Indonesia – Surf’s Up in Bali, 23-26 September 2012

Couple of friends and I managed to put together a short weekday trip to Bali. Only mission of trip? Ride some waves.

Apart from full service airlines (KLM, Singapore Airlines, Qatar, but to name a few) that fly from Singapore and Bali, there are also multiple budget options that head there, including Jetstar , Tiger Airways , and Airasia. Air Asia gave us the best combination of price and schedule, so we ended up taking that option. I think Lion Air flies there too, but I’m not that keen on that. To keep costs low, we stayed at Tune Hotel, which is run by the same company that operates Air Asia. It’s a no frills hotel that’s mostly clean, has a great shower, and a nice bed. We booked into the one at Kuta, and it was located at a central location, giving easy access to Kuta Beach.

Upon arrival, our first mission was to get some lunch. Previously, we ate at Warung Made on Jalan Pantai Kuta (it’s about 500 ft away from the beach) and were satisfied with the fare, so we returned. They offer cheapish and excellent Indonesia food. Our first meal was a nasi goreng (fried rice) and gado-gado (Indonesian salad with boiled veggies, tofu, and peanut sauce), which we washed down with some draft Bintang. Whole meal costs us around 50000 rupiah (~ 5 usd).

As we were still early for check-in at Tune, we ended up going for a foot massage. Recently, multiple massage places have popped up around Jalan Pantai Kuta, and their rates are vaguely the same. They cost around 5 usd for a foot massage, and 7-8 usd for a body massage, both lasting 1 hr each. Frankly I don’t know much about massages, but they all seemed pretty good.

Surfing. Well, there are actually a couple of options available in Bali, including more advanced options. But as we are beginners, we decided that a beginner’s beach break is the best option for us. Kuta is an excellent option, if you are looking for a beginner’s beach break. Equipment rental is cheap (from 4 usd a day to 4 usd for half a day, depends on your bargaining skills, and your willingness to carry a surfboard for some distance), and if you so wish, you can also hire one of the beach boys as an instructor.

Some things to note – if you are not a strong swimmer, I highly recommend that you do not do this. While the waters are shallow, the under currents are very strong. It requires a certain level of water confidence to battle the waves. Also, for a more painless surfing experience, the area that’s closest to the entrance to Kuta beach at Jalan Pantai Kuta is your best option. The further north you head, the crazier the waves get. It can be fun, but it is also exhausting. Do also watch out for surfboards headed your way. As there are many beginners out there, you never quite know if someone rams a surfboard in your direction. So heads up .

In a strange little twist, our surfing trip turned into a shopping trip, due to the intensity of the surfing. One of my friends has lovingly christened our soft boards the cheese grater. We lost quite a lot of skin after the first day, prompting us to invest in rash vests, and non-chaffing board shorts. So do try to bring some equipment, as this can be quite painful. Or if you do decide to buy, there’s a shop at the south end of the bar scene on Jalan Legian that sells surfing (and other beach) stuff for a discount.

We ended our days with cold Bintangs and beautiful sunsets by the beach.


USA – Westport (WA), 07 June 2012

After two years of reading myself blind, I passed my PhD general exams, as of 30 May. What does this mean? I’m moving back to Asia semi-permanently. The last two years in Seattle have been magical, and I am really sorry to leave. If I could choose, and had no responsibilities, I’d have stayed, because I fell for this city. Anyway, couldn’t leave this state without going surfing the Pacific, so off I went with a partner-in-crime!

Choice? Westport. After some research about surfing in Washington State, I found a beginner’s beach break in Westport. Westport is a coastal town along the Pacific, that’s about 2.5 hrs drive from Seattle. Whether the weather cooperates, mission on!

I *erm* woke up late after pulling a late-nighter for my paper, so had a late start at 11 am. Picked up S, and then, we started the drive to Westport. Truth be told, Seattle weather wasn’t that kind. Rain, rain, low visibility. But nothing shall derail this mission. Onward!

Strangely, despite all the crazy rain, I think the heavens must have felt some pity for the heavy heart I have, for leaving this magical place. When we drove into Westport, it was actually clear, and blue. 1 pm, lunch time. I did some homework on TripadvisorΒ and we ended up at Bennett’s Fish Shack. It was decently fresh seafood, a simple place, whereby the entrees hovered around $10. Portions were definitely big. I had fried oysters, S had fish and chips, and a clam chowder. That chowder was almost solid in texture!

On our way to the Marina (Westhaven Drive), I spotted Steep Water Surf Shop, so after lunch, we turned back, and got our rentals there. The guy, Matt, is friendly, and helpful with information (e.g. daily state park pass that you needed to get, showers), and gave us a 1 min quickie lesson. His equipment was also in good condition, and it’s on the way to West Haven State Park. Random note – maybe I’m not clued into this, but bring your own shower amenities and towels. They have hot water shower, requires 2 quarters for maybe about 5 mins of hot water.

After getting everything, and loading up the car, we drove to West Haven State Park. Just cut through the bushes, and you’ll hit the beach. It’s a fairly typical Pacific Northwest beach … Driftwood, black sand. It was a beach break as promised, and had right and left breaks. Weather wasn’t exactly kind, but soldier on, we did. S was a total trooper in this mission. I did not manage to stand on the board, but for the first time, I learnt how to position to board to catch the wave. So, I will no longer require the services of surfer boys. Waves were breaking too fast for us to catch them.

All in all, it was an amazing day. I finally got to surf the great Pacific. Next stop – world domination!

Bennett’s Fish Shack and Westhaven Drive

Gorgeous Westport

Loaded up car with surfboards

Indonesia – Bali, 24 – 26 June 2011

As we couldn’t get tickets out of bali on 25 June, we ended up spending two full unintended days in Bali. Since some of the crew haven’t been to Bali, we hired a car, and went on a food/sight-seeing (well, mainly food) tour of Bali on 25 June 2011, we brought us to eat some babi guling (suckling) pig in Denpasar, and a banana dessert place amidst the rice fields in Ubud. Minimal pictures, because I was quite lazy with whipping out the camera (especially given that C was more than happy to take food pictures), well, and also because I am not a huge pork fan. The general consensus is that pork in Indonesia is good.

On Sunday, C and I went for a one hour surfing lesson. Bali is way better for beginner surfers than Hawaii. There was less space for a lot more people learning how to surf in Hawaii, and consequently, it was just an accident waiting to happen. After my endless attempts (I think this is my fourth try in my fourth country), I finally managed to stand on the board twice, thanks to our instructor Eddie. It was quite cheap, I think about 100,000 rupiah for two of us for one hour or something like that. There are several surfing spots in Bali for varying skill levels. Due to my paranoia about reef breaks, we went to Kuta beach, where there was a beach break, and endless waves that gave beginners endless time to stand on the board. For the kamakazee type of surfers, there are other options involved in other parts of the island. Just go check out wannasurf.

Our Caffeine Sampler somewhere in Kuta

Cool Vintage Car in Kuta

Banana Fritters

Amazing Waves at Kuta

USA – Honolulu HI, 30 Mar – 03 Apr 2011

I went to Honolulu for a conference. Well, the conference is an excuse. I just wanted to go somewhere warm and beachy, and since I presented a paper, some kind souls covered the cost of the air ticket. Well, since I was in Honolulu the whole time, there is no real need for me to write up an itinerary page. I didn’t do much, except go to Waikiki, sit in the sun, and do my readings.

There were certainly some highlights on the trip.

  • Meeting up: I met up with several people, like C and the two Ms. C is now studying in UH, and so he knows the area. He kindly came down to Waikiki to meet me, and he brought me to Zippy’s, the local version of Denny, and I tried a local specialty, loco moco at his suggestion. According to C, it was a dish invented for the US army. It is a very simple and hearty dish, and given my predisposition for hearty dishes, obviously, this got two thumbs up. It is basically a large hamburger patty on two scoops of rice, topped with a sunny side up, and drowned in gravy. I loved it!
Loco Moco
  • I also bumped into J and G at the conference, and they told me about a college baseball game at UH. Well, since the sun has to set at some point, and the baseball game is in the evening, I decided to head towards UH for the baseball game. I didn’t stay till the end of the game, but it was pretty fun! And it sure as hell was packed! Go, school spirit! πŸ™‚ (UH won, btw)
UH versus Witchat state (something like that)
  • I went surfing as well. As usual, couldn’t get on the surfboard. Maybe I’ll have better luck in Peru or Bali. Waikiki beach is definitely super good for beginners’ surfing. There are lots of long waves (ok, I don’t know the exact term) that’d give beginners a chance to catch the wave and do the ‘pop’, but well, waayyyy too many beginners! I almost got killed when someone came straight for me. I only saved myself from serious damage by jumping off the board and hiding under the board!
Beach Bums, Surfers and Diamond Head Crater in the Backdrop of Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach
Thought this hotel was pretty cool looking; endless shopping in Waikiki