What are birthdays about

My birthday this year was quite uneventful. Perhaps next time I should take leave to do more crazy things. It was work as usual. At night went to &MADE with Lizzy and ate some atas-looking burgers. It’s a restaurant opened by some Michelin chef but it’s so-so only. After that we went shopping. The haze was not that great so we didn’t walk outdoors much. Went back as usual and walked noodle, played a bit of piano and then went back.

Lizzy gave me a nice handmade card with trains on it. Hahas. And also a  wallet. She totally read my mind, or perhaps I was hinting too much during the Bali trip. Haha.

So because of that I began to wonder what are birthdays about. Is it a selfish thing to want people to celebrate yourself? Is it selfish that you want people to remember your birthday but you don’t remember or bother to celebrate your friend’s? Are cakes and gifts overrated? Are those random wishes from your Facebook friends whom you haven’t met for ages meaningless?

Or perhaps, as Lizzy says, you could turn the tables around and make birthdays all about other people. Use the day to do something different and bless other people. After all, it takes two hands for a handshake. If you are not friends with others, how would you expect other people to be friends with you? Why not make those meaningless Facebook messages meaningful by replying to each of them? Because we are loved and set apart by God, we can do things that are out of the ordinary. Turning the other cheek means to do something totally contradictory to what most people would react to. It means to go the extra mile because you are first loved. But, but, but, it is so hard cos we often seek approval from man instead of from God.

Bali 2014 – A trip of many firsts

Going to Bali has many firsts: the first trip with my girlfriend, my first whitewater rafting experience, my first time eating Bali crispy duck and pork blood sausage, my first time dropping down 5 storeys of a vertical water slide, Lizzy’s first time climbing a volcano, and many more.

The first night we landed, we took a taksi to our villa in outer Ubud. It was a nice small hotel and we had the whole 2-storey 2-room villa to ourselves with a pool in front of it. We took a cab to town to eat their famous Dirty Duck, smoked duck and crispy duck with bali sambal. Pretty amazing. After that we bought stuff at the supermarket and went home and sleep early to prepare for the Mount Batur trek the next day.

At 2am, the driver picked us up in a Suzuki APV, one of the most common cars on the road here which I also sat in my mission trip last time. I was about an hour’s drive to the start of the trek. The unique thing of this package (Pineh Trekking) we were on is that it includes a breakfast stop. We walked into this dark forest into a hut, which was a little suspicious-looking initially, like a Alice In Wonderland forest. We saw a luak, the rodent which eats coffee cherries to output coffee seeds. We had a nice banana crepe breakfast and 5 different flavours of drinks: vanilla coffee, ginger coffee, bali coffee, ginger drink, lemon honey. It was pretty amazing and the owner/operator, Mr. Pineh, was very kind and hospitable. He asked if we wanted lunch when we return, and we agreed.

After that, it was a short drive to the starting point of the trek. The first half was pretty easy, a wide sandy path through lalang and forest. The path grew steeper gradually and Jeremy was wondering if it is going to be this easy the rest of the trek. The silhouette of the volcano could be seen dimly in the starlit sky. Unfortunately, the terrain became steeper and harder, and soon we were literally climbing up volcanic rock, somewhat like Kinabalu but the latter is granite. It was slippery cos volcanic terrain has many loose rocks. We had to take many breaks because Jeremy was not feeling well and couldn’t keep up with the pace. As for me, it wasn’t too difficult as nothing is difficult is compared to Kinabalu. Lol. We saw tiny lights in the distance of other people’s headlamps and torchlights, and they look pretty far away.

After a 2-hour climb, which seemed neverending, we finally reached the foggy peak. It was 6am and getting crowded. Sun’s rising soon and the colours of the sky started to change. The peak is not exactly the tallest point, but a big crater where the volcano is. One can climb higher to the highest point of the crater, but most will just go to the plateau area to see the sunrise, which we did. There are even benches to sit on. Initially we thought it was too foggy, but it cleared and we could see the whole caldera area with Lake Batur below. It was pretty breathtaking. Soon, the oranges began to glow in the purple with some clouds covering in the horzion. The golden hour lighting is beautiful. As we watched, the guide was cooking hard boiled eggs in volcanic steam and we had that and warm bread with banana for breakfast. After a while, suddenly, the edges of an orange marble rose out of the clouds. It was the sunrise! Being designers, describing the scenery with Photoshop terms became a joke. It was like an eclipse with inner bevel and outer glow and radial gradient in the horizon with some gaussian blur. Hahahah.

When there was more light, we could see the volcanic steam rising out of the crater, but we couldn’t see the bottom of the crater as there were many trees. Soon, a herd monkeys came over and the guides feed them. Seems like a morning ritual. Some of the monkeys have babies clinging unto them.

The walk down was much easier with the light. Just like Malang, it looks like the Shire because everything looks so bright and green. Lizzy asks where are the dinosaurs? Haha. Cos the mountainous landscape is like Jurassic Park with giant long necked dinosaurs walking past. After walking through some vegetable farms, we finally reached the bottom. Saw like 5 kids riding motorbike together. Wah.

We went back to Pineh’s hut and his assistants let us try some fresh passionfruit and tomatoes from the vines. We were presented with a sumptuous home cooked lunch, with rice, satay, meat wrapped with banana leaf, banana plant soup and crackers. And he cooked that all for us! We ordered a cup of Luak coffee, which he didn’t want to charge us for. The coffee is very fragrant but more powdery. Once again, we were impressed by his hospitality. We wanted to tip him and he sort of rejected but accepted it in the end. We will definitely recommend him to other travelers.

After going back, we slept for a bit before going to down for roasted suckling pork lunch and then for a Balinese massage! It was really cheap like $10 for an hour and it was my first time experiencing a full massage actually. We walked around the market as well, and then we ended the day with dinner at some pizza place.

The third day we went for whitewater rafting. It was about an hour’s drive to the river and it was my first time, so I was afraid of capsizing and I never really quite liked water stuff. But it wasn’t so bad after all! It was like a 2-hour long Universal Studios Jurassic Park raft ride, the only thing missing was the soundtrack lol. The water wasn’t really deep and the rapids are about class 3, which is quite medium speed. Pretty fun actually, some parts we had to row around, splash water at other people, jump around rocks, go under trees and cliffs, and take photos with a waterfall. There were a few jerks which send Lizzy and I falling behind and then Jerm and Dot were laughing at us. The highlight was the last part, which was a 5-metre jump down a ramp. I was pretty scared but it was fun. We sat down inside the boat with our legs up and it was a huge but fun splash!

After that, it was 500 steps up the cliff to the hut where we had a nice buffet lunch. Everything was included, including a towel for showering and stuff. Pretty good.

We spent the afternoon nuaing in the hotel before going out for another foot massage, and then dinner at this popular grill place called Nuri. The spare ribs and fillet mignon were awesome and there were many tourists alike eating until it was actually sold out by like 7.30pm. We had a nice chat with some Americans who were from California but living in Bali, teaching at an international school.

At night, we discovered this crazy stupid adult cartoon on cartoon network called the Amazing World of Gumball.

The next morning we traveled to Kuta and went to the Waterbom theme park. I never quite liked water theme parks as I don’t like getting wet, some childhood phobia. So again, I have to push my fears away. The funny thing was the first ride we tried was the most exciting one called the Climax, in which you are launched from a capsule, the hatch door opens, and you drop into a 70-degree tube into a loop and into a splash, all in a few seconds. It was really gratifying and climatic. It’s like the best and scariest ride. After that, it was like a walk in the park since everything else was milder. I was slightly happy that the happening rides are closed for construction. Haha. But the boomerang and superbowl rides are quite fun too. We spent about 3-4 hours in the park, shorter than expected, including some time soaking in the pool and lazy river.

In the afternoon, we had lunch at A&W, walked around town, took a nap and nuaed on the bed watching TV, and walked to Kuta beach for a scenic sunset. It was pretty. The waves ain’t as huge as I thought, and it wasn’t totally cloudless but nevertheless it was pretty and romantic.

Dinner was crispy duck again, but a different franchise. It was actually better than the one on the first day. We seemed to be always hungry and always eating so fast. Haha. We spent the night trying to watch gumball again.

The last day was quite uneventful and boring. Just shopping at some tiny outlet stores and then trying to find mee bakso but we ended up eating the fast food version instead. That’s about it.

It was a good trip of firsts.