We had worked with this travel agent before and had found her to be professional, helpful, and wonderful to work with. Accordingly, we chose to work with her again this year as we began planning our annual diving holiday. Again, this travel agent distinguished herself as the consummate professional, and more than that, a person with a huge amount of patience and empathy.
We originally asked our agent to assist us in setting up a three week holiday in Costa Rica. After a fair amount of work on that destination, it became clear that Costa Rica was not in the cards for us in 2018. We asked her to change gears and plan a trip for us to French Polynesia, which didn't work out. So, we sought her guidance of a holiday in Palau. But there were problems, including bad air connections. We were getting dispirited, and I feared that our travel agent would give up on us. So, once again, we turned to this agent -- how about a holiday in and around Komodo Island?
We were relieved that our agent still had enthusiasm for our trip, and came up with several suggestions. We wanted a couple of weeks on the dive boat, we wanted a master cabin on the main deck (not below the waterline), we wanted our meals served, we wanted Nitrox and boat supplied dive gear. It was a tall order, but our agent recommended a boat -- master cabin available, dive gear included, meals served (no buffets), but only 13 days of diving. We had never been to this part of Indonesia, so we were getting charged up!
Then, disaster. The Indonesian authorities decided to conduct a regulatory audit on many liveaboards, including the this boat. Since the ship could not put to sea until the audit was completed, the operator contacted our agent and said everything would have to be pushed back two weeks -- the operator, understanding that its passengers would not have that kind of flexibility, offered full refunds. Well, we are retired, so this was not an issue for us.
Our agent, however, advised us that the departure point had also changed and that the trip would now only be nine days long. We accepted these changes, and our agent negotiated on our behalf so that we would have exclusive use of the back deck, just outside the master cabin! That was great -- a real treat and something we would not have thought about on our own.
Our travel agent's next task was to organize some adventures for us for a few days before the dive cruise and some additional adventures after the dive cruise -- we intended a three week holiday. We knew we would have to fly into Bali, but we didn't want to overnight in Bali because we have been there many times -- we wanted something new: Bima, Lombok, Moyo, or some other place we had never heard about. Again, this was a tall order since August is a peak holiday season in that part of the world. But, our agent was making good progress in showing us alternatives that sounded well worth a few days.
Disaster, again. This time, a volcanic eruption on Lombok Island, followed by several large earthquakes. More than 500 people were killed, many more injured, and the seismic instability showed little signs of reverting to calm. The effect was that tourists abandoned their vacations on Lombok and flooded to Bali, knowing that the infrastructure and, importantly, the airport in Bali, was capable of supporting an evacuation. Our agent advised us to find a nice hotel in Bali and ride out the instability in comfort while nice hotels were still available. Excellent, excellent advice!
The final part of our agent's assignment was to arrange a post-cruise adventure with reasonable logistics, especially on the last day so that our return flight to Hong Kong was "reasonable." Moreover, we told her that we like to end our holidays on a crescendo, not a diminuendo. She recommended Borobudur in Central Java. All of the special requests and arrangements must have been a headache for our agent, but it all worked out. We had a five star holiday!
There were so many!
1. Hotel in Bali. Biggest bed we've ever slept in, wonderful breakfasts included in our daily room rate, and a two hour happy hour (free drinks and great food) every evening. The romantic dinner on the beach is not to be missed.
2. Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. Trekking through the incredibly green rice terraces in the mist was, well, mystical!
3. The diving. Indonesia always delivers -- huge schools of fish, manta rays, stingrays, beautiful coral, crystal clear water; underwater volcanic steam vents, and my wife's completion of 300 dives (big party on the boat).
4. Komodo dragons. Truly frightening beasts -- very large lizards, fast (apparently they can move at up to 35 mph), venomous, carnivores that kill animals many times their size. They can swim long distances and the females can lay fertile eggs without the male doing anything.
5. Parah Island. The hike to the top to watch the sunset and views of the beaches of different colors was magical.
6. The food on the boat. Great chef -- plenty of variety and everything very fresh.
7. Borobudur. The temple is immense and awe-inspiring. You could spend hours or days here just admiring the magnificence of bygone civilizations.
8. The hotel in Java. Too perfect!! The private dinner arranged in a local home by the hotel was delicious, romantic, and wonderfully private. The 40 meter lap pool and the morning yoga at poolside were great for burning off the daily excesses. Meals at the hotel were culinary masterpieces, and the coffee was to die for.
Study up on the Jakarta Airport. It is huge, with three separate terminals. Luckily, we had plenty of time but if you are pressed for time, the logistics and the directions are confusing.
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