Paradise is evasive!

OK, figured out why they call it “paradise”, no one knows what I’m talking about or where it might be? When I ask about an island close to here for snorkeling, they all refer to Derawan which is a long trip. So, I’m off looking for a new paradise which in many ways, I’ve found every day.

So, here’s the latest scoop. I’ve met only a couple of people here who speak English. I’m definitely back in Indonesia where the infrastructure is very different from Malaysia. Malaysia if familiar not only with tourist but with things like schedules, information, mopping floors, menu’s with prices on them, internet and WiFi. I found only one internet cafe in my wandering about. It was full of kids playing games, every single computer.

A look bordering on terror passed the face of the man when I asked about using my laptop. I don’t need WiFi, have an ethernet cable and should easily be able to plug it into their router and be in business. Even in Ranau, the little village in the middle of nowhere in Sabah, they had one cable already connected for just such a purpose.

Now, for me, I really need to learn more Indonesian language. I learned a couple new words today: Berapa which is how much and Enak with is delicious. I’m going to find my little book and start building a vocabulary.

My room here is nice especially by Indonesian standards. It’s the first time I’ve had a room with: private bath and shower; AC; telephone; and TV. So much for amenities as the shower doesn’t work and I kept waking up very hot last night as the AC apparently shuts off every hour or so. The TV carried five Indonesian channels and with what little I’ve tested it, they all seem to carry soap opera’s. The telephone, I haven’t used that uet.

When I woke this morning, I had a few things I wanted to accomplish today. I expected to be met by money changers at the border like I have at most border crossings. Since none were there, I had Malaysian Ringgit to change. Speaking no Indonesian and the man at the front desk not speaking English, I held up the Malaysian money. He shook his head no. I raised my shoulders in a question while simultaneously circling my finger in the air as if “around here”. He gave me a name, I asked him to write it down.

I also wanted to get a handle on finding the island near here or deciding to go directly to Sulawesi tomorrow and I needed to find an ATM for money. First order of business, leave the hotel, wander around and get some bearings.

Down a side street, I found the first travel agency of my trip. However, neither this one or the next five I entered spoke any English so I kept looking. Finally, I took a taxi to the money changer, changed the ringgit for rupiah and walked out the front door to discover a travel agency next door. This one had people who spoke English. Uncertain, I walked down the street and found a place to sit out of the rain called the “Cake House” serving very nutritious Chocolate Coconut Crunchy rolls and other delicacies. On the way, I stopped by three more agencies for questions about the island to no avail.

Suddenly, it became clear: go to Sulawesi. It is clearly the path of least resistance and the path opening with the greatest ease. The island felt like a struggle. Back to the agency and checking on bookings, I decided to head all the way North to Manado, Sulawesi tomorrow.

A little information on where that is and what is available there, click either of these links:
Manado Info

It will take a full day to get there with a 7 hour layover for me here in Balikpapan, then a flight direct to Manado landing around 9:00.

Very quickly, everything I wanted to do today was completed! Now, I’m looking for a room in Manado so I don’t have to look for a room when I get in late.

People here are curious and very nice. They are helpful when they can be and honest when they can’t. Now I’m off to learn a little more Indonesian!

Map of Sabah, the state I left yesterday: Sabah

Map of Kalimantan where Tarakan is: Tarakan and East Kalimantan

And, this map will give you an overview of Indonesia so you can see where Sulawesi is in relation to Borneo as well as get an idea of how large Indonesia is. There is other information at this National Geographic site:
Indonesia Map

Mystery tour beginning tomorrow

Today, I went snorkeling. It was lovely, lots of fish, many turtles, moray eels, colorful fish, unusual and weird fish, and a lot of dead coral. Whether from dynamic fishing of years past or heating of the ocean, a lot of the coral was dead. When I was near live coral, the fish population exploded. Schools of Jack Fish, Dolphinhead Fish, Barracuda, a school of squid, tiny fish, huge fish, the population exploded. Kind of eerie looking up to see 30 or more Barracuda swimming together keeping a watchful eye on me!

Tomorrow morning, I’ll get up early, catch a shuttle bus to Tawau, and begin my mystery tour. It’s a mystery because there is little information here about how things operate on the other side of the border. I was able to find out that the minivans drop me near customs. I am fairly certain that is also the area where the ferries operate. That’s it, I’ll be making it up from there.

I might wander down the East coast of Kalimantan but have read it takes at least three days to get to the next major town. I also learned that Tarakan has an airport so I may be able to catch a flight from there. Some time tomorrow, I’ll have to decide where in Sulawesi I want to go. At the top of my list is the Tana Toraja area where the burial caves and excellent day hiking is.

I’ve read that I can to to Palu and take a bus South. The dive resort recommended there is no longer open, a sign. I’ve just learned a flight to Manado may stop at the city nearest to Tana Toraja so I may do that? Manado is the Northern most section of Sulawesi but is renowned for wonderful diving and snorkeling. However, the Togean Islands are nearer where I’ll be so….decisions, decisions.

I’ll be dropping off the grid quite probably so next time I write, the mystery will be more clarified!

Found an amazing Mango Sago Icy tonight, wyw! Fresh mango mixed with some grape like fruit, icy and oh so refreshing after a day of snorkeling in the sun. I may have to go get another before heading pack and get some sleep!