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Island time – Legazpi, Cebu and Bohol

Our flight to Cebu was a perfect example of island time. Scheduled originally for 18.30, we received an email at 7am to say it would now leave at 15.30, but on arrival at the tiny airport an hour early as instructed and passing through the 5 minute security check during which we didn’t need to show anyone our liquids or provide any more information than ‘web check in’ we eventually boarded the plane some time after 16.30 and spent some time on the tarmac waiting for the game of overhead locker tetris to finish. It must have been gone 17.00 by the time we were in the air…Island time 😉

As we took off the cabin crew asked a series of Christmas quiz questions…Where was mum kissing Santa Claus? And on what day? What did my true love give me on the 5th day of Christmas? So far the attitude to Christmas here has been excellent! A trend continued when we reached Cebu, who had decked out arrivals in festive ukuleles, baubles and lights complete with carol singers!

Outside Cebu airport we had our first confusion…the white taxi line or the yellow. White taxi’s were cheapest, but there were so many people waiting it seemed we’d be spending Christmas at the airport, so we joined the far shorter yellow line and stood for almost an hour slowly watching those who had been just behind us in the white line edging ever closer and eventually securing a cab. Some 20 minutes after we’d have been in a white car the third yellow car arrived (that’s right, third!) and we were off. Tortoise: 1, Hare: 0.

London at rush hour has nothing on traffic out of Cebu airport on the Friday before Christmas. The airport is on an island, with two bridges on and off, both of which were at total grid lock. I was so envious of the mopeds zipping in and out of the lines of cars, jeepneys and tuk tuks. But at the same time it was nice to enjoy the aircon whilst watching the street vendors and general hustle and bustle as we crawled along. The first treat was definitely the number of Christmas lights, trees and general decorations on every corner. From Santa and running reindeer in white lights as you exit the airport to stars, snowmen and everything in between, the effort was set to rival regent street!

Our home for the night was The Tropical Hostel…that extra s is always a risk and alas on this occasion our horse did not come through as we were directed to a windowless room with rickety bunk beds…an apparent upgrade from the room we’d booked! At least it was only for 10 hours!! Before we set out from the UK Sven had discovered google travel, a seriously handy system which allows you to download a map of your location and save various points of interest to it for use on airplane mode later. This meant we could save the location of the hotel, and the various eateries etc our host had pointed out to us when we checked in. I’d previously stuck with TripAdvisor which offers all the same features but on a far more limited number of cities. Google had allowed us use even in tiny Legazpi and the surrounding towns, and was super useful in Cebu where we walked the 20 minutes in search of something to eat that wasn’t from a 7/11. Great Christmas decorations on the way…

The place we’d been sent was a mall, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in Asia before. Lights hung from every tree changing colour in sequence with songs played periodically around the complex. Outside the square were primarily eateries offering everything from sushi to Thai food and burgers to ice cream, but inside was every shop you can possibly imagine…including marks and spencer! What was going on?!

The following morning we were greeted by a very welcome sight as the sun flooded onto the balcony at the end of our corridor. Sven had woken up on the energetic side of the bed, and thought walking to the port was an excellent idea. Usually I’m all for walking to see a city, but not with an 8kilo backpack at 28degrees pre-breakfast. By the time we arrived at the ticket booth we were DRENCHED, and beyond glad to see a very air-conned coffee shop adjacent to the booth. The first boat was in an hour and a half, so we had a plan…get the tickets, get a coffee, get to the boat, done. Not so easy when a typhoon prevented all the boats yesterday from sailing. Our first option was the penultimate boat of the day, in 9 hours. But not to worry, there’s a luggage store at the boat! Fab! Plan b…have coffee, drop off luggage, explore Cebu city. Having not learned our lesson the first time we walked a further sweltering 20 minutes to terminal 3 and found chaos. Buses, jeepneys, tuk tuks and taxis were coming and going and hundreds of people either stood, sat or meandered around seemingly without purpose. What was the drill?! Perhaps there was ordinarily a luggage store (skeptical), but today the port was on a strict departure schedule, if your boat wasn’t leaving within the hour…sianara! Looks like our bags were joining the Cebu tour. Yay!

Luckily one of the main tourist attraction was a meer hop, skip and three minutes walk away. Fort San Pedro was built by the Spanish under the leadership of Miguel Legazpi (fitting!!), having served as a base camp, rebel stronghold, prison and city zoo the ruin is now open to the public offering history and much needed shade! There was also an photographic exhibition of historic Cebu, with both the original captions from any published photos and an actual definition of what the photo depicted. This was to show the power of cropping, editing and voice even back in the 1800’s! One example showed people waiting outside a large building, captioned that they were homeless and waiting for food. However in truth it was Sunday and they were waiting to enter church!

We spent the next few hours wondering around Cebu city, a crowded, noisy and eclectic city far removed from the mall we had visited yesterday. Street vendors lined every pavements selling clothing, watches, phone cases, shoes, fruits and vegetables and everything in between whilst the roads were filled with a diverse range of traffic…men sat atop trucks filled with rubble, rice sacks, coffee, rubbish and other cargos I couldn’t determine…mopeds weaved in and out of tricycles (they’re not the same as tuk tuks, I was calling them the wrong word!), taxis and jeepneys and in the midst of it all there were several horse and cart combos ferrying smaller goods and people. Knowing which way to look before crossing the road was a challenge!!

Cebu is the sort of city where everything seems to happen at once. Behind us in the picture above there was a bicycle shop, with workers lined up on the pavement outside fixing wheels, chains, frames and handlebars. Next to this was a general store selling packets of noodles, instant coffee and other treats, next again an Internet cafe of sorts and behind that a chicken shop. Chickens seemed to roam free or be tied by the foot on every corner, whilst dogs lounged in the sun or trotted along the paths quite at home.

Our next stop was Carbon market en route back to the port. Much the same as Camden really! Or Portobello Road, you can find everything and anything a chap can unload! From woks as big as an arm chair to all the daily stuff you could need. Here we acquired a shadow by the name Amelie who skipped along beside us for a few minutes chatting away in near perfect English and finding my attempts at Filipino hilarious. I always worry with little shadows that they follow us too long, far beyond the boundaries British children would be allowed to roam in a place this crowded. But perhaps that says more about our society than theirs, where communities still work together with far more harmony and neighbourlyness than I have ever seen at home. Or on the other hand perhaps they don’t have anyone to worry where the wander, but Amelie was well dressed with adorably bobbed hair and good shoes, something tells me she wasn’t a street kid.

Before long it was time to return to the port and join the craziness mascarading as organised chaos. Firstly you have to wait for check in to open for your particular boat, at that point the first security guards on the door will allow you entry into the building. From there you battle through the crowds to the desk relevant to your booking company…in our case Ocean Jet. Ticket stamped you then go through security, joining lines segregated by gender (though the first sign for this is after the point the line has split…that was fun!) where men are asked to pass bags through x ray machines and walk through scanners whilst women stroll through a gate with a smiling security guard. Foolproof. From there you high five Father Christmas and join the next queue to pay your 20peso port fee. From here the throng becomes single file. Imagine the chaos of the motorway going down to one lane, then times that by a few hundred people, many of whom are from cultures who do not value queuing. I have always travelled alone, and in these situations am happy to be carried along by the crowd at whatever pace is occurring around me, but here I learned that super-weapons can come in the form of tall Germans! It was like Moses parting the Red Sea, blooming marvellous!! Also impossible to lose him in the crowd, huzzah.

The sun was putting on a stunning final display of red and gold by the time we boarded, ahead of those still waiting for the 3.30 departure, poor sods. We’d opted to pay the extra £2 for airconned seats, and so found ourselves herded into the hull of the ship where there were no windows and a huge group of Chinese tourists. Thank goodness the trip was only due to last an hour. I did think it a bit odd that shortly into the trip a full length feature film started to play on the large television at the front, but didn’t think too much of it until the credits started rolling two hours later. We’ll call that an island hour then shall we?

Having been told several times to catch a tricycle from the airport at no more than 250pesos we exited the terminal and found ourselves in a 600peso mini bus. Ah well! The seats were comfy and drivers fun as we zoomed along roads lined with Christmas lights to our home for the next six nights; Alona Beach. After the craziness of Cebu this was pure paradise, and moments after checking in Sven and I were sat star gazing with our toes in the surf, astounded by the lack of people around us. The next week is going to be great!!

Great Ocean Road in a Jucy camper: Day 2 – Lorne to Princetown

An orange sunrise peeked through the curtains of the camper so temptingly the next morning I was in agony waiting for Sven to wake up so I could get out and see it properly (there is no way to creep out of a camper). Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long and we were soon up, dressed and ready to explore. Our camper was parked within walking distance of the beach across a footbridge at the end of a riverside boardwalk frequented by herons, swifts and swallows.

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A short hop across the dunes from there and the sights, sounds and smells of Lorne beach greeted us, beautiful in the early morning light. We joined the runners, walkers and people with their dogs already out and about despite the early hour. What a joy to live by the sea like this, I’d be there every day. Though maybe not quite swimming like one lady we saw, as the water was freezing and there were more stunning blue jellyfish littered here too.

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An hour or so here was enough to work up an appetite, but with a camper on your team you can take your meals on wheels anywhere you choose! An Aussie breakfast of smashed avo and tomatoes on bread (no one had the patience to fry toast!) with watermelon juice and coffee on the picnic tables in front of the bay followed. It seemed there’s endless places to picnic, or public BBQ sites along this road, all well signposted and used by tourists and locals alike.

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Time was ticking along, so after a quick stop to buy hats (when in Rome) we hit the road again. Having enjoyed the beach this morning we’d used up our waterfall time so decided instead to continue along the coast to Apollo Bay. What a coast! I was so jealous of Sven being able to lean out of the window and enjoy it without concentrating on the road. However with the current ongoing GOR restoration project creating roadworks every few kilometres I had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the view during traffic. Many of the signs were in Chinese as well as English as tourism increases. We later discovered this was also the reason for all the ‘Drive on the left in Australia’ signs we kept seeing around the place.

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Stopping frequently to get out and stretch our legs at places like Sunshine Drive and Petticoat Creek it took most of the morning before we were parked up in the Paradise By the Sea that is Apollo Bay. At each stop we tested the water in the hope that it would be miraculously warmer than the last one and we could swim, but it was icy on the skin even in 30degree weather! Even the water from the creek was more than refreshing as Sven and I added to the piles of stones already standing there. Ours is the tallest, but also the most unstable…hmm.

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We’d been advised by many friends and forums to stop at Apollo Bay, a seaside town with surfing and paddle board lessons and a number of beachy shops. But with so many tourists around it lacked the charm of Lorne so we only stopped long enough to enjoy an award winning ice cream and a stroll along the super soft sandy beach before rolling on into koala country! Dan had prewarned us that if you spy someone parked on the side of the road looking up, there’s probably a koala. So when not long after Apollo Bay we pulled up alongside a beautiful viewpoint on the right, and a couple under a tree on the left, it was worth pulling over. Sure enough there was a chubby fella stuffing his face with eucalyptus leaves. They’re quite spritely compared to the sleepy guys I met in the blue mountains, leaping from branch to branch at speed, but still taking the time to pose for a photo.

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The drive to Otway lighthouse was one of the most fragrant I have ever enjoyed, as the air was filled with the scent of pine and eucalyptus. Sven craned his head left and right as we wound our way through miles of forest looking for more koalas, but as Julie had warned us of the need to be at camp sites prior to 6pm we didn’t have time for further stops.

Otway lighthouse is probably the one part of this tour I wish I’d researched. I’d expected a lighthouse, a stop which would take 30 minutes at most, but instead we found an extensive park with dinosaur fossils, aboriginal walks and historical tours and talks. I could have easily spent half a day speaking to the lighthouse keeper alone, and was more than disappointed to tear myself away from his stories. Sven on the other hand was fascinated by the wind speed, as it was more than blustery at the top. The keeper kindly demonstrated how to measure the wind using a little gauge, 48km…glad we left our hats inside!! However I can tick something else off my bucket list…climb a lighthouse, check!!

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Despite thinking we’d planned a quite leisurely tour there have certainly been parts we’ve had to rush. Otway lighthouse and the Gibson Steps are two examples, and for the latter I also wish I’d thought to check tide times as the sea was rushing in when we arrived leaving little room for exploration. Being that we were pushed for time this was probably blessing in disguise, but I would have loved to have spent a few hours nestled under the towering cliffs, enjoying the first of the Apostles whilst protected from the wind. As sunset at the 12 Apostles is definitely one for the bucket list we found a cute little camp site in Princetown rather than press on to Port Campbell and checked in by 5pm (if only Julie could see our progress!) Visiting the GOR out of season has been fantastic for winging it, as camp sites and tourist spots are next to empty and we’ve had no troubles with crowds. This was particularly fortuitous at the Apostles, where we spent most of the evening meandering back and forth between viewpoints which would no doubt be packed to the rafters in high season. The view was stunning in all directions, I could have done with 3 tripods and eyes in the back of my head!

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As the skies darkened we returned to camp and quickly realised leg of Sven is a mosquito delicacy. They just can’t get enough! Despite not using any lights, and cooking in the kitchenette rather than out the back of the camper we ended up with a van full! Pesky buggers kept us up all night buzzing around our heads and poor Sven was covered in red welts by the morning. First on the list for today is bug spray, yeulch!!

In transit…

There’s something rather noteworthy about time in transit. This period of semi-existence where you are neither here nor there, but rather somewhere in between. The strangest example of this for me will always be crossing the international date line. When you board a 14 hour flight on a Friday morning and arrive on Sunday afternoon. Discombobulating indeed! That magic didn’t happen on this trip however, as we flew first to Abu Dhabi and then 14 more hours to sunny Melbourne and our initial destination.

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The journey is worthy of a blog in itself. The first plane was so gigantic I failed to realise it had taken off as I sat in my centre of it, learning a valuable lesson about the pitfalls of selecting a seat next to the toilets. Sometimes guilt free reclining is not worth it folks! It was a double decker A380; the lower floor like that of any other plane, and the upper reserved for business and first class. Upstairs was also home to The Residence, where for the cost of average annual salary you can enjoy your own private butler, living room and bathroom, before taking breakfast in a luxury double bed. If you haven’t seen it I recommend this YouTube video. How the other half live!

The window seat on the second leg however was worth every seat reservation penny. Firstly to witness the miles of middle eastern dessert, with its miles of rolling sand dunes interrupted by groups of buildings in uniform grids. Symmetrical sand coloured settlements dotted around in the otherwise seemingly desolate landscape; some joined by perfectly straight highways which stretched from horizon to horizon without any hint of a curve, but others with no discernible entrance or exit at all, which makes you wonder how on Earth people ended up living there with no obvious access to water, or other civilisation.

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Majestic mountains followed, ragged and comprehensible at first, with tracks climbing to yet more towns and villages perched high in the summits; but then escalating so dramatically the peaks seemed in danger of clipping the aircraft wings. Despite my drooping eyes I was glued to the window, as the sun occasionally glinted off roofs and windows suggest that even in this isolated and apparently barren landscape was home to somebody.

The next treat came in the form azure blues and white sandy beaches of Male; which again appeared so suddenly in an otherwise endless sea that I spend a long while wondering how islands like that form out of the abyss. I understand when they’re nestled next to a continent, but Male is in the middle of the ocean! There were more tropical islands than I could count, some with obvious signs of inhabitants even from 39,000ft, others no more than a stretch of white surrounded by turquoise before dropping off again into deep blue sea. Straight white lines forming in between them gave the suggestion of tours and fishing boats. I’d love to see it for myself one day.

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As darkness fell you’d think the show was over, but no, the final treat was a thunderstorm raging over Perth. Huge clouds illuminated by great bolts of lightning as they sat under an inky sky pinpricked by stars above and lights from the city below. Incredible.

All this and the holiday hadn’t even really started. What an adventure!

Meeting the locals 

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Travelling, for me, is mainly about people. Sure there is beautiful scenery, delicious food and fun things to do, but without people all of these things would just be a little bit greyer (thanks DW!). Lombok, it seems, has the best of people. The locals here are as unspoiled as the landscape; the majority still marvel at tourists the way I marvel at seeing the milky way over the ocean from a tropical beach…and you know you’re off the beaten track when you can’t find a postcard for love nor money! Unfortunately this is 2015 so the marvelling is all too often coupled with requests for photos (if you’re lucky, more often than not you turn around to find someone following you as they attempt to take a selfie with you in it completely without your knowledge), or just to sit with you for a while so they can practice their English. In exchange for conversation they will share whatever they have, be that food, their language or stories. 

Getting off the boat from the Gilis, I felt like Leonardo di Caprio returning to the mainland after his time on The Beach. After 6 days of quiet, engineless, existence, the noise and busy-ness of the port was overwhelming. A French couple and I haggled for a taxi and headed to our first destination, Sengiggi. We didn’t even stop there; the ‘quiet village’ was heaving with locals enjoying the last day of the post Ramadan celebrations, so much so that you could barely see the black sand beach, it was so covered in people! Instead we decided to head to Kuta, which is bigger but quieter. Along the way our driver asked if we would like to stop and see a traditional Lombok village…why not?!

  Whilst much of the island is modernising, traditional locals still live in mud houses, making a living from farming, weaving and making jewellery. The houses are simple, one room dwellings where women and boys under 10 sleep on woven blankets inside, whilst the men and older sons sleep outside. Whilst sat on the outer part I spotted a tray with some leaves and a pot on it…can you guess what it was?

   A make up set…of course! The leaves when chewed create a red paste used for colouring the lips and cheeks. The tobacco (in the pot) is then used as a brush to remove the red stains from teeth. Genius huh?

Ok next challenge…what is this?  

 If you said a tomato, take 10 points!

I spent my first few hours in Kuta, Lombok alone, making me an easy target for passing hawkers. But unlike more touristy places the people here don’t seem to mind if you don’t buy. My first exchange was with Julie, Sam and Sunita, three sarong sellers who spend their days walking up and down the beach with a HEAVY bundle of fabrics on their head.  

 Having ascertained I already had a sarong they stopped asking me to buy one of theirs (unheard of anywhere else I’ve been – usually if you have one it means you’ve been worn down before, so they’re determined you can be persuaded to buy again!); instead we spoke about their lives, families, villages etc and I showed them photos of the UK (mainly Glastonbury, Cornwall and Loch Lomond…my phone had limited options!). As the three women continued on their way, two young boys joined me. One selling coconuts and the other bracelets. These two were not so easily placated by ‘no thank you’, but they were fun.  

 The younger one, Sabi, is 7; he goes to school in the mornings and sells bracelets on the beach in the afternoon. At sunset he goes home for dinner and to make more bracelets before hitting the beach bars to gain trade from drunken tourists. The older boy, Jonny, is 15 and already married. He and his wife have their own stall selling coconuts and pineapple to people on the beach. My younger nephews are 6 and 14…and whilst I’m sure N3 would be a dab hand at selling bracelets to people on the beach (or anywhere!) I’m glad he doesn’t have to.

Back at the homestay I met Wiebke, a German girl travelling through Asia on her way to work in Australia. She’d spent 3 weeks in Lombok (it’s easy to see how) and proved to be an invaluable guide during my stay here. Our first stop was the beach, where a Saturday night shindig was in full swing, including bonfire, live band, fire poi and impromptu limbo competitions with bits of palm tree! A few years ago the law was changed disallowing locals to build bars on the beach, but our host had a clever way around that…his bar is a boat, on wheels!  

 The lights, stage and sound system were all portable, set up just for the night, and the tables were lit by sand anchored candles in wax sandwich bags (great as they don’t catch fire). If you ever travel to Lombok be sure to bring a handful of these with you, they can’t be found easily here so they rely on tourists and visitors to provide them. Means a good few free drinks in exchange – more than a fair swap!! 
This is the first destination I’ve been where I’ve had no idea what tomorrow will bring, but I can already feel myself falling in love with Lombok. Wish I was here longer!

Bonfires, beach time and BBQ’s

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I was supposed to go to Bristol yesterday, but for one reason or another I didn’t go, meaning I was very much free when invited to the beach for a BBQ!

Top drawer – I haven’t laughed so much in ages! I forgot how much fun it is to be with people who don’t take life too seriously. No complications, no awkwardness, just good old fashioned family fun on a gorgeous beach with a roaring campfire, BBQ food and marshmallows. Bliss!

Not cricket – my lovely friend gave me some leggings as she never wears them and all mine seem to have gone missing. After kneeling on an ember they lasted precisely one outing…melted!! Oops!!!

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Wales – is it the green green grass side or the other?

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It’s so easy to take where you live for granted, especially rural West Wales where not much goes on and it’s often raining. Some times, some days, you are reminded that you live in a beautifully picturesque and peaceful place…others you wonder why you bother!!!

Today Siw and I went out for a stroll which turned in to a 5 mile walk and lunch! We set out from Ferryside and headed up and over to neighbouring Kidwelly, enjoying stunning views of patchwork hills over Llansteffan and the white sandy beaches of Pembrey. It was the perfect way to escape that ‘morning after the party’ feeling and enjoy sunshine, salty sea air and beautiful surroundings. I felt so lucky to be there and honestly wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

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After our walk we hopped in the car and headed over to the local race course which was hosting an E-Festival. I’d never heard of such a thing! After having such a great time at Beyond the Boarder, a storytelling festival, it sounded worth checking out! Wrong. What a flop!! The £15 ‘festival’ consisted of 1 stage, 15-20 craft stalls, and 3 vans offering burgers, sweets and ice cream. There weren’t even any books!!! (It was an e-book festival it turns out, go figure!)

Since we knew ‘the band’ Siw and I did not have to purchase tickets (instead carried equipement and felt very Dirty Dancing) but while we were there we heard more than one comment from punters and stall holders alike expressing their disappointment, “What a waste of money!”. The pair of us made a quick exit when refund discussions between stall holders and the management got heated, but after being promised 20,000 guests you can understand their frustration to see a ‘crowd’ of 20; at least some of whom must have been friends/famuly of those involved, like us. It made me think, people so often moan that there is nothing to do in this county, yet when a new and innovative event (allbeit very over priced) is offered on a warm and sunny day…noone shows up! What can you do hey? At least they tried!

So, Wales…beautiful, wild and infinite but sometimes it just makes you feel a bit…

 

 

High high high!

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Ok, let’s get the worst bit out of the way…wearing office clothes in 32° heat is evil, ridiculous and should just never have to happen! Luckily that part of the day was done with pretty quickly and the brilliance began!

Smile 1: BEACH! I LOVE living in a country with so many beautiful beaches a stones throw away, seriously. Today it was the turn of Traeth Mawr (aka ‘Big Beach’) just outside Llantwit Major with my cousins who are camping there. Lovely afternoon poking about in rockpools, jumping over waves, throwing balls for their lovely dogs and generally catching some rays, all topped off with a visit to my favourite pub. Bliss!

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Smile 2: Always good to catch up with people when in the area, last week it was the Queen of CK , this week I tried to get the R Crew on board but with R2 on first and Rachel off to the cinema it was up to Robbie and I to fly the flag. So we headed to Macross to catch the last of the sun and for once actually have a serious, semi professional conversation as I needed some advice. It helped a lot too so, smiles all round.

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Smile 3: A pressie for mum arrived today and she loved it. Always good when a plan comes together, especially when it’s the icing on the cake of a jolly good day!

The 23rd dailycoaster

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Rain: my body is not appreciating all the walking/running on sand I’ve been subjecting it to lately. It hurts!

Sunshine: Regardless of the resulting ouch there’s nothing like a visit to the beach in the sunshine with good company. Especially when there’s ice cream afterwards with sauce AND a flake!

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Rainbow: I expected something bad today and instead got something good. Goes to show people really can surprise you! Made my day 🙂

A truly coasterous day

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I’m quite ashamed of my worst part today. I was rude. Regardless of someone’s behaviour to you rudeness is not acceptable. You should rise above it, strive to be the better person. This is especially true today because despite the way it was put, the intentions of this communication were good. As Elsie De Wolfe said, ‘Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you’. Definite fail.

But after that rocky start, my day was so much fun! It was N2’s last day of primary school EVER so Big Sis arranged to take him and his class to see the new Ice Age film followed by a slap up meal, leaving N3 and I to entertain ourselves; which we did! As it miraculously wasn’t raining we headed to the beach for a few hours of climbing dunes, chasing waves and drawing sand pictures, followed by a trip to the park where there were forts to conquer and slides to, well, slide down! N3 was a bit scared of one of the big slides, so I sat on the wood next to him and we slid down together. He came off gigging while I ripped my leggings and am pretty sure gained a few splinters in the back of my leg! All in the name of Aunthood though, we had a real laugh. Arriving at home sandy and soaking after jumping in puddles. This evening the pair of us cuddled up on the sofa with MacDonalds to watch Rio, which I recommend if you haven’t seen it. All in all it was a really fun day…minus the splinters!

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Ka-kaaaa : Tales from Bali

Hello from Bali and a very hungover me. But that’s the end of the story, let us start at the beginning…

My last few days in Melbourne were fun, but very chilled out. On Monday morning I was up at 6 to catch my first flight to Singapore. I flew Jetstar and wouldn’t recommend it; I was lucky enough to have a full package (thanks STA!) but if you don’t have that you have to pay for everything, headphones, films, food, a pillow, the lot. On a 7 hour flight! Crooks!!!! Anyway after a 3 hour stopover at the most amazing airport (there was a cinema!) I was on my flight to Bali.

I met some Irish girls on the plane who had been travelling together for a couple of months. Chatting to them made time fly and I was really happy when they invited me on a cruise of the Gili Islands. Customs, visas and a job offer later I waved goodbye to my new friends, negotiated a taxi and was on my way to Sanur and the Big Pineapple Backpackers. It was 2am when I arrived but Mia had left me a note on how to find my room, so I snuck into the dorm and went to bed.

I had only meant to stay one night, then meet the girls for the cruise but for one reason and another had to leave Bali earlier than intended so decided to skip the Gilis. They’re meant to be beautiful, but I’m so glad I stayed here! The hostel is full of people travelling on their own so a group of about 15 people has formed in a way that only happens with strangers in a foreign country, we’re like the best of friends. They all intend to go to the Gilis on Tuesday now, I wish I could go.

After sorting some life admin the first morning a group of us went to the beach. Kristine from Norway has been here so long she knows the locals so we were greeted like friends and had a discount for the sun beds. There had been a big storm in Singapore the night before so the water was pretty murky, but it was still warm and beautiful.

That night I went shopping in Sanur, there had been a huge earthquake in Jakata and the Indian Ocean was on tsunami watch which was fun. Sabina and I asked our taxi driver if Bali had a warning system only to be told that Bali has a lot of temples and good people, so they don’t need a warning system, there will not be a tsunami. Reassuring!! By the next morning though the warning was lifted and everyone relaxed. Well honestly we were pretty relaxed before, must be the Bali lifestyle!

A group of 7 of us decided to spend the night in the mountain town of Ubud, so hopped in a mini van and travelled for an hour or so passed rice fields, temples and a million scooters.

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We stayed in Jati, next to Lotus Lane and were given two family rooms (each with two double beds) including breakfast for 800,000 rupiahs…about £7 a night each. Bargain! The hotel was a mini paradise just off the bustling main street, only 5 minutes walk from the monkey forest and 10 minutes from the markets and temples.

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Having dropped off our stuff we set out to explore, stopping for some delicious Balinese Food before hitting the markets. If you have ever been to a market in Asia, or even Morocco you’ll know what it was like, an endless maze of stalls and sellers offering bags, clothes, shoes and all types of memorabilia, some more family friendly than others!

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We also bought tickets to see a fire show at a temple that evening, after a quick pedicure of course! The story was that of Rama and Sita, acted out through the medium of dance by people in fabulous costumes while men chanted and told the story in a circle around them. The finale consisted of a man walking on burning coconut shells, pretty impressive!

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The following morning Sanj and I went to visit Sunarta and his silversmith workshop. We spent around 3 hours working on designs and bringing our ideas to life. It was just something a little different. I’d had this idea for an anklet I have wanted for some time so it was a fantastic way to bring it to life and make it even more special.

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While we were there we met a girl called Jenyne who works for Cirque de Soleil. She was making a butterfly pendant, the logo of her company. If you have a minute check out this video she shared with us, very impressive!

Sanj and the gang went for massages after that while I visited the Monkey Forest. Basically a lot of monkeys who’ll take bananas from your hand, go through your pockets and bags and generally monkey around the temple and trees. It was fun!

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That evening a larger group of us went to Jimbaren Bay, a place renowned for fresh sea food and spectacular sunsets. Sadly it was cloudy when we were there, but my snapper was delicious and as always the company made the evening!

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On the way back we stopped to pick up some supplies. The Big Pineapple is so relaxed that this weekend the owners went away and left Kristine in charge. Imagine that! Leaving the guests in charge of the hostel! In true ‘while the cat’s away’ style we celebrated that evening with a pool party, preceded by many drinking games. It’s been years since I’ve played ring of fire, slaps and hide and seek!! Haha! So much fun! Massages in the pool, lots of tunes, mighty ka kaaaaing and 5 bottles of vodka, bet you wish you were here huh?

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You guys still with me? Epic blog I know! Well done if you have made it this far, I’m almost done I promise!

Yesterday was spent, understandably, in a hungover and chilled out state. We hung by the pool, did laundry and went to the beach. In the evening 15 of us headed over to Kuta for free cocktails and dancing at the famous Sky Garden. There are so many nationalities here of all ages and yet everyone gets on like a house on fire!! Outside the club you receive a VIP pass which entitles you to an hour of free cocktails, an hour and a half for girls. They’re so strong that an hour is enough, wow! The glasses were piled in pyramids behind the bar and you could select from a lemon colour, orange or blue. The lemon and blue were my favourite, the orange one tasted like marzipan! Bleugh! At one point we had a tag team going to try and fill up our table before the time ran out, but security were on to us and began pouring away the drinks. Probs for the best!!

By 2am everyone had had enough. In Bali you are constantly beeped at and offered transport and taxis so finding a lift home was no trouble. There were 7 of us at first, then 9, then 11, but by this point we had already found a driver and once they have you they don’t want to let you go! So, 11 people in a 7 seater? 5 in the back, 4 in the middle and 2 on the front seat next to the driver, who was brilliant! He cranked up the tunes and even took us to Macdo en route for some munchies, star!

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Today we visited Tanah Lot Temple. At first I thought the guys were winding me up. ‘what are we doing today? ‘going to tan a lot’ ‘I like your thinking!’ jokes. Anyway I was feeling so hungover and honestly wanted a day in the sun so convincing myself to go to a temple was effort, but fomo kicked in and off I went. Should have stayed by the pool! We weren’t allowed up to the temple, and actually the place they tell you to go does not offer the view you expect when going there. Pretty disappointing! Got back and chilled out in the sun, working on my tan on my last day in this amazing place. This evening we had a massive group BBQ, around 20 of us preparing food and sitting to eat together before watching An Idiot Abroad in the pool. There are worse ways to spend an evening!

This is what I was looking forward to when planning my travels, places like this filled with amazing people who just enrich your experience. I’ve had the best week and don’t want to leave tomorrow. But at the same time I am so looking forward to getting to Thailand. Hopefully things will just keep getting better and better!

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