Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tricycles in the Philippines

Motorized tricycles are a very common sight in the Philippines. Tricycles in their basic form are nothing more than a motorcycle with an attached sidecar; some have a semi-enclosed cab that covers both driver and passengers (these closer resemble tuk-tuks, popular in south-east Asian countries like Thailand and Cambodia), but most have a semi-enclosed sidecar with just a roof over the driver/motorbike.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Semi-Secret Surf in Java - Part II

Continued from Part I.

Exhausted after our first day, a few bintangs and an early night was welcomed. The little village was silent by 8 PM, a stark contrast to the bustling nightlife of Kuta or even my quiet existence on Bali's Bukit Peninsula. This didn't bother us at all, we were there surf. (Me, photo by Hiroshi Fukuzawa).
The sound of motorbikes buzzing down the street pulled me from my sleep abruptly. It was 2 AM and the quiet fishing village had come to life. I walked outside to see what was going on. Down at the harbor, fisherman were loading up their boats and heading out to sea. This little village turned out to be quite wealthy compared to surrounding areas, thriving on exporting lobster (one reason they probably aren't terribly interested in becoming a tourist destination like other places in Indonesia). Besides lobster, the ocean here is teeming with sea life and great fishing opportunities(the man below walked out the reef at low tide and pulled this octopus out of its hole).

When I stumbled out of bed a few hours later, Clint was waxing his board, still half asleep. It was still dark out but we wanted to maximize our water time before the tide dropped out midday. 
This became our routine for the week: bedtime at 9 PM, rude awakening at 2 AM, restless sleep until 5 AM, surfing until the tide was too low, lunch, surfing until dark. 7-8 hours a day in the water, overhead waves pretty much all week, light crowds. Most days, we were too busy surfing to get any photographs; Clint was the only surfer in the water on this smaller morning while I snuck off to take the photograph below.

Plenty of surfers have visited this spot. Coverage of Indonesian and traveling professional surfers here have graced the pages of surf magazines and lit up videos. Like every new wave discovery, those in the know try to keep it off the radar. Don't tell anyone where it is, how to get there, how good it is. Nevertheless, news spreads fast and this spot is quickly earning its place on the map. I don't think it will every get too crowded here because the nature of the waves will quickly deter many surfers.
Everyone thinks Indonesia is full of dream waves. It is, but this isn't really one of them. Plenty of closeouts and imperfect waves roll through here between freight-training barrels. The waves come from deep water outside the bay and suck off the reef, heaving thick lips and sectioning off quickly. The beautifully colorful coral bottom is also horrifyingly sharp and shallow. Tidal fluctuation is also a significant concern here; the left and right off the bay's headlands each require different tides, and are dramatically effected by the water movement in the bay.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Semi-Secret Surf in Java - Part I

As the launching pad for surf exploration throughout Indonesia, Bali is buzzing with rumors and stories of where to go. Everyone just got back from 'the most epic surf break' they have ever visited and somewhere that was 'pumping the whole time' they were there. After spending a fair amount of time traveling this country over the years, I've learned to take such stories with a grain of salt; too many surfers are unreliable sources of information, particularly when a few beers are involved. My Friend Clint is not one of those storytellers, so I was immediately interested when he described his trip to this spot in Java last June (Photo above taken of me by Hiroshi Fukuzawa).
Clint had just returned to Bali. He and some of New Zealand's best surfers had scored at this spot they dubbed the 'Coast of Faces' (you can read about their trip in NZ Surf Magazine). I had been tracking a swell for a week and talking to Clint about taking a trip to Nusa Tenggara  As we followed the charts, it looked like strong winds coming off Australia would push the swell westward. He thought conditions looked for this spot so we cancelled our plans, purchased plane tickets that afternoon, and flew out early the following morning.
Java is the most populated island on the planet, home to over 60% of Indonesia's 240 million residents. It is the most important island culturally (the amazing ruins of Borobudur and Prahmbanan, pictured above left), politically (the massive capital city of Jakarta), and agriculturally (a myriad of crops are grown here, including peanuts pictured above right). Once you get outside the major cities, the population density is surprisingly low. Travel in the Javanese countryside is not easy and even short trips take hours due to small, poorly maintained roads carved through thick forests and rolling fields that infrequently pass through clusters of small homes. This is one of the many reasons Java's coastline has remained relatively unexplored.
Clint and I arrived at our destination in the late afternoon. I was immediately impressed with the setup when we walked through the small kampung (village) down to the beach. Massive rocks formed a small crescent bay where waves peaked and crashed off both headlands. Beautifully clear water washed over colorful coral reef as a few surfers lazed underneath a cluster of palm trees eating nasi goreng (fried rice) and watching empty waves roll through.
We had just enough time to squeeze in an evening surf. We pulled out our boards gingerly walked across the razor-sharp coral reef, and made our way to the lineup through the channel. Clint put has previous experience here to work and paddled straight into a bomb; it sucked off the reef and spit him out into the channel 100 meters away. I knew then it was going to be a good week.

Continue to read Part II.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Time for Some Traveling

I've had a good week relaxing since vintage ended. Now my time here in Margaret River is coming to an end. I just need to get my things packed and find my way to Perth so I can catch my flight out to Bali. Can't wait to get back over there, see Kristin and all my friends.

Oh, I can't wait for some more of this either!! Photos courtesy of ESP, thanks Mul! Last season Bali on my 6'9'' Alexander Surfboards single fin.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Visiting Intramuros

See previous post: History of Manila's Walled City

One of my favorite adventures while visiting Kristin and her family in the Philippines was our day spent at Intramuros. We were planning to take the Walk This Way tour with Carlos Celdran, who is supposed to be very entertaining and informative. Unfortunately, our schedules didn't match up so we decided to do our own tour. 
We quickly found out that we could create our own tour, covering more of the city and saving money at the same time. Upon arrival, we parked our car near the Manila Cathedral and quickly found a friendly pedicab driver named Mac, who offered to drive us around for 200 pesos per 30 minutes (about $5 USD). Instead of spending 1,500 pesos each for a 3-hour tour, we spent 1,200 for a 4-hour tour with a personal pedicab driver (view from our pedicab pictured below right); others choose the more traditional calesa, a horse-drawn carriage that runs for 350 pesos per 30 minutes. Mac had a map of Intramuros and knew all the spots, and he drove us around while providing some history of the sites and waited for us while we walked through buildings and other areas.
With so many wonderful attraction to see at Intramuros, you can easily spend an entire there. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Manila Cathedral, known as the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, is the seat of the Philippines' archbishop. Originally constructed when the Spanish first colonized Manila, the cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over its 400-year history; unfortunately, it was under repair during our visit and we couldn't see the inside. It is the Prime Basilica of the Philippines and the seat of the country's archbishop.
  • Fort Santiago is probably the most historically significant site within Intramuros due to its strategic location. It was the first citadel built during the construction of The Walled City by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, situated at the mouth of the Pasig River. Thousands of prisoners died within Fort Santiago during the Spanish colonial rein and the Japanese occupation during World War II; even the Filipino national hero Jose Rizal was imprisoned here prior to his execution. Check out the Rizal Shrine Museum, the classic building structures,the adjacent Plaza Moriones, and the views over the river from the Santa Barbara cavalier (pictured below right).
  • San Agustin Church is rather unassuming from the outside (pictured below left). It is one of the only structures in Intramuros that survived World War II (the only of the seven churches within the complex to remain standing) and considered the oldest stone church in the Philippines. Construction was completed in 1607 after the two original structures of wood burned down in fires. You can walk through San Agustin as long as a wedding isn't underway (its gained the reputation as "the wedding capital of the Philippines"). The adjacent monastery has now been renovated and turned into the San Agustin Museum and contains relics of the Spanish colonial church and culture.
Check back again for some more photographs!

Friday, December 14, 2012

EVA Air LIES - Traveling with Surfboards

Over the years, I've become rather accustomed to the hassles of airline traveling. Between traveling to work, traveling to surf, and traveling just to travel, I spend a lot of time in airports and on planes. I easily take over a dozen domestic and international flights every year. I've gotten lost walking through Singapore's massive Changi Airport, frustrated waiting at the security check at Los Angeles International Airport, and amazed by a freshly crashed plane resting off the runway at Sumbawa's Brangbiji Airport. In fact, I composed this halfway through a 12-hour layover in Taipei's ShongShan Airport. 

I don't mind aimlessly wandering through terminals. I don't mind waiting in lines. I don't mind cramming myself into a middle seat for a fifteen hour flight. I don't even mind seeing a crashed plane at the end of the runway during landing (little disconcerting, but at least it's not mine).

I do mind being lied to, being called a liar, being mistreated, and being extorted by airlines. 

Any surfer that travels with boards has at least one horror story about airline travel. Expensive baggage fees are the norm, and broken boards are commonplace. It seems unfair when surfboards are not included as normal baggage (some carriers allow this, but many do not and charge hefty fees). I understand that surfboards are fragile and should require some extra care in handling. But it seems a bit overreaching for an airline to charge high baggage fees for surfboards AND require surfers to sign a waiver that the airline is not liable for any damage to these boards?

I always research airlines before booking my flight, so I will happily pay the excess baggage fee for my surfboards. I weigh the cost of the ticket, cost of extra baggage fees, travel time, etc. to determine what's best for me. I review the website and even call the customer service to confirm the baggage fees once I have my confirmation number. I've had problems with airlines over board baggage fees in the past but nothing compared to what my girlfriend and I experienced with EVA Air

I dropped my girlfriend Kristin off for a flight with EVA Air in November. She was flying from Los Angeles to the Philippines via Taipei. She had called the ticketing office the month before and informed them she would have one surfboard (she disclosed accurate dimensions) for her flight, and they advised it would cost $55; they agent even booked it into the computer. When she arrived at the airport to check-in, the clerk told her the fee for the board would be $150. After she told them the ticketing office quoted a price of $55, a lengthy discussion ensued involving multiple airline staff quoting prices of $55, $75, $100, $150, and $300! Eventually, it came down to $75 or the board doesn't go on the plane; she gave in and agreed to pay. 

Fast forward to the 10th of December. I've just dropped off my rental car and made my way to the Los Angeles Airport. I'm heading back to Bali via Taipei with EVA Air. I called the ticketing office the week before my flight and was quoted a price of $75 for my surfboard (I disclosed dimensions over the size of my bag); again, the agent tells me she's booked it into the computer. I arrive at the check-in counter all smiles, excited for some sun and surf. I travel light, so I have my carry-on backpack (6 kg) and my surfboard bag (18 kg). The friendly agent informs me I need to pay $300 for my board to travel. I laughed in shock before telling her I called in advance and was told it would cost $75. She responded saying that EVA Air "NEVER charges that little for a surfboard" (see above price quote). After she's looked through the computer and talked with the ticketing office, she "can't confirm that I was told this price" and that I will have to pay the $300 if I want to take my surfboard bag on the plane. I told her that she needed to have the conversation recordings pulled up to prove I was not lying (like most companies today, EVA Air records calls to ensure 'customer satisfaction'). She told me that this was "impossible".

An hour after our discussion had begun, the clerk informed me my board bag was small enough to qualify for a $100 fee. I told her this was unacceptable but she responded that I had two options: pay $100 or leave the surfboard behind at the airport. Good options. I'm at LAX, two and a half hours from home. Do I just abandon my board here? Call a friend to come and pick it up and store it for 8 months until I get back to California? They knew I was trapped and had to pay.

Is EVA Air doing this intentionally? Twice in the span of a few weeks, they quoted a low price for baggage fees when the passenger inquired, then increased it when they arrive at the airport. Then, EVA clerks bargained down the price until the passenger finally gave in. If this is how they operate, this is unethical business practice to say the least. Needless to say, it was certainly one of the worst ways I have ever started a trip. Thanks EVA Air!

Please feel free to share any stories involving baggage fees for surfboards or other 'over-sized baggage' in the comments below. I would love to make some suggestions on how to protect yourself from this type of experience, but I already tried myself! Maybe record your phone call with the airline?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

San Francisco

I had several meetings scheduled in the San Francisco Bay area last week. They all went very well and I'm excited for the new opportunities that I'm working on.
I drove up from San Luis Obispo early last Sunday through some wet weather before I found the sun and my good friend Miles at his Ocean Beach home mid-morning. We headed down to the beach and enjoyed some really fun overhead surf. It was great catching up with Miles, who is always so positive and stoke on life! I like the surf up in this area; conditions can be fickle, but there always seems to be decent size around in autumn. I had a couple fun surfs during the week too, smaller waves but fewer people.

I was able to book my usual accommodations for the duration of my stay. Andy, Hayes, Jay, and Mike let me stay at their home on the other side of the city. These are some of my best friends from college days, who have probably become rather accustomed to me crashing at their house over the years.

As always, I was glad my brother was able to squeeze me into his hectic schedule. We met up for a nice dinner and a few beers at Pyramid Brewing Company in Berkeley.

Thanks to everyone for the hospitality, and hopefully I'll be back in the area around vintage time next year!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Candi Sewu

Also view: Candi Prambanan, Candi Mendut & Monastery, Candi Borobudur, Candi Borobudur - Photographs, Jogjakarta.

Candi Sewu is often confused by visitors as a part of Candi Prambanan due to its close proimity. The two are contained on the same site, less than a kilometer away from one another, so one might find it odd that Candi Prambanan is a Hindu temple, while the older Candi Sewu is a Buddhist temple (the second largest in Indonesia behind Borobudur). Candi Sewu is believed to have been constructed in the late 8th century under the Medang Kingdom; its completion under the Buddhist Sailendra Dynasty when a Hindu prince married a Sailendra princess (most likely congruent with the construction of Prambanan) has led historians to believe there was a strong bond between the two religions during this time period.
The temple complex of Candi Sewu is nearly square, 185 meters by 165 meters. The main temple is a 20-point polygon, nearly 30 meters in diameter and 30 meters in height. Stairwells at the four cardinal points exit the temple and form a cross-like structure. This main structure is surrounded by 240 Perwara (guardian) temples arranged in four concentric rows. At each cardinal point, two larger perwara utama (main guard) temples stand.
Unfortunately, Candi Sewu has suffered much the same fate as neighboring Candi Prambanan; extensive looting during its abandonment has removed most of its statues and seismic activity has damaged its structure. Sewu was also much more effected by a 2006 earthquake, leaving it rather unstable and basically unsuitable for visitors (one can walk through the grounds, but cannot enter). Most of its structures remain in ruins, with only the main temple and 3 of its perwara utama temples standing today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Candi Prambanan

Also view: Candi Mendut & Monastery, Candi Borobudur, Candi Borobudur - Photographs, Jogjakarta.

After a morning visiting Borobudur and Mendut, the hour and a half drive through the agriculturally prosperous Javanese countryside passed quickly. We arrived at Candi Prambanan in the early afternoon, and were surprised as we exited the van and were hit by the heat of the day that had crept up during our journey. As we approached, we caught our first glimpse of Candi Prambanan.
Candi Prambanan is one of Southeast Asia's largest Hindu temple complexes, dating back to the mid-9th century Mataram Kingdom. The temple's original name was 'Shiva-laya', meaning 'the Realm of Shiva', but was modified over the years to Prambanan (most likely derived from the term 'para brahman', meaning 'for the brahmins'; brahmins are those who have attained the highest state of spiritual enlightenment). The site is organized into three zones, starting with the outer zone demarcated by a large outer wall with four large gates. The middle zone is composed of 224 Pervara temples, arranged in four concentric squares. The inner zone is the holiest, elevated on a large stone platform and containing the 3 main Trimurti temples, 3 Vahana temples, 2 Apit temples, and 4 Kelir temples.
Candi Prambanan was unfortunately abandoned, just like its Buddhist counterpart Borobudur. It was rediscovered by the British in the same time period as Borobudur (19th century), but unfortunately was in ruins due to seismic activity. Rehabilitation efforts began in 1918, but extensive looting by foreigners and locals previous to this time proved to be a challenge. The only structures that have been reconstructed were those with at least 75% remains (the 16 temples of the inner zone and 2 of the 224 Pervara temples).
After making a quick trip by car to nearby Candi Sewu (to be discussed in a later post), Kristin and I returned to the gardens surrounding Candi Prambanan and enjoyed a nice picnic lunch in the shade of the trees before catching up with the rest of our group and heading back to Jogjakarta.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Candi Mendut & Monastery

Also view: Candi Borobudur, Candi Borobudur - Photographs

Situated in a perfectly straight line on Java's Kedu Plain, historians believe a ritual relationship must exist between the ancient temples of Borobudur, Pawon, and Mendut. After visiting Borobudur, Kristin and I had to skip visiting Pawon due to time contraints and continued eastward to Mendut.
Mendut sits just three kilometers from Borobudur and was built prior to Borobudur under the Saliendra Dynasty. Like it's sister temples, it was abandoned for centuries until it was rediscovered in the mid-1800's. Nothing compared to the massive structure of Borobudur, Mendut is a single tower reaching 26 meters high with two chambers; the first houses reliefs of gods flying to heaven, while the second larger chamber houses statues of three major divinities of Buddhism (Vairocana, Avalokitesvara, and Vajrapani that liberate visitors of the karma of the body, speech, and thought, respectively).
Mendut monastery, just adjacent to the temple, was established about a decade ago. A small lotus pond greets visitors at the entrance and a stupa-lined path leads between buildings before dropping down to an open walkway that terminates at a massive stupa fronted by Buddha. Unfortunately, we couldn't fully explore since we arrived during meditation time.