Sunday, 26 June 2011

Leaving Indonesia–on the move again!

After spending a nice long week on the Island of Gili Trawangan, we decided to leave. Not because we were fed up of the endless beach time or the exotic tastes of the local food there, but just because our feet got itchy and we wanted to explore more.
We talked about exploring the island of Java and Sumatra(which was one of the islands badly devastated by the 2004 tsunami) before leaving Indonesia altogether. But after having a chat, all three of us decided that we’d much prefer to head to Malaysia. We know that there’s a lot more of Indonesia that we could have plodded along too, but travelling in Java and Sumatra especially is much tougher we were informed. That coupled with the fact that Aileen is leaving for Australia at the start of August, we didn’t want to just spend all the remaining time here in Indonesia. So Kuala Lumpur is the next port of call.
As I type up this blog entry(Sunday 26th June), we are flying to Kuala Lumpur. With flights been so cheap its a no brainer to fly these long distances rather than bus or train the journey. In saying that, we do plan on using a lot of trains and buses from here on in as we’ll be moving shorter distances.
So what can I say about our few weeks in Indonesia?! Well first off its a fantastic country from what we saw of it. Bali was our host for the duration but it provided a clear cross section of what the Indonesian people are like. Kind, generous, helpful and very friendly are the words I’d use to describe the people. We had zero instances of anyone been rude or troublesome, which is a big factor for me personally when I travel, as with most people.

The cost of living there is extremely low. While alcohol is slightly cheaper than back home in bars, its extremely expensive to buy in shops or off licences here. I’m talking $90 for a normal sized bottle of vodka! Even a basic bottle of wine will set you back $40. The reason I found out is due to the crazy tax that the government put on the drink to buy over the counter. Needless to say we didn’t buy any so it didn’t bother us.

The food was amazing full stop. We ate a lot of the local street food which cost next to nothing and equally as tasty as the food in restaurants. One of their typical staples is “Nasi Goreng” which is fried noodles/rice with chicken. It costs $1 and fills you right up.
The above photo is from Gili T where the “Fungus” as its known down here is widely available. When your walking around you’ll heard the phrases “want to go to the moon” and “we need more people for a return trip to the moon”.
Aileen and Florence reckon that my haircut and colour attracts the local drug dealers to constantly ask me do I want any drugs!
So all in all we loved our time in Bali and Gili T. The Gili islands were absolutely stunning. I can’t emphasise enough how exotic it is as you’d have to visit there to truly experience it. We could have easily spent weeks there no problem. We met one man on the boat back to Bali today who had just spent five weeks there!
I would definitely recommend Bali as a holiday destination to anyone who asked me what I thought. Its got everything all bundled into one amazing Island. The only downside is the thirteen hour flight from Ireland to get there.

Travel plans from here on
Kuala Lumpur is our first stop in Malaysia. We will probably head to the East coast for some more beaches and exploring before making our way up north and into Thailand. The full moon party in the Thai islands fall on July 24th so we plan to be there for that.
We booked our flights to Australia the other day Open-mouthed smile. We didn’t know for sure if we were going to go or not, but we said why not. As we are this far away, it would be a shame not to! So we fly out from Bangkok to Brisbane on August 8th for 23 days. We are undecided yet as whether or not to rent a campervan for a road trip along the East coast or just hostel it combined with the greyhound buses.
If anyone has any experience with campervan rental in Oz then I’d really appreciate any info you could give us! We’d prefer to have our own transport while there for the three weeks and don’t mind the idea of sleeping in the back of a van at all. Its the experience and the freedom we’re after. It was mentioned to me that it would be better to buy a cheap car and use that for transport and then sell if off again when finished. But the trouble with that option is we could buy something that could end up breaking down and I ain’t no mechanic!
After we return to Bangkok from Australia, we plan on moving up to northern Thailand to Chang Mai and then over to Laos before making our way through Vietnam and Cambodia before returning home. That will give us September, October and November to complete the above and arrive home just in time for the Christmas dinner!
As you can see I went a little crazy with the silhouette type shots, but I was determined to get them as I think they make for a real cool effect. I used my miniature tripod for these shots which came in very handy. I’m sure my good mate John MacHale will find a lot of technical issues with them though Hot smile!
I hope anyone that’s following this blog is enjoying it and not getting bored of our travels. We are coming into our fourth week of the twenty seven weeks in total, so there will be a lot more blog entries and photos along the way.
We have about another hour before we land in Kuala Lumpur so I’m going to try and get a few winks of sleep(the girls are out for the count here beside me)
Easy knowing that your getting closer to Thailand when there’s a gruesome LadyBoy sitting across the aisle on the plane! Ugh!!!! She/he looks like that ex WWE wrestler Chyna! No Joke!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Gili Trawangan

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Back when I was starting to plan our trip to Asia, I was surfing the different forums on the net looking at the different locations that people visit.
Initially I really didn’t plan on going to Indonesia but during one online conversation with a forum member on, I was informed about the paradise like Gili islands.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that they would be worth a visit, and I knew that Florence wouldn’t need any persuading so I scheduled in a flight to Bali as part of our travels!
The Gili islands have long been a magnet for backpackers and tourists alike who have decided to venture away from Bali. Located in the northeastern tip of Lombok the Gilis comprise of 3 small islands namely, Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. Each has its own different characterisitcs but all having the stunning turquoise-tinted, bathtub warm waters, friendly locals, beachfront bungalows and no motorised vehicles in common.
We left our room in Ubud at 6:30am Sunday morning having spent a lovely 5 days there. We were driven by minibus for over an hour to the area at the docks called Padangai. This was where we would be getting the fast boat across to the Gilis. The fast boat are so called because they travel at 30 knots for 1.5 hours to reach the islands. The slow boat option, while been alot cheaper can take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to complete and only leave at irregular times. So we definitely said we’d James Bond it in the fast boat for this one Smile
The journey across was very scenic and the boat was about 75% full. Arriving at Gili T was really like something out of a movie. Endless isolated white sand beaches stretched either side of the dock. The dock itself was brimming with locals all eager for us to use their “cidomo” which is a horse drawn cart. Since the only motorised vehicles on these islands are the boats that come and go the only form of transport around the island are these cidomo’s and bicycles!
The Island itself can be walked around by the parameter in 2.5 hours so as you can guess its not really big. Big and busy enough though to be the most visited of the 3 Gili islands.

We found ourselves a lovely little room which was only about a 2 minute walk to the beach and cost only 6 euro per person per night! There was only a fan in the room but it worked more the the propeller on an aeroplane so that coupled with the cool breeze coming from the beach ensured that it wasn’t going to be uncomfortably hot at night.

So that was Sunday night and its now Thursday and we are still here in same spot!
We basically spent the first 2 days lapping it up at the beach drinking fresh coconuts and generally lazing about.
It can’t be emphasized enough how ridiculously cool these islands are. While its that bit less cheap than the main land its by no means expensive to enjoy the fruits of the islands.
The local people are as friendly as ever and while trying to make a quick buck they never go overboard with their prices and generally will drop their asking price by half straight away if you turn and try to walk away.
There are some really amazing beach huts which cost around $50 per night that are literally out of this world and include swimming pools, satellite T.V, mini bar, fridge, money safe and air-con. If you were to come to this part of the world on a 2/3 week holiday you would be able to live like royalty for next to nothing. But since we are on an extended backpacking trip we don’t see the point in paying that kind of money per night when we are perfectly comfortable in our 6 euro a night room!
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A few days ago we rented some bicycles and cycled around some of the island where we got to see the best sunset I’ve ever witnessed. We laid back while sipping a few drinks at a beach bar and watched the sun magically disappear, lightening fast!
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Since I don’t have my SLR camera with me and only a G12(which is equally as good for what I’d need it for), I’m limited to what zoom ranges I can achieve. Basically the G12 has only a 5x digital zoom on it which doesn’t allow really close up images from any great distance. In saying that, its a fantastic camera for me as a substitute to carrying a big SLR around for months.
Yesterday(Wednesday), we went on a snorkelling trip on a glass botton boat. It was a 4 hour trip which brought us around the 3 Gili Islands with a snorkel around each of them. This was myself and Florence’s first time to snorkel as we never really wanted to on previous trips….that coupled with the fact that neither of us are really confident in deep waters. But we decided that at a location like this, it would be a shame not to experience it. So off we went and really had a lovely time. I got a bit sea sick for some reason after an hour which rendered me useless after the first snorkel. That combined with the fact I always seem to want to go to the number 2 in situations where I know I can’t, made it a tough first half of a trip until we landed on Gili Air for lunch.
So that brings me up to today which is Thursday 23rd June. We are just about to head down to the beach. We have no idea yet when we plan to leave the Gili’s. We have the open return ticket back to Bali, so we can head back whenever we like Hot smile