Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hello! Where Are You Going?

On the streets of Makassar, we're followed by share taxi and bicycle rickshaw touts. None of them follow very far, but there always seems to be another where the last one left. All of them want to know the same thing: "Hello! Where are you going?" Occasionally, one will ask "Where do you stay?" Everyone seems a little desperate for business around here; between the global economic bellyflop and lingering fears of angry Muslim men, it feels like most of the world's share of tourism has sidestepped the archipelago for safer, nearer destinations. They don't know what they're missing!

Indonesia is an enormous and beautiful place. You couldn't see half of it if you had a billion-year visa and five lifetimes to live here. 17,000 islands cover a range of volcanic mountains, arid beaches, and rainforest. Moving from island to island, you find communities of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, none of them neglected by the regional airline's multi-denominational prayer card, which thanks Allah for giving men the "knowledge to build these airplanes and the will to fly them."

We landed here October 7th, following 24+ plus hours of travel from Seoul, which included an 18 hour layover in Bangkok. In Thailand, we had just enough time to shuttle in to Bangkok's Khao San Road tourist ghetto for a plate of green curry and a massage, then back to the airport to slum on the floor and wait for our 6am flight to Bali. We arrived in Ubud filthy with the grime of Korean mosquito stuck to our palms, tropical heat under our shirts.

Making your way here is easy, if you don't mind taking the long roads. It gets cheaper if you can hop in bemos, share taxis that charge about 5 cents a mile. This was how we made our way across the prefectural island of Lombok to the smaller islands in the north: Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, and Gili Meno. You arrive dusty, sweaty and cramped. The reward is a destination without roads, cars, or electricity, and a week's worth of banana pancake breakfasts.

Without getting into too much detail, I'm posting our intended itinerary for the next two weeks:

Currently in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi. Imagine a giant floating letter "K" in the middle of the ocean, its top vertical bit twisted and extended a bit to the right.
Heading north tomorrow Tentene or the port city of Poso, then on to Ampana to catch a boat to the Togean Islands
From the Togeans, it's another 15 hour boat ride to the northern port of Garontolo, then continuing northeast to Manado, where we catch a flight back to Bali and chill for a week in Candidasa.

There are over 50 islands within the Togean archipelago, part of the larger archipelago that comprises Indonesia. Send us a worthy recommendation for one of these islands--even better, a comfortable guesthouse--and receive a grateful postcard from the both of us.

Mark and Juliah

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