Friday, August 26, 2011

Gili Trawangon

Nate and I have spent the past week in paradise. Imagine a place where you can see the most stars you have ever seen, watch a sunset and sunrise from the same spot on the beach, and swim in crystal clear turquoise water each day. It's amazing and exactly what we've been looking for. It's the first place we have completely relaxed. We never know what day it is and it doesn't even matter. 

Our first night here (after a long 12 hour travel consisting of 2 boat rides, one 5 hr ferry ride and 2 bus rides) was a bit overwhelming. We found a place to stay and then went out looking for some dinner. We ended up in honeymoon land with loads of beautiful resorts and very classy restaurants. Not only are we not on our honeymoon, but we are straight up backpackers! We managed to find something within our budget and the next day found a backpacker's paradise: cheap, delicious, night market food! We were not over-joyed with our room so we walked around the island our first day here and found a quiet, remote room where we wake up to the waves each morning. Our place is over 50 years old and hasn't been touched once since it was built. It is by far the most run down place on the island and that we've ever stayed, but it gives us exactly what we want. For $8 each a night with breakfast included and a beach, it's paradise to us... 

We have yet to meet any other Americans on the Gili Islands (or anywhere, really) but there are tons of Europeans. You never have to really wonder where people are from here.  If a woman is topless on the beach (even in an Islamic area), she's European. Otherwise, probably Australian. Nate and I sometimes stand out on the beach, as he is probably the one and only man with body hair and I am one of few girls who did not hit the tanning bed for months before this vacation. Also, I don't have a thong bathing suit...  there are some very interesting styles here and it's great for people watching :) 

After spending a week straight in the sun (yes, mom, I reapply spf all day long!), Nate and I have some nice tans going. I did get my first burn of the trip when we went snorkeling the other day. I must have had a slight wedgy and did not realize it at the time. After two beautiful snorkeling trips, I had a crisp tush but only on one side. It's a new look here for the Gilis ;)

We are not sure when we are leaving here or what our next destination will be, but I will be sure to keep you update. Also, pictures are hopefully being uploaded soon. Stay tuned! 

'til next time,

Al and Nate

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Arriving in Bali was refreshing in so many ways. Don't get me wrong - we enjoyed many aspects of Singapore, especially the cleanliness, the delicious food and how incredibly diverse of a city/country it is. But being in Indonesia is an incredibly different yet wonderful feeling. We didn't get into the airport til 1am (which means an extra day on our visa - score!), spent the first day in Kuta Beach and then headed here to Ubud. Kuta was nice enough, but Nate and I are both beach snobs. We like crystal clear blue water, beautiful white sand that is like dust on your feet and, most importantly, a quiet beach. Kuta was busy with surfers (which I was bummed I didn't try) and lots and lots of tourists. Plus, the water was not that beautiful... so we continued on our way.

Everyone we know who has been to Indonesia says that Ubud is a must-see and we couldn't agree more. We have fallen in love with this little town, as it is like no place we have ever been. Ubud is small and very artsy. There are two or three main streets that are lined with galleries, shops and adorable little restaurants. Ubud has a very European feel to it which is a pleasure to have when in Asia! There are hundreds of tourists here but it's a very different tourist feeling than anywhere else. There are no trashy tourists... Everyone is very classy and polite. The town is filled mostly with couples and a few families. It's hopping during the day yet very quiet at night with only a few places playing live music. Once off the main few streets, there are gorgeous rice paddy fields that you can walk through. There is an undescribable feeling you get in Ubud and you just have to come here to understand :)

We happened to plan our stay in Ubud unknowingly when the biggest ceremony was taking place. The Queen of Ubud passed away 6 months ago and they have been busy preparing for her cremation this whole time. Yesterday, all power was shut off in the town until late in the evening so that people would go and enjoy the festival. We were there with a thousand other people in the sweltering heat to witness the new king ride into town on an enormous tower and the queen to be inside  a huge fake cow which they later burned with her body inside. We didn't always understand exactly what was happening but it was certainly a good insight to a special part of the Balinese culture.

I'm not sure our choice of accommodation was quite the best... but it was of course the cheapest! It's run by a crazy local who goes by the name of Mr. Chicken. The bungalows are nice and there is a pool but it is very loud. Our neighbor in the next bungalow snores so loud that we can hear it when trying to sleep. The power here is also a bit unreliable along with the water but hey that's a part of the experience, right?!The free internet is definitely a bonus and something we won't have very often in our travels.

Nate is currently down the street at the Post Office trying to send a few items back to the States that we picked up for our future home. There is beautiful woodcarving here and it was difficult to choose between a few items. We eventually decided on a beautifully framed painting, a mirror with a wood cut frame, salad tongs made from bamboo wood (random purchase) and another small painting. I hope he has better luck than we had in Taiwan with the huge frame we tried to send home!!

We are headed to some islands tomorrow for some R&R... will write more when we can! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Philippines and Singapore Recap

It seems that a whole year has passed since Nate and I left for Taiwan and promised our mothers we would start a blog. Oops - sorry! It's now up and running and we promise to do our best to do some writing over the next 4 months.

Since we are a few weeks into our trip, I will do a quick recap for you all. We began our trip with a short but busy trip to Bocolod to visit Nate's sister, Rachael. After spending a sleepless night in the Manila airport, we arrived to Rachael's small but cozy one room pad in a boarding house. She left us a very informative note, ensuring us that yes, that little futon is indeed her bed and that the big trash bucket in the bathroom is her shower. Oh, and if her brother needs to go #2 (she knows him well) that he must dump water into the toilet to flush it manually. We were a bit blown away by her accommodations! We spent two nights there, slumber party style, and then were off to Dumaguete to visit Harold a.k.a Mr. Nice ;)

Once in Dumaguete, we were treated like royalty by Harold. For those of you who don't know H, he is a friend of Rachael's and truly one of the kindest and most generous men I have ever met. H runs a very cool hostel where you get to enjoy grilled seafood on the rooftop on Wed nights and free oysters on Friday nights. But did we stay at Harold's Mansion Hostel? Oohhh no, we were VIPs staying at his house. We were spoiled with privacy, our own bathroom, a motor bike and cheap, cheap beer. During this time, I completed my Open Water Diver and Nate did his Advanced. I was incredibly nervous about diving and when Nate preferred to stay out and drink the $1 San Miguels, I insisted on going home to study my book... yes, still a nerd, I know. However, this plan backfired on me when I saw that the book H left for me was in Danish! Needless to say, I passed and had a great time doing the course! On my last day, we joined a group going to the famous Apo Island where I was able to dive with Nate. We saw all kinds of things from sea turtles to beautiful fish to poisonous sea snakes!

When our courses were over, Rachael arrived, we relaxed and then the four of us went to Siquijor Island for a few days where we stayed in cute little rooms over-looking the ocean. Siquijor is a witch craft island so we figured a trip to the local Shaman. This woman may have been the most adorable person I've ever seen... 86 years old, shiny gray hair, dressed from head to toe in pink. Her job is to rid you of all your bad spirits and we are believers! We witnessed her cure two guys before us and were then blown away by her work on Nate. I forgot to mention that Nate had a very upset stomach when we arrived to the island due to a day old hamburger he thought was a good idea to eat at the ferry terminal. When the Shaman did her trick, she told us that his belly was very sick with a bad spirit and she was sucking it out of him with her magic stone and water. She giggled throughout Nate's treatment because she had never seen so much junk come out of someone. (The glass of water turns cloudy and fills with particles) She even gave Nate a piece to keep (gross) but I wouldn't let him take it home with us. Nate has vowed to never eat a bad spirited hamburger like that again! We witnessed the water turn from cloudy and with particles to absolutely clear water! Visiting the Shaman was a great new cultural experience for the both of us.

When leaving Duma, we had to connect in Clark before flying to Singapore. We were not very surprised when our Cebu Pacific, world's worst airline ever, was cancelled. We changed our plans, took a boat and a van and arrived in Clark where we were disgusted. When booking these flights, we were unaware that Clark is one of the cities in the Phils best known for the sex trade. We all know it's hard seeing women in situations, but trying seeing children. The city was creepy and we only left our over-priced, somewhat gross hotel room once to get some chicken and beer and run right back up to our room. It was truly an eye opening day and makes you really appreciate the work that volunteers are doing over here to help fight this.

Okay, on a more positive note, we arrived in Singapore without a problem and had beautiful weather for 3 of the 4 days. We spent the majority of our stay walking around the city, spending time in Little India and Chinatown. Singapore is beautiful. There is so much green here... we have forgotten what 1st world countries are like! We spent a day in the Botanical Gardens and a day on Sentosa Island, which has a surprisingly nice man-made beach where the sand and palm trees are all imported! We were a bit scared of the prices here, as our hostel dorm rooms were costing us the majority of our daily budget. We focused on seeing the sites as cheaply as possible and walking, walking, walking. I am proud to report we have both lost around 5lbs and feel much better about ourselves without that extra Taiwan chunk we had after living it up our last few weeks there! :) We may have slightly starved ourselves here (not because we wanted to lose weight - $$$) and we cut out beer. We each enjoyed one Tiger Beer on Saturday night and that was it! I suppose a little detox is good now and then.

As we head to Bali tonight, we are looking forward to beaches, bungalows, relaxing and reading, cheap beer and food... but we will certainly miss hot showers, amazing public transportation, and high speed internet!!

Much love to all our friends and family!