staff arranged our van for return to Labuan Bajo after breakfast of pancake and tea. Last night we spent quite a lot of time on their internet which was easily the best connection and machines yet in Indo. Gunung Mas showed up once again (we found out later they are the only game as far as this type of service - explains alot), we end up seated in the very back seats even though one of the middle seats is unoccupied! "No, NO" the driver insists and points to the back. All the locals are in the front 2 rows - tourist are 2nd class passengers yet paying 1st class prices! Diana and Gordon loved Flores which tells me they had a totally different experience. What they found was for them unique and pleasurable. Mine was 180 degrees opposite, in fact, perhaps it will be my worst memories of this year long journey. The scenery was anything but exceptional even tho at first I took in the lives of the locals - agricultural, etc. I made the mundane my focus to see what was unique but in the end it was just mundane. The only unique part was the tedious, disorganized, uncomfortable, ripoff-the-tourists transport 'non-system'! This largely due to our very bad experiences with Gunung Mas but also several independent vans as well. I'm sure for people with lots of miney they can hire a private car/van and go to all the places emphasized in the brochures. Bon and I are not in that category, so I expect only rich or short term holiday types will find something to enjoy. For me even at the level we travel it was expensive with no redeeming value or unique sights. Having a now 90% smooth, newly asphalted highway does not help due to the fact that it still takes 3-4 hours over steep, switch back, heavily trafficed roads to get 100 km.! If the volcanic mountains had interesting rainforest with perhaps some few wild critters to see perhaps, but it's not - only clear cut, scrub growth - and there are none, not even monkeys.
So for all your putting up with crappy, expensive transport, overpriced, cold water accommodations and tea and toast breakfasts, but for the occasional smiley local willing to help sort out something that should not need sorting out there is nothing on land to recommend! Yes, many poor people - no different than India or many other places. Yes, I'm a visitor and can (will) leave. Yes, I'm hoping to not be too much a 'tourist' and learn a bit along the way. But I'm coming away having not much to say positive or to recommend, unlike many other similar places where there are poor and I, a visitor, do learn something and find value in visiting.
There are way, way too many people and too many men (and women) smokers in every public place - buses, cars, restaurants, etc. The environment is being thoroughly trashed in the name of development. The traffic is deplorable, simply way too many motorbikes. Too much emphasis on meat and rice diet...very little available in the way of vegitarian food. And then my personal bias is away from hot, humid weather which is nearly impossible to escape here and nothing the locals can do anything about anyway, although it would be nice if rooms did have working fans - some advertize fans but they are wimpy or the rooms have no windows so?? The only two areas which have some interest for me are what is found underwater (snorkeling or diving) and I have enjoyed the Indonesian people who are NOT attached to tourist services. Other than these two areas perhaps it is for others to find some redeeming value here, I cannot.
BOOKS I'VE READ SINCE MY NOTEBOOK STOPPED:
Silent Sea and Serpent by Clive Cussleer; World Without End by Ken Follett; Lucky Child by Loung Ung (Cambodia and Survival); and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
For More Info About Cambodia: The Globalist Info on Cambodia & Elizabeth Becker
PLUS Elizabeth Becker History
This last, The Hunger Games, is actually the nature of the world situation today if you remove the control aspect of government (not the elite, however, which is what makes this book so scary and real)!