Tag Archives: asia

giliair_07

Gili Air – Who Knew Water Could Be That Blue?

18th October 2015

giliair_07 By the time we got to Gili Air we were 11 countries in. Before we even stepped onto our boat we felt ready to just get to Australia and start our next adventure. We couldn’t imagine prettier beaches that the Philippines or a more relaxing atmosphere than Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia. We were a bit exhausted from travel and ready to never pack a bag again. Luckily we stuck with the plan and arrived on the beautiful Gili Air.

Gili Air is one of the three Gili islands in Lombok. It is wedged between the tiny island of Gili Meno and the large , very popular island of Gili T. We decided right away to skip Gili T for the same reasons we skipped Kuta Bali. We heard it was filled with young teenagers on gap years eating magic mushrooms and partying into the wee hours. We looooooove a good party. In fact my liver’s future health was probably the main factor in needing to leave Korea , but after all these months we just wanted to do nothing. Not ‘tours of the island, climing mountains’ kind of nothing but actual ‘lay on the beach for a disgusting amount of time’ type of nothing.

Gili Air was exactly what we had hoped for. No cars, no fuss…just pure beautiful laziness on sand.

giliair_04 giliair_01 Our only major issue with Gili Air was that we were as poor as poor can be by this time. We were counting the pennies (or as I like to call them, cocktail tokens). There was only one atm that was almost always out of money, and we were hoping to pay by card as much as possible. This lead to a lot of walking around the island, which you can do easily in an hour or two. Each morning we would find a beautiful beach bar, ask if they took card and get a few lost looks. When we would eventually find a bar that took card, they would get the pleasure of our company until the sun had long thrown in the towel. In one bar they had sun lounges on the beach and our days were filled with reading, snorkelling and spring rolls. Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner in one bar was surprisingly liberating. They also obviously wou giliair_05 giliair_06 ld want to get rid of us and top up our cocktails with a little too much island liquor. We loved it.

We spent three days on our arses and I regret nothing. I did wonder how a holiday island would work that was mainly Muslim , but it was very respectful and surprisingly tolerant of Westerners skimpily clothed and drinking. This might sound naive to some people reading this, but after living in Saudi Arabia for a number of years it was a fantastic surprise. The call the prayer at 5am was actually quite soothing and reminded me of the early hours in Saudi where the songs would come floating through the house. If you are a light sleeper I’d make sure your hostel or hotel isn’t near the one main mosque on the island, but if like us you don’t check and are right next to it, it’s still easy to sleep. Coming from me this means a lot since the sound of an ant tickling its cousin could wake me.

giliair_08 giliair_09 giliair_10 After Gili Air we begrudgingly moved on to Gili Meno. We loved Gili Air so much that we couldn’t believe we were leaving it. Luckily we did because Gili Meno is just as lovely if not even quieter. ….but I’ll save that long winded tale for another time. Mainly because I want to throw more pictures of blue azure seas and random cocktails at your eye holes.

Happy Weekend Everyone. signature

Ubud – Chilling out, Maxing, Relaxing All Cool

19th September 2015

header Oh Ubud. I thought I was in love with you before we even arrived. I had lived vicariously through blog posts, books and the eloquent ‘word of mouth’ that you have inspired. I always knew that our trip would include Ubud. I just hoped it would live up to the sky high expectations I’d already put on it.

We arrived for our 5 day adventure at Bali airport and were both amazed. Airports aren’t exactly known for being stylish or very different from one another. Bali airport is very different, they have redone the airport and have made sure that your first impression is a good one. A huge entrance gate full of statues and fresh flowers greets you from the plane. It really sets the holiday off to a good start. ubud006 ubud002 ubud001 ubud005

Then came our long taxi ride to our hotel. Ubud is about 45 minutes away from the airport and it was so dark that Ubud kept itself hidden. We arrived at our hotel and we experienced the magic that is an Ubud hotel. Many of the hotels have been built into temples so when you walk in you are faced with the detailed stone mosaiques, the smell of sandalwood and the beautiful flowers strewn all over the temple floor.

Just a casual street in UBUD

Just a casual street in UBUD

We woke up to the sounds of the jungle and we couldn’t wait to explore.

Ubud is bizarre, it’s a vibrant, funky little space. Hipster-ish but in the best kind of way. Walking around Ubud makes me want to do nothing but eat healthy, do yoga and drink smoothies. Everywhere you look there are temples, small markets and beautiful flowers.

The Balinese culture is so unique and probably one of my favourite cultures to discover. Each store and home has a small bamboo bowl filled with candles and flowers which is their daily tribute to the gods. They believe in family and don’t really believe in leaving Bali or in some cases even Ubud. This was especially strange to discover while talking to a local. He asked me and Lee a million questions about our exploits, but when it came time for him to decide if he’d love to see these places for himself he seemed completely content where he was. He said ‘Balienese people love stories but we love home more’. Bali is unique because it has somehow kept its traditional charm while still being very modern. Each restaurant still stares out onto endless rice paddies, Balinese traditions are everywhere you look and yet you can still use atm’s and buy anything you could possibly imagine. Other places around the world could definitely learn something from Ubud on how to retain their charm as tourism starts to take over.

ubud007 ubud013 We were lucky that a day after we arrived we were joined in Ubud by our friends Carly and Conner. Carly is my Ubud guru. Not only did she introduce me to the place but she also introduced me to the wonder that is Yoga. After just one class I was hooked. It only made sense that since we were in Ubud we would have to go to the one and only Yoga Barn. The Yoga Barn was made famous in Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and has become THE place for yogi’s from around the world to relax and display their skills. Having a class here guarantees not only a beautiful setting but the knowledge that you are being taught by the best of the best.

Even though I’d read a lot about the place it was nothing like I thought it would be. I have only been to two different yoga studios I suppose so I am not an expert, but I thought it would be a building with a large room for yoga…nope! It’s huge! There are cafes, restaurants, and a garden area with a stream. This is all leading to a huge open air atrium that goes down to a great (if not very expensive) yoga shop and of course the large yoga room. You could easily spend a week here. I wish we’d had time to do more than one class but we just did the one and I loved every moment of it. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to staying in one place for a while is so I can get back into a good fitness routine. It’s not impossible on the road and there are countless bloggers that look amazingly fit and healthy while they travel, but Lee and I love being lazy and eating our way around the world when we travel which doesn’t leave much room for gyming it.

indo3 ubud008 We honestly just spent 5 days being pampered, eating and driving bikes around this beautiful town. We got to see one of Lee’s favourite animals, monkeys in the monkey forest. I’ve never seen him as happy as when he had a monkey on his shoulder. We ate incredible food. Hummus, fresh fruit, olives and delicious treats are abundant in Ubud. The massages are super cheap so we had quite a few of them and were instantly annoyed that we hadn’t had more during our Asia experience.

ubud012 ubud011 ubud010 ubud009 It is a beautiful place and I’m sad that we couldn’t spend more time there. I think it’s definitely a place that we both felt we could easily live in for months and months. Who knows maybe one day we will.

Happy Ubud Faces

Happy Ubud Faces

signature

Yogyakarta – Asia’s Hidden Gem

20th August 2015

banner When we were planning our Indonesian route Lee stumbled on a little city in Java that peaked his interest. As a History buff Lee saw the words ‘largest Hindu temple in Southeast Asia’ and his eyes lit up.

yogya09 yogya13 The most important thing to know about Yogyakarta is how to pronounce the darn place. I was calling it yogi-o-karta until I arrived at the airport. Indonesians  pronounce it ‘Jog-ja-karta’ but the locals call it ‘Jog-ja’. This is what everyone calls it and it’s much easier to get by once you know that.

We were only in the town for 3 days and we spoiled ourselves with a nice place. There was a roof top pool and large comfy beds. Unfortunately the hotel is also where local school kids stay over night on school trips. Our room was surrounded all night by loud teenagers running up and down the halls. Its safe to say, as two ex-middle school teachers ……we weren’t impressed.

yogya06 yogya08 The kids weren’t the only down side of our first day on the trip. I also received some horrible news from home and spent my night curled up with Lee feeling horrible and very very far from home. Luckily I didn’t have time to think about everything too much since we had already planned a trip that started at 4am. I didn’t have time to think. I just had time to try and close my eyes before the alarm went off and we were on our way to Yogyakarta’s famous temples – Prambanan and Borobudur.

yogya02 yogya03 yogya07 yogya10 We took a tour to Prambanan organised by our hotel. We had a lovely driver and arrived at the temple complex just as the sun was rising. When you arrive at the temples you are given some water, a snack and a stylish sarong to wear. We leisurely wandered around the temple. Taking in the intricate carvings depicting Buddha’s pilgrimage and lifeline, beautiful surroundings and miles of jungle all around us.

The only thing to disturb the peaceful surroundings was the hundreds of kids that are taken there on trips. Schools take kids there to practice their English. We found it quite endearing because they were so cute and lovely shouting ‘mister , Mrs picture, picture’. We must have posed for at least 12 photos and managed to grab a few of our own.  It did take away from the beautiful sights a little especially since the concentration of kids was on the iconic roof of Borobudur where we wanted to take the most photos but couldn’t. But it was another welcome distraction on a sad day.

My favourite part of the day was when Lee and I went off the beaten track and climbed the hill over looking the Borobudur complex. We sat and watched the mist roll over the mountains in the distance and literally had time to smell the roses…and frangipans (at least that’s what I’m told they are called). Being so far up above the clouds was beautiful and I just wanted to stay there forever with Lee.

yogya04 yogya05 Since it was a tour , we didn’t have time to stop for too long. Our next stop was Prambanan. It was built in the 9th century and has a number of temples, each dedicated to different gods, The Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). There was also a temple for Ganesha which is one of my favourite of the gods since it is half Elephant and half god. He is the god known for removing obstacles. He is seen as a patron of the arts and Hindus ask him for help during writing sessions almost like a godly muse. I’m not Hindu but I love the idea of a god that inspires imagination. It seems very fitting for a blogger to like him I suppose. He is also the god of beginnings. I had just discovered I had lost someone extremely important to me and it was nice to think of it as a beginning rather than a sad end. I am lucky to have known my aunty well enough to feel she was with me at every step of our journey.

yogya01 yogya12 yogya15 yogya16 Lots of things end but sometimes its nicer to think of them as changing. Maybe not always for the better but change opens us all up for new experiences and we also carry with us the things we learnt in the past. These temples were hidden from the world for so long and now they are there for everyone to see, even before that , in another life time they were strong central pillars to a community and a civilisation . People came to these stones for hope. It’s a wonder to be able to travel and see these sights that have been viewed by so many others.

A lot of people hate the idea of tourists or other people discovering something before them but I like it. I find it kind of satisfying to share these sights and incredible places with people I would never meet or even live in the same century as. It’s a privilege that I hope I never take for granted.

I am sorry for this reflective and slightly sad post but I don’t mean it to be . It was an uplifting trip and one I think we will both hold dear. Lee actually says he prefers these temples to Angkor Wat. I love them both equally but I also think it’s such a huge shame that Prambanan and Yogykarta itself is so over looked.

I’m really glad we stopped off in this nice little city as our first port of call in Indonesia. It was cheap  and a little grimy but the temples alone were worth the visit.

Our first impressions of Indonesia are high. I can’t wait to see what else we find.

signature

rsz_dsc_0044

The Differences between Taiwan and China

6th January 2015

 

cks7 China and Taiwan have shared a long history. There is still on going issues today that have separated both the countries and it’s people.

I am not going to go into the politics of the situations since I am just a traveler and not in tune enough with both societies to make those kind of statements but I did find it interesting to visit both China and Taiwan in a short space of time. There were lots of quirks that separated each country and there were also many traits that showed their important linked past. This is a a few things we noticed that differed between these two incredible countries .

The Train Stations 

China is one of the most populated countries in the world so you kind of expect their public transport to be packed to the rafters, but nothing can really prepare you for the game that is getting onto the subway. The elbows, pushing and craziness that accompanies every trip is a little over whelming but it is quick and it is efficient. The other weird aspect of being in China is having to go through security every time you enter a subway station. You can’t take certain items on board. It’s a strange thing to get use to even if it does mean the subways are safer. Taiwan on the other hand is like a different world. Straight lines everywhere, queues to get on trains, queues to get on escalators and even queues to queue. It’s fantastic. As British people who have lived in Korea for a while and got use to the pushing and shoving, it was heaven. The etiquette on the trains is also fantastic. There are signs all over asking you to text instead of call and reminders for you to be courteous…it actually says ‘courteous and thoughtful’ on the poster. We felt like the rude ones. Taiwan public transport is like a dream.

rsz_dsc_0393 The Food

Oh China and Taiwan, how happy you have made me. It isn’t much of a secret that Lee and I LOVE food and for me at the top of that list is Chinese food.

I had always grown up being warned that food in actual China isn’t like the Chinese food in the UK. I was worried that the tastes i’d come to love were an illusion and I would be eating nothing familiar but you know what, it was the same but just ten times better. We started in Beijing , the home of Peking duck then made our way to Shanghai for noodles and pork galore. We ate so many dumplings that I had to re buy my entire wardrobe. We boarded the plane, leaving China behind and headed to Taiwan wondering what we would find. Taiwan did not disappoint. A combination of night markets, breakfast restaurants and mango ices made our bellies very happy. Each day it was tough trying to decide what we would eat since we didn’t want to waste our bellies. The only reason I’m glad I don’t live in China and Taiwan is that I would weigh three million stone.

china5 china20 china21 rsz_2dsc_0105 rsz_dsc_1832 The Traditional vs The Modern 

China has history everywhere. The buildings, the people and the traditions can be seen on every inch of this country. The Great Wall, The Temple of Heaven and The Forbidden City ooze history. It is a shame that so many touristy things have been built up around them but they are still beautiful and you can imagine what it was like to be there when they were first built.

Taiwan has a lot of history too but it also has a huge modern artistic influence that wasn’t as prominent in China. When people left Taiwan they wanted a bit more freedom (It’s obviously a lot more complicated than that but for simplicity sake….) this meant they were probably the artistic, creative people. This can be seen everywhere, from the animated road signs to the statues that litter the streets. Art is a way of life here.

There isn’t one place I prefer more than the other because tradition has always influenced the modern so it’s impossible to separate them. It was great to go to China first to see the history and then be in Taiwan to experience what people had done with that knowledge. It was a great blend of worlds. I think seeing these two countries in close proximity to each other made each one better.

rsz_cks8 rsz_dsc_0211 rsz_dsc_0060 rsz_dsc_0024 The People 

Chinese people and Taiwanese people have been through a lot .They have seen extreme poverty, strife and change but they have come out as  happy and kind people. The Chinese as a whole were a little more pushy and sometimes rude but after being there for a period of time and meeting many lovely individuals it became clearer that what we interpret as rude is actually just ingrained culture.

China is a collectivist country which means it puts a large importance on the family and sharing. Taiwanese people are individualists which means they see the importance of being your own person. Both of these have their merits and their downfalls. The best analogy I can compare the good and bad aspects of a collectivist society is this:

Imagine a large family with lots of brothers and sisters. If things go wrong you have a massive support system and people to look out for you, you all have something in common.  The flip side to this is that it also means you have to fight to be heard. If you are sat with your family for dinner and your mum puts a plate of pizza on the table, everyone grabs for it to make sure they get some. Everyone is equal so there is no one apart from grabbing for the biggest piece to decide who deserves it.  The smallest person normally doesn’t get a look in….but this may just be my experience from being the youngest cousin in a very large family.

This is sometimes the feeling in China. When you get on a bus it definitely is every man for himself and when you see people driving it is definitely a competition. In Taiwan , like the US or the UK I imagine people can be more lonely since family isn’t the centre of the country as much as it is in a collective society, but it also means people have more personality shining through and tend to express themselves a lot more. Individualism sounds like it might be a selfish society but from my (very little experience) it seems the exact opposite. It seems to follow the line of ‘how would I want to be treated as an individual?’…or of course there is the old adage ’treat others as you would like to be treated’.

Both are really interesting ways to live, neither are wholly bad or wholly good.  I love the people in both countries and it was an honor to experience their ways of life.

rsz_dsc_0964

This lovely Taiwanese man heard Lee’s accent. Found out he liked rugby and that we are from the heart of rugby country….he ran off at full speed to bring Lee a Taiwanese scarf to wear and to have some pictures.

Babies 

This is one that mainly concerns China but twins are EVERYWHERE . I slowly started to notice it when we were in Beijing and then I couldn’t not see it. Lots of the littlest, cutest kids you’ve ever seen in matching clothes and squeaky shoes. So cute. The only theory Lee and I had on this is that since Chinese people can only have one child that IVF must be quite popular. (this is based on nothing but our odd brains though so don’t take that as fact).

The other thing that China likes to do with its babies is give them little arse-less chaps…yes you read that right. They don’t wear nappies (diapers for all you American lovelies out there) they save the environment and let the kiddies go to the toilet when they need to. It was an odd thing the first time I saw it but after a while I got use to it. It’s just another one of those weird things you discover when you travel. Although I have heard from Chinese people that this is more of a Chinese country tradition and is dying out. It was definitely more popular around the tourist attractions like The Forbidden City and things, which would make sense.

rsz_dsc_1819

There isn't a photo of the babies in arse-less chaps but believe me it's true

There isn’t a photo of the babies in arse-less chaps but believe me it’s true

So there are many differences between each country. Some born out of being far away from each other and other from their history and past but they are both fantastic places with fantastic elements to get excited about. If you are looking for something to add to your 2015 travel bucket list then China and Taiwan will not disappoint.

rsz_dsc_0044

signature