Thursday, January 26, 2017

I Would, You Should, Ubud

Through various conversations we had with people in the past, we learned to bypass Denpasar and the city life that comes with it when on Bali. And I couldn't agree with all the suggestions more. 

Just driving out of the airport through the city was enough for me. It reminded me a bit of my family's hometown of Cebu City, Philippines. Plenty of people are out and about taking to whatever business or chores or errands they need. Equally plentiful are the people just hanging out doing nothing all around. There are buildings new and old. There are shops clean and dirty. And the infrastructure is mixed; you can still see the green of pastures mixed into the modern concrete jungle. It's still hectic here. 

If you come this far around the world, then chances are you don't want to be in the chaos. And most likely, you've heard of the peace and serenity of Bali. More specifically, you've probably heard of the calm and peaceful nature of Ubud, though not many people will identify it as saying you're in Bali is far more recognizable. But there's really a difference that is important to distinguish. Ubud is where you go to rest, relax, revive, and rejuvenate. 

Forget your worries and your stress at the airport. Ubud allows you to do that. Surround yourself with rice fields and terraces. Ensure coconut trees are in your peripheral vision. Make sure you are within earshot of the running water of streams or irrigation systems in the distance. Schedule some massages to work out the kinks and relax the body. Then schedule some more to absorb the essential oils and the reality that you are in a stunning and natural environment where the extent of your troubles is choosing from a plethora of eating options. Enjoy. Indulge. Satisfy your body's desire to destress and detox. Have fun and smile at the local people, because they are happy to have you here. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Aborted and Diverted, But Safe and Sound

Yes! We made it to Bali, but not without some hiccups. Departure from the Perth International Airport was delayed by about 45 minutes. Sounds normal. But what's not normal was our potential arrival into Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.

As we approached the airport, we were informed that there was a delay in landing due to the flight ahead of us having difficulty with their landing gear on their landing and being stuck on the runway. So we circled for nearly an hour. Finally, our turn to land came up. The captain descended as if to land, and with seconds left before touching down the captain went full throttle and quickly ascended to the skies as if taking off again. We were informed that the runway was not cleared, so his landing had to be aborted. Scary! This is the 3rd time in my life that this has happened, and it's no better than the first shocking experience.

We seemed to circle the airport again for another 20 minutes thinking we were going to make another attempt at landing, but slowly we seemed to climb into the clouds. It was then that the pilot informed us that he decided that we should divert to Jakarta and forego landing in Bali due to a cargo fire on the runway. I have no idea if this story is even true. Seems like none of the stories can possibly connect.

So we were off to Jakarta only to be contained in a holding gate until 5AM. Though AirAsia provided some snacks and water, it didn't cool the anxiety we all had to be in Bali.

Our next flight was safe and sound, and we are thankfully now enjoying the peace and quiet of our accommodations here in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia in the middle of a rice field in a village away from the city life. Our hosts are wonderful people. The property is amazing. Serenity engulfs our minds. Sounds of the wild invade our ears. And the scenery takes our breath away.

For the next 4 days, we will just be getting massages and eating wonderful Balinese cuisine at a fraction of what you think it should cost. The goal is to detox, destress, and devour. Until next post...

Holidays Holidaze

We spent nearly a month in Australia. In doing so, we've also come close to celebrating 3 holidays here. The first, Boxing Day. Although technically we were in New Zealand, Australia celebrates it the same way and maybe even goes a step further into making it a weeklong event. However, the meaning of Boxing Day has taken a more retail definition at present. Historically, the holiday was meant to show some sort of gratitude to those who provided services. Boxing Day now means plenty of shops advertising sales and deep discounts. In a sense, the historical tradition holds true, so long as what you purchase is going to someone else, and not self satisfying.

Our original goal was to be here for New Years Eve. Mission accomplished. Festivities galore. I won't bore you with the highlights. Just see my posts from Sydney.

And the last holiday that we are just about to miss is Australia Day. Somewhat similar to America's Independence Day, Australians celebrate the arrival of the First Fleet. These were the first British settlers sent by England to establish a penal colony. More on that here.

But the modern day celebrations seem to celebrate everything good and great about Australia and include events such as bbqs, concerts, festivals, and fireworks. We've been hearing heaps (see definition here) about the special day and are sad to be missing it.

All in all our month in Australia and New Zealand have given us a great insight to what life is like both from a tourist perspective and from the locals whom we have come to meet, share meals with, and formed the bonds of friendship.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Western Australia: Our Last Stop in this Country / Continent

With limited time on the Western coast of Australia, a number of people we met along the way advised us to get out of Perth and see either the Northern or Southern areas. As Perth is not geographically center of the coastline, we had to pursue the Southern route to Southwest Australia. Going North would have required much more time on the road.

For 2 days we navigated around the Margaret River region. Once you get to Margaret River, everything worth seeing is within a 45 minute drive, so it's easy to see plenty of sites.

From our camper van digs just outside of the main drag in Margaret River, we started out with a trip to the southern most point around here, Cape Leeuwin and the Leeuwin Lighthouse, where we did a self-guided tour of the grounds.What I enjoyed most was seeing where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. If you look carefully, you can literally see the swirl in the water where the 2 meet. (Is it me or were there only 4 oceans that we learned about in elementary school? Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic? Southern Ocean is new to me.)

I've been to caves before back home (Luray Caverns) but Mammoth Cave (one of a few in the area) is so much cooler, in my opinion. Remarkably, plenty of fossils have been found in this cave. Most notably, the jaw bone of xxxxxxx is still in tact on one of the cave walls. The various stalagmites (might reach the ceiling) and stalactites (tight to the ceiling) depict the amazing evolution of the cave and passing of time. Some of the formations allow the mind to imagine something fun or disturbing depending on your point of view. I remember as a kid being wowed of the caves in Virginia, and here I am as an adult being amazed again.

The jawbone of the Zygomaturus can be seen in the cave wall at Mammoth Cave.

Margaret River generally is well known as a wine lovers paradise with plenty of award winning vineyards. But if you're like us and not so keen for wine, you should know that where there is wine, there is also cheese. And the tastings are FREE. So make sure to stop by the Margaret River Diary Company or the Yallingup Cheese Company for your share of creamy, soft, hard, salty, sweet goodness that is cheese.

If you're looking for more diverse eating objectives, then don't miss the Margaret River Farmers Market on Saturdays. I've not seen a better farmers market in my life. Everything is truly locally grown or made. And the owners and proprietors are each there to sling their goods at reasonable prices. To boot, there's free live music and random tastings as well. The atmosphere created is one that is welcoming and homey, even for a tourist from a far off country visiting a little town.

Ocean Trout Croissant, Raspberry Rhubarb Pie, & Wild Rabbit Pie

Our last stop in the region before heading back North was the Busselton Jetty and Underwater Observatory.

Out to sea and far from home! 

Fish 'n Chips on the beach
Although not as hot in temperature as the rest of Australia at this time, the beach couldn't have been more crowded. No surprise to us anymore there was plenty of free attractions for families at this oceanside neighborhood. Things like bounce houses and slides in the water or an enclosed area to protect from the marine life, this beach is fun and safe for all. But the main attraction is the Jetty. It is the longest Jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. There's even a tiny passenger train that takes you out to the end of the wooden structure at 1,800+ meters out to sea (Indian Ocean). While at the end, a visit to the Underwater Observatory is hard to turn down. As you descend to the ocean floor, there are various windows at the different depths to show the marine life at each level. It's a beautiful site to see the colors of the coral and fish and their sizes relative to the enormous ocean in which they live.

With only a couple of days left on the West coast, we spent it on an Australian holiday destination, Rottnest Island. This car-free island destination is home to quokkas, numerous marine birds, and vacationers alike. It also has the most untouched, pristine, natural beaches we've visited on this journey thus far. To get around the island it's easy to rent a bicycle and make your way from point to point. Swim, snorkel, or scuba anywhere you feel comfortable and hop back on the bike and choose another swimming hole and enjoy the solitude. Rottnest Island is accessible by fast ferry from Perth and Fremantle so there's a limited number of people on the island at any given time. That gives you plenty of freedom and space if you're trying to escape the hustle and bustle of any city (though Perth, not so stuffy, only has 2 million inhabitants).

Little Parakeet Bay

Pink Salt Lake - no swimming allowed as research is being done on the wildlife nesting in the area. Pink is the color of the feces of the birds that feed on krill. 

Our harmless furry friend the Quokka

Many of the bays around Rottnest Island have boats and catamarans moored.

We camped a night on the island just behind a sand dune with beach access using a tent we bought in Brisbane for $45 (60% off the normal price) at Kathmandu. Eating on the beach and going for a morning walk is easy when it's merely steps away.

Sadly our time in Australia has come to an end. But that only means our adventure continues in Southeast Asia. Our next stop for rest and relaxation and some in depth cultural experience (stay tuned) is in the town of Ubud on the island of Bali, Indonesia.

Pinky Beach just behind our campground.

Thanks Australia! You have a grip on us and make us want to see more. It's certainly a place to return for more fun, sun, and adventure. There still so much to see and do!

Cheers and g'day mate!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Beauty of Whitsunday Islands - an alternative to Cairns

Stunning. I've seen things that I've never seen before while snorkeling... things that only exist on the Discovery Channel and in my imagination. Things that you only hear about, I've seen. It's real. It exists in the Whitsundays.

Coral reef so bright, colorful, florescent in different shapes and sizes surrounded by fish, rays, and turtles can only amaze any human on earth.

Unfortunately, our GoPro failed us on this leg of the trip and the surreal existence of the underwater world that I saw can only be replayed in my mind. I cannot share the magnificent sites of the Great Barrier Reef.

I'm so glad we made this detour as an alternative for Cairns, where most people go to see the reef. I'm certain it was less populated here with more opportunity to see the reefs, the sea animals, and the opportunity to have fun in the water. And the people we met aboard Powerplay only added to the already wonderful experience. 

Since I don't have photos to share below sea-level, here are some sights under the sun.

Aboard the catamaran Powerplay cruising around the Whitsundays. 

The men of Powerplay are ready to play in the sand.
Whitehaven Beach where during low tide the sand and water swirl. Recent rains have mixed with the typically turquoise color water. 

Down on the beach taking in the beautiful warm water.

The sun is setting...

After sunset in Caves Cove provides for a spectacular natural light show

Even the shortest of sprinkles creates double rainbows. Beauty within beauty around beauty amongst beauty. 

Travel Agencies

Are not dead. Believe it or not. I think that although most people (in the United States) think that this service is now useless due to the advent of the internet, they couldn't be more wrong. I've never seen so many travel agencies in my life until I visited New Zealand and Australia. And without a doubt, the people who work them are the most helpful in the travel universe.

We made quasi last minute reservations to go to the Whitsundays, Australia from Queenstown, NZ with very helpful fellows named Luke and Moxie at Happy Travels. Both were uber informative, answered all our questions, and set everything up to our liking with all our preferences and particulars. And believe me, we were particular (time, size, quantity, cost, etc.).
Powerplay was our catamaran around the Whitsunday Islands

Then in Australia, the various travel shops have been so helpful as to allow us to use their computers, wifi, and even just sit in the air conditioning.

But the simple count of travel agencies in these parts, I know for sure they are all doing well and prospering. The key is that we're in a part of the world where, UNLIKE people in the United States, everyone travels. So the services are necessary. There's even a place called Flight Centre (a chain) that provides booking services for travels.

These two services are amazing and it's no wonder why Australian and New Zealanders can be found anywhere in the world. Their environments allow it, promote it, and regard travel highly. That's how you become a Renaissance Man. The United States can learn a number of things from the friendliest and most well traveled people in the world.

Get out there and TRAVEL people!!!

Friday, January 13, 2017


It’s a slang term for the city of Brisbane, which seems to be a family-centric city. The streets and buses are filled with children and families on holiday this time of year. It was specifically evident at Streets Beach where from daybreak to nightfall you can find children of any age, families of any background, and colors of the wind wading, swimming, and relaxing in the pool/beach. The sun and sand of the parklands in South Bank are congregation grounds for picnics and fun in the sun while it lasts for summer break. And it seems that every child in the water knows how to swim. There were a handful of 3 year olds just doggie paddling back and forth in front of me all morning long. Some of the older kids (4-8 yrs old) were learning how to surf on mini surfboards. It’s no wonder the grown-up Australians are so adventurous and love the water. They start out so young.

Even at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, children with their parents attended every single animal talk and presentation. They were pointing at the variety of birds, asking about the different marsupials, and petting the koalas. At every turn, a parent was educating their child. There was very little crying or screaming. I didn’t see one tantrum. Again, family-centric and educational.

Brissy, geographically, is seemingly larger than Sydney and Melbourne. Things are more spaced out. Neighborhoods are broader and take longer to travel through. You can certainly walk to places, but that takes much longer relative to the proximity of things in Melbourne and Sydney. Using public transportation, including the public bicycle system, around the city and suburbs is very common and efficient. From my estimation, it’s a bit more expensive though. (I learned very quickly in the taxi from the airport to our hostel.) For example, a single zone ride on the bus was nearly $5. The only benefits are the free transfers within a particular time period and how spot-on-time they are throughout the network.

Plenty of things to appreciate about Brisbane, including The Collective Market, Eat Street Market, and Powerhouse, but we’re off to the Whitsundays.

Bakery Lane

Winn Lane

The Wheel of Brisbane

One of 3 sheep herding dogs on the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Sheep herding demonstration

The end result is the sheep have been gathered.

Baby koalas sleeping paw in paw.

Streets Beach in the evening is a popular hangout even after the sun has set.