Tag Archives: backpacking

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Gili Meno – The Girl and The Sea

20th October 2015

gilimeno_04 Gili Meno is the smaller of the three Gili Isles so you’d assume it would be less developed, but you’d be wrong. Gili Meno has the feel of a rich persons playground, or at least a middle class persons sandbox. There are nicer bars, bigger shops and lovely hotels lining the main area of beach…and then there is nothing. This island feels like it’s about to be a crazy popular tourist destination, but right now it’s still peaceful and well stocked. I still prefer Gili Air , but I’m glad we went.

We basically repeated our first few days on Gili Air, but with a little more snorkeling and a lot more sleeping. Being lazy turns out to be hard work.

gilimeno_05 gilimeno_03 I don’t have photos of our snorkeling adventures (Go Pro, you will be mine). It mainly involved me having a panic attack the second I stepped in the water and climbing onto Lee as if I was Scooby Doo. He calmed me down and I soon got use to the tide and the current, which is very strong on the Gili’s. We also both had to master the art of walking on the sharpest rocks known to man. I swear that Gili Meno once had a boat filled with broken glass crash on it’s shore and now it’s coast is a challenge even John McClane would fear.

gilimeno_07 gilimeno_02 We persevered and managed to snorkel enough to see a casting session for Finding Nemo down there. Bruised, battered and bleeding from the coral I headed back to the comfort of my sun lounger, happy with my day’s sightings. I told Lee I was tired, but the truth is I was scared my tiny cut was chumming the water enough for all the worlds sharks to descend on me . While I was shading myself from the midday sun I looked out to see a flailing Lee in the water. I instantly assumed a herd of Jelly Fish were trying to get his lunch money and I started to panic. There was no one around so I had to wait like a nervous maiden in a Bronte novel as Lee came back to the beach.

A manic Lee finally made his way to me and started dragging me into the water…”come on, come and see”.

I instantly assumed he had Sea madness and fought him off.

“Why do I need to go in the sea?” I screamed, digging my heels into the sand.

This is the part in the story where Lee turned to me with a face filled with more excitement and glee than I’d ever witnessed and screamed “theresaturtleinthewater”. That, by the way, is not a spelling mistake. He definitely didn’t put a single breath or break in his joyful sentence.

We waded out into the late afternoon waves , which were swelling quite a lot and becoming quite scary. Lee tied his size 13 waterproof shoes tightly on to my tiny feet so that I didn’t lose a toe on the razor like coral and we swam out to the deep waters. This is where it all started to go wrong. Lee’s shoes got tangled on my feet and were getting pulled the wrong way by the current, Lee was swimming far ahead and my mask was leaking water into my eyes that contained more salt than the rim of a good margarita. Suddenly all the water around me turned freezing and I felt I was getting pulled down. Panicking comes natural to me anyway but at that moment even Woody Allen would have asked me to “geez lady, just calm down” (please read this sentence in Mr Allen’s voice for full effect).

Lee was too far away to help so as I got dragged down I had to compose myself and untangle the shoes with my eyes closed telling myself that as soon as it was fixed I could just swim to the surface. Unfortunately I was wrong and I was never seen again…. No , of course not otherwise you’d be luck enough to not be reading this drivel. I resurfaced , emptied and tightened my goggles and went back down into the water just in time to see a beautiful sea turtle swim past us and away into the very wide, very blue, very scary ocean. Lee and I were elated. We hadn’t expected to see one at all and felt very privileged to have been given the chance to see this fantastic animal in the wild. We left the water on a high, my high not only from the turtle sighting but from the exhilaration of remembering how to function like a normal human in the water and not let my anxiety take over. That sea be damned scary.

Over all the Gili’s completely shocked us. The coffee was foamy, the people nice , the cocktails plentiful and the views…spectacular. I am not going to lie to you, I am extremely happy that Australia happens to be within a long weekend distance of these small islands. See you soon Gili.

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Well deserved wine and a cut up leg.

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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.

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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

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Koh Rong Samloem – Our Paradise Found

13th June 2015

b12 Oh Koh Rong Samloem. How I miss you!

As I write this we are in Indonesia and it has been a month since our visit to Cambodia’s Saracen Bay. I don’t think there has been a day that Lee and I haven’t talked about how we miss it. It honestly was our little paradise.

b14 b10 Saracen Bay on Koh Rong Samloem was our home for a week and also the place I was turning 29. Because of this Lee decided to book a slightly nicer place for us , which I wasn’t going to argue about. We choose the delightful Saracen Bay Resort which was 45 dollars a night. I am not exaggerating when I say they should be charging 200 dollars a night. This place was heaven.

dock view b5 We arrived via the fast boat from Sihanoukville (which you can read about here) and suddenly all the travel and pain was worth it. We were taken to our bungalow that was right on the beach and a few meters from the calm and still ocean.

The second we dumped our bangs, we threw on our swimsuits and hit the water. The water was so shallow you could just walk and walk in water warmer than any sea i’ve ever experienced.

There isn’t too much to write here since we spent a serene few days drinking gin and tonics* on the porch, swimming in the sea and star gazing.

no fridge...not a problem.

no fridge…not a problem.

I spent a fantastic birthday the same way we had spent the rest of the week and it was incredible. The main thing to point out to all you techie bloggers out there is that there was no wifi. The first day I was almost strickend that I couldn’t instagram the incredible sea views but I quickly loved the lack of contact with the world and didn’t really want to return.

The incredible sunrise was worth waking up for

The incredible sunrise was worth waking up for

I did debate not talking about this place just to see if I could keep it a secret a little bit longer but I loved it so much that I want you all to instantly run there and soak up the sunshine. If you are looking for the real desert island experience then this is the place for you.

There were other bars to explore but everything closed at about 8:30 for food and 10 pm for drinks so if you are after a bit more of a party feel then Cambodia’s other island Koh Rong, is more for you. We really liked the quiet few days we had there. In fact we liked it so much that when someone compared Koh Rong Samloem to Gili Meno in Indonesia we instantly changed all our plans to add it to our list. We’ll arrive there in a few days so we’ll let you know how they compare.

beach1 b13 dog b8 We loved our little bungalow on Saracen Bay and we definitely will be back as soon as possible.

*We stocked up on snacks and alcohol before heading to the island because we heard it was expensive. It was actually quite affordable there but I’m glad we brought our own supplies.

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Sihanoukville – An Unavoidable Stop Over pt2

11th June 2015

The second day in Sihanoukville was a lot better than the first.

We were quite far away from the main area so went for a walk along the beach. The beach front took a long time to resemble anything we were use to. It just seemed to be Cambodian people sat around in areas that were full of plastic chairs but with no bars or restaurants. And a lot of litter. We were starting to get a little worried until we came to the very end of the beach and found some real bars.

rubbishbeach3 rubbishbeach We took a seat in a comfy looking beach bar and were told by the staff that they were on the break and wouldn’t be serving anyone for a few hours. So we got up and headed as far as we could until children stopped hassling us and arrived at ‘above us only sky’.

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Does anyone know what this lovely bird is?

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The Cambodian 'morning glory' vegetable

The Cambodian ‘morning glory’ vegetable

IMG_1939 IMG_1947 This bar was our little savior in the town. We loved it here. Nice music, nice service and a great view. We sat here for about 3 hours because we didn’t want to head into they main area again. We organised our boat to Koh Rong Samloem in a local tourist building (as adviced by our hotel) and headed back to our hotel. We had a nap and woke up in time for dinner. We started to get ready to head out when Lee and I caught each others eye…looked at our laptop containing all of our unwatched Game of Thrones episodes…and ordered a pizza.

It was the best night we could have hoped for. We did also make a quick stop at a local In supermarket to stock up on supplies for our island trip since we had heard there was only one shop in Saracen Bay that only occasionally opened .. we bought the important supplies of gin, tonic, chocolate and soju. Very adult of us.

Do we like Sihanoukville? No. Is it as bad as you read online? It depends where you are since we did have glimpses of really pretty places and very nice people but I would view it more as a stop off before you head to one of the islands surrounding it. Then again this may have something to do with pooping my insides out, being attacked by ants and backed up toilets….who knows? signature

 

Sihanoukville – An Unavoidable Stop Over pt1

10th June 2015

About a year ago Lee and I came home from work and ran up to each other shouting ‘have you seen Emma’s photos!’ a friend of ours had just put up the most beautiful photos of an island called Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia. We decided that we had to check it out for ourselves.

As we started researching we realised that with the bus times and boat times it was inevitable that we would have to spend one night in Sihanoukville before catching the boat to Koh Rong Samloem. To begin with we were both happy about this since we love seeing as many places as possible. That was until I started researching the place. To say the reviews were bad is an understatement. People seemed to hate this little town. “oh well” we thought “how bad can it really be!” . The answer is that the term ‘so-so’ has been invented for this little place.

We arrived mid-day and we were instantly harassed for about twenty minutes while we walked to our hotel . People aggressively wanted us to get into their trams/tuk tuk/taxis. When we eventually arrived at our hotel we were pleasantly surprised. It looked really nice , despite being quite cheap and having awful reviews (but still the best reviews we could find).

It was at this point we discovered that we’d made an error with our planning and we had to spend two days in Sihanoukville. I can’t say I was happy but I was excited to make our own opinion of this little town. We walked for a little bit and found a lovely restaurant on the road. The people were nice , the food was cheap and the portions were plentiful…but most importantly …the beer was cheap. We returned to our hotel happy and upbeat for the next day. That’s when the hotel started to show it’s true colors. We tried to open our door but it refused to budge. We pushed a bit harder, both having individual ‘you must be doing it wrong’ turns. That’s when we noticed the door had obviously been kicked open a few times. Due to poor locks we basically had to break into our own hotel room. Once we huffed and puffed our way in we sat on the bed and I grabbed two glasses to pour ourselves a well deserved class of diet coke….this is when the inside of the glass seemed to be moving in front of my eyes. I refocused since I had had one beer at dinner…inside the glass were a million ants. This is when we started to look around the room and realise it was swarmed with them. The more our eyes adjusted , the more we saw. We jumped up and ran to the reception desk. The staff seem to clock off at a certain time so we were stuck in the ant room. Lee cleared them up the best he could and I headed to the bathroom. I wasn’t feeling great .

Not feeling great turned into my insides trying to escape…very quickly and very aggressively. This , as everyone knows, is not the best feeling when on holiday. But in Asia it seems inevitable. I let my body attack and finally felt slightly human enough to leave the bathroom. Being ill is an awful feeling and at that moment I didn’t think it could get much worse…that was until I flushed the toilet. Watching  the toilet water starting to go up instead of down puts dread into a human like nothing else.  I won’t go into too much detail here in case you are sitting down reading this with a lovely breakfast but to say ‘it was the worst of times’ in that bathroom probably wouldn’t sum it up. Lee and I have been together a long time but the things we’ve both had to deal with on this trip has matured our relationship extremely quickly…and luckily made us laugh a hell of a lot. Leaving that bathroom to face Lee and explain the horrors that awaited behind the door was not my favourite moment. Cleaning it up because I refused to let him enter the bathroom was yet another of my least happy memories.

When the ants, toilet and door were all distant memories and we settled down to sleep I was secretly dreading the next day and wishing with all my might that we could just leave for our island paradise the second the sun shone.

Sihanoukville – 1

Us – 0

(Luckily there are no photos to accompany this post !)

 

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Phnom Pehn – Our First Glance of Cambodia

6th June 2015

banner Well it’s been a while since i’ve updated our little blog. Mainly due to just having too much fun. We have now moved on from Cambodia but I can’t wait to tell you all about our trip.

Neither of us had any clue what to expect from Cambodia. We wouldn’t have even have added it to our travel plans if it hadn’t been for the rave reviews from our friends. We knew we wanted to go to Siem Reap to see the temples of Angkor Wat but other than that we were a bit stumped.

Since we were heading there from Vietnam we decided to start in the capital of Phnom Penh and see what we could find.

cambodia2 cambodia What we found was a city on the brink of becoming a big cosmopolitan and a ‘must visit’ city. The Cambodian people were very kind and always smiling which made being in the city much easier but there were a lot of sellers trying to entice you to buy their wears at every turn. Unfortunately it also seems very popular in Phnom Penh to use your children to get money. I’m not a fan of this and it upsets me so much to see little kids being pushed to sell bracelets but PLEASE don’t buy things from them as you just proving that it pays to take your kids out of school. I know i’ve banged on about this before so I’ll stop my blog-rant but try to hold back as much as possible.

amok temple palacegate The highlights of this city definitely seem to be the palaces and buildings. Such detail is put into the surrounding architecture. A normal government building would have me taking pictures for far too long. Cambodian food is also a highlight. Quite a few people we talked to had suffered from food poisoning so unfortunately it is better to eat in  restaurants than on the street but hopefully this will change as the country grows. My personal favourite food was the Amok curry… a coconut, creamy yellow curry sometimes served in a coconut. mmm I miss them already.

beer Surprisingly Cambodia is a lot of expensive for food and drink than Vietnam. In Vietnam a beer and a meal would cost about 2 dollars where as here it would be closer to 6 dollars. Still incredible compared to our home in the UK but its worth noting if you are traveling here thinking it will be the same as Thailand and Vietnam.

palace4 palace2 palace The moments that will stay with me most from our trip to Phnom Penh will definitely be the time we spent in the war prison. This old converted school is haunting. The blood still paints the floors and the eerie feeling of the horrors that took place here still hang in every room. It is a disturbing place to visit that will pull your day down but it is something I’d recommend. I’m really glad we got to understand the country we were in a little more. It is also shocking when you realise how recent all these events happened in Cambodia and how every person we met on our trip near our age or older was effected in some way by the events put into place by Pol Pot and his Communist regime. I didn’t take any photos  , out of respect, while I was there . I couldn’t bring myself to snap anything in such a place but please take our word for it that it is a haunting place and one that should be visited.

We only spent three days in this city but I really liked it. I am excited to see how it changes and grows over the next few years. toiletman

The part of us that use to live in Korea found this Mr Toulet sign and the placement of these flags very strange (that's north Korea by the way who have an embassy in Phnom Penh)

The part of us that use to live in Korea found this Mr Toilet sign and the placement of these flags very strange (that’s north Korea by the way who have an embassy in Phnom Penh)

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These creatures are called the Khmer and Cambodians believe that they come from these creatures. They believe Cambodia was underwater until one of their kind fell in love with a human and created the race we see today.

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Casual street banana trees

Casual street banana trees

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Saigon / Ho Chi Minh – A Blur of a Visit

25th May 2015

poster When we arrived in Saigon we were welcomed by running into the beautiful Kaleena (from Kaleena’s Kaleidoscope and if you haven’t read it yet you should instantly follow this link and read all of her fantastic tales). Running into someone in a huge city should have been a huge surprise but the secret of Saigon is that it is mainly contained in about 3 streets. These three streets are located in the area called district one and are the main travellers hub.

We also met up with another friend from Korea who has recently moved to Saigon. She showed us the sights but mainly the gin…oh the gin!

IMG_1897 IMG_1910 We did see the war museum , or as Lee thinks it should be renamed ‘A photographic history of hating America’. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t’ truth on the walls of the museum. It just means that its a very one sided and extremely gruesome history told from the winners perspective. Please don’t get me wrong though, it is a horrifying history and needs to be told but it is worrying when rooms are called things such as ‘The real truths’ or when tanks are labeled ‘Americans death machine’ while Vietnamese tanks are labeled ‘Vietnamese liberation vessel’. It would have been fantastic to see a un-biased account of event which would still show the horrors the Vietnamese people and the Americans both experienced. But I don’t have a degree in History so definitely don’t have the right to an opinion on this place. It is still an interesting place to see either way.

place plane2 rain We also indulged in our favourite past time and headed to the cinema. It was great. Quiet, cheap and with fantastic salted popcorn. The Vietnamese had a great sense of humour and laughed at everything which made it a great experience.

We also managed to see the 1920’s style post office as well as the Notre Dame cathedral. but we mostly spent our time eating and taking in the city. We sat on many tiny plastic chairs and guided our way across the terrifyingly busy roads.

seoul window building karaoke shirts shrek I think it’s definitely a city to live in rather than visit…UNLESS you know some people to enjoy the city with. There is so much to do here but it’s more relaxed things that require insider knowledge.