KL to Bali and on…

Bed for the night at Denpasar Airport, Bali #lp
Not exactly five star…

Right now I’m in Bali again, and last night decided just to sleep at the Ngurah Rai Airport International Departures area. It’s a little loud (the tanoy announcements are disjointed bits of separately recorded phrases and some are yelled out), but the hassle of getting into Kuta and finding somewhere only to get a few hours’ sleep, turn round and come back just didn’t seem worth it.

KL was the usual – too many McDonald’s and cheap accommodation. I saw State of Play (decent adaptation of the BBC series) and Ice Age 3 (far better than the second one) at the cinema (not in 3D regrettably as the times of the performances didn’t suit), and sorted out my US currency for East Timor.

This wasn’t as easy as it sounds as the ATMs in the city decided to refuse to serve me at the time I was planning on withdrawing the cash. Checking my balance was fine, but forget getting money out. No idea why it happened, but I was able to “buy” the cash at the bank using my debit card so it worked out OK.

Leah turned up safe, sound and teary-eyed on the night of the 7th without any luggage. Due to a security scare at Edinburgh, she was delayed four hours and missed her long-haul from Heathrow. She was shoehorned onto a QANTAS replacement (and upgraded) but her bags didn’t make it.

Fortunately, they were at the airport when she went back on the 8th for her flight to Perth. Let’s just hope they make it to Oz on the same plane as her.

Immigration in Bali was a slow, painful nightmare. The one good thing was a complete lack of interrogation over my choice of 7-day visa. It’s $10 rather than $25 which suits me as I’ll be in Indonesia for at most three nights. I was expecting to have to show travel plans and tickets and stuff, but no need. The queues, however, were abysmally slow. From touchdown to reaching the luggage carousel was about an hour.

I dodged the taxi drivers and the “cheap hotel” merchants (the cheapest on offer was 120,000 Rupiah when I was paying less than half that last year) and found myself a nice bench. For a brief period I had free wifi on my mobile, but not the laptop. Hopefully some of you will have caught the Twitter posts. I have since discovered (and am using) a wifi simply labelled “3com” over near the domestic departures. There’s also a lounge nearby (Indosat) which is offering free wifi.

Of note is that the ATM to the right of the exit (as you walk out) from International Arrivals charges for both balance checks and withdrawals (2000 and 3900 Rupiah respectively). Not a lot compared to the extortionate new Thai fees, but you can dodge it by using another machine. The one just outside International Departures charges no fee.

I’m not as tired as I expected though how people sleep on hard wooden surfaces all the time is beyond me. My check-in is in around 90 minutes, and battery on my netbook down to 2 hours. Time to grab some breakfast I think. With luck I should be at my guesthouse in Kupang by 5pm.

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Update infrequency

Back to one of those times when I’ll be updating quite sporadically, I fear.

I’m currently in KL awaiting the (4-hour delayed) arrival of Leah from the UK courtesy of a security scare at Edinburgh Airport yesterday. We’re both here one night then I depart for Bali and she for Perth. Her luggage will hopefully follow soon after.

I arrive in Bali at 22:00 local time, have to find somewhere to stay and depart for Kupang the next afternoon around 15:00. One or two nights there then on to Dili. I’ll be there somewhere between seven and ten nights before flying back to Bali. During that time I have no idea what my net access will be like, so I’ll be tapping stuff up on the netbook for the next time I get online.

Similarly in Bali, Leah and I will be island-hopping and so forth for a fortnight. I’ll try to get updates done, but likely it’ll be a huge deluge once I get to Bangkok around the 6th of August.

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Suritthani to Kuala Lumpur

A heaving bus depo in Thailand

A heaving bus depo in Thailand

The boat pulled into Surit Thani on time and we were greeted by various bus companies. I checked my ticket and was hussled onto a van for transfer to the travel shop. We kicked our heels until our minibus and driver appeared, then all bundled aboard. We were full to the gunnels as we set off towards the border at Hat Yai.

One quick stop for some breakfast and we arrived at Hat Yai around 12:30. First we had to check out of Thailand and were delayed by three Indian guys on our bus – not their fault, as they didn’t realise that people with an Indian passport need to pay a departure tax from Thailand. They were telling us it was 30 Ringgit, which is bizarre as this is the Malaysian currency. I would have expected a Thai border to demand Baht.

All the same, we re-boarded and drove to the Malaysian border where the queues were even larger. We also had to undergo an in-ear temperature test as they scanned for signs of H1N1 Swine Flu. I can categorically state that I am medically “cool”. My body temperature is a chilly 36.5 degrees C – the bottom end of the accepted average. It also means I’ve not been snogging any dirty porcines recently.

The immigration queue was horrendous and it took us almost an hour to pass through. Then we waited for the Indians. And waited. And waited.

Finally, our driver went in to check – they’d been refused entry. Apparently a large number of Indians come into Malaysia and choose not to go home again. I assume these guys didn’t have onward tickets or something and on these grounds they were bounced back into Thailand.

So we continued our journey, somewhat delayed. Three of our group were heading for Penang and the minibus took us there where the other three (including myself) were dropped off to change onto a KL-bound bus. Unfortunately, due to the delay we’d missed the connection we should have got and had a 2½ hour wait for the next one. This also meant we’d be arriving in KL at 2am instead of 10:30pm.

I never seem to get to KL when I’m supposed to.

To kill time, we searched for free wi-fi (amazingly with no luck, given this is Malaysia) and I introduced my new Swedish friends to KFC which they had never tried before.

Eventually, our bus arrived and I’m sat on it now tapping this lot up. With luck we’ll not be later than 2am into KL as promised, but we’ve been sat at a terminus near Panang for almost fifteen minutes now so I don’t hold out much hope!

Fingers crossed my second hostel doesn’t baulk at me. I did check mails in Penang and they hadn’t sent anything detailing a problem. I’ve also emailed to ask if they could reserve two more beds for my companions as they have nowhere organised.

[update – we arrived at 3am, and thankfully my hostel (Trekker Lodge) took all three of us]

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More plotting – Ko Tao to Kuala Lumpur

When I travel places, I often hit the same cities. One thing I do like to try and vary is how I get between them. As such, I’ve been trying to suss out how to get from Ko Tao to Kuala Lumpur by bus and I finally found a web page with instructions.

I need to decide when I need to get to KL. I have friends there I’d like to see, but that would mean getting there before the night of July 6th. However, the bus journey arrives at 5am which would mean spending another entire day in a city I’m not a huge fan of and have seen everything in. Pre-dawn is never a good time to arrive anywhere!

I might, instead, opt for getting there early on the 7th instead and enjoy an extra day on Ko Tao – or a stop-off on Ko Phang Nga. Decisions, decision! Either way, around £13 for a 22-hour journey isn’t that bad.

The route is roughly thus:

  • Get a ferry from Ko Tao to Koh Samui in the afternoon or evening
  • Spend the night in Koh Samui
  • Set off on a bus from Nathon at 7:30am
  • Cross on a ferry, with the bus, to Don Sak on the mainland
  • Continue on down to Hat Yai
  • Wait around two hours and board a second bus at 6pm
  • Arrive in KL at 5am

Better start booking…

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I hate airlines

I’m trying to fill the gaps in for my schedule in July. Thanks to Matt, I have some info regarding flights from Bali to East Timor and this is causing me some bellyache.

I just booked Kuala Lumpur to Denpasar at a time that won’t suit Leah. Thing is, while I was waiting for her to get back to me I was watching the Air Asia flight prices rise before my eyes. So I just went for it. This means I’m leaving KL about 5-6 hours before her, but it’s still half the price of flying the next day. Then take into account accommodation and the loss of an entire day until the next flight and I didn’t have a choice.

The problem is that I land in Denpasar at 22:00. I don’t expect the Merpati or Garuda ticket offices to be open at the airport at that time. From what I gather, Merpati have a flight out at breakfast time to Dili, which I’d be interested in… but does their ticket office open early enough to book a seat on that flight in the morning? I can’t book online as their web site is still under construction.

Garuda’s page is more functional and tells me I can get a flight to Kupang from where I know I can get a bus to Dili. The downsides: the flight’s in the afternoon so I’d likely have to stay in Kupang for a night and get the bus the next day (it’s a 12-hour journey)… and you can only book online with Garuda if your credit card was issued in Indonesia. Therefore by the time I get to Indonesia where I can book over the counter with them, all of the cheaper seats (and they are cheap) will almost certainly have gone.

Earlier in the trip I have a flight landing at Ko Samui airport at 10:45 in the morning. Ideally I want to get a ferry from Samui to Ko Tao. There are two companies (Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery) with boats at suitable times and both around 550 Baht each way for a 1½ hour journey. Lomprayah offer a free bus transfer from the airport, but this bus leaves at 11:00. Do I have time to get off the flight, grab my luggage and be on that bus? I don’t know, so I emailed them a day ago to ask… and haven’t had a reply yet.

Alternatively, Seatran’s boat leaves a couple of hours later but I’d have to make my own way down to the port… and I can’t find out which one of the several ports I’d need to get to!

You know, I much prefered traveling when I just turned up in places and winged it. I hate being on a schedule.

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