Insider travel guides to Malaysia and Indonesia
I’m Geoff Wolak, the original digital nomad. I left the UK in 2006 with a laptop, a suitcase and some ideas, and I have been travelling ever since. I travelled extensively before that, but in the winter of 2006 I got rid of my car and apartment and hit the road (hit a Ryanair flight to Portugal actually).
I spent time in Tenerife, Portugal, Spain, then settled on Malta for a while, six months a year spent there. I used to visit the Greek island of Rhodes for a month each autumn and I visited the UK for a few weeks in the summer months.
After a few years in Europe, trips to the Caribbean, Russia, and a great deal of time in Sharm-el-Shiek scuba diving, I headed to Bali.
After leaving the UK I worked off my laptop. Some old legacy computer programming, some website design and SEO work, but then I started to write novels, now my main source of income via Amazon. You can find my books on www.amazon.co.uk, search Geoff Wolak, but my books are also listed on www.geoffwolak-writing.com. I won’t win any prizes, but I make a good steady income from my books.
Travel guides and your Indonesian 6 month visa
When you travel you meet fellow travellers in hotel bars or around the pool. I will always pick their brains about places that they have visited, travel websites used, medical insurance problems, the works. I have learnt how to travel cheaply and to live cheaply, and what the dangers are. I also picked up tips on how to apply for an “Indonesian 6 month visa” without pulling my hair out and suffering a nervous breakdown.
Snakes, the ones selling you your travel insurance, are more of an issue than the ones slithering through the grass in the tropics.
I collected a great deal of knowledge and I sorted the facts from the bullshit advice, and there is a great deal of crap advice on the internet, especially when it comes to visas.
Most of all, what I found was that people around the world were – without exception – all friendlier than the people back home in the UK, and that the world’s crime stats are bullshit. The UK seems to have less crime than a few Asian countries if you look at the global stats, but the chances of a bar fight in the UK are just about 100%, whereas such things are rare in Asia – unless it’s drunk Brits or Aussies.
When I split my time between the UK and abroad the differences started to reveal themselves. The Brits were all miserable and violent, the rest of the world less so. Every trip home displayed violence in the streets and bars, never once witnessed abroad.
I travel because I like an outdoors life, sun and swimming, but deep down I just like to relax and not look over my shoulder, waiting for some drunk British idiot to want a fight.
I once asked my Chinese landlord in KL about drunken fighting, and at 50 years old he had never been involved in one, ever in his life. That shocked me, since I saw violence in the UK every hour on a Friday and Saturday night out. What a contrast.
The British think that their country is the best in the world, till they travel and realise that most everywhere outside the UK is quietly civilized, and that drunken violence is neither common nor tolerated.
Britain may have a lower murder rate, but the causal violence rate is vastly higher than most all other countries.
The smart traveller
If you plan on travelling around Asia, or living here, then this summary is the culmination of many years of practical experience, experimentation – and learning from my mistakes.
- Don’t trust your medical insurance, use a local doctor if you have a problem, don’t tell him that you are flying out soon, he may tip off immigration and they will stop you from flying – in some countries like Thailand. Cheap medical care is available to the locals, also available to you if you haggle. Don’t go to the airport with a visible injury, they are duty bound to stop you and ask for a doctors letter.
- Use airbnb for condos, the payment system is safe and you can get refunds following a dispute. Always make sure that there are many photos of the condo, and never book a place that does not have numerous English-speaking reviews.
- Use google maps to check the street of the condo and the surrounding area, check for shops and cafes nearby – and noisy construction sites.
- Use whatsapp, everyone does, and without it you will get little done. Your landlord, cleaner, laundry, will all use whatsapp.
- Pour bleach down the sinks and drains at sundown, keep the cockroaches away. Cockroach spray works well. Everywhere in Asia there are cockroaches, but I have rarely been bothered by mosquitoes. If your condo is on a high floor you will not suffer mosquitoes, and if it is a good place you will not get cockroaches. Note that cockroaches will always avoid people, you will not find one crawling over you as you sleep, they avoid mammal heat signatures.
- Never leave windows open, any time of day, you are inviting in the bugs. High floors are OK.
- Clean up food and drink spills quickly, use some bleach, or you’ll get ants and cockroaches.
- Cats in Asia are not friendly, and dogs are mostly feral and will bite you. Asians tend to cross the road to avoid a feral dog. Monkeys are vicious, they bite and scratch, and a scratch means a hospital visit – they carry many diseases, some fatal to man.
- Swimming in the ocean needs careful research first. Most parts of Malaysia offer dangerous jelly fish, many parts of Bali offer dangerous currents. I have never heard of a shark attack here, but a jellyfish sting is life threatening.
- Don’t be afraid of lizards, never kill them, they eat ants and mosquitoes and small cockroaches. Most every room in Asia has a lizard. Tree frogs that wander into your condo should be left alone to eat the insects.
- Use Grab Taxi, better than local street cabs and Uber. Never get into a cab if it does not have sat nav, never share a taxi with strangers – not for any danger but because the driver is using you to pay for their ride.
- If you are single then use Tinder and Badoo. Nice girls in Asia do not hang around bars, they use Tinder. Always video chat before meeting someone, genuine people will video chat. In KL, many of the so-called girls are ladyboys, so video chat first. Scammers put up profiles, and will not video chat to you. If a girl wants to come straight around, she’s a hooker. The established protocol is to meet in a Starbucks for coffee and a chat. All people you meet online will use whatsapp!
- Don’t carry your passport around, carry a photocopy always. Its a good idea to have a good copy of your Indonesian 6 month visa.
- If you are staying in a condo, water can be delivered, laundry picked up, and most every city will have someone like Gojek, who will deliver by motorbike anything you want.
- Fly Airasia, they are safe and very cheap.
- Don’t freak out when an earthquake strikes and your condo sways side to side, that is common, and buildings do not collapse. Buildings in places like Lombok collapse because they were made by the unskilled owner/resident family, poor quality cement. Hotels and condos do not collapse – ever.
- Some places in Asia will not allow unmarried couples in hotels or condos, check first. Being GAY is partly against the law in many Asian countries like Indonesia, you will need to hide it well. Two men sharing a room may result in an arrest, and being deported! Use airbnb condos instead of hotels, airbnb landlords don’t check and don’t care if you are gay. Most airbnb landlords never meet their guests, they just arrange someone to drop off and pick up the key.
- Airasia flight KL to Jakarta, $30.
- One hour taxi to condo, $15.
- Condo for a month, pool and gym, all in $500 approx for a nice one.
- Formal meal for two with drinks, $30.
- Cafe meal for two, $5 or less.
- Large water for dispenser, $1.
- 5kg laundry, pick-up and deliver back, $7.
- Whatsapp, free of charge
- Tinder, free of charge
The downside of Asia is that imported tins of your favourites are expensive as hell. A $2 tin of meat in The West is $7 in Asia since it has been imported. Café food is cheap, brand names are expensive.
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tags: Indonesian 6 month visa, Indonesia visa, sosbud visa, long stay visa Indonesia, visa bali, visa Lombok, Lombok travel guide, bali travel guide, Lombok earthquake.