Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to ya! We've been down in Balikpapan for the past few days, enjoying a much needed and long-overdue vacation from Tarakan. And yes, they DO have a McDonalds here, so we're fattening up for the new year!
Balikpapan is the first city that you have to fly through when leaving Tarakan. Every large commercial flight to/from Tarakan goes via Balikpapan. Whereas Tarakan has almost no expats (with the exception of the MAF staff), Balikpapan is home to many, due to the major oil, gas and mining industries. For many of these expats, Balikpapan is definitely "roughing it"--a place to escape from when it's time for vacation. I guess it's all relative, because for us Balikpapan is like the land flowing with milk and honey...offering all sorts of food and perks that we're not used to in Tarakan. We try to get down here once a year to recharge our batteries. This time, we were so blessed to be able to stay in the home of an expat friend, Alison, who was on vacation in Australia. It was sooooo nice to have the space and independence of a home, while still enjoying the perks of Balikpapan! Thank you Alison!
On Christmas morning we dined on a J.CO doughnuts (sort of like Crispy Creme), real bacon and sausage, and dad's special, bacon-fried-cheesy eggs! Like I said, we're fattening up for the new year! The only time we get to eat bacon and sausage is in Balikpapan, so it's a real treat for the kids.
Another huge treat is the swimming pool. The house we stayed in was part of a beautiful housing complex which had it's own swimming pool. And what made it even better (according to the kids) was that the jets that were coming and going all day from the airport, flew directly overhead the pool and the house. It was like the best of everything--getting to watch airplanes fly low overhead, while swimming!
Whereas you might have been wishing for a white Christmas, so you could go out and make some "snow angels", our kids were hoping for a hot and sunny Christmas so they could go out and make "water angels."
We spent a lot of time in the pool!
We also went to the Crocodile Farm, where they raise crocodiles for eating and making things from the hides. It costs about $2 for our whole family to get in and walk around looking at all the crocs. You can also pay a buck to chuck a chicken in to the hungry crocs. It's cheap fun! To find out more about the crocodile farm check out my older post, "Hey Mr., That'll Cost You $5!" To see a video of us chuckin a chicken to the crocs on a previous trip, go here and scroll down to the end of the post.
At the crocodile farm they also have two elephants that are native to Indonesia. We especially like Happy, the 8-year old elephant.
The kids took turns feeding Happy fruit and nuts. They decided that we should have an elephant for a pet...but um, I think we'll have to old off on that one!
It's been a wonderful time of family fun, relaxing, and battery re-charging! We'll need it, because the new year is already shaping up to be one of the busiest we've had here!