Category Archives: Indonesia

Nikoi Island

Thursday and Friday with teacher inservice days? Yea! We needed to get out of here, so luckily, back in March I booked a four day get-away at Nikoi Island.


Nikoi is a small Indonesian island, leased by three expat couples in 2004. They had a vision, and saw it though, and today, it’s booked months and months in advance. Back in March, when I started looking at the place, there was a cancellation and we got lucky that it worked for us … Must be my two gold Fortune Cats?

To get here, we took a ferry from Singapore to island Bintam, Indonesia. From there we had a nearly 2 hour car ride to the other side of the island, where we then took a fast boat to Nikoi Island. When I say the journey is part of the adventure, I am not kidding. When leaving Singapore, there was a sudden tropical storm, with heavy rain going sideways as we were getting on the ferry. The large boat was rocking back and forth, front to back, side to side, while tethered to the dock.

This girl gets car sick when going around a curve too fast, so this was not how I wanted to start off our holiday. I sat in my front row seat on the ferry, pressing on my pressure points on my wrists, watching other passengers try to navigate their way on to the boat, which was literally tossing people down the aisles. It was hard not to giggle, I had never seen anything like it!

But not long after, the blue skies came out, and after traveling only a few hours, we found ourselves on a nearly deserted island that was very much “Disney-like”. It was magical.

We had a two bedroom bungalow, right on the beach. No windows, no air con. We had the warm ocean breeze at night, mosquito netting, and the sound of the waves and far-off chatter of the local fisherman out on the sea.

Waking up in the morning, the view from our bed was something that we will never forget.


We spent our days snorkeling in the crystal clear water, jumping on the water trampoline, kayaking, paddle boarding, and jumping off the pier. The boys went fishing for squid from a kayak at sunset with Boyan, one of the locals who work on Nikoi. Cale and I saw a tuna darting into the shallow water (about 15 feet) from the drop off into the deep water, where it plummeted down to nearly 100 feet. That was so exciting, to see the flash of silver as it darted by us.

But most exciting was when I was off snorkeling with Maria, and we saw a large squid! It was about the size of a beach ball … and in our books, that is HUGE!! Maria spotted it first, and terrified me with her horrendous scream that I heard from under the water. I thought the girl saw a shark, my heart was out of control, pounding so hard I could hardly breathe. In a quick moment we went from playing with little Nemo fish to chasing a large squid through the reefs. Our fun didn’t last too long, we had no idea that squid camouflage themselves!

When the tide went out, there were sea cucumbers everywhere! I have never seen one of these before, so of course I had to investigate, and I convinced Cale to pick one up. Almost immediately he was ‘slimed’ by the thing, which was super gross, but totally cool at the same time.



I have been told by my friend Wayan in Bali that these sea cucumbers are very expensive at fine restaurants. There is nothing you could do to get me to eat one of these, let alone pay loads of money to have it served up to me. No thank you.

Here is Cale on his first attempt to pick up a sea cucumber. This video is so funny, because I nearly fall, the cucumber pees, and to top it off, Maria’s cracks me up.

Meals were served in the dining hall, with sand under our feet. Here’s a picture of a fruit platter … ever hear of “dragon fruit” ? This is how they posted the upcoming meals, at lunch the dinner menu was posted, etc. But what on earth were they serving??




One late afternoon, the boys were fishing off the pier, Maria was snorkeling, and I was searching for shells … this is what I found!


A giant shell!! This bombshell weighs nearly 6 pounds!! I put a dinner fork inside the shell so you can see how big this shell is!!

The boys caught tropical fish with bamboo rods,



and when we were all bored with that, suddenly we all found ourselves jumping off the end of the pier!


Here’s 7 second video that sums it up … thought I was taking a snapshot, but in fact I was video taping. Is that even a word anymore?? video taping? Clearly I am technology challenged, and the very fact that I can even manage this blog is a miracle!!


Bali, Indonesia


We are so blessed to be given the opportunity to live in Asia, there are so many fabulous countries and islands to explore.   Some of them are places that are familiar to us, but we really don’t know much about the countries and cultures in this part of the world.  Trent and I have decided that since we have a limited time to enjoy South East Asia, we will take advantage of every chance we can to visit, learn, and explore this area.  (Thank you to our Woodbury MN friend Sue M. and Hudson WI friend Mirjam S. for drilling this into our brains before we moved over here.  Sue & Mirjam both were lucky to be expats living in Singapore in the past)

In early November, we took a short 3 hour flight Bali, Indonesia.  Bali is one of those places that most Americans have heard of, myself included.  But all I really knew of this place was of it’s fabulous beaches, surfing competitions, and artsy natives.   So I was really excited to be able to see this area in person, and to explore it with Trent and the kids.  Bali is a destination that I never dreamt that I’d visit.  

Our adventures began, when after clearing customs, we headed out of the airport to meet our hired driver.  I’d been connected to Wayan through some expat women on facebook, who recommended him.  When we Blinkmans first laid eyes on Wayan, we knew without a doubt that we were going to have a good week.  When this man smiled, you could see the pure joy and happiness in his face.    He smiled with his entire face.  We immediately liked him.  


Wayan was our driver and tour guide for five days straight.  Each day he arrived at our hotel, still dressed in traditional garb having just come from the Temple, armed with an itinerary to show us as much of his country as possible.  


He took us to rice terraces,  where we learned how much work it is to grow and harvest rice



We explored the popular city of Ubud, with street after street of local crafter shops and we walked through Ubud Monkey forest, where Wayan pulled out some crackers and snacks to bring the monkeys over to us.  This was probably the best part of this vacation for the kids!




to the top of Mount Kintamani,  an active volcano, where we had a delicious native lunch,

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He took us to Kuta, a touristy destination on the beach for private surfing lessons for the boys




He took us to a sunset temple ceremony, on a cliff overlooking the Bali Sea, to his Hindu temple where he brought us inside and showed us around, and taught us about the Hindu Gods and beliefs.  Check out the date on the sign posted in front of his temple … “year 944”.
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He took us to a coffee plantation, for a taste of the worlds most expensive coffee, Luwak, with retail prices of up to $700 per kilogram.  It’s quite interesting … the coffee beans are eaten by a Civet, and then literally pooped out, cleaned, roasted, and then used to make coffee.  The kids and Trent were so grossed out by this, but there was no way I was gonna miss having a taste of this coffee.   The kids & Trent weren’t all that interested in seeing this, so the best picture I got was one of Wayan.  By the way, the coffee was really bitter and didn’t taste like coffee at all.  I drank 1/4 of the cup, could barely get it down, then I passed it to Wayan, who also grimaced with each sip.  




He then took us for a day of watersports, which included “aqua walking” and the next day we went off-the-beaten-path private beach called “Blue Lagoon” for some snorkeling




And for our last evening, he took us to his family compound.  This was one of the highlights of our trip, as we got to see how a normal Balinese family lives, and we were blessed to meet his wife and sweet 5 year old son, also named Wayan.



 We learned that Wayan is a very common name in Bali, the 1st, 4th, and 9th sons are all named Wayan.  Our Wayan was the 9th in his family, so he has two brothers all with the name Wayan.  He has several nephews named Wayan as well, one of whom lives and works here in Singapore.  I promised Wayan that I would look up his nephew here in Sing!

Our last day in Bali came too quickly, and while we were all exhausted from our week and needed a vacation from our vacation, we were all sad to leave.  This was a place that felt like “home” to us.  We found the local people to be warm, gracious, welcoming … just plain lovely.   We loved their simple lifestyles, their colorful clothing, their exotic looks.  The island offers hot temperatures and warm breezes on the beaches as well as cool refreshing winds in the mountains.  

This was a vacation of a lifetime, and one that we will never forget. 

Bintan Lagoon, Indonesia

We were told that this year there is a “bumper crop of holidays” built into the school year, and that we should take advantage of every long weekend to explore.  So last week when the kids had Thursday and Friday off from school for teacher inservice days, we took off for Indonesia.   We all needed to get away from the busyness of Singapore.  We needed to get away from the crowds, traffic, and concrete and find some peace & quiet,  sand, and salt water.  And we found that just a short ferry ride away!


A one hour ferry took us  across the Singapore Straight and landed us right on the white sands of the Bintan Lagoon Resort, Indonesia.   We weren’t sure where we were going or what to expect, but we knew almost immediately that this would be a nice relaxing night away from home.  We had 90 degree weather with blue skies, a lovely fall day on the equator.



We snorkeled,  played with little hermit crabs, threw sand on each other (well, only Shane & Cale did that),  took a banana boat ride from hell (the crazy driver spun us in circles for 15 minutes straight and even made Maria cry),  got sunburned, drank at a swim-up bar in the pool  (don’t worry, the kids only had fruity drinks),  slept in rooms with large numbers of biting ants, ate way too much food,  invited to karaoke with the band  (we refused because they would  had love ballads on their playlist & no 80’s rock)  and returned home all in the space of about 36 hours.

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Some highlights of the trip:

1.  No Wi-Fi !  Oh the kids were distressed, and desperately tried to tether into Trents iPhone,  but without great success.  It would kick them off quickly, and so Trent & I really enjoyed having conversations with the kids and just being technology free for nearly two days.

2.  The banana boat ride was exhilarating.  When I say it was a  tube ride from hell, it really was.  I joked on the way to the tube that the 15 minute ride we paid for was probably going to be 14 minutes too long … perhaps I jinxed ourselves.  I swear that everytime we gave the drive the “thumbs down” sign, meaning to slow down, he would instead pick up speed!   Maria was literally crying, her fear of being thrown into the depths of the oceans with the great white sharks was taking over, and she was paralized with that fear.  Shane and I were in the front of the tubes (it was two banana boats tied together) and between the salt water clearing my sinus cavities, Maria crying, and Shanes non-stop commentary, I laughed like a maniac for the entire 15 minute ride.   Maria wanted off the thing for 15 minutes straight, but the minute she was, she said, “that was fun!”



3.   Two jelly fish!  We only saw two jelly fish .. but they looked different from any other jelly fish I’d ever seen.  They were dark in color.  So I talked with some locals … and they said … “if jelly fish have short tail, no dangerous.  if jellyfish have long tail, like this (holding their hands wide apart) then very very dangerous.  you get very sick, very fast (with eyes wide)”.  Okay then, I proceed to use hand motions and description to describe the tails that I’d seen, and came to the conclusion that ours were safe, and so Maria happily posed for some pics with the two jelly fish (but those pics didn’t come out)


4.  Italian dinner!  We passed on the seafood buffet and opted instead for the Italian restaurant onsite.  Of course, with the maiden name  “Oliverio” , you better believe that I’ll vote for Italian food every time.  However, everyone else in the resort passed on the Italian.  We five Blinkmans were the ONLY patrons in the restaurant.  For the entire meal.  It was silent, and awkward, and we had too many servers attending to our every need, but the food was delicious and we will never forget the night we had an entire restaurant to ourselves.

5.  Maria made an awesome 14 second video of koi fish singing.  I’m gonna post that next.  This video alone made the trip worth it. Here is a teaser photo:


6.  The south china sea!!  The water was emerald green, no waves, with squeaky sand.  Lots of sand dollars, and fun hermit crabs.  And  very few people.    We snorkeled around some beautiful coral (but not as colorful as the caribbean coral reefs) and saw some fun fish.  Yes, I did see an eel … and I lifted my head out the water to scream, and when I looked back down, the thing was gone.  A bit creepy but very exciting!

7.  With no technology, and with only the cameras on the phones working, there were lots of “selfies” taken (for those of you who haven’t heard this term before, a “selfie” is a self portrait”) .  Here are a few of my favorites:


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Clearly, when Maria is without her phone,  laptop or other technology, she manages to get into just about every photo!  She likes to be taking the picture and she likes to be in the picture!  She is a typical teenage girlie!!