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Nusa Ceningan – Wrinkly Fingers and Scooters.

11th October 2015

banner After relaxing in the tiny town of Ubud we did what any smart person would do and instantly went somewhere to relax even more…oh it’s a hard life.

We settled on the tiny island of Nusa Ceningan. While still officially Bali , this tiny island that is attached to Nusa Lembongan is a little off the coast of the main tourist area of Kuta. It is a forgotten island by most tourists so it is extremely untouched. No atms*, no real roads and beautiful untouched scenery are what you’ll find on this tiny island. There are some roads but they look like a blind giant got drunk and laid them.

nusacennigan17 The only problem with wanting to go to a tiny remote area is that getting there is a pain in the arse. There were quite a few boats but they basically wanted you to donate your kidneys to buy a seat. We decided to take the risk and take the local boat. After 3 months of travel we liked the word ‘local’. It normally translated to ‘cheap’. This local boat was A LOT cheaper, which should have been a sign. We soon discovered that we should have just paid through the nose for the other boat. At least there was a chance our nose would still be attached to our face after that trip…on this rickety, packed to the rafters boat…we would be lucky to be alive.

In the 5 foot waves we waded out with our bags to the floating shack. At one point a wave hit me that was so strong it took my feet from under me. We finally boarded the boat, soaking wet and ready to hit the (very) high seas. This is when we were told in broken English that some more cargo needed to arrive. We were already sitting on and among an array of boxes of all shapes and sizes so I dreaded to think what was on its way. What came aboard was two hundred ,ten foot planks of wood, a fridge freezer and of course, a motorcycle. Watching 4 men try to move a heavy bike onto a tiny boat while getting battered by waves was extremely entertaining and improved the trip immensely.

nusacennigan03 We were finally on our way and woozy from the petrol fumes. We pulled up to a beach covered in men screaming ‘TAXI’ at us. We knew we had a pick up from our hotel waiting so started looking for our people. They were nowhere to be found until finally one of the taxi men got excited and everyone started pointing at some people walking away from the beach. We ran up to these two and had to convince them that we were in fact the people staying at their hotel. They were having none of it. A recurring problem we’ve discovered while traveling on this trip is:

  1. Lee is an Asian name
  2. We booked our flights and hotels from Korea.

 

Everyone thought that Lee and I we would be Korean on arrival, most didn’t seem to mind but I could tell that some people had been brushing up on their ‘hangul’ for our arrival and were slightly disappointed in the pastie faced Westerners arriving on their doorstep .

 

nusacennigan02 nusacennigan01 We jumped on board their tiny scooters, covered in bags and started the ride to Nusa Ceningan and our hotel. About half way on our journey along the bumpiest roads I’ve ever experienced, I turned around slightly and couldn’t see Lee and his driver anywhere. I started to worry so shouted in the ear of the young girl driving that we’d lost them. I now knew her extremely well since I was clinging on to her for dear life. She paused for a while and waited but there was still no sign of them. She made the executive decision to carry on and hope they were just taking in the sights. What had actually happened was Lee’s guides bike couldn’t handle the weight of two grown men and three suitcases, so had given out. Lee had to get off and walk up any hill that lay ahead of their path. This is probably a good time to note that even mountain goats would come to Nusa Ceningan and think it was too ‘hilly.’

Finally Lee and his guide arrived at the hotel and we were given our beautiful room. It over looked our ‘private’ pool. It wasn’t meant to be private, but the two other villas were empty so for all intensive purposes we decided that it was our pool for the week.

nusacennigan05 nusacennigan06 nusacennigan11 We stayed at the ‘Da Fish’ Hotel and I’d recommend it to anyone. Great views, fantastic food brought straight to your balcony, lovely people and great location for seeing the blue lagoon.

We did nothing for the week apart from ride our scooter around the island and **prune our fingers. Hiring a scooter is something we never thought we’d do. Scooters are always part of peoples horrible travel stories. But without a scooter it’s impossible to get around Nusa Ceningan or Nusa Lembongan. We drove around, saw the island, ate at tiny restaurants and watched the sun set, but most 50% of the time was spent in the ‘private’ pool. We were definitely those smug annoying tourists for a few days.

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best part of travel? All the puppies and kittens

nusacennigan12 nusacennigan09 nusacennigan08 Nusa Ceningan is a tiny place but perfect for a couple. If you are travelling on your own or with your friends then I’d say Nusa Lembongan is better. More restaurants, music bars and even a local outdoor cinema. A bit more life to it and more places to drink, but for us Nusa Ceningan was where we belonged. Everyone needs to find a place they can pretend to be fancy tourists in once and a while. nusacennigan16

Lee throwing all the moves

Lee throwing all the moves

This is definitely the forgotten island and I’d recommend it.

*there is one atm but it is rarely filled. I think that it probably empties before the money delivery guy is even back on his boat. You can get money out from the money exchanges for a fee in an emergency, such as a ‘we need more pina colada’s’ emergency like we had.

** Pruning fingers is when your fingers have been wet for a long time and they get wrinkly. Lee laughed a lot when I used this term and I discovered it wasn’t a universal or even a local phrase.

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.

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We’re going to INDONESIA!

7th August 2015

banner INDONESIA!!!

Yes I am shouting that. I was so stupidly excited to visit this place. I realise that this is quite a normal location for travel bloggers but for me it’s really exciting and completely new.

I am going to confess something to you all now and please don’t judge me but I LOVE THE BOOK EAT, PRAY, LOVE! I read it at a hard time and it inspired me to:

  1. Run around the world
  2. Leave behind me a very toxic part of my life

It was a very important book to me and I will always be grateful for each and every page of it. For those of you that have lived in a cave, this is a biographical travel book about a woman who gives up everything to travel the world. 3 months in Italy, 3 months in India and 3 months in Bali – Indonesia.

The second I read about the beautiful Ubud I knew I had to go. I am a massive cliché but I’m not ashamed. Any reason that makes you travel has to be a good one.

indo7 indo6 indo4 Lee on the other hand was a little wary of Indonesia. He is a Historian and had only heard about the conflicts and darker side of Indonesia, he hadn’t seen the beautiful photos and heard the wonderful stories from friends that I had. There are many dangerous areas in Indonesia but it is a big place. If you are worried it is important to check on your embassies website to see what they advise. Even after my constant sales pitch he still was quite reluctant.

So I did the thing any sane person does when being confronted with someone who doesn’t want to visit a country; you make them go for 3 weeks.

indo3 indo2 indo We started in Yogyakarta for the temples, then to Ubud for food and yoga, Nusa Cenigan for a quiet isolated island without roads, Gili Air for deserted island paradise, Gili Meno for an even more deserted paradise and lastly Lombok for expensive looking hotels at stupidly cheap prices. indo5

Our last stop on this trip is going to be nothing but relaxing and food. A holiday from the holiday. That’s a thing right? signature

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The Best Way To See Angkor Wat

27th June 2015

banner We were a little overwhelmed with information when were planning our trip to Siem Reap. Every one had different ideas about what to do , when to go, what to skip. It was too difficult to digest all of the information so we did what all good traveller’s do and moaned to our friends until they told us what they did.

This was the fantastic message I received from the one and only, the legend Tom Jones…no not that Tom Jones, a even better one that we met while living in Korea. Him and his fantastic girlfriend Lynsey are the kind of people you’d pay to be your friend if you weren’t lucky enough to know them.

1 Here was his advice:

Hi T.

As far as I remember (it was 2 and a bit years ago) we only got a one day pass. The one day pass is valid for 24 hours from the time of purchase. SO what we did (what the hostel told us to do) was this:

5/6 pm cruise down to the ticket office with your Tuk Tuk driver, get out buy your day pass (I think you need passport) jump back in the tuk tuk and he’ll take you to the main Angkor wat super famous temple. It’s f*&^ing magnificent btw. You MUST see the main temple area in the evening if you are to avoid the crowds. The tuk tuk guy will wait for you in the car park, when your done/it’s too dark go home.

Then the same guy picks you up at like 4am the next day. (Take torches) He’ll take you back to the main site in total darkness and you can find a good spot and take pics as the sun rises over the main part of Angkor Wat. F*&^ing nice.

THEN….and this is the best part as most people (idiots) start to arrive at the main part you do one (because you’ve already done the main site the previous night) and go to the some of the other temples. They’re pretty much deserted/really quiet so you can enjoy them to the max. We did about 5 all before 9am. We weren’t rushing but were conscious of time and was really glad because as it gets closer to 9 it gets busier and busier.

One day pass was more than enough we didn’t feel short changed and saved money. We could have stayed longer or gone back too so it’s flexible but so good to avoid the crowds.

Also tried the minced chicken dish in Siem reap. I know it sounds rank but it’s wicked.

 

And there you have it. We followed these instructions to the word and had almost all the temples to ourselves. Plus he’s right, the minced chicken is fantastic.

To see more from Tom follow his instagram here: https://instagram.com/tomfalcojones/

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Things to Know About Boracay

26th March 2015

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  • As far as beaches go – it’s a winner. The shades of turquoise blues than fade all the way into rich navies will blow you away. You will always be snap happy here. The beach is also pleasantly litter free and so soft and white it feels like water…. it also gets white hot after midday so pack those flip flops. 9
  • Filipino people, at least in Boracay, hate tourists. I really do understand this since we’ve barged into their beautiful home bringing Mc Donald’s, Starbucks, selfie sticks and all manner of pointless things with us. (Sorry Starbucks…you know I still love you). Everyone we’ve met has smiles that don’t quite reach their eyes and a look that says ‘buy my shit you filthy foreigner’. I realise this is such an un-fair statement since we were only on the island for a week and it was the end of a long busy season, in which we tourists probably earned everything we got. Also, that this may just be the case in Boracay . I especially know this to be true since I have met tons of Filipino people outside of the island in the UK, Saudi Arabia and in Korea who have been the loveliest, nicest, funniest people I’ve met. It was just a bit of a shock to the system when we arrived. It is good to know before docking on the island. Maybe tourist’s excessive demands for wifi, cheap cocktails, fresh towels, and burgers have something to do with their mood – Nah! *Since writing this we have visited both Bohol and El Nido in Palawan and the Filipino people have the loveliest, friendliest and happiest people around. This is definitely just a Boracay thing. 1
  • It’s HOT – ‘No , on a tropical island it’s hot?’ I hear you all sarcastically cry, first touche and secondly we are talking ‘sweating your ping pongs off’ hot, which incidentally is the official term used on the weather channel here – I imagine. 4
  • Red Horse is lethal – this is the local STRONG beer. It’s is cheap but not cheerful. For me it made evening’s disappear. A night of drinking these (and some sneaky day time cocktails) had my poor friend having to constantly remind me I’d told her the same store before, about 3 minutes ago…oh jeez. 10
  • Pick pockets rule the roost – watch your bags. This is the same in every country but we had some particularly sneaky thieves lighten our pockets in Boracay. They were helped by the restaurant staff who distracted us so they could get in our bags. They luckily only managed to steal a few dollars from us…..and our pride.
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    Fanta is called Royal in the Philippines

    D'Mall is the central shopping area in Boracay with lots of night life

    D’Mall is the central shopping area in Boracay with lots of night life

  • A fun drinking game is a shot for every seller trying to sell you something. Only kidding, please never play this game. You will die….I’m not being ironic. Don’t play this game…you will never wake up. 6
  • Filipino food is DELICIOUS – I hadn’t heard good things but we love it. Its lots of meaty dishes in thick stocks and gravy. The pork adobo is a particular favourite. Seriously it’s worth coming just for the food. Try everything. *Since writing this Lee unfortunately had a bad case of food poisoning from a restaurant that looked really nice. It was a beef dish which is weirdly one of the hardest meats to get here so I’d stick to the pork, chicken nor seafood.
  • So much delicious cheap fruit – In the same vein as the last point. Eat alllllll the mangoes. Fresh pineapple, mango and coconuts are abundant. Juice, breakfast, lunch and dinner should be as packed with these goodies as possible.
  • Even though it’s a hot place, they love dairy. There is so much cheese here. This excitement may just be from living a cheese free life in Korea where it was so expensive that only birthdays and Christmases warranted a purchase. I wanted to order cheese burgers and hold the meat. 7 8

These are obviously all just quick, silly observations after a week in Boracay . I can’t wait to see more of this country because I love it more and more each day. We are on our way to Bohol now for Tarsiers and Chocolate hills. After that we have what Huffington post named ‘last paradise on earth’, Palawan which we can’t wait for. Bring on those islands! signature

 

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Boracay – The Philippines – Day 1

19th March 2015

banner We are here! We finally made it to sunny Boracay*. It took us 6 trains, 3 planes, 3 buses,a boat and 38 hours but we are here. And wow was it worth it . The beaches here in Boracay are stunning, a turquoise blue shade that makes its way to navy on the horizon. With pure white beaches as an accompaniment. Boracay is a very ‘party’ island with a lot of people trying to sell you deals. I wish I’d printed a t-shirt that says ‘no I don’t want to buy an island hopping tour’, but its still lovely. The crazy party atmosphere is always welcome when you are expecting it. 5 12

Our first day was spent sleeping off the mental trip to get here and exploring. It’s quite a small island and we walked the length of the beach in an hour or two.We filled up on some self indulgent burgers, which to my happy surprised were covered in mountains of Cheddar cheese and wandered until happy hour began. 1 6 9 10 11 I am really excited because a friend from Korea is also here so I need to track her down and force her to dance the night away with me. I am amazed that we didn’t bump into each other yet because Boracay is so much smaller than I thought. But after a crazy few, cold months of organising and packing it’s great to be in a lively area where the only things to do are relax, drink and drink some more. 4 7 8

*If you read my previous post about our re-direct Jetstar flight then here’s a quick update, so we waited a long time but it was too late to fly to Manilla, which closes at night so Jetstar gave us an allowance for food and for a hotel. We have kept all our receipts and been promised they will pay so I will let you know if it all goes to plan. Fingers crossed!

 

Kyoto – Day 2 – Geishas, Monkeys & a Forest of Bamboo

4th March 2015

banner Today was a day we’ve been waiting for. Today we visited the Bamboo forest in Arasiyama and the Arasiyama Monkey Park (Iwatayama).
Lee, who has dubbed our holiday ‘The Great Monkey Marathon’ loves animals but monkeys and apes in fact all simians are his favourite.
We set off from Kyoto station to the Saga Arashiyama station via the JR line . Once we hopped off the train there were signs everywhere so even we didn’t get lost, and soon enough the towers of bamboo were in front of us.

11 12 kyoto2_7 The bamboo forest was fantastic. Towering stalks that filled the area with the smell of wood and greenery. When the wind blew we could hear the wood gently knocking all around us…that and Lee singing ‘The old bamboo’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which we realised we only knew one line too.  It was fantastic. The tourists around did detract from the peace and calm but we went quite early and avoided huge crowds. It was free to enter, which helped our puny budget. kyoto2_8 kyoto2_9 kyoto2_10
Then it was over the magnificent river to the monkey forest. On the walk to the forest we had to pause and  take in the sights. This place really is stunning. Many Japanese people seem to come to visit Kyoto to experience the traditions and a lot of them wear the traditional Kimonos. It’s great to see them dressed up everywhere. These three girls asked us if we wanted to take a pictures of them and we jumped at the chance. They also wanted pics of us with them but for the life of me I have no idea why. I’ve talked to people who live in Korea who worry about visiting Japan because it could be ever so slightly similar but I can’t explain how different these two countries are. If you are in two minds, ignore the doubt and come now! Especially to Kyoto. 15 17
All this excitement was had even before we scaled monkey mountain , which is a little steep to start with but not a very long walk at all. I think older people would be ok if they did it slowly and wore trainers… if Lee and I can do it, anyone can.
Our first glimpse of a monkey was when it was on the path up ahead. It was so close. We sat for far too long, just excited to be near them. When we actually made it to the top viewing area we were surrounded by these lovely cute creatures. In the feeding room we bought some apples and peanuts for 100 yen (about 50p) and expected the money’s to grab and attack for the food but they were patient and kind. Just touching their soft little hands to feed them was thrilling. After about an hour or more we forced ourselves down the mountain both agreeing it was one of the best things we’d ever done. Lee didn’t steal a monkey but I can see he was tempted.

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We only had the two sights we really wanted to see, which left us lots of time to wander and discover. We headed back into Kyoto city and stumbled upon a restaurant just outside the Kawaramachi station. It was called ‘Mr Young Men’ and their cook filled our bellies with ramen and Takoyaki (octopus ball covered in egg). Before coming to Japan Lee swore he hated Japanese food. I tried many times to convince him he just needed to try it. Luckily he dipped his toe into the Japanese food bonanza and now I think I’ll never get him back out of the pool of Takoyaki and Teriyaki. 14

Once we had rolled ourselves out of there we found ourselves on Pontocho alley. Famous for Geishas and its old history rooted in the nightlife. It was just after dusk and although in the back of my mind I was hoping to spot a Geisha on the backstreets I knew that the chances on a Wednesday were slim…but just up ahead we saw two beautiful ladies who stood out from all the lovely Japanese tourists wearing their kimonos. In front of us was two elegant Maiko or apprentice Geisha’s. I could have taken a photo but it was such a great moment that I just watched them with Lee. I have seen online how much they are hounded and I didn’t want to be one of those people. They seemed to see the camera around my neck and nodded in appreciation, but then again that could just have been in my tiny excited mind.

13 16 So that was our day. Filled with Monkeys, Bamboo and Geishas in Gion. I am not sure we could have had a more Japanese day if we tried. Tomorrow we are planning on a trip to the Fushimi Onari-taisha shrine (or the orange gates to anyone who is clueless like I was until I just looked up the name on Google)

I am shocked that I have managed to write two days in a row but this jacuzzi bath in the hotel makes it very easy to find reasons to relax and write. Let’s see how long I can keep this up…

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