Tuesday, March 31, 2009

At the end of the Road to Bali

I have arrived in Bali! You may follow my (almost) daily jottings on this blog.

Indonesia now offers a VOA (Visa-On-Arrival) to travellers from a whole host of countries, including Australia. Travellers from those countries must be in possession of a passport which is valid for at least 6 months from the date of arrival and the completed embarkation/disembarkation card they received from their airline. They must also be able to prove they have sufficient funds for their stay in Indonesia.

Arriving travellers with Visa-On-Arrival status have to go first to one of the 'VOA Counters' to pay the appropriate fee and have their passports stamped with the VOA before proceeding to the Immigration Clearance Desk. An official bank is part of the VOA service counters. Payment of the visa fee can be made in all major currencies or by VISA or MASTERCARD. A 7-day visa costs US$10 and a 30-day visa costs US$25.

Visas-On-Arrival are non-extendable and non-convertible to another class of visa. Overstays are charged US$20 per day for overstays up to 60 days. Overstay violations over 60 days are liable to 5 years imprisonment or a fine of Rp. 25 million.

I'm off to Harris Hotel Tuban where a suite is waiting for me! Sweet dreams and welcome to Indonesia!

Up, up, and away!

I'm on my way and I've just come back from the pointy end of the plane and am happy to report that we are in the safe hands of two very experienced pilots!

See you on the ground - one way or the other!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A very happy story!

The beautiful Melka Excelsior Hotel at Lovina

The very beautiful Melka Excelsior Hotel at Lovina, owned and operated by Karl Günther Meyer

As you know, I am involved with the Kupu-Kupu Foundation in Ubud whose founder, Begonia Lopez, looks after disabled children. I have helped Begonia with her webpages and will assist in other ways while in Bali.

I had already planned to visit the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina to swim with their dolphins. Then I thought what a thrill it would be for a disabled child to spend some time in a pool with a dolphin and on the spur of the moment emailed the hotel:

I am coming to Bali next week. I'll be volunteering some of my time at the Kupu-Kupu Foundation for Disabled Children and it occurred to me that some of those disabled children would be absolutely thrilled to be given an outing from Ubud to Lovina and to swim with your dolphins. Could this be arranged? What would the charges be?

To my complete surprise and delight, I received a reply within hours:

Dear Mr Goerman, "Warm Greeting from Melka Excelsior Hotel." Thank you very much for your kind email. Pleased to inform you that Mr Karl Günther Meyer as owner will be pleased to offer 10 children free swimming with dolphins. So, it will be highly appreciated if you can send the exact date of your arrival. Looking forward to hearing from you! Sincerely yours, Nadi

I promptly dashed off my reply:

Dear Nadi, dear Mr Meyer, thank you for your email and the wonderful news. You are indeed very, very generous and we will certainly spread the good word about your hotel. I have set up the Foundation's website and with your permission, I would like to add your hotel to the Foundation's sponsors. I have just now emailed Begonia Lopez of the Kupu-Kupu Foundation in Ubud to ask when it would be a good time to come to your hotel. Mr Meyer, I have already made some arrangements about my accommodation while in Bali but I try and see if I can also spend a few days at your hotel as a paying guest. In any event, I shall do a write-up about your hotel and include it on my many websites. Whereabouts do you hail from in Germany? I am from Braunschweig but I have been away from there since I was 19 years old and I now call Australia my home. Anyway, I'm sure there's lots to talk about when I get there. In the meantime, I shall try and get some date(s) from the Kupu-Kupu Foundation for our visit to your hotel.

Here is Begonia's reply to Mr Meyer:

Dear Mr Meyer, thanks a lot for giving us this unique opportunity to bring our friends with disabilities to your place and experience something totally new for them. Not only is swimming something they never did before (we have had a swimming program for the past two years but before that they had never even been in a swimming pool! Especially for people in wheelchairs it's an amezing experience!!!) but this time they'll be swimming with dolphins!! Wow! I am sure they will never forget this experience! I am thinking of coming on the 15th April; what do you think? What time should we be there? How long will it take? We have to bear in mind that from Ubud to Lovina it would take us around 2-1/2 to 3 hours to get to Lovina. Maybe we should leave Ubud around 8 am. Terimakasi banyak yap! Take care and all the best and may God bless you for this!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Where the Bali hell are you? ...

... I hear you ask. Well, I'm still at Riverbend - until Tuesday morning when I jump on the bus to Sydney airport. In the meantime, watch YouTube below to keep yourself entertained! See you in Bali!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel!

Travel Insurance can only be highly recommended. Medical costs are enough to ruin your holiday and quite a bit of your life thereafter if you’re not covered. A single doctor’s visit to your hotel to give you a shot for Bali Belly will cost you A$120.

Most decent travel insurance policies will ensure that you get a full refund on your return home. Some insurance is very good and not expensive although many travel agents' stock lines are to be avoided.

I have just taken out a 3-week policy with travelinsurancedirect.com.au/ at a cost of $90. It's money well spent!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Paradise has a name - Bali!

The property in Bali

Some years ago I entertained thoughts of buying a lovely holiday property in Bali but since I had no intention to live there all-the-year-round, I tried to interest some "joint venturers" to share the place with me on pretty simple and straight-forward lines as set out in this proposal.

At the time, I was able to attract only one serious participant and the property has since sold - and what a bargain it was, too! - but I have my eyes again on another little piece of paradise in North Bali (see picture on left). I could afford to buy it outright myself but it wouldn't make much economic sense having such beautiful spot sit empty for much of the year so I'm again looking for some "joint venturers" who share the same dream of owning a piece of paradise and living there for part of the year.

It wouldn't be a money-making scheme (neither for me nor for them) but rather a lifestyle investment and the capital cost would be around AUS$40,000 to AUS$50,000 in exchange for which each "partner" would own his or her personal bungalow. There are four bungalows altogether so the "joint venture" is limited to a maximum of four partners. Padma and I would own one (or possibly two) which leaves room for another two or three participants.

There is no catch, no hidden traps, just a straight-forward sharing between three or four like-minded people.

If you are interested, why not email me for more information? As Humphrey Bogart said in CASABLANCA, "Louise this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship." (my apologies if your name isn't Louise :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Preparing to go: Don't leave home without it!

If you want to access your normal e-mail service in a simple manner while you are away try www.mail2web.com. You just type in your own e-mail address and your password and away you go.

If you want to access your OWN computer at home while you are away it can be done. This, of course, saves you all those frustrations about coping with different looking screen layouts or re-typing all your e-mail addresses and allows you access to any information that you've stored on your own computer. It also means that you don't have to take a laptop with you on holidays so you save all that weight (both ways) and freight costs to say nothing of the insurance cost that you should have and the risk of losing everything if it's stolen!

Before you leave home you must download onto your computer a simple program from www.logmein.com (or others) and decide on a secure password. This computer must be left running while you're away of course but the screen can be off. On your holiday you need only find any web-enabled computer at a friends or a cyber café for instance, log onto the 'Log Me In' site, enter your home address and password and there you are, sitting down at your own familiar computer with all of your data and info at your finger tips ready to download photos, write e-mails to friends or begin your holiday diary.

You can subscribe to this service for just the duration of your holiday at the rate of US$12.95/month.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Preparing to go: Internet Café Security

Protection of one's private data when using an internet café is important! Beware of keyloggers!

A keylogger records keystrokes which is an obvious security threat to sensitive information like your banking password. Some keyloggers can be very hard to detect as they don't appear as a process and aren’t detected by anti-virus software. Keyloggers work by recording every single keystroke that is entered via keyboard, so a person with access to the keylogger can see those keystrokes including any passwords that were typed. Obviously you don’t want this to happen because it could result in the draining of your bank account.

Keyloggers come in both hardware and software types. A software keylogger can be installed in different ways such as via an infected email message or when installing software, especially software downloaded from the internet.

Hardware keyloggers require physical access to the computer and come in both USB or PS2 versions. The picture above shows a PS2 version which is inserted between the computer and the cable connecting the keyboard to the computer.

To bypass a potential keylogger, use the built-in on-screen keyboard utility to enter a password or other sensitive data. To bring up the on-screen keyboard, hold the Windows Key + U which will bring up the utility manager, then select on-Screen keyboard, then start. It can also be started by going start –> run and typing osk.exe.

Once the keyboard is up, it is just a matter of selecting the password box where you want the password to appear, and entering the password via the on-screen keyboard. This defeats the keylogger because you are entering the password with your mouse instead of the keyboard, so there are no keystrokes for the keylogger to record.

As a security measure many public computers will not have access to the run command and if the Windows+U shortcut is also blocked you won’t be able to run the on-screen keyboard. If this is the case you can manually scramble the password. This is probably the simplest method and will always work. This is how it works:

Type say the first 3 characters of the password ... then click on another window or the desktop and type a few random keystrokes ... then go back to the login window and finish typing the password. That’s all you need to do. This method works because a keylogger records ALL keystrokes, no matter what window is currently selected. For example if your password is “bosco”, you could type “bos”, then go to another window and type “111″, then back to password box to finish the password with “co”. The password box will see the correct password “bosco” but the keylogger will see all keystrokes “bos111co”, so that your true password has been scrambled.

(Without wanting to get too paranoid, some keyloggers also log mouse-clicks. If you want to be VERY, VERY safe, you could register to the FREE one-time password service offered by kyps.net. KYPS enables you to log into your accounts without disclosing your password to that computer. KYPS is very easy to use and does not require you to run any software - all you have to do is to obtain a list of one-time codes from the KYPS server, print these codes, and keep the printout safely in your wallet (alternatively you could save your codes on your mobile phone or PDA). You can then log into your account using your one-time codes instead of your password.)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

There's gold in them thar hills!

Back in 2006 when it seemed that we had found a buyer for "Riverbend", I searched the net for Bali properties and came up with a little beauty, a Hillside Hotel in the Banjar Hills in North Bali. It was advertised at the time at around seventy-five thousand euros (approx. AUS150,000). I came across it again when I was looking for hotel accommodation during my trip to Bali next month - here it is!

I contacted the new owner (who is an Australian living in Canberra just "up the road" from us) to book a bungalow for five nights at the amazingly low price of 600,000 rupiah (that's approx. AUS15 a night). I told him that I had had an eye on the same property some 2-1/2 years ago and he said that he had bought it at about the same time - at a little below its asking price!

Not that this is a paying business proposition: even at the best of times (and these are not the best of times as tourists are staying away from Bali in droves and many hotels are empty), a 50% occupancy is about all a hotel owner can hope for. 4 bungalows x 365 days a year x Rp.150,000 a night = Rp. 219,000,000, half of which is Rp. 109,500,000 a year in income (not counting the restaurant). Electricity is probably around Rp. 12,000,000 a year. Three staff would cost about Rp. 15,000,000 a year. Minor repairs and maintenance and sundry bits-and-pieces is probably another Rp. 25,000,000 a year. That's a total of Rp. 52,000,0000 which leaves Rp. 57,500,000 (approx. AUS$7,000) for everything else: major repairs, running a vehicle, return on capital, etc. It's my guess that the Australian owner is losing money on the place!

Be that as it may, it's still an appealing lifestyle choice and he certainly was lucky when he picked up the place at the price he did. It must have been just after the second Bali bombing which was on the 1st of October 2005 when tourism and real estate in Bali were at an all-time low. It proves yet again how important it is to be in the right place at the right time!

P.S. Foreigners are not allowed to own real estate in Indonesia. While various schemes have been devised to get around this, none are without danger as these articles testify: Bali Villas Real Estate Fraud and Welcome to your second home in Bali, which you can not own or rent. And when things go wrong, they can go badly wrong - just read what Masa Fukuda, the Japanese ex-owner of this Bali property, put on his website. The ones who seem to have made off with the lot, freely advertise the property on their new website at www.grandavenuebali.com.