The idea of paradise is different for everyone. It could be as close to home as enjoying breakfast in bed on a rainy Saturday morning or as far away as visiting the destination you have as your laptop wallpaper on the other side of the globe.
When I think of paradise, I think of exotic beaches and swimming in crystal clear waters. That’s why when my friends decided to plan a trip to Flores, Indonesia, I immediately agreed. Little did I know that despite a week of swimming with manta rays and sea turtles, I would be poo-shy for days and sleeping in a cockroach-infested bungalow.
This trip to Indonesia wasn’t easy…
We opted to stay at Kanawa Island Resort due to its close proximity to Komodo National Park and other snorkeling sites in the area. From the pier, we could jump right into the water and snorkel among baby reef sharks and schools of tropical fish.
The accommodation, however, was mind-blowing in a different way. At this tropical “resort”, each of us slept in a 4×4 shack co-habitating with friendly island bugs. The grotty bathrooms outside consisted of a bamboo shower head that trickled out sea water, conveniently placed above a toilet nobody was brave enough to sit on. Essentially, we could have showered and pooped at the same time.
During the week, we spent approximately 8 hours a day perched on the hard wooden benches on our dinky fishing boat, eating the same instant noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner and occasionally diving from the boat after our guide yelled, “Hurry jump in!” whenever he saw some exotic fish or we arrived at a dive spot.
Since the Flores Sea is where the cooler waters of the North Indian Ocean meets the warmer waters of the South Pacific, one minute we’d pass through patches of rough seas and whirlpools and the next minute the horizon between the sky and the sea would disappear as we puttered through silky waters. There I sat contemplating my insignificance in the universe, while gaining a deeper appreciation for soft cushions and planning my first toilet session back in civilization.
For me, the highlight of this trip in Indonesia was not the Komodo Dragons, who were more interested in lying in the shade and avoiding us, but reaching the summit of the iconic Padar Island. This famous island is a popular trekking destination and is an extremely photogenic haven, confirmed by the fact that the photo I posted on Instagram was the first one that got over 100 likes. Boom!
At this point, my arms were completely sunburnt and I didn’t want to fry myself any more so I conquered this mountain climb in 35 degrees wearing a long sleeve sweater. When we finally reached the top, I swatted at mosquitoes and sweated miserably as my wet clothes stuck to my body, something that quickly became the new normal on this trip.
Despite the slight bodily discomforts, when the sun set and the stars slowly revealed themselves each day, I found myself grateful to witness such a magnificent scene. Our crew’s first mate would dutifully pray towards Mecca from the roof of the boat as we sat in silence and took everything in. Being constipated and/or having sand lodged in parts of my body where I couldn’t reach no longer bothered me. I was present in the moment. I got to visit paradise.
Writer: Jillian Fu
Photographer: Jillian Fu