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Vietnam (Part 2)

28/06/2010

While we were in Hanoi we booked tickets for a 3 day, 2 night tour to Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site formed through millions of years of tectonic movement, sea level change and erosion. It is a very popular and somewhat crowded tourist destination but that does little to dull the quite spectacular views.

It was just over a 3 hour journey in a Ford Transit from Hanoi to Halong Bay, but the roads were pretty good and there was a stop halfway to buy food, souvenir tack and have a stretch. Once we got to the harbour the enormity of this place as a tourist destination becomes immediately apparent there are people and boats everywhere. After a bit of a wait while the tour company dealt with the standard confusion we boarded a smaller flat-bottom boat to head out the Junk we would be staying the night on.

Heading out of the harbour amongst a myriad of other Junks

About to board our Amigo Tour's Junk

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Vietnam (Part 1)

20/06/2010

In May I spent a very busy two weeks in Vietnam, travelling with another company pilot who works at another base. Air Asia always having really reasonable prices meant a US$162 return airfare from Jakarta to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). I’ll split this up into 2 parts because we actually crammed quite a bit into 2 weeks. So much so that I was excited to come back to work for a rest. Not that it worked out like that of course.

Vietnam quite simply is an amazing country, I didn’t realise just how enjoyable it would be. Obviously in the western world it is most famous because of the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese refer to as the American War). But Vietnam is, like most Southeast Asian countries on a massive growth streak and they have wholeheartedly opened their country to tourism. Indeed much more successfully than ‘democratic’ Indonesia.

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Bali

23/04/2010

Finally I have decent enough internet to post about my holiday in Bali in February. Didn’t end up having enough time to “resume normal transmission” when I was in New Zealand.

So after working 5 weeks straight to make my holiday’s align with the Papua schedule I got some time off. Given that in nearly 2 years of living in Indonesia I had yet to venture forth to Bali I decided it was time.

Being based in Nabire meant ‘dead-heading’ on one of our own flights to Biak with a small wait at the Hotel for breakfast and then onto the Garuda service to Makassar. Unfortunately there is only one flight in the afternoon from Makassar to Denpasar (Bali) so it meant a 5 hour transit time in Makassar. Thankfully Ujung Pandang Airport is reasonably new and has a few shops. In order to get into the holiday mood I decided to stop into the reflexology shop for 30 minutes and it wasn’t too bad. However, that and some magazine purchases didn’t really kill much time so I decided to check out one of the airport lounges.

Finally it was time to board the flight to Bali and it was on a 737-800 but one of Garuda’s earlier ones without the TV’s (not that it matters on a short flight). I arrived in Bali just before 6pm and after the normal mind-numbing wait at luggage claim I headed outside and got a taxi to the hotel.

Immediately driving out from the airport it did start to feel a little different, and I guess it should seeing Bali is Indonesia’s premier tourist destination. My hotel was in Kuta but quite a bit back from the beach. So despite is being brand-new 4-star it wasn’t that expensive. They apologised to me at check-in because the room I had booked was not available and I was being put in a family suite. Yeah that really requires an apology!

Sun setting at Kuta Beach

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Third World Living in a 21st Century Context (Part 2)

29/03/2010

Well it has been a while. One downside (surely many I hear you enquire) of living in Papua is the painfully slow ‘broadband internet’. This has meant that there really isn’t enough bandwidth to run the website I use to produce this blog.

There is a bit that has happened in the intervening period so now that I am on holiday in New Zealand I will shortly resume normal transmission.

Third World Living In A 21st Century Context (Part 1)

12/02/2010

I surprise and confuse myself at times. I am truly happy to be working back in Papua despite the fact I have always liked and enjoyed the comforts of the first world. While Medan isn’t exactly one of the nicest of cities in the world, being the 3rd largest city in Indonesia it did have some comforts. My most favoured of which was the Sushi Tei restaurant where I could have happily dined for every lunch and every dinner.

But now here I am based back in Papua and living in a small town called Nabire. Our house is in a poorer area (a relative term) and is a bit of a drive from the airport which is somewhat frustrating when our first flight is scheduled to depart before 6 am. The power goes on and off and the two-stroke generator is right next to my bedroom, the water has a strange smell although it appears clean, the rats that run in the ceiling space at night sound like they carrying an awful lot of weight and although we could go to an Internet Cafe for now I have just been using the GPRS connection on my mobile phone. Worst of all if the generator isn’t attempting to remove my sanity as I try to sleep we seem to have some neighbours running some sort of karaoke bar down the road which the other night didn’t shut down until 3am! To top it all off I am also back to the old school ‘steam-driven’ instruments after over 500 hours operating the divine G1000 system in our newer aircraft.

Not exactly making it sound exotic I am. But despite all that I remain in a far more upbeat mood than I ever did in Medan, even if the balance sheet shows things as being much worse.

The flying remains what Papua is all about and even though we are currently only operating 3 routes with the Grand Caravan the focus airport – Serui is still as fun as it always was. Sadly the lack of a speedy internet connection prevents me from inserting pictures with this post but I will attempt to rectify that at some stage; for now the map of Papua on the about page shows Serui sitting south of Biak. We operate multiple shuttle flights daily for connection with Garuda and Merpati who transit through Biak. It is a 25 minute flight between the longest sealed runway in Indonesia (a relic of WW2) at over 3.6 km and one of the shorter ones (without slope) at Serui which is just 650 m.

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Back To Papua

28/01/2010

After 7 months in Medan I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to get back to Papua as had always been the plan. I hadn’t really tired of the flying in Medan but I was really missing Papua.

As is so often the way here things can change at a moment’s notice, so it came as little surprise after flying an afternoon shift in Medan when I was presented with an itinerary by the ground staff for my flights to Papua. I had hopped out of the aircraft seat at 18.05 and my flight was to depart at 18.10. Looking across the apron I could see the Garuda flight had already pushed back for engine start.

Naturally I hadn’t yet packed my bags, stupidly not wanting to jinx things. The Base Manager rang me and said he was working on getting me a 20.00 flight so I could connect with the flight to Jayapura (Sentani), it would still be a mad rush. Once home I bolted upstairs and began packing my life into my suitcase. Even leaving a few things behind I knew it was going to be overweight but I managed to complete the process in 30 minutes, surely an impressive feat by any measure.

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Bukit Lawang

11/01/2010

I’ve always felt a little guilty about how little I’ve travelled around Indonesia outside of work. It really is hard to find the motivation sometimes when you actually live in the place. I also tend to prefer staying in nice hotels when I’m on a holiday too and having access to a nice café or bar helps. Not that I am incapable of ‘slumming’ it – for work I’ve had to stay in some pretty awful places so don’t really have any trouble coping with the 3rd world stuff. Yet still for my holidays I kind of like the pampered lifestyle.

My first holiday in Indonesia was well over a year ago when I went to Yogyakarta. That was a good trip but I did stay at a Novotel hotel. Some six straight months in a row living in Medan at the doorstep of Lake Toba and many other ‘tourist’ spots along the Barisan Mountains and I’d yet to visit any.

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