My First Christmas Present

So it has been more than 39 years, and this is my first Christmas present ever.

I have stopped believing to Christmas magic years ago since it never happened to me. To me, it’s bullshit.

I came to this Couchsurfing meetup – Christmas dinner – because I want to get drunk and have a party. Yeah, it’s been a while. Never thought I would have a present.

Yet, this little gift is exactly what I needed. I guess a little magic does happen once in a while.

Kuta Beach

Landed back into the real life

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Starting the trip to find my self and get over my broken heart opened my eyes to a lot of things. I never did my homework researching about countries I was going to visit and my first hitchhiking experience was pretty challenging. After selling my snack bar shares, I sorted all my bills and small debts. I started the trip with exactly $260 – after buying a flight ticket from Bali to Singapore.

Knowing I only had so little money, I tried my first hitchhike in Malaysia and succeed only once. Then Kris – my Couchsurfing host – came along and taught me how to hitchhike. So I did almost all of my way in Thailand hitchhiking. However, I learned that with my typical Asian face, not many people interested to give me a ride. I noticed the difference when I hitchhike with Kris was easier as he is white. Giving a ride in Asia for Western people gives more attraction to people. After splitting with Kris to continue the journey, most people who gave me a ride were men who have more sense of protections (police, army, etc), family, and people from a working-class family.

A lot of travelers from Western countries I met along the way told me that everything in Asia is cheap. The sound of it was itching my ears lol. As a person from a develop-country like Indonesia, that statement sounds so naive because we have currency values differences. Then again, as a poor traveler, I constantly calculated prices into IDR and compared the prices with Indonesia as a benchmark. Some of them are cheaper or the same, some section are more expensive.

Money ran out like water. Good friends and strangers took care of me along the way, still, shits happened due to the bad rate, charges, unexpected expensive transport, and food – all of those mostly ruined my budgeting system. I’ve never really run out of money, except in Laos, when I say I can’t afford this much – that just means the money I have left is already in the budget for something else – like transport for my next city, a hostel, flight ticket to my home country. That’s why I’m being cheap not to go to famous landmarks that require an expensive entrance ticket.

Although I managed to fulfill my basic needs, the language barrier prevented me to get explanations to satisfy my curiosity about the cultures, habits, etc. There are still many ‘whys’ circling my head. Maybe next time 🙂 in another chance, I will be more prepared.

Coming back to Bali has never been easy. Aside from being jobless and homeless, a sudden loss of a best friend over simple thing was never in my book plan – it’s just making my return even harder. Was pride take us over? Maybe. Friends constantly taking care of me with a place to stay, food, or even cigarettes. I have no money right now, but I am so grateful – I can drink beers, I can eat good food, I have a roof over my head to spend my days. However, I don’t just lay my hands on the table.

I have been trying to find a job and was in a few interviews, no luck yet. Yet, I have my deadline. I can’t trouble my friends all the time with my presence. In time, I have to leave again to ‘I don’t know where yet’ – coming back to Jakarta with an embarrassment of failures was never an option. Some people would have said, it was my choice to leave and in this position. Well, I don’t know – I guess I could never know my own level of sanity to keep up with all the waves kept hitting me. Maybe that time, I needed to do it to gain my logic back – see, feel, realization that I am nobody, nothing in this universe.

Good memories would still be alive in my heart. One day, my friends, one day… I will return all of your kindness. Not because I have to. It’s simply because I love you all…

I owe you my life!

Being the person I am, I’ve always thought myself not good enough on everything. I have never realized how many people care about me constantly and knowing it – I am so grateful beyond words. During this trip, I’ve been helped by so many the unexpected people – what I meant is the people I’ve just met, people I met rarely, and of course, my good friends!

To John: You have been such a great buddy for me since the chicken wings tester. You constantly take care of me on everything without me asking for it – sincerely. I love you more than life itself ❤

To Paul: We just met a few times and yes, we always had a good chat. I would’ve never thought you would go around Bali just to find MoneyGram to help me in my worst time. Most people would have given up after failing the second time. I owe you so much.

To Keith: We just got close for a few weeks. You’re such a wonderful person with a great heart. You gave me a blast goodbye party but wishing I didn’t go. You checked on me every now and then and you really tried hard to help me out when I got in trouble in Laos. You sorted me out when I come back with a place to stay for the night. You think of every detail for me. I owe you my life.

To Kris: You are my guru for every difficult situation and give me comforts. You always show me the best option on how to deal with things. Thank you! I owe you everything.

To Hansen: Even though you’re my nephew, we have never talked for years. You’ve grown into an amazing young man. You helped me to get out from an uncomfortable situation and enjoy Cambodia. Thank you for everything. I owe you so much.

To Les: We talked rarely and meet rarely. But when we met at Siem Reap, you gave me comforts and made me feel safe. I never thought you’re worried about me until you told me. The unspoken words finally unleashed. Thank you for everything.

To Arthur: We just met 2 days. Yet you went overboard to find me a safe place in Laos. I will never forget that and I will always wish you a happy life.

To People who worries about me: Thank you. You make me feel still wanted and you make me believe I’m worthy as a person

To people who had hosted me along the tripAunty Syarifah Noor, Ganesh, Manroon, Kris, Roma, Dui, Michael, Lucas, Sky, Mr. S, Les and others that I forgot to mention: Thank you for giving me a safe place. I will forget you all.

To people who had given me a ride: You don’t know me but you still helped me to reach my destination. I wish you all reaching your life goals. May happiness and health be with you, always.

To people I’ve met along the road: You gave me a precious life lesson. The meaning of real sincerity and friendship. I hope we can meet again on another path.

Thank you with all my heart!

 

It’s Time To Go Home? – Day 60-65 (Jan 13-18,18)

The days spent on my journey I was squabbling with myself whether I write the whole thing truthfully base on what I feel on the event or just write good moments that people like. I decided to tell everything truthfully because you do know, shits happen in life. Sometimes foolish shit can turn your life upside down. Heartwarming story is always beautiful to read to, but small gestures you received from strangers or people you didn’t expect to, can be heartwarming as well.

Now it’s time to go back to my home country. The question, ‘where is home?’ is still running around my mind. I’m ready to go home but I am not sure where to go. Yet, I promised John to see him before he comes back to the UK.

Shits always happened to me on the last days. The money I saved for the flight home was enough for cheap flights. I found cheap tickets to Singapore on Jetstar online on the 18, I thought,’Wow, what a coincidence! I could surprise Fa on her birthday, she must be happy to see me.’ Yet, I don’t have any credit card and my ATM is not a master/visa card, all I have was cash. Kris tried to help by lending me his card but the transaction was failed because of the system. So, I went to the airport trying to find the Jetstar booth ticket, there was none Jetstar office in Phuket. Stopped by at a travel agent, the price was twice more expensive. The airport trip was fruitless.

I just remember that I have an Indonesian travel agency app on my account and it is possible to transfer via internet banking. Hurriedly I booked the flight. One job was done. Now, I need to find another cheap flight from Singapore to Bali. Found one on the 19, which is Fa’s birthday. Too bad, the money in my account was short only around $10 for the payment. Worried the price will go up again, I asked some friends to lend me some and I will return the money back where I’m in Indonesia. By the time, a friend transferred me, it was too late. The flight schedule I was eyeing for, the price has gone up. So I had to choose another time that requires me to stay 15 hours at the airport. Yeah, I can’t afford another hostel to rest.

However, I feel like some friends that I’m going to see in Bali now aren’t too happy knowing that I’m going home, except for John and Keith. That brings me down a bit. Yet, the ticket is bought and I will see only people who want to see me. I will not think of anything else. My sensitivity brings me to my recklessness. I fell when I was cooking. I hit my forehead to the floor and hot oil was poured to my arm.

Well… what’s done is done. It’s time for me to pack up and go to the airport. Kris gave me something to remember – a pinecone from Siberia, and Lena – Kris’s other Couchsurfer – accompanied me to the airport and gave me my last hitchhiking. Pictures can say a thousand words but it cannot describe the whole view your eyes can see.

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It’s time to fly

 

Last Visitation – Day 58-59 (Jan 11-12,18)

Les and I had coffee together before I leave. Sweet Les gave me the biggest goodbye hug. The driver agent picked me up a little bit early to the bus station but it was ok. I was ready anyway. It’s time to visit my guru before he leaves Thailand for another journey while I have the chance as I wouldn’t know if I ever see him again. Hopefully!

The bus was late for an hour. When it arrived, it was not a bus but a minivan. I was disappointed and cursing my self at the same time. I should’ve bought the Nattakan bus ticket instead of this unprofessional bus agency – Nattakan bus is safer and you’d get as it is advertised and it’s not late this long and you’ll get lunch and water and etc. With this bus company – Virak Bhuntam – I didn’t get any of the facilities as advertised, such as water and wifi on the bus. Yet there’s nothing I can do. What’s done is done. I just kept asking myself why did I always made the wrong decision. Maybe Kris is right – I think too much. 😦

The minivan made many stops. I got very late when I arrived in Bangkok – 9.00 PM and was dropped at Pathum Thani. It was quite far from the airport and bus station. If only I took Nattakan Co. bus, I would be dropped at the Nothern Bus station and there won’t be so much hassle to go to the airport or Southern bus station. My plan to catch a cheap flight to Phuket was ruined. Finally, I caught a bus to the Nothern bus station hoping there would a night bus to Phuket. Lol… nope. All long-distance buses were all closed and gone. I texted Kris about it – as always he gave me advice on what to do. He told to go to the Southern bus station fast as there would be more cheap buses to Phuket there. So I did.

Another night spent at the bus station waiting until ticket booths open in the morning – after a hassle with a security guard that I could not sleep at the bus station. He said, “This is a bus station, you can’t sleep here. You can only sit at the chair, no laydown.” I said that’s ok, I just want to wait until the ticket opens in the morning. It was midnight, btw. I was tired and didn’t need that kind of argument. I mean like, C’mon… everybody sleeps at the bus station to wait for the morning bus. I just shook my head. Anyway, I found a spot to sit-sleeping there until another security guard woke everybody up at 4.00 AM as the ticket booths are open. I made my way to buy the ticket to Phuket – it was quite cheap for a 12-hour ride plus you get water and lunch at the restaurant – 587 baths. I got to see a beautiful sunrise from the bus.

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The funky driver assistance with all his accessories

Arrived at Phuket an hour later than scheduled which was pretty normal. Since I didn’t have any data on my phone, I texted Kris when I was already in front of his apartment. It’s good to see my guru again. 🙂

 

Les Les Les – Day 56-57 (Jan 9-10, 18)

Les is coming! I waited for his text anxiously. So excited to finally meeting somebody you’ve already known in another country. Making new friends are always amazing but meeting an old friend – is always more in it. I made a precise schedule that day. Les said he’s gonna be landed around 11.30 AM. That means he’s gonna be at the hotel around 2.00 PM.

8.00 AM – 10.00 AM Went to my favorite coffee shop
10.00 AM – 11.00 AM Brunch
11.00 AM – 01.15 PM Relaxing at the riverside
01.30 PM – 02.00 PM Head back to the hostel, took a shower, then Les texted me that he’s already at the hotel… Ha!! On the way to Les, I stopped by at Alan’s and said goodbye – haven’t met him yesterday.

Les was sitting with his friends at the pool bar hotel when I walked in. I literally run to him while calling his name. He granted my wish by giving me the biggest hugs of all. I think his friends were stunned for that sweet scene..haha…

A beer and a conversation are always a perfect combination. Yet, the water in the pool called me to jump in :p Since I was not a guest, I asked permission to use the pool and of course, they couldn’t say no to this sweet lady lol.

We went dinner with Les favorite tuk-tuk driver to his friend’s restaurant. My dinner was the fanciest during my trip served with a nice presentation. The conversation was never ended. We had a lot of things to catch up to.

 

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Beef lok-lak – Khmer food. Sliced chili was on demand

Afterward, we hung out at his hotel pool bar with the boys and more beers. Some songs were sung beautifully. Laughter and jokes were thrown in the air. Good night! I said I’m leaving tomorrow but Les made stay another night and booked me a room in a hotel. I was moved by this man’s kindness. He said I would feel great knowing I can give you a safe place for a night, at least. So, I stayed for another day.

I am overwhelmed by this. So far, it was the most luxurious room during my trip. My room was a double bed. I slept really good that night but woke up in the middle of the night – I saw the other bed was still very neat. So, I moved the other bed and messed it up lol.


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Thank you so much, Les. After some time wandering around in foreign countries and had no one to talk to when I needed to share something. It feels so great to meet somebody I know.

One Day At The Riverside – Day 55 (Jan 8, 18)

img_5910My usual activity during the day in Siem Reap – sitting at the riverside on a shady bench. Just enjoy the nice breeze there instead of staying at the hostel. A Cambodian guy with a bike approached me and talked to me in the Khmer language. I looked at him confusedly then told him I didn’t understand the language. Afterward, he sat beside me and started to speak English.

Cambo guy: Where you from?
Me: Indonesia
Cambo guy: Oh… I’m sorry. I thought you’re Cambodian.
Me: That’s ok. I know my face is a typical Asian people.
Cambo guy: *smile – I have a friend from the US. I think he’s looking for a wife. He’s staying at C… hotel.
Me: *I frowned – ok? then?
Cambo guy: He’s looking for a girlfriend. I am going to meet him at 3.00 PM today
Me: Are you inviting me to see him?
Cambo guy: If you want, you can come there
Me: *Smirk – Ok… what time?
Cambo guy: *started to make excuses – I don’t know. Maybe 3, maybe 4. Maybe cancel

I asked him what he was saying in the Khmer language the first time. He became nervous and talked out of the subject, then trying to get himself out of the conversation. I smiled but laughing inside my head. I do know he’s looking for a local girl to be sold to his American friend and sadly, I do realize that at the riverside there are some girls are standing by at some spots. I noticed it when I saw a young girl was brought back to the riverside by an old guy then afterward she joined her other friends which were men and women.

This weird convey with the Cambo guy made me curious how did I look so he approached me. I asked a passerby to take a picture of me – and I was shocked! Haha… Damn! I did look like a bum! My brown skin never helps me looking nice in a simple t-shirt and shorts – especially when there’s a ‘Sugar Daddy’ written on my shirt 😀

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A group of young people who live at the riverside

I walked back to the hostel and was thinking to have a swim. The heat melted me that day. Too bad, when I got back, the pool was quite crowded so I canceled. I just took a shower then head to Alan’s pub – maybe to say goodbye just in case I didn’t have time to visit them again tomorrow and of course, enjoy some beers 😀 Tomorrow Les is coming and I can’t wait to meet him!

 

Getting Around – Day 53-54 (Jan 6-7,19)

January 6, 19

A hot night to sleep. My beauty sleep time was not enough. I have got to go out today, I thought. I pushed myself hard to go out – the heat was strangling me. First things to do were bought some water, rent a bicycle, then leave. Brought some bread and a big bottle of water for the road.
Ah..so easy cycling here. Most of the streets are flat so it’s not tiring. Plusss… the bicycle is bigger than Lay’s bicycle 😁

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The city across the river looks like a different world from the place I stayed in. It’s a busy life while the place I stayed in is a ….Where am I going? I really want to see Angkor Wat but I think I couldn’t afford it. It was only $37 for a 1-day pass. I had the money – enough for the entrance but that means I couldn’t eat in the next few days. I chose my priorities – my belly and transport cost to go back to Bali to meet my buddies. Or maybe I will just try to get as close as I can get to the temple. Just maybe, I could see just a bit of a great historical piece of Cambodia. I will not ask for more.

I found a pathway, it was closed for cars – but motorbikes come and go into that path. I followed them and stopped whenever I saw something interesting.

Apparently, it was the back way to the Angkor’s complex. I didn’t know until a guard asked me for a ticket. Mission accomplished? 😀 I replied, “What ticket?” He explained that it’s an entrance to the Angkor’s complex. I put on my innocent face, “Oh I didn’t know I was just cycling around. I will turn back.” I saw so many locals come and go without a ticket – that’s their privileges. I have a typical Asian face – whenever I went to an Asian country, I’ve always been assumed as local. Maybe… if I didn’t act like a tourist – taking pictures – just cycling straight away, the guard would not stop and ask for ticket :p. I know… it’s not the right thing to do, but… anyway, this little bits from the back entrance are still beautiful for me.

I turned my way back to the city. On the way, I took lunch at a local restaurant. I chose a dish randomly since I don’t know what the dish name. I’m pretty sure it’s a local dish 😄 The lady who served me didn’t speak English, so I just pointed out the food I want to eat. She was really lovely and attentive. I was looking for the spiciest chili on the table, she pointed the chili that suits with the dish. It was good but it wasn’t spicy enough for me. Evidently, she noticed it and gave me two fresh chilies. I was very happy with her attention. I think she was living in the shop with her family.

Her two boys were playing up in a room. Her husband didn’t seem so patient handling their two kids. He slapped them most of the time and yelled at them – they’re just being boys and I didn’t mind at all. I understood, maybe he was prioritizing the customer comforts. Just maybe. The boys were smiling to me from upstairs and we waived hands to each other. (13.384181, 103.84738)img_5875

January 7, 2019

I went to Allan’s pub today and I asked Allan if he’ll come as I want to meet him at least for the last time. He was not there. So, I talked to some people I’ve met before in the pub. There was a guy with a blocked tattoo on his arm, I spontaneously asked him what it means because I was curious for a long time – I’ve seen it a lot in Bali, mostly Russians. I just had the guts to asked somebody.

He was an American and he’ll look at me disgustedly like I’m some kind of predator Asian woman that was looking for any guys and asked something stupid to get a guy’s attention.
The American: Why do you ask?
Me: Oh… I am just curious. I’ve seen it a lot in Bali but didn’t know what it means. Mostly Russians that have blocked tattoos like you have.
The American: It’s just simple. That’s all. No meaning.
Me: Ahh ok… so it just means simplicity. Now, I know, thank you… *smile
The American: Are you horny? *mocking smirk
Me: Nope… not yet *shocked by the question, answered jokingly
The American: Get her a couple more beers *shout towards the bar

I tried to end the conversation with him and it’s good I got away. If not and he said another word to degrade me – I would humiliate him. Apart from that jerk, I sat back down at the bar counter. Alan introduced me with Dan – a guy who sat next to me. I had a really good talk with Dan and we shared some stories about our travels. He said I’m pretty badass as a woman traveling solo, doing some hitchhiking and all the things I did throughout my journey. Anyway… Dan literally saved my mood that evening from the jerk. It was a real pleasure to meet you, Dan!