Archive | April, 2014

Paradise Island

24 Apr

In Padang Bai we met up with the Semaya One cruise team who would be in charge of safely getting us across the strait and over to the island of Gili Trawangan. I had first heard of Gili T last summer when a friend I had made on my last Beach Travellers trip had posted on her blog about her fantastic time there and boy did it ever look like paradise. The first thing I saw when we got to Gili T was the white sand beach, palm trees and perfect turquoise water (aka heaven). The boat ride had thankfully been uneventful but it was nice to be back on land and we made quick work of finding our hotel amidst all of the chaos on the main strip. We would be spending the next four nights at Tir Na Nog, a lovely little hotel complex with a swimming pool and an Irish pub (of course). After some resting up we set out to find a spot to go for a swim. What was supposed to be just a short stroll ended up being a walk around the entire island with a few failed attempts at actual swimming. All the spots that we tried to swim were both too shallow and the bottom was full of sharp coral, aka not much fun. For dinner that night we had a lovely BBQ dinner at Scallywags just down the road from our hotel. Since we had napped that day neither of us were that tired after dinner so we wandered down the main strip to see what there was to do at night on Gili T. On our walk earlier in the day we had noticed a few restaurants offering shisha so we decided to check out the cheapest one and had a great time just relaxing on the beach under the stars.

We managed to finally find the main beach early the next morning and spent the rest of it lounging in the shade reading and swimming in the warm tropical water. For lunch we decided to check out a luxury resort that offered the privilege of using their facilities to any paying restaurant guest. We lounged around on the beach chairs for a bit doing some more reading (I managed to finish the new Veronica Mars novel, which is awesome for fans of the show) before heading over to check out the fancy pool that had its own waterfall. In the evening we walked around to a bar on the other side of the island to watch the sun set over Bali while chowing down on some of the best spring rolls I have ever had. After a super cheap pasta dinner we decided to check out the local movie theater which was showing Pulp Fiction (one of my favourites) and offered free popcorn with your ticket.

For our second day in Gili T we decided to do an all day snorkeling trip which we signed up for at our hotel. We set out to the Northern tip of Gili T for our first snorkel spot over a shallow coral reef teeming with fish. The second spot was off the North East coast of Gili Meno where we jumped in the water and then followed a Balinese guide down the edge of the reef for about 150 meters. Our guide was super awesome and would dive down to show us different marine creatures and then tell us about them. The best part of the whole day was when we came across a big sea turtle not far down bellow the surface, our guide even swam down to try and get him to swim up to us but that failed. After the turtle disappeared we hopped back in to the boat and headed over to Gili Air where we disembarked for lunch. After a quick lunch we got back on the boat and headed over to the East coast of Gili Air for our last snorkel spot. All in all the Gili islands offered some of the best snorkeling I have done to date (even better than the Great Barrier Reef). Back on Gili T we hit up an indian restaurant for dinner before heading out for a night on the town where we played beer pong against a couple from Germany and checked out Gili T’s own (very small) full moon party (they’ve got nothing on Koh Phangan).

Most of our final day was spent recovering from the night before and I don’t think we ventured too far till past noon. When we finally did decide to face the day we chose to rent some bikes from our hotel and bike up to a restaurant on the North East tip of the island. We had a lovely lunch with a very friendly cat before continuing on to bike around the whole island. After a quick jump in the pool we headed out for dinner and then back to the movie theater, this time to see 21 Jump Street. The next morning we got up super early in order to watch the sun rise over Lombok which was so peaceful. After the sun was up we went for one last visit to the Turtle sanctuary to say bye to the baby turtles before biking back to our hotel.
We had one final free breakfast at Tir Na Nog before meeting back up with the Semaya one crew and boarding our boat back to Bali.

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Arrival In South East Asia

21 Apr

After our sad goodbyes to the country that we called home for 6 months we hopped on a plane to our first South East Asian destination, Bali. We flew into the Denpasar International Airport and made our way to Pop! Hotel in Kuta Beach where we would spend a few days easing into Asia. Once we arrived at our hotel we quickly discovered that in my hasty planning I had managed to book our reservation for May instead of April (whoops!) but that was luckily sorted out and we got our room for that night. Tired from our trip, we hit the hay as soon as we got through the door.

The hotel we stayed at offered free breakfast which was served in a banana leaf and contained some spicy noodles and unidentifiable stuff as well as green rice, it was definitely an interesting introduction to food in Bali. To get our bearings we decided to start with a long walk through downtown Kuta and over to the beach. Downtown was hot and crammed full of vendors selling your usual SEA wares, knock-off watches, beer logo tank tops, hippy pants, and all sorts of other bric-a-bracs. By the time we hit the beach we were both a sweaty mess so we opted to rent some beach chairs with an umbrella and hide in the shade instead of sweltering it out on the hot sand. We took our first dip in the ocean since leaving Australia and spent the rest of our beach time drinking Bintang (Braden) and getting a massage (myself). We left the beach in search of lunch and new sunglasses for me as I had managed to lose my pair while swimming in the oceans (damn waves). The rest of that afternoon was spent napping and swimming in the hotel’s beautiful pool. For dinner that night we tried to locate the night market but when we failed to do so we instead opted to just grab dinner at a random place on the main strip. After dinner we hit up Sky Garden to check out their all you can drink hour (which in fact served very strong and not very tasty drinks but hey, they were free!). We ended up chilling at the rooftop patio smoking some shisha and talking to random travelers from across the globe.

For our second day in Bali we decided to take a day trip up to Ubud since we had heard a lot of good things about it. We ended up with a private driver for the day which was pretty sweet especially for the price of 40$. We spent the morning checking out various local craft markets that included Batik painting, stone carving, painting and the making of silver jewelry. Our guide for the day suggested we make an additional stop to try Luwak coffee and we decided why not. Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee pound for pound in the world and it is made by having a animal (the Luwak) eat and digest a certain type of coffee bean which is then fermented in its stomach and pooped out. The poop is then collected, cleaned, ground and roasted to create a very strong but not very bitter coffee. While at the Luwak place we got to see some monkeys, Luwaks, bats, coffee trees and the process of how they make the coffee. After our tour we got to sample the various beverages the place produces including a super yummy lemon tea and a ginseng coffee (which was our favourite). Braden even opted to pay a bit extra to try a cup of the famous Luwak coffee, which made the regular Balinese coffee taste like water. Also included in our tour was a stop at the Ubud monkey temple where we got to hang out with a bunch of monkeys. Many funny pictures ensued. Our last stop for the day was in the town centre where we grabbed lunch and checked out some of the local market stalls. Once back in Kuta we were both craving pizza so we ventured to a nearby Italian restaurant that felt very authentic and served yummy italian food. All in all it was a very successful day.

The next morning we had to get up super early to meet our bus transfer that would take us to Padang Bai Pier where we would meet our speedboat bound for Gili Trawangan.

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Australia: The Rest

16 Apr

After our camper van adventures we spent the holidays at my dad’s friend’s house in a southern suburb of Brisbane. It was weird celebrating Christmas while it was 30 degrees outside and we spent the better part of every day in the pool. For my birthday we went in to the city to Southbank to see the new Hobbit movie and have a yummy dinner. Just before New Years we switched locations and headed up North of Brisbane to stay with another one of my dad’s friends and his family for a few days. We had a lovely time with them and their dogs and had a fun time partying with everyone on NYE. After the holidays it was time to get down to business and we began our house hunting search back in downtown Brisbane.

We managed to find a place in Fortitude Valley, the heart of Brisbane’s entertainment district. It was great to have a home base again and regular internet but we couldn’t just settled down and relax for ever so it was time to find a job. Finding a job ended up being the hard part, Braden tried out a few jobs including telemarketing and moving which didn’t quite pan out and I had a long streak of nothing till a local Italian restaurant finally called me back in mid-February. Not long after I scored my job Braden switched up his resume tactics (going for more humour) and landed a job by the end of February at a small Mexican take away place. During February we did manage to hit up a water park, Seaworld, check out Surfers Paradise for a day, spend a few days down in Byron Bay catching waves (and sunburns), cuddle a koala and check out the wildlife at the Lone Pine’s Koala Sanctuary, as well as exploring more of Brisbane.

Once we started working we realized that our part time jobs just weren’t going to be enough to sustain us in the long term so we made the decision to start planning our route back to Canada a little earlier than we had planned. Australia is just quite an expensive place to live. March did consist of a lot of planning but we also managed to have some fun. We caught some awesome live performances by Macklemore, Deadmau5 and more at Future Music Festival. For our final big trip in Australia we decided to check out Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands since we had heard so much about it. Most people choose to see the islands by taking a multi-night sailing trip out to them but I am not the biggest fan of being on a boat for too long so we opted to take two day trips out from Airlie instead. The day we arrived in Airlie it was super hot and sunny out but that would be the last time we would see the sun during our time there. Our first day trip took us out to the tail end of the Great Barrier Reef (I figured Braden couldn’t leave Oz without seeing it) but due to the bad weather we encountered some pretty crazy waves out on the open ocean making me feel pretty sea sick for most of the day. After spending our whole second day hiding inside from the rain (well more like drinking inside the hostel’s bar) we were starting to feel less enthusiastic about spending another day out on the rain and wavy ocean. In the end our ocean rafting day trip out to see more of the islands, including the famous Whitehaven Beach, was rainy and a little chilly but we still managed to have a good time. Another unique Australian experience that we simply couldn’t leave without checking out was an AFL game and boy was it a lot of fun. During our last weekend in Brisbane we hopped down to the Gold Coast to attend Supernova (a mini comic convention) where Braden got to see a live LOL finals match and I got to see some of the unreleased Black Milk pieces (win win for both of us). Finally after some sad goodbyes to new friends we departed Brisbane for South East Asia to continue our adventures (in much cheaper countries).

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The Promised Camper Van Post

15 Apr

I know it has been ages and ages since I last wrote a post and for that I’m sorry. As most of you know my boyfriend Braden met up with me in mid-December and we immediately set out on a week long camper-van road trip around the Sunshine Coast. Our first stop was in Mooloolaba for lunch and a brief stroll down the beach. We spent our first night in Noosa (I just had to go back) in a very cheap and unpowered camper site, which kind of sucked since all of our electronics happened to all die that day of course. For our first full day in Noosa we decided to hike through the same National Park that Grace and I previously hiked through only this time we went all the way down to the beach in Alexandria Bay. The beach ended up being a clothing optional beach so needless to say we saw a few naked grannies and grandpas wandering around (we however chose to remain clothed). After Noosa we drove further up the coast to Rainbow Beach, a sleepy little town that serves as the less busy gateway to Fraser Island. We stayed in a fantastic camper park right behind the main strip and directly across from the beach. Since our camper did not have 4 wheel drive we decided to book a day tour out to Fraser Island. On our day trip we saw a few dingos, tons of dead jellyfish, the shipwrecked S.S. Maheno, swam in Lake McKenzie, and wadded down Eli Creek.

We left Rainbow beach early the next day to head to the small town of Tin Can Bay in order to feed some dolphins that come in every day for breakfast. We spent the rest of that day making our way first through the town of Gympie then down the highway and through the hills and valleys of the inner part of the Sunshine Coast on route to Monteville. My dad recommended we check out this little sleepy hill town that boasted tons of B&Bs, quirky gift shops and lots of little restaurants. We had a wander through the little town and grabbed some lunch there before continuing down to our next camper site for the night. The other town my dad suggested we check out was Maleny which was just a little ways up the road from our camper site and we decided to pop into a local winery for a tasting (and a little shopping) on the way. The town of Maleny itself is quite small and very eco-orientated, boasting lots of organic stores and vegan restaurants. Our final stop along the Sunshine coast was Caloundra for a late breakfast but we didn’t stay long because storm clouds began rolling in.

Our last night in the camper was spent in a small camper park off a back road in Yatala, just south of Brisbane. The reason we stayed at such a random place was because of its proximity to a drive-in movie theatre which I had never been to before. We saw Anchorman 2 and Hunger Games 2 all from the comfort of our camper van’s bed, such a perfect date night. Our final day was spent at the Warner Brothers Movie World theme park for a day full of rides.

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