Thursday, June 28, 2012

For one of the few times this trip, we had no scheduled wake up call, but again we couldn't manage to sleep in, waking up around 6:30. Unlike the last time we got breakfast here (when Justin was basically a zombie), we were both able to enjoy it this time. We had a nice table outside, near the beach walk. We got some good news, as we found out that our friend Cameron was having an especially good day (the day before for him) because of his ex-company's drug being approved by the FDA. They had a pretty good selection of food at the buffet, and since Bali is predominantly hindu (as opposed to muslim) there was bacon and sausage, and ham for omelettes.


We packed up most of our stuff, then went souvenir/trinket shopping at Bali Collection. All of the interesting stuff was far too big to fit in our bags, and all of the small stuff wasn't really of interest. There was a book store that had a whole bunch of "potentially" interesting books, but we say "potentially" because they were all wrapped in plastic (presumably to help fight against the humidity) and we couldn't tell exactly whether they were worth purchasing or not. We went back to the room to finish packing, then got lunch at Cornerstone (the place with all the ice cream and sorbet selections).


With us at the restaurant/store was a family of 5, including a girl who looked to be about 8 that Justin called Female Chinese Cartman, or FCC. FCC got her name both because of her appearance and her general demeanor - it was obvious who was giving the orders and who was taking the orders in this family. This started a long conversation that consumed most of our lunch, involving to what extent (if any) the government and Child Protective Services should be involved for parents who grossly overfeed their children. There's no doubt that CPS would get involved if you were starving your kid, but CPS never really gets involved for the other extreme, even though its relatively easier to remedy an emaciated child than an overweight one. Also, parents who let their kids get vastly overweight basically sentence those children to an adulthood of all sorts of health problems, not the least of which is diabetes. All of these health issues are covered, in many instances, by the taxpayers, which begs the question whether the taxpayers would be better served by reporting the parents to CPS when the kids are 8 rather than indirectly paying for who knows what when that kid is now 38.


That discussion then evolved into a broader discussion about whether "universal" healthcare would ever work in a country (say, the US) where the population not similarly situated and the population is more homogeneous than heterogeneous. All of the empirical data suggests that universal healthcare is far more effective when the population as a whole has similar education levels, similar religious beliefs, similar outlooks on the number of kids, similar work ethics, and so on - this limits the amount of "moochers" and also the amount of "bitchers and moaners." We'll see how this all shakes out in the US. Ironically, we never seem to talk about this stuff except when we're well out of the US - in the US we are about the most apolitical people you'll find. Go figure.


Anyway, back to Bali and our trip, for whatever reason it took awhile for bags to show up at the front. No one else was checking out around noon, so maybe the porters just got lost. We took one more drive to the airport with Alit. We felt a little bad that we never went on any tours with him, as he tried hard to sell us on all of the various tours his company did on Bali. He also knew what else we'd done, and we'd done tours all over Java, but none with him. But at the same time, he understood that after all of our other excursions, we just wanted to hang out and do nothing on Bali. Maybe next time.

At the airport, the power was on today, so that was good. When we checked in, we saw that Malaysia airlines was able to check our bags through to BKI, which was very good. We had roughly a one hour layover in Kuala Lumpur scheduled, and we figured we'd have to go through immigration in Kuala Lumpur, which made us very wary of how tight our connection would be. It was nice to know we wouldn't have to pick up our bags and then re-check them, as we had happen to us in 2010 in the Sao Paulo airport in Brazil. We were at the airport a fair amount early, and just hanging out at a restaurant (making sure not to drink any ice) when, more than an hour before our flight, everyone was called to the gate. We're not sure why they did that, perhaps it was to help spread out the security queue? There was secondary security at the gate, presumably because it was an international flight. The plane going to Kuala Lumpur was nice, with big entertainment screens like on our long haul flight from LAX to Hong Kong.

Arriving at the KL airport for the first time since 2005, it was the behemoth we remembered, with huge glass-ceiling terminals. We were one of the first off the plane, and rushed to make our short transfer. We started walking through some nearly empty corridors, and down an escalator (which started right as we got there, it was automatic), to go from the terminal where we landed to our connection terminal. As we approached our terminal, there was a separate immigration line for people like us who were connecting to a domestic flight. This was a very ingenious system - not to throw us out into the main immigration queue and force us out of the secured area. We figured they'd have something good in KL, but it was only about 10 minutes from gate to gate, which was even better than we could have imagined.

Then, ironically, our flight to Kota Kinabalu was delayed by 20 minutes. We got a Coke to break the large bills we got at LAX. The flight to Kota Kinabalu was a bit cold but otherwise unmemorable - we both slept a bit. We landed in KK around 11:30 pm, and the airport was very empty. It was far larger than we expected, which made it seem that much more empty. After grabbing our bags, we were met by our guide (who was the only one standing in the waiting area at a quarter to midnight), and went to our hotel (the Le Meridien). He told us that all of the cars had been returned for the night, so we had a coach (small bus) all to ourselves, which was kind of funny. As with the airport itself, the city of Kota Kinabalu was much larger than we were expecting.


Perhaps because Borneo is always thought of as a "last frontier" for nature lovers, we thought all the cities would be sleepy towns like what we saw in Flores - even though we knew in the back of our head that Borneo is a huge island and there is major industry on there in addition to all the untouched wilderness. When we got to the hotel, the market across the street was still going strong, but we had to get to sleep, however, because we had an early flight the next morning. Our room was huge, on the top floor, with what we can only assume was a great ocean view, but it was pitch black except for the market. It was now well past midnight, and we got to sleep as quick as feasible.