Fun From the Heights: Montaña Redonda

Aura swinging on the Montaña RedondaThe Dominican Republic is a country shimmering with a beauty that makes people fall in love. It is home to beaches that turn the heads of its visitors, with several considered amongst the best in the world. While it is true that this paradise has crystal-clear waters and white sand, the Dominican Republic is more than beaches. This Caribbean island has a series of places that frame stunning views, sending your jaw crashing to the floor. Places such as these show the unique side of this tropical paradise. One place that shows what the island is made of is the Montaña Redonda.

Location

You will find Montaña Redonda (Round Mountain) in Miches. This is a municipality in the province of El Seibo which is located in the eastern region of the Dominican Republic.

The best way to reach Montaña Redonda is by vehicle. Many people arrive by bus since Montaña Redonda is a popular destination offered by many of the island’s tour packages.

If you choose to drive to Miches yourself, be mindful on the way. The road has as many curves, twists, and turns as it does signs. Visit Montaña Redonda early in the day in order to leave Miches before dark to reduce the possibility of an accident.

Gorgeous farmland.

Once in Miches, arriving at Montaña Redonda is easy. With a GPS, people can enjoy access to the best views. You need to go up the mountain in a four-wheel drive as it’s too big a job for a smaller car. When getting to the base, there is a sort of taxi service to ferry you up the mountain, starting at $5.

What to do on Montaña Redonda

Once on top of the mountain, one of the first things to admire is the beautiful landscape that the height of the place offers. People can see all the green valleys famous in that part of the country. The natural environment is one of the greatest attractions of the place.

Apart from appreciating the flora, the Montaña has swings as part of the entertainment for visitors. When swinging above all the trees in the valley, a person can feel like they are falling. Fortunately, there is nothing to worry about; they are safe. Also at the top are hammocks where visitors can lie down and rest while taking in the views.

It is important to bring water and use good sun protection. At the top of the mountain, the sun is very strong and there’s a good chance of getting a sunburn. If you forget to pack a snack, no worries. On top of the mountain, there is a restaurant that specializes in a dish called Moro de Guandules con Coco. This is rice prepared with coconut milk and pigeon peas, something very typical here. Fried fish is another popular item on the menu. Besides juices and soda like Coca-Cola, people can drink the Dominican beer called Presidente. The prices are affordable — $8 and above will fill you up in style.

Something that all visitors usually do when they arrive at Montaña Redonda is to take pictures, but from a different perspective. The photographs look like you are flying over the mountain as you play on the swing. There are people in the mountains who will take your photo for you so you can get the best shot.

What other activities can be done while on Montaña Redonda?

After having enjoyed the natural beauty from the vantage point of Montaña Redonda’s peak, there are plenty of other activities Miches offers. These include Playa Esmeralda. This virgin beach is one of the most secluded in the entire country. To get to the beach, it is advisable to use a four-wheel drive vehicle since the road is not in very good condition. Nonetheless, it is still worth the journey. After a very hot day on Montaña Redonda, swimming in crystal clear water and sunning yourself on the white sand is an excellent way to end a stay in Miches.

A Dominican Republic beach with white sand and blue waters

by Aura De Los Santos

Five Reasons to Visit Zanzibar

 

Anyone ever heard of Unguja? How about the island’s more common name, Zanzibar? It’s known as the Spice Island as well as the birthplace of Freddy Mercury. An Indian Ocean archipelago off the coast of Tanzania, Africa, it’s also a diving and snorkeling mecca. Here are five reasons to visit Zanzibar. 

Five Reasons to Visit Zanzibar

Reef Diving,  Snorkeling, Surfing

A coral reef runs along most of the ocean side of Zanzibar for about a mile offshore. Levan Bank, off the northern tip, is one of the island’s most famous and impressive dive sites. There, you can see huge kingfish and impressive tuna. Inside the reef, the waters are calm and crystal clear. When the tide goes out, you can actually walk from the beach to the reef. According to many professional divers, Zanzibar offers some of the best dive sites in Africa, and possibly the world. 

The Beach - one of the best reasons to visit Zanzibar

There are official and unofficial guides who can take you diving or snorkeling, depending on what you want to spend or what type of boat you’re looking for. Seeing some of the rickety wooden boats along the beach may send you in the direction of a resort that offers more professional services. If getting up close and personal with scaly fishy friends isn’t your style, Paje, further south, offers pristine beaches and some of the best kite surfing anywhere. 

The Spice Island

Zanzibar has an abundance of spices, and therefore, an abundance of spice tours! They’re not only informative but an interesting distraction from the beach, where you can explore small villages set right in the jungle, and see first hand how exotic spices are grown and harvested for sale. You get to sample cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper that are plucked right from trees and shrubs growing all around you. Local guides encourage you to smell and/or taste the indigenous spices. 

A photo of the tour guide of Ed and his wife's spice tour showing off one of Zanzibar's spices.

Retreating under the thick jungle canopy, the spice tour was a nice escape from the 90°F heat. About halfway through the tour, they offered a cornucopia of fresh local fruit. Local guides receive training at a young age on how to climb trees and harvest spices. They make their village huts out of nothing more than grass and mud. Using hammocks for beds, furnishings remain simple and sparse.

Giant Tortoises

We took a leisurely three-mile boat trip to Prison Island (Changu) from Stone Town, the main port and largest city on Zanzibar. The trip was relaxing. Our arrival at the beach pier offered the most amazing shades of blue I’ve ever seen. The locals have opened the prison, once hell on earth for rebellious slaves incarcerated in the 1860s, for public tours. The island has also functioned as a coral mine in the past. Despite its grim history, Changu remains in the top five reasons to visit Zanzibar.

The main attraction of Prison Island is the gigantic tortoises. Some weigh up to 500 pounds, live until 150 years of age, and are about the size of a Smart Car. At one time, there were as many as 200 of the unique creatures, but now there are about 50. Since Zanzibar has become a world heritage site, the tortoises have been offered protection from theft and poaching. 

The Masai and Freddy Mercury

Whether it’s on the beach or in Stone Town, you’ll surely notice the people of Zanzibar come from a variety of backgrounds. We saw Muslims in robes and hijabs, native Swahili, and Masai in their traditional red Shuka. No matter their religion or heritage, the people were welcoming and friendly. Many of the tourists are European, with some flocking to the upscale Italian-focused resorts. 

Zanzibar is like any other exotic tourist destination, with people trying to sell their wares on the street or beach. Fortunately, street sellers were nowhere as bothersome or persistent as some we’ve encountered elsewhere. There is a colorful market in Stone Town, offering all kinds of fresh produce and seafood. If that’s not good enough, you can buy fresh fish and octopus right on the beach from the fishermen who caught it. 

Stone Town

We stayed in Stone Town for a night, hoping to explore as much as we could. Unfortunately, even with a city map, we found the narrow and winding streets confusing. The personal tour we booked was the way to go. We saw and experienced so much more, and our guide explained things that we had no idea about. For dinner, we sought out Mercury’s, a beachfront restaurant with an awesome sunset view. The kitchen is an open-pit barbeque, and there are autographed photos from Freddy Mercury and Queen on the walls. 

A photo of Stone Town

The stone architecture pays tribute to the town’s name, and buildings have taken on a lichen-stained patina that shows how gracefully they’ve aged. There is no room for cars on the inner-city streets. They are more like alleys or sidewalks, where everything has to be carried in or on wooden carts. Beware of some locals who buzz through the cobbled maze on motor scooters. 

The Beaches

Try to imagine what your favorite beach looked like before it was invaded by massive resorts and the throngs of tourists that come with them. That is what the deserted beaches of Zanzibar offer. Miles of white sand with swaying palm trees on one side and turquoise water on the other. The northeast beaches of Nungwi, Kendwa, Pwani, Waikiki, and Kiwengwa were some of the prettiest that we’ve visited anywhere. 

There are a handful of resorts on the island that exist mostly on the north end. Nonetheless, you’ll find more fishermen and wayward cows on the beach than noisy jet skis or other pleasure craft. Small sailboats are more the norm. We stayed in an AirBnB and ate most of our meals in, but found plenty to eat and drink by visiting the mom-and-pop restaurants scattered along the beach. 

When not cooking at home, we found ourselves strolling down the beach for fresh homemade dinners, rather than taking a taxi down the road. Outdoor restaurants and patios can be nice, but they can’t compare to sipping cocktails in a shaded beach restaurant, listening to the waves roll in, and watching the moon rise over the ocean. 

Friendly Locals, Beautiful Locale

In conclusion, we found Zanzibar to be one of the most interesting places we’ve ever visited. We consider it quite safe and Cathryn walked to the beach and local village for groceries by herself. She worried when one local man followed her around the village, but it turned out he was only there to protect her and help carry things. 

The man even helped me carry a five-gallon jug of water all the way home. You’d think I gave him 100 dollars when I tipped him a buck. Not being resort people, we stayed in the Kamili View Apartments in Kiwengwa, a gated complex with a beautiful swimming pool. Our second-floor unit offered ocean views and breezes.

The Gagnon's AirBnb Pool

I don’t pick favorites and rarely return to places I’ve visited, but Zanzibar is one destination that both Cathryn and I agree we’d definitely return to. These five reasons to visit Zanzibar represent a short summary that doesn’t give this beautiful island justice. Book the trip and see for yourself.

If you enjoyed this article and wish to read more of Ed’s adventures check out my website at www.edmondgagnon.com.

The Con Dao Islands of Vietnam

michael carterWhere in the world are the Con Dao Islands?

If you happen to be wandering around Vietnam or are looking for your next tropical adventure, head east of Ho Chi Minh City to the port city of Vung Tau. The Con Dao Island group is a cluster of 16 islands located about 80 km offshore from Vung Tau. A now-daily high-speed catamaran service connects the mainland with Con Son, the only permanently inhabited island of the bunch. Traveling there takes about four hours overall.

A Con Dao Anecdote: The Day of My Arrival

Just past high noon, the ”cat” docks at the harbor, which is about 12 km from Con Son town. Con Son claims the title of largest community on the islands, proudly housing approximately 7,000 denizens. In Vung Tau, I had hooked up with a fellow intrepid traveler, Jim. Jim and I grew up in the same Canadian town; additionally, this was the first trip to Con Dao for either of us.

A-frame cottages at Con Dao Camping

I don’t know the collective noun for taxi drivers offhand, so I’ll use the term ‘annoyance’. Hordes of taxi drivers waited as we disembarked, certainly eager to offer their services. “Where are you staying?”, “Where do you want to go?” Impossible questions to answer, as neither of us had ever been there before and therefore, had absolutely no idea.

We decided to incorporate the distraction of snapping a few photos of the undeniably scenic harbor as an opportunity to ignore the mini-fleet of vultures. Soon, a bus pulled up beside us and the driver opened its doors — ”jump in,” he welcomed with hand gestures.

“How much?”

No reply.

“Where do you want to go?” He asked in broken English.

“Don’t know, somewhere near the center of town.”

Understood or not, the hand gesture came into play again.

I felt unquestionably uneasy as we boarded a bus going to an unknown destination with no set price. We were the only passengers. Ah yes, the joys of an intrepid traveler.

When there appeared to be enough buildings surrounding us to indicate we happened to be in some sort of town, we requested to get off. How much did we have to pay? Absolutely nothing!

Café Soleil

As we stepped off the bus, I noticed a sign on a tree that read ”Piano Café.” Across the street, a small, open-air spot named Café Soleil beckoned. The only person in sight was a bare-chested, middle-aged man. We ordered two ca phê den da, which they didn’t have. Fortunately, Mr. Bare Torso walked a couple of doors down the road and got two for us.

Coffee shop in Vietnam. Best Vietnamese coffee in town.

A woman and a small kid soon appeared. She almost immediately touched my arm and smiled. After returning, the guy wrote a number on a piece of paper. He then wrote 1975 and pointed to himself — indicating his year of birth. He handed the pen and paper to me, particularly intent. In an effort to humor him, I wrote 1976 and pointed to my chest. A confused look washed over his face and he shook his head in disbelief. I decided to come clean and wrote my true year of birth. He gave me a thumbs-up and revealed the other number he had written — 2047. The soothsayer foretold my longevity. I am not going to die until 2047.

Despite their hospitality, we still felt damned hot. Plus, we still didn’t exactly know where we were or where we were going to stay.

Hospitality Abounds

Jim had one of those so-called “smartphones” that some people seem to enjoy carrying around these days. With the aid of his contraption, he located a nearby place that promised something good to eat. Other than the three early morning beers on the boat, my stomach was empty. After a feed, we could ask around for accommodation options.

A tree in Con Son Town, Con Dao Islands, Vietnam

The phone map touted a restaurant called Villa Maison, supposedly only about three or four blocks away. As we headed out, an idle taxi saw us hauling our bags,  filled mostly with wine we had brought over from Vung Tau. He asks the usual “where do you want to go?” question.

“It’s OK, it’s not far. We’ll walk.”

“Come in,” he says, utilizing the traditional hand gestures that graduates of Con Dao Bus & Taxi Driving Schools are required to master.

The Villa Maison was indeed only about three blocks away. The taxi driver charged us… absolutely nothing! (Now I know for sure I was certainly on a different planet.)

A friendly Villa Maison waitress welcomed us with cold, wet face towels, a lemon drink, and iced water. No charge.

Without a doubt, great first-day hospitality all around.

What to do for a few days?

Relax. If you want nightlife, head back to Vung Tau. We ended up staying at a property known as Con Dao Camping. Not camping as we know it, but rather a collection of A-frame cottages that snoozed beneath some trees, necklacing a fine beach. I spent a lot of time reading, writing, and thinking that life was a breeze. Tourists and residents alike consider Con Dao a peaceful existence, but it hadn’t always been thought of that way.

Entrance to Trai Phu Hai Prison on the Con Dao Islands.

At one time, many called this island the Hell of Southeast Asia. The French called it the Devil’s Island of the east. Why? The island used to house some of the most notoriously horrific prisons. Wardens kept their prisoners in horrendous conditions. It was here that people were subjected to in the infamous Tiger Cages. This is an article on its own, but do some research on the Internet if you don’t know about the tortuous Tiger Cages.

Michael standing behind prison bars in Trai Phu Hai Prison

I spent a morning walking through the worst prison on the island, as well as a couple of smaller ones. They were truly despicable places.

More Than Horrific Prisons

But there is more to do than reading, writing, and hanging out in prisons. When you decide to get out of Con Son town and explore the island a little more, the best option is likely to rent a motorbike. Another option is what Jim and I decided to do — hire an elephant taxi. NO, not an actual elephant, but electric vehicles that act as a major taxi service both in Con Son town and around the island.

An Elephant Taxi. One of the many unique elephant taxis.

We stopped off at various near-deserted beaches. We spent probably too much time dangling from cliff faces that dropped off into the ocean, snapping a lot of pictures.

Rather than writing a lot of words using repetitive adjectives to describe ”scenic,” I’ll let some of the pictures speak for themselves.

The Life of Lassitude Comes to an End

This was a whirlwind 10-day trip to Vietnam from neighboring Cambodia. I spent six of those days visiting Con Dao.

With every departure from a new destination, I am always torn as to whether I will ever get to — or want to — return, or whether I will continue to seek out new destinations. I’ve been to Vietnam numerous times but this was my first to these islands. I think I’ll go back someday, but for the time being, my quest is to visit what is the unknown for me. If you happen to follow my adventures on Dreams Abroad, I hope to introduce you to both recently- visited places and newly- discovered ones.

To read more about Michael’s island adventures, check out Michael’s Tioman Tale Part One and his Tioman Tale Part Two!

Barefoot in Belize: A Trip to Caye Caulker

Are you looking for a vacation destination where you can live in your bathing suit and flip-flops, with no cars or trucks allowed? Have you ever seen signs posted that say, ‘No shirt, No shoes, No problem’? Caye Caulker, Belize, is that kind of place. In this two-part post, I’ll tell you why you should visit Belize and other sites in the area. 

Visit Caye Caulker, Belize

This limestone coral island is just off of mainland Belize in the Caribbean Sea. A forty-five-minute boat ride from Belize City, my first impression of the village was that it was built with a fluorescent-colored Lego set. The turquoise water, white sand, and swaying palm trees announced that I’d arrived in paradise.  

Because the island is five miles long and about a half-mile wide, you can actually see one side from the other. Golf carts and bicycles are for rent, but you can easily cover the inhabited part of the island barefoot or in flip-flops. The island has a small airport for those who wish to fly. Caye Caulker is laid back and the perfect place to veg, but there are lots of things to see and do.

Lazy Lizard Beach Bar, Belize

The Split

The main beach is called The Split, aptly named after a hurricane ripped through the island, severing it in two. The Lazy Lizard Beach Bar is the place to see and be seen at the Split. They offer cold drinks, good food, picnic tables right in the water, and a great view from the upper deck. Gazing out to sea, you’ll discover shades of blue that defy description. 

Accommodations on Caye Caulker range from a simple one-room ocean-front bungalow on stilts to upscale condos with amazing sea views and amenities like pools and beachfront bars. Short and long-term rentals can be found through VRBO and Airbnb. There are some places where you can step off your porch and into the ocean. 

The Split, Belize

With the exception of coconuts and some tropical fruit, food has to be imported onto the island. Fortunately, there is no reason to go hungry with everything from pizza and burgers to pasta and steak. It’s a seafood haven, and lobster is abundant (when in season). We found lobster at beachside barbeques and restaurants, grilled, baked, or put into things, like fritters and salads. Our favorite was the lobster nachos. 

The ocean side of Caye Caulker is protected by a barrier reef. It is a diving and snorkeling mecca, and, according to some, is only second to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The half-day snorkel trip was our best underwater experience ever, bar none. We saw giant sea turtles and stingrays, all sorts of colorful fish, and even got to pet an eight-foot nurse shark. There are a handful of dive shops in the village, offering snorkeling, diving, and fishing packages. 

Pops’ Fishing Charter

Belize was the first big trip that Cathryn and I took together so I wanted to do something special. I booked a fishing charter with a local guy named Pops. Not the one-eyed peg-legged pirate we expected, the handsome young man offered an afternoon of fishing, quickly followed by a trip to his family island, where he prepared us dinner. Cathryn landed two barracuda. While Pops hoped to add lobster to the menu, his traps didn’t offer any of appropriate size. 

Pops’ island was nothing more than a sand spit two miles off-shore, with a coconut tree in the middle and mangroves at one end. Island security greeted us at the dock — five mixed-breed dogs who were all happy to see Pops, and quickly warmed to us. They lived on the island, keeping an eye on things when dad wasn’t around. 

Boat in Caye Caulker

We made quick work of exploring the island, which was less than the length of a football field and barely wide enough to support a game of horseshoes. The only buildings were a bunkhouse, work shack, and an outdoor kitchen, powered by a homemade solar and wind system. Taking it all in, I had to wonder if my surprise to Cathryn was a good idea — I’d made arrangements with Pops to spend the night there by ourselves. 

Fresh Catch for Dinner

Spike, the pit bull and head of security, stood guard on the end of the dock while our host cleaned our fresh catch. It was awesome and scary at the same time when a nurse shark showed up for the tasty scraps. What happened next is something I would never have believed if I didn’t see it for myself. Spike lunged from the pier onto the sharks back, sending it into a frenzy, splashing us with seawater. Pops laughed. Apparently, Spike didn’t like sharks. 

Our host made us fresh salsa from scratch as an appetizer. While we snacked, he started a fire with coconut husks and filleted one fish and cut the other into steaks. He marinated one and fried the other. It was an amazing meal. Pops left us food for breakfast and said he’d be back by noon the next day. With the nearest person and/or phone two miles away by water, I figured the only danger would be pirates or a freak storm. 

I went to the outhouse after Pops disappeared on the horizon. It was typical of the old outdoor structures I’d used before, with one distinct difference. It was built on stilts in the water, and only accessible by walking a wooden plank. Flushing was taken care of by Mother Nature. When I stepped off the plank, I saw Cathryn wearing nothing but a smile. Moby was playing over Pops’ sound system. 

 

True Paradise

Like Adam and Eve, we sat in our personal paradise watching the millions of stars in the Milky Way appear like twinkle lights on a giant black velvet canvas. It was the most amazing display I’ve ever witnessed. Our minds melded with the sounds of Pink Floyd, aided by a mixture of wacky tobacky that our host had left us. Life was contemplated, and in that moment, we were one with the universe. 

We spent the night in the bunkhouse, with an ocean breeze blowing through the open windows. The puppy we named Blue curled up on the floor beside our bed. Spike took his job seriously, and slept on the top porch step, blocking entry to our door. He was one of a kind. When we went for a swim the next morning, he acted as shark patrol and swam in circles around us. 

We spent a month on Caye Caulker, but traveled to Ambergris Caye and mainland Belize for cave tubing. We also visited Guatemala to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal. Check out part two of our trip to Belize for the rest of our adventure. 

If you want to read about any of my southeast Asian adventures take a look at the travel section of my website at www.edmondgagnon.com.

by Edmond Gagnon

Air Batang: A Tioman Tale Part Two

Michael CarterRead about Michael’s arrival to Pulau Tioman in his last article.

Air Batang, Pulau Tioman, Malaysia

After spending a couple of days in Salang, I caught a water taxi a short distance south along the coast to Air Batang, Pulau Toman, Malaysia. I stayed in a bungalow by the shore at Nazri’s. It had a fantastic sea view and sounds of the surf to lull me to sleep at night. I was a 10-minute walk from the Air Batang jetty and a 50-minute walk to the largest village on the island, Kampang Tekek. Like Salang, there were no roads, only pathways. After just a 3-minute walk from my bungalow, I found Ray’s Dive Adventure. Ray’s became my closest depot for beer, sunsets, and star-gazing at night.

My bungalow at Nazri's in Air Batang.I started suffering from a chronic condition known as IPI (Island Pace Inertia). No matter which island in the world one travels to, that traveler eventually succumbs to IPI. In my case, it took about five minutes for the condition to afflict me.

As I was still on the northwest side of the island, I had come to accept that I wouldn’t have time to see nearly as much of the island as I originally thought. Wanting to explore a bit more, I considered taking a day-trip out of Tekek. I thought about going on a 4-wheel drive tour for a day. As the largest city on the island, Tekek actually does have a road. There’s one leading to the east side of the island. Alas, the tour required a minimum of four passengers, and no one else had signed up. I decided to rent a bicycle instead, and pedal my butt around Air Batang and into Tekek. This turned out to be a great decision.

Mother NatureOther than by foot, my primary mode of transportation.

I cycled along the coast and made numerous stops to gaze into the crystal clear water below. I saw plenty of marine life species without donning a mask and snorkel, which thrilled me I managed to rip off a large toenail earlier in the trip and water activities would have only aggravated it. 

Tioman seemed to have more cats than people, but for lovers of slightly wilder life, there was a plethora of free-roaming creatures. Countless colourful birds, butterflies, and playful monkeys. Lovers of lizards and things that slither would be in heaven here. Monitor lizards ambled along the pathways everywhere. It seemed like every time I glanced up into the tree branches, I caught a glimpse of a python lazing away.

The Tiong,  a reddish-orange bird with a bright yellow beak and white trim on its wing, has become a symbol of Tioman. So much so, that a large statue of a Tiong is erected in a Tekek park.

The Tiong Statue in Tekek.

Last Hurrah in Tekek

Air Batang was my comfort zone, but I cycled in all directions daily. I happened upon a place near the end of the marine park jetty called Go Deeper. It had a modernistic, yet funky, decor. The food was crap but the beer was ice cold, and the cheapest I had come across on the island. I sort of liked the place and decided to move from my bungalow in Air Batang to Go Deeper for my last night. The lodgings were more expensive than Nazri’s, but they offered me a free bicycle to use and free transportation in a sidecar to the early-morning ferry at the jetty in Tekek, which was four kilometers away. 

The beach at Air Batang

The rooms were refurbished cylindrical-drainage-pipes-turned-hotel-rooms with air-conditioning, plus a private bathroom behind. It seemed ideal for a final night.

I had neglected to bring a travel alarm with me, so I was at the mercy of the Go Deeper staff to wake me up at 6:00am, so I could shower and leave by sidecar to the jetty in time to catch the 7:00am ferry. I had already purchased an open ticket, but still needed to arrive in time to exchange it for a boarding pass.

A picture of the refurbished cylindrical rooms at Go Deeper in Air Batang.

An Early Morning

Tioman is a duty-free zone. Notably, I still had one bottle of wine left from my purchase at the Tekek Duty-Free Centre. For my final Tioman night, I cocooned myself into my cozy drainage pipe and liberated the cork from my last bottle of wine. Fond memories of the island flashed back through my mind, but I was afraid to fall asleep. Past experience taught me never to rely on ‘wake-up’ calls or services.

The Go Deeper Hotel, at the foot of the Marine Park jetty.

Nonetheless, the wine gods insisted otherwise, and I was lights out before even finishing the bottle.

The call of nature woke me up at some unknown time. After peering outside and seeing black, I had no real idea of the time. It could have been 2:00am or 6:00am. I remembered that the bar/reception area had a large-faced clock, which was easily visible because three sides of the eating area were open-air. I figured it made sense to leave my room and make the 45-second walk to check the time. It was pitch black all around, with a tiny sliver of a moon barely illuminating my path. There was just enough natural starlight to make out the time. Although looking at the clock almost seemed like looking through a pair of eyeglasses made of bubble wrap, I hazily deciphered the time. It was 4:30am.

Nightfall in Air Batang

Trust the Wake-Up Call

With just an hour-and-a-half left, I felt too afraid to go back to sleep and risk not getting up in time. I still didn’t have faith in receiving the wake-up knock-knock. Besides, I had about a third of a bottle of wine to polish off before departure anyway. Ahhh — I had ninety minutes or so to relax and sip on some coffee. Elysium.

The view from the front of my bungalow at Air Batang

It seemed like only a few minutes — and it was — had gone by when I heard a tap-tap on my glass door. My 6:00am wake-up call had arrived, along with my sidecar driver waiting for me when I was ready. My clock-reading skills must have failed me. More than likely, I had woken up around 5:30 instead of the perceived 4:30.

I forfeited my morning shower in order to finish the wine at a respectable pace and made it to the jetty on time.

by Michael Carter