My belated post for Air Esky this month. It took me a while to get back to the daily grind after spending my time in that tropical island.
I think I'm still day-dreaming about all those waves....

20160620 Air Esky in Nias 01

It all started with three planes to catch from Nagoya, Japan. And the one in the above photo was the third plane to catch. The flight was less than an hour from mainland Sumatra, but my travel wasn't over then yet.
After getting off this plane and having a usual Yes-No-Yes-No negotiation with an apparent "cab driver" outside the airport, I took a ride in his rusty van to my last destination for IDR 200,000 (about USD15.00).
The road was often bumpy and it took me three and a half hours to get there, passing quite a few dangerously overloaded trucks as well as motor cyclists without their helmets on. I left Nagoya 6:00AM on the previous day and my watch was ticking almost into 18:00PM on my arrival. Huhh...

20160620 Air Esky in Nias 02

Thanks to Kyoko, who I went surfing with in Central America and J-Bay a few years ago. She gave me tips for accommodation in the village. No negotiations with any lazy promoters of shabby Losmens (Indo-style B&B) were needed and I walked straight to this lovely guest-house “Molani Homestay”.

20160620 Air Esky in Nias 03

Lucky me! They only had two rooms for guests and one of them was available when I arrived.
What was also lucky of me was that the room was only IDR60,000 (about USD5.00 *note: As of June 2016) per night while other nearby Losmens and surf-camps were offering at least IDR200,000 (Crazy!)
Molani Homestay is definitely the cheapest guest-house I have ever stayed in my whole life.

20160620 Air Esky in Nias 04

It wasn't only such a super low price that Molani had to offer, but was also located right by the shore, facing just between the main break and an outside point called Indicator.
Most of my time while in this remote village was either spent in my hammock reading or listening to my favourite music or just surfing out there.

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Food in and around the village wasn't really a problem for me (personally), although it was painfully limited both in the number of restaurants and in their menus.
Nasi Goreng at a decent local restaurant cost between IDR20,000 and 25,000 (about USD1.50) while a cup of Indo coffee was about IDR5,000 on average.

20160620 Air Esky in Nias 07

A great pity was that there was no Nasi Campur, my to-die-for Indo dish, at any restaurants in this village; Absolutely none! Does anybody know why...?
It might be hard for Westerners and non-rice eaters because the main dish was predominantly rice or else noodles here, and only a couple of restaurants were serving "Western food" such as a pizza, burger, none of which I ever needed to try.
The photo below was our special dinner one night as Niko, an American surfer who was staying in the next room at Molani with his girlfriend Freddy, bought a bunch of Tunas at a local fish-market and then Taanelama and Jenny (the owners of Molani) cooked them up for us. Yummy!

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Surfing-wise, winds were never ever an issue and even the crowd wasn't really a problem at all during my time except when a couple of Japanese surfers made a snowball for my ride or when they were right in my way: マナー悪いよ、日本人サーファーさん!
Otherwise, a few cheeky local grommets could be bothering us in the water only had the waves been small enough for them. Hahaha

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With no exaggeration, the waves here were flawless: Almost as perfect as those in J-Bay, minus the distance; J-Bay is undoubtedly much longer.
Notably, what is actually superior here is the swell-consistency: It must be all year-round. Furthermore, unlike many legendary Indo breaks, you can surf here at all stages of tides. Amazing!

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All in all, everything is equatorial at this part of the planet - the weather, vegetation, food, people and waves.
Even after nearly 40 years passed since its first prominence in the '70s, I confirmed that this island was still a little paradise for surfers. No wonder I'm already looking at my calendar for my next visit.

20160620 Air Esky in Nias 30

Just arrived home safe and sound.....

But it's only 10% of me being happy to be back. 90% of me is already missing the sense of freedom that I had on the road and on the waves.
Yet, I'm extremely thankful for what I've scored in one of the world's most acclaimed surf-spots off Sumatra this time: Not only the shape, the size and the consistency of waves in this remote island were far beyond my imagination, but also the scorching heat (both air and sea), the unbearably high humidity, massive thunder storms along with deadly lightning and sudden downpours, all of which actually contributed to my great time for the past two weeks.

20160511 Air Esky in Nias 01

I once called my severe symptom as "Addication" - a combination of addiction and dedication to surfing. No wonder it kicked back in right after I checked in at a local home-stay on my first day: As soon as dropping my sweaty backpack, I found myself in boardies paddling out in the water even though it was only less than 30 minutes before dusk.

Sure enough, I surfed every single day and even ignored my nearly empty stomach around lunch-time because I was literally craving waves more than food.
No chocolate, no bikini chicks and no Internet. Only thick intense Sumatra coffee and annoying mosquitoes kept me active. Otherwise, those world-class waves were what my biggest appetite was for.

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My sincere gratitude to our mother nature.
Please get me out of this miserable city-life in Japan and take me back out there again!

Airports are somewhat funny places to be, especially those 24hr non-stop international airports.
I just landed in Changi Airport, Singapore, where the whole world seems to be packed neatly in‎ one place. All colours, all nationalities, babies, kids, adults, geeks and dorks are wandering around or dashing to catch their next flights. This is a great stop-over for me to disengage myself from a mono-culture-minded Esky and re-convert myself into what I used to be.

201604 Air Esky Stopover in Singa 00

Yes, I'm hitting the road again!‎

For only two weeks....

‎Where to....?

Somewhere in Indonesia; One of the offshore islands of Sumatra this time.

Heading back into the super tropical climate zone is what I've been after since my time in Panama and Costa Rica back in 2014, though Singapore is already hot and sticky enough for me.
Monkeys, birds, fish, coconuts and bananas must be awaiting my arrival. There will be no Sushi there for sure, and perhaps even no Internet for me from tomorrow, which is actually fantastic and it's another thing that I've long been after; Being offline is the best luxury these days!

201604 Air Esky Stopover in Singa 01

Oh! This brand-new waterproof camera (not a GoPro) will be of my best company in and out of the water over the next two weeks. I will upload some cool shots on Air Esky next month if I ever capture any....
Two more planes to catch tomorrow. I hope that you are all well and happy and also travelling somewhere on this planet :-)

201603 Air Esky Visit to T 01

Almost compulsive.
This past winter I found myself twice going back and forth between Nagoya, my home-town in Japan, and this sea-side village located not so far from Japan. I actually did exactly the same thing last winter too: going between these two places twice.
In total now I visited this island-country ten times or even more; I have stopped counting anymore because the number does not matter to me at all, but surfing does matter as always :-)

201603 Air Esky Visit to T 02

The water is always warm, food is good and cheap, and local people are so chilled. Plus, waves are extremely consistent here every winter. Somewhere along this eastern stretch of the coastline, there are waves to be had every day. Such a condition is, unfortunately, not the norm in Japan during winter, at least not around in Nagoya. That's the reason why I keep going back here compulsively

My first visit during this past winter came with a little bonus because that fickle left-hander was working for three days in a row (pictured below): my previous two trips during the winter in 2015 didn't even see 1-foot waves breaking here.

201603 Air Esky Visit to T 04

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Back in Nagoya. Not only I was chilled to the marrow by the snow, but also by this monotonous view of buildings and chunks of concrete. It only compelled me to go back to the surf.

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Back again into the water on my second visit, the usual suspect was as good and reliable as it could ever get.
This river-mouth is such a consistent playground for all levels of surfers; Super clean (or can be glassy) in the morning and even if on-shore or cross-shore winds come up, it still offers plenty of playful and fun waves.
Late-morning sessions might even be better than dawn-sessions as there often seem to be full of 3-day-package-tour J surfers on the line-up until 8 or 9am.

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I am never a winter person and never looking forward to snow, but this snow storm in Japan will always generate good waves down there. For only that reason I can't wait for the next winter.

To cross a border by land is a part of everyone's round-the-world trip. It should generally be no problems and no hassles to do so wherever that it. However, it can also be funny or bloody hard depending on the countries or what circumstances you are in then.
The below are five of my funniest or hardest border-crossing experiences:

1) From Thailand to Cambodia
When: June 2004
Difficulty: Relatively Hard
Comment: This journey back in 2004 has definitely become the funniest tale to tell now, although nobody was laughing or smiling at that time. It was the beginning of my very first round-the-world trip, so I was super keen and excited about everything, and yeah, I was young(er) and a bit careless too.
Here for the first time on the Internet I'm revealing my maiden border-crossing by land:

Things were all going well until I left Bangkok. A nightmare slowly began when I reached the border between Thailand and Cambodia. There were about 30 backpackers trying to get through this border for Siem Reap, Cambodia. Most of us had arranged this trip at those same-same-but-different travel agents on Khaosan Rd. in Bangkok, and all of us must have been told about the same thing upon paying for this trip at the agents: A VIP-bus was going to show up and it would take us all the way to Siem Reap within 4 hours or so.
The fact was that we were first made to wait and wait for our visas to be issued. Waiting so long under the blazing sun with very little shade around, our passports finally came back to us with Cambodian visas but no VIP-bus in sight. After waiting for a couple more hours, two super rusty Nissan pick-up trucks came out of nowhere. They were the only vehicles at the border and seemingly capable of carrying us as passengers. By this time it was already too late to realize that those travel agents in Bangkok were scammers....
Everybody was pissed off at it, but we had no other choice. 30 of us were divided into two groups, and my group decided to have 6 people inside the nearly write-off truck while 10 people including myself were going to be sitting on the back (the loading platform). I initially had a glimpse of hope that 'Yeah, this ride was gonna be so much fun!' But what we still didn't know was how harsh and bumpy the roads in Cambodia were.
On our way to Siem Reap, there were a couple of broken bridges. Hence we had to detour. We also had a serious downpour late in the afternoon and our truck had no roof on the back, so we had to cover ourselves with a big tarp while we were tirelessly hanging on to the back of the truck going through the unpaved muddy road. Furthermore, our truck got a flat tyre in the evening, and when we replaced it with a spare one, the battery ran out, so we had to kick-start the truck by many of us pushing the back of the car in pitch-black. Huh....
I am not joking at all. All these incidents did happen to us in less than half a day in the middle of nowhere in Cambodia. But the worst of all wasn't any of them. It was a young selfish French couple who went on with us all the way, and they kept complaining all the time. They became unbelievably annoying to all of us at some point, we even thought about abandoning them in the landmine-infested bushland during our toilet break! Or else one of us might have shot them dead there. No kidding!

When we finally arrived in Siem Reap, it was past midnight. I was almost brain-dead for the next couple of days. This was all the sketchy travel agent in Khaosan Rd. to blame as well as the French couple. Nevertheless, Angkor temples were magnificent and it was worth such a turbulent border-crossing in the end.
201602 Esky Cambodia 01 Border-crossing

201602 Esky Cambodia 02 Border-crossing

201602 Esky Cambodia 03 Border-crossing

2) From Syria to Jordan
When: September 2010
Difficulty: Relatively Easy (Back then!)
Comment: Not a slightest sense of danger in Syria back then. It was completely safe travelling in now a civil-war-torn country. And not a slightest sense of what was going to happen during our border-crossing from Damascus to Amman either.
Yes. Sometimes it's better and easier (and safer?) not to know everything, which is more or less what happened to us then. More details are described here - 'Taking Part of XXXX'.

3) From Brazil to Paraguay
When: December 2010
Difficulty: Potentially Dangerous
Comment: This was by far the luckiest escape of all due to the most probable consequence of the incident. It was an overnight bus bound for Asunción, Paraguay. I didn't actually see any suspects, and no others on the bus probably saw anybody or anything except our driver (I guess.) Still, seeing the broken windows and their shards scatter everywhere inside the bus was evident enough to give us the shivers after all. More details are described here - 'Night-ride to Asunción'.

4) From Chile to Bolivia
When: February 2011
Difficulty: Bloody Hard because of ....
Comment: The saying - "Ignorance is bliss." - didn't apply to me at all. This is the only border-crossing that I seriously wanted to turn around and head back. It was my tight schedule to blame, or it might have been because of my body; too fit and lacking in extra body fat.
I now think back to the days prior to my illness occurred in the middle of the Andes and it was all meant to happen: Spending a few days on cold-water surfing in Pichilemu (0 meter elevation), two days back in Santiago to cruise around (about 500 meters elevation), one full day inside the bus moving from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama along the Chilean coast (max 600 meters elevation) and only one day in San Pedro de Atacama (about 2,400 meters elevation). Very unwisely, on the following day I reached 4,300 meters in elevation. Yes, at that time I neither knew that I was supposed to acclimatize myself beforehand nor the word "acclimatization" itself. Hahaha.
My whole body was shaking on the night at 4,300m because it was deadly freezing no matter how many layers I put on or how many blankets I had over myself. Plus, extreme dehydration combined with a sever migraine causing insomnia for me: I really thought that I was going to die soon, so that I begged my driver to take me back down to San Pedro de Atacama. It was that bad!
Very fortunately, the hardest part was this Day 1, and the elevation on the Day 2 went a little bit down to 3,700 meters which was still high for this surfie vagabond, but I was gradually feeling better as my migraine was slowly fading out.
The Day 3 became absolutely worthwhile enduing an ordeal for the past two days. Salar de Uyuni was stunningly beautiful as she was perfectly mirroring her sheer beauty with the azure-coloured sky; Little did I know that some water had filled in the forever dry salt lake with rain-fall on the night before. It was nature's finest magic show. Moreover, Uyuni was an oasis for me in one of the only two landlocked countries in South America where I could step into the water with my own feet, and it was as if resuscitating a nearly mummified lone cactus found in a desert; My body was no longer dehydrated and my acute altitude sickness was completely gone by Uyuni's spell.

In the end I experienced the best and the worst within three days. Hence I've aptly named this experience as "Bolivia's Magic." More details of Uyuni's finest magic show are described here with many photos.
201602 Esky Uyuni 01 Border-crossing

201602 Esky Uyuni 02 Border-crossing

201602 Esky Uyuni 03 Border-crossing

5) A little "border-crossing" in Taiwan
When: January 2013
Difficulty: Easy
Comment: The photo below tells you all. Yes! I crossed a "border" just a little bit and this whole scene was captured so timely by Taiwan's notorious eyes-everywhere-camera.
I was on a little surf-trip with three of my friends then and clearly had no idea of crossing it. A letter was sent to me later and I had to pay the fine (about USD30). This photo is somewhat cute, no?
201602 Esky Taiwan Border-crossing