Wednesday, 17 March 2010

On to Kuching

Local people enjoying the holiday after 'Nyepi' at Sanur Beach

I rose at six a.m. and took an early breakfast, delivered to my sitting room promptly as ordered. The morning was already hot but I decided to check out the beach one more time. It was just after eight when I arrived at the sea. There were a handful of foreign visitors walking on the promenade but hundreds of Indonesians in the water and across the sands. The people in the water had left little piles of their possessions dotted all over the sand. Crime is supposed to be low in Bali. I walked along the sands for about ten minutes and then turned onto one of the access roads at right angles to the beach. Where the road met the beach, there were hundreds of the Indonesian-assembled small motor bikes which most people use. Husband, wife and first child seem to fit quite nicely on these machines, but I’ve seen four people aboard a few times. Crash helmets are supposed to be worn but I’ve seen lots of people who don’t bother.

More pictures of Sanur.

I walked back towards the Bali Pavilions, past the tourist shops and restaurants which so offended me when I arrived – yes, I know, I’m a tourist too. About every third set of premises appeared to be an official money changer. I picked a posh one and changed a few dollars to make sure I’d sufficient Rupiah to pay the airport departure tax of 150,000 Rupiah. You get some eye-watering prices when the exchange rate is around nine thousand Rupiah to the dollar! I passed a number of taxis parked or cruising looking for trade but I was happy to return to the tranquility of my villa. The Bali Pavilions has a very nice main swimming pool and it was unused as I passed but I preferred the privacy of the smaller but decent-sized pool within my own courtyard.

After a final swim, I more-or-less finished my packing. I usually leave a trail of mislaid items behind me as I move from place to place. So far this time I’ve lost my spectacles case in Yogyakarta. Once packed, I went to use the computer in reception. Because of Nyepi, I’d not been able to use their computer on the Day of Silence but I had prepared some text off-line ready to upload. My Notebook computer is proving troublesome this trip – it doesn’t seem to want to connect to Wi-Fi and there’s some sort of keyboard problem such that some letter keys and a number of punctuation keys produce the wrong letter or symbol on screen and in the file. So far, the best solution has been to type away regardless, ignoring the fact that the screen is full of rubbish and then, once the document is complete, use Find and Replace to swop the rubbish characters for the intended characters. Fortunately, I have been able to continue to use the computer for backing-up and sorting my photographs. Some of my sub-directory names have been rather odd because of the swopped characters! There’s now a huge backlog of pictures to upload to the net when I can.

Promptly at 1.0 p.m., the arranged car turned up to whisk me to the International Terminal at Ngurah Rai airport (Airport pictures). I checked in for flight MH 850 for Kuala Lumpur – my first flight with Malaysia Airlines and my first time to Kuala Lumpur. This time, I’m not stopping in KL but transiting to another Malaysia Airlines flight to Kuching in East Malaysia. Kuching is in the province of Sarawak and I remember as a child seeing the Jubilee class locomotive 'Sarawak' and thinking how exotic it sounded. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that one day I might actually travel to Sarawak. Well, the locomotive no longer exists but I did get to see the prototype!

Check-in was painless though it took me a while to find the business class lounge. Malaysia Airlines share the Garuda lounge. The aircraft was another 737-400, fitted with sixteen seats in business class but with only one passenger – me! There were four choices of meal and I took the fish – Dory. It was excellent and the cabin staff were very friendly. In just under three hours we landed at Kuala Lumpur. It’s a huge airport and a bit intimidating but I went through immigration and Customs OK and then had to find my way to departures and locate my connecting flight to Kuching. The aircraft was yet another 737-400 but this time all sixteen business class seats were taken. Two meals were on offer – a spicy one or beef. I took the beef and, to my surprise, enjoyed it as it was very tender.

On arrival I had to go through another immigration – Sarawak is a different state within Malaysia - and collect my bag which arrived promptly. There only appeared to be one driver waiting in the arrivals hall and he was holding up a printed sign with my name so we were soon on our way to the Hilton hotel near the waterfront. The Hilton is a modern hotel, as you’d expect, and I’ve a room with a view on the eleventh floor. Pictures of the Hilton.