Jul 202012
 

We just heard from a fellow couple from our diving liveaboard and they sent us photos from our dive at Manta Point. They arrived back in Switzerland after their honeymoon and I’m so glad they remembered to send the photos!  I had forgotten my camera and this was the dive not to forget it!  We saw three huge mantas and they came so close to us, about 5 feet away.  These things looked so unreal and had wingspans of at least 12 feet.  Just out of this world.  This dive had a really heavy current so you had to hold on to dead coral in order to avoid getting swept away.  Our divemaster took us to a “cleaning station” where he knew mantas come and get cleaned by smaller fish.  The current is the weakest at the very bottom of the ocean floor so you just hold on and get as close to the ground as possible and wait for mantas.  Pretty soon, one swam over and hovered above us for a few minutes while it got cleaned by all the little cleaner fish.  Sometimes there would be giant trevally hanging out underneath the manta for protection from the current.  The photos don’t really do it justice, but here’s a glimpse of what that experience was like!

Swimming Right By Us

Each Manta Has Unique Spots Underneath

Probably 12 feet across

Jul 062012
 

Wow, time really really flies.  I can’t believe we’re home now and our journey has come to an end.  It really was an amazing experience and I think everyone should try to travel for an extended period of time in their lives if they can.  Coming home, I took one look in my closet and felt both disgusted at how many clothes I own and at the same time amazed that I lived off of 4 t-shirts for 4 months.  Ha!  You really appreciate the simple things…like a comfortable bed and a hot water shower.  It’s incredibly fascinating and eye-opening to see how other cultures live.  So here’s the recap:

  • Countries Visited: 6 (China, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan)
  • Favorite Country: China
  • Best Food: Xian, China (paomo, street food, hand pulled noodles)
  • Worst Food: Nepal
  • Favorite Single Dish: Peking Duck at Da Dong in Beijing, China
  • Best Cheap Eats: Mr. Yang’s Fried Dumplings in Shanghai, China
  • Most Beautiful: Huangshan, China
  • Best Diving: Komodo Islands
  • Easiest Transportation: Thailand, runner up: China
  • Most Difficult Transportation: Indonesia
  • Cheapest: Nepal
  • Most Expensive: Indonesia (well, Tokyo too)
  • Best Access to Public Restrooms: China (seriously, every 100 feet)
  • Times Chris Got Sick: 6 (including food poisoning, sinus cold, photoallergy reaction, altitude sickness, etc.)
  • Most Beautiful Island: Gili Trawangan in Indonesia
  • How Much We Were Over Budget: $450 (at a budget of $100/day for the two of us combined)
  • Longest Travel Segment: 27 hours on a cigarette smoke-filled overnight ferry in Indonesia
  • Best Lodging: Bali Hyatt (Mike had hotel points)
  • Worst Lodging: Sairee Cottage on Ko Tao (only because we opted not to have A/C and paid $10/night)

In hindsight…

  • Would have spent more time in China and cut down time on the beach in Thailand.  When you’re traveling for a long time, beach time gets boring really fast but it’s nice for your 1-2 week annual vacation.
  • Would have brought a warmer jacket and better backpack for the Annapurna trek in Nepal.
  • If it’s really really hot, always spend the $10 more to get the A/C!

If you’re planning a trip to any of these spots, let us know and we’ll email you our tips.  Hope you enjoyed following along.  As far as this blog goes, I’ll still be keeping it up with our upcoming adventures.  Mike’s currently looking for work in international development in Africa or Asia, so that will likely be our next place of residence.  In the meantime, we’ll be in LA and Chicago during this transition period.  Being the crazy person that I am, about 12 hours after we landed in LA, I left for a 5 day camping trip in Sequoia with my mom and sister (who was home from DC).  Talk about exhausted!  So, look out for the next posts on Sequoia.  You can subscribe to my blog in the upper right hand corner of the page and it will send you an email any time there’s a new post.  Hope you enjoyed reading!

 July 6, 2012  Posted by at 4:12 am Cambodia, China, Food, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal, Thailand, Trip Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »
Jun 262012
 

Every place we visit, I like to post photos that capture the everyday magic of a place.  For Indonesia, I combined this post to encompass all of Indonesia versus each place since our time was more compressed.  Enjoy!

Anchorman

Dewy Web

Technicolor Laundry Day

Beer Delivery on Gili Trawangan

Lotus Pads After the Rain

Kitty Catnap

One Armed Crab

Jun 262012
 

There is a famous yoga studio in Ubud called the Yoga Barn, so I went to check out a Vinyasa class in the afternoon.  The studio is incredibly beautiful and it’s in a traditional Balinese structure with a high thatched roof.  It gets a nice breeze and really peaceful.  Next door is a circular building with the bathrooms and even that has a koi pond as the roof.  Pretty impressive.

Class itself was good, not as focused on the breath as the vinyasa classes I’m used to.  I appreciated the teacher giving me some individual feedback and it was challenging if you wanted it to be.  I think I preferred the yoga classes in Thailand more, but that’s just a teacher style preference.

Where Classes Are Held, We Were on the Open Air Second Floor Space

Gorgeous Studio!

 June 26, 2012  Posted by at 8:50 am Attractions, Bali, Indonesia, Ubud Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 262012
 

We did some sightseeing around Ubud today and visited the Puri Lakisan museum and Monkey Forest Sanctuary.  The museum was a good primer on the evolution of Balinese art and there were some really nice pieces in there.  Then we walked down to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary and temple, which was built around the 13th century.  Most of Bali is Hindu (with some Buddhist element) so a lot of the artwork have Hindu themes and the temples are of course Hindu.  But the real tourist attraction are the monkeys here.  They are all over the place!  It’s really sad that the tourists feed the monkeys—they sell bananas right outside the entrance.  It’s made the monkeys quite aggressive and if you go near them, they will often try to take things from you.  We saw one woman sit down next to one and then it grabbed her arm and bit her!

This Guy Made the Mistake of Wearing a Hat and the Monkeys Went After Them

 

Mom and Baby Monkey

Funny Looking Baby Monkey

The banyan trees are really impressive and you can go down some stairs into a narrow gorge where the sides are covered in tree roots.  It’s very much a rainforest and makes you wonder how the rest of Ubud looked before there were so many rice paddies.

Crazy Banyan Tree

The temple itself was quite nice, but we didn’t go in since you had to rent proper attire to go in.  We’ve seen a lot of temples on our trip. =)  Overall, a beautiful sanctuary—we just wish the tourists would stop feeding the monkeys.

 June 26, 2012  Posted by at 3:32 am Attractions, Bali, Indonesia, Ubud Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 252012
 

Suckling pig at Ibu Oka!  This is what we’ve been waiting for.  Known for its appearance on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, it’s gotten a lot of hype as Bali’s best babi guling.  It opens at 11am and by the time we get there at 11:30am, a lot of the tables are filled and they’re already out of crispy skin.  We order two “separates,” essentially you get a sampler plate of all the types of meat with rice and soup separate.  At 50,000 IDR, it’s twice the price of Warung Babi Guling in Sanur.  But it comes out and looks like its twice the amount of food!

The “Separated” Meal at Ibu Oka

I get a Teh Botol drink to go with it, which is a popular Indonesian drink.  Tastes like sweet tea.

Teh Botol – Tastes Like Sweet Tea

The verdict is that the meat is better than Warung Babi Guling in Sanur though I prefer the crispy skin at Warung Babi Guling.  We gobbled everything down, no problem.  As we were finishing, a roast pig arrived via motorbike and the chef started cutting it up.  Inside, you can see a ton of spices that were roasted with the pig to give it flavor and they baste it with coconut water while roasting.  Each pig apparently takes several hours and they start at 3am every morning.  Once they sell out, they close up shop around 2 or 3pm.

Pig Fresh Off of Motorbike Delivery

Carving the Pig

 June 25, 2012  Posted by at 1:24 am Bali, Food, Indonesia, Ubud Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 252012
 

If you walk north of our B&B for 5 minutes, you come upon a cute café in the middle of the rice paddies called Sari Organic.  It’s got great views and good healthy eats that are from their organic farm next door.  Mike got a salad and I ordered the vegetable quiche.  It was nice to relax with the great views and food was really good too!

Minty Fruity Drink at Sari Organic

Ducks in a Water Filled Rice Paddie

Jun 252012
 

Ubud is about 45-60 min north of Sanur in the countryside.  It’s known for its art community and scenic rice paddies.  We’re spending our last 2 nights in Indonesia here, a change of pace from the beach.  There are tons of art galleries (good and bad), cute little boutiques, and organic cafes.  We are staying at a B&B called Sawah Sunrise, which is in the middle of rice paddies and a 15 minute walk from the main town area.  It’s beautiful, complete with its own nature soundtrack (which we found funny that reviewers on TripAdvisor complained about).  There are only 4 rooms.  Overall, it’s very nice, but I think next time we may pick one that’s closer to town.

Our B&B: View from the Rice Paddies

Looking Out from Sawah Sunrise

 June 25, 2012  Posted by at 1:15 am Bali, Indonesia, Ubud Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 242012
 

Our last night in Sanur, we went to check out Pregina Warung which got high reviews on TripAdvisor.  They are known for the crispy duck, so naturally we ordered the duck and also some chicken in an Indonesian red sauce called madadonese.  The duck was certainly crispy but we think Peking duck still wins over this one.  The madadonese chicken was tasty but I’m still thinking about the amazing chicken we had in Labuanbajo at Pesona!

Crispy Duck – Bebeh Becil

Chicken in a Red Madadonese Sauce

 June 24, 2012  Posted by at 2:22 pm Bali, Food, Indonesia, Sanur Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 242012
 

On our last full day in Sanur, we decided hmmm we should probably do something today other than read by the beach.  I was finally feeling better and I had really wanted to go surfing in Bali, but being sick put a damper on those plans.  We took a quick cab ride over to Kuta, which has a good beach break.  Kuta is the more developed area of the Bali beaches complete with McDonald’s, Starbucks, all the surf shops, and malls.  We are definitely glad we stayed in more laid back Sanur versus Kuta.  It was drizzling on and off and the waves looked a little big, but we went in anyway.  You can rent boards every 5 feet on the beach for $5/hour.  It was really fun and so nice to be on a board in the water again.  We caught some fun waves (and got pummeled some too).

Really Good Surfers Out There

Nice Shaped Waves

 June 24, 2012  Posted by at 2:20 pm Attractions, Bali, Indonesia, Kuta Tagged with: , , , ,  No Responses »