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By this Author: alexchan

Two Days of Diving

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large_5550_12557519555486.jpgMangrove roots.
It was bright when I opened my eyes ... I looked at my phone-clock and it said 6:11am ... but twenty minutes after, my alarm hadn't sounded. Upon checking, I had misread the clock ... it was in fact 5:11.

As Manado and Bunaken is in the eastern end of the same timezone as Malaysia and Hong Kong (rather than Jakarta), the sun rises four-something and sets about five. Weird.

We had arranged for two dives for each of the two days here at Living Colours ... the first day being today. Some sites were pretty amazing while others are OK. I guess the problem for us is that for our first dive after our PADI course, we went to Sipadan in Sabah, Malaysia and saw some of the best sights on the planet ... we were the envy of other people who had done hundreds of dives but hadn't yet been to Sipadan ... they turned from green to dark green when I showed them videos of the thousands of barracudas we swam with!

With two dives a day, it meant we had the afternoons free ... good for catching up on emails (including looking for a job!).


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Boating to Bunaken

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large_5550_12557498868836.jpgBoats arrive through a clearing in the mangrove.
It was a 45 minute ride to our dive resort “Living Colours” on the eastern side of Bunaken [Bunaken-travel-guide-862175] island. While this is the mangrovey side of the island, it is also the side that doesn’t receive the garbage from Manado [Manado-travel-guide-866704] city.

I could sense Kim’s disappointment as the boat pulled in through the mangroves ... through a small clearing we beached the boat on a very small beach with a small bar and equipment shacks. From here we could see the chalets built on the hill behind. Jaako, the Finnish owner greeted us and went through the paper work.

The walk up to chalets is steep ... with monster steps of up to 42 cm in height ... Jaako said they were in Finland when the steps were being built and were shocked by the outcome upon their return!

It is normal in Bunaken for dive resorts to charge more for non-divers as they’re not bringing additional income to the operator. It’s actually good practice ... because there isn’t nothing much to do for non-divers ... there’s no real beach but there is excellent snorkelling if you walk out through the mangroves and swim out about 50m. The mangrove is sandy rather than muddy, so it isn’t too bad.

Believe me, while it is called a dive resort, it isn’t a resort at all for non-divers.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Morning in Manado

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large_5550_12557497446873.jpgManado from our hotel room.
We were due to be picked up at 2pm for our boat ride to Bunaken [Bunaken-travel-guide-862175]. That left time for a leisurely breakfast and a walk around town ... there's only really a Chinese temple to visit and that wasn't quite worthwhile as it wasn't as impressive as the ones in my hometown.

Indonesia is cheap:

1. For a light lunch I had a Bakso (noodles soup with meatballs), Teh Botol (bottled iced tea) and a pulut panggang for 14,500 rupiahs (about EUR1).

2. A prepaid SIM card is 10,000 rupiah and comes with some preloaded credit and lots of extras. And the system is so clever you can register and customise your plan/options through on-screen commands (without an internet connection). New Zealand prepaid operators seem to be stuck in the dark ages!


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Err ... Should we even be flying?

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Killing time

We had to checkout at 10am as it was the required time for Tune Hotel ... but it wasn't too much trouble to fill in the time till the 3:50pm departure:

1. A leisurely breakfast at the patio of the hotel.
2. Walked over to the Food Garden at the airport for cheap drinks and reading.
3. Some more drinks and Wifi at another airport cafe (expensive) ... the airport Wifi was a bit patchy.

Then we boarded our flight bound for Manado [Manado-travel-guide-866704] ... only to be held up by an errant headcount caused by someone who had boarded the wrong plane to Denpasar [Denpasar-travel-guide-863220] instead but we managed to find and on-load him rather than offload his luggage.

Should we even be flying?

Our feet felt a bit of vibration shortly after takeoff. The ground engineer onboard noticed that his bottle of water was ripply at the surface. He said there was something wrong but the pilots have logged it for attention.

Kim wasn't comfortable with this ... he didn't feel that turbines should be vibrating ... especially on a near new plane. His airline had an incident with a fanblade flying off but fortunately didn't pierce the fuselage skin. Anyway, I'm sure he'll be speaking to a pilot about this incident once he gets back to work.

Note: Upon returning to work, Kim asked a pilot within his own airline ... ya, it is OK to fly with that kind of engine vibration. Just unbalanced fanblade apparently.

From my side, I felt that the pilot wouldn't be risking his own safety ... we have previously noted Air Asia crew to be very safety-conscious. Who knows ... he may have been on the radio discussing the issue with maintenance crew?

Things are never what they seem

As it was a relatively long flight, we managed to get a conversation going with the crew.

We were surprised to learn that many of the cabin crew have previously flown for Singapore Airlines or 5-star airlines like Malaysia Airlines ... or been cooped up in air-conditioned apartments in the desert flying for Emirates or Etihad.

And you'd think that an airline that charged me EUR6 for a 3h50 flight would pay its staff peanuts, right? Well, they claim to get paid about the same as Malaysia Airlines crew ... despite not having any overnights (and hence overseas allowances).

Sometimes they will get less but they also spend less ... apparently many crew found themselves having to deep dig to do all those fun things while overseas ... sightseeing, clubbing, dining, drinking etc.

But Air Asia does work them quite hard ... the rosters are completely shorthaul except for a handful of crew who have a sprinkling of longhaul trips through each roster. They can get as little as 12 hours in London between arriving and picking up the returning flight ... the flights re 14 hours and 13 hours!

Arrival Fiasco

Upon arrival at Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado, the crew were advised that the airbridge was broken and directed us down the stairs at the rear. We were taken to a side entrance of the terminal building then kept on hold while the keys were found ... obviously this is a seldom-used entrance.

Once opened, they decided we should walk up the original airbridge instead ... then reverted to the side entrance. It appeared to be fiasco ... but it became apparent that they were trying to decide between the two evils:

1. It would be inconvenient for us to clamber up the airbridge by the side steps.

2. But if they let us in through the side door, the passenger flow through the health-check temperature scanning, visa fee payment counter, visa sticker counter and normal immigration counter etc would be rather awkward ... the flow was setup for a normal airbridge disembarkation.

Our Big Night Out

The Lonely Planet guidebook suggests that there isn't much to do in Manado itself ... it is mainly the springboard to excellent dive sites. However, the guide's drinking and clubbing section seems to packed with suggestions ... places with the sophistication of London and New York, and others that are the size of aircraft hangars!

So, we decided to go to a spot called "Haha" ... while the book described it as a nightclub where people can get down to boogie, we found it to be also a combined entertainment centre featuring bowling alleys, pool halls, bar and restaurant. As it was a weekend, only the pool hall was open ... good enough for a beer each before bed. Very adventurous in our old age, aren't we?

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Nightstop or not

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When I booked my tickets 7 months ago ... it would be an early morning departure from Kuala Lumpur [Kuala-Lumpur-travel-guide-1096867] to Manado tomorrow and there's no "connecting" flights from Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915] to Kuala Lumpur at that time. So fortunately, there's Tune Hotels ... a sister company to Air Asia. I couldn't get their cheapest rate but it is still cheap and handy ... right opposite the airport terminal.

The room comes at prices as low as a few cents ... you pay fair prices for options like air-conditioning (a few bucks for the night) and towels. Comfy nicely-sheeted King-Coil beds and luxurious rain-shower are all included.

As it turned out a few weeks after booking, tomorrow's morning flight was rescheduled till the afteroon. As it would only be a minor inconvenience, we didn't rejig our arrangements to trade our nightstop for a same-day connection.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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