A Travellerspoint blog

Orangutans, skyscrapers and barreling waves

The Southeast Asian buffet is served, enjoy!

sunny 31 °C

It's been a while since I updated this blog. The main reason for being so is that I've had a blast these intensive weeks. I'm now back in Bali for another month of surfing buffet. Now both the east and the west coast are working on and off making it possible to surf the east coast in the morning and the west coast in the afternoon if the wind allows it to. Spoiled is the word! So what have I done these past weeks? Well, two capitol city weekends, chilling out by a volcanic lake, trekking in the jungle spotting wild orangutans amongst other cool creatures and most important of all right now: improving my surfing in Nias and now back in Bali.

Having Bangkok as more of a stopover really, I couldn't explore too much. Instead of boring you guys with a lot of text I'll let my photos do the talking and show you my version of the city.

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Landing in Sumatra or Medan to be precise, I headed off to Lake Toba immediately. There's nothing to see in Medan really, so don't bother if you're heading that way. Lake Toba is a lake inside a volcanic crater. If that is not impressive enough for you, the lake holds an island the size of Singapore! I stayed on that island and the scenery is truly breath taking. A couple of days up to a week is enough time to spend there, after that it can become boring. It's a perfect spot to rest tired travelers legs at though.

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Borneo is usually known for it's orangutang population and I thought I wouldn't see them during this trip. To my pleasant surprise there are orangutans in Sumatra and Bukit Lawang is a excellent jungle village to start your trekking from.

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I have to warn you that unless you've been to India, traveling through Sumatra is often a long and very uncomfortable process. Once you get to Bukit Lawang, you are obliged to get a guided tour through the jungle. You're not allowed to trek by yourself, which is reasonable since it's easy to get lost. I went for a two day trek with one night in the jungle, here's the reward:

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It was quite a surreal experience seeing the orangutans, I tell you. Also in the jungle, we spotted two monitor lizards which are a bit smaller than it's big brother: the Komodo dragon.

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After the jungle trek it was time for me to move on to Pulau Nias and Lagundri bay. I took the ferry to Gunung Stoli which is a town in the north of the island. I really regret this since it took me totally two days to get from central Sumatra to Lagundri. Apparently it is possible to fly pretty cheap from Medan to Gunung Stoli. If you're heading this way, catch the plane. This reef break is considered to be THE best right hander in the world and it's easy to see why.

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The swell pumps in to Lagundri's south tip which is a horse shoe bay and is pealing nicely all the way in. This wave starts to barrel at three feet and is consistent all year round. At peak season, June and July, all the pro's flock in their exclusive yachts outside the line up to ride 15ft beasts. Considering the sharp reef, peak season is really surfing with consequences. For the two weeks I was there, there was only a proper swell for two days really. The locals in Nias are truly amazing, especially the younger talents. One guy, Anton, surfs a break nobody had the guts to surf due to the dry reef in front of the barreling beast. He was an amazing and inspiring character.

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The rest of the time it was a perfect trial and error size, which made me improve a lot. I bought a shortboard from Anton, to make faster cutbacks and to take it to the next level. It is an entirely different style compared with my mini malibu. According to Anton it is good to switch from the cruising surf of the mini malibu and the fast cut backs of the shortboard from time to time. That way you'll have a nicer and calmer style while shortboarding. I have to say that I learned more in Nias during two weeks than anywhere else. Lagundri is highly recommended if you want to improve your surf, however it is easy to get cut and bruised from the underlying reef (it is razor sharp) if you surf on the inside section of the bay.

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Especially the take off point is a bit gnarly with the rock you have dodge. Reef boots are preferred.

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After another exhausting two day trip to get from the island, this time to Padang, I got an Air Asia flight to K.L. The so called visa run is really convenient compared to the hassle and head ache the Indonesian immigration offices serve you. I only spent two nights in the city this time and spent most of the time resting after the 42h nightmare journey. I got a couple of shots though.

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Now back in Bali, I'm really happy. All the sessions in the Philippines and Nias has proven to be useful. I'm dropping in on waves I was terrified of before I left Bali last time.

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Hitting the lip and cutting back comes naturally now, the main thing for me now is clearing a barreling section. I've been in a barrel three times now but never made it out. Even so, I can say it is a surreal experience being surrounded by water shaped as a tunnel. The doctor prescribes more surfing! I'm staying in Bali until the 11th of April before I leave for K.L. (for the fourth time). A couple of days in Malaysia will be the last asian experience this time before I fly back to the hectic life in Europe and London on the 15th. Hopefully it's not too cold since I don't have much when it comes to warm clothes. That's all for now, I've got to hit the beach before it's too late.

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Keep it real!
//Patrick

Posted by Patrick_K 20:51 Archived in Indonesia Tagged me landscapes mountains lakes beaches bridges art people children animals boats Comments (1)

Surf, sharks & chicken embryos

sunny 31 °C

Leaving for Bangkok tomorrow, I can say that the three weeks here has been hectic but beautiful. If you are about to visit the Philippines, which you should for many reasons, stay as long as you can. Three weeks is not enough even for the main island of Luzon which I stayed on. Besides Luzon you have another 7106 islands to visit. The list of things to do and see in this country is endless and the prices come with a smile. I’ve spent 510 € these three weeks, have I been living in the streets eating garbage? Not really. Maybe I’m saving in on the haircuts with my hair cutter.

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After arriving to Manila and spending one night here, I quickly realized that if you’re not a sex tourist there is not much to do here. It is also the most and only dangerous place in the country. Apparently, people can come up to you and after a pleasant conversation offer you a drink, which obviously is something else. After getting drugged, the robbers can do anything to you.

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I didn’t bother spending time in this city; instead I left by bus for the Cordillera mountain region with my surf board. I don’t think these village people ever seen a surf board up there, It was pretty funny.

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Known for its rice terraces, locals claim that these fields in the village of Batad should be the eight wonder in the world. I don’t know if I agree with that statement, but it sure is a breathtakingly beautiful place.

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There are a handful of cool villages in the region, with plenty of hiking to be done. One of these is Sagada, with hanging coffins (?!) and caves as main attractions. It is a very relaxed place, where one would think time really stands still. The hanging and colorful coffins is a very interesting idea, too bad it smells awful when you come up close to take a picture.

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After getting too much of surf abstinence, I headed west to the state of La Union and the small village of San Juan. Serving as the surfing capitol of Luzon, I even managed to see a long board competition while I was there.

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I spent one week surfing there with an average of two, three sessions per day. Easily done when you stay on the beach. When it comes to accommodation, I can strongly recommend Lola Nanny’s surf retreat with bungalows for 6 € per night. Located in front of the beach break and a two minutes walk to the reef break it is unbeatable. When it comes to the surfing itself, it started out quite big the first day with a decent swell height. However, it became smaller and smaller during the week. The main point in San Juan is a reef break and holds a steady and powerful right hander in the right conditions. The beach holds a couple of breaks with both lefts and rights. Depending on the conditions it can be quite fun, I found myself working on a very fast and small, but powerful lefthander. Last night in San Juan there was a nice part in the beach with beer tents and live music as well as a choreography show. Good fun!

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I had a great time in San Juan, meeting both friendly people and improving my surfing level. I had a hard time to leave the place actually. You’ve got to love the beach life! I was determinate to see the whale sharks down in Donsol though and had to move on. Since the flight only was 20 percent more than the 12h bus ride from Manila, the choice was obvious. Stepping out of the plane in the city of Legazpi, I could not imagine more beautiful scenery.

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Mount Mayon is renowned as the perfect cone, because of its shape. With a last eruption in 2006 it is considered as one of the most active volcanoes on this rock. You can hike up to the top, which takes about two days. I was satisfied with the picture though since it was cloudy every day around the top. I was lucky with that shot, early in the morning before the clouds came in. The main purpose was to see the largest fish in the world, namely the whale shark. The village of Donsol, being a small and quiet fishing village went through a massive economical progress after being called the whale shark capitol of the world in the late 1990’s. Before then, locals thought that the gentle giants were dangerous sharks. Now people come from all over the world to swim with these amazing creatures. It was a truly amazing experience, swimming above and next to the bus sized fish. Unfortunately, the visibility was only 4 meters and it was impossible to see the whole shark. It kind of gives you a hint of its massive size, though.

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From Donsol, you can also give the manta rays a shot. An hour off the coast, there’s a manta ray “cleaning station” called the Manta Bowl. Because of the strong current there, the mantas apparently stand still and let the water flow clean its gills. We were really unlucky though and didn’t see any mantas. Apart from some small and beautiful coral formations, we were hanging on to the reef with hooks in the six knots strong current. It was very strong.

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Besides the whale sharks and the scuba diving, Donsol is a really authentic fishing village with loads of small alleys and streets. I had a great time just walking around here, the locals are more than friendly and all the kids are crazy about foreigners.

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Before I forget, I should mention that the Filipino cuisine is not walk in the park. Ever heard of Balut? It’s an egg with a nearly developed chicken embryo, the locals say it’s delicious. I’m not so sure about that.

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//Patrick in Manila

Stay black

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Posted by Patrick_K 00:32 Archived in Philippines Comments (2)

BBB (Bye bye Bali)

semi-overcast 31 °C

Hamish left us for the Philippines after Christmas, sending us some valuable information about the country. Both me and Will are heading there, so it was more than welcome. After the villa, me and Victoria had to renew our visas, which turned out to be more of a hassle than expected. Apparently, you need to visit the immigration office three times. One visit for application, one for payment and one for receiving the documents. Why not pay when you apply? We have to follow the system, the lady at the counter told us. We got our passports back after a week and were granted one more month in the country.

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Spending a couple of days on the island of Gili Trawangan was a pleasant retreat from the sometimes over populated Bali. With no cars or scooters on the island it had a quite chilled out atmosphere, many people came to celebrate the New Year. The expectations were high and people were at their tops. However, it began to rain heavily at the evening and kept on doing so ALL night. Past midnight, the water level on the streets was knee deep. All the clubs were as full as they could be of course, since people got more or less trapped. It was a real mess out there. Eventually, the skies cleared and one could have some lovely beach time. It was nice to spend some time with the rest of the lads, before we would split up and go separate ways.

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I went back to Bali, since the surfing during the wet season is mainly concentrated here. The east coast is the main target during this time of year, because of the offshore winds blowing there. The west coast, which is more popular during the dry season, is mostly onshore now making waves closing out. Having tried some different places, my favorite is definitely Pulau Serangan. It’s a small island connected with a bridge with east coast Bali, just a couple of km south of Sanur.

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Although it can sometimes be depressive when you see guys doing vertical cutbacks and 360´s, my level has definitely improved and I’m happy with that. My main objective right now is to ride sideways and trying to hit the lip. Despite what people tell you, surfing is not easy and it takes both time and determination to be able to ride out a wave properly. It is very awarding though, the amount of time you put into it generates a longer and longer feeling of freedom when you ride out that wave. In that moment everything else is totally blurred and time somewhat ticks in slow motion. An indescribable feeling.

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However, a dSLR with a manual tele lens is somewhat not ideal when wanting to have your picture taken, especially when the break itself is 150m offshore and compacts are not really capable. Until I’ll find a friend with some basic photography skills, I have to be happy with what I get.

I have to squeeze in the worst thing about Bali in the wet season: Getting stuck in traffic in heavy rain and wind when you forgot your rain jacket at home. In those moments you wish you were somewhere else. It is cold as hell on that damn scooter when you’re only wearing board shorts and a rash guard that absorbs water. Apart from being beaten up by the waves and getting wet on the bike, I spent last weekend on the island of Lembongan, about 20 km east of Bali. The Island is quite small and you can drive around it with scooter within 20 minutes.

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It’s also connected to another, smaller island with a bridge. Two days are enough if you don’t surf or scuba dive, I didn’t bring my board and the scuba diving was too expensive for me. Somehow the locals don’t really make you feel welcome there, in a weird and indescribable way. The islands have stunning and impressive scenery though.

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The swell was four meter high that day, heading straight towards the cliff I was standing on. Care for a swim?

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Have you ever seen a shell big enough to serve as a sink?

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Stumbling upon a cockfight in the main village, I couldn't resist taking my camera out.

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I really enjoy staying outside of the tourist area, in a more local environment. Here you can eat a decent meal with chicken for one US dollar and get your laundry done for the same price. I’ve been hanging out with cool locals and slowly snapping up some basic phrases in Bahasa Indonesia, the official language of the nation. Since every region has its own language, the amount quickly adds up and a Google search will tell you that more than 700 different languages are spoken. The interesting part is that the languages are totally diverse. For example, the islands of Java and Bali are very close to each other but without an interregional language people would not be able to communicate with each other than with body language.

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Leaving for the Philippines today, I will miss Indonesia although I’m really looking forward to the Phillies. Good thing I’m coming back to Indonesia in February, this time to Sumatra. Speaking of which, here is the updated list of my completed and upcoming flights (all these flights combined along with extra surf board charge from here now on add up to a total of 1300 €):


Stockholm – Mumbai, 21st of August
Delhi – Chennai, 23rd of October
Chennai – Colombo, 24th of October
Colombo – Kuala Lumpur, 22nd of November
Singapore – Djakarta, 9th of December

Denpasar – Djakarta, 21st of January
Djakarta – Manila, 22nd of January
Manila – Bangkok, 10th of February
Bangkok – Medan, 12th of February
Padang – Kuala Lumpur, 11th of March (visa run)
Kuala Lumpur – Padang, 12th of March (visa run)
Padang – Kuala Lumpur, 10th of April
Kuala Lumpur – London, 15th of April
London – Stockholm, 29th of April

No, I don’t have a love affair in K.L., nor am I doing business there; it’s simply Airasia’s main hub and is the most convenient way to travel through.

//
Patrick
Setting fourth towards new adventures in the Philippines!

ps. Kickin' it solo in Asia is now viewed in 35 countries. Bring it! ds.

Posted by Patrick_K 09:59 Archived in Indonesia Tagged landscapes mountains beaches bridges art people air_travel Comments (1)

Merry Christmas from Bali

overcast 31 °C

After a night out in Djakarta, I can tell you that the Indonesians know how to party. You totally forget that you’re in a Muslim country. Apart from the nightlife, Djakarta is a heavily trafficked and polluted city. Often lacking pedestrian crossings and traffic lights, it can take up to five minutes to actually cross the streets.

Last month in Kuala Lumpur I met Hamish and Victoria, two interesting characters. Both of them from London, though Hamish is brought up in New Zealand. After having a couple of days together in K.L. we decided to catch up in Indonesia, since all of us were going there in December. So it happened, after a long over night train journey I finally arrived in Yogyakarta. Having met other travellers along the road, we were now a group of eight hanging out.

The volcano of Ganung Merapi near Yogyakarta had a massive eruption just a month ago, destroying an entire village with its brute force. Hundreds of people lost their houses after the hot lava leaked down the valley. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to go up and see the devastation.The town of Yogyakarta is however worth visiting only for its street art. I remember spending hours on a walkabout just enjoying the small colorful alleys, filled with art in shapes of graffiti, old Vespas and paintings. Mainly concentrated to the artistic area, the vibe was visible even throughout the town.

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After a couple of days two people left the group, following their own path. The mix of guys traveling on towards new adventures now consisted of six people. Apart from me we have Alex and Thomas (both from the extremely small German speaking community in Belgium), Will (a young bloke from London traveling solo) as well as Hamish and Vic. The next natural stopover before reaching Bali was Ganung Bromo which also is an active volcano in east Java. Unfortunately we didn’t see the famous beautiful sunrise due to bad weather, but after driving down from the viewing point we found ourselves in a near dreamlike environment.

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The only bad thing with the whole volcano experience was the temperature; I literally don’t have any long trousers or long sleeve shirts apart from my wind jacket. At night and early morning it was only three degrees above zero. Not ideal when you’re dressed for the beach. Now everything is back to normal again though, being on Bali. Even while I was prepared for full power tourism, it came as quite a shock to me. I haven’t been in this high a degree of commercial environment in a long time; if it wasn’t for the surfing and the friends here I would probably leave as soon as possible. Having said that I bought myself a surfboard for my birthday. It’s my new baby and she´s 6.8ft.

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If you rent a scooter on Bali you can easily ask for one with a surfboard rack. It’s really convenient choosing your break of the day; strap your board to your scooter and go for it. The only issue is that you apparently need a document that states you’re driving license is legit. The majority of the foreigners do not have this and the police take the advantage. I’ve been stopped twice already and they almost force you to bribe them, now I don’t carry more than five € worth of local currency which apparently is the fixed rate of bribe.

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I got really hooked on the sport back in Sri Lanka, now I’m dedicating the next four months to it. Rather than heading up north and jumping aboard the cold Trans Siberian railway, I’ll have a four month surf trip in South East Asia. After Bali and its surrounding areas, I’m off to some beautiful breaks in the Philippines, a short stopover in Bangkok and then to Sumatra and the legendary world cup breaks of Nias and the Mentawais for two months. The tickets are booked as well as a flight to London in April (260 € for Kuala Lumpur to London). The following flights are as follows:

Denpasar – Djakarta, 21st of January
Djakarta – Manila, 22nd of January
Manila – Bangkok, 10th of February
Bangkok – Medan, 12th of February
Kuala Lumpur – London, 15th of April

I need to do a one day visa run from Indonesia, so I’ll probably book a flight in and out of K.L. the same day just to get another 30 days in on Sumatra.

Me and the guys are really enjoying ourselves, having found a quiet retreat with an almost surreal luxurious feeling. After staying in the most shady hotel rooms in India, this place is just off the scale. We’re staying in the three bedroom villa for one week to recharge our batteries in Christmas time. Have a look and tell me what you think: http://www.villa-lalu.com/

Merry Christmas and happy New Year to everyone!
Thank you for reading.

Posted by Patrick_K 09:17 Archived in Indonesia Comments (3)

The road of contrasts

overcast 32 °C

It’s been hectic, but very diverse during the last week. After coming back to Kuala Lumpur I hooked up with some other travellers in the hostel and basically saw the rest of that city, at least what I wanted to see. I managed to squeeze in a bouldering session at a climbing gym in the outskirts of K.L. Good thing I had my camera with me, the view of K.L.’s skyline from that metro station was unbeatable.

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For you guys that haven’t been to the capitol, the tall building to the right of the Petronas twin towers is simply known as KL Tower. It’s almost as tall as the beautiful twins, but with a classical (pretty boring) observation tower type of architecture. It feels like you’ve seen it before, somewhere else...

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Since my passport hadn’t arrived (do we recognize that statement?), I wanted to do the most of the time rather than just sit and wait. When I heard of some people going to an island I’ve never heard about before, I wasn’t late to say yes. Pulau Pangkor was the perfect weekend escape from the big, polluted city. Four days of laziness on the beach along with fresh fish and prawns every day. I met some nice people in the hostel I’m planning to hook up with for Christmas on Bali. From what I’ve heard it’s going to be super crowded.

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After coming back to KL and reality, I finally got the message that my passport had arrived. Since I had a flight from Singapore just three days later, I checked out early the next morning and went straight to the embassy to pick my passport up. Over a month of lacking peace of mind and 400 € later I was finally on my way to Singapore. At least I had a souvenir I actually could use for five years! Singapore is so much of a contrast to the Asia I’ve seen, not at least on the Subindian continent. Having been in around 40 countries, I can swear I’ve never seen such a clean, modern and multicultural city all at once. I haven’t been to the Emirates or Japan; the only countries I believe have a similar approach. It felt like someone took the architecture of Manhattan, combined it with the cleanness of Switzerland, filled it up with middle class Asians from India, China and Malaysia along with western expats and finally put it on an Island in a very strategically correct place.

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Having only one and a half day to spend, I only managed to see bits and pieces. Maybe it was destiny for my wallet, it already had too much to handle. Spending 7 € for a pint and 13 € for the cheapest dorm bed, it’s hard not to break your South East Asian budget. I however managed to get great deals on some camera equipment, felt I needed some more range rather than the standard 18-55mm lens. I left Singapore with a 60-300mm manual lens (Paparazzi style!), a 0.45x wide angle lens (attached to my standard lens it goes as wide as 9mm), an extra set of batteries and an 67mm UV-filter for a grand total of 100 €. Ridiculous. The best thing is that it all fits in my camera bag.

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Landing in Djakarta two days ago, it was quite a contrast from my port of embarkation. I sort of missed the craziness actually, so it’s about time. I got pretty bored of Malaysia for that reason to be honest, everything was simply too easy and expensive compared to the crazy countries. My wallet is happy now as well, buying meals for 1, 5 €. I didn’t plan to hang around in Djakarta for too long, since there’s apparently not much to do here. For that reason I’ve booked a train ticket to Yogyakarta, a city surrounded by the active volcano of Gunung Merapi and the ancient ruins of Borobudur.

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Peace out
Patrick

Posted by Patrick_K 12:13 Archived in Indonesia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises buildings skylines air_travel Comments (1)

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