Elyse and Me.Python in Balikpapan.copyrightSam and I just got back from a trip to Kuala Lumpur, where he attended training for a certification and I tagged along to do really important things like sleep, eat LOTS of roti canai, drink as much ice coffee as my nervous system could withstand … and see a few sights. Hey, when you’ve been fighting tax software for two weeks straight, a gal deserves a bit of a break!

I’ll post more on our KL venture shortly, but in the meantime, I thought a few pictures of life in Balikpapan might be in order, starting with last week’s hash where Elyse and I got to pet a python! (Sam was a bad*** and ran the whole way, so he didn’t have time to stop for a pic!) Anyway, since Maggie, Elyse and I were ambling along at a slower walking pace, we chanced upon this man who had apparently just captured the beauty and wanted us to pose for a picture (thanks, Maggie for taking such a cool angle!). So, what does a python feel like? Dry, cool, with surprisingly soft-ish skin and you can feel the muscles moving just underneath!

And Sarah just reminded me that I have not posted any pictures of the wonderful, hairy fruit that is rambutan. So Sarah, in honor of your passion for these things, here’s some photos of a bike trip to a local rambutan orchard where we learned that there are actually several different types of rambutans … although I confess I couldn’t really tell the difference between one type and the other!

Rambutan orchard owner standing by (what I think is) a Garuda Rambutan tree.
Rambutan orchard owner standing by (what I think is) a “Garuda” rambutan tree.
Orchard Owner with Pak Sam, me and Pak Yayan. I am of average height by U.S. standards, but here, I look like a giant!
Orchard Owner with Pak Sam, me and Pak Yayan. I am of average height by U.S. standards, but here, I look like a giant!
The amazing Pak Yayan (this guy is 66 years old and still wins all the bicycling tournaments !) leading the way through a kampung.
The amazing Pak Yayan (this guy is 56 years old and still wins all the bicycling tournaments!) leading the way through a kampung.
Kangkung fields (water spinach)
Kangkung fields (water spinach). This stuff is delicious. You chop it up, boil it for 2 minutes, drain and then saute with oil, onion, garlic, black pepper, red chili pepper and soy sauce. So good.
An exceptionally pretty kampung (village)
An exceptionally pretty kampung (village)
Laundry Day
Laundry Day

And other pictures of life around Balikpapan …

Sam participating in warm-up exercises for an Aids-awareness walk. People here take their warm-ups very seriously. For the 5-k walk, there was about a 30-minute warm-up session!
Sam participating in warm-up exercises for an Aids-Awareness walk. People here take their warm-ups very seriously. For the 5-k walk, there was about a 30-minute warm-up session!
Aids awareness walk. This is a somewhat controversial thing in conservative Indonesia. In fact, a few days before this walk, I saw another Aids Awareness walk through the city center. On that day, giant banners were being held high stating : "Aids ... just say no to sex!"
Aids Awareness walk. This is a somewhat controversial thing in conservative Indonesia. In fact, a few days before this walk, I saw another Aids Awareness walk through the city center. On that day, giant banners were being held high stating : “Aids … just say no to sex!”
Enjoying a bowl of Bakso (soup with meatballs usually made from tapioca flour and fish or beef) after the Aids awareness walk. Happily,Indonsians take their snacks as seriously as their warm-ups. Yum!
Enjoying a bowl of Bakso (soup with meatballs usually made from tapioca flour and fish or beef) after the Aids Awareness walk. Happily, Indonesians take their snacks as seriously as their warm-ups. Yum!
Balipapan city hall. The totem pole in the foreground and shield designs on the building (background) are designs from the indigenous Dyak Indians.
Balikpapan city hall. The totem pole in the foreground and shield designs on the building (background) are designs from the indigenous Dyaks.
Boy and his ukelele
Boy and his ukulele. Ukulele’s (called “gitar kecil” or small guitar) are extremely popular here, especially with pre-teen boys.
Lady at Window. I saw her on one of our bike trips and had to stop to ask for her portrait. I believe she told us she had five children!
Lady at Window. I saw her on one of our bike trips and had to stop to ask for her photo. I believe she told us she had five children!
View of coast and Balikpapan's main mosque from Chevron complex
View of coast and Balikpapan’s main mosque from Chevron complex.
Me at the helicopter pad (background) local hangout spot at Kemala Beach
Me at the helicopter pad (background) at Kemala Beach in downtown Balikpapan. Every evening, tons of locals hangout here with friends and/or their dates for a view of the sunset.
Sam playing Kasti
Sam playing Kasti. This is a traditional Indonesian game. Here’s Sam’s definition: “It is sort of like the English game Rounders with an Indonesian twist on the rules that seems to have perhaps been inspired by the creator of Calvin and Hobbes.”
Housing at Balikpapan Baru. This is a huge housing complex where various subdivisions are named after countries and cities of the world. Here is Paris!
Housing at Balikpapan Baru (a housing/commercial area northeast of city center where many expats live). This is a huge housing complex where various subdivisions are named after countries and cities of the world. Here is Paris!
... and here is poor Napolean.
… and here is poor Napoleon.
Ahem! Siloam Christmas Special..
Merry Christmas! Local hospital’s Christmas special: For less than 100 bucks, you too can obtain Magnetic Resonance Imaging of your … anus.
View of Manggar Beach. While this beach is only about 20 km north of city center, thanks to the incredibly slooooow traffic, it takes 45 minutes to an hour to get here!
View of Manggar Beach. While this beach is only about 20 km north of city center, thanks to the mind-numbingly slooooow traffic, it takes 30 t0 45 minutes to get here! Traffic and driving speeds are definitely not Balikpapan’s selling points.
We often walk to Kemala Beach to enjoy a cheap, fresh dinner of grilled fish, kankung and white rice. Simple but so, so good. The only downside? The huge rats that pccasionally scuttle a foot away from you ... and the cats that jump on your table to eat your food!
We often walk to Kemala Beach to enjoy a cheap, fresh dinner of grilled fish, kankung and white rice. Simple but so, so good. The only downside? The huge rats that occasionally scuttle a foot away from you … and the cats that jump on your table to eat your food!
Local wicker factory behind wicker store. Men are stripping rattan and bamboo harvested from the forest.
Local wicker factory behind wicker store. Men are stripping rattan and bamboo harvested from the forest.
Wicker Shop. There are many of these along the main road of Jendral Sudirman, with clusters near the airport.
Wicker Shop. There are many of these along the main road of Jendral Sudirman, with clusters of shops near the airport. Lots of people commission all kinds of wicker furniture to be made. While I think the artificial wicker (poly-resin) is about the same as it would be in the states, the natural wicker furniture is a good deal.
Ocean's offerings. Shark, Snapper and Box Fish! Ocean's is Balikpapan's premier restaurant on the beach, between Pasar Klandasan and Plaza Balikpapan.
Ocean’s offerings. Shark, Snapper and Box Fish! Ocean’s is Balikpapan’s premier restaurant on the beach, between Pasar Klandasan and Plaza Balikpapan.
Mr. Monitor Lizard, Our Backyard Pet! He pops out to say hello around noon every day.
Mr. Monitor Lizard, our backyard pet! He is bigger than this picture presents and he pops out to say hello around noon every day. These guys are actually great to have around as they eat rats … something Balikpapan has in abundance, unfortunately.
Sam and Pak Nurul (our driver) at Crocodile Farm. Love the sign!
Sam and Pak Nurul (our driver) at Crocodile Farm. Love the sign!
Tourist map of Balikpapan
Tourist map of Balikpapan.

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