Month: June 2014

Gili Air, Gili Islands

After 2 days on crazy Gili T we wanted to see what the other islands were like and took a boat over to Gili Air. The difference between Gili Air and Gili T was very apparent when we arrived at the port. Gone were the hundreds of restaurants, bars, clubs, pubs and dive operators that lined the sea front in Gili T, and in its place were a few restaurants, green fields and little thatched roof huts. Gili Air seemed to be untouched by mass tourism – chickens and cows roam freely in the streets, and on our first day we only saw 5 other tourists! However, tourism has brought some developments/improvements to Gili Air such as a cash point and fresh running water… before that you could only have salt water showers!!

When we arrived at the port we found a horse-drawn carriage and went to the other side of the island to look for accommodation (luckily it wasn’t raining this time) and we found a cute little place with thatched roof bungalows close to the beach. The bungalow was really cute and I loved the fact that the bathroom was outdoors! It was pretty cool to shower under the stars as cliché as that sounds.

Inside the bungalow!

Inside the bungalow!

The outdoor shower!

The outdoor shower!

After settling into our bungalow we walked to the beach and spent the afternoon relaxing… we were the only ones on the beach! We stayed for sunset…

Sunset at Gili Air

Sunset at Gili Air

I was really starting to like Gili Air…

The following morning we cycled to the otherside of the island to do a bit of snorkelling. We swam 100-150m from the shore to the reef and spent a couple of hours spotting turtles, lobster, eels, puffer fish, some brightly coloured coral and some other beautiful fish. It was really quite special. We felt like we were on a desert island.

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Gili Trawangan, Gili Islands

From Bali we decided to make a stop off at some of the Gili Islands before heading to Lombok. The Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small islands located just off the coast of Lombok. They’re pretty much what you imagine when you think of paradise… clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches.

We took a fast boat to Gili Trawangan and when we left Bali it was really sunny with not even a cloud in the sky. As soon as we arrived at Gili Trawangan the blue skies quickly turned grey and it started pouring it down. We hadn’t booked any accommodation either as we thought we’d just find a room when we got there but the rain made our search rather difficult. Kyle was laden down with his huge rucksack on his back, a rucksack on his front AND a surfboard… we very quickly got soaked. It was raining so heavily that we couldn’t physically see anywhere where we could shelter from the rain. A young Indonesian guy came up to us and offered to show us a room and we agreed to take a look just so we could shelter from the rain. The room was fine and we decided to stay there instead of trying to find somewhere in the rain. We probably could have found somewhere nicer had it not been raining, but hey!

Beautiful waters at Gili Trawangan!

Beautiful waters at Gili Trawangan!

The Gili Islands are pretty interesting because unlike Bali and the other Indonesian islands cars and motorbikes are prohibited. The only transport available are horse-drawn carriages and bikes, and it was a welcomed change after all the motorbike fumes in Bali. Gili Trawangan was a bit like Kuta and the sea front was lined with pubs, clubs and bars one after the other. It was weird though because the Gilis are predominantly muslim and just behind the main strip was a huge mosque. Whilst clubbers were stumbling home in the very little clothes in the very early hours of the morning, the call to prayer was blaring out to the island. It was totally bizarre!

Gili T

Gili T

Gili Trawangan was a very small island and you could walk all the way around in about 2 hours. The Gilis are also famous for the quality of the coral and marine life and we came here to do a couple of dives. On the island of Gili Trawangan there are 30 dive operators alone! We booked a scuba dive the next day with Blue Marlin Divers and were hoping to see some sharks, manta rays, turtles and some beautiful coral. On the morning of the dive I was having some problems with my ears, so when it came to the descent I was unable to equalise and was experiencing a lot of pain. I had to abort the dive and had to return to the surface, which was a shame because I could see huge turtles swimming around. It was pretty amazing!

A turtle Kyle spotted on his dive!

A turtle Kyle spotted on his dive!

Later at dinner that evening our waiter asked us if we wanted any drugs and he looked completely stoned. I was confused because I thought Indonesia had harsh punishments for drug dealing and use of narcotics. Drug dealing, for example, is punishable my death. We said no and the waiter said, ‘No worry! No police on Gili, so no problem here!’. The Gili islands are so small that there’s no police presence here so anything goes! The hawkers that were trying to sell you sarongs and bracelets in Bali were now trying to sell you drugs! It was insane.

Canggu, Bali

After two days in Kuta we couldn’t handle the hawkers trying to sell you something every couple of minutes. You walk down the street and every shop owner sits outside shouting at you to ‘Come and look!! Cheap! Cheap!’. You’re also constantly being asked whether you need ‘transport’ or ‘where are you going?’. It gets a little frustrating when you’re constantly being asked where you are going every five minutes. We weren’t too interested in blowing our money in Kuta’s bars and clubs, so we decided to go to Canggu, a small town by the beach an hour away from Kuta.

We also found a brand new 3* hotel that had just opened that were offering an opening rate for $22 a night with breakfast included. The hotel was probably the nicest hotel we’ve stayed in so far on this South East Asia trip… it was even a bit luxurious for us! By the time we arrived in Canggu, Kyle had been complaining of a sore throat for a couple of days and suddenly took a turn for the worst. He’d have such bad coughing fits that he’d throw up! Closer inspection of his tonsils revealed he had a bad case of tonsillitis. He had these huge white blobs on his tonsils so he had to take antibiotics and was confined to his bed for a couple of days. Kyle was pretty disappointed that he was so sick because all he wanted to do in Canggu was surf. He was even more disappointed with my nursing abilities and would get annoyed whenever I ordered him to keep hydrated or gargle with salt water.

The hotel room!

The hotel room!

The pools!

The pools!

When Kyle was finally starting to feel normal again we decided to go out for dinner at a nice dinner in town. (We’d been eating nearly every meal in the hotel then). The Betlenut Cafe in Canggu had good reviews and everyone in Canggu seemed to be raving about it. I ordered a chicken and avocado wrap and it came within minutes of placing the order, which I found a little strange. It tasted fine though and I couldn’t quite understand everyone’s obsession with this place.

We went back to the hotel and sat on the roof with the hotel’s Argentinean surf instructor and an Australian girl who seemed taken in by his ‘charm’. Marco, the hotel’s surf instructor, would tell stories about this amazing dietary supplement yet to be released in Bali and how it was God’s gift to the world. He even told us how a woman dying of cancer with 2 weeks left to live started taking the supplements and within weeks she was ‘instantly cured of cancer’… You can see the type of rubbish he came out with. He also suggested that Kyle go and see a local healer about his throat as Bali is own for its natural remedies and what not. He advised Kyle to ‘try anything they tell you to try’. He then told us how he screwed up his back in Argentina and the doctor told him that he’d never be able to surf again (pretty terrible for a surf instructor) and he met a guy in Singapore who told him about a guy who could fix it, so he booked an appointment to try ‘anything they tell you’. The suggested treatment was some kind of electrotherapy and he could hear the guy before him screaming the house down in pain. When his turn came he said it was the most painful thing he’d ever experienced because the voltage was so high. He said it wasn’t a proper clinic but just a house with a hard bed and some wires going into the power outlet. The ‘healer’ told him that one session wasn’t enough to cure his back so he came back for multiple sessions…unfortunately the treatment never worked.

Anyway we really couldn’t put up with Marco for long and we escaped back to the room. I started to regret that chicken and avocado wrap because an hour later I threw up and continued throwing up through the night. I felt absolutely awful and was confined to my bed the entire next day. I, however, had no one to nurse me back to health because Kyle went surfing! I was so glad though that we were staying in a nice hotel whilst we were sick.

Our time in Canggu was basically staying in a nice hotel, being sick, and a tiny bit of surfing… Oh well!

Kuta, Bali

After nearly 3 months in South East Asia, our final stop before Australia was Indonesia. We’ve decided to head to Australia and find some work for a couple of months, travel around Aus and New Zealand, and then come back to Asia – there are still so many places I want to visit. Whilst I’m relieved to be going to Australia and finding a job (travelling gets quite tiring after a while) I’m also a bit nervous.

Anyway back to Bali… We flew from Singapore to Bali and we’d booked two nights in an area called Kuta to start off with. We’d heard that Kuta was VERY touristy and full of hawkers, but with the lure of surfing on the cards we decided to set up shop for a couple of days to see what it was like. We spent the morning walking around Kuta and it looked like a big clubbing destination like Ibiza. It was full of bars, clubs and pubs, and shops sending you the usual tourist tat. You couldn’t walk a metre without somebody trying to sell you something.

We thought if we went to the beach the hawkers wouldn’t bother us that much… we were SO wrong. Within minutes of arriving at the beach, hawkers were coming at us left, right and centre trying to sell us a massage, real pearls, sarongs, leather bracelets, and even a bow and arrow! One lady even sat down on the sand next to us trying to get us to buy some rings and jewelry, we kept saying no but she kept saying ‘cheap cheap’. She then noticed I was wearing rings and asked me where I’d bought them from and I stupidly told her I got them in Thailand because she then said ‘Why buy Thailand but no buy Bali? Buy Bali! Buy Bali!’ She then just sat there and started to cry, we felt awful but really didn’t just want to buy something out of pity. We were about to get up to move when she finally decided to pick up her stuff and bother some other tourists. Later on Kyle went and bought a bottle of water from one of the beach stalls and the stall owner said, ‘I give you bracelets instead of change’. Kyle said no and told them he just wanted his change and the woman said ‘ok buy one bracelet or for change I give you all of the bracelets’. (The woman had about a huge bunch of bracelets). Kyle was pretty annoyed by this point and gave back the water and asked for his money back. The woman then changed her mind and quickly gave up the change in the fear that she might lose a sale. It’s absolutely ludicrous that they think it’s okay to do that. Women are constantly going round trying to make you buy one bracelet, or 100 bracelets for 5 pounds. They don’t quite understand why you wouldn’t want to buy 100 crappy bracelets!

We met two young Americans in our hotel who’d come to Kuta for a little ‘soul searching’ and culture. They told us how they were ashamed of being American and American culture. They said they preferred being in South East Asia because it’s so rich culturally compared to the US. I can see why people come to Bali to do some soul searching as it was made popular in the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, but not quite sure what ‘soul searching’ he could possibly be doing in Kuta, Bali. Kuta consisted of pubs, clubs, bars and beaches – not sure how these are culturally enriching…

It was also at this hotel that we heard first hand of the corrupt police and bribes. We heard one guy saying he’d been stopped by the police for no reason whilst riding a motorbike and they threatened to take him down to the station if he didn’t give them a bribe. The guy was pretty nervous and handed over 150,000 rupiah to the police (approx £7 approx) when the ‘standard bribe’ seems to be about £2.50. The same guy also paid £5 for a LITRE of petrol from one of the many roadside petrol sellers when the standard price for a litre is less than 50p! Doh! Luckily we’d heard all about the scams people pull and the corrupt police before we arrived in Bali so we’d been separating our money. We keep about 50k in our wallet for police bribes and keep the rest elsewhere… that way we can pretend we’ve only got 50k. Apparently the official police officer wage is less than £100 a month but they can bring home an extra £50 a month from bribes alone. We haven’t been stopped by the police yet…. Fingers crossed!

Singapore

From Kuala Lumpur we took an 8-hour train journey to Singapore in the ‘first class’ carriage for 12 pounds a pop. We thought ‘first class’ would be similar to what you’d expect of a first class carriage in England… it couldn’t be further from what we imagined. The train was really old, seats were very tattered and the toilets absolutely reeked – I was not impressed. I thought because the train connects Kuala Lumpur with Singapore that the train would be modern and somewhat ‘luxurious’. Seats in the third class carriage in Thailand were FAR better than this!

We finally pulled into Singapore at about 10 pm at a train station in the middle of nowhere with no cash points to be found. This was a real problem because we only had a few Malaysian ringgits and American dollars on us and we needed money to pay for a bus to get to the nearest tube station. We asked a man at the bus stop if he knew where the nearest cash point was and he said it was at least a 20 minute walk… The man was really friendly and he felt sorry for the two dumb travellers who’d arrived in Singapore with none of the local currency, so he kindly gave us 10 Singapore dollars. He got on the bus with us, showed us where the cash points were, helped us buy metro passes AND helped us find the right train. He wouldn’t even allow us to repay him the 10 dollars he’d given us! He told us we’d need it for Singapore, and he wasn’t kidding!

The first class carriage!

The first class carriage!

Throughout our trip so far we’ve been staying in hostels or hotels for not more than 5 pounds each a night, but a bed in a hostel in Singapore was a minimum 15 pounds a night (a taste of things to come in Australia?). We were staying in a 10-bed dorm and it wasn’t the cleanest hostel we’ve stayed in, it stank of pee everywhere. I hated the hostel so much that soon as I woke up the following morning we had breakfast and ventured into Singapore.

We started with a trip to the beautiful Botanical Gardens where we wondered around for a couple of hours. The gardens were really pretty and it was nice to see such a large green space slap bang in the middle of the city. We then headed to ‘Little India’ where we found hundreds of food stalls each with their own speciality. We shared a huge curry and naan for lunch which set us back 7 pounds (pretty cheap for Singapore!). After exploring Little India and a scrummy lunch, we jumped on to the metro to Marina Bay and spent the afternoon walking around the marina and gardens by the bay. We eventually had to seek shelter from the heat inside the Sands Casino/shopping centre and we found a ‘canal’ where you could pay for a gondola ride from one side of the mall to the other. People were actually paying to take a ‘gondola’ trip on a fake canal INSIDE a shopping centre!!

Sands Casino/Shopping Centre - where we sought shelter

Sands Casino/Shopping Centre – where we sought shelter

Gondola ride on the 'Grand Canal'

Gondola ride on the ‘Grand Canal’

After 2 days in Singapore we’d had enough of how expensive it was and how the city looked like an architect’s model – everything was squeaky clean and ultra modern. No chewing gum on the floor or under seats, no graffiti, no dirt, no nothing… Singapore was pretty boring!!

Selfie!

Selfie!

Singapore's answer to the London Eye!

Singapore’s answer to the London Eye!

A temple in China Town

A temple in China Town