First Impressions of Bali

We had heard that Bali had lost some of its charm with over tourism, so we decided to stay away from the beachy areas and head to what is considered the spiritual heart of Bali, Ubud.  What we first saw on the 2 hour car journey from the airport that took us a total of 35km (that averages out to 12.5 km/h) made us think we had accidentally taken the wrong flight and landed in Tulum, Mexico, instead.  It reminded us a lot of that experience as a place that had developed as a tourism destination so quickly that there was an imbalance between the infrastructure and current uses.  In talking with some of our guides, they recounted the rapid development of the island.  Up until the recent tourism boom of the last 15 years, most Balinese made their living in relation somehow to agriculture or fishing.  Even some of our younger guides in their 20s recounted how many of the streets we rode on  on the edge of downtown Ubud  just 8 years ago would have been rice fields.  Now they are homestays, restaurants, or homes for the new middle class.

  The main roads here are impossibly narrow, allowing just barely for two cars to pass.  Traffic is at a standstill on most of the roads into and out of Ubud at most hours of the day.  The streets of the "town" area of Ubud are crowded with stores and restaurants mostly catering to the generic tastes of international tourism-- lots of pizza joints, various international cuisines, etc.  It's been hard to track down good local food (but we finally did find some while staying here).

We're staying at Bali Breeze Bungalows, which was recommended by a fellow traveler we follow on Instagram.  It's definitely "in town" as the traffic outside the compound is pretty jammed most of the day, but our two bedroom bungalow with private pool is set all the way back on the land and we overlook a rice paddy.  Very little of the street noise gets to us, though.  We chose this location as we needed to make sure we had reliable cell/WiFi service for Stephen's work and when we don't know much about an area, we feel safer being closer to "town," thinking that it's likelier connections will be more stable.  We also wanted to be walking distance to restaurants and not beholden to a resort's restaurant only.

The south of the island is where most of the population is, but just north of Ubud you start to get up into the hills and a more traditional Bali appears.  We enjoyed our time most when we traveled through these areas on our scooter tour (we were on the back, with experienced drivers).  There is still a more traditional Balinese way of life in these hills.  And as we discovered, while development has tamped down some interest among the younger set for observing all the traditions, there is still a lot of tradition hidden in all of the urban development as well.

Understanding Spiritual Life in Bali: What We Learned

Bali stands out from the rest of Indonesia for being a majority Hindu enclave in a very Muslim country.  But Hinduism as practiced here in Bali is very different from that of India.  It was transformed through its migration from India through Java and incorporates many local beliefs and a more reverential belief in ancestral spirits (as a whole, rather than specific dead relatives).  Each morning, an small offering is placed in front of the doorway of each home and business to appease the spirits.  Family compounds (where extended families live together) typically have at least 4 shrines, each with a different purpose, and you can see them peaking out over the fences surrounding the family compounds.  The fine thatched roofs on temple and shrine buildings that give them that distinctive look are made of palm fibers separated by hand.  They are as thin as human hair almost and a roof of this material can last 30 years or more.    

Balinese dance, which is a typical performance that tourists will see, are mostly held in front of temples as they would have been before the arrival of tourists (except now there is a charge for tourists to view).  Still, though, these are community performances.  One of our two scooter guides performs weekly as part of the Kecak dance at a number of different temples in the area.  The Kecak dance is the one we saw at the Pura Dalem Ubud temple, and is a relatively new dance in the Balinese cannon, having been introduced in the 1920s.  There is no gamelan (traditional Indonesian instrument group) bur rather the participants in the "chorus" do acapella chanting and synchronized movement that help set the scenes of the performance.  This dance more than the others typically performed, mixes theater styles with dance to tell the store of an event from the Hindu texts.  There are two female dancers playing the part of devis who dance in ways we would think of as more traditional Balinese dance as it shares characteristics with Indian and SE Asian dances we've seen.  The sheer number of performers in the chorus from the community (young and old alike) indicates how much of an important practice this is.  They also did an example of the fire dance, which involved the dancer getting into a trance state and running through (and eating) glowing embers.

On our scooter tour, we also got to visit Pura Titra Empul, which is one of the temples in the area where Balinese come on a regular basis for the cleansing ritual.  We arrived on the day of a full moon, so that meant the temple was extra busy.  There were a few westerners in line to wash in the holy spring, but we felt it was more appropriate to give space to the Balinese for whom this was a tradition.  You first pray outside the temple to clear your mind, you then go to the waters and douse your head three times, pray three times, and then go to another area of the temple to receiving the blessing of the priest.  Some  Balinese will do this as frequently as every 14 days on the full and new moon, but others will do it sporadically as "necessary."

We visited a few other temples including Pura Taman Saraswati, which is in downtown Ubud and has a set of dancing fountains,  and Pura Ulun Danu Beratan on our way to Java, but you could throw a pebble anywhere on the island and be likely to hit a temple.  Most villages have at least three  and there are some spectacular ones all over the island.  The one we felt like we wanted to see but missed was  Pura Uluwatu, which sits right on a cliff over the ocean, but it was too far away from us to make it reasonable for us to do.  

Natural Bali: Rice Paddies, Waterfalls, Monkeys, and Poop

As part of our scooter tour, we visited a curated setting of rice paddy at Tegallalang.  Most Balinese with land will still cultivate rice, even if that is no longer their main profession, and then they typically keep half and then sell the rest.  Bali is still a net importer of rice, though.  They grow a number of different varieties and some you can get 2 harvests a year and others 3.  The rice paddies that we visited were owned by a number of different families, but they combined forces to create this Instagram worthy paradise of photo opportunities.  There were flowing gowns you could rent to swing on the swings.  We skipped that (the gowns and the swings) but we still got some nice photos.

Our scooter tour also took us to a waterfall, which are about as numerous as rice paddies in Bali.  Ours had a trickle (excuse the pun) of tourists, but wasn't too crowded.  It was really beautiful with all the greenery in the canyon and the water rushing down.  It was tempered, though, by the occasional preening Instagrammers laying on the rocks for a glamor shot.

The Monkey Forest Sanctuary is just a short walk from our bungalow and we visited on our first day on the island.  Our friend, Eve, saw our pictures and commented that the monkeys were very cheeky when she was here thirty years ago and staying nearby and that hasn't changed one bit.  We got a lot of great posing and candid shots of the monkeys.  Some other humans in the sanctuary were getting up close and personal with the monkeys in search of the perfect selfie, but some of the behavior we saw (of the monkeys, not the humans) made us think they were a little more unpredictable than these selfie-searching humans may have thought.

Our last stop was at a coffee plantation that roast specialty coffee that has been digested by local civets-- a "cat-poo-chino," if you will (their joke, not ours).  We tried the coffee, and the flavor was nice and mellow, but it was way too expensive for our taste to pick up some to use on our trip.

Climbing Ijen Volcano: Our Overnight Adventure into East Java from Bali

Ijen is famous as one of two places on the planet (the other being in Iceland) where you can see blue flame lava.  It also has the largest acidic crater lake on the planet.  To do it, though, we had a 29 hour adventure.  We booked with this tour because it left a little earlier from Bali and included a homestay where we would have dinner and rest for about 5 hours before leaving to hike up the mountain at about 1am (a short drive to the trailhead which opens at 2am).  We almost chickened out as when we were in Vietnam on our Ha Long Bay cruise, we met a couple much younger than us who had done it and said the hike was TOUGH.  The woman said she slipped a couple times on the way down.  We almost chickened out again as rain had been falling since about 6pm when we arrived at our homestay and had continued throughout our nap until 1am.  Just then, though, the rain stopped and luckily we didn't chicken out, because the experience was fantastic (and no rain from then on).

Mask and headlamp were included in our tour price, but we opted to rent hiking poles as well for about $3 a piece and they were sooooo helpful.  We wouldn't have made it without them.  The ascent was WAY steep, at some points over 50% grade (we're humblebragging here a bit, but you can check out the trail here).  Our guide had us start out as soon as the gates opened with the hope of getting down to the blue flames early so that it wouldn't be so crowded, but our bodies did not cooperate.  We took a bunch of stops along the way to catch our breath but we made it up, down the crater, up the crater, to the sunrise point, and back again all in one piece.  The trail up to the crater rim was wide and well maintained but the trip down into the crater was more precarious.  Luckily the way the wind was blowing, we only needed our gas masks on a short stretch and then again as we got down to the crater lake.  By the time we got to the flames, though, it was pretty crowded and not everyone was as cooperative as they could have been in giving everyone a chance to see them and get photos.

You can rent a "Lamborghini"  to take you up the hill.  It's basically a wheelbarrow that is pushed and pulled by two guys to get you up the hill.  That will cost you about $50 one way or $80 round trip, but if will only get you to the crater edge; you'll still have to get down the crater yourself to see the blue flames.  With that said, Eli hit it on the head when he said that, while cool, the blue flames  looked a little like someone had dumped a 5 gallon jug of sterno fuel on the side of the crater and lit it on fire.  Cool to see, but more stunning were the colors and scenes at the sunrise from the top of the crater at the viewpoint.  We can't describe how beautiful it was.  Sometimes phone cameras enhance the colors a bit over what's visible in real life, but not here.  What you're seeing in the photos is really as it was to us on the lip of the crater.  Our guide got some great photo and video of us that we'll share here.

A Day in Yogyakarta: Royal Heritage and Traditional Dance

Yogyakarta, or "Jogja" for short, is the big city in central Java, and a convenient jumping off point to see a number of UNESCO world heritage sites that are within 1.5 hours from here.  Yogyakarta does have its own charms, though.  We spent a day touring around the city here, checking out the royal buildings around the Kraton, or old town.  Yogyakarta was the seat of a regional sultan who still has a special "dispensation" from the Indonesian government.  Apparently the current Sultan's father had a prominent role in independence and the fight against the Dutch colonial occupation and so the sultan and his family still retain some sort of status here.

The royal buildings were mostly constructed in the 18th century and so are an interesting mix of styles.  They look mostly austere white Dutch, but have some typical Javanese flourishes.  There is a carriage museum in some of the older buildings on the palace grounds.  There is also a smaller site which has a more Javanese feel to it, known as the Water Palace a 15 minute walk away.   In between are the narrow and winding streets of the Kraton.  We happened in on a local market and walked around a bit.

The main royal palace has lots of covered spaces open to the air for entertaining.  There were at least three pavilions with gamelan instruments in them.  They do performances every day at 9am (except Mondays), including puppetry, dance, gamelan, etc.  Each day has a specific performance and is included in your entrance ticket.  We had missed the performances so we decided to get tickets to the local traditional Javanese dance company that does performances 3 nights a week.  The Ramayana Ballet also has an outlet in Prambanan where one of the two world heritage sites we were going to visit is, but we were worried about getting transport back from there at 9pm after the show, so we decided not to do the show there.

The dance was similar to what we saw in Bali in that it told a story from the Ramayana about the Hindu gods.  This performance, though, was done with gamelan accompaniment as apposed to acapella chanting.  We enjoyed the performance and had lots more questions about the dance after we saw it, especially about how "standardized" the movement and music are.  There were clearly points where the dancers would hit an "accent" in the music and the moves were timed to that, but we wondered how the choreography and relationship to the music might look different at another performance, or not at all.  Did the music guide the dancing or the choreography dictate some of the musical flourishes, or something else entirely?

These Are Supposed to Be the Spice Islands!?!?  Our Food Misadventures in Indonesia

Our food adventures in Indonesia so far have been frustrating.  For being the "spice islands,"  we've found the food here to be rather bland.  That's not to say that there isn't spicy around, but we've only really encountered it as sambal, which is a super-hot paste/salsa of chili peppers of which they make various kinds.  Other than that it's lots of simple vegetables, stir-fried or fried meats, and lots of rice.   We were expecting more complex flavors in the food like in India considering this was a hotbed of the spice trade.  We speculated that maybe some of the historic dishes using complex spices were lost over time under colonialism where most of the spices were going for export and locals couldn't afford to use them anymore.  It was telling when we would ask locals for their favorite restaurant or when asking servers for their favorite dish they asked us if we liked rice.  Of course we like rice, but we don't usually think of white rice as the star of any dish.

We had a couple of good Indonesian "style" meals in Ubud at what we would think of as fusion restaurants.  Liap Liap and Hujan Locale gave us local flavors that felt complex and interesting to us.  We lucked out when ordering anything in the Padang or Rendang style.  We had a number of duck preparations in Indonesia that were pretty good, from simple fried duck leg quarter at "warangs", or local food joints, to a more fusion style Chinese five spice duck breast at Mediterranea in Yogyakarta.  You know we're in bad straights when our latest thought is to go to a mall food court, which we actually did one night while in Yogyakarta and got Japanese and KFC.

Yogya has a few famous cookies.  One is kind of like a Russian tea cake cookie that the stuff with chocolate or mung bean.  We saw them being made at the local market and there was a line around the block for them.  There's also a softer version that they sell at shops around town (and have a hard time keeping stock).  It's like a thin twikie cake dough around a gooey chocolate center.  Now we know why they're flying off the shelves.  When we were at the market we picked up a fried bread that was somewhere between a pancake and cornbread and was the perfect comfort snack.

Jakarta, just because of its size, has made it a bit easier to find more interesting Indonesian food.  The meal we had at Pondok Laguna and the meal we had at Kaum were interesting and excellent.   Kaum, while the one of the more expensive meals we had in Indonesia at $80, takes a pan-Indonesian take on the menu, and prints the region from which the dish came so that you can get a sense of the variability in Indonesian cuisine.  

Prambanan Temple Complex:  A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Our hotel in Yogya is a short walk to the train station, so we're taking a short 20 minute commuter train ride from here to get to Prambanan temples.  From the station in Prambanan, it's another easy 15 minute walk to get to the temple complex.  Prambanan is less famous than its cousin, Borobudur, but just as (and actually maybe more) beautiful.  There are a number of discrete temples here, some  Hindu and other Buddhist.  It was constructed in the latter half of the 9th century upon the ascension of a ruling family that favored Hinduism vs. Buddhism.  It was, then, in a way, a response to Borobudur.  

The main temple incorporates three main buildings with statutes of Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu each having their own.  The bas reliefs tell the story of the Ramayana, which was also the source for the ballet we saw.  As you travel north from the main temple complex, there are a few later temples that culminate in the northernmost, which is Buddhist from the earlier period.  There is lots of rubble around as the area and the temples have been rocked by numerous earthquakes over time (the last in 2006), and some of the buildings (although clearly safe to enter) look a bit precarious when you look at how some of the stones are fitting together.  The scale of the temples, while not quite like Angkor Wat, is still pretty impressive.

We were glad we had time to spend here.  It was interesting to see also here the dynamic of Hinduism and Buddhism ebbing and flowing as it did in Angkor.  

Borobudur Temple: UNESCO World Heritage Site #2

Borobudur predates Prambanan by about 80 years and predates Angkor Wat in Cambodia by over 200.  Some call it a temple, others a monument, but either way, it is freaking impressive.  It's Buddhist as opposed to Hindu and that impacts its construction.  It is modeled to be a mandala, representing the Buddhist vision of the cosmos, with earthly pleasures on the bottom level ascending 7 levels all the way up to nirvana.  The first 4 levels have reliefs of earthly pleasures, the life of the Buddha, the bodhisattvas as appropriate to their level and then the top three levels are more austere and have stupas with statues of the Buddha inside the "bells."  Worshipers were meant to circle around each level as a meditative practice as they continued upward.  The scale of the building is massive.  It feels like a wide and flat pyramid similar to Teotihuacan in Mexico (although about half as tall) and it left an impression just because of that.  The reliefs on each level were similar in style to Prambanan, but also a little different, indicating their Buddhist vs. Hindu orientation.  

Borobudur isn't on a train line from Yogyakarta, but you can take a public bus.  We looked at doing an organized tour but many of them included Prambanan too, and we had already been there.  We ended up renting a Grab (the Uber-like company used throughout SE Asia) by the hour.  It was about $30 for 6 hours and was cheaper than if we had paid for an organized tour to get there by at least $15 bucks.  You don't need a tour guide anyway as one is provided in your entry ticket; they are required to supervise you while you tour the site.  The limit the number of visitors that can be on the building at one time, so you need to book a specific tour time in advance (at least a couple of days, depending on the season).  That also, though, means you are limited in the time you are allowed to explore on the monument (about an hour).  You are allowed to stay and walk around the building from the ground for as long as you want, but you can't see much from the ground, so after our tour we just headed back to our vehicle and headed home.

A Day Trip to Solo:  Java Man and Batiks

No, Java Man isn't some sort of coffee superhero.  Java Man was the nickname given to the first Homo Erectus fossil found outside of Africa in the late 19th century and led to a leap in our understanding of human evolution.  The area where the fossil (and many others over time) was found now houses a museum with general information about human evolution and finds from all over the world alongside information about the finds here.  Loyal readers will know that we have stopped in at similar museums as we've traveled, our favorite so far having been in Kenya.  We enjoyed walking through the museum here, although some of the information feels outdated at this point.  Most interestingly they present the multiregional theory  (that homo sapiens evolved simultaneously from homo erectus in different regions across the globe) alongside the replacement theory (homo sapiens evolving in Africa and quickly spreading out and outcompeting homo erectus) as both being equally likely.  Current thought based on DNA analysis available has basically settled on the replacement theory.

The museum is a ways outside of town, so we took the train to Solo and then hopped in a Grab for the 35 minute drive to the museum.  You can also take a public bus which runs every 20 minutes and takes about 50 minutes to travel the same distance.  That's what we ended up doing on the way back as we couldn't locate a Grab nearby.  It actually wasn't that bad and was 1/10 the price.  Notable, though, was the segregation on the bus, with men up front and women in the back; this was enforced by the conductor who pointed to where you would sit.  We also joked about all of the funny prohibition signs and they ways they were visually communicated that we've seen on pubic transit across our travels, especially on this last leg in Asia.  We should have started taking photos sooner.  A common one is the prohibition on durian and all they ways they visually indicate the fruit and its smell.  There was also the one on spitting on the Metro in Delhi and also this interesting one prohibiting men from touching women on the bus back to Solo (and maybe why we were sex segregated).  

Back in Solo, we headed to the House of Danar Hadi, a famous batik manufacturer.  Batik is an dyeing art using wax to prevent the dyes from absorbing in some places vs. others.  Java is the origin of batik, and Solo is the hub, although there are different regional styles around the island and styles influenced by the Dutch living here.  We weren't allowed to take any pictures of the batiks on display (for competitive reasons), but we were so glad we stopped here.  They take you around the private collection of the owner of the shop, which has fabrics from over 150 years ago in addition to examples of more modern periods post independence.  You get to see how they still make some by hand and also how they use copper blocks now for others.  The beauty in the handmade fabrics is the detail in the design when you look up close while the visual effect from afar creates a different effect.  It's hard to explain without photos which we couldn't take.  Very glad we went, though.

Impressions of Jakarta

We should have just taken the train from Yogyakarta here rather than flying.  It's about a 6.5 to 7 hour journey and in the end, with waiting time and travel time to and from the airports, we ended up spending about 5 hours traveling anyway.  We would have taken the airport train rather than a Grab to the airport in Yogyakarta but they sell individual seats; we thought it would be like to commuter train we took to Solo.  By the time we arrived at the train station 30 minutes ahead of the departure time of the train, all the tickets for the train we needed to take to get to the airport on time were gone.

We're staying in an Airbnb in a section of town that has a bunch of enclosed shopping malls.  The development pattern here is very much like in Bangkok, even more than it was in Phnom Penh or Saigon, although transportation options are catching up.  They have converted some of the train lines to work as frequent stop commuter metros and have a few bus rapid transit lines and a not-bad bus network.  The metro has one line and they are extending it and building another.  It's about where Bangkok was 20 years ago.  Pollution is a problem here;  even on sunny days, the sky is overcast as if it were cloudy, and it never really goes away.  On a walk past a canal, the amount of refuse and plastic waste floating was pretty distressing.

There are a few sights here to be seen, and since it is the capital, there are a bunch of museums, although we didn't have much luck getting in to many as they were temporarily closed.  Stephen took a solo trip to the Museum of Textiles, which was basically just a bunch of batiks hanging in different rooms (although there was a room with a studio where some girl scouts were doing a meeting learning how to batik.  The Istiqlal Mosque is a contemporary mosque that is 9th largest in the world as far as worshiper capacity, but we thought architecturally more beautiful for a contemporary mosque than the Mohammed V mosque in Casablanca.  Foreign tourists need to be accompanied to see the interior of the mosque (and the exterior isn't anything special).  They have tours every half hour although they take a break around lunchtime for mid-day prayers.

Right across the street from the mosque is the St. Mary's Cathedral.  Its most striking feature, and which we hadn't seen before, are the steeples made of wrought iron  on a mostly stone-looking exterior (which is actually stucco over brick).  The interior wasn't very interesting.  Also nearby is the freedom monument.  The other area of tourist sights are on the square near the main train station at where there are a bunch of Dutch colonial buildings and other museums.

They're actually building a new national capital city, called Nusantara, on Borneo, to both relieve pressure on the growing city but to also prepare for significant climate change coming.  Jakarta will be under water soon due to rising sea levels, soil erosion, and continued unabated development.  Like Brasilia, it remains to be seen how that changes the dynamic in Jakarta, or if it exploits and accelerates the destruction of the earth's lungs, which are the rainforests of Borneo.

We broke our string of bad luck with Indonesian food at Pondok Laguna, where we had a seafood feast (plus some of the best chicken satay we've had in SE Asia) for about $35.  Kaum also was a star, and at $80 was better than a number of more expensive meals we had here.

Borneo Adventure: Orangutans and Other Wildlife

Many of our most exciting experiences have been the wildlife encounters we've had on our travels.  Our trip to Borneo (known as Kalimantan to the Indonesians), was no different. The main industry on the island is palm oil extraction, so the majority of unprotected land there is dedicated to that.  Well, and also the production of swallow spit.  We know... that sounds like a bad porno line.  But people here (and it's actually something we've seen around the South Asia region) build birdhouses to attract these swallows (meaning a type of bird) that  produce a saliva that is prized in China as both a topical application for the skin and as a food additive for health, beauty, and virility.  Eli asked a valid question about who and when someone might have ever had the idea to give that one a try.  Hmm... I'm wondering if this swallow spit might make my skin smooth.... let me try.

We flew to Pangkalan Bun on the island of Kalimantan to take a 3 day boat trip deep into the forests of Tanjun Punting National Park to see the orangutans.  Orangutan is the name given them by the local people and it literally translates into "forest person" in English.  Orangutans are now only found on the islands of Kalimantan and Sumatra.  The orangutans we're going to see, like the gorillas in Uganda, have been habituated to humans.  These orangutans were either rescued by conservationists or are the descendants of orangutans that were rescued. 

There are three feeding platforms each spaced about 2 hours from each other down the river, where once a day, rangers put out food to supplement the orangutan's own foraging.  The national park is regrowth forest as it used to be used for agriculture, so it is not yet quite mature enough to support all of the orangutans' nutritional needs.  However, there are many times these days, given that the forest has matured a great deal, where orangutans won't show up to the feeding platform at all as they're finding enough interesting food somewhere else.

We arranged our 3 day excursion through Borneo Ecotour Adventures.  "Ecotour" might have been a bit of misnomer for our version of the tour, though, as we ended up booking one of their boats that had an airconditioned sleeping cabin which they ran off of a generator at night.  That's not very good for the environment (but it was good for our comfort).  Most other boats the ply the river are very rustic with river water used for showering and sleeping done on an mattress on the top deck.  Even though it might not have been "eco" from that perspective, it was certainly "eco" in that we got to experience a part of the earth's ecology that we never would have otherwise.  We had a great experience with our tour guide and the boat staff.  While it was not a "luxury" boat by any stretch of the imagination as you would think of a suite on a cruise ship or even our cabin on the Ha Long Bay cruise, like our night on the boat in the backwaters of Kerala in India, it was quite a luxury experience to basically have the whole staff on the boat be there just for us. 

As we navigated down the river, the flora changed from palms lining the side of the water to more grasses and then just tall trees.  At one point the captain of our boat had to dodge "grass icebergs" that were floating down the river.  The boat ahead of us wasn't so lucky and the captain's mate had to jump into the water and go under the boat to clean the propeller.  Our guide said that she wasn't worried because the crocodiles seemed to let the locals be.  However, there have been a number of tourist deaths due to crocodile encounters in the years she's been guiding.

The forests are filled with other wildlife that we saw as we traveled down the river.  There were plenty of macaque monkeys and a monkey called the proboscis monkey, also only seen on Kalimantan.  The locals called the proboscis monkey the "Dutch monkey" which, given the history of Dutch colonial history here, was hard to tell if it was a slight on the Dutch or on the monkey.  Maybe it was both.  We also got to see some kingfishers, some fruit bats (we had never seen bats so big before... with wingspans as large as eagles),  a crocodile, and a gibbon too.   Occasionally we'd catch a glimpse of an orangutan swinging between the trees as we motored along.

On our first day, we had one stop at a feeding site.  The orangutans in this area were all there in advance of the feeding time.  This feeding was dominated by the male whose territory this was.  He ate his fill first before anyone else dared come to the platform.  We had a great time watching the orangutans just do their thing.  They were in all kinds of crazy positions as they moved from tree to tree.  They're so unpredictable and so it's like a casino game where sometimes you'll see really interesting stuff happen in short succession and then sometimes nothing happens for a long while.  Some of it we caught on camera and some of it we didn't.  At each site, we stayed about an hour and a half.

Our last site on day two, there was a gibbon waiting for the feeding when we arrived.  As soon as the food was placed down he quickly ran to get a banana bunch and scurried back up a tree to consume them before any orangutans could get to the platform, unceremoniously dropping the peels to the ground as he ate, landing with a thud.  As the rangers made calls, no orangutans showed up.  After about 30 minutes, the gibbon decided he could probably get another bunch without a problem and ran down, picked up another, and scurried up the tree again.  After consuming that bunch, he swung and leapt through the trees like Spiderman quickly exiting the scene.  And our wait this time of 1.5 hours yielded no other sightings; no orangutans showed up at all.  But so goes animal observation, and we were thankful for what we were able to see and experience.

The proboscis monkey kinda looks like ALF, if you remember the 80's TV show.

The gibbon.

The gibbon absconding with a bunch of bananas.

This butterfly kept landing on Stephen's head.

It's rainy in the rainforest.  Some of the trails to the feeding platforms were underwater for quite some ways.