Today Marks the One Year Anniversary of a New Layday

Actually, that’s a lie; today marks a one year and two day anniversary of a new layday. That’s right, folks: it’s been a whole year since Gonzo returned to the True North from gallivanting in some of the nooks and crannies of SE Asia. Since then, that monumental life experience has constructed the broad that y’all know and love today (yikes, make that a pompous broad).

But in all seriousness, I can genuinely say that the marvels of travelling have forced independence; ignited curiosity; and create some sort of enlightenment and acceptance with who you are and your ‘purpose’ (if that’s the right word). So, at precisely 13:41 on May 10, 2013, sitting in my boudoir, what was the major life-changing ‘lesson’ – if you will – that I got from exploring some corners of the globe?

If we want a particular future,
use your moulding powers to its full advantage.

“What in tarnation do I mean by that, and how in Shiva’s name have I applied that to mi vida within the past year?” you may be asking. I’ll make it short and sweet. What I mean is: don’t be lazy! If you know you have the ability to conquer a goal, do it. I’ve applied this to my life so far through mostly: academics and health (if you want to know the details, leave a comment).

So anyway, there’s my opener, BUT, I also owe you an update on the finale of this year’s adventure abroad. I left off on Day 03 in Ubud, which was written in the afternoon. As fate would have it, the evening unravelled some pretty gonzo-esque events…

UBUD, BALI (CONT’D):
Day 03:

  • So later on that afternoon, after writing the previous post, I walked back to my new homestay at Ubud Sedana, where I got acquainted with my new neighbour: a German lad, who is presently residing in Australia.
  • We were both nearing the ends of our stay in Ubud, so we decided to meet back up later that evening to go to one of the most ‘happening’ pubs in Ubud to finish off our trip with a bang.
  • After three rounds of Extra Joss and vodka, and whiskey and Coke, we found ourselves chillin’ at the pub with good company and shisha. However, after topping off the former drinks with six more shots and a lychee mojito (you can’t get any more multicultural than that), I had to run back to the homestay, only to cleanse my body of the drinks via my esophagus.

Day 04:

  • Bless the souls of the roosters in the courtyard of Ubud Sedana: if it weren’t for them, I probably would have slept in, missing my flight back to Medan.
  • Because the doors can only be locked by a room key from the inside, rather than a standard lock, I woke up in laughter while still in a semi-drunk state, as I had momentarily lost my keys (which were hiding in the in crevasse of my bed), therefore locking myself in my room. Whoops.
  • Again, lucking out in Bali, my former scuba diving instructor that I had last year while living in Makassar (who over the past year has become a bro), was diving in Tulamben. He and his school mate from his studies in Holland – who is actually originally from Spain, but currently living in Koh Tao, Thailand (remember that lychee mojito? I take that back: you can’t get any more multicultural than this) – were heading down to Denpasar the same day I had to catch my flight. Perfect! Killed three birds with one stone: saved 50,000 IDR in transportation costs, travelled with old/new pals, and trekked in the comfort of the private auto mobile (a major bonus considering my nausea).

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Some hungover chick, the scuba diving master, and the Spaniard living in Thailand who studied in Holland (again, multiculturalism at its finest)..

MEDAN, SUMATRA:

  • After a four hour delay in Jakarta, my family back in Medan so graciously picked me up at Polonia International Airport during the wee hours of the morning.
  • The remainder of my stay in Medan essentially consisted of family gatherings, family gatherings and family gatherings. And I can’t complain. It was amusing reminiscing on and fascinating learning about my childhood in Indonesia (apparently I used to be covered in mosquito bites and calamine lotion. Fun fact: I’ve never gotten malaria), and discovering the Batak roots of the Siregar family (e.g.: being raised on Dutch colonial sites; the palm oil plantation bizz; each of the seven sisters’ – including my ma – adventures during their adolescence ).
  • One of the most genuine relations I’ve had with my mom’s side of the family has been with my uncle, Om (uncle) Kiki, who I remember used to carved me and my brother wooden pencil cases and draw us sketches of Earthworm Jim just for fun. When we left Medan, saying goodbye to him (and the rest of the crew, of course) wasn’t the easiest thing to do.
  • Here are some photographs of our last couple days in Medan:

ImageEnjoying ayam pecel with the most comical aunt.

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The legend (Om Kiki) himself.

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Over the short few weeks in Medan, this gazebo became the primo hangout spot.

ImageSome very modest cousins.

LIFE AFTER INDONESIA (BUT STILL IN ASIA):

  • After the expected few hours of sleep that we got during our final night in Medan, mi madre and I hopped on a plane to Singapore, where we spent one night in Little India.
  • Although we were burnt out anyway, we thought we’d exhaust ourselves out even more so we could go to bed early (having to wake up at 2:30 the following day in order to catch an early morning flight to Hong Kong). Activities included being overwhelmed by the craziness of Mustafa Centre, being overwhelmed by the craziness of Orchid Road, and not being overwhelmed by the craziness – but rather at ease with the tranquillity and aroma of shisha – on Arab Street.

ImageLittle India.

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Mayhem on Orchid Road.

ImageMosque on Arab Street.

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Alcohol-free perfume shop.

  • After our short stay in Singapore,we boarded a plane to Hong Kong where we had a short (just kidding) ten-hour layover. So, we did some exploring in the city centre and had dim sum (duh) in Kowloon.

ImageRia getting her bean curd dim sum on.

ImageSleepy time in HK (I am so with you gents).

LIFE AFTER ASIA (IN CANADA):

  • Well, obviously I miss Indonesia like crazy, but we gotta face the reality that all good things come to an end.
  • Exciting things are brewing for Gonzo (work back at the summer camp and transferring universities) in the months to come.
  • However, travelling will ALWAYS be on my agenda. In fact, as soon as landing on home turf and being reunited with family and freinds, discussion of future travels were already being talked about.
  • Picked up the bruv the day after our arrival from his rugby tournament in Japan, and I am genuinely thrilled about the new lad that this opportunity has made out of him.

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Travel sickness will probably take a bigger slap to my face once I get over this jet lag, but in the meantime, let’s leave this post on a optimistic note. Welcome home, Kaleem. Hope your recent travels have brought the same joys that mine did this time last year (plus two days).

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Yes, My Eyebrows Are Real

Salutations from Ubud, where Gonzo is presently mooching off a Mexican restaurant’s wifi (authentic, I know).

Since setting up camp in Lombok, life has been eventful. Let me fill you in in the most organizational manner I can provide for you…

SENGGIGI, LOMBOK:

  • In sum, adventures here consisted of bonding with my most comical aunt, and the mamacita. Also, the original intent of the trip here was to check out my mum’s old stomping grounds when she was the leader of Canada World Youth (an exchange program, AKA the program that hitched my ‘rents… essentially I owe them a big one, or yours truly wouldn’t be alive).
  • Went to the Sade Village. Members of the village still practice their age-old tradition of kidnapping potential wives, all in the name of love.
  • Later, we went to Kuta Beach (which is not be confused with Kuta, Bali), where we spent a mere 10,000 IDR ($1.00 CAD) for a fishing boat to take us out to sea so I could swim in my undies and urinate in Lombok’s beautiful turquoise waters (I’m so sorry).
  • Our driver (but I’d rather call him a homie) Zacky then drove us back to Senggigi, where my mama and auntie bought martabak manis/terang bulan (an extremely rich pancake from originally from the Middle East), while I pulled a classic Mir Mir manoeuvre and got masakan Padang bunkus (to-go).
  • Spontaneously booked plane tickets for the three of us to head to Bali.
  • Met family friends from Medan who run a pediatric centre in Lombok. Extremely friendly, and gave me jell-o. Yum.

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DENPASAR/KUTA, BALI:

  • As luck would have it, the mother was fiercely struck with a stomach illness as soon as we landed in Denpasar (I should throw in that our plane getting there was hella old school – we’re talking propellers so loud I couldn’t even hear the flight attendants on the intercom, and luscious navy blue shagged furnishings – groovy, baby).
  • But, typical Ria (my mum) was such a trooper and recovered the next day after being heavily medicated by prescribed antibiotics by another aunt back in Medan (who actually helped me quickly recover from a stomach flu when I was sick last year in Jakarta).
  • Because of the present situation, we hectically jumped to reserve a hotel right on Kuta’s main strip. Felt like I was in rap video. Yo.
  • In fact, this hotel was located right next to the surf school that me and bruv went to last year when we were in Kuta, and go figure: they remembered us! On a side note, you gotta appreciate how stoned the surfers look because of excessive exposure to salt water (or maybe it’s not the water…).
  • Checked out Pasar Krishna, which is pretty much a crazy Costco/Tesco/whatever y’all have in your country of residence, but solely committed to Balinese souvenirs.
  • Went to a Hard Rock Café for the first time, and surprisingly I thoroughly enjoyed it: the live music was good, excellent stage present, and it was grand just watching my mum and her sister enjoying themselves.
  • Mama and the aunt headed back to Medan after two nights in Kuta, while I stayed on the island, and found myself headed a bit further up north for Ubud.

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UBUD, BALI:
Day 01:

  • Before going to the homestay, the youngster who drove me took Gonzo to a sweet temple after swerving around the afternoon traffic that builds up as flights from everywhere land and provide travelers who crave the zen ambience of Ubud.
  • After arriving at my homestay (Pondok Oka), I went for a long walk about Ubud’s centre with memories of last year’s travels with family and friends (awe).
  • Went to Gianyar’s night market, which is all about the babi guling (suckling pig), which I passed on, but helped myself to some sayur pecel, tempe and papaya. PS: a lady I photographed last year who made me sayur pecel was in the exact same vending spot. Check it out the original photo here.

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Day 02:

  • Kicked off the morning with some pisang goring courtesy of the homestay and a tomato smoothie (so delish), and a morning chat with Agung, one of the gentlemen who runs the homestay.
  • I’ll throw in this: the two guys – Agung and his nephew, Agung (no joke) – who run the homestay, are some of the most accommodating and happy folks I know. Not only did they provide a bike for me to ride free of charge (all about the savings, baby), but seem to take deep interest in the well-being of their guests.
  • Went to Ubud’s art market to get some more souvenirs. But before delving into the art of the market, chilled outside with some new buds: a taxi driver and a parking guide, who initially didn’t believe my eyebrows were real. After gallivanting inside (and getting more remarks about the brows), hung outside again with the new pals, this time minus the parking guide (who was busy making it rain IDR directing motor vehicles), but ft. an toothless older gentleman, dressed in Balinese attire, offering body massages (what?).
  • Found a rice field with a cement path and stairs that allowed me to enjoy leftovers from Gianyar smack-dab in the middle of the greenery. Best lunch I think I’ve ever had.
  • Checked out the Balinese tradition of the Kecak dance (known as the monkey dance), which is followed by a fire dance, where a horse rider who is in a trance runs through hot coals. The horse (made of straw) carried by the rider and gamelan beats puts him in a trance that allows him to run through the coals. The function of this segment of the dance is to protect society from evil forces. Again, Agung’s hospitality was brought to the surface as he accompanied me and gave a lift to and from the performance.
  • Finished off the day with a night bike ride to the most delicious Thai cuisine (and most expensive meal in Indo at a whopping $10.00 CAD) I’ve had: crispy fish and mango salad ft. vegan thom kau soup. One of the owners, Rata, left me with some words of wisdom, and although I can’t quote him word for word, it went a little something like this: “if we are happy today, our future is happy”. In sum, be happy everyday folks, and your future looks bright.

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Day 03:

  • Today, being my last full day in Ubud, I decided to treat myself to a spa day (damn, I feel like a Stepford wife). You know, a sore ass (from biking; get your mind out of the gutter) calls for a good ol’ massage. However, the spa, Bali Hati, makes pampering yourself a good deed for others. Their program functions to empower Balinese men and women through education, employment and health.
  • We’ll see what the remainder of my stay in beautiful Ubud has for me. In the meantime, I leave you with a photo of the gents who have made my stay as excellent as it has been so far:

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