I have finally posted photos into the blog from our journey to Indonesia and Australia this past September and October.
To view photos, hover over “Photos” until the drop down menu appears. The photos are under the “Asia” subheading. Hover over “Asia” and another drop down menu appears with “:”Indonesia and Australia 2022” listed. Click on it in the drop down menu. Wait until the photos load. Click on the first photo and a “slide show” view will appear. Scroll through the photos using the arrow on the right hand side or the arrow key. Click on the “x” in the upper right hand corner to exit out of the slide show. Enjoy!
We flew out of Bali back into Brisbane and took the train down to the Gold Coast. We had a couple more days with M&D and enjoyed their company immensely. Walked the beach, went for coffee, had take away, talked alot and then sadly got on the long haul flight back to Canada.
If you are ever in need of flights to or within Indonesia, do not, and I repeat DO NOT!, book with Lion Air. Try and use any other airline!
We have had nothing but trouble with them from before we left home, right up to yesterday’s flights. Cancelled flights were the most frequent infraction. We had a flight cancelled so we reworked the routing, then another flight on the same route was cancelled, so we reworked again for a day later, and then we found out the original flight was no longer cancelled. We were on board the Coralia at the time, so we just bought new tickets for the original date as that date was much better timing for connecting international flights. So frustrating!
Getting hold of the Lion Air call center in Indonesia was almost impossible. No queue of callers on hold. Just a busy signal again and again and again. We talked to someone in Singapore about a refund for the flights we trashed and have had no word from them. Their employees are not empowered to make decisions to solve issues. Although, the ladies at the Customer Service office at the Denpasar Airport have been very helpful.
Yesterday we flew three legs from Saumlaki to Ambon to Makassar to Denpasar. Our 15 liveaboard guest group made it to Makassar with no issues. We all split up there, going in different directions. Our flight to Denpasar was delayed three hours because Lion Air sent our plane to the wrong destination so we had to wait for the plane to come back again. What other airlines have that issue!!
Every time we took off or landed over the five legs we flew with Lion Air, I had my fingers crossed that we would not crash. I shouldn’t have to do that. And I won’t have to cross fingers in the future as I WILL NOT be flying Lion Air ever again!
There were 15 guests, of various nationalities, on our liveaboard through the Banda Sea. Two Australians, four Canadians, two Americans, two Germans, two Austrians, one Indonesian and a Dutch/English couple living in Indonesia. I find it fascinating to learn about what other divers work at, where they have gone diving, where they have travelled to and what they do for fun. On this cruise, we hung out mostly with the Europeans.
On board there are always some normal, quiet, interesting, friendly folk, but there is also at least one “wanker” as one cruise director called them. The “know it all”, we had one. The “I must be the center of attention”, we had two! The “bad diver”, we had one. And the “plague carrier”, we had one and that was me. Unfortunately, this was an overload of wankers for one trip.
Yeah, I was the “plague carrier”. The morning after we boarded, Murray and I woke up with scratchy throats. Murray’s resolved in a day, mine turned into a full blown sinus cold. We tested negative for Covid but wore masks, got served our food, ate separately and generally stayed away from everyone. Not a pleasant situation to be in. I missed almost half the dives which upset me more than being ostracized.
I will have to let this trip settle in my mind before I book another liveaboard.
We have passed through a few Indonesian airports on the trip. Several things stand out about them and the characteristics seem common.
As you arrive to check in you will note there are no check in kiosks. Everyone has to join in a very long line and check in at the desk. When you get to the desk there is a sign explaining the carry-on baggage weight limit is very low, 7 kg. The checked bag weight limit is 20 kg and overage fees have to be paid if you are over.
There are many warungs (food kiosks) both before you get through security and after. So, if you are early and unable to check in, at least you can eat lunch.
Security is quite a bit more sensible than in the western world. The only thing you have to take out of your carry on bag is a laptop. For all domestic flights you are allowed to take bottled water through the x-ray, no matter the size.
The airports are very large. All of the spaces are much grander than they really need to be. This means there is enough gate area seating for all that might be boarding the plane. Perhaps this is to accommodate the large population of Indonesians. There are very few gates even though there are many flights. This is accomplished by have a large tarmac where planes can park and shuttle buses take guests from the gates to the planes on the tarmac.
There is no order to how the plane is loaded. Whoever is in line first gets on the plane first. This random order actually works as well as, or better than, the regimented system used throughout the western world.
All this stuff is just different not necessarily better.
We have been aboard the Coralia for 10 days. The boat is constructed all of wood. The lower deck has four guest rooms (where we resided), crew quarters, engine room and dive deck, the main deck has the kitchen, dining and living rooms plus outdoor seating and a camera room. There are also two master cabins on this level. On the upper deck are two more master cabins, the cruise directors room, more outdoor seating and the wheel house. The very top deck has a small outdoor area plus clothes lines to dry clothing on. The areas are spacious and well appointed.
The crew of 22 is excellent. They come from various parts of Indonesia. What strikes me is how friendly they all are, always smiling and willing to chat. The crew consists of a captain, first officers, chefs, stewards, housekeeping, tender drivers, diving staff and, of course dive masters. Our dive master, Doan, is superb, very attentive to our group of four divers. I am amazed at his eyes, he can find the smallest critters.
The cruise directors are Debbie and Jerry. They have been on the Coralia since is was built. They are great people, enjoy their jobs and do it very well. There is lots of humour at the dive briefings and they are very informative. They run a tight ship and hire just the right people.
The diving in the Banda Sea is different than in Raja Ampat. We spent time looking for hammerhead sharks, which means going deep. We spent time in “healthy” (Jerry’s term) currents, kicking like crazy and using up precious air. Unfortunately, we did not see any hammerheads. There were many shallower dives with huge corals, schools of fish and unusual creatures. The corals were very healthy and huge swatches of the reefs were filled with them. Overall, the diving is excellent.
I would definitely recommend the Coralia to anyone looking for a liveaboard in Indonesia.
We wander Ambon this morning, down to the water and the huge outdoor market. Fruit and vegetable stalls are the primary outlets and then down side alleys are the dry goods. Bumper to bumper traffic staccato beeping, unpleasant odours, vibrant colours, ”Hello Mister”, talking, laughing and finally, every once in a while, a ”Hello Mrs”.
Folks love getting their photo taken. Murray gets more requests for photos today and everyone has fun and laughs and says thank you after seeing their photo on the camera. A couple do ask for money but Murray nicely says “No Money”. Today we also had our photo taken with various folks.
We wander down some lanes that are primarily residential. They are quiet and have a nice community feel to them. A place where the kids can run free and everyone knows everyone.
When it gets close to lunch, we start searching for somewhere ”safe” to eat. There are not many restaurants available to our western stomachs, except hotel ones. We almost go into the McDonald’s but decide not to. After much searching and humming and hawing we finally lunch at a bakery eating chocolate donuts, fried bananas and, for Murray, a cakey thing with filling. Very nutritional! We will eat at our hotel tonight for supper and have a proper meal.
On the way back to our hotel it starts to rain. Big drops right away, so we know it is going to pour. We duck under an awning in time and then watch many scooters drivers pull over across the road and also duck under a shop awning. The rain lasts for about 10 minutes and then eases off. When the scooter drivers start to leave, we know we can head out too!
We are now resting in our hotel room after a four hour walk. We can start to think about the diving that is to come over the next 10 days as we cruise through the Banda Sea and the Forgotten Island chain. Our internet will be spotty for that time so we may not be able to post very often.
Our itinerary originally had one half day in Ambon. Lion Air had other ideas and maybe thought that was not enough time to get a good grasp on the city. So to avoid another Lion Air screw up we arrive an entire day early.
Ambon is truly an Asian City. Busy, noisy and sweltering hot. The roads are jammed with vehicles. Mostly scooters, but there are many more cars than Ubud or Lembongan. The use of the ‘talking horn’ is still prevalent but it is not a constant as in some cities. The beep, beep is meant to tell other drivers, ‘hey, I’m passing’ or ‘I’m just around the blind corner so if you’re there watch out’, sometimes I think it means ‘hi friend’.
Ambon’s motto is ‘the city of music’. And to its name as we spend 3 hours walking around town on Saturday afternoon there are numerous times we hear music. Not just from a passing auto or from someone’s house but live music in the city square, and very loud amplified music from a school yard dance for the students. There is music at the restaurants, not so unusual, but as I type this at 7pm I hear singing from somewhere on the street and it is not quiet. There is the Muslim call to prayer that plays over the several minarets around town and although it might not be considered music to some it is very lyrical and I find I have to stop and listen. I enjoy the tones, the tempo, the pauses, just the way the whole things sounds.
The music everywhere, the street noise, and the regular noise of the city makes for a very loud din. My ears are ringing for the first time since we arrived in Indonesia. All of this may not be some peoples cup of tea but I find it energizing.
Ambon is definitely off the tourist route. We met a couple of folks from the Netherlands today in the lobby of our hotel and there were a couple of other white skinned people at the hotel restaurant having dinner. (We were too lazy to go find a place to eat tonight, we bad) but those are the only obvious tourist types we have run into.
Every where we went today we were greeted with ‘Hi mister’. Not a lot of English here but everyone has that down pat. We did feel like we were quite an anomaly. One other thing people want of a camera carrying tourist is their photo taken. Several times in the couple of hours on the road we heard ‘hey mister, photo’. I would oblige and then show them the result. One of the advantages of the digital age and the cameras that came along with it.
Another indication not many people include Ambon on their tour route is the lack of restaurants. Not just tourist restaurants but any kind of food establishments. There are a few traditional Indonesian restaurants with whatever is on offer that day in a non heated, not refrigerated sneeze guard, but these are a bit sketchy for gringos. The food is spicy so that probably helps but it has been in 30C heat all day and might not sit well in untrained stomachs. We finally came across a very crowded café, the Pelangi. When we find the place it is chock full of local people. There were a couple of seats so we sat down. Great lunch, freshly cooked and pretty tasty.
All in all Ambon is a pretty casual place. Although busy it is not threatening at all. The traffic seems to have a tolerance for pedestrians and especially tourists. As we walked slowly across the street, cars and scooters actually stopped for us. The people are super friendly. They are not aggressively trying to sell us something or upset because we are invading their private world. They seem more intrigued we would be here at all. Really, although there is not much here that would be considered tourist worthy, no theme park or zip line, it is a good place to see what the country is really like. What makes the citizens tick.
We dove this week on Nusa Lembongan with Blue Corner Dive. The dive operation is owned by two Albertans, Andrew and Cody. Andrew actually worked for Murray a very long time ago at Snow Valley Ski Club. When we heard that Andrew had opened up a dive shop in Indonesia, we decided we would have to go.
The staff at the dive center are excellent. Personable, helpful and great dive masters. If you are looking for a dive shop on Nusa Lembongan, go visit this one. You’ll have a great time!
We dive our last dives and are surprised by a pod of dolphins swimming by. Unfortunately my photo of the dolphins just has shadows. I was able to shoot some pics on the second dive as the current wasn’t raging. Here are a few treats.