Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Surf's Picking Up!

Finally a week after no waves at all surf has started picking up. It was really amazing like somebody threw a coin in the wave making machine. Either there is nothing or full power! The waves run here without the influence of the tides - A surfer just has to check the swell forecast. Banzai Pipeline is not active yet up but the forecast is good for Thanksgiving on Thursday. At the moment Sunset beach is the prime spot for medium to big wave surfing. On Sunday I have seen so many snapped boards. At least 20 boards have been snapped in the afternoon I have been there. It was real madness outside!

Tomorrow the O'Neill contest at Sunset beach should be started. I'll be there to take a few nice pictures. The surf itself will be too big for me to surf. I would need a gun (extra long, small surfboard) and an extra insurance for these high waves.

On Thanksgiving there will be a big barbecue here in the Backpackers stay. We'll have of course turkey and a lot of other food. I have already a good supply of Corona and Caribbean rum and are already ready for the big party. I'm really curious how the Americans are able to party.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Hawaii, Oahu - A Lazy Start

Arriving in Honolulu was fun because of the time difference. For the first time I hopped over the date line. I've departed from Tokyo on Sunday evening and arrive again Sunday morning in Hawaii. The immigration process was also easier as expected. I was afraid I had to fight around with the officer because of the many stamps of "evil" countries I have in my passport but I had a cool officer. He was amazed about all my travels and again surprised as I had to show him my "spare" passport. I literally flushed into the country. The next good thing was that I've got a real good deal for the rental car. I've headed directly to the most expensive car rental (Hertz) and after some arguing over the price the clerk found a real good deal for me. Just 27$ per day instead of 35$ at the cheapest car rental. I even got a mighty SUV! Perfect for surfboard transportation.

The only downer was the wave conditions. At arrival and two days after the surf has been dramatically low - almost no waves at all! Luckily now surf is up again and also the running Rip Curl surfing contest nearby. It's part of the Van's triple crown surf competition. One of the best contest series for surfing. Just high profile surfers there.

Tomorrow I'll expect to have a decent surf and after that I want to see the pro's how it really should look like.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

One Week In Tokyo

It's again late night and time to write a few words about my time in Japan. I always wanted to visit Japan but I never went there because I thought it was too expensive and too difficult to get around. Luckily it was no so dramatic!

Finding an address in Tokyo is really a challenge! I had to find the hotel in the district Shinjuku and it was almost impossible to locate the hotel. The many Japanese I've asked couldn't speak English well and there was a lot of guessing where the hotel could be. The ultimate solution was to go by Taxi and GPS to the hotel. The city was also not too expensive. At least not more expensive then other big cities. It can get expensive when it comes to exclusive restaurants. The most expensive dinner was a sushi set at the fish market Tsukiji. The big sushi set was about 3500 JPY (28Eur). Tsukiji was a very special visit. Arriving at the early morning I could take some nice pictures of the tuna auction. Also of the fish market where fresh sea food is sold at numerous stands.

On my final day in Tokyo I have moved from a standard hotel to a capsule hotel. This was for men only and the sleeping place is a tiny cabin just like a sleeping compartment in a train. Equipped with a TV it was a quite good option to spend a night. The only bummer was that you shouldn't have too much baggage because there are no storage facilities. The hotel capacity was close to 1000 guests and there have been extra floors with spa's and restaurants. I've tried out the hot tubes, saunas and even a scrub massage. After that I went out to enjoy the night life in the nearby entertainment area.

In this week I met a few very nice people including a former German chef and now a restaurant owner as well as some very interesting Japanese artists. At the end I was sad to leave Japan so early just when it really started to get interesting and again the weather turned to get better.

Monday, 9 November 2009

From Bali To Tokyo

I have just uploaded a photo of Bali's most famous surf spot: Uluwatu. The surf wasn't high at my final week and I also couldn't go on my final surf session - Just a few lazy waves. It was a great time in Bali and I was really sad to leave. I made many great friends and hope to see them soon again.

Beside of surfing I also was interested in the recent development of the island. Even Bali is a so-called paradise it has a lot of challenges to cope with. I'm writing this post now in Hawaii and I can mention the difference between the islands. For me Bali is the more scenic and interesting place as Hawaii. The positive fact about Hawaii is the waste management and the good infrastructure of the island - at the moment just speaking of Oahu. The local government of Bali plans to attract much more tourists as in former years. At the moment 2 million visitors come to Bali. The midterm goal is 4-5 Million and in a decade about 10 million visitors are the target. The Bali government wants to copy Hawaii and Malaysia to gain a better share in the tourism market. With more visitors the country will definitely make a permanent change to "Disneyland".

After leaving Bali and a short flight I arrived in Tokyo - But more about this great city in the next post....

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Final week in Bali

Finally my time in Bali comes to an end. I had a great time here with good friends and I am sad to move on. Of course I am also excited because of the new upcoming adventures. My surfing became way better but I’m not satisfied. I need much more experience but now I’m confident that I will progress my surfing skills on this long trip. The next surf spots will be Hawaii and Cabarete (Dominican Republic).

I just moved to a new bungalow and it was quite busy here. Yesterday people have been sleeping everywhere – even in the living room on the floor. I want to save on living costs to afford more stuff that I really need.

The weather in Bali is now slowly changing. It gets hotter and the rain season is coming up. Luckily it is still not raining but more about that later. Hindus celebrated recently Galungan and Kuningan and it was great to see the colourful ceremonies and the devoted people offering to their gods. Beside the beautiful surroundings here there are also a lot of side effects from excessive tourism. There are about 15 Million tourists coming annually to Bali and new resorts and Villas are finished every day. That is a big challenge for the Balinese society and infrastructure.

Environmental Issues

Water: On the first sight Bali is full of water – Rice terraces, waterfalls, hot springs, tropical rain and countless recreation centers and spa’s. The story behind is that an average tourist spends about 3000l water/day and a Balinese just needs 700l/day. Big hotels and golf centers have been established around Bali and worse – also at the driest places, Bukit in the south. The water comes most of the times from ground water and the ground water level is rapidly falling. In the capitol Denpasar the level dropped 5m last year. Some wells are now 40m deep! The risk that salty sea water breaks in is very high and could cause a disaster. Hotels are asked to install desalination units but they refuse because it doesn’t support their business model.

Beside the ground water problem the other problem is the drought. There has been no rain for a long time and more the half of the rivers are dried up and villages are cut off from water.

Power: Since the 10th of October there are planned power cuts around Bali. The power demand is so high that the existing infrastructure can’t deliver the required power. To avoid an overload of the electrical grid planned shut-downs occur. At the evening whole quarters are dark and even the main touristic places having sometimes no power. A second main power cable is planned to be installed between Java and Bali but this will take a lot of time, effort and money to realize this project.

Rabies: Many stray dogs are infected with rabies. The main hospital designated to treat victims of dog bites counts actually 150 dog bites per day. Twelve people already died this year on rabies and there is a shortage of vaccine. The government can’t deliver enough vaccine for the bitten and the people return frequently and desperately to get help.

Crime: Petty crime is on the rise. Many cases of bag snatching robberies occur as well as organized crime. Last week the first armed bank robbery happend and worried the authorities. Also on the rise are scams of the lease of real estate. It is forbidden for foreigners to buy land on Bali. The workaround is a limited lease for 20-25 years. Many foreigners have been tricked by dubious agents who pretend to own the land and then, after the money transfer, they are never seen again.

"Kuningan celebration ", the last day of Galungan celebration, believed to be the ascendant day of the ancestral holy spirits and Deities to heaven after sojourning for several days on the material world. On this day, special offerings consisting of yellow rice and special dishes are offered while every compound and temple is decorated with ornaments made of young coconut leaves and flowers. I’ve taken many pictures from this celebration at Pura Sakenan, Serangan island ( Turtle Island), Denpasar municipality.

Julia Roberts is also on the island shooting her new movie Eat, Pray, Love. When the movie hits the cinemas some beautiful sites will be shown and the tourism industry hopes for many new visitors in the future.