out it was.  We went in this totally dark cave with a guide by ourselves.  It was really neat inside, especially since we were the only ones in there.  Later on we had dinner where we had a fruit shake earlier.  It was really good and the portions were ok.  Later we saw the two girls from New York again and made plans to meet them on the bus tomorrow to Luang Prabang.  We were so exhausted that we went back to the room and fell asleep with all of our cloths on. 


We again made sure we were over an hour early for the bus.  It was good because we got some good seats.  The bus again would be become very full.  In our opinion Laos has really caught on to how the tourist industry works.  The bus from Vietiane to Vang Vieng costs only 6000 Kip, but a bus that goes from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang costs 40000 Kip even though the trip takes only 2 to 3  hours more.   Yes the reason is that they huddle all the tourists on this bus.  So no one can tell me Laos is not already in the tourist swing.  The bus ride was ok, it took a while because the roads are really curvy.  But the scenery was very nice.  The two NY girls sat behind us.  On arrival at the bus station there were the tuk tuks already waiting for us, charging 5000 Kip each to town.  Most tourists got on and took the tuk tuk.  We decided to walk instead and see what the tuk tuks on the street were offering, or maybe walk to town if nothing was cheaper.  We got a tuk tuk pretty quickly for 1000 each to town.  So again here in Laos, they know what tourism is.  Not that one can blame them.  Again we find them much more genuine than in Vietnam or Thailand.  To our surprise many hotels were full and they again were much more expensive than according our guide books.  We eventually found a room, not very nice, but ok and cheap.  We met the two NY girls for dinner.  It was nice to talk to them.  They saw the WTC terrorist attack live.  They worked and lived really close by.  One is also a photographer and it was really interesting to hear about her work. Later on we went straight to bed. We were really tired.


On an important note, we just want to wish my mom all the best in the world today and we know that everything will turn out the way it is supposed to.  We love you a lot and are thinking of you. This morning we had bread and bananas for breakfast like we do a lot of the time. We then walked around town and visited the different Wats and Temples in town such as the Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Winsulate, and others.  We also visited the Palace Museum.  They all charge a small entrance fee.  The temples were nice, but after a while they all seem a like and one Buddha starts to look like the other.  In the afternoon we checked the internet.  Thanks Marc for taking care of the internet site.  We had lunch where we ate dinner the night before, because they make  a tasty fresh fruit drink.  Later on we basically walked around town some more and along the river. In the evening we bought some rice and some toppings (?) in a plastic bag for dinner and ate in the dark down by the river.  We also checked the internet and had another fresh fruit shake for dinner.  We retired early to our room to write our diary and update our site a little. 


 The alarm woke us up at 4:40 am. Maren was the first as always to get up. Kirk took his time.   We wanted to get to the northern bus stop early to try and get a seat on a bus to Luang Nam Tha.  The information gathered the day before was really unclear on whether the bus left at 6:00 am, 7:00 am, 8:00 am or 9:00 am.  To our luck the bus left at 9:00 am, which meant we hung around at the bus station for a few hours.  The bus was not even full, so one did not even have to be there early. To get to the bus station we took a tuk tuk. The first tuk tuk took us to the wrong bus station, the southern bus station, and then wanted 10000 Kip to take us to the northern bus station. This was out of the question for us so we decided to start walking.  We eventually got one for 7000 Kip, which was good, because it would have been difficult to find in the dark and it was quite a distance away.  The bus ride was long but one traveled through some beautiful, lush, and green hills and valleys.  The road also went through some small and cute villages. The town where we stopped for lunch had internet service to our amazement, so we quickly checked our emails and received some encouraging, and really positive news from home.  So we were much more relaxed for the rest of the bus ride.  We just did not have to reply to the emails because the bus was leaving.  We arrived after dark in Luang Nam Tha.  There we had found a guest house and then ate dinner with a really nice English guy we had met on the bus.  We wanted to make a phone call home or at least use the internet,  but the telephone office was closed and there is no internet to our surprise in Luang Nam Tha.  That was a little frustrating.  At least we were able to look earlier on the way up here. Afterwards we crashed into bed.  It was a long day.


We slept a little longer today.  Until around 8:00 am.  The first thing we did was call home.  It was great to talk to everyone, even though it was just 3 minutes.  We were very happy that everything went well.  Making telephone calls here is a pain.  One first has to fill out some forms, where one wants to call, which number, and for how long.  Then the telephone clerk makes the call for you by connecting to an operator.  Once she is connected to the number, one gets to have the conversation.  It is also extremely expensive, however we were just really happy to get through.  We then got information on trekking,  the two day trips were all fully booked, so we decided on doing a one day trek the following day. The treks go to different villages, but the main difference is that one stays one night in a village on a 2 day hike. If we wanted to do the two day hike we would have to sit around for a few days, and we decided against it.  In the early afternoon after we had eaten something we each rented a bike and rode to some villages outside of town.  The outlying area was beautiful and the people in the villages were very interesting and nice.  They have not yet been corrupted by tourism.  We also visited a small market where we bought some oranges and then we returned our bicycles.  Later on we worked a little on our web page,  we are a little behind.  In the evening we had dinner and had some waffles for desert.  Later on we had a conversation with some ladies from Holland as we relaxed on the balcony.  After talking to them we went back to the room where Kirk quickly fell asleep. Maren sorted out some pictures for our photo album until the electricity was turned off at 10:00 pm.


Kirk woke up around 4:00 am and could not really get back to sleep.  At 7:00 am we walked over to the market and ate some fried bananas and something else fried.  At 8:30 am we met our trek guide for the day trek we were going to do.  She was a nice Lao girl, her name was Mo, who normally did not work as a guide, but was filling in because they could not find another guide today. It worked out well though, she was really nice.  A pickup first took everyone to the starting point around 10 minutes away from Luang Namtha.  The trek was ok, it first took us to a local village.  The people live there without any electricity, running water, not even a road that went to the village. It was fairly interesting, but did not blow us away.  We then had lunch. The guide served lunch on banana leaves she had collected.  It was not our favorite meal of the trip.  It was sticky rice that one ate with different vegetable, fish and meat dishes.  After lunch we walked through and up a hill through very thick vegetation. It was sort of like walking through a small jungle.  The small trek also took us through a couple of other villages, where again the digital camera got some kids really excited.  At the last village we climbed a small hill where a  Stupa was. It was bombed by the Americans in the 1960 and still lay toppled over.  When we got back to the town,  Maren gave a little first aid to a small boy from a village with a cracked toe nail.  For dinner we had sweet and sour pork with hot papaya salad.  Tasted great. Again waffles were for desert.


We made sure we were up early to get the first truck to Hua Xai (Laos and Thailand Border). As it turned out, there was no reason for us to get there early. The pickup trucks did not leave for 2 hours.  For some unknown reason that just sat around, even when both of the pickup trucks were full.  Really strange.  To state the positives first about the 10 hour ride,  the scenery along the way was fantastic.  One also passed through some really nice villages along the way similar to the ones we saw when we went biking two days before.  Along the way one truck must have broken its axle. To our amazement they were able to fix the truck with a piece of wood they chopped apart and an old inner tube which they cut apart.  Do not ask how they did it.  By the end we were both really dirty.  We had the two front seats in the back of the pickup. This is where all the dirt gets blown into your face. 99% of the road is not paved.  However we have been on worse.  The truck dropped everyone off at the bus stop. From there we had to walk around 2 km to find a Guest House. There we took an ice cold shower, which for the most part got all the dirt off of us.  In the evening we had a small dinner, made a phone call home and then went to bed.  We are very happy that everything went well at home.


We heard that the border opened at 8:00 am, so we got there early to make sure we would get a good start. Well it opened at 8:15 am and it did not make a difference we got over to the other side.  Another day we could have slept a little longer. This time we were made to pay the overtime fee.  There was no way around it. Claimed that it was not a working day and therefore we had to pay up. Only 35 cents, but it is frustrating that they make you pay to get in, pay to get out on top of an expensive visa.  One then takes a small boat across the river to the other side and one goes through the Thailand border control.  That went easy and this time no entry stamp fee, wow.  The first thing we did was to check our email, and then we got a local bus to Chiang Rai. There we had lunch and then got another bus to Chiang Mai.  We shared a taxi to the center of town with a few other people and then found a hotel. We first had dinner and walked around.  There were a lot of bars around that had mostly middle age western men slurping over young Thai women getting drunk in the process. Later we were able to hook up the laptop to upload some of our pictures. Yes there has been complaints about not being able to access the pictures.  The main excuse is that the connections are just too slow normally and it just would take too much time.


In the morning we packed our bags and left them in the hotel lobby. Afterwards  we went and bought bus tickets for tonight's bus to Bangkok at the cheapest travel agent we found the night before.  We then walked around town checking out the different Wats and temples. They all see alike after a while and one  has trouble enjoying them like one should.  We have seen so many now on our trip, that we have just about had enough of them.  We also bought one book and got a few free ones at this other book store. Kirk has finally something to read.  Later on we treated ourselves to a slurpee at 7Eleven and then went to the internet cafe for 3 hours were Kirk was able to upload all of our pictures which were not uploaded before.  To our surprise the guy tried to overcharge us an hour.  Later on Kirk bought replacement sun glasses and we  had dinner before we were picked up at 7:00 pm to take the overnight bus to Bangkok. The bus was a really nice one and we got the two seats up front in the upper level, which in our opinion are the best ones because you can stretch your legs out well.  The trip was uneventful, the only problem was that they turned out the lights right away, so we were not able to read our books. So we just tried to sleep.


The bus arrived at 6:30 am in Bangkok.  We eventually found a hotel near the one we stayed at before. We immediately had breakfast at the street stand we ate at the last time we were here. He had rice with fried chicken and sweet and sour sauce.  We then checked the internet and looked for bus tickets to Kho Pha Ngan. We also checked out information on going to Myamar (Burma).  We are not sure yet if we want to go there or not. First it is not that cheap and second is that we are sure if it is the correct thing to do. Later one we went to a shopping mall to look for tents and a Sony Service center to get the digital camera fixed again. The Service center was closed and we were not sure about the tents we saw. Later we went back to our hotel room and updated our web pages.  In the evening we checked emails, uploaded our website and had dinner.  We want to get out of Bangkok as soon as possible. There is not much to do in this city.


The first thing on the agenda was to send a few packages home. The first was our films which we sent per EMS, which hopefully means that it will arrive, and the second package we sent per sea mail, which according to the clerk will take 2 to 3 months.  Breakfast was at the usual place, where rice and chicken were on the menu.  We then bought our bus tickets to Ko Phangan tonight.  We were happy we found the Sony service dealership the first day, so we took a bus there again. To our major disappointment and frustration they had no one there to fix the camera. They would have to send the camera away, which would take at least a week.  So we ended up not leaving our camera there and hoped that in Singapore we would be able to fix it.  We also looked for a tent for Australia, but could not find a good one we wanted. Later on we checked the internet, ate lunch and went to wait for our bus out of Bangkok.  We are still amazed how disorganized people are.  They first took us to the wrong bus stop, and then we had to wait around for two hours before the bus came.  They do this drill everyday, and they seem never to get it right.  The bus was a really nice VIP bus.  We even got to watch a movie,  but it was a horribly made film about the Vietnam War.



During the night we had a hard time sleeping because the bus driver had the air conditioner at full blast.  It was freezing cold the whole night.  We arrived in Surat Thani and waited another .5 hour for a bus to bring us to the ferry.  The ferry ride to Ko Phangan took around 4.5 hours. We read our books most of the way.  It actually started to rain and everyone was packed in below. We found out then that we had come to the island in the rainy season.  Though it mostly only rained in the afternoon.  There were so many touts trying to get us to one of their hotels and we were not sure exactly where were wanted to go, so we just sat there a while till we finally went with a taxi driver to Ao Mae Haad.  There we got a bungalow near the beach, not on it. Those were much more expensive.   We first took a walk along the beach. It was quiet nice. Kirk also went swimming for a little while.  Later on we had dinner and read our books. We basically just relaxed.


This morning we walked to town. It took us around 40 minutes.  In town we checked the internet and had breakfast.  There they sold 1 bottle of cold water for 10 Baht and 6 bottles warm water for 20. Figure that one out.  The math just did not add up for us so we bought none and used our water filter.  Later on we went swimming , and we both just read our books the rest of the day. We did not do much otherwise.  We had dinner, read a little more then went to bed.  As you can see not a very exciting day. 


We were not sure if we were going to rent a bike and ride around the island and take the night ferry, or take the late morning ferry off the island. The weather was not great, it was raining so we decided to take the late morning ferry.  It was a good decision because it rained heavily the rest of the day.  After the taxi took us to the ferry station we bought tickets on the car ferry back to Sutan Thani on the mainland. The ferry ride took around 2.5 hours. It rained the whole time. All we did was reading our books and trying to take a snooze.  On the bus from the ferry station to Sutan Thani town center, the bus attendant tried to everyone on the bus to book there next bus tickets with him.  He bugged the hell out of people, explaining always how much cheaper his bus tickets were and how it would cost more if one looked oneself. He rambled off numbers trying to confuse people and get them to buy tickets out of fear they would not get such a great deal. We did not buy our ticket to Hat Yai with him and in town actually found it cheaper. What a surprise. These guys are just so full of bull.  After buying our bus tickets, we had lunch and bought some cookies for the ride. The ride was ok, our bus driver was really nice and asked us exactly where we wanted to get off in the city.  In Hat Yai after looking for a while we found a hotel.  We walked around town and then went to bed. We were tired.



The first thing we did was buying a minibus ticket to Penang (Georgetown) Malaysia.  We looked around and took the cheapest one we could find. We checked our emails and had the worst meal for breakfast that we have had in Thailand. Rice with pork, but it was not very good, very fatty. We had asked the minibus company if the price included all exit and departure fees. They replied yes and the driver ill take care of all that.  Well when we got to border with Malaysia, the driver started asking for money for the exit fee.  He first asked the Asians in the minibus for 10 Baht and the westerners for 1 US $.  Something was not right. He then said 10 Baht was ok. We told him that the agency  told everything was included in the price of the ticket. He just got pissed with us when we said this and gave us back our passports which we had to give him before.  He brought the other passports himself to the customs officer and we had to do this ourselves. We did not have to pay the customs officer.  He did give the customs officer some money.  Other than this argument which got a little heated, the trip went ok. The minibus took the ferry to get over to Penang Island, even though there is a bridge connecting it to the mainland.  In Georgetown we looked for a hotel. We took one not in our guide book called Coral Guest House.  We did not pick D-Budget Guest House which is highly recommend in the guide book because the receptionist was very moody and not very friendly.  It was just the start of the Muslim New Year celebrations.  This meant that the buses to Kuala Lumpar the next day would be mostly full (tip from the hotel staff), so we decided to walk to the bus station and see if we could get a ticket.  Most travel agencies told us that the buses were all fully booked.  We were lucky at the station to get a ticket on the night bus to Kuala Lumpur. It leaves tomorrow at 11:00 pm.  That was perfect with us.  In the evening we had some dinner down at the water front, well Maren had fish and noodles there and Kirk had an egg and onion contraption later. We were back at the hotel room around 8:00 pm where we watched the news and a movie. The movie was on a VCD (CD that plays movies on the TV.) The quality of these movies is so horrible because one has to compress the movie to fit on the CD.  One could hardly watch.


We first went to the Khoo Kongsi,  a Chinese temple and walked by the Kapitan Kling Mosque. We then had breakfast at a cafe that had CNN on. The breakfast was small and not much for one's money. Later we went to Fort Cornwallis before we took a local bus to Penang Hill. We wanted to climb up, but from the side where the cable train goes up that was not possible.  The line to the cable train was also 3 hours long, so we decided not to go up.  We then instead went to the Kek Lok Si Temple where the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia stands.  It was just packed with people.  Too many.  Afterwards we went back to town where we went to a supermarket and tasted free samples they had.  We also bought some bread, cheese and beans for lunch. Actually we just had the bread and cheese for lunch.  We then thought it would be a good idea to see a movie, but the films showing were not to our liking so we checked our email for an hour and read up on some news.  We then just basically walked around town and waited back at the hotel until around 10:30 pm.  We then walked to the bus station, where our bus left at around 11:30. The seats in the bus were really cool. They were just like business class seats in airplanes. Really comfortable.


The bus ride went quick and woke us up in our deep sleep. The seats were very comfortable and we could really sleep. Too bad the bus arrived at 4:30 am at a bus station just outside Kuala Lumpur.  We took a local bus to the main bus station in the center of the city where we waited around for a few hours till the ticket shops opened and we could by tickets for Melaka or Singapore, which ever ones we could get. It was hard to find one with still tickets, but we were able to eventually, and bought tickets for the 2:30 pm bus to Melaka. We then found a storage facility across the street. Expensive, but we had no choice.  We first walked to the Golden Triangle, where the twin Petronas Towers and the KL Towers are. The highest building in the world.  One could not climb up or visit them because of the holidays.  But at least we got to see them. We then walked to the Royal Sanger Club, Sultan Abdul Samad building, the National Museum, and the Train Station, all colonial buildings.  Later on we had McDonalds for lunch, 3 hamburgers each because they had a special deal .99 RM per hamburger (around 26 US cents).  We then took the bus to Melaka when it just started raining really heavily. Perfect timing.   In Melaka we first found a hotel and then walked around the town a little before going to bed.



In the morning we had breakfast, it was included in the price of our hotel room. Not much, scrambled eggs with toast. We then did some sightseeing around town, visiting the Town Square also called the Dutch Square with its historical Stadthuys and Churches built by the Dutch, Portuguese and English and different points in history.  Many of the buildings are dark red in color. Otherwise we just walked around the town. It was very hot and we took one time refuge in a shopping mall. Afterwards we picked up our backpacks at the hotel and walked to the bus station.  There we got the bus to Johor Bahru, which is the city on the border with Singapore from where we took a local express bus into Singapore.  In Singapore we found a hotel room. They gave us an AC room for the price of a room with a fan because they did not have any fan rooms left. So that was nice, though rooms are really expensive in Singapore.  Not what we are used to.  We then walked around a little, we were able to change our Malaysian RM and  Thailand Baht into Singapore Dollars which was good. The exchange rate was not great, but it was ok.  We then worked on our web pages. Took a while because we have been lazy lately and have not updated them in a while.


The breakfast in lousy. Toast bread, no toaster available with the cheapest jelly and cheapest butter one can buy, even Kirk would not save the extra pennies and buy this food.  The tea is alright.  In the morning we went to the Sony Service Center with the Metro. We were able to convince them after talking to them for a while that they would look at the camera free of charge and readjust the lens.  It took a while to convince them to do this but in the end it worked out ok. We still had to pay to get the cracked monitor fixed, which was not cheap, it costs 67 US$ to fix.  Another dent in our budget, but we thought it is worth it to get it fixed, even thought the camera works with the crack in the plastic monitor cover.  Afterwards we looked at a few travel agents for air fairs to Australia.  STA travel had the best fairs available, out of the ones we checked.  We also went to Citibank to sort out some financial things at home.  They had a computer there hooked up to the internet, so we were able to check our email for free. We also looked around at camera stores for some things for our cameras.  Things are just so much cheaper here than at home.  They do start with totally ridicules prices and come down really fast.  Many times 50 % or more from the first asking price.  We are thinking about buying a 2x Tele Converter for our camera. It doubles the zoom on our Canon Camera.  One guy started at 518 S$ and was down to 240 S$ before we left the store. We still did not buy, wanting to check out other stores first.  Somehow time flew buy and it was already around 4:00 pm, so we had some chicken and rice for dinner (cheapest dinner one can have in Singapore).  Kirk then took a nap, regretted later because he could not sleep during the night.  We later then walked around town a while, then decided to go to the movies and see Ocean's 11.  It turned out to be really good. During the night there were some young people partying all night so we had a hard time to sleep.


The first thing after breakfast was booking the airline tickets to Australia. We decided to pay the 100 S$ to be able to stop over in Bali.  We will now spend Christmas on Bali.  Hopefully it will be nice there over Christmas. We also booked our flights all the way to New Zealand.  It cost a lot of money, but one has no choice in the matter.  Later one we looked around for watches and lenses. Both one can find really cheap here.  We ended up buying the 2x Tele Converter Lens for 118.45 S$ including Tax (65 US$).  The price was the best we could find out of 30 shops and we bargained down to the last dollar. So from the original asking price yesterday at one shop of 518 S$ (284 US$) to the price we paid 118 S$ (65 US$), was a 430 % difference. Actually crazy. So watch out in Singapore.  Later we found a place selling cheap Australian Lonely Planets, so we bought one. We had actually planed to buy one in Australia, but this was really cheap (25 S$).  Later we looked at watches, there are some really nice ones, and really cheap. We are not sure we should buy them or not. We do not have a watch at the moment. We think we found the cheapest place to buy them.  We just are not sure if we should go for it. We have already spent so much money.  Later we had dinner, yes chicken and rice. We then took long needed showers and worked on our web pages.


We did not much today.  After breakfast we checked emails at the Citibank branch where it for free, then picked up our plane tickets at STA travel.   They put on the tickets that amendment and cancellation fees do apply to the tickets.  This is not what we wanted.  So after making a big fuss there and threatening to cancel the tickets they eventually gave us new tickets without this clause written on them.  If one is sometimes not a__hole, one gets no where.  Afterwards we walked around Singapore near the water front.  Otherwise we did not do much. We did buy some watches for ourselves.  They were much cheaper than in Europe or the US.  They are both with altimeter and thermometer/ barometer and Kirks also has a compass.  Singapore is dangerous because some things are really much cheaper than at home.  We had to bargain hard and check out a lot of shops before we got the best deal we thought was possible.  In the evening we wrote our Christmas emails and read a little. 


After breakfast we checked our emails again and then took the MRT and the bus to the Zoo.  The Singapore Zoo was really nice and well done we thought. It was not like a Safari, but to see the animals was nice.  They had a fairly large collection.  When we finally got back we had a long nap before we took a walk around town a little and then came back to the hotel.   So today like the other days in Singapore, nothing much happened. We will be happy tomorrow when we fly to Bali.



  After breakfast we uploaded our website and sent off our emails.  WE then decided instead of hanging around in Singapore we would go to the airport early.  It turned out to be a good idea. The bus to the airport costs only 1.5 S$ which was a reasonable fair for Singapore. At the Airport we first checked in and then send a package home.  We then went through customs, wondering then how we would spend the next 5.5 hours. Well we found a great way, we became contestants on the first ever Airport Games Show, " What's your Range".  We played the 2:00 pm show first.  One has to enter the correct number within a range to a question they asked.  An example question was when did Porsche first build a Airplane engine?  It turns out Kirk wins and he was able to win 190 S$  (104 US$) which can only be spend in the Airport.  So that was a nice early Christmas present.  In the game one can win over 1000 $ Singapore dollars if one picks the right boxes on the screen when one wins. But 190 S$ is good enough for us.  Well Maren was allowed to play in Terminal 1 a second time. Kirk went over to Terminal 2 to play again at 4:00pm. They did not know that he had already won in Terminal 1.  So it was cheating a little, but that was ok. Well in the 4:00pm game, we each came in second. So we almost won again. We decided to spend the 190 S$ on a Sony 128 MB Memory Stick.  It costs 193 S$, so we had to through in an extra 3 S$.  Before we got on the plane we exchanged our last S$ into Australian and Indonesian currency and ate our last Nutella bread.  The flight went quickly, 2.15 minutes. The meal was also ok on board.   At the Airport we first went to the Garuda Indonesia Airlines office and got our Visa for Australia typed into the computer.  We then wanted to get a bus to Kuta,  a town near the airport. We walked outside the airport gates, hoping to find the local bus. To no avail.  A crazy Australian guy (who lives in Indonesia) jumped out of a minibus taxi and said we should go with him and it was dangerous out there.  He would bring us to a safe place in Kuda. We said what the hell, we will go with him.  It turned out to be an ok decision.  He was leaving that night and not staying in Bali. He was leaving for Java. The hotel where we stopped at was full.  So we had to look for another place. The guy turned out to be nice and did not want anything from us, but he was either nuts or on some type of drug.  All hotel were either booked or very expensive.  We finally ended up taking one that was cheap, but not to nice. It was almost 11:30 pm and we had to take something.


It is Christmas Eve, so Merry Christmas.  This morning we got up a around 8:30 and then went to look for a few things like a money changer. Well this was an experience. First of all the money changers here in Kuta have radically different exchange rate between them, so one has to shop around.  We finally found one which we thought had the best exchange rate,  he actually had an exchange rate over the official exchange rate we saw checked in the internet before we got to Bali.  This made us suspicious right away.  Turned out the suspicion was justified.  Somehow right in front of our eyes he was able to count the correct amount of bills (621000 IR) and we were also able to count the money. Actually both of us counted separately, the correct amount.  Right before he handed us the money a second time, he managed to skim 200000 IR from the pile. That is around 20 US$ from the 60 US$ we were changing .  Kirk thought he kept his eye on the money the whole time.  He was good . Before we left Kirk felt something was wrong and counted the money again.  He had given us only 54000 IR which he quickly typed into his calculator to try and show us that is the amount we agreed upon. Kirk quickly grabbed the US $ and yelled at the guy what an real jerk he was, (of course not in a very nice gentlemen manner), and we left. Luckily the US $ were still there and he did not try and snatch those away too.  We think he left them out because he did not want us making a huge fuss and going to the police.  If we had our money, we would not report him.  This gave us a sour feeling right away about the Bali. The next money changer started playing with numbers again. This time we just told him to get lost and play with the numbers himself.   ATt the end we just got money out of the ATM machine.  What got us even more nervous, was that when we got out there was a security guard watching the ATM.  Made us wonder if there was a theft problem in Bali.  Out first impressions were strengthened, by the fact that one was hassled the whole day to buy this and that or take part in tours or offering transport anywhere.  Basically Kuta is a tourist trap.  The beach though is really nice and we enjoyed swimming in it.  For lunch we had local food, fried rice or noodles with vegetables and egg.  The portions were good and it tasted alright.  Later we went swimming and walked around town before we had our Christmas eve dinner,  each had Cheese burger with fries and a Happy Hour beer split between the two of us.  It was alright,  miss my moms Christmas Dinner back home.  Next year we will try to be in Phoenix AZ.  The water was really warm and there were a few waves so one could go body serving.  It was nice to go for a swim in the heat. The water however was almost too warm to be refreshing. We also bought bus tickets tomorrow to Ubud and Kintamani.  We leave at 6:00 am tomorrow.  For the bus tickets one needs to shop around.  The prices vary tremendously from one travel agent to another.  So look around.  We also checked the internet again, not that many Christmas emails arrived yet. Would be nice to get a few more. Later we went down to the beach where Kirk went swimming in the dark until Maren could not sit any longer on the beach because she was being eaten by mosquitoes.  When we arrived in our room and turned on the light, we saw about 1 to 15 huge cockroaches all over our room. They make a loud crunch sound when one stamps on them.  Later we worked on our web page and went to bed.  We have to get up early.


First of all we would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, especially Ingeborg, Rita, Bob, Norbert, Marc, Scott, and Nina.  We miss everyone a lot and hope you have a great day.  Yes we know that must be difficult with out us there to entertain you.  We miss and love everyone a lot!! The alarm went off at 5:30 am. The bus was leaving at 6:00 am.  Maren did not sleep well because she had nightmares about cockroaches crawling all over her during the night.   The bus only took 1 hour to get to Ubud, though they had aid it would at least take 1.5 hours.  In Ubud we walked around town, had breakfast and checked out email.  It is a nice little town, filled with handicraft stores and souvenir shops.  For Christmas Maren bought 4 dresses for 65000 IR and Kirk bought 2 T-Shirts for 30 IR.  Which translates to less than 10 US$ for everything.  Kirk bought new T-Shirts because he thinks that a t-shirt he bought in Vietnam was the cause of him having major skin problems the last few days.  His skin, especially on his back developed bumps like mosquito bits all over.  He also had them in front and on the legs.  So hopefully that was the problem.  Today he wore a different shirt and had no new bumps on his skin.  We also visited the sacred Monkey Forest.  Which was actually quite good. Monkeys were all over the place.  The temples were interesting and worth visiting.  The monkeys were at times cute but at other times very aggressive.   One time a monkey tried to grab Maren's hat and would not let her get by.   Kirk tried to distract the monkey, but the monkey then came after Kirk showing his fangs.  Kirk then took off in the other direction.  It though gave Maren the chance to get up the steps and around the monkey. Nothing bad happened.  We then took the 12:30 pm bus to Kintamani. There was a great view of the Volcano Gunung Batur.  We are planning to walk up it tomorrow.  It is 1717 meters high. So it will not take very long. After bargaining hard we finally found a minibus to take us to Toya Bungkah, where after looking around a little chose a hotel.  Later on we waked down to the lake and search for a restaurant to eat our Christmas dinner.  We ended up eating at our hotel. The prices for food, is much more expensive than in Kuta.  Our Christmas dinner was ok, the both of us had rice with some vegetables and different sauces. For desert we had a banana.  There is not much to do here at night so we just wrote our diary and went early to bed.


This morning the alarm went off at 3:45 am.  Maren got up right away, while Kirk took his time.  At around 4:20 am we started on our hike up the hill. The hotel said yesterday that it was really easy to find the way up.  Well it was not, at least the first part was not easy to find in the dark.  We went the wrong  way a couple of times. However in the end we made it to the top.   One has a great view of the surrounding areas, especially the lake.  The Gunung Batur Volcano is 1717 meters high. At the top we ate our bananas and then walked around the rim of the volcano. Some parts were a little scary since it was straight down on either side of us.  We even had to crawl once. What was also cool was the hot steam coming up from the crater and how sometimes the rocks were hot.  We found out later that one actually does have to have a guide to climb the volcano.  A couple of years ago two German tourist had dies somehow up there.  Our guide book said we did not need a guide so we did not believe the people telling us that we needed to get a guide to climb up the mountain.  We thought it was just a sales pitch for us to hirer a guide.  However one does not really need one.  The hike in itself is not difficult, steep at sometimes but pretty easy hiking.  Only thing a guide would be good for is to go up in the dark.  The trails are not really marked.  We called Kirks parents from the Volcano to wish them a Merry Christmas.  The way down the mountain was easy and we were back by 8:45 am. At the hotel we had breakfast and then packed and downloaded the pictures on the laptop.  We then got a taxi to the bus station in Kintamani, where we got the 12:30 pm bus to Kuta.  The bus stopped again in Ubed for an half and hour.  The ride took about 1.5 hours then to airport. At the airport we had a lot of time to waste, so we first had lunch and then sat around in the airport and played with the computer.  We also checked the internet.  It was 500 IR per minute with a 5000 IR minimum.  We only paid 300o IR because it was so slow and for the last 5 minutes we did not do anything because it was hanging.  Of course we had to argue with the worker a little to pay less.  Later on we just waited for the flight.   It was really boring, we even slept for a while next to a McDonalds in the airport. 



We arrived at 2:00 am at Perth Airport.  We decided to wait around until 6:00 am before we called one of the hostels to pick us up. So we slept on the floor at the airport for a while.   We also found out that rent a cars were all rented out and that they were very expensive anyway. So that was not great to hear. One right away notices that one is no longer in Asia.  Things are clean and one feels like you are somewhere at home, with clean toilets and friendly people who do not want your money for saying hello. It is a nice change.  However one notices that things are also priced much higher.  At 8:30 am the hostel picked us up, the manager was 2 hours late, but he eventually came. He did give us two waters and two beers and a cheaper dorm room for the first two nights. The hostel was ok, the cheapest in town which one noticed right away.  Accommodation is much more expensive in Australia.  We first went food shopping and then looked at a couple of car rental agencies.  They either did not have any cars, or they had a huge drop off fee for leaving the car in Sydney.   So we have decided to try and find a car to buy.  In the evening Maren made a great dinner, noodles and tomato sauce.  It is so much nicer when she is able to cook a great meal.  My favorite thing is that the portions are large.  One finally gets filled up.  We later went early to bed. 


 In the morning we walked around town to look at ads for cars and to get some information on what one has to do.  We looked at a van, but the license plates were not Western Australia, they were Queensland. This meant we would have to go to Queensland to get them registered.  It was really cheap since the Japanese girl had to leave Perth very soon.  However we decided not to buy.  Later on we looked at a few shops in town and checked the internet.  Otherwise the day went by fast.   In the evening we basically just watched TV and went to bed.


This morning we looked at a Nissan Van.  The add said it was a "Great Bargain", but the van was a pile of crap.  We later told the Japanese girl we would not buy the car.  We again walked around town checking out the backpacker hostels to see if any new cars were for sale.  We were just worried we would spend too much time in Perth.  We did not want to spend a lot of time here.  Maren also went to the doctor, she wanted to see if her toe nails were infected.  The doctor thinks she just has dandruff under the nails.  So it relieved her mind a little.  We then walked around town for a while and went back to the hostel.  Nothing much spectacular happened here in Perth.   


In the morning we got the bus to the airport to look at cars.  Every Sunday they have a used car sale where people can bring their cars to sell.  However it was a little disappointing since there were not very many cars offered, and only one was in our price range.  So we took the next bus back to Perth.  In the afternoon we looked at a Nissan.  However the Japanese guy did not want to lower the price enough, so we decided not to buy. The motor was not the best anyway.   So we looked at the billboards all over town again, but did not find much.  In the evening we just hung around not doing much.
31.12.2001 In the morning we paid our hostel bill and then went to Fremantle, a small town near Perth on the ocean. There we visited the Fremantle Prison. We went on a tour of the men's and women's prison.  It was first for convicts and then changed over for a prison for inmates. It was ok, not the best prison we have seen.  The entrance fee was also a little steep.  We also walked around the city and then went food shopping before took the train back to Perth.  In Perth we bought a six pack for the night which we spent with Rene, Silke and Sven, some Germans we met in our hostel. Before we went out into Perth, we hung around and drank a few beers for a while. Perth had a stage where they presented a few bands and they also had some fireworks.  The fireworks we missed. Kirk saw a little but Maren got there to late. There means the river.  Later on we had a few beers on the street. Maren then went home around 04:00 am and Kirk went out with Rene and Silke to a bar. He got home at 5:30 am but was up by 8:30 am.  The evening was ok and we had fun with Rene, Silke and Sven.  It was good that we did not drink that much, even though Maren got a little tipsy. 


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