Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Labyrinth and the Falkor

Posted by Hippo Bean at 5:47 PM 0 comments Links to this post
at 7:55AM of sept 20, the RV Falkor (named after the Luckdragon of the Never Ending Story) of the Schmidt Ocean Institute docked at pier 15 on the san francisco bay. It is the Falkor's second call to San Francisco. The Hippo was invited to its exclusive reception. The late afternoon weather in the Embarcadero was cold but a bit sunny, and the Falkor was floating majestically on the bay. Its dual satellite white domes, its huge square QR code and shiny logo on the chimney were very eye catching. The food at the reception, which included crab cakes, kobe beef, spicy mango bites, Mumm champagne with blueberries and some sort of pink lemonade (which tasted absolutely nirvana), a table station of a variety of cheeses, crackers, french bread and breadsticks, and grapes, and another station of dim sum (dumplings and potstickers), and a full bar offering vine, beer, water and lemonade, was absolutely totally first class.

Speakers included the Schmidt Ocean Institute founder and VP Wendy Schmidt (Google ex-executive chairman Eric Schmidt's wife), who talked about the beloved ROV (remotely operated vehicle) Subastian (named after Bastian of the Never Ending Story), the COO of Saildrone Sebastien De Halleux who introduced the USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) Saildrone which was used to collect ocean data and sailed alongside the Falkor, Flightwave Aerospace CTO and fellow of the University of Porto Underwater Systems and Technology Laboratory, Trent Lukaczyk who demonstrated how the Edge UAS (unmanned aircraft system) drone could aid in oceanic researches , and the final speaker shared her experience of the White shark Cafe research. Named and discovered by the researchers at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, who study the sharks by using satellite tracking tags, the White Shark Cafe is an area of approximately 250km radius, halfway between Baja California and Hawaii, at 23.37°N 132.71°W, where mostly male white sharks congregate to smoke pot, drink beer and talk about the females (just joking). Nobody really knows why the great white sharks go there.

we were given a private tour of the Falkor after the reception. The ship crew was very friendly, extremely knowledgeable about the ship, and very open and willing to answer our weirdest and most probing questions. Tom, who was onboard for a 2 week research mission off Hawaii, got a most amiable welcome back, and I took a photo of his bunk bed in the cabin he occupied during the 2 weeks mission. Falkor is state of the art, using the newest oceanic/maritime high tech and even has its very own 3D Printer, so if a certain piece of instrument did not work well, they could make adjustments and quickly print a new one. the Hippo was most impressed. After the tour we returned to the reception to hob nob with the scientists and had some more dim sum. The schmidt ocean institute not only partners with other non-profits, such as NOAA and MBARI, but also invites artists to sketch or paint about the RV's missions, and some of these paintings were on display at the reception. the Hippo took photos of some of them.

Next to the Exploritorium, we admired the buckyball, a 25 foot illuminated structure that has 2 nested geodesic spheres. We stopped to photograph its many changing colors. The night got colder as we returned to our car in happy mood and minds filled with new knowledge. gosh it's good to have a friend who's in the scientific community so the Hippo could learn new things and enjoy them. Obrigada Tom!

Photos of Hippo's Falkor visit:
falkor


Before visiting the Falkor, the gang went to do a bit of hiking in Lands End in the Golden Gate Recreational Area. First we had a light lunch at Louie's, up the hill from the Cliff House. It's been many many years since the Hippo ate there. The day was cold and foggy but the coastline just looked more romantic if not a bit haunting. We hiked alongside the coast and descended to the outcrop just above Mile Rock Beach, and walked the classic seven-circuit Chartres labyrinth, and got a bit dizzy. From this vantage point, well, for a while anyway, before the fog completely covered them, we could see the bases of 2 towers of the Golden Gate. Cargo ships slowed sailed by. otherwise the ocean was calm and quiet. On our return, we stopped by to see the ruins of the Sutro baths, now delapidated with dirty pools and graffiti on the walls of the rooms.

After the Falkor, we returned to MarDar's for the slumber party. We were all stuffed with the reception food (that dim sum was supper and of course the Hippo absolutely stuffed herself), so we just had drinks and talked into the night. The next morning we cooked up an enormous brunch and enjoyed it in the backyard under very fine weather. it's been a most awesome weekend!

Photos of Lands End, Labyrinth and slumber party:
labyrinth

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Biz class final time

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:03 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Actually quite looking forward to flying biz class again. checked out the lounge at denpasar airport. Not very clean, old sofas and food was bland. but the wifi was secured and I was able to check emails. the flight to singapore was a 2 seater in biz class but still plenty of room. I got the window seat. Not quite as private as the long haul since you have another person next to you but the center armrest was wider and TV screen just as wide. Back in changi, i showed my biz class boarding pass to enter the silver KrisFlyer lounge. Good quiet dim lighting ambience, plenty of food, indian, chinese and western. however, the wifi was not secured so I couldnt gmail. Got some beef jerky at Bee Hang and Clinique Happy perfume at the duty free. The lounge in HK was dirty and dark but they did have sweet bean curd soup. One more advantage of flying biz class is the movies. The wider TV screens and better headphones allowed me to really 'watch' movies that if in coach, wouldnt have been enjoyable: the black panther (quite good), avengers infinity war (not bad), the new lara croft tomb raider (really bad, joliePitt so much better), pacific rim uprising (waste of time) and the last jedi (again). That was probably my one and only chance to enjoy biz class. I guess from now on, flying coach again would be a nightmare. why did I do that?

so this wraps up south east asia. Indonesia offered many unexpected fine surprises but also many sore disappointments. Disappointments perhaps due to my over research and therefore high expectations. What I've thought to be a well planned trip with 1 week on volcanoes and 1 week on beach resorts, it turned out it rained on the volcano and it rained on the beach. the only one time I forgot to bring my umbrella. it would have made the trip tremendously more enjoyable had I had my own umbrella. Would certainly had ventured out more to explore. But i did enjoy the tropical rain (just not while hiking a volcano or on a beach) as CA's been very dry and I did miss the rain very much.
I didn't think i'd enjoy garden hotels since there were water and trees everywhere and therefore prone to mozzies, and garden hotels usually are bungalow types. however, to my pleasant surprise, I did enjoy all the hotels as they all had a porch where I could do my evening teas and enjoy the quiet of the night, and some did have rooms on upper floors. Even the most basic ones felt comfortable. The bathrooms though were an issue. the windows couldnt be closed and thus not only mozzies could sneak in, but ants, the humidity and the heat, and no total privacy (if you could hear the people on the outside, they could hear you doing your bathroom things on the inside).
I ate so well in vietnam, the pho, the fresh seafood, the noodles. Neither Java nor Bali had any really fresh seafood, and both noodles and rice dishes were not up to par. the bebek goreng, the crispy duck at the original dirty duck diner, was actually quite tasty but very dry and with little meat. other crispy ducks were simply no good. I didnt even try the nasi goreng since I dont like fried rice anyway and didnt know where i could get the best one. Breakfast always had some sort of dry and unappetizing noodles and fried rice. The bread was always sliced, most horrible, tasted like it was made of tapioca.
For archeological monuments, Indonesia is temple galore and you'd be templed out. Prambanan was very beautiful but we got there just before sunset so the photos came out rather dark, and I did like tirta empul, with the most beautiful hindu towers, and the cave temple gunung kawi, with shrines cut into the cliff-face, much like the ones in lalibela but in a very much smaller scale, but the rest of the temples werent all that spectacular. after angkor wat, no temple could be spectacular anymore. didnt see enough buddhist temples although borobudur was quite impressive.
But it was the volcano views that were worth all the while. even without the turquoise lake and blue fire of Mtn Ijen, the smoking volcanoes and mountains were sights to remember.
Again, we traveled on all modes of transport, buses, train and boat. And Snowie, luckiest of all stuffies, was simply on top of the world, and took many photos with the volcanoes and mountains. He even made a friend, Lilephant, Kenneth's very cute and bashful stuffie . Now how much luckier can a stuffie get?

In the end, like all my trips, I've always enjoyed them but they always end too soon, and then it's always back to the grind, the stress, the worries and the anger, and the miserable daily routine.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday, August 17, 2018

sanur

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:27 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The beach front hotel looked inviting and I was planning on spending the day on the white sand beach followed by a massage and then shopping. But the noise of water dripping from the roof drain all night long proved that indeed it rained all night and it continued in the day. I have saved swimming in the sea for sanur because i didnt like the black sand in pemuteran. So now there would be no sea swimming. braving the downpour, Arinto took us for walk in town, navigating the wet streets, ending up at the hardy's mall. There I finally made some purchases. Quite satisfied, we taxi'd back to the hotel. I knew hotel massages were never great but since it was raining, I've decided to go for it. The bali massage again was just an oily gentle one and I've added a body rub of local herbs. the AC was at full blast and I had to ask to have it turned off. It was a freezing uncomfortable massage. Last supper was at the Hub inside a modern glass building. i chose the crispy duck and it was not crunchy nor tasty. the Hub sold coffee, tea and souvenirs. I bought some 100% arabica and lemon grass tea. It was not a good day.

Sanur a bigger city than Ubud, not quaint nor vibrant. I did not like it much. Due to the rain and the cooler temperature, there was no beach lounging nor sea swimming. Last day, disappointed.

Around 10pm, the earth shoke slightly in undulating motions. I was already in bed and did not bother getting up to inspect.

Sanur photos:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday, August 16, 2018

lava field and pele might be angry

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:22 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I opted out of the Batur summit and went to walk the lava field instead. Batur erupted in 63, 94 and 2015 among other times. The lava field was extensive and long, some volcanic rocks very dark and heavy (unlike the ones on the big island of hawaii) and some grey-ish, from much older eruptions I guess. I picked one of the darkest ones for the rocket scientits and hope pele wont get angry with me. It's a different volcano, not her domain, so I supposed it was OK. After a brief rest with ice tea and some local delicacies that again, came wrapped in banana leafs and soft tapioca flour wraps, with palm sugar and peanuts (which I didnt like), we went for a free hot spring swimming in a local hotel resort. It had several pools with 2 facing the sea and an infinity pool. The water was just warm. I was disappointed since I thought hot spring meant pools in a natural setting, not swimming pools inside a hotel resort. but they did provide towels and showers.

the last temple on this trip was the goa lawah, set in front of the sea. it's a cave temple with lots of local inhabitants, the bats. The 10 levels tower was probably the one featured in postcards, fridge magnet (i bought one) and featured in the logos of the kintamani plantations. Quite pretty in a small setting.

Then a long drive amidst on and off rain, we reached our hotel in sanur. it turned out we're staying at the Diwangkara instead of the swastika. again i was a bit disappointed as I've wanted to tell folks back home that I'd stayed at the nazi hotel. But the Diwangkara was beach front and the swastika was a few blocks away from the beach. i was given a room on the 3rd floor which, if not for the very tall tree right in front of building, would have a direct sea view. The room was spacious, excellently appointed, with all the amenities and a front porch with chair and table, of course. The bathroom had a nice big shower stall and the water was very hot but intermittently hot and cold. The mozzies werent so crazily hungry here. I've enjoyed this comfy modern and quite clean room and specially the room and hotel location. a memorable final hotel.

Mtn Batur photos:



Goa Lawah temple photos:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

kintamani

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:08 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Today we drove to Kintamani, the coffee area, located inside the caldera rim of Mtn Batur. First stop was to visit the Gunung Kawi temple, set amidst lush rice paddies and featured rock cut shrines, the 'candis' carved into the cliff-face. this temple was very interesting as it had both hindu and buddhist attributes. Lots of people were preparing flowers and food offerings. The surrounding rice terraces provided an awesome tranquil setting.

next we visited the most beautiful temple, the tirta empul, a hindu temple where balinese come to bathe and purify in the holy spring waters. There were many groups of local hindus waiting at the main gate, getting ready to go in to wash the bad spirits away. Tourists alike took to the baths as well. Above the spring, the temple had many intricately adorned towers, quite a feast for the eyes. I liked this temple the best.

After the temples, made a stop for coffee tasting in the Cantik Agriculture plantation in Kintamani. The tray came with small cups of coffee to be tasted by everyone around the table, with a spoon! Coconut, ginger, chocolate, ginseng, every flavor coffee, plus the Luwak, which cost us 50,000 rupias each to sample a cup. Tasted just like shitty coffee. We saw the Asian palm civet (weasel) in a cage, looking bored. The beans to make the kopi luwak came from the civet's poop. It's the partly digested coffee cherries that the civet ate and defecated. Thus shitty coffee. The world's most expensive coffee. I think they just make a big deal about it. Didnt like it at all. But did purchase small packages of coconut coffee (I liked this one the best), ginseng coffee and lemongrass tea for folks back home.

After the coffee, we drove up to the caldera rim and along the way we got views of Mt Agung, which erupted just a couple of months before but now it was quiet. we had buffet lunch at a restaurant situated on the caldera rim with spectacular views of the Mtn Batur, Agung and the Batur lake. it is probably the best view in the entire trip except for the view of smoking Mtns bromo and semeru in Java. After lunch, we drove down to our very basic hotel, the segara, located inside the caldera. Before dinner we hiked around lake Batur with direct views of the Mtn Batur double craters and Mtn Agung from afar. The hotel segara was quite lovely, with rooms around a central courtyard. We dined on local fish from the lake at the hotel open air restaurant. the fish was just so so. cooler here but mozzies still invaded us so Cheng gave me a mozzie coil which I burned all night in the bathroom.

Gunumg Kawi Temple photos:


Tirta Empul Temple photos:


Kintamani photos:
 

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