Posted in Thailand updates

Traveling Alone is Awesome! (Except when it sucks)

I have done quite a bit of solo traveling since I moved to SE Asia. This is something that I would recommend wholeheartedly. When you travel without the comfort of people you know, you strike up conversations with randoms; try things that you might not usually be drawn to.

Sometimes, though, it can be difficult and my recent Bali adventure followed a decidedly exponential curve. Near the beginning of my trip, I picked up an awful cold on the plane. Simultaneously, a simple rope burn on my hand decided to make itself somewhat what more painful and… infectiony . As any type 1 diabetic will tell you, infection is terrifying :/ Apart from the pain, there are all kinds of doubts and fears about Diabetes and my life(span)  that love to make themselves known when I’m feeling unwell. I spent most of the first day lacking desire to do much and the 2nd morning at a local clinic which wiped out quite a bit of my money and a lot of my inspiration and morale. Once again, I was reminded that Diabetes is a sneaky little Dementor that’s always lurking. But I think I’m getting better and better at casting a strong Patronus when I need to 🙂

Happily, as soon as I started feeling physically better, most of my emotional desire to explore and connect to people and things returned! Hence, the upward trend began…

Holiday Part 1: Ubud

Ahh, Ubud. Despite the difficult beginning, I absolutely LOVED Ubud.  It was pretty and felt so authentic. Bali is overwhelmingly Hindu and after living in a Buddhist/Muslim country  for over a year, it was fascinating to be plunged into the midst of a completely different culture.

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Orange and gray buildings were plentiful. Some cultural significance there I’m sure but I never did find out what.
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Statues like these were also common. Often just randomly popping out of walls
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Tirta Empul Holy Temple. People frequently come here to wash themselves in the sacred water.
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Walking the streets of Ubud

So let’s start by talking about the food. As most of you know, I try to follow a low carb lifestyle and Ubud is well known as a mecca of good food – be it low carb, gluten free, raw, vegetarian… you name it! My personal favourite was a dish called gado gado – an Indonesian dish made from steamed vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, fried tofu and tempeh. The Indonesian duck salad and Bali style satay were also a highlight.

Reminders of the Hindu Culture were just everywhere. Every day, without fail, Balinese people prepare offerings to place on their shrines, beneath statues, on scooters, windscreens… even just on roadside pavements or random stretches of wall! Throughout the day, these offerings are naturally destroyed or swept away by the elements and the people…. only to be freshly replaced at midday, sunset or the next morning. The level of dedication the Balinese have to respecting their traditions was both inspiring and a little daunting

I stayed at cozy little place called Dani Homestay. “Homestays” are quite common in Bali. Traditionally, Balinese people often live in little extended family compounds,  often situated close to a family temple. Homestays are essentially little guesthouses where a room or small house within this compound has been converted for visitors. This is wonderful because they are often cheaper, slightly off the beaten track and you get a much better sense of genuine Balinese life, outside of resorts. Dani and his family were also fantastic cooks! I stayed there for 4 night which, including breakfast, cost me just 500 000 rupiyah: R500 (about 1200 baht)

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Alright, now onto a few tips:

Tip #1: Hire a Driver!

I’m a horrible spendthrift when it comes to traveling. If I can walk it (that is, if it’s physically possible to walk), I loathe paying for transport. However, I spent much of my first day in Ubud wandering aimlessly through the (somewhat boring) region just next to the culturally hopping Ubud village. I went to bed feeling frustrated and a bit “what is all the fuss about? On my 3rd day, I hired a driver to take me to Telagalang Rice Terraces

Best decision ever. He ended up taking me around for most of the day, to the rice fields then to a stunning waterfall and butterfly farm.  He was talkative and funny and wiped away so much of the stress and social anxiety I’d been feeling since the start of the trip. He also told me all about his family and daily life which was a cool window into the local Balinese world. Attractions are often overrated. But getting the opportunity to wander through someone else’s reality for a while is never disappointing.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

So if you’re in Ubud, and in need of a driver, I’d recommend Saputra Jengky (You can look him up on Facebook). The half day tour cost me 400 000 rupees which sounds like a lot but equates to about 1000 baht. Not pocket change but really worth it when you account for the petrol and the overview you get of the whole region.

Other things in Ubud worth checking out:

  1. Campuhan Ridge Walk: A really breathtaking stroll that’s a perfect way to occupy a few hours.

 

2. Monkey Forest, Ubud. Very cute but keep any valuables packed away!

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3. Yoga! Ubud is famous for food and Yoga. They have lots of free beginner classes so even if you’re a novice like me, you’ll be right at home. Best places to go as a tourist are the Yoga Barn or Ubud Yoga House , both in a similar area.

Yoga Barn: http://www.theyogabarn.com/

Ubud Yoga House: http://ubudyogahouse.com/classes.html

4. Visit a Coffee plantation. Bali is famous for it’s Luwak Coffee. I’m not much of an coffee drinker  but the Luwaks were really cute and I adored the range of tea they presented me with.

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Holiday Part 2: Seminyak

Seminyak was lovely but after the cultural richness of Ubud, definitely less captivating. I stayed at a hotel called Grandmas which was close to the beach, pretty affordable and had nice rooms.

On the way to Seminyak, we visited Tanah Lot Temple, a famous Hindu site. I found the stories behind Tanah Lot Temple (It was built to honour the sea god of Nirartha and is reportedly  protected by a giant sea snake)  more interesting than the temple itself: Bit too much of a tourist trap for my liking. The geology was fab though!

Even when it’s raining, beach clubs are a beautiful way to spend the evening in Seminyak. The best place I visited was the Potato Head (Seminyak’s answer to Shimmy Beach Club) but La Plancha was also fun and had the strongest cocktails I’ve ever tasted.

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Sunset from Potato Head Beach Club

Potato Head was gorgeous but not for those with thin wallets!

The highlight of my time in Seminyak was definitely the River Rafting Trip down Telaga Waja River (http://bit.ly/2pxpvgA). 16km of beautiful rapids that were actually challenging to navigate at times? The adrenaline junkie in me was purring… It cost 500 000 rupiyah so again not cheap but that includes the whole day’s activities, including pick up, buffet lunch, all rafting gear and the accident insurance. I also met a stunning couple from Ireland/Oman. We just instantly clicked which was a good thing as the boat was a bumpy ride and we fell into each other’s laps more than once!

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That evening, we headed out together for a final night of fun. After dinner at a ridiculously busy Mexican restaurant (GREAT margaritas), we ended up buying some Bintangs and chilling on the beach for a few hours. They managed to properly convince me that Oman should be next on my teaching agenda so, fingers crossed, that’s where I’ll be heading in January.

Sitting, watching the waves crash and sharing stories about travels around the world was just a perfect way to end the trip. Out of all the wonderful memories I will take from this 18 month Thailand experience, the people I’ve met (both here at ‘home’ in Krabi and on vacations) will always be the most special.

A few more tips

#2: I always find it difficult to suss out a place before I’ve actually visited it. My advice for future would be to spend perhaps 3 nights in Ubud, 2 in Seminyak and then 2 or 3 in the Gili or Lombok islands, depending on what you’re looking for. As Saputra summed it up: Ubud is for culture, Seminyak for beach clubs, Kuta for party, Gili Islands for relax.

#3: Indonesian electrical sockets are a weird size. buy an adapter early/or ask someone who has been if they have one before you leave.

Holiday Part 3: Singapore

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Listen, I know Singapore has a dark side. Apparently the schooling system encourages competition and judgement to a ridiculous degree and life can be stressful. But: Everyone there seems to be fit and healthy and happy and just… winning at life! It makes me want to be a better person,  the person I am the day I make my New Year’s Resolutions. In Singapore, everything just… works. It  doesn’t steal your heart so much as make you appreciate your brain and lungs and all the other vital organs that one couldn’t do without.

My time in Singapore was blink and you’d miss it. Luckily, it’s not a big country and I still managed to pack a fair amount in. Starting with… Merlion Park! My favourite part of Merlion Park is the people watching. There is a big (about 3km) loop you can walk around the whole area, down past the Singapore Flyer and Marina Plaza. I would highly recommend this as it gives you a great view of the river from every angle and the plaza is filled with people running, cycling and having meetings of very kind. It also takes you directly past the Art Science Museum which was the highlight of my visit to Singapore.

 

Holiday Part 4: Ko Lanta

I’ve been planning to visit Ko Lanta since I came to Krabi so it was a relief to finally get there! As anyone who has been to Ko Lanta will tell you, It’s just a special, special place. I was so happy and at home there, I ended up rescheduling my ferry ticket and staying an extra night. And even then, I went reluctantly.

I stayed at a WONDERFUL little hostel/bungalow village called Baan Longhaad. It’s situated very centrally, just a 5 minute walk from the beach and the host couldn’t have been sweeter. I will definitely return if I can.

 

Ko Lanta was also a magical place to spend Songkran, even if it was (apparently) a little quieter than usual. I still managed to gang up with a few awesome crews and get a year’s worth of water fighting in! (Plus, naturally, a few midday mojitos 😉 )

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Weird thing I discovered while on Lanta… I like avocadoes now! Perhaps it was just the sublime cooking at the Living Room that tipped me onto the dark side (their cheesecake brownies were also the most thing I’ve ever tasted… shhh)

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Ko Lanta hasn’t seen the last of me.

It’s getting very strange to consider that I have just a few months left in Thailand. It’s a bittersweet feeling which is making me a bit melancholy at times. But it has also revitalized me to make the most of every weekend! Never a bad thing. Cheers, mes amies! Blog again soon…