A Travellerspoint blog

Passion, tradition, sticks and shields.

Stick fighting that Indonesian way

sunny 77 °F

When the the traditional "sport" of stick fighting takes control of the market place on Gilli Trawangan every Saturday afternoon the islands locals turn out for what is one of the most excited tings Ive ever seen.......

Full attack

Full attack

At first i was quite dubious because i wondered if it was an event that was aimed at the tourists, but how wrong was I !!!!!!!!
From the moment we entered we were greeted by traditional live music, where the air was filled with drums, whistles and flutes. Getting there early paid off as i was able to grab a bench and put it in a prime photography position next to the ropes of the boxing style ring. As the crowd increased, with more locals than tourists, we were told by a guy that it would be wise to move a few feet back as the fighters take it very very seriously and the fights can get quite aggressive. Needless to say as a big boxing and contact sport fan, i was quite excited already ! This guy became our well of knowledge as he kept us informed of what was going on and the rules and traditions of the sport (such as in most places you cant even marry unless you have won a stick fight).

Standing guard

Standing guard

As the rules were made up and agreed on (something that happens at each meeting) someone from each team makes himself known to want to fight and the other team finds someone that is of equal size and ability, making the fight fair and more entertaining. As the fighters are picked they prepare themselves in the traditional dress of a sarong and head band. Music continues to fill the air with whistles and repetitive drum beats providing an almost hypnotic sound bringing the fighters into a trance. As the ref blows his whistle the 2 fighters, armed with their fighting stick and shield, stalk each other around the ring, provoking each other into the first move with leg movements that resemble dance moves and almost cheeky gestures . Soon enough one man steps forward, raises his stick and goes for the kill.

A sickening whack echoes around us as the stick rebounds off the opponants raised shield. With a swift sideward motion a blow is returned only to meet a thud from a defensive block. Shields come together as the fighters look to use their strength and fight in close, but then a fighter sidesteps and produces a move that looks to be straight from a text book by dummying a high blow to the head but then whips the 1m long stick right accross his opponants rib cage and back. The blow couldnt be heard over all the chearing but watching the wounded fighter draw away to his corner, we could all feel it.......

fighting marks

fighting marks

The laws

The rules were simple, strike your opponent anywhere to score a point. Each fighter can pull out anytime they wish. First to 3 points.
Typically when a point is scored each fighter will rest while the crowd (if they deem the fight to be good or entertaining) throw money into the ring. This is then split between the 2 fighters

Each fight was more entertaining than the last. Strikes were landed, cuts were made on each of the fighters legs, arms, torsos and emotions sometimes boiled over past the refs whistle. But there was one fight that stood out over the rest......

We were told that some people get so excited and hyped up that they want to get in the ring and fight even though they are not scheduled to do so ! One guy that just so happend to get to this point was suprisingly the much older looking ref ! So all geared up with a younger but same sized opponent found the the fight started albeit a predictably little slower than the rest of them. But just as the crowd gets louder we find out that the ref is somewhat of a legend in the sport and highly respected...... and then it all kicks off !

showing strength

showing strength

Sticks were a blur as they whipped through the air and cracks echoed off the shields, then, quick as a flash, the first point was won........by the ref ! The crowed erupted and money rained into the ring. The crowd loved it and as the ref came from my side of the ring so did I !!! The next few points were are heated contest to say the least as the younger lad had a point to prove against the older, quicker and more cunning ref. That was until the final strike was landed, a good strike to the torso that could be felt by each and every one of the fighters and spectators. Covered in sweat, the ref raised his stick in jubilation and proved why he is so widely respected !

My first Indonesian stick fight was pure electric, hugely entertaining and defiantly one of my highlights of not only Gilli Trawangan but Indonesia so far! Im not ashamed to admit though its made it onto a list of sports that id rather watch than take part in !

Posted by dan elliott 01:17 Archived in Indonesia Tagged stick fighting trawangan gilly Comments (1)

Gilli Trawangan get away

The gateway to paradise?

sunny 30 °F

gilly_t_beach.jpg

With roughly 25 of them scattered around the island of Lombok, there are 3 that receive the most attention, Gilli Trawangan, Gilli Meno and Gilli Air. Just 30 years ago these 3 Gillis (meaning small island) were uninhabitated but with their powder white sands and crystal clear waters with the backdrop of the mountains of Bali and Lombok on each of the islands horizon it was only a matter of time before the resorts, bars, restaurants and dive shops were going to pop up.
Being the biggest, boasting the best party life, top class resorts and home to the majority of the population of the 3 islands, Gilli Trawangan (or Gilli T as it is most commonly known as) was our First stop........

5:40 am isn’t a time you want to be waking up when you’re on your holidays, but as the shuttle bus was going to be picking us up at 6.30-7am, we had to peel our clamming bodies from the bed (after another hot night in our budget jail cell) . A nice 30 min worrying if we were going to be picked up at all wait on the steps later and we were all aboard the minibus en route to Padang bay harbor. A good 1.5 hours weaving through the scooters, cars and horse carts later we arrive.

The benefit of our boat deal was they sort out all your baggage, so no need to wrestle with your bags with locals trying to carry them for you then demanding money (which can be a big problem). There was a wait checking in to the office and while we waited for the inevitable street sellers approaching you trying to sell you glasses, fruit, shoes etc. While I was giving them the usual "no thanks" I could see out the corner of my eye Sarah was growing more and more worried about the boat. The Lombok strait is renowned for its choppy waters so Sarah’s concern was legitimate.

So with our fingers crossed we walked to our ocean express boat to find a beauty of a specimen! Nice and clean, with individual leather seating (no squeezing together on this beauty!) and with 5x 250hp outboard engines at the rear I could already feel this was defiantly going to be a "fast boat”! We left the Padang bai harbor at a slow pace with the swell making us sway side to side making Sarah feel glad she had her sea sick tablet 30 mins prior. Word was being spread that all the windows needed to be closed (shutting off the fresh air supply to the seasick fearing passengers) but all of a sudden, in a swift but effective motion, the throttles were opened and the 1250hp engine roared to life with the boat bouncing over, in and on the waves, violently kicking water up the sides of the boat. So instead of fearing sea sickness it felt like a hold on as tight as you can roller coaster rally drive!

Unsure how, we both drifted off to sleep for the remaining hour of the journey waking up at the Harbor of Lombok. Surrounded by crystal clear waters that reflected a million shades of blue. It is the perfect path leading to the 3 Gilli Island located just 5 km away.

beachfront

beachfront

Making a short taxi stop at Gilli Air, then onto our destination Gilli Trawangan, it soon became clear just why people rave about each of the Gillis as they all look like something you would see on a a postcard. But upon closer inspection, my first impression of Gilli Trawangan fell well short of the deserted tropical paradise that i was expecting. The bustling main street full of shops, bars and resorts resembled a mini island style Kuta. Was I expecting too much? Come to think of it........what was I expecting? After all this is the biggest and most popular Island and being the high season it’s able to accommodate everyone from families to single backpackers on any budget.

Need a room?????

The good thing about looking for accommodation on the island is that you don’t have to really look for it (unless you know exactly where you are going) because your are approached by endless people offering you theirs. So you just ask them the price, work out if it’s in your budget, and then have a look. Typically the accommodation located on the beach is the most expensive ranging from 300-600,000 rp (per room per night) and the cheaper more budget options are inland where they range from 100-300,000rp. After all the offers we ventured 150-200m inland and ended up agreeing a deal of 150,000rp for a double room, cold saltwater shower and breakfast at the pleasantly looking Milla home stay.
Of course it would of been nice to be at one of the resorts with the swimming pools and a/c etc but looking at the positive side we would get some exercise walking to the shops, beaches and bars and also we would be out of the noisy hustle and bustle.........or so we thought!

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2011 creature comforts............1911 forms of transport

After the first 10 minutes you soon notice that there are a few things that are unique to the 3 Gilli islands. The most obvious one is the law that there is to be no motorized vehicles on the island, meaning the only forms of transport are push bike or the popular horse and cart (just listen out for their horns to let you know to get out the way because you don’t want to get a whack from one of them !). Not only is it an absolute dream to not have to listen to engines roaring all day or choking on the smoke but its way more fun! The other, more subtle but completely obvious difference, being cocktails of the more alternative variety because they contain mushrooms of the more magic variety. While cannabis is illegal mushrooms don’t seem to be, so it’s quite amusing to see all the advertisements around offering to "take you to the moon".

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DSC03440

Food and drink
With plenty of restaurants offering menus of local (Warung - rice and noodle based dishes) and western (pizzas, pasta, burgers etc) food there is no shortage of options. Although we only went into the larger establishments on the beach front to take in the incredible scenery and kickback with a fruit juice or beer. We always opted to stalk out the small cafe style restaurants, street food stalls or markets where local Indonesian food is on the menu. These places are always going to raise a few questions when it comes to hygiene but the only rules you should live by are......if locals are eating there its 1. It’s cheap and 2. It’s good. (10,000-30,000rp a meal!)

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DSC03452

Our favorite places were:
The market: Where after dark it comes alive with bbqs, rows of fresh fish, chicken and vegetables. All of which is reasonably prices with small fish 20,000 - large fish 100,000. The larger the fish, the more people it serves.

The kiki-novi restaurant/cafe: A small cafe with a Warung menu but it is all the pots of different vegetables, curries and meats that are at the counter that draws the crowds, because for 20,000rp you can get a big buffet style feed of each of the dishes. Defo a crowd pleaser!

Gado-Gado street seller: Located at the harbor ticket office a lady serves up the local dish of nassi goreng (rice, local veg, satay sticks, peanut sauce and chili sauce) in a massive prawn cracker (so you eat your plate, lol) for 15,000rp you can also have the optional fried vegetable and tofu in batter for 1,000rp (yum yum). This is my favorite dish of the trip so far. I even had it every day!!!!!!

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DSC03525

Island life....for us

Being the largest and most popular island there was always something to keep us occupied, so when it gets too hot catching rays on the beach, a dunk in the sea cooled us down and we also were able to snorkel the crystal clear reef where an array of colorful fish and sea turtles were almost everywhere ! When we wanted a break from the various beach bars, the lay down cinema showed 2 new-ish films each night and while the only condition you had to buy a drink or some food each it was great fun and different. We only went out on the tiles a couple of times, one being a few beers at different beach bars, then ending up at "tir na nog", the smallest island in the world with an Irish bar! Another being the Full moon party where after being intoxicated on local vodka, local red bull and packets of NRG powder called Joss we partied under the brightest moon I’ve ever seen with locals, tourists, djs, fire dancers, fireworks and a big camp fire (not sure why because at 2am it was still 25 degrees !). Not having any sleep that night, the next day we felt very rough, but luckily because if there is one place to have a big hangover it’s on a paradise of an island!

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DSC03452

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DSC03502

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DSC03512

Looking past the resorts.............

All three of the islands are actually inhabited by communities and although most of their income is from the tourism, normal village life goes behind the busy beach resorts with such things as school for the kids and (as most of the island being Muslim) prayer time (trust me you are reminded of this 5 times a day most notably at 5am (!) when prayers and announcements are made over the (very loud) speakers). One of the big incomes for families is the kind of place that we stayed at. Called a home stay or a "Pondok" its literally a home been made into several rooms. They are then rented out as accommodation, while they live in, what is sometimes, pretty dire conditions in comparison. I understand that western poverty maybe very different from Indonesian poverty because how do you exactly class poverty it in different cultures? But with 5 star resorts no more than 20-30 meters away the village is a stark contrast in comparison.
Ok, I got woken up each day at 4am by the chickens, the massive problem of rubbish isn’t exactly pleasant on the eye and the pathways are sometimes "questionable" but you know what? I wouldn’t of changed it one bit because when you make the journey to and from your home stay you talk to the locals, eat from the same food stands as everyone else and see kids play up trees and on their bikes with the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen! Sure the villages are rough around the edges but it was real and shows what life is like for them, thats something that I want to experience in every place I go....

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Look out for my next blog entry when we experience our first stick fighting match !

Posted by dan elliott 18:15 Archived in Indonesia Tagged islands beach paradise gilli Comments (0)

Starting off in Krazy Kuta

From outback Australia to the hustle and bustle of Bali's most popular town........

semi-overcast 77 °F

big legion sunset

big legion sunset

Kuta - Bali - Indonesia

Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
july 2011 - 11.30pm

Sitting at the Darwin international airport, Australia a keen 5 hours early (so we didn’t have to put up with the increasingly drunken idiots in the town, but mainly so we didn’t have to fork out another $60 for us to go in a 12 bed dorm!) we wondered what to expect as we head into the gateway to Asia. Food, transport and money being the main topics. So as the wheels of our Bali bound Air Asia flight left the tarmac we waved good bye to the country that has been our home for the past 10 months (thanks Australia, it’s been emotional!).

Instead of the tropical blue seas and lush green volcanic mountain ranges I was expecting to see, we landed at Depenser airport, Bali greeted by grey cloud, misty rain and some moody looking Visa desk clerks. $25 US and 15 minutes later we were through customs smoother than a baby’s bottom. The massive DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG SMUGGLING sign was the only concern.....gulp.
Taxi to Legion please !!!!!!!!!!

We were told that you have to cling onto your bags at the airport to stop people trying to carry them for you then demanding money, but we didn’t get any of that (maybe because it was early in the morning). Our destination was Legion (town up from Kuta) and the first quote we got for a taxi was "200,000rp”! A taxi should be between 45,000 and 75,000rp, we knew he could see us coming! Tired and inexperienced we settle for a taxi for 100,000rp unable to be bothered to look or haggle any more.

Indonesian rp banknote

Indonesian rp banknote

Our guide book reads that Legion was built to be an up market retreat from Kuta but as our taxi navigated the already bustling streets of Tuban, Kuta then Legion, it was hard to see where one ended and the other began. A few moments later, fully laden with our backpacks we arrive at The Legion beach resort wondering what the 150,000rp a night double room (recommended by our friends) would look like.........and it was surprisingly nice! Ok, so the showers are saltwater and come out at a questionable pressure and the air conditioning was a ceiling fan, but for roughly $15au (and this is high season prices!) it seemed like a bargain (I say a bargain because for the past few days in Darwin we were spending $60 a night for a 12 bed dorm!

times kuta square

times kuta square

Everyone says to get out of the Kuta area as soon as you can if you want to experience the real Indonesia and to an extent they are correct because between all the scooters, cars, restaurants, hotels, home stays, shops and the questionable street cleanliness it’s hard to imagine how Bali is the tropical Mecca its made out to be!

street seller

street seller

But if you do choose to stay, what you have to remember is...........Kuta isn’t a fair representation of just how beautiful Indonesia actually is. What was a small fishing village 50 years ago has fallen into the tourist trap with hotels and shops constantly springing up everywhere.
What is now an Aussies cheap get-a-way retreat, the main reason Kuta "got famous" are the beaches that produce surf pretty much all day long/all year round So feeling the need to justify dragging my body board and fins around oz with me for the past 4 months, getting back in the water was a great feeling. The mornings were when i was out in the surf the most as the beaches can get quite crowded in the afternoons and surf etiquette goes out the window! Watching 20 people all trying to surf the same 30 meter wave is quite amusing though. The waves are pretty much constant all day and although most of the time they are nothing spectacular they sometimes get big and are amazing for the more experienced surfer.
Just watch out for the big purple jelly fish though !!!!!!

jelly fish on the beach

jelly fish on the beach

The afternoons were when we ventured into the countless shops/market stalls and from the first time us doing it until the last it was always the same, hawkers galore! By this i mean people trying to sell you things ranging from taxis, trips, sun glasses, watches, food, drinks, scooters, tattoos and magic mushrooms! You can’t even escape it on the beach either as it’s lined with mini bars where the sellers have a big cool box or chairs and you can grab a local beer when the sun gets too hot. To be fair though they don’t hassle you to a point where you feel like you get annoyed, so a polite "no thank you" usually does the trick, but the thing is you end up saying "no thank you" so much it becomes instinct when someone talks to you ! But towards the end of our stay it really got on top of me, putting me off even going to the shops as you can’t even look without having a massive sales pitch thrown at you! The most amusing thing is their Aussie accent they put on to try and get you attention "alllllriiiiite maaaate", "sorry mate, I’m English", "lovely jubbly!" Bali trotter!

line of kuta scooters

line of kuta scooters

kuta suf scooter

kuta suf scooter

absolute petrol

absolute petrol


If you do see something that takes your fancy, and to be honest most people come to Kuta for the cheap and plentiful shopping, then you enter the world of haggling and bartering. Their asking price is going to be roughly 50-75% high than what they are happy to sell it for and while you think they are offended when you offer them 1/3 of the asking price it’s all part of "the game". The trick is being strong with your offer, say that you can get one from someone else for your price and if they still won’t do the deal say bye and start walking away. The usually come running after you trying to get as much as they can with all the tricks in the book! Sometimes you will find that it’s like you’re in a Scooby doo cartoon because you see the same 3 or 4 stalls/shops every 20 yards! Jokes aside, you haven’t been to Bali unless you haggle for a Bintang vest and a pair of “real” ray ban sunglasses. Although I went one better and left with a ukulele and case for 200,000rp!

Got the munches?
While you can get burgers, chips and pizza from most of the more expensive restaurants or even the McDonalds (that even has delivery drivers on scooters!). But if you want the best food, stick to traditional stuff that the locals know. We loved exploring the back alleys finding mini restaurants that specializes in local cuisine. The traditional menus are mostly Warung style consisting of noodles, rice, fish, chicken, tofu, and fresh vegetables and cooked in sauces most notably peanut and chili. Most of the meals range from 8,000 - 25,000 (90c- $2.50) so a cheap healthy feed that bursts with flavor was a much welcome change from the typical bread, 2 min noodles or pasta that we have lived on for the past 4 months of travelling Oz.

chilli corn street eat - kuta

chilli corn street eat - kuta

Almost just as important as the food is the amazing juice bars that are everywhere. Every day we had maybe 2 fresh fruit juices loaded with more vitamins and minerals that bodies almost went into shock! Obviously the water that comes out the tap isn’t drinkable (saltwater coming out most of the time anyway) so the juices are a refreshing break from the bottled "water" that you have to keep you body topped up with in the hot Indonesian sun (which seems to be getting hotter each day and muggier during the nights). For a real drink we didn’t go out in a busy Aussie packed Kuta, preferring to stay in the less crowded and cheaper Legion area. Plenty of live music normal fills the air at night and there are lots of happy hour deals for the tight ass backpackers like us.

juice

juice

Being a largely Hindu population, colours and flowers are everywhere, so if you don’t want to shop we found a walk down the street is often rewarded with traditional religious celebration in one form or another that are also the only things to halt the traffic on the mental roads.
Although Kuta isn’t the tropical paradise you image Bali to be I don’t think it deserves to be written off completely. Ok it might not have the best beaches, be full of scooters, street sellers, questionable public health and safty and you have to barter for everything (even where you walk sometimes as the bloody scooters go everywhere !).

Hindu celebration

Hindu celebration

That aside we had an amazing last day in some big morning surf and then just chilled on the beach whilst being entertained by "harry" the beach boy. Although it is his job and duty to be friendly I really got on well with him even more so when he whipped out his guitar and I had a strum. With the wonders of everyone being on facebook thesedays it was great for us to swap details to keep in touch. So as the sun fell behind the hazy Balinese horizon Harry decided it was time to sing us some lincon park on the acoustic guitar in his thick indonesian accent. That I didnt think id ever hear, but Bali just seemed full of suprises !

harry the kuta beach boy

harry the kuta beach boy

Posted by dan elliott 01:59 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali kuta legion Comments (1)

Welcome to my blog

Me trying to document my experiences as profesional explorer.

The start of the real adventure?
Although it is 14 months into our round the world adventure, i cant help but think Indonesia, or Bali to be precise, is the the actual start. Although Bali is now concidered to be Australia`s back garden, its going to be the first place that will be an actual cultureshock for me. Im not just talking about the Language barrier, where im sure english will be ok on the main streets and in the more popular touristy towns and cities, its going to be everything that has do do with everyday life and culture. So while its called a "shock' its one that im very excited about as a backpacker. Throw my passion for photography into the mix and things such as religion, food, transport, communication, houses etc are a photographers dream and also become ingredients in what will hopefully be a journy remembered for the rest of my life.
So while my writing is never going to be up there with the likes of Shakespere, T.S Elliott or even bloody Dan Brown and not really having any idea of how a travel blog should be, Im just going to write down what feels and looks right with some facts thrown in for good measure. Will it be a diary, travel guide, blog or just me talking trash? Who knows? Maybe as the entries build up il find a voice and some kind of direction.
So............. I hope my attempt at documenting our adventure will keep you entertained, informed and if anything just giving you more infomation than a facebook status update :).

on top of the world !!!!!

on top of the world !!!!!

Posted by dan elliott 01:42 Comments (2)

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