Monday 27 February 2017


February13th-17th 2017
Stepping into Singapore, to me, was like stepping into some kind of futuristic world. It’s not only the skyline, which offers views of buildings which seem to have come straight out of a science fiction movie (or from the mind of a very imaginative 10 year old), nor is it only the extremely efficient transport system but  it is also the overall behaviour and attitude of its population. Singapore, to me, is a model of how a city should be run, it is a very well oiled machine. People seem to all have bought in to the rules and mind set which are required when living in a densely populated city and  basic common sense appears to  be the general norm. Simply put: It works !   And for a tired tourist, literally just coming out of the jungle it was extremely satisfying to have ‘things work’ on the first try, at the first request and where ever we went. 

All you have to do to understand Singaporeans better is to take a ride on the elaborate but wonderfully user-friendly MRT (Singapore’s subway). The ultra clean stations, colour coded sign posts, and its almost fully computerized system just makes it so easy and effective to funnel people through and get them to where they need to go.

The gazilion escalators taking you down to which ever level you need to be underground are filled with people who all seem to be on their best behaviour, and who quietly and automatically line up on the LEFT side of the moving escalator...every last one of them are lined up on the left side- with no exceptions. This, obviously, to enable anyone who might be in a hurry, to walk up on the right hand side, I tell you, it really made Mark stand out as an outsider when, on the first day,  he casually stopped on the right side and rode half way up.I looked back and saw a small group of people that had gathered behind him  perplexed but too polite to say anything, I whispered to him to “stay left!” and as he did, they were able to slip on by ! By the second or third day ,our whole family was in sync with the rest of the population, and we made sure to “stay left” too !  When in Singapore.

It was a treat for us to re-visit this city and to show Meghan where she was born. We took a stroll to Mt Elizabeth Hospital and even met up with the brilliant doctor (Dr Anne Hagarty-and her dedicated, fabulous nurses) who delivered her into the world 15 years ago  Matthew enjoyed riding on more escalators in 4 days than he had in the last 3 years ! We walked along the wide, clean sidewalks and ate a sublime variety of western style food. Meg enjoyed shopping for clothe on the celebrated Orchard Road, 

A visit with Dr. Hagarty 

We had a peak into the grand Raffles Hotel (home of the original Singapore Sling) and frequently enjoyed walking in the bustling and aptly named  'Little India' area, where our simple hostel was located.

A temple in Little India

Raffles Hotel 

We took a full day to visit the (still) spectacular and world class Singapore Zoo (the best Zoo I have ever been to), What is so great about this zoo is the wide open, natural settings, where the animals never give the impression of  being enclosed, and, in some cases, they aren’t at all ! The animals seem so healthy and can see them interacting,playing and exploring their environment....(not like some other zoos where I have been where the animals almost seem depressed, sleeping  constantly or walking back and forth aimlessly.) 
This playful little guy would come right up to us! 

Douc Langur Monkeys, Singapore Zoo

The day started bright and early with an exciting 'Breakfast with the Orangutans', and finished late after a thrilling night safari, riding along through the “jungle” in the dark. We came back to the hostel completely exhausted, but elated !

Breakfast with the OrangUtans

We also truly enjoyed meandering down the river on a bumboat and visiting the historic quays and spending most of the day exploring the amazing Marina Bay area (which didn’t exist back in 2002 when we were last here). In the last 15 years, they had flooded (damned) and cleaned up a huge area of the mouth of the river. It is now the home of the impressive Marina Bay Sands building (which looks like a flying cruise ship which has landed on top of 3 sky scrapers)
Gardens By the Bay as seen from the top of Marina Bay Sands Building

Marina Bay Sands and the Arts and Science Museum

and the Gardens by the Bay with its truly futuristic Super Trees (Enormous solar paneled man-made trees). These mind blowing structures are just so cool to walk amongst (looking from the ground up  or on the elevated walkway between them). Every night they are lit up in a wonderful sound and light show. 

The Super Trees of Singapore

We also spent a very memorable day visiting the Art and Science Museum. Seen from the outside the building (which is found just at the base of the Marina Sands Building) looks like a giant egg which has cracked open. Inside we visited the three current exhibits: The Future World , the Nasa Space exhibit and MC Escher’s exhibit. Each of these three offered us something different. 

Matthew especially loved the one called Future World with its hand-on, sensory enticing exhibits like giant, colour-changing, musical-playing ball pit and a real feast of other great auditory, visual and tactile experiences...It was so nice to see him being so happy and so much in his element there ! 
Having fun in "Future world"
Art and Science Museum

Mark enjoyed taking the kids through the NASA space exhibit, where they got to learn everything you would ever want to know about the space program including a ride  simulating a 3G rocket launch. Finally we all enjoyed entering the world of MC Escher’s unparalleled talent, seeing his original work and experiencing some rather funny optical illusions.

After 5 days of mind expanding activities, retail therapy and after satisfying our yearning for western food and easy modern city commodities, we threw ourselves head first, back in the thick of things, onto another plane, this one headed for the super star of South East Asia: Thailand !

Stay tuned !

Lots of love

4Ms overland in S.E. Asia 

Friday 17 February 2017

On jungle trekking in Sumatra and ending up being chased by an Orangutan !

Thursday February 9th 2017 

We were already three weeks into our indonesian adventure when Meghan asked if we could perhaps go to Sumatra to see orangutans in the wild.

To be honest, it was not something that I felt I needed to do on this trip, already feeling  a little tired, the thought of traveling to the chaotic city of Medan and then another 4 hours to Bukit Lawang, just exhausted me - but it turns out I was wrong: Actually I DID need this, very much, but wouldn’t realize it until days later when I came face to face with the man of the forest.

Meanwhile, Meg had made an emotional plea; Worried that with their current rate of disappearance, this might be her only chance to see orangutans in the wild before it was too late!  This was enough to convince us.  Mark and I made the necessary arrangements. Upon our arrival to Medan, he and Matthew would make their way down to Lake Toba and Meg and I would go the opposite direction to Bukit Lawang.Now, Bukit Lawang is a treasure of a little town, with a river flowing right through it. I counted at least 5-6 make shift suspension bridges connecting the two sides of the village. Macaque monkeys abound, keeping the tourists entertained as they walk, jump and leap their way around the village buildings. The hotel where we stayed had a lovely atmosphere (and a restaurant that had burgers on the menu!). 

As we watched the local young men gather around a small volleyball net, we learned about a new sport called “Takrau”  (sp?). Popular in all of South East Asia, we are told, it is a mixture of soccer and volleyball.  Players volley around a small ball (about the size of a grapefruit) which is made of rattan. They use their head, knees and feet to get it over the net. They have three hits on their side of the net, but unlike volleyball, the same player can hit the ball up to three times. Watching the pliability of the young bodies as they bent in every which way, making “raising your foot above your head while still standing on one the other” look easy. 

The next morning, as we woke up under our mosquito nets, I exclaimed excitedly, “Today is the day you get to see orangutans !” (Maybe, after all, there are NO guarantees in the wild!). We set off with our new friends, a family of 4 from Denmark, and our two friendly guides. “Welcome to the jungle!” declared Jimi, one of our guides, as we scrambled up hill, over and under an extensive network of tree roots and vines, up steep cliffs, which were rendered sticky and soft from the rain the night before.In places the mud reminded me of dijon mustard, and my new shoes, would never be the same again! 

We heard Thomas Leaf monkeys in the distance, we saw rubber trees which had been tapped by locals, saw centipedes, and then, as we rounded a corner, I saw a familiar and definitively RED fluffy shape in a tree. I looked up and saw the adorable face of a baby orangutan. My eyes instantly swelled up in tears, what a sight to behold ! We soon spotted her mother, casually nestled in the fork of the same tree. 20 minutes just flew by as we marvelled in their majestic presence, and tried to angle ourselves to get the best shot of them, from behind the leaves. 

Bukit Lawang

The village of Bukit Lawang, Sumatra

One of the many bridges, Bukit Lawang

Playing Takrau

Kids swimming under the bridge, Bukit Lawang

The start of our trek

A tapped rubber tree 

Photo by Meghan

photo by Meghan


Mother came out of her seat, to follow her baby down

With the mother being semi wild (she had been rehabilitated and released into the wild), they were not bothered by our presence. I was surprised at how happy I was to learn that, although the mother had a human name, the baby did not: as she was born in the wild, she was not named. As the guide says, “she represents freedom from the world of men, no name is necessary”. 

Over the next 6 hours we had 4 similar encounters with wild and semi wild orangutans ( seeing 8 orangutans in total)...we learned that the national park had in recent years closed down their feeding platform, as it was no longer needed, since all of the re-introduced orangutans had become independent and successful in taking care of themselves in the wild. This paired with the experience of seeing them in their natural habitat, simply  made my heart sing !

We learned that there were approximately 20 semi-wild orangutans in the park, and that there was only an estimated 7000 orangutans left in the wild in Sumatra. The rest of the world’s orangutans can only be found in Borneo (Kalimantan and Malaysia).Through our guides, we learned a great deal more about these wonderful primates, but I will stop here, as you may want to go and meet them and learn about them on your own one day !  

Photo by Meghan

This Orangutan was directly above us….dangerous unless you don't mind a hot, stinky shower !


The story of Mina: ”Have you heard the story of Mina?” Jimi asked us as we stopped for a break and a serving of beautiful fresh fruit. None of us had, and this surprised Jimi. “She is the most beautiful orangutan here, but also the meanest!”. “She was sold as a baby and abused and left to die in a garbage can, she doesn’t trust humans much” (No wonder!) “She has bitten over 130 people, including my friend (another guide) a week ago”. 

As we had been trekking for about 4.5 hours, the guides became increasingly preoccupied by where Mina was that day...I was wondering why we would want to meet Mina in the first place...having had a hairy encounter with another mean primate in Panama back in 2015, we were not particularly interested in meeting her!  

But then I understood; the guides wanted to find out where she was so that we would not be ambushed by her, on our way back down to the river. At one fork in the path, Jimi left me at the front of the group and put me in charge while he went one way down the path to check to see if he could see her, he said to me :  “ I will be right back, but if you see an orangutan walking on the ground towards you, yell as loud as you can and we will come running towards you”, (very comforting!).”Okay”, I said with a gulp, while the 6 of us stood there, looking up and down all around us, eyes and ears wide open, I tried to break the tension by making a joke : “Meg wouldn’t it crazy if you ended up having been bitten by a monkey AND an orangutan?!”  I know, I am not a contender to win Mother of the Year Award am I ?! Jimi heard my comment as he was walking back towards us “ Don’t say that, it would be a nightmare for you if you were bitten by Mina!” 

Up until now, our guides had been so jovial and care free, but this sudden change in seriousness made me pause, we went on for a little while further and then we got a call from our second guide, he had found Mina ahead of us on the path, he took out some mushrooms he had picked for this purpose. He later told us that they do not feed any of the orangutans, except for Mina.This is simply done to appease her if she is encountered and as a ‘payment for passage’ into her territory.

We got our instructions:  Follow Jimi on the path, we would walk right by Mina -who unlike most orangutans, stays close to the ground instead of in the trees-, and do not stop or take pictures, do not make eye contact and just walk quietly and quickly past her. We all looked at each other, yikes...okay! Off we went like obedient little children, single file, looking at our feet as we walked past her (she was within arms reach) as our guide hand fed her mushrooms, which I could see from the corner of my eye, she was avidly accepting, phew, we all breathed out when we were past her, about 30 feet away.  Then Jimi offered to take my camera back and took a few photos of her for me, as she was still eating, then he returned and said “Okay, right, follow me and don’t stop, she may still decide to follow us”. He sounded a little bit worried, as we kept on trudging forward, Jimi  kept calling back to the guide at the back, keeping track of where Mina was, turns out she HAD decided to follow us, and, you can imagine, with her ability to travel through the trees at exceptional speeds, we couldn’t really outrun her on the ground, the guide at the back was running interference for us...just as our path began to descend a very steep incline...we heard the loud CRACK of a branch breaking and the guide at the back yelled out....  

Through the indonesian words that were yelled back and forth between Jimi and him, I gathered the news wasn’t good. Jimi looked at me and saw Meg coming down behind me and he said: “Do you think that Meghan could go just a little bit faster?” and then called aloud: “Could someone please pick up Michael (the 8 year old Danish boy) we need to move NOW!” This was so unlike Jimi and he looked so alarmed that we didn’t need any more convincing ! We picked up the pace, down the impossibly steep and slippery slope. 

Jimi put me at the front of the line and  told me to keep going, as he went back to help the other guide distract Mina, his parting words were: “Do not panic, but move as quickly as you can!”   As I was calling encouragement back to Meg and the others, it was “every man for himself” as we all partly ran, partly slid down the hillside, catching trees to steady ourselves in our 20 minute mad dash ! I can’t tell you how many times I fell, but the thought that was mostly in my mind was: what a great story this was going to make! 

I felt quite confident that our guides would protect us and that we would all make it down in one piece, but still, there was an underlining fear that was present and I managed to run head first into a tree branch which knocked me down on my feet. 

As we finally emerged down at the waters edge, our clothes were muddy and wet, we were wild eyed and physically exhausted. There, the sight of a lady tourist, dressed in a pristine white dress, a flower in her hair, sipping a drink by the waterfall with her guide, relaxed and carefree in the middle of the jungle, was such a contrast to the situation we had just lived, it made a few of us burst out laughing !

Meghan didn’t find it quite as funny until she felt completely safe.  After lunch, as we ate our nasi goreng (fried rice) surrounded by cute little Macaque monkeys at the river, she smiled and laughed as she relaxed. Still, for the first 15 minutes after we had arrived at the bottom, our guides kept their eyes on the forest...and then they relaxed too.  I was elated of course, it made our jungle adventure all the more thrilling! 

The return to Bukit Lewang was made via a home made raft. As we giggled while being sloshed around and bounced in the cool water, we saw a whole group of Thomas Leaf monkeys who had gathered by the rivers edge to watch the show: “Humans floating by”.We were their entertainment for the day! 

We are now all back together, at Lake Toba, a beautiful crater lake in Northern Sumatra. We will will rest our sore muscles here for a few days before saying goodbye to Indonesia and make our way to Singapore. Until then, stay warm and safe everyone ! Sending you all lots of love. 
4Ms in South East Asia

Mina, the 40 year old who gave us a run for our money !

The pathway down the hill, just before  the chase really began!

The terrain we ran through, as we were being chased.

Our river raft

Thomas Leaf monkeys watching us from the river's edge

Meg sporting a jungle crown and charcoal decorations made for her by Jimi.

Jimi, the orang-utan !

One month (+ one day) in Indonesia

Jan 14th-February 13th 2017.Our Itinerary:  

Plains, Trains and Automobiles.                            
 (and Ferries, and.....)

We spent an adventure-filled month in Indonesia exploring parts of three main islands: Bali, Java and Sumatra. Flying from Perth to Bali, on a one way ticket and then booking accommodation as we went, gave us all the flexibility we were looking for. In Bali, we spent the first week in the Southern area of Kuta and Seminyak, then moved inland to spend time in the much more relaxing Ubud and then we took a ferry to one of the Gili islands (called Gili Air) near Lombok. Then we flew to Central Java and spent a week in Yogyakarta, then after a delightful 8 hour train ride, we arrived in Jakarta (West Java). From there we flew to Medan, Sumatra where we hired cars (and drivers) to get us to Bukit Lawang and, finally Lake Toba, our final destination in Indonesia.  

Indonesia , (and most of South East Asia for that matter), is definitely a place where it would be best to leave your ‘First-World Sensitivities’ at home. For instance, if you feel that squat toilets and open sewers belong in the middle ages, if you think that traffic should follow some sort of  laws, if you feel very strongly that all children should wear helmets while riding motorcycles, or, if the thought of exotic animals being kept in crowded cages and sold in dingy markets makes you angry, then perhaps you should think twice before boarding a plane headed this way, but you would be missing out on a fascinating culture! One that is founded on the resilience and self preservation of its people. Where dignity and grace are still modeled and valued by most of its citizens. A place overflowing with old-world traditional arts like hand made wood carvings, batik, stone carvings, hand woven cloths and ancient dances, to name only a few.  

You would miss the chance to meet some truly wonderful people too!  Indonesians are a fun bunch, they are quick to smile and laugh, they frequently sing out loud and call out hello to you at every corner and if you respond with even just a little bit of Bahasa Indonesia, they instantly light up, almost without exception, delighted as they encourage you in your efforts.

And so we spent a happy month, introducing our children to this culture we found so fascinating back when we lived here almost two decades ago. We were curious to see for ourselves if things were as we remembered them, turns out there were to be a few surprises in store for us.

BALI! Was the perfect place to ease ourselves back into the culture, the humidity, the chaos and various smells of Indonesia.The kids took a few days adjusting to this new reality: the sounds of horns and motorcycles whizzing close behind us as we we walked precariously along the crumbling-almost non existent-sidewalks and open drainage ditches, people calling out to us and offering their wares and services. Over the first few days Meg and Matthew were initiated to eating nasi and mi goreng, satay,soto and kelapa muda (green coconuts) from street vendors tucked neatly along the busy streets and Meg quickly  learned to say ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you’ in Bahasa Indonesia.   

White Water Rafting: We took the advice of our friends from SV Miss Behaving, and went rafting!  The lush green central Balinese forests and towering cliffs were a beautiful setting for such a fun activity to do as a family !  I can’t remember laughing (and screaming in terror) that much in a long long time, a really thrilling ride!  We have some video footage which is - in my opinion - truly hilarious!  I am certain this will make it into one of Meg's future video projects !
The Dances: The Barong dance with its colourful and elaborate costumes and elegant balinese dancers  and the Kecak dance; which is unique in that the only “music” accompanying the dancers are the voices of 30 or 40 men repeating the same sound over and over with hypnotic effect, and the visually stimulating balls of fire being kicked off the stage by the beloved Hanoman (White Monkey) character. 
The funky town of Ubud: The cultural Centre of Bali, and its surrounding lush rice terraces, where we spent a relaxing 4 days in a lovely traditional home.
The Gili Islands: We visited Gili Air, with its very pretty (and clean!) beaches and low key vibe, eating out every night on the little restaurants' platforms overlooking the sunset.

The ubiquitous S.E. Asian "Ute"

It is common to see most children riding around without helmets

The infamous squat toilet !

Stuffed Local Wildlife...

Woman in Rice Fields near Ubud, Bali

Barong Dance in Bali

Kuta !

Sea side temple in Bali

White water rafting in Bali was a blast ! 

Barong dance, Bali

Meg and MC and the Red Monkey after a very wet (rainy) but fantastic Kecak dance performance ! 


Rice terraces near Ubud

Having breakfast in Ubud

Near Ubud

Meg trying mangosteen (fruit) for the first time
Chillin in Gili Air
Our accommodation on Gili Air
Almost zero cars or motorcycles (only electric scooters) on Gili Air! 

Mark trying Kopi Luak (Coffee beens predigested by a  cat-like animal)

Visiting temples...

The daily offerings found all around Bali

The Bali Bombing Memorial Wall (Oct 2002), Kuta

Meg surfing in Kuta

Gamelon Orchestra
Mark buying a snack (BBQ corn)

Gas pump for the scooters

Tanah Lot Temple, Bali

Monkey Forrest, Ubud
Another waterfall ! 

Mark and Meg on their way to a temple
Meg learning to make batik 

Meg and Mom "Conquer Batik Making" ….with the help of patient teachers
Batik in the making

Dried Rice
Rice field worker…..


Boarding the plane to Yogya

JAVA: Our first stop in Java was the cultural centre of Yogyakarta where we wanted to show the kids  the subtle but definite difference between the Balinese and Javanese cultures.  The kids had thought they'd experienced chaos in Bali but they hadn't seen nothing yet, as chaos, I believe, was originally invented here in the good city of “Jogja”!  Our arrival coinciding with the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year added to the general hullabaloo of  Malioboro street (the main, most famous street) where we walked down only a few hours after our flight had landed.The streets were simply overflowing with people and food vendors, “becaks”  (bicycle powered taxis) , horse and carriages. Most of the tourists were Indonesians and I’ve never seen so many “Selfie Sticks”, and we had to get used to being openly stared at, again, after so many months of  “blending in” in Australia.

It all came rushing back to Mark and I:  The calls for prayer from nearby mosques, the endless beckoning: “Hello Misterrrrr, where are you going?”. It was just over the top!  It felt like  Canada Day in Ottawa, except more exotic and alien. We could only bear a couple of hours of this mayhem before taking shelter from it all, back in our room. 

JAKARTA : Before and during our 8 hour train trip from Yogyakarta to the Capital of Jakarta, I had warned the kids: "Okay, so be ready! It is a big, noisy, polluted, chaotic city! The buses are over crowded, rusty contraptions that exhale blue smoke, the smells of burning garbage is all around, and during the endless traffic jams, children will come to your car window begging for money." I wanted to help them get ready for the realities of the city that Mark and I had lived in for 5 years, and where they themselves, had their first home (Although neither would remember it as Matthew was 3 and Meg barely 1 year old when we left.). 

It turns out that Mark and I were the ones who would be surprised !  The city had a very different feel, which we noticed almost immediately after arriving and having driven for less than 1/2 hour…"Where are the street kids ?" "Look at all the new buses and bajais !"  No blue smoke, no burning garbage,  (Mark noticed that the bajais and many of the new buses now used the cleaner CNG- which he proudly stated came from the Sumatran gas fields where he used to work).  Sure the traffic was the same (some say worse, but I didn't think so), but there was a definitely positive vibe about the place….signs promoting the protection of the environment everywhere, new green policies were in place, recycling bins, dedicated washrooms for the disabled, and we could see blue skies!  Someone in government had pushed for improvements and it had worked beautifully!  It was so encouraging to see how much better the city had become!  

We had fun walking down memory lane with the kids, visiting our old neighbourhood, the house, the playground and the grocery store where we used to go. We also took the time to drive up to the North end, and visit Sunda Kelapa: the old port, where traditional Pinisi wooden boats (built in the Bugis Islands…..sadly the last ones with sails have disappeared in the last 15 years and they are now all solely diesel powered) still get loaded up every week with lumber, ciment, and other building materials to transport to the other islands. We stopped in for lunch at the cafe Batavia to capture its old colonial feeling and visited the National Museum and the Puppet Museum too.  Overall, we had an enjoyable stay in Jakarta and appreciated the company of Pak Rudi, the driver we hired for the 5 days while we were there. 

Highlights of Yogyakarta:
The impressive Borobodur and Prambanan temples
Taman Sari (Water Palace) and nearby "Cyber Kampung"
The Village/Home Industry Tour, where we saw tofu factories, and tried our hand at pottery
Shopping for Batik 
Seeing the evening Wayang Kulit (Shaddow Puppets) performances and seeing Wayang Golek (Wooden Puppets) at the Kraton 
Catching rides in Becaks (pronounced betchak)  
Mark and Matthew enjoyed buying Soto and Kelapa Muda from street vendors in Yogya

The impressive reliefs of Borrobodur

4M's visit Borrobodur


The water palace

Tofu making process: from the bean to the final product

Meg sampling the tofu at the tofu "factory"
Matthew walking in a traditional  potter's village

Matthew learning the fine art of pottery, at the wheel….

Shopping for Batik in Yogya

Meg enjoying the Wayang Golek at the Kraton

Wayang Golek (Wooden puppets)

Visiting the Kraton (Sultan's Palace) Yogya

The most colourful hermit crabs you will ever see, Bird Market Yogya 
Live grubs at the bird market, Yogya 
Sweet treats on Maliobora Street Markets

Cafe Batavia
New, cleaner Bajais 
The old port of Sunda Kelapa with spectacular wooden Pinisi (aka Bugis) trading boats
Teaching Meg the fine art of bargaining on Jl Surabaya, Jakarta

Visiting our old neighbourhood in Kuningan
Sunda Kelapa
Pak Rudi made our visit to the big Durian all the better 


Danau (lake) Toba as seen from Samosir island

Traditional Batak Houses, Lake Toba
Batak Dance, Lake Toba

Notice MC put her hands over the pointy end of the horn. Those things looked sharp when up close !

The Durian Seller, Lake Toba

Meg and Matt enjoying the serenity of Lake Toba, Sumatra

SUMATRA Highlights : Other than the wonderful thrill of seeing Sumatran Orangutans in the wild at Bukit Lawang (as described in detail in my last post), we all loved spending a relaxing 4 days in Lake Toba (Danau Toba). Samosir Island in the middle of the enormous crater lake is home to the Batak people. They have a very distinct culture and traditions which we enjoyed learning about. We got to see their dances, and saw many striking batak houses all around the island. 

On getting older, and loosing one's cool: I am going to blame hormones and basic travellers exhaustion for this one, as I lost my cool-something I try to never do, especially while travelling- not once but three times  in the last month: Twice with immigration officers (not advisable), and once with a pickpocket (this one felt good)   

1- Perth Airport upon our departure from Australia “ She needs sensitivity training !”,  I called out over my shoulder, pointing to the agent in question as I was ushered into a new line up. The agent had been blatantly unsympathetic about Matthew not being able to operate their new scanning system on his own and refusing my insistence on helping him through. I was still fuming by the time I boarded the plane. 

2- Medan Airport upon our departure from IndonesiaHow do you expect us to get to Singapore from here ?  You want us to SWIM ?" (while making exagerated swim motions with my arms), to an agent after he informed us that our morning flight (there were no evening flights out) was “one day” too late (ie that we were one day over our 30 day visa and that we would have to pay a fee (which, after a short attempt on our part to avoid, we paid finally), by the time  I boarded the plane, this time, I was laughing at myself and tried to appease an embarrassed teenager (poor Meghan).

3- Yogyakarta with the becak driver/pick pocket: As I mentioned earlier, we rode the becaks as often as we could around Yogya. Every time we got in, I pulled my backpack off my shoulders and placed it at my feet, with one leg through the straps. Every time, except this one day, when we had gotten quite comfortable around town. I let my guard down and I lived to regret it: Here is what happened: There was a very keen becak driver, who was very quick to bargain and who was very persistent in driving us, this should of been our first hint. We agreed and, as he drove Meg and I to our first destination, I kept my backpack on my back, because we didn’t have far to go, when we got there , we paid him and then I put my wallet away in the top zipper of my backpack and said goodbye, but he insisted that he would wait for us and give us a ride back. I didn’t think much of it, as this is quite common in low season when there are very few tourists and business is down for the drivers.  A few hours later, after we emerged from the water palace we were visiting, there was the same driver, keen to have us hop back on board to our next destination...since he was so cheap, we accepted. We went to the museum, and again I kept my back pack on my back, and after paying him, put my wallet back in the top zipper section again, never dreaming that he was watching my every move and I was stepping into his trap,  Oh yes, he was watching, and he was loving what he was seeing!  I had a pattern he liked!  So when we came out of the museum, there he was, as persistent as ever to drive us back to our hotel (we were going to walk, but took pity on him, as he looked so desperate (Ha! I can’t believe how naive I was!)

Off we went. Mark and Matthew’s driver told our driver that he didn’t know the way and asked our becak driver to go in front, but he insisted that he would NOT lead the way and told the other driver to go ahead of him (another hint I  SHOULD of picked up on, he wanted Mark in front of us so he wouldn’t be seen), then the final piece, now that he knew that I kept my backpack on my back, very close to his reach as he pedalled behind us, and since he now knew  that my wallet was in easy reach, just a zipper away, he had to find a distraction to get my zipper opened without us noticing, and he found it, half way to our hostel. 

I was surprised when all of a sudden, our driver veered to the left and went over a street grate, making the whole becak rattle and shake for a good 10 seconds. Meg and I laughed as we were really shaken around, that’s when he opened the zipper on my bag. I never even felt or heard it !  But he made one mistake, just as we were arriving, he realized that he needed to close my zipper, he had no time to find a distraction, so he just went for it, very quickly  "ZZZIP" , and this time I heard and felt it !  I turned around and asked Meg : "Did you just open the zipper on my bag ?"  (no), and so I  quickly grabbed it and looked inside !  My wallet was gone, at first I was in shock and didn’t want to confront him directly, but a few seconds later, the shock subsided and I realized that HE had done it for sure and as he professed his innocence and pulled up his shirt to show that he didn’t have the wallet. 

I just lost it on him, long lost indonesian words came rushing back to me. I was yelling at him to go and get my wallet, to go find his friend (no doubt on a passing motorcycle) and RETURN MY WALLET NOW !!!  I know that Javanese men do not like confrontation and I usually respect this but I was so darn angry at the man, he had taken my money, my new wallet, my credit cards, our 4 railway tickets for the next days trip to Jakarta and my canadian drivers license! 

I was LIVID, and he was quite calm and denied angry rant attracted a few concerned citizen even offered to take me to the police station....I looked over at the becak driver (and Mark’s poor becak driver-who had been dragged into this situation without his knowledge and against his will)  The thief looked so calm and confident....we had searched his becak, he knew that the evidence was gone, he knew that we had nothing on him, and that’s when I knew that I had lost, we knew that the police could never help us...there would be hours of paperwork, confusion and anger.Besides,  Mark and I were much more concerned in getting back to the hostel  as fast as possible to get on the phone to Canada and cancel our credit cards, so we walked away, no police, no wallet. I was still furious, but with acceptance slowly seeping in..

A few hours later, once all of our cards were safely canceled and once we realized that no one else would be able to use our train tickets, I was much more calm....the thief had gained about 30 dollars, a purple wallet  some useless plastic cards and I thought : “He can bloody well keep my drivers license as a souvenir, of the once naive Canadian woman who had gained wisdom through his actions”. I hope that he remembers the one that had nevertheless had a chance to look  him in the eye and confront him, telling him exactly what she thought of him, in his own language ! 

Happy Chinese New Year, to all you Roosters: I found out from my good friend Lynne that, according to the Chinese when it is ‘your year’, you have a greater chance of encountering bad luck and to help counter this bad luck you are supposed to wear something “red” that someone has given you.

Since I happen to BE a proud rooster, and since I am always one to promote and go along with superstitious thoughts, I suggested to Mark that he might want to buy me something red.

Since Chinese New Year has begun, I had: been robbed, chased by an angry orangutan and I had fallen off a bike (I am okay)!  Since then, Mark has gone out and bought me a red scarf, which I have worn and will continue to wear everyday on this trip and after my return as well. God knows I need all the luck I can get ! Mark says; "Overall, and notwithstanding the challenges, we had a great time in Indonesia and very much enjoyed introducing more interesting cultures to the kids! " 

Now we are off, first to Singapore where Meg was born 15 years ago and then, Thailand! 
Thanks for reading and stay tuned !
4M's Overland in SE Asia

Year of the Rooster !