Browsing Date

January 2011

(Mis)adventure, Switzerland January 27, 2011

Sleeping On A Bed of Straw in Switzerland (and the story of a big pizza)

Ah, Switzerland…

Even after being warned how expensive everything was in Switzerland (especially for a couple of poor college students that we were), we decided to make a short trip to Switzerland during our Western Europe trip.

The Alps were impressive, the trains that arrived when they’re supposed to were even more impressive (we just arrived from Italy, after all), but the things that made Switzerland more memorable to us were not the Alps, or the trains, not even the superb cheese… Well, maybe the cheese, but that’s mainly because it was the only thing we could afford to eat.

No, the things that spring to our minds whenever we think of our visit to Switzerland many summers ago were:

Sleeping on a bed of straw in a barn that smells of cows

Our 'room' during our stay in Gimmelwald

Our 'room' during our stay in Gimmelwald


Sleeping in a barn, Gimmelwald

The outside of our barn



‘Schlaf im Stroh’ or ‘Sleeping on straw’

In a small village of Gimmewald, nestled between the high peaks of the Alps there’s a network of farms that open up their barns in the summer for visitors to the Alps to sleep in. While the cows are out to graze high on the Alps the farmers hose these barns down, put bales of fresh straw in and charge 15 euros a person to spend the night on a bed of straw.

Unfortunately,
when we got there we realized that it was impossible to hose out the smell of dozens of cows completely. And not to mention the flies that were everywhere.

Fortunately,
we got used to the smell and Jack and I spent many blissful afternoons killing flies with our sandals. And sleeping on a bed of straw was actually as comfortable as it sounds.

In the morning, Esther would come and meet us in the barn with a jar of homemade yogurt, bread, cheese, and jam for breakfast.

Would we do it again?
YES, definitely. Not only was it the most economical way to explore the Alps, but Gimmelwald was a charming village away from the hustle and bustle of Lauterbrunnen. There are hiking trailheads scattered around the village and the view can’t be beat, cowpies and all.

We stayed at Esther’s Guesthouse
(note: we learned that ‘sleeping on straw’ is not available anymore at Esther’s Guesthouse. Traditional accommodation is still available though.)
Rate: 13 euros/pp per night

‘Big pizza, good price!’

Esther didn’t provide any other meals or even a kitchen for us barn sleepers. For that purpose, she would direct us to Mountain House Hostel down the lane that according to her serves ‘Big pizza, good price!’ while making hand gestures that made us think of wagon-wheel sized, cheese, gooey pizzas.

Gimmelwald

The home of 'Good pizza, good price'

Dear Esther didn’t speak much English, and doesn’t matter what we asked her, she would assume that we’re asking about food (generally a good assumption)

Esther, where is the hose?
Big pizza, good price!!

Esther, the bathroom runs out of toilet paper.
Big pizza, good price!!

Esther, the barn’s on fire.
Big pizza, good price!!

And I know that by now you’re wondering how the pizzas were…
It was big pizza and very good price.

Big pizza good price

Big pizza, good price

Indonesia January 5, 2011

How Much Do Things Cost in Indonesia?

Indonesia can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. In terms of accommodation, fancy hotels are abound, but so are simpler ‘losmens’ or ‘rooms to rent’ that are a fraction of the price.

Here are some examples of our expenses during our visits to Indonesia. Hopefully this will give you an idea how much things cost in Indonesia.

Living and Necessities

  • Accommodation in Jakarta — FREE (staying with Jill’s parents)
  • Carcaddin Hotel Room -- Jack and Jill Collection

  • A room at a 4-start hotel in Bandung, West Java — $80/night
    We stayed at Carrcadin Hotel. Cute hotel, not-so-cute location next to a busy, grid-locked street.
  • A room at a 4-star hotel in Yogyakarta — $87/night
    We stayed at Ibis Hotel on Malioboro. A very convenient hotel located right on the strip and is attached to a shopping mall. We paid high-season price since we stayed there the week of Christmas.
  • A room to rent at Parangtritis Beach — $5/day.
    Note: we didn’t actually do this, but saw signs all over the place. BTW, Parangtritis Beach is just ‘eh’. I wouldn’t recommend it due to price gouging and the dirty condition of the beach. Go to Ujung Genteng instead.
  • 14 day unlimited 3G internet and text messages SIM card — $6.
    We used Telkomsel SIM card and were pretty happy with the coverage all over Java.
  • Had my teeth checked and cleaned — $12
    Along with other beauty regimes, this is something I do every time I visit. It’s cheaper than my co-pay back at the states.

Transportation

  • Gas – 50 cents/liter
  • Becak waiting for passengers -- Jack and Jill Collection

  • A becak ride around the Sultan Palace and Malioboro in Jogjakarta – $1.
    Highly recommended. We had such a great (and sometimes scary) time during this 1.5 hr jaunt.
  • Motorbike rental in Jogjakarta – $5/day
  • Renting a car with a driver — $37/day
    If you get a weekly rate, it’d be even cheaper.
  • Public transportation in Jakarta— from 30 cents to $1.50
    See this post for different ways to get around Jakarta and the cost.
  • Jakarta – Bali flight — $100

Food And Misc

    Mie ayam -- Jack and Jill Collection

  • Chicken noodle — $1
    Jack’s favorite meal in Indonesia after Pizza Hut.
  • Nasi gudeg sans chicken — $1.5
    While in Jogja, the best gudeg we’ve had was from Wijilen Rd, right outside the Sultan’s palace (there are 3 of them side-by-side, they’re all good, but the middle one is my personal fave).
  • Even the pups are crazy about Teh Botol -- rollanb

  • Teh botol — 40 cents
    There are plenty of competitions, but Teh Botol is downright our favorite.
  • Use of public restroom — 10 cents
  • Movie theatre — $2 ($4 for 3D movies)
    We watched Tron 3D while we were there. Awesome!
  • A souvenir T-shirt — $3
  • Hair cut – $1
  • Manicure and pedicure – $1
  • 1.5 hr massage – $6
    This is how much we paid to have someone come to our place for the massage. At this rate we could afford to have someone come every other day (and we pretty much did)

In general, we found that non-consumable goods (electronics, gadgets, and what not) are not particularly cheap. You get what you pay for, basically. The same thing is true for accommodations — then again we tend to stay in larger cities. I’m sure things are cheaper as you go into the more rural areas. Food, drinks, and services are a bargain.

Friendly smiles and brushes with fame (Jack’s gotten plenty of requests to be in pics by strangers) — priceless.

Indonesia January 2, 2011

7 Endearing Quirks of Indonesia

There’s no place like home…

The wet bathroom

A bathroom at Jill's parents' house -- Jack and Jill Collection

It can be tricky trying to find that one square foot spot that will stay dry in the room to put your clothes (hint: definitely not on top of the toilet). The trick is hold the shower head (instead of leaving it attached to the wall), and point it strategically. In the end though, you just have to accept the fact that your clothes might get a little damp. And that’s okay.

Let me tell you one embarrassing thing: the first time I used a western bathroom, I didn’t close the shower curtain. As you can guess. Water got everywhere! The worst part? Having so used to wet bathrooms, I didn’t even know that I did anything wrong and I left without cleaning up, soggy bath mat and all.

The ‘kobokan’

The little bowl of liquid with a slice of lime they put before your meal? Not soup. Nor water to drink. In restaurants where eating with your hand is the norm, they provide you with this to cleanse your fingers. The lime is supposed to help cut through the grease but it’s also fun to try squeeze all the seeds out of it underwater.

Toilet paper as napkins

Toilet paper dispenser at a snack stop -- Jack and Jill Collection

And the many varieties of toilet paper dispensers they have that make this possible. At first, it was a little weird. Then I thought, ‘why not?’ Toilet paper is cheaper than paper towels, it’s made of the same material, it’s easier to get the exact amount that you need.

Everything comes in travel size

Sachets of stuff for sale -- by IAmal

why by the whole bottle of cough syrup when you can get a day's worth of meds in your pocket?

From shampoo, soap, and cough medicine they come in single-use wrapped sachets. They can be very polluting. Lots of trash on the ground is made up of these wrappers.

The 1001 different ways to call rice

Nasi tumpeng -- by yuni rere

We, Indonesians, love our rice (nasi). As to prove the point, there are so many rice dishes and each has its own name depending on how it’s prepared, what it’s prepared with, and how it’s supposed to be consumed. Some examples include: nasi gudeg (simply rice eaten with ‘gudeg’), nasi tumpeng (yellow rice shaped into a cone — eaten during events such birthdays and weddings), nasi jamblang (bite size rice wrapped in teak leaf), nasi lengko, nasi campur, nasi liwet, the list goes on.

The indoor ‘wildlife’

Cute house gecko

Not so cute, slightly creepy Tokek -- by joeks

I love our resident geckos. Since they eat mosquitoes and I have a mild allergy to mosquito bites I see them as my little, beady-eyed, guardian angels. I’m not so sure about its much bigger cousin, the Tokek Gecko, though. One time in a restaurant in Bali, I saw a Tokek gecko on the wall and I almost fell out of my chair. That thing is about a foot long! It was very pretty… and creepy all at the same time.

They make people wear ‘no tipping’ shirts

We found it hilarious (and sad too) that they made people wear shirts with ‘no tipping’ written on the back of it. This poor guy has a pretty nasty job of managing parked cars in an extremely crowded parking lot. The funny part was it actually made us want to tip him even more.

What are some oddities or quirks you’ve come across during your travels? Share them in the comment section below.