Tag Archives: islands

Islands of glass and sand

Venice boasts more sights than a person can see in four days, not just because it’s full of beautiful art and cultural destinations, but also because Venice is a whole lagoon, and the main island that the city is on is not host to all of its wonders. We took time to see two of the islands in the lagoon during the time that we were there, and it provided us a glimpse of a different side of Venice. At the same time, I think there were many things we didn’t get to see, which makes me a bit sad. In the end, there are definite trade-offs to the decisions you have to make about the brief hours and days you are given here.

Our first island was Murano, which is internationally renowned for its glass. We took a ferry of just 10 minutes from the north side of the city, going past San Michele, the city cemetery. I had joked to Steve about what the people in Venice go when they die, and apparently, they are buried on a whole different island. Venice is such a small place that they barely have a city park, so I imagine green space is a bit harder to find. On the ferry, we got a good glimpse at San Michele, which is like a brick-walled island, with dark green cypresses encircling it, and one very creamy marble church. Ezra Pound and Igor Stravinsky are just two of the famous people who are buried there. When we finally disembarked on Murano, we found a distinctly different island, where there were barely any people around once you got off the main tourist strip, and many houses had signs of “VENDENDI” meaning for sale. I think that many parts of Italy, away from the tourist masses, are suffering economically, as many of the industries that used to thrive there have died away or left for cheaper countries. We saw some of that on Murano, but nevertheless, it still has some of the charm of Venice. We were there for the Museo del Vetro (Museum of Glass), housed in a former villa. It began in the 1860s, which is a neat thing I like about the Venetian museums. Even before the 20th century, people started recognizing that there were many traditions and artifacts worth preserving, and began these museums like Museo del Vetro and the Doge’s Palace.

Continue reading Islands of glass and sand

Gateway to Komodo National Park.

We flew out of Yogykarta in the very early morning, leaving behind the island of Java for a stopover in Bali, and then an arrival in Flores, an island in East Nusa Tenggara. Though we waited in Bali for two hours, the flight on either end was just over an hour, in an Airbus A320 type of six-seater plane that brought us to a still up and coming part of Indonesia. Flores is known for its coffee, some hiking, and mainly the gateway to the Komodo National Park, islands situated just west of Flores and not easily accessible through other destinations. When we landed in Labuan Bajo, it felt like we had just flown back through time to an Indonesia that was much less developed.

The worn SUV that picked us up had a young man with a toothy smile and an older man who didn’t speak any English. We left the polished newly-built airport and rocked our way down the mostly dirt (some paved) roads to our lodge, which was thankfully quiet and clean. Our first afternoon there, we simply walked down the long dusty road (sans sidewalk) that comprises the main part of the town of Labuan Bajo, which took about half an hour in total, not because it was all THAT long, but because it was hard to navigate, and you had to . It was noisy, filled with little vans that came by every 3-5 minutes blasting rock music and decked out in neon, and people ducked in and out of them, the local unofficial bus service. There were some restaurants ranging from very high-end Italian food serving locations with pristine terraces over looking the bay to tiny local hole-in-the-wall without any sort of English signage out front. And a billion travel businesses – everyone advertised some sort of day trip or 2D/1N or 3D/2N tour to the Komodo National Park. You could find liveaboard experiences with A/Ced cabins, with open upper decks where you slept with other people on a giant mattress and a sheet wrapped around you. You could find tiny fishing boats that were repurposed for tourism purposes or large speedboats that could cover the same distance in half the time. We ventured into a few joints to get quotes back and forth, and ended up settling on one place. However, when we went out to go get our money from the ATM, it did not cooperate, and we ended up going back to our house to figure out if there were any problems. While Steve wrestled with his bank support on the Skype, I took a nap, and after visiting about all the ATMs in the town of Labuan Bajo, we finally put in 400.000 IDR (about $30 USD) per person for our day trip to Komodo National Park.  Continue reading Gateway to Komodo National Park.