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On gratitude for creature comforts

Baluran guesthouse

I am writing this from my bed at the airport hotel in Surabaya, Indonesia. The sheets are crisp and spotless; the room is a soothing palette of white, lime green and wooden surfaces coloured a gentle cinnamon brown.

There is a shower with hot water, a sink, a state-of-the-art toilet with two modes for flushing, separate towels on the rack for wiping our hands and drying ourselves after a shower. We have air conditioning, and the Samsung flatscreen beams the latest news from Al Jazeera and programmes from TLC (the Travel and Living Channel) at the click of a button. The fragrance of this room jogs my memory – it is much like the cosy hotel in Germany where I stayed two years ago for my sister’s wedding.

I think of where I was this morning, at a very basic guesthouse in Baluran National Park (shown in the photo above), and I am grateful for all these little things that make our daily lives so comfortable. I am thankful that the electricity supply here is not restricted between 5:30 in the afternoon and 11:00 at night; that this hotel has a free and speedy WiFi connection, so I can reply to comments and read about what is going on in the world. I am grateful that there are several places to eat just outside the lobby, instead of having to ride a motorbike for three kilometres to the only canteen in the area. I am so glad that we have flying machines to whisk us halfway across the world in a matter of hours.

We do not realise how fortunate we are to have so many modern conveniences at our disposal. It is only when we spend a few days without them that we learn to appreciate the wonders they really are.

On our final night in Banyuwangi, I made a rash decision. We had booked tickets on the six-hour night train, but there was something about the whole plan that didn’t feel right. After leaving Baluran, we would have to wait for ten hours before boarding the train, which was scheduled to arrive back in Surabaya in the wee hours of the morning. Then it would be an eight- or nine-hour layover at the airport before leaving for Malaysia. So I did the illogical thing – I took a gamble and booked a domestic flight from an airport that had been closed for several days because of ash from a nearby volcano. Over Idul Fitri the ash cloud had even shut down the airports at Bali and Surabaya. But this morning the skies were clear and the tiny airport terminal at Banyuwangi was alive with passengers.

The flight from Surabaya did not arrive until 15 minutes after the scheduled departure time, but that was only because it had to take a detour to avoid the airspace around the restive volcano. I am so thankful that the journey took only 40 minutes by air and not six and a half hours on land. Most of all, I am supremely grateful that I have a comfortable bed to sleep in, instead of a cramped seat in an antiquated train. I know how fortunate I am that I can afford this last-minute splurge.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. A wise decision James. We nearly took the bucking-bronco train from Yangon to Mandalay, but chose to fly instead. I’ve recently read a fellow traveller’s account of the journey and know we made the right decision. How blessed we are to have the choice.

    July 30, 2015
  2. You were in luck

    July 30, 2015
    • I think we were beyond lucky… everything just fell into place.

      August 1, 2015
  3. One of the great joys of travel is getting the things you’ve been denied for days or weeks at a time. Not often in real life do you not get a shower, decent meal, place to sleep, electricity, a place to go to the bathroom, wifi, etc. etc. You certainly don’t miss them until they are gone. Have fun in Malaysia. Are you sad to leave Indonesia?

    July 30, 2015
    • I couldn’t agree more, Jeff. That Surabaya airport hotel felt like 5-star luxury after Baluran National Park! Bama and I even had some guilty pleasures like Dunkin’ Donuts and fried chicken from A&W – hard to resist when both of them were just outside the hotel entrance.

      We are only in Malaysia for five days, then it will be back to Indonesia again for another month! I am relieved about that because Malaysia (Malacca at least) has been pretty expensive in comparison.

      August 1, 2015
      • Indonesia is so cheap by comparison. That was a big reason we went there. Imagine our shock when we visited Hong Kong!!!

        August 3, 2015
  4. Smart man! Ah… and life’s little luxuries are indeed much more appreciated after a little deprivation. 🙂

    July 30, 2015
    • It didn’t feel smart at the time – not money-wise, anyway. But I’m so glad we ended up booking that flight and hotel. 🙂

      August 1, 2015
  5. Oh, those small things in life that often mean so much!

    July 31, 2015
    • Yes, I don’t think I will take a hot shower and A/C for granted ever again!

      August 1, 2015
  6. Wise decision. But a little bit of deprivation is obviously good for the soul…my grandsons so need an overnight in that guest house 😀

    I am all admiration for your posting schedule while on the road James. Great to be able to follow along.

    August 3, 2015
    • Madhu, it turns out the guesthouse was even scruffier than I thought. When we arrived our room had a funky smell – Bama realised what it was (mouse urine) but he decided to tell me more than a week after we left. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss! 😀

      We were very lucky to have an internet connection for most of July, and plenty of spare nights or afternoons for writing. I don’t know if I can post as regularly this month as we will be all over Indonesia, and in some remote areas too.

      August 7, 2015
      • Eww! Don’t envy you that experience! 🙂

        August 8, 2015
  7. So many cultural experiences ! I just found your blog, great insight!

    October 11, 2015
    • Thanks for reading and dropping by!

      October 14, 2015

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