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Archive for the ‘Traveling Posts’ Category

You may have clicked on this post expecting some sordid details from the last two weeks as to why I haven’t updated my blog but unfortunately it’s just that I have been crazy busy so I’m sorry! Details of antics that ‘allegedly’ may or may not have occurred during this time stay within a small group of friends and any witnesses have been taken down – only joking!

Being back in the UK has been probably more of a culture shock than being in Asia, with my housemate frequently having to save me from being run over, as unlike in Vietnam the cars here dont go round you, they just hit you.

Getting used to the temperature has also been interesting (13 degrees!) as I have gone from over compensating on the number of items I wear so not only do I look twice as big but generally end up feeling hotter than I did when in Asia, to then being completely blaise and regretting it later when I start to get frost bite.

Although I didn’t intend this to be a personal blog about what I get up to on a daily basis, and since you have had to put up with the random posts about my travels for the last three months I thought I’d do just one more before I get back to the mildly intelligent stuff that I used to post about.

So in a nutshell these last two weeks being back I have; dressed as Shera for my housemates 30th, become a lady that lunches (until I checked my bank balance), caught up with friends, gone north of the M4 for the first time in my life and I suppose most importantly (especially for my bank balance) got a new job as a Social Media Account Manager.

hayles 30th

Since being back I thought I would also compile a short list of tips etc that I learnt a long the way for any one thinking of going away, so here we go:

  • Dont wear a boob tube while travelling to and from places, however comfy it is (you’ll wake up with it round your waist and flashing your boobs – not a good look, although you will make friends quickly
  • Know the local exchange rate – should be obvious one, but guessing what you think it is isn’t the best way
  • Always agree money/ costs before doing anything – nothing is free and it may turn ugly later
  • Be Flexible
  • Roll not fold your clothes as you can get more in your bag that way
  • Just accept that you will never get any sleep on a night bus
  • Tie die or speedo’s never look good
  • Try everything
  • Timings for anything are never guaranteed and will probably take longer than they are meant to
  • When using public transport write down where you want to go – its hilarious looking back on it but not so much at the time when you’re dropped of some where completely random with the insistence that this is where you asked to go.
  • Lastly and probably the best one of all is SMILE! It will change your whole trip and always makes everything better
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After Yogjarkarta I decided to head down to what is meant ot be one of Java’s best beach spots to try a bit of surfing. Pangandaran is about another 10 hours away from Yojarkarta (everything seems to be a 10hr journey here) but found out from my local friend that it would be quicker and cheaper to get there by train and local bus then getting one of the shuttle buses – so off I went.

Surprisingly I made it the whole way there without a hitch – now becoming an expert of the local Indonesian transport system. Ok only really because the locals are so amazingly helpful and friendly that this was the case but still I’m taking some credit!

Pangandaran is quite a random little place. I think it used to be quite busy with a better infrastructure than it does now but over recent years has been hit by a couple of Tsunamis which has meant the place has become a bit run down.

The main attraction is the long wind swept beach, which although wasn’t made of white tropical sand, it was still pretty impressive. What amazed me however were the waves, I’ve never seen waves like it. They were 2-3 metres high but not only that broke with such force and power I quickly knew that I would not be learning to surf here.

Pangandaran

Despite one of my new found mates continually trying to get me in the water to try surfing I was having none of it (rubbish I know, but learning to kite surf was traumatic enough for one trip). With onlya week left I had two choices. One: to continue to work my way across Indonesia and up Sumatra to Bangkok for my flight back home or two: go straight to Thailand and spend my last few days chilling on a beach before I returned.

You’ll be probably unsurprised to find out I chose the later, but only because after finding out that Sumatra was the 5th largest Island in the world I realised that my last week would mainly be spent on 36 hour bus jounreys trying to get across the country in time for my flight back home.

So leaving Pangandaran I went to Bandung for a night (horrible city – dont go) before flying to KL the next morning and then onto the sleeper train up to Thailand that night. This also meant that I am maintaining my record of managing to get in and out of KL in less than 12 hours.

So with my final days quickly disappearing I spent my time getting as much tanning as possible, meeting new people, and generally going out.

So that’s it! The last of my blog posts about travelling. Back to the UK to get a job and join the real world…. oh its going to be painful!

Leaving that night on the ‘sleeper bus’ for the 10 hour journey to Yogjakarta I was ready to see some more of Java which after Mt Bromo I had high expectations.

I’ve quickly realised that the only place you seem to be able to get sleeper buses with beds is in Vietnam as this so called sleeper bus was actually a mini van with no aircon and packed with locals as it had been a public holiday that day.

Needless to say there was not much sleeping going on, especially as I kept having to push the weird man next to me away as he kept sleeping on me – still makes me feel ill just thinking about it.

Arriving at 4am I had to hang around outside the Circle K (24hr shop – same as Severn Eleven’s if if you’ve ever been to Thailand) till 6am till I could check into to some where without having to pay for the previous night as it was now around 4.30am so pretty pointless and a waste of money I am quickly running out of.

Knowing I was going to be in a big city for a couple of days I tactically decided to pay a bit extra to get a place with a pool – saying that I was still only paying 6 pounds a night).

After successfully getting a room I spent the day looking round, shopping and organising a trip the next day to Prambanan and Borobudur which I had been told to go to again by Baz, I spent the rest of the day chilling by the pool.

I wasnt really sure what to expect from either Prambanan and Borobudur or really what they were, so was slightly undecided when I found out that they were temples. Generally when it comes to temples I dont mind visiting the odd one but at this stage of my trip I had seen so many that I could quit happily go through the rest of my life not seeing another.

My camera media card is having issues so I’ve borrowed these pictures from Google Images)

Borobudr:

borobudurPrambanan:

prambanan

I feel bad for saying it as I’m sure they are really nice temples but I wasnt overly impressed and could have quite easily have gone without seeing them. I think this was especially the case as after seeing Angkor Wat its very hard for any other temple to match up.

The other thing about these temples is that they are a haven for locals and school children who want to practise their English with foreigners and have their photos taken with the westerners. Its quite hard to describe how many of them there are as its pretty overwhelming and you are constantly being jumped on by group after group of them. After a while it becomes too much and you have to go into hiding.

What did make my day however was by accidently getting lost from everyone and so generally wandering about for about half an hour trying to find my way out, was that I found some elephants that this guy let me feed and stroke – so amazing! (when my cameras back working I’ll put up the pics).

Starting the day in a little boat watching the sun rise with dolphins swimming around us was perfect, especially as the rest of the day was going to be spent traveling to Java on public transport with only a rough idea of how I was going to get to where I was heading. Another problem that I’m starting to encounter is that I cant pronounce any of the town/city names which causes confusion all round and a lot of close calls of getting on the completely wrong bus/ ferry/ boat etc

The journey to Probolinggo in Java actually went without any serious problems although it did take 12 hours on the public buses. The public buses as like you’d imagine they would be in Asia, three times as many people as there are seats, everything from animals to the contents of someones house on board with local buskers getting on every 10 minutes to serenade you while you share sweat with the person squashed up next to you as theres obviously no air con.

The other thing to note if your planning to take the public buses is to know how much the journey should cost before you get there as otherwise isnt of paying 40,000 Rp you’ll be paying tourist prices like 300,000 Rp.

Arriving in Probolinggo and finding a place to stay (cheap but not great) where the owner (Coco) who was a local guy decided to take my well being as his personal responsibility. Within 20 minutes of being there he’d already arranged for my night bus to Yogjarkarta the next evening and a trip to Mt Bromo for the next day – leaving however at 2am that morning which was in less than 6 hours time and I hadnt even got near my bed.

Despite that I’d been up since 5am and had to get up again in another 5 hours Coco insisted on taking me on the back of his bike to this local place to get some food – I was quickly beginning to learn that I didn’t really have much choice in what I wanted and what Coco decided to do.

The food however was amazing – Hot lemon (I don’t know what they put in it but it was the best I’ve ever had) with fried chicken and rice in samba (the local hot chili sauce), but despite Coco and his mate trying to get me to go out to see this local band I was knackered and had to be up in less than 4 hours.

Until Baz (who works on Gili T and we’d all met in Vietnam) had told me where to go in Java I had never heard of Mt Bromo and had only just found out that it was a volcano. Sleeping most of the 2 hour journey in the bus we arrived just before sunrise which was nice but as I wasnt really sure what I was looking at I kind of missed the point.

Sunrise on Mount Bromo

Mount Bromo

Its also worth mentioning that in Java I’m basically like a celebrity as after the locals had taken pictures of the sunrise they then queued up to have their pictures taken with me, which if I’d known I would have made a bit more of an effort as pulling on an old hoodie over bed hair with no make up and first in thing in the morning is not a pretty sight.

After watching the sunrise we went drove over to the volcano itself and proceeded the long climb up to the crater, but once we were up there the views were amazing. Looking into the crater was pretty mental as Bromo produces smoke continuously, although when the wind changes direction and it blows it over you the smell is pretty intense and its hard to breathe (apparently the smoke’s poisonous).

Traveling back to Probolinggo I was ready for an afternoon of sorting my stuff out, doing errands and maybe looking round the city although I didnt have much hope for anything amazing there. Coco on the other hand had other plans and so off we went on the back of his bike for boiled potatoes round his house where his friend and his family and family’s family were waiting.

Although leaving at any point wasnt an option I had a really nice afternoon practising English with everyone in the family – the whole street actually while they taught me Indonesian and make me continually try new food and drinks throughout the day.

We also had a family trip down to the harbour to watch the sun go down and eat corn on the cob – which I hate (even more so because it was undercooked) but ate all the same while managing to fake enjoyment due to the pressure of 15 or so people watching my every move. Throughout the whole day there was also the obligatory photo taking of different poses as well as millions of variations with the whole family as well as individual ones.

My Indonesian Family

By the time the shuttle bus came to pick me up I was knackered and looking forward to sleeping the 10 hour journey to Yogjarkarta, but was at the same time slightly sad to leave my new family, especially as they had asked me to stay longer with them. But as I was quickly realising Indonesia is a big place and to get across it in time before my visa ran out meant that I had to keep moving.

After nearly two weeks on Gili T we returned back to Bali as it was finally about to become the end of our Mui Ne crew.  Carolina, Rowland and Dave were all heading home and Chri and Nik were off to NZ leaving me on my lonesome for the last two and a half weeks of my trip.

Our last few nights together were spent in Kuta which is a crazy place made up of loads of intertwined lanes with loads of shops on a gorgeous beach with loads of surfers.

Once the others had left I decided to see some more of Bali before heading across to Java as I started moving backs towards Bangkok where my flight back to London was from.

I first headed north to Ubud which I had been told from the others was lovely. On the bus there I met an Austrian girl who I ended up sharing a room with once we got to Ubud. It was quickly lucky that there was some one to take control as I was feeling terrible the whole bus journey and was in no state to be making decisions, but she found us an amazing little bungalows set in these pretty gardens with a pool – stunning.

I did initially have a slight worry about her intentions as she’d got us a room with a double bed and was very forward but it was ok and there was no complicated lesbian issues to deal with. Theres not much to do in Ubud itself but where we were staying down the lower end of monkey forest road it was the perfect place to get some R & R and was completely chilled.

One of the things that is in Ubud in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary which unsurprinsingly enough is a forest full of monkeys and they were gorgeous if a little intimidating, but the babies were so cute.

Monkey Forest

The next day I headed further north to the beach to a little place called Lovina which was meant to be one of the nicest beaches on the north of Bali, although the southern beaches are what Bali is most famous for as they are picture perfect.

Arriving in Lovina I quickly found that it wasn’t what I’d expected as the village is sparsely spread out along the main road with a small market area with a few restaurants as the kind of central area and thats it. The beach is a mixture of black and white sand as this area of the island is more volcanic which makes the water look almost black instead of blue.

As I was starting to run out of time on the last bit of my travels and Lovina was quite dead and lacking much atmosphere I booked a shuttle bus for the next morning for a mammoth trip to Java.

Although Lovina was pretty quiet the people were amazingly friendly and I managed to book in an early morning boat trip to see the dolphins that come around the beach at sunrise. It meant getting up at 5am but it was so worth it. The dolphins came up so close and there were so many of them. Even if we hadn’t seen any dolphins the sun rise its self was gorgeous – a perfect way to start the day!

Dolphins in Lovina

sunrise in Lovina

I’ve been a bit slack with updating my blog these last few weeks as the internet connection, well the electricity in general isn’t great on Gili T as one of the transformers is broken.

The day after we all arrived in Bali we stopped over for the night in Padangbai as the boat we were meant to get to Gili was broken and so passed the time on the beach and with a bit of poker. Leaving the next day we had to take the ferry to Lombok, then a bus and another boat before we arrived on Gili T that the evening where the rest of the guys from Mui Ne had been staying for the past week.

The Gili Isles are probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited and are literally paradise with gorgeous beaches, crystal clear waters, amazing people, and to top it ff no motor bikes or care as the only way to get around the island is by bike or horse and cart.

The day after we arrived was Carolina’s birthday and the boys had arranged a snorkling trip on a glass bottom boat which was amazing despite feeling a bit worse for wear from the night before.

Gili boat trip

Beer Snorkle

Jorma and the girls had to leave the next day which left just the six of us for the remaining week or so. That day we moved into these amazing little two story houses with open air showers and were only $7 a night but most importantly had a generator as the power normally goes off mid afternoon till midnight every day.

Our days were spent snorkeling which involved walking up one end of the beach and letting the ridiculously strong current take you down to the other end like an underwater escalator. As the coral reefs were quite shallow we saw all the fish up close that I had seen while diving in Koh Tao, but the best part was when we saw and swam up close with a turtle and watched it swim round us while going up and down for air.

The rest of our time was spent working on our tan’s, watching the amazing sunsets with a couple of beers on the beach, obviously more poker, killer frisbee, and many turbo vodka shots among other things – all while you were all at work!

Good times on Gili T

Sunset on Gili

Tan marks

While doing my diving I was starting to get itching feet for something new and exciting and at the same time heard from Chris and Nik who were feeling the same and just wanted the beach. We decided to have a Mui Ne reunion and head to Bali to meet up with a load of people we had also met in Mui Ne who were already out there.

The journey from Koh Tao to Bali was pretty extreme, I was prepared for it to be a long one but nearly 3 days without sleep was something else.

The first stage of my trip was getting the night boat to the mainland the day my PADI course finished, which meant that couldn’t stay and celebrate with my diving buddies, but Bali was calling and we’d all managed to get on the same flight from Kuala Lumpa to Bali on Saturday.

The day had already been a long one as we’d been up since six for our final dives, so by the time the boat left at 9 and with some help from some gravel Dustin had given me ages ago I was up for sleeping through the journey.

The night boat itself wasnt what I had expected and had just an upper deck with rows of skinny mattresses running down either side with your ‘bed’ number above them.

Night boat

Luckily the boat wasnt full and neither was I next to a couple of fatties as otherwise the journey would have been pretty intense.  Despite this my paranoia about drowning in confined spaces meant that I didnt get much sleep, waking up every half an hour to check we weren’t sinking.

Arriving at 4.30am we had to wait around for an hour or so for the bus, while the women at the travel agent tried to convince us that we needed to change about $300 into Malaysian Ringgit as otherwise you wouldn’t be allowed across the border. As I had been through Malaysia before I was pretty sure this was a lie and said I’d take my chances with immigration, but I met people later on who’d believed her and been badly ripped off over the exchange rate – one guy nearly cried when he found out how much he’d lost.

The bus took us to Hat Yin where we had a bit of lunch (probably the hottest vegetable curry ever) and changed buses to a mini van that was to take us over the border to NW Malaysia. Crossing the border was the first time I’d heard of swine flu as we were just given a bit of paper with the symptoms on at the border, but it was all a bit vague and I wasnt sure if I was coming from an infected area or going into one. I also managed to accidentally miss the medical area where everyone had to have their temperature taken before they crossed into Malaysia but felt fine so decided to worry about it if I started to feel ill.

There was only me and one other guy that were continuing down from NW Malaysia down to Kuala Lumpa which meant waiting around for the night bus after our new and very confused mini van driver eventually found the bus station. By this stage I’d had about 2-3 hours sleep in the last 36 hours but was doing ok and hadnt yet started to get delirious.

The night bus we got on was amazing – probably the best I have ever and will ever go on. It was the equivalent of the business class section of a plane with huge sofa like seats that had a range of different buttons that moved the chair in every direction you could want.

Best night bus ever

After leaving about 10.30pm  we got into K.L  at 2.30am with only an hour or so’s sleep due to the over enthusiastic air con system creating sub zero temperatures. Neither of us had booked some where to stay and I knew Nik and Chris were some where in the area but as there were no Internet places open to check my emails I couldnt go and hunt them down. Considering K.L is a capital city the place was dead with no where open apart from a 24hr McDonald’s and KFC.

After wandering about for an hour we realised that we were unlikely to get anywhere to stay and our options were to either bunk down with the homeless people in the bus shelter or eat our way through McDonald’s night menu until dawn. As we begun to resentfully sit down and begin our fast food marathon, two of the girls we’d met on the street said they’d found a place that although was full had a communal living area we could stay in till morning when there may be rooms.

Figuring this was a better deal than consuming our body weight in grease under fluorescent lights we went back with the girls to wait it out till morning.

The living room area was a cross between a squat and one of the student houses I’d lived in at uni. But could have been worse and had a couple of sofas, a small kitchen, and a TV with a DVD player. Despite that by this stage it was 5.30am there were a number of people hanging around from other hostels drinking and playing music. After a bit of chat some one put on a DVD and people gradually started to leave or fall asleep.

By this stage I’d notched up about 4/5 hours sleep in two days but as there was only an hour before I had to leave for the airport once the movie had finished I decided to dose a bit on the floor before attempting to make my way to the airport.

Leaving the hostel lighted headed from lack of sleep, I started to try and figure our how to get to the airport which was 75km away without spending a fortune, knowing that once I got there I could put my self in the hands of Nik and Chris to get me to Bali.

Luckily I think someone was looking down on me as I got on the first bus I saw which took me to the main bus station and magically dropped me off in front of the Air Asia airport transfer bus which then dropped me off just as check in opened – couldn’t have bee more perfect if I planned it.

Checking in my bag I settled on the floor working my way through 5 double shot cappuccinos and a box of After Eights while waiting for Nik and Chris to arrive. When the boarding started and they still hadnt arrived I thought I must of missed them and made my way to the gate. It wasnt until they started closing the plane doors for take off I’d realised they’d missed the flight.

Despite being slightly worried about what had happened to them I passed out for the whole flight feeling immediately better when we arrived in Bali. Checking my emails Nik and Chris were fine but had forgotten to put their clocks forward an hour and so were getting a later flight, although it was twice the price of the original one.

I went on to meet up with Carolina and Rowland while we waited for the guys to arrive and start our Mui Ne reunion.


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