A Travellerspoint blog

Bali 1

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Hmmm

Posted by andyhay2 00:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Balikpapan to Bali

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Though the locals couldnt even agree upon which day to celebrate Idul Fitri, I hit the street that morning with the intention of more last minute shopping before the presumed price hike of Bali, only finding the holiday now well and trully under way and all the shops closed. That rather simplified matters then in only stopping to frequent a happily open net cafe and a small Warung (eatery) where the boy excitedly pumped my hand and wished me a "Selamat Idul Fitri". As if I cared. He guesssed me to be French which was unusual, Australian had long been the favourite presumption. No messing about, after packing up for the last in god knows how many times I super-efficiently effected the 2 Kijang connection through uncharted territory to get me out to the airport early. Balikpapan then immediately presented itself as a candidate for my most aesthetically pleasing airport terminal ever, the fully traditionally stylised high roof with carved pillars imitating totems was an excellent blend of the old and the new. The imminent promise of escape back to civilisation was thereupon initiated with a pricey airport restaurant affording a western menu, cold Bintangs at a price and as a much welcome bonus the unexpected chance to catch the recent Grand Prix on TV. It was also the only airport where I'd ever encountered an admittance charge for the viewing gallery,though there were plenty takers, and I paid my 10p to crowd with the waving locals in order to spy an assorted gaggle of Boeings, Airbuses and amongst various propellor types most notably a CASA C-212, the first time I had seen this type used for passenger services. Though sadly modernisation of Indonesia's air industry in recent years had robbed me of rare yearned for wonders such as the geriatric Vickers Viscountand Yak-42s I had long anticipated, it was still exotic to behold assorted airlines such as Lion Air, Sriwijaya Air and Garuda Indonesia, I made my way down to the gate as my present suitor from Manadala Air landed to be promptly followed by another. It was typically Indonesian then to walk out onto the apron and have to guess which aircraft was mine, it was only in following the forerunners which directed me away from the Boeing 737 and onto my remarkably shiny and new looking baby Airbus A319. Not only was my flight cheap but it was unexpectedly to be in the modern day sportscar of the skies, with me repeating my previous adventure in securing Row 1 all to myself. Scouring the east coast of Borneo as I descended what I only now realised was the Makassar Strait, enormous waterway systems surrounded by seemingly virgin jungle were dwarfed in turn by daunting cumulonimbus studded cloud patterns. Entering what was variously the Java Sea or Flores Sea, a corner of Java became discernible in a striking volcanic cone punching through the clouds which I had to presume to be Gunung Merapi, a natural wonder which had blown me away even contemplating it upon the giant contour map in the National Museum in Jakarta. A left turn then lined us up for the run in to Bali and the abrupt cliffs of its southern appendage were contrasted by the great beach sweep of a bay.

It was like a stereotype to wait for my bag along with a freshly arrived planeload of fat, white, ridiculous looking Germans and I knew that I had certainly arrived into a different scene with the evidence of bullshit tourist paraphenalia such as leaflets pushing rip off tours. Different too were the more respectably dressed touts who literally ran after me in my quest to escape the melee, the excitement relayed through their elevated tone was surely a measure of just how much they were accustomed to riding the gravy train and fleecing slaphappy new arrivals. It was enough to knock them back in unanticipated Bahasa, saying that I was going to my house, not an impossibility in this neighbourhood. Aiming for the stereotypical travellers ghetto cum touristy beach resort of nearby Kuta, the guidebook's promise of "not even a 25 minute walk from the airport" proved more than a tad unrealistic, so it was dark by the time I negotiated habitually queueing traffic through the townlet of Tuban and traced the initial throes of Kuta. This was another interesting exercise then in finally retracing a long anticipated travellers ghetto, loaded with the threat of both good and bad. Though there were clearly going to be touts aplenty to variously brush off or ignore, Jalan Legian the main strip turned out to be too narrow to be intimidating and it was actually a dark, claustrophobic arrival in negotiating the areas renowned "Gangs" (alleyways) in search of a bed. Surprisingly devoid of signing or life in parts, I instinctively gave up on trying to make any immediate sense of the gloomy rabbits warren and simply trusted to stumbling upon somewhere suitable before long. Fortune certainly shone on me then when not even being sure as to which Gang I was in, I checked out a promising looking entranceway against the guidebook and found it to be one of the very few places I had previously earmarked. Expecting the whole area to be full due to Idul Fitri amongst other reasons, it transpired that a room wasnt available but unusually would be cum 10pm. After a brief further foray revealing "Full" signs and unappealing alternatives, that fortuitous late Check Out turned out to be a godsend in gracing me with a superbly sweet bamboo walled room with a hike up in standards in contravention to the price. At less than £2.50 a night, I reckoned I had just inadvertantly bagged the best deal in Kuta. Cleanliness and modernity in a spotless sit down toiletand conventional shower were unprecedented new wonders, certainly for that price, and I revelled in another maxim which my Penang long termer cohabitant had enlightened me with, Bali wasnt Indonesia. That much I knew to expect already, and thank god! With an upturn in spirits already qualified by the knowledge that I was to have an enforced lengthy patronage here, it was another redemption to promptly realise a cheap unpretentious yet tourist orientated cafe just around the corner. That first large bottle of ice cold Bintang had been a long time coming, and it was crazy to realise that having previously baulked at the expectation of a denizen of tourist bullshit I was now ecstatic at being palpably close to Oz and able to relax and recuperate in a culture of liberalism, comfort and facility. It made the privations of life under the conservatism of Islam seem ridiculous.

The character of the transformation had already been evident. First and foremost had been the local religious persuasion, with the headscarves now notably almost completely absent and a strange new quirk in the random prolific presentation of pavement offerings. Though I had yet to investigate why distant Bali of all places should sit as an isolated outpost of Hindu-Buddhist persuasion, a profusion of reeds woven into small square trays 6 inches square littered the streets outside doorways and random stone pillar shrines, even on the beach, filled with offerings of variously flowers, cookies, cigarettes and incence sticks, even the odd 1000 Rupiah note. Amid the throes of a full on tourist cavalcade it immediately revealed an otherwise hidden characteristic of the local populace. It was charming, redeeming and ridiculous all in one to witness waitresses for example momentarily neglecting their tables to arrive back ceremoniously with a tray laden with deity offerings and burning incence, to be placed on a small shrine above the beer fridge. They were extremely relaxed and jolly people and performed the ritual without undue fuss, but it was clearly an instinctive ingrained illustration of their psyche. A burning incence stick mounted upon high might be ritually encircled with a flower in their hand, then the deity tray offerings sprinkled with holy water and more further splashed onto ones forehead. Other observers might pass by with grains of rice incongruously stuck to their forehead, it was charming and ridiculous all in one.

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Balikpapan day 2

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Short circuited by the mixed blessing of an unprecedented 0625 phone call to tell me breakfast was on the way, the resultant collapse was unimportant since my priority for today was only 2 matters, both of which I achieved, helped by an unusually late 1pm check out time. Upon tracing the road west, lined as it is with Balikpapan's sometimes impressive public buildings, I treated myself to an incredibly cheap real coffee at a tantalisingly respectable cafe cum bookshop, sadly tempered by the realisation that it was actually a rare haven of Christian propaganda. It was an escape from the Islamic crescendo outside of sorts but not quite what I might have dreamed for! A prescribed travel agent was then a wonder in that checking out desired travel alternatives my presumption of non-availability and ridiculous prices due to the holiday period proved to be unfounded, alternately presenting me with a quandry of choices at more than acceptable expense. The direct flight the very next day to Bali was not only available but at 30 quid much less than my 50 limit, which would have been an instinctive grab had the alternative not been so alluring. Giving myself a few days to get down to Banjarmasin, the jump across the Java Sea from there would cost incredibly little more than a tenner and the connection onto Bali was still altogether cheaper. As ever, the toughest choices are derived from an embarrasment of riches. It took some time to ponder the acknowledged fact that whichever fork in the road I took the other would remain a regret in the end, I eventually plumped for the immediate direct flight and resented it crushingly. Not only was I giving up on Banjarmasin, Kalimantan's (and also Borneo's) largest city, allegedly not without its charms, but the connection promised the allure of witnessing from the air some of Indonesia's nae the worlds most fantastic volcanoes. On the plus side there was the chance that in Bali I
might just be able to catch the all important Scotland match that same night. It was certainly an appeasement to know that I would immediately realise facility and indulgence to recuperate from my enduring privations, it hardly entered my mind that Bali in its own right might prove good. I had long cringed at the prospect of the place as assuredly being a time consuming overwrought, bullshit ridden waypoint, corrupted and overpriced by full on mainstream tourism, populated by drunken Ozzies ad infinitum. It was amazing how that had now suddenly become so appealing. A place I had anticipated for so many years, I now knew what I would make of it. I would love it and I would hate it, initially loving to hate it.

Ecstatic upon scoring bigtime at the travel agents, my continued hot slog out West had also been inspired by Balikpapan's scant sights, and though a massive Soviet style heroes monument was underexplained, a brand new statue monument to eternally young and good looking General Suharto was unfortunately only precluded by its army base positioning compromising photography. In thankfully much improved weather compared to my initial attempt I then finally managed to track down the local Australian Monument, eliciting its location from a local boy in a nearby park who revealed it to be hiding incongruously on a mini roundabout I had hitherto passed by but would never have suspected. The small cross-inscribed obelisk was almost insulting in its humble stature but an adjacent bronze plaque of the same design I had come across at Kundesang and Sandakan redeemed it. Subsequent search for a nearby beach revealed only offshore tankers and more "Hello Misters" and so I accosted another disorientating Kijang back to the "Plaza". It was remarkable that on the way I recorded a hitherto unnoticed cinema and also a cheap looking barber shop, after a quick Padang fuel stop that was the next priority which availed me of an unremarkable 75p crewcut and knowledge of no English lingo movies. Happy at that progress I dissolved into a last minute holiday shopping frenzy in awareness of my gear's dilapidation and Bali's undoubted elevated style and prices. I had recently threatened to replace my faithfull Sarong with a more practical and traditional local specialty the "Samarinda Sarung", yet now seeing that the 2 hour trip down the road from that city had tripled their prices. I ended up buying a singlet I was not allowed to try on yet resisted a shirt which I did. Indonesia was crazy.

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Samarinda back to Balikpapan

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Despite ostensibly only being a couple of hours down the road, the outrageous obstacle course endured by hapless pedestrians on top of the time consuming Kijang transfers between city and terminal at either end meant that it was an all day affair to escape sadly disappointing Samarinda and trek back down to Balikpapan. It must be said at this point that all things had by now conspired together to elicit in me a thoroughly grumpy demeanour, every partisan driver, every maniac motorbike streaking down the pavement in the wrong direction, every avenue blocked by bikes and stalls and open sewers had me cursing at the ridicule of the situation. Worst of all though in this part of the world had been the propensity of the "Hello Misters" which had risen from vaguely acceptable levels meriting a polite yet annoying recognition, to an unprecedented onslaught which left me incredulous. It was as unmitigated as that encountered in Bangladesh and that took some doing, but here it was exercised in an especially disingratiating manner which had me sadly resorting to blanking mode even though I knew the attentions were well intended. The raucous inane shouts brought me to think of one of the long term old timers I had spent time with at the 75 Travellers Inn in Penang, who had related his frustration at "grown men behaving like 12 year old boys". He had repeated the remark in frustration and though at the time I knew not of what he meant, I thought perhaps I knew now.

Imagine this. You step out of your hotel room and the guy slumbering half naked on the landing cries "Hello mister!". Downstairs at the reception you hear the same thing. A guy outside scavenging through a pile of putrid garbage shouts through his facescarf "Hello mister!". You try to dodge the motorbikes in the absence of a pavement but they find you in the gutter anyway, the guy who nearly runs you over at great speed shouts "Hello mister!". Numerous other drivers and pillion passengers create an echo so that you hear it 10 times hence in the time it takes you to walk the short hop to the sanctuary of the air-con mall. Even there the chorus continues, "Hello mister!". If it was youthful exhuberance which undoubtedly some of it was then maybe I would understand. But men old enough to be my father perversely split my eardrums in greeting me, and I am unnerved by repeated friendly approaches expressed too aggressively to be friendly. What makes it worse is that I know it is reserved only for me, an involuntary admission to racism which might not have bothered me until arrival in Balikpapan when I subdued the touts only to lose it with a Kijang gang. Waiting for the Bemo to fill up they are clearly less acquainted with my lot than I am with theirs, and despite our dealings being wholly in Bahasa they still presume I'm sucker enough to demand 20,000 Rupiah of me by waving such a note in my face. Thats more than a pound for a trip I know costs precisely 14p, it sure aint the Ballingry bus. "3,000 maybe" I reply. Chancer no.2 backs him up and I hit them with the ubiquitous "Saya tidak orang bordoh, saya tauh berapa harga" (I'm not stupid, I know how much it costs). Theyre clearly too fuckwitted to appreciate that I'm streetwise though, and its left for the 2 young Islamic chicks in the back to point out the obvious as I slam the door shut and proffer the first middle finger and F word I've had to in a long time. From there I suffered the double indignity of a 2nd Kijang not following its prescribed route and so I ended up at a distant ferry pier, the ensuing connection warranting further nerve jangling in following uncharted territory but thankfully getting me back to the oasis of the Gadya Mada Hotel with precisely 1000 Rupiah (5p) to my name. If I'd been left short I'd have been stuffed a long way from home.

I was so thankful for the hike up in standards of the hotel, with the chance to do laundry and shave that I shook off the sulk pretty quickly however, treating myself to a super expensive coffee fix after failing to trace a cinema in another daring Kijang foray north. Tired of the sweat, fight and toil, a revelation in Bali TV had me electing to stay at home that night in deference to a questionable quest for beer, with a poignant and somewhat appropriate documentary relating the gruesome details of the Bali bombing upon the imminent 5th anniversary of the 12th October 2002 atrocity.

Having sadly tired and frustrated at Kalimantan's underwhelming tribulations, the whole melange of so much for so long had me now resolving to reach new levels of ruthlessness at onward progress. The intended path had always been to aim for southern city Banjarmasin, Borneo's largest, unfortunately a dispirting and intimidating 16 hour bus journey away, and yet having gradually pieced together the fact that there was no onward air connection from there to Bali, therein lay a problematic quandry. Impatient for Bali's demeanour as much as its distance, the direct connection from Balikpapan suddenly became appealing despite its admission to corner cutting, from Banjarmasin I could only fly to Surabaya on Java. At another time that might have seemed ideal in furthering a natural continuation from Yogyakarta and Semarang in central Java from whence I had departed 2 month previous, and yet the time and distraction involved in negotiating eastern Java from there on had become unthinkable in view of my now excruciating impetus to reach Australia ASAP.

The situation had also been mysteriously complicated by the approach of Idul Fitri, the end of Ramadan and so Islam's prime holiday on a par with Christmas and New Year rolled into one. Having seen vague references in the past to the 21st, it was admittedly a shock to suddenly realise that the celebration of the 13/14th would soon be upon me, it was a time for the locals to be with their families and so as the news on TV related, transport was highly congested. It was something of a nightmare to contemplate that I might be stuck in Kalimantan for days with everything shut and not so much as a beer to redeem it, I promptly decided that even if it would cost me a million Rupiah (a bit more than 50 quid), then I would do myself a favour for once and get the hell out to Bali. Not only did Bali have beer but hey! It didnt even have Islam! Right now that sounded real good. Even from there the time it would take to negotiate the non-negotiable overland route to Australia was cringe provoking, but if there was corner cutting to be done then I felt I could justify this one at least, I just had to. And by the way, for no beer read no beer, music, English, power showers, sit down toilets, tea which is actually hot, TV, cinema, white chicks, pavements, manners, the list went on and on.

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Tenggarong

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First move in an ambitious day was to check out of my once grand but now sadly filthy hotel, reflecting as it did the money grabbing scumbag running it, though still taking the chance of leaving my bag with them as I struggled to track down the requisite Kijang for the run out to a suburban transfer point. Though Samarinda's Kijangs were colour coded in answer to their propensity and even had a letter to further obviate their general prescribed routes, there had to be thousands of them after all, the Orange G Kijangs proved highly elusive and I couldnt even recall having seen one in all my wanderings. Eventually I chanced upon one sitting empty at the roadside and though I thought I had made it plain that I didnt want a charter (ie. to hire it personally) we then proceeded to trace a distant terminal with the guy seemingly not even trying to pick up any further custom. I was ready for a fight at journey's end then but bizarrely he settled for the standard 3000 Rupes I proferred him. I couldnt understand how it had been worth his while for pennies but wasnt complaining, and I'd worked myself up into a froth for nothing. A prompt connection was handy and honest in then taking me the 40Ks along the Mahakam River to a "Royal" town known as Tenggarong, with my day trip here inspired by the presence of something which crazily big cities Samarinda and Balikpapan couldnt muster between them, a museum. Upon arrival, the further time consuming terminal transfer was redeemed by especially friendly locals who did me a big favour in colluding to drop me right by the museum, having witnessed along the way some of the aesthetics which made Tenggarong a remarkable and unexpectedly appealling town. Building after building was a grand and variously pristinely whitewashed or exotically traditional timber wonder, and a subsequent stroll revealed many small exceptional touches which rendered the town a special vibe. Before I could even enter the Mulawarman Museum however I was stopped short by a young headscarved Malay chick on a motorbike, she was an English student she explained but seemed more interested in bagging my photo than conversation and I had to apologize for looking more than a little rough after a week of not being able to shave, launder or escape the heat. It was a rare opportunity for discourse and it was regrettable that despite my early start the convoluted transport and short opening hours meant that I only had an hour to get round the museum even presuming they were playing by the rules, I was sadly only able to afford the chick short shrift. I was just thankful that the museum was open at all though and fortunately there was no inflated apartheid pricing to spoil the vibe.

MULAWARMAN MUSEUM

Built by the Dutch in 1936 to replace the original Sultan's palace which was lost to fire, the restrained art deco design was better fitted for a museum than a palace. Holding the regalia of the local sultanate, a large photo of the latest in line showed him to resemble a big fat white-robed Santa, sporting aviator raybans and looking positively comical. I imagined that he could have been a WWE wrestler. His ancestral power was perhaps illustrated by the spectacle of a large shadow puppet theatre which had been a gift from the Sultan of Yogyakarta on Java in the year 1800, also Hindu-Buddhist statuary and inscribed stones originating from the hitherto unheard of Kutai Kingdom of East Kalimantan. The inscriptions in Sanskrit and Pallawa script betrayed its Indian affiliation in such proclamations as: "Hail to the mighty King Mulawarman of exalted rank whose gifts have been recorded at this holy spot after he, the most excellent king , has bestowed on Brahmanas the gifts of water, ghee, tawny cows and sesame seeds as well as 11 bulls". Dioramas of the temple complexes of Borobudur and Prambunan also set the scene. The predictable bullshit ethnographic section was shut but photos of indiginous people sported various uses of beadwork in necklaces, kiddy back carriers and headbands. The local finery was described as Ulap Doyo weave, literally "Long Cloth Vegetation", make of that what you will. Not for the first time a flora and fauna section went unviewed due to no lighting and childlike dioramas concocted to represent the local coal, timber and gold industries were discernible only courtesy of my trusty almond torch. Of more note however was a VOC cannon in excellent nick, and unusually the VOC was inscribed with an R below it as opposed to an A above it, it was dated 1753. Bizzarely the heart of the museum, an open central chamber and the only spot with good natural light had been stylised as a seating area, decorated with a backdrop of a waterfall, deer and people panning a river. Ostensibly an idyll for children, it was actually the designated smoking area which perhaps was a testimony to local priorities! All in all the museums internal presentations proved pretty mundane though the theatre and associated gong orchestra were impressive merely by their scale and dragon adornment.

In what was to prove characteristic of Tenggarong the museum's garden boasted many varied statues of traditionally garbed warriors and totems, and immediately behind it I discovered a further series of charismatic buildings, 2 of which were unusual arched timber constructions with appealing roofs which transpired to be shelters for the local Sultanate's cemetery. Though of general Islamic style with losenge shaped stones at head and foot, the graves were without exception unusually large and ornate examples in an unprecedented shiny black stone, this hitherto unheard of dynasty had obviously been rich as well as powerful. That in turn lead me to a much larger and striking palace, a huge indulgence typified by the rare presence of stained glass windows, the Kedaton Koetai Kartanegara was a humungous whitewashed extravaganza, and for no palpable reason. Later research revealed the largely empty edifice to be the newly completed Sultan's palace, the previous one having been converted into the museum.

The attractions just kept coming aroung Tenggarong with an adjacent mosque being an especially appealing example of the tiered pyramid style and an unusual open air minaret which was little more than a platform for the muezzin shaded under a small crown, supported by a winding staircase. From there the street opened up to reveal still more prettified public buildings stretching away into the distance, habitually lifeless places of indiscernible function which Indonesia seemed to be especially good at wasting money on. I imagined it must be a paradise for bureaucrats ensconced in their little palaces, especially since it seemed that little work got done. And a total pain in the arse for the locals to have to deal with their scattered, dubious functions.

Across the road I initially resisted the carbon copy war memorial with requisite wingspread eagle I had witnessed in so many other towns, but further consideration revealed another remarkable effort in a carved relief which depicted in turn important moments in the evolution of the country. It was interesting and actually a very receptive means of appreciating it, in first traditionally dressed people performing ancient ceremonies, only to be contrasted markedly by the appearance of first perhaps a Portugese "conquistador", then certainly the Dutch. The prevalence of war was a notable factor from there on, right down to illustrations of torture endured under the Japanese. Having right from the start proved a fantastic redemption after the disappointment of the big cities, Tenggarong even then managed to bless me with the best feed I'd had in a long time, I even had a double helping of the unusual beef stew and diced chili potatoes it was that good. And it didnt let up from there either. Stopping to appreciate a small rickety boardwalk stilt village I stumbled upon an untranslatable memorial but the bare-chested rifle bearing warrior and the date 1946 was a clear reference to the independence struggle, contrasted by another depiction the other side of a small bridge. The effigy of a woman standing within a large bowl and bearing a plate in her hands was a theme I would later see copied, and surprisingly the large inscription underneath was also represented in English in its entirety, a testimony to the "10 points"...............

More than anything else however, what distinguished this town was the exhaustive repitition of 2 symbols which unfortunately had remained foolishly unexplained by the museum, the first being a serpent figure with something approaching a dragon's head, the Loch Ness Monster even came to mind. And then secondly, umpteen statues bore a bizarre amalgam in a mythological beast akin to a Griffin perhaps, though its eagle wings and mammalian body were fronted by an elephants head, weird. Though perversely Tenggarong's one tourist shortcoming was the absence of a promised tourist office, an excellent map displayed by an adjacent quayside was not only easy to follow and detailed, it revealed more hitherto unknown wonders in a Timber Museum (established with a propagandic ilk towards logging no doubt) and interestingly a planetarium. The planetarium was predictably shut and the Muzium Kayn not worth the walk, but as per usual it was demonstrated that if you could only just get your hands on the information then the guidebook would time and time again be put in its place.

Its as well to note here that in spying unknown attractions on my way out to Pampang the other day, compounded by the chance acquisition of a tourist map there, my visit to the tourist office in Samarinda though finding it tellingly closed down had still done me a service of sorts. In asking for a map, all the security guard could muster was actually an excellent map of East Kalimantan and not of the city. Not what I had had in mind but it revealed such diversions and detail that forearmed with that information, for sure I would have taken the more overland route south from Tarakan and not the Pelni ship. What a bugger.

Tenggarong blew me away all over again then with a double sided mural in a small park similarly showing resistance to the easily translatable "armada belanda" (Dutch Navy), though the first similarly cannon blasting illustration was an enigma in relating an indiscernible encounter in 1844 with a certain Erskine Murray. Fantastically mystifying, but sure enough the Scots got everywhere it seemed. Having momentarily been marooned by a downpour, it was only left for me to trace a quirky up-market hotel which decorated its expansive lobby with what must be some unique motors here, there was a 1950s American Plymouth, also some mark of Ford and a Fiat which both resembled an Austin 7. Thoroughly charmed by the delights of Tenggarong and its riverside setting, it was a regret not to have elected to overnight there then, especially after the encounter with the Motorbike chick. Though I could have just plumped for a hotel and accepted further privation due to the lack of my gear, I was prompted to move on under the desire to make further progress that day. Tenggarong's good vibe in typically relentless and yet less aggressive "Hello misters" as well as fantastic smiles from clearly delighted locals was unfortunately impaired in the departure by the attentions of a madman who by the time I'd got back to Samarinda had managed to convince himself that I was going to pay his fare, it was a complication to the habitual price arbitration I did not need and once again felt obliged to scarper lest my new best friend get any further bright ideas.

Squeezing into my now habitual restaurant dive for Iftar, I then retraced my hotel in deliberation as to my next move. I had already checked out that morning with the intention of somewhat ambitiously moving on back down to Balaikpapan, but with the light now gone and the bus service questionable I surprised myself in plumping for another night in shite. Desperate for a shit, shower and shumthing else beginning with sh, an early departure for Balikpapan the next day would work out cheaper, more palatable and just as amenable so I crashed one more night in Samarinda. And besides, had I really just discovered a pub oasis in a proverbial desert only to desert it? I thought not. Unfortunately the enticing but bumpy, winding journey up to Tenggarong had not been conducive to photographyy which was a regret, vistas of the river variously revealed the prevalence of small fish farm collections outside stilt houses much as you might have an allotment outside in your back yard, enormous tug towed barges loaded with coal, and my first ever sighting of timber "rafts", collections of logs fixed together and floated downriver. It had been a lesson from Gordon the night previous to learn that if you saw logs being barged down here then the reason was simple, those ones didnt float! Samarinda had certainly taken its time in growing on me, but I returned to its one pub that night to get my writing done, never easy when your hand normally dampens the page with sweat so as to make it unusable, sidestepping the stalker who knew he'd been out of order, and I also chanced upon something I had long looked for but never found. Presuming aviation to be a touchy subject in military obsessed Indonesia, I finally discovered an aviation magazine, the very first edition of a new publication. With a beer in my hand, happily ensconced within an air-con shopping mall, it almost felt civilised. Hell, it wasnt too much to ask, was it?

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