Circa January 2011:
We’re going to Bali! We don’t know when! We don’t know what part! All I know is that once I read “Tales of a Female Nomad”* and some poor divorcee went there in the midst of a mental breakdown and had the most spiritual experience of her entire life and now I get to have one too!
Bonus to working in a coffee shop: If there is something I don’t know, in this case anything about Bali, eventually someone will walk in that DOES know somewhat of an answer. I didn’t have to wait long. My…unique…boss who has been everywhere walked in and I asked him “J!! Tell me about Bali!!”
J: “Absolute rubbish. May I have a coffee, Lady Nat?” (Verbatim.)
I was not putoff. Clearly J’s experience wasn’t spiritual enough. So I made him a coffee and brought it back to him.
Me: “No really. You’ve been there. Any recommendations? Places for a good cup at least??”
J: ‘Look, I didn’t like it. Buy yourself a ticket for $60 and go to another island. Sumatra has coffee plantations. The coffee is no good but that’s where some is. Now listen, this milk is too hot and foamy. Can you try again, please?”
And the seed of exploring two islands in one trip had been planted in my brain. At this point, it was just to visit a coffee plantation, which changed dramatically. Explain that later.
Circa: March 2011
I’ve just spend an entire afternoon attempting to figure out domestic flights in Indonesia. At this point, I know what we want to do and for how long, but God help me if I can’t book a domestic flight. I’ve booked the trek, I’ve even booked the ride from airport to the village which is no easy feat considering its an 11 hour drive to a village not recognizable by Google Earth.
I’ve wiki’d domestic flights, and all the names I will never pronounce with my American tongue. The websites are slow, and bookings are done by messaging the airline through the site. Quotes are not in the fantasy $60 range J had promised. Despair, rage, and other melodramatic emotions welled up in my chest.
I start thinking a ferry is the way to go until I search the news and find out they sink more often then I would like. A few sites sites say that Indonesian airports are like bus stops and you just buy the ticket at the counter. An attractive option, I’ve done it in the Bahamas, but I was with someone who knew the islands very well and the language barrier was significantly smaller.
I helplessly posted a forum subject on the matter on Lonely Planet. Within 48 hours I got a response from someone who has used a company called Mau Ke Mana, bless their little hearts, and but didn’t actually book with them because they went to Japan instead. It was a start. So I looked up the site.
Mau Ke Mana (Or “Where are you going?” in Bahasa Indonesia) is run by a couple of ex-pats who spend a majority of their time in Indonesia. Its great because they have a western business sense (Confirmation e-mails, itemized responses to questions etc) but Chris, the guy who does all the customer service stuff, is laid back enough to tell me a joke or two.
We also ran into an issue in that some domestic airlines require passport information. Benny Mac being Benny Mac waited to apply for his passport so we didn’t have it yet. Chris kept in touch with us and booked everything he was able to, (payment via paypal) making sure we got the best prices possible, with only a tiny service fee. I always got the flight bookings within 24hrs.
Because we are staying the night in Jakarta we also had to figure out a hotel situation. Chris gave me a list of hotels near the airport, suggested a trustworthy taxi company to take if there wasn’t a free shuttle, sent me prices and then WEBSITES TO BOOK THEM. ie. He didn’t want to book them because it was more expensive, I’d find exactly what we wanted and besides, we needed the same credit card to get in.
Final story: We’ve booked with Lion Air, Citilink and Sriwijaya Air. It was more than $60 a leg, but not by much. $10 max. But we have not left yet. I’ll update this when we actually take the flights, ride in the taxi, and sleep in the suggested hotel. Then we’ll know accuracy.
In any case, the website is below. Because, so far so good.
*Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman came before Eat-Pray-Love which I have not read so I can’t compare. But TFN is awesome, and not religious at all, which I like. Plus the author can be an idiot at times and makes mistakes, which I also like. And she shows the power of talking to and accepting the people around you, which I think is great too. Check it out here.