A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: theelman

Jungle time - Taman Negara

Just finished a jungle trek at night in the rainforest of Malaysia. My fear of spiders is well known so was this a retarded idea? Not really.

The walk itself some would find tame, I found it a nice way to do a jungle trek at night. Paths are clear even with metal at some parts. This is no way stops what you see. In one hour we saw a huge scorpion, two huntsman spiders, a green snake and several stick insects. Bar the spiders it was really nice experience. At the lookout we even saw deer. We are a three hour boat ride into the jungle but there is a nice village by the river set up for the jungle.

I now have to debate whether to risk running the gauntlet to clean my teeth as there is a giant flying cockroach type thing in the corridor!

We also did some fun rapids and met the indigenous people of taman negara.

Posted by theelman 19:11 Comments (0)

Bali

It was Vanessas dream to come to Bali and I quite fancied it too. Bali is a beautiful island which is far more varied than you can imagine.

Legian
Near, well connected to Kuta is Legian. We stayed in a lovely hotel at a crazy price. It proved a great place to base ourselves as we explored. Bali is as much about relaxing as it is surf. Legian etc is all about the surf. Every big brand has a shop and surf school here. Rip Curl, Quiksilver etc. With good reason. Even someone who knows nothing about surfing can tell how amazing it is. Perfect barrels and big but not scary big ( for the most part) waves. It's great fun to body board too. Only problem with being a world class surf destination a few hours from one of the biggest surf countries in the world, Australia is Kuta is epicly touristy. It's Australias Costa del Sol and it shows. You can walk for hours and see nothing but t shirt, surf, and trinket shops. Still, its a lot of fun.

Lovina
In the north is the complete opposite. Empty beaches and laid back attitude. We did a fantastic, if unbelievably early dolphin trip. We had a small private boat and sailed out following the dolphins. We then had breakfast on the water while watching the sunrise. Nice.
We also got to see a lot of rural Bali via a private car tour of east Bali. Having never seen a volcano before I was blown away by mount gurung and the way it cones out of the flat surroundings. It would be a fantastic climb.

Ubud
Ubud is the historic capital of Bali and it shows due to its huge amount of temples. There is also a fantastic Monkey Forest. Hilarity mixes with fear as you watch the greedy gits steal, pillage and seemingly rape each other.

The main reason we went to Ubud though was to stay in the fantastic Elephant Safari Park and Lodge. We joined such names as David Beckham, Dolph Lungren, Jean Claude Van Damme, Julia Roberts, Steve Irwin and Tony Blair as park visitors. The highlight being getting picked up from your room by your Elephant Chauffeur. Fantastic.

The last few days we have relaxed in Kuta, bar a couple of free nights out, whilst also taking in a lovely trip to Balagan beach. The surf was crazy and it was really exciting to see near pros at work. We also went to Uluwatu to watch a monkey infested sunset. Funny moments included watching monkeys steal then chew on glasses. A potentially expensive trip to the temple.

Overall Bali was different to what I expected but still fantastic. It's a varied and interesting island.

Posted by theelman 06:36 Comments (0)

Jakarta Indonesia

We arrived late in Jakarta after a delayed flight from Vietnam. We didn't care too much as we had already planned to sleep in the airport! The bus to near the Jl Jaksa area doesn't start until five am so we found a bench along with a bunch of others and nested down. BTW the best place to do this is in the departure section of the airport.

After very little sleep we went to Jl jaksa and discovered that the place is long past its best. Accommodation is poor and shabby, most only have cold water yet charge up to £10 a night. After lush clean air con hotels with breakfast and amazing luxury of a hot water shower in Vietnam for $10 it was a hard pill to swallow after little sleep.

Jakarta itself continued to be a let down. Food is generally poor and relatively expensive, whilst Jakarta is a nightmare to get around by foot. So many cars mean the Vietnam way of just crossing doesn't apply so easily. And to top it off what little footpath there is feature regular open sewers which await someone not looking to fall into. Pretty grim was to get a load of infections.

We did enjoy the bank museum in Kota. It's a free exhibition which tells the history of the bank which is linked to the history of Indonesia. Worth a trip. Kota in general is very run down with some colonial buildings which can only be described as deadly. Parts of roofs hang over crowded markets. It's an odd sight.

Jakarta is one of those cities which the name brings ideas of exotic travel. Unfortunately as far as backpacking goes it is past its best at best and badly rundown at worst.

Posted by theelman 05:31 Comments (1)

Gili Islands - Lombok

We have been to Bali for 3 weeks before Gili but due to going back I will write after.

Gili Islands are three small islands close to Lombok which feature no cars or motobikes. Anyone who has spent a long time in Asia will appreciate how nice a change this is.

After a long bus, ferry, bus, boat trip with got to the biggest and most active island, Gili Trawangan. Gili T is the so called party island although I think this is pushing it. Yes there are lots of bars and restaurants but its hardly ibiza. As I said Gili T is the biggest island, although at 2 hours to walk around its hardly huge. Despite this we had a really interesting few days.

Good news
I SAW TWO TURTLES! whilst snorkelling the beautiful clear waters I glanced across and saw a stunning Mr. Turtle elegantly swimming. He rested on the bottom and I watched for a while. Then I noticed another turtle sat there about 10 feet away. I watched in awe as they both came up for air almost right next to me. For someone who has looked for turtles for such a long time it was an incredible experience.

Later that evening was another first. Not so nice though. We came across a couple who warned us that around the corner a hotel was on fire. As we walked around we saw it. Several buildings were beyond saving and were just shells. Everyone was getting buckets, bins, pans, anything to put out the fire on the thatch roof dangerously close to the firey embers from the nearby shell and tree. I ran in and helped along with other tourists and locals. We got bin after bin of water from the beach and passed them to the guys on the roof.

It was pretty crazy and smoke filled the air as a building at the back burnt. We managed to save the thatched building although it was touch and go as the roof was on fire in several places at one point. We left after about half an hour of fire fighting. The main buildings not burnt were saved, the ones that were still going were dying down leaving an empty shell.

Where were the fire service? Gili has no police or fire service. Village heads decide fate of the few criminals.

Gili Meno was much less crazy. It's the least populous. We had a nice time but we didn't get up to much. Gili Meno is all about chill out. Snorkelling was pretty poor from the shore though as its way to rocky and features a load of dead coral from dynamite fishing. Pretty sad sight.

Gili Air was lovely. An ideal mix of something to do and peacefulness. I also enjoyed some epic food. Fresh Sweet Lips fish with chili and lime dip all cooked on a wood fire was a delicious treat. The flavours were literally mouth watering. Thanks to the guys at Zipp Bar.

Gili Air also features a nice breeze at night which gets rid of the balmy nights of other Indonesian evenings. After a few nights of budget accommodation we splashed out on a stunning hut complete with outdoor secluded bathroom and Gili number one luxury, Hot Shower! Ran by a great guy called Dean, Villa Kampung is a superb place to stay. Look for the muscular guy in shades as you get off the boat.. with only two huts at present they are hot property and he has no signs at time of writing, so you really need to look for him.

The Gili islands are a stunning place as a whole and definitely worth a visit if you want peace and quiet but a nice restaurant in the evening.

Posted by theelman 05:31 Comments (0)

Vietnam

I haven't posted for a while due to moving around a lot. Currently on a tour of East Bali I will give a brief overview of our time in Vietnam.

Hanoi
Hanoi is a mental place. Although Saigon is bigger, Hanoi certainly feels more hectic. After a mix of reviews and warnings about scams, we looked forward with caution about this city. Either we were lucky or rumors were false as we had only positive encounters in Vietnam. Hanoi has plenty to see. Our highlight was the old Prison nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton by POWs. It had interesting images and accounts of the prison life when both the French ruled and when Vietnamese ruled over American prisoners. Needless to say it was very biased. It even had pictures of John Mc Cain being given stitches. They fail to mention he can no longer lift his arms due to them being broken so much in the jail.

I also enjoyed seeing Ho Chi Minh himself in his Mausoleum. It was an odd experience which you see him laying there. Due to the embalment process he looks plastic now, which is strange. Looking around at the Vietnamese you can tell they all realise how important he was. It made me annoyed we didnt get to see Mao as his impact was much bigger on a global and country scale.

Overall Hanoi is a great if incredibly hot place to spend some time.

Halong Bay
Beautiful. The mountains coming out of the sea are even more stunning than I imagined. We stayed on a boat for one night, and on a private island the second. We had a superb group of people and all got on great. The trip was a busy action packed itenary but mixed with relaxing time in the sun on deck.

Our Vietnam Open Tour Bus
Without doubt one of the best things about Vietnam is the open bus tour. It's relatively cheap, only forty us dollar to get from north, hanoi, to south, saigon. It allows you to stop all along at various points. Here's where we went...

Hue
After an eventful bus journey in which our minibus pickup blew a tyre out in the pouring rain, which meant we had to run to our bus, and then later in the early hours of the morning the actual bus had mechanical issues (very uncharacteristic, and the only problem we had all trip) we arrived in historic Hue. Vanessa had found this incredible sounding hotel for only $12. It sounded too good, staff giving you food everytime they saw you etc.... surprisingly it was that good! Easily the best hotel we stayed in Vietnam. We arrived tired and they gave us a real hearty breakfast, even though we hadn't stayed that night. Whilst we ate they cranked on the AC and movie channel in our room unknown to us. It's the little things!
We convinced a veteran of our Laos to Vietnam trip, an Irish guy called Darren about this place. We travelled together for most of Vietnam and became good friends. We had an action packed day of boat trip to temples, cyclo tour and trip to the Hue Forbidden City. Hue is a place I wish we spent more time in, but being so early in our tour, we didn't think we had the time.

Hoi An
Hello? Suit? We declined, but Hoi An is a lovely if odd place. Best way to describe it is as a small pirate looking place that is 80% suit makers. No exaggeration. A 20minute ride by bike away is a fantastic beach. Stunning white sand, and clear water. So cheap too and with plenty of restaurants, Hoi An is a place you could spend a good week in relaxing.

Nha Trang
This place is the opposite of Hoi An. Huge hotels, American style boulevards, it really is an odd place in Vietnam. It feels very out of place. We did do a fantastic boat trip though, with great snorkelling, floating bar, slide into the water but some horrendous karaoke.

Mui Ne
This long stretched out mix of cheap and five star is again an odd place. Nearby are the beautiful red and white sand dunes. We took an old Jeep style car to the dunes. The white dunes are the most impressive. I randomly got surrounded by school children all wanting to shake my hand. The dunes themselves are lots of fun. I hired a piece of plastic which they call a sand board. It's fun but very hard work trying to get back up the dunes. I don't envy my friends Jim and Will doing the Marathon de Sables!
The red dunes are less impressive in size but the sunset over them was a good bonus. Again Mui Ne was an enjoyable place.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Saigon never excites like Hanoi. Its sights aren't as good but it is more the fact it is too developed. Hanoi has an unique madness which Saigon lacks. It's not a bad place by any means, was just slightly disappointing. We did have some good Mexican food though.

We did a short trip to the Mekong Delta. We went on various sizes of boats, seeing coconut candy makers and other delights. The scenery was pure Far Cry and gave me many a level idea.

Back in Saigon I got an impressive tailored shirt, whilst Vanessa got a suit. We were happy with our buys. Definitely a better idea than trawling the millions of places in Hoi An.

Overall
Vietnam was very different, and much more set up for tourists than I imagined. Because of this it was superb. There are never LOADS of tourists, but at the same time you can travel the whole country at your own pace with ease, and on a long trip, or even a short holiday, that makes for a refreshing change. The people were, despite what many people had told us, fantastic and friendly, all except the very first Vietnamese person we met, that border guard who ripped us all off holding us to ransom.. You my friend are an embarrassment to your great country.

Posted by theelman 23:16 Comments (0)

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