Beach

Uluwatu, Bali

After lapping up the ‘culture’ in Ubud for a couple of days, we headed south to Uluwatu for some surfing and sunshine before we left for Australia.  Some Americans we’d met in Singapore had told us about this amazing little hotel in Jimbaran that was nice and cheap – they weren’t wrong! For $15 each a night we got an air-conditioned room, an ensuite bathroom with hot water (don’t underestimate the luxury of a bathroom with hot water in South East Asia), huge fridge, free mineral water, flat screen TV with cable, a swimming pool, breakfast, AND a motorbike. In short, we lived like kings.

In the pool!

In the pool!

Living like kings!

Living like kings!

We dumped our stuff as soon as we arrived and drove to Uluwatu to watch the sunset over the famous surf break. It was the first time we’d ridden a motorbike in Bali… it was pretty intimidating. There are NO road rules here!

Sunset at Uluwatu

Sunset at Uluwatu

 The following morning we met this really cool half Timorese, half Indonesian guy called Angel Berto and his French girlfriend, Morgane.  Berto was a very interesting guy and had been a sports commentator for a Malaysian sports channel. Morgane had met Berto on holiday last year in Bali and had returned to be with him. Although she was on a tourist visa, she’d found a job in marketing for a 5* hotel down the road. She worked 6 days a week and only earned $500 a month, which is a LOT of money for Indonesian standards. She didn’t seem to like her job and resented the fact her wages were so low compared to France.

 

Kyle and Berto!

Kyle and Berto!

Berto and Morgane invited us to go out with them and their friends later that evening in Seminyak. We all met in front of the hotel, jumped on the motorbikes and drove in a convoy to Seminyak. What Kyle and I didn’t realise was just how far Seminyak was, and that we’d have to drive on the motorway to get there…  Everything was going fine on the bike, when suddenly the bike started to slide from side to side and we had to pull off quickly onto the side of the road. We had a flat tyre!! We couldn’t see any garages nearby and were lucky that Berto knew exactly where we could get the tyre fixed. We drove very slowly up the road to a petrol station where there was a mobile tyre fixer. It was this Indonesian guy who had a small trailer on the back of his bike and drove around looking for people with flat tyres. He replaced the inner wheel of the tyre for $5 in 5 minutes, and away we we went! We went to this really cool bar in Seminyak called La Favela and they were playing 90s hits all night long. I was having a ball of a time.

Mobile tyre fixer!

Mobile tyre fixer!

The next morning we met Berto and Morgane and hung out together on Balagan beach. Kyle and Berto decided to go surfing, but returned within 10 minutes because the water was full of sea lice and jelly fish. Berto had a particularly bad reaction to the sea lice and his torso was covered in big red bumps. It looked very painful. 

Balagan beach

Balagan beach

We decided to head back to Uluwatu for one last time to see the temple on the cliff top. The temple itself wasn’t particularly special and was home to even more monkeys (!!!!), but the view was breathtaking. 

Uluwatu temple

Uluwatu temple

Pano of Uluwatu

Pano of Uluwatu

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We then went to have dinner at our favourite restaurant in Bali, Warung Makun. It’s essentially a huge buffet: you choose a rice, meat, vegetables and a drink, and then the waitress gives you a little ticket. I’d been a bit disappointed with food in Indonesia until now, but the food here is absolutely divine. And cheap too! My meals at Warung Makun were never more than 2 quid. Nom nom nom.

My meal at Warung Makun!

My meal at Warung Makun!

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

North Vietnam is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage site, Halong Bay. We booked a 2 day/1 night trip with Dragon Cruise with a night aboard a ship. We were picked up at 8.30 am and we drove three and half hours to Halong Bay. On the way there our driver conveniently needed to take a ‘rest stop’ at a silk and limestone factory for half an hour… We were told to look around to see if we liked anything.

Kyle wanted to buy this shirt at the 'rest stop'.

Kyle wanted to buy this shirt at the ‘rest stop’.

We finally arrived at Halong Bay port where we took a long tail boat to the boat where we’d be spending the night. When we arrived on the ship we were given a free welcome drink of lukewarm tea and then we were given the keys to our cabin. Our cabin was actually pretty nice and looked vaguely like the pictures in the brochure! Since going on we on this gap year we’ve learnt to take everything you’re told or shown with a pinch of salt.

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We had a nice lunch aboard the ship and then cruised along Halong Bay taking in the beautiful scenery. We then made a stop at ‘Amazing Cave’ which was actually pretty amazing. It was absolutely huge and our guide had obviously been here many times as he kept pointing out stalactites and stalagmites that looked like a couple kissing, a fat buddha, or a chicken… It was all very amusing and our group enjoyed coming up with ridiculous ideas of what the rock formations looked like.

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After the cave we were stopped at a beach for an hour for ‘sunbathing and swimming’. The water was absolutely filthy though from all the boats and sewage. Halong Bay is beautiful but it’s being destroyed very, very quickly by all the tourists. The guide said he hopes that there will be an increase of a million tourists visiting Halong Bay in the coming years! I couldn’t think of anything worse for Halong Bay.

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What really made the trip though was all the different people we met and their stories from their travels. There were about 20 people on our boat from all corners of the earth – US, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Germany, Holland and France. There was a 36 year old Australian guy who told me that he was having a midlife crisis and decided to quit his job and travel for a year.

There was also a group of Americans with some pretty wild tales of their travels in South East Asia. They told us how they went to a shooting range in Cambodia and how for $10 extra they could shoot an AK47. They decided to do it and were told to wait 10 minutes while they prepared the AK47. The shooting range then apparently brought out a duck and told them to use it as a target for the AK47. They were apparently a bit hesitant about shooting a duck, but they decided to do it. Apparently the Cambodians then took the dead duck and then fed it to an alligator. It was a really horrible story actually.

The food on the boat had been a bit hit and miss. They’d bring out small portions of fish and meat and then a huge bowl of rice. We felt it was really stingey given the price we’d paid for the cruise. Breakfast, however, the following morning was a hilarious affair. We were served a small plate of cut up frankfurter sausages and something that resembled an omelette to share between four of us, and then the biggest pile of toast I’ve ever seen. They put like 24 slices of toast on a plate for a table of four! 24 slices of stale toast. The guide then went around asking everyone if they enjoyed their breakfast and one of the American guys told him it was ‘the most amazing breakfast I’ve ever had’, which made me chuckle.

All in all we had a lovely time in Halong Bay!

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