Final thoughts on Southeast Asia

A pair of nice flip flops (thongs or slippers if you prefer) is a must. And not for the reason you think. Unless you are just a beach bum, you will end up going on a trek in the jungle, perhaps even a mountainous region of jungle. There you will encounter super slick clay….the soles on your fancy hiking boots won’t provide good traction and you will slip around. If you are unlucky or don’t have the best balance, you will fall a few times…if you are really unlucky, you may fall down a ravine and land on some rocks (thankfully I didn’t break anything) Meanwhile, the guide will likely be wearing flip flops and not slip one time. Eventually, I switched to flip flops for trekking and the difference was amazing.

I said nice flip flops because you put a lot of strain on them walking down steep surfaces and you don’t want them to break in mid-trek. I had a pair of OluKai flip flops and I abused the hell out of them for over a year before they finally gave out. Granted, that happened to be on the final ascent of Mt. Kinabalu which was rather inconvenient, but that doesn’t diminish how well they performed for so long. A pair of $2 flip flops from some vendor on the side of the road would have lasted less than one trek. If you insist on using hiking boots, then consider picking up a set of ice cleats. They don’t take up a lot of space and should help with traction issues on slick clay.

There are a lot of repetitive sights in SE Asia. For example every country in SE Asia has a highland region. In this region, they will grow either coffee or tea as well as “European vegetables” and strawberries. They are all very similar, so do some research and see if there is anything unique in a couple of them that you would want to see. After my third trip into a highlands area, the experience became rather blah. This advice goes for beaches, temples, and national parks as well.

It’s hard to know what your threshold for such places is if you haven’t done extended traveling before, but if you have a loose list of must see places, you can work it out so you arrive at a must see beach or jungle without thoughts bouncing around in your head of how nice it would be to see snowy mountains or a desert. Trust me it happens and then you have to seriously consider a change in geographic location…say Nepal, Northwest India or Central Asia.

There are lots of amazing travel clothes with all kinds of fancy fabrics and ventilation and the like….don’t buy any of it. Most men lose weight on extended trips (lots of women I met said they gained some weight during their extended trip so this advice is for men). So, if you have a bit of weight you could stand to lose, well soon enough all your expensive, fancy travel clothes won’t fit and you will have wasted your money. Getting new clothes in SE Asia is rather easy and cheap. At the worst you may have to get some cheesy t-shirt in a tourist ghetto or custom made pants, but it will still be very cheap. Think of it this way, if you were going to spend $300 dollars on travel clothes, you just wasted, at the least, a weeks worth of travel.

The best way to avoid malaria is to not get bitten by mosquitoes. So consider permethrin for your clothes as well as wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt at night (bring along an extra bottle to treat your new clothes or to retreat old clothes). Also you might consider bringing some DEET based repellent because it’s not available in all areas. Malaria medication for an extended trip is expensive, takes up a lot of room, can have side effects that negatively effect your trip (sun sensitivity for example) and is not 100% effective. Additionally, the area where malaria is still present in SE Asia is pretty small. I met plenty of travelers who weren’t talking anti-malaria medicine…we all agreed the negatives of having/taking them outweighed the positives.

In line with that, bring the lightest sleeping bag liner you can find and make sure it’s sprayed with permithrin (some come pre-treated, but you may want to do it yourself). Once, I was on an overnight train and there were mosquitoes everywhere. My permithrin sprayed liner kept me from getting eaten up. On another occasion, the only room I could find after arriving in Jakarta at 3am was crawling with bed bugs. I was able to get in the liner, close up the top completely and sleep worry free. Seriously, it’s a life saver. On the other hand a mosquito net is a completely and utterly worthless thing to bring with you. I swear it must be like a secret way that travel writers make money. First, get a job at Lonely Planet. Second, buy stock in companies that make mosquito nets. Third, put it on the must have list in the guide. Fourth, profit. In theory, they are sensible to bring. In reality they are difficult to hang, especially in rooms with concrete walls, and those rooms where a net is easy to set up, well, they usually already have one.

I am sure I am forgetting some other important tips so I will add to this as I think of more….as for things to see/do

Favorite country: Myanmar there was a sense of adventure to the place. When I went, there were very few visitors even in a must-see tourist site like Bagan. You really felt like you were discovering something. But that said, after Hillary Clinton’s visit to the country, I have heard multiple stories that the damn has broken and visitors are pouring into the country. Even if that is the case, I will certainly go back. It’s the second largest country in SE Asia and there are plenty of areas that will take time to get onto the tourist radar. Next time I think I will combine some trekking in the easternmost part of the Himalayas with some diving around the northernmost Similan Islands.

Favorite nature activities (in no particular order): Paradise Cave, Vietnam; Mt Kinabalu, Malaysia; Sipidan & Mabul, Malaysia, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia; Raja Ampat, Indonesia; Mt. Ijen, Indonesia; Gibbon Experience, Lao PDR

Favorite historic sites (this time in order): Bagan, Myanmar; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Mrauk U, Myanmar; Si Sukhothai/Si Satchanalai, Thailand


Final thoughts on Indonesia

I spent 2 months in Indonesia but it seems like it was such a short time. Part of that of course is all the scuba diving I did. There is so much diving to do in Indonesia it’s actually like visiting two very large countries at once instead of just one. I can’t imagine a better time then buying a boat, some tanks and a compressor and spending a year sailing and diving around Indonesia. But if diving isn’t  your thing there is still plenty of stuff to do and things to see.

When you travel in SE Asia each country seems to call an internet cafe a slightly different thing. If you don’t use the exact phrase in the country even saying words like “internet” “email” “skype” and pantomiming typing won’t help you locate an place to access the web. In Indonesia ask for “warnet” which is short for “warung internet” Asking for anything else will more times than not result in blank stares.

Flying between islands in Indonesia can be pricey and the further east I went the more expensive it got. Additionally, unlike other parts of SE Asia, the price typically doubles if you try and purchase a ticket inside of a week from your flying date. So if you are on a tight budget and don’t want to waste days on ferries you will need to do some advanced planning.

Most domestic airlines in Indonesia either do not have a website or have a very limited website (some still issue handwritten tickets which I thought I would only see in Myanmar) so online booking is generally not possible. But they all have ticket offices at the airport. So when you land in a new city at the least take some time to check the available airlines to your next destination along with their flight schedules, seat availability and pricing. Because finding a booking office in town can be a pain in the ass and you never feel you are being told about all your available options, you might want to just go ahead and book a ticket at the airport when you arrive. 

I can’t stress the airline tip enough. When I went to book a ticket from Sorong to Jayapura all the flights were sold out for 5 days straight and I had to radically alter my travel plans. If I had booked a ticket once I had arrived in Sorong, I would have had a seamless transition from diving Raja Ampat to trekking the Baliem Valley.

There are some Indonesians who have these crazy patterned irises. They are either black or really dark blue (I can’t tell) surrounded by an ice blue ring a couple mm in width. Supposedly on Lombok there are lots of people with these irises, but I only saw it on a couple of older men while I was boarding a plane. I felt awkward asking a man for a picture of his eye so I don’t have picture to show y’all.

Clove cigarettes are an Indonesian invention. As such they are everywhere. You can even go on a Djarum factory tour Kudus. Seeing as they are now illegal in America (although a recent WTO ruling may change that),  if you are a huge fan of clove cigarettes you should probably plan a trip to Indonesia.

When you get into the countryside you will see guns. It was the first country in SE Asia where I saw civilians with guns. So it’s a curious sight especially when a guy flies by you on a motobike with a shotgun strapped to his back (that happened a handful of times). One guy had a shotgun with a bright pink stock….made me wonder if Mattel ever produced a “Shotgun Barbie”.

(A gun related PSA)

Pocari Sweat is a Japanese isotonic drink which is available all over Indonesia. After being in Malaysia where a 100plus really hits the spot on a hot day, I had high hopes for Pocari Sweat despite its odd name.

I don’t know what a pocari is, but its sweat does not taste good.

The official language of Indonesia (“Bahasa Indonesia”) is the second language of basically every Indonesian. Javanese is primary language on Java, Balanese on Bali. On Flores there are 6 different local languages.  But if someone from Java was speaking to someone from Flores they would speak Bahasa. As such, Bahasa is a relatively simple language in terms of grammar and quite easy to pick up. I suck at languages and after two months I could communicate somewhat with people in Bahasa. Additionally Bahasa is like very close to Malaysian (200 words or so different) so there is an added benefit to trying to pick it up.

Indonesia is a fascinating place with plenty to do and see. If you want more Western style vacationing then you can head to Bali. If you want something more remote, there are hundreds of islands to explore. And if you want something to challenge you, Indonesia has that too. For example you could climb the  highest point between the Himalayas and the Andes (interestingly it’s technically the highest peak of the Australian continent).

Visa restrictions make it a bit difficult to see it all in one go, but that’s not a problem because you’ll want to come back anyway.


Indo grub

Before I had gone to Indonesia I had been to Indonesian restaurants in America and one in Amsterdam (Indonesia was a Dutch colony after all) and really enjoyed the food. The rijsttafel (rice table) I had at Aneko Rasa was one of the best SE Asian meals I have had. So I was very excited to start digging into Indonesian cuisine in Indonesia.

But in reality it appears that rijsttafel is a series of Dutch dishes based on Indonesian cuisine rather than actual Indonesian dishes. Kind of like General Tso’s Chicken is an American dish rather than a Chinese one (it’s actually sold in China as an American dish). So I found the food in Indonesia a bit underwhelming.

The stables of Indonesian food are mie goring (fried noodles), nasi goring (fried rice) and basko which is a soup served with fish meatballs (in Christian areas you can also find it with pork meatballs). There is nothing particularly unique about any of these dishes. A variant of each of them is available in almost every SE Asian country.

There is nothing particularly unique about sate either…you can find it everywhere but it’s one of Indonesia’s national dishes and there is something about how they prepare it that makes it more tasty than the sate in other parts of SE Asia. (perhaps it’s an extra helping of MSG) The other nice thing is that they offer more than just chicken sate.

Here is some delicious sate kambling (goat) served with some compressed rice cut into slices and a tomato and onion salad.

Gado gado is another of Indonesia’s signature dishes. It’s basically a vegetable salad (cooked or raw) with a peanut sauce. I am not going to include a picture since seemingly every restaurant has their own version of gado gado. To provide any picture is inherently misleading.

Tempeh  is Indonesian, so as you would expect there are a lot of tasty dishes using it. In Sorong and Raja Ampat the tempeh was prepared in such a way it ended up like granola and was served most commonly at breakfast.

I should also mention the padang restaurants. You can’t miss them. All the food is on display in the front window in this crazy stacked bowl structure.

As for the food itself, it’s mostly fried fish with a generic sauce for all the dishes. Any time I ate at one they didn’t reheat the fish. It was just taken off a bowl put on a plate and covered in sauce. After watching a German traveler try and get his fish reheated, I don’t think it’s worth the effort to try.

At a padang resturant they will commonly bring out extra sides to your table, but you only pay for what you eat, so if something doesn’t look appetizing don’t touch it. With rare exception (at one I got an amazing soufflé type dish right out of the oven) it’s not great food, but you kind of have to eat at one…it would be the equivalent of going to England and not eating beans on toast.

What I was most disappointed in food wise was the salak. I had salak for the first time in Cambodia and loved it. I was told the best salak was in Indonesia and couldn’t wait to try some there. The salak in Indonesia don’t have the pronounced strawberry sweet tart flavor of their Cambodian counterparts. I tried at least one salak on every island in Indonsia I visited and never found ones tasting as good.

I talked about babi guling in a previous post. It was a quality dish but there was another Balinese dish I should have tried and didn’t. Bali is well known for it’s duck dishes and the smoked duck at Bebek Bengil (the Dirty Duck Diner) is supposed to be excellent. I hear it has to be ordered 24 hours in advance so be prepared.


I can’t figure out if there was a cultural element to this…

but for some reason there was a haunted house in Makassar from the middle of December to the middle of January. It was held at the 

It was held at the Monumen Mandala which celebrates the “liberation” of Paupua (funny that it’s a 2 hour flight away from the site of said liberation), which in some ways does look like the setting for some fantasy/horror movie.


Southwest Sulawesi

Well officially it’s just South Sulawesi, but seeing as the island has two “legs” at the bottom and one is called Southeast Sulawesi it’s easier in my mind to distinguish by calling the other Southwest Sulawesi.

Tana Toraja is easily the most popular tourist destination in this region. The highlight is of course the funeral ceremony. Many of the big ones are planned months in advance so it’s worth it to check to see what is going on in the area a few weeks before you head there and adjust your schedule accordingly.

Missing out on a 200 buffalo funeral by a day or two simply because you didn’t check out the situation in advance would be disappointing.

Likely you will arrive in Makassar via plane or ferry. It’s a large port city with over a million residents. The main tourist area is Fort Rotterdam which was being refurbished when I was there. It’s an interesting fort worth a visit.

There is also a historic port with Bugis ships a few kilometers away but it was dumping rain and I didn’t go. Other than that, Makassar has a lot of food stalls to sample the local fare and a ton of red-light karaoke. So unlike Bitung, it’s port city acts like one.

From Makassar you will head by bus directly to Tana Toraja as it’s the most easily accessible tourist attraction (check out Charisma Transport with onboard wifi). Although there are night busses for the 8 hour trip, there are some amazing patches of scenery on the route to Tana Toraja that you might not want to miss. The best of these is the area between Anggeraja and Kalosi. The bus rides on the edge of a fantastic valley with some dramatic sheer rock faces.

I don’t know whether it’s possible, but if anyone mentions kayaking from Tana Toraja past Anggeraja I would seriously consider doing it (if you live in the area and have happened upon this blog….please run with this idea. I would love to paddle down this stretch of river the next time I am in the area). The valley was so picturesque (and different from Tana Toraja) that I wish I could have spent some time there.

As for Tana Toraja itself…the northern area has better scenery and is where most of the trekking in the area is done (take note of the fish holes? and gold fish in the terraced rice paddies…it’s the only place in SE Asia I recall seeing such a thing).

(the holes below are for the fish to hide in when they are planting or harvesting the paddy)

While some of the views are great, the trekking doesn’t feel that remote. The roads are being improved and much of the area is now accessible to cars (you really can’t find a place that isn’t accessible to motobikes)

(graves carved into the stone)

BTW make sure to see the odd infant tree graves. Holes were carved in these special trees and the deceased infants were placed inside. The hole is covered with bark that is lashed to the tree until the tree grows over the hole. Supposedly this tree had 20 infants buried within it.

Your better bet is to do your trekking in Mamasa. It’s not as frequented by tourists, has less infrastructure and religious beliefs – most important being the funeral ceremony – in Mamasa is the same as Tana Toraja. The main difference between the inhabitants of Mamasa and Tana Toraja is in how the houses are constructed.

My thought would be to spend a day in Tana Toraja doing a motorbike tour of the north seeing a few villages and unless there is a huge funeral about to begin then heading to Mamasa for some trekking. Or perhaps heading to Mamasa would be the trek itself….the guidebook says Mamasa is only accessible via a trek from Tana Toraja but when I discussed the possibility of going there, my guide didn’t mention it’s inaccessibility. Things change fast in a country like Indonesia so guidebooks are out of date from the moment they are published. Make sure to ask questions and not just rely on the guidebook.

Other than that, on the way out of Rantepao in Tana Toraja I passed by the main mosque and wish I had checked it out while I was there…it is unique in the fact that in incorporates Torajan architecture. I know that the vast majority of Torajans are Christian and I presumed the Muslims in the area were just transplants so I wasn’t expecting that.



It’s like defacing a masterpiece

Mangosteen is commonly referred to as the “The Queen of Fruit” and unlike “The King of Fruit” (Durian) it’s universally loved. So when I saw this drink at a grocery store in Makassar I was immediately horrified.

Who in their right mind would combine the magic nectar of a mangosteen with asparagus juice (something I didn’t even realize could be juiced). Unlike the odd but delicious chocolate, banana and cheese flavor combination, mangosteen and asparagus is just as unappetizing as it sounds.


Chain law

So I am not sure about how law firms  work in Indonesia, but there is a chain of law offices that seemingly has an office in every town with over 500 people in the country. They must employ thousands of attorneys.


There will be blood

After having to abort my idea of trekking in the Baliem Valley and seeing the Dani (who I briefly studied in school) I headed to Tana Toraja (via Makassar) to attend a funeral. Not a funeral for anyone I knew, but rather to attend a local funeral.

See as odd as it sounds, funerals are the thing to to in Tana Toraja. They are rather large spectacles lasting sometimes up to 6 days with my guide claiming the biggest ones attract millions of visitors (I might agree with tens of thousands) The centerpiece of the funeral is when the buffalo and pigs are sacrificed to aid the deceased (who has in some cases has actually been dead for more than 10 years) in getting to the afterlife. The more wealthy and powerful the person the more animals are sacrificed…..if the number gets big enough a family commemorates the funeral with a large hand carved monolith that is placed at near the village or the village burial area.

And what do I mean by large amount of sacrificed animals….we’re talking 150-300 water buffalo to get a proper monolith. And that doesn’t even include the pigs that are sacrificed….those are brought by the guests and don’t count toward the total.

At the funeral I attended there were 9 buffalo sacrificed (and at least 15 pigs) so a smaller funeral.

(pigs the guests dropped off waiting for their turn to face the executioner)

By the time I got there the buffalo had already been killed (sliced throats) and about 10-15 men were in the process of skinning them. Set up around the sacrificial area was for lack of a better term pavilion with sitting areas for guests and an area where the casket of the deceased was on display (if I recall he had been dead for 4 months).

I should mention that it’s not only the number of buffalo that are sacrificed but also the quality of buffalo. Albino buffalo or buffalo with partial albinism are prized and can cost upwards of 300,000,000 rupee at auction (around $30,000 USD). So I guess if you sacrificed 30 albino buffalo that might be equivalent of say 150 normal ones…I really didn’t clear that point up.

Anywho, everyone sits around drinking coffee and this alcoholic drink made from palm trees which I think is pre-distilled arak (it was on the sour side….so considering my love of Flanders red ale I enjoyed it) chit-chatting and watching the men at work.

It’s not an event for the squeamish. First the animals are skinned then they are butchered. The animals are on bare ground and men go about their business standing – most of them barefooted – in mud created not from water but from buffalo blood. On top of that there seemingly a millions flies which gather on the skinned corpses waiting to be butchered. When the butchers walk by the flies take take to the air and everything goes black for a few seconds. The butchers knives are ridiculously sharp and they go about their business rather quickly. After the skinning is complete, everyone takes lunch. It was a simple lunch…strangely considering the dead buffalo and pigs around we had fish.

After that lunch the men go back to work. Cuts of buffalo were removed quickly and effortlessly. A cutting implement somewhere between an axe and a meat cleaver was brought out to cut through bigger bones. By this time you nose isn’t really registering the smell of blood and earth but when they cut open the stomach and dump out the partially digested grass….well your olfactory sense comes back to life. It suddenly smells like being in a barn full of hay.

After the butchering is done, the village chief gets on the microphone and starts diving up the meat for the guests.

(because maybe a few years from now you might want to pop in a tape and relive the experience)

Apparently pleased with my funeral donation of a carton of clove cigarettes and 100,000 rupee as well as my ability to drink the pre-distilled arak (at the end they were wanting me to one-shot glasses of the stuff), I was given several kilos of meat by a son-in-law of the deceased. Later I had it prepared by the woman at the hotel…it was quite delicious.

I guess the oddest thing for me at the funeral were the numbers of children. It wasn’t really the type of event I would expect children to attend even if it was way out in some backwater part of Arkansas or something. There were tons of children wondering around playing. Some of boys (5 or 6 years old I would guess) milled about watching the men at work and were rewarded with a buffalo hoof! The tied piece of ribbon to it (like you would get with a balloon) and ran around dragging the hooves. A couple little girls took their turn playing with them as well. It was quite morbid to say the least.

(a boy and his hoof)



As for Sorong itself, it’s nothing to write home about. If you have a day to kill there I would recommend visiting the Buddhist temple. The pagoda is pretty close to being the tallest point in the city so you get a good view of everything. Other than that the only real thing that stood out in my mind was some very ugly churches, some deer in an oil storage facility and a couple of Papuan albinos. Dunno seeing two albinos in a single day wondering around a small city seemed statically significant.

I would recommend staying closer to the airport. I stayed at a place called You & Me it was a bit overpriced for what it was, but all the accommodation in town was. What it did have going for it was that it was closer to all the commercial activity in town. So there were lots of food carts/stalls, a grocery store and plenty of warnets (internet cafes) around.

Also try out the bakeries. On my flight out of Sorong almost all the passengers were carrying bags from Hawai Bakery or Billy Bakery. Both bakeries touted their roti ambon guling with various fillings (beef, chicken, tuna, etc.). Apparently it’s on the to do list for Indonesians visiting the city. Unfortunately I didn’t know about either bakery until I was on my way out of town…I did go to Angel Bakery which made a pretty tasty pizza (despite the fact it was warmed up in a microwave)

Hmmm I guess lastly I should mention the odd DVD they played on the ferry ride from Sorong to Raja Ampat. It was titled Epen Cupen 3 and thanks to the magic of the internet I don’t have to attempt to explain too much of what I saw…I can just show you. Basically it’s a sketch comedy show with some standup bits mixed in. I am pretty sure my friends and I could produce a DVD with the same quality. But the people on the boat really loved it. My favorite parts are the standup bits. They are filmed in front of like 8 people (all of whom are cast members). One of the “audience members” is this woman who laughs like a hyena almost the whole time, even when no one else is laughing.

(a lot of the bits seemed to end with people throwing stuff)


Why me?

After I left Raja Ampat I went back to the town of Sorong to see where I would head next. The plan was to head to the Baliem Valley but it was a complete cluster fuck. To get to the Baliem Valley I would first have to fly to Jayapura, get a visitor permit and book flight to the valley (you couldn’t book the flight in Sorong). The problem was the next open flight to Jayapura was 4 days away which would only leave me three days in the Baliem Valley IF I was able to book a flight in Jayapura for the next day. Timing and money were conspiring against me.

What to do what to do…I decided to take a walk and think about it. Since few foriengers hang around Sorong – most people spend an evening at most before heading out to Raja Ampat –  you get a decent bit of attention when you go for a stroll. On my walk I was stopped by a local guy we’ll call him Ronin (he was named after a different Irish saint, although he thought his name was French) He begged and pleaded to give me a tour of Sorong at one point saying it would be “like Jesus gave me a Christmas gift.” He was unrelenting and eventually I caved in and agreed to a tour the next day.

Ronin knocked on my door half an hour before our arranged time and said he had been waiting downstairs for an hour. Clearly he was excited. So I hopped on the back of his motobike and we were off. After looping through town and seeing the couple of things worth seeing (including his church) we headed out of the city of Sorong to see the regency of Sorong.

The don’t get a lot of tourists in Sorong so they certainly didn’t get a lot of tourists out in the country. There were lots of double takes and people waving from shops as we made our way out of town. He showed me where all the transplant Javans live and we discussed how Papuans want independence (he was half Paupuan) and how he didn’t like Javans moving to Sorong.

A couple of times during the ride Ronin asked me if I wanted to drive. I thought it was an odd question and I had no interest in driving so I said “No”. After one such exchange he told me that he wanted to tell me something that he hadn’t told anyone else not even his parents or sisters. I could easily guess what he had to tell me. What I haven’t previously mentioned (because it wasn’t relevant until now) is that Ronin was what an American would consider stereotypically gay in both his mannerisms and his interests. Up to this point on our tour he had discussed his love of Broadway, Celine Dion and America’s Next Top Model (he kept insisting I looked like someone on the show, but I have no clue who nor do I believe him)

At first it seemed like an odd thing to want to tell a random stranger, but I guess he would be able to openly admit he was gay but in a way that it would never get back to anyone in his community…I mean for I didn’t even speak the bahasa Indonesia let alone the local language.

Funny thing is he couldn’t even tell me. All he ended up saying was “What do you think about the gays?” I mean how do I answer that with a person who’s has a great command of English let alone a person who’s English is decent at best? Saying something like “I have gay friends.” seemed trite (I try not to categorize people based on race or sexuality or political views. Occasionally I break that rule…clowns and goths definitely start with a black mark against them.) but given the circumstances that was the response I went with.

Ronin seemed a bit relieved. And I thought “Ok cool my answer was sufficient, he got to tell someone he was gay and they didn’t react negatively…it’s 3pm and fucking hot as hell out here so lets wrap this tour up.”

We continued riding along (this conversation was had while riding on the motobike) he began talk some more.

“I like looking at pictures of gays hugging and kissing and using their tongue…it makes me horny but I don’t want to have sex.”

Seriously? Better yet, the end of that statement was left open like a question and he waited for me to say something. How do I respond to that? I said “Ok if you don’t want to then don’t…in anything you do in life you shouldn’t feel forced or obligated to do something. If you want to, you want to…if you don’t, you don’t.” I don’t know what he was looking for me to say but that’s what he got.

We were still 20Km from my hotel so I started asking him questions about the area we were in and about random things I saw…I didn’t really want him to follow up on his previous line of inquiry. I imagined his questions devolving until we reached “What is a power bottom?” or “I heard this phrase ‘rusty trombone’?”

So we got back into a discussion about local things for about 6 or 7 km when Ronin starts fidgeting in front of me so I ask “What’s up?” To which he responds “I am feeling horny and I have an erection.”

I am not certain how Papuan society works but I would have figured in that situation a proper response would have been similar to in America like “Oh nothing.” or “My legs are getting tired/sore.” Something other than the actual problem.

Ronin quickly followed that up with “Do you want to see the jungle? We should stop in the jungle.”

“No, I want to head back to my hotel.”

“We should stop in the jungle.”

“I’ve seen plenty of jungle in the past year. I want to head back to the hotel.”

Thankfully the remainder of the ride back into town was rather uneventful. The only interesting thing he showed me was where the prostitutes lived. It was four small streets only 50m or so long lined with identical houses each having a sign like this out front.

(a wisma is basically like a pension so that makes it even funnier to me)

He said the women were all from Java but I didn’t see any about…just saw a couple of men loitering.

Shortly before he dropped me off at my hotel and said he would like to take me out around dinner so I could try Papuan food. After the tour, that wasn’t happening…but he kept asking for my Indonesian phone number. Easy enough to ignore right…so I gave it to him and we parted ways.

That evening I got engrossed in a book and read until I fell asleep. When I awoke the next morning I looked at my phone – which I had put on silent. 33 missed calls and 3 txts! At least he had the decency to not stop by my hotel. A few hours later I was on a completely different island and any potential stalking/lurking was avoided.