I ended up staying in Bogor for about 2 days – it was nice being able to be with some locals and just taking it easy. I stayed with Itje – the mom of a girl i’d met on my hike to Inle lake in Myanmar. She was really nice, and reminded me of the girl a lot! She had to teach so her son took me to the botanical gardens (huge!) and the 2nd day i met some more local women as we went to a birthday party of one of Itje’s friends. That evening i took an overnight minibus to get down to Yogyakarta – and i met this really interesting woman who was a university lecturer in taxonomy, and had travelled all over!
In Yogya i set to finally getting my diving organized, as i was going to go for 5 days if i could fly without my passport (at this time still at the Indian embassy in Jakarta). i found out i didn’t need it so gave myself as many days diving as i could (5). The next morning i went out to see Borobudur, the biggest buddhist temple and quite impressive – nicer than some other ones as it wasn’t all gold-plated and everything, and then also Prambanang – a large hindu temple that was recently part made to rubble in an earthquake in 2006. They’re both very pretty, and impressive to see, but i definitely felt that i’d had my fair share of temples for the time being and could do without for a while!
That evening i went to a ballet whcih is typical of Java, and interesting as it was i felt it got a bit whiny towards the end (mainly the music) and it ended quite abruptly. I then took an overnight train back to Jakarta – so comfortable! It was way better than bus transport as you get a lot more space, it rocks less and it takes less time. My longest train journey so far.
I then flew to Manado, which is in North Sulawesi to go diving! Luckily i didn’t spend much time in the town itself – it’s not very nice.
I first went diving off of Bunaken, which mostlky has coral walls, very pretty diving, but it doesn’t having anythign that makes it SPECIAL, i would say. The dive operator – two fish divers – was really good, and the other divers were really friendly, so i had a good time. I love diving! As i totally lack funds to pay 2500 euros for underwater camera housing i have few pictures of what it was like.
Then i went to Lembeh for 2 days which is off the other side of the norhtern arm of Sulawesi but has more special, though less spectacular diving – it is muck diving, which basically means a lot of sand, silt and rubbish, but because of this it has some really unusual creatures both in camouflage and shape, and although more work is required to find them, it totally pays off. It was so nice, and i prefered this branch of the dive operator as well, so i would go back there before going back to Bunaken. A great little escape to paradise!
However, it all ended quite abruptly upon arrival in Jakarta. The plan was to go pick up my passport (between 4 and 4.30) and then overnight at the airport, as the diving had noticeably made my wallet lighter. I was on the internet and decided to take a taxi (3.50pm) to teh embassy. However, when i went to drop ti off, the people always knew where the singapore embassy was (next door) but never the indian embassy. So i made the mistake of telling the driver to go to the singapore embassy. a while later we stopped to ask someone where to go and when i said ‘indian embassy’ the driver said “oh, i know where that is, the other direction!”!!!! and it was 4.15. I was so nervous i almost started crying because if i didn’t egt it today that would’ve meant missing my flight to borneo! And to top it all off there was a traffic jam. At one point i flung the driver money and got out of the car and legged it – arriving at 4.30pm on the dot, just in time to get my passport back! what a relief.
Then later when i went to take the last airport shuttle bus at 7pm, because it was late and they don’t get paid overtime, it didn’t go. So i sat at the station talking to these taxi drivers for a while figuring this out, and they offered to take me to the airport for $7, not bad. So i got into the taxi with this guy whose english was pretty poor, and he asked me to choose some music. I didn’t mind so he put on this house music, with extra bass subwoofers at the back and he was dancing away whilst driving. I just wanted a quiet evening after the stress previously! I stayed overnight at the airport, but it definitely wasn’t an extremely comfortable nights sleep.
I met up with Hannah in KL though she wasn’t feeling too well at the time, and we went on to fly to Sandakan. The first morning we went to Sepilok Orang-utan rehabilitation center, where one female came for feeding with her baby.
Then we got briefed by uncle tan and off into the rainforest we went. On the first boat ride we saw like 5 orang-utans, a shit load of macaques and lots of hornbills and a croc too! So much wildlife – i knew i was going to like it. And to make things better, the camp atmosphere was one of fun because all of the people there are young (the manager is 28, next in charge is 21) but they know their stuff and have really good eyes, and are inclusive to anyone who wants to join in with football or merry-making or whatever! I had such a good time i’m thinking of heading back in the summer to camp out and maybe spot some pygmy elephants. It’s also made me realize how much i love being out in the rainforest (also the diving), so much so that i might consider them to be some of my favorite highlights from the whole of my SE Asia trip! Having realized that was quite important to me as it will be a determining factor in the future in terms of masters courses and future travelling plans.
So now we’re (i mean hannah, her sister and I) are relaxing in sandakan. I was trying to dive sipadan for a day but it was fully booked, and in the end was too much hassle anyway (and VERY expensive) so i decided to come back and dive it for a week over the summer, and then follow that by going into the rainforest for another week, maybe more. I do really want to dive sipadan, and if the japan thing gets sorted then i’m not exactly far away…