Yogyakarta (Pronounced – JogJakarta) or Jogja

The Cultural Capital

We stood around at the Airport with the French couple, who we had learnt also had names 😉 Guillaume and Marie, because we were headed in the same direction and splitting a taxi fare made plenty of sense. They had purchased an air ticket to somewhere that they needed to change, or something like that, but someone mentioned that the airline had seemingly gone bankrupt a few years back….??????????? Fuck knows where this went wrong? We were thinking that someone was definitely scammed somewhere.

Anyway we seemed to have thought it was a good idea to look for an office or agent in the city. We caught a cab to our place and Guillaume and Marie walked from there. The taxis were quite strict about only doing a single drop off for the fee paid at the airport. It was not too far for them though.

We dropped our bags off at the reception of our Hostel, which was staffed by the friendliest of staff, all 5 of them that were there at the time. The reception desk was abuzz with activity and smiles all around. It was too early to check-in but that was fine because we wanted to go walk around a bit to see what the area was like.

We walked all the way to a Silver Processing company and invited to have a look around at all the ornaments and jewellery that they make. It is quite a renowned place for silver processing and some of the things in there, especially the old Sail Ships, were incredible.

After that we visited an Art Gallery, which is not like us but we had been told by a local that we had to go and see what Batik artwork was all about. We entered the gallery which was not a fancy place but it was filled with stacks of paintings leaning on the wall. We were given coffee and the “gallery guy” gave us a run-through of how the process works. He apologised because we missed the students who were demonstrating their work earlier that day but did do a good job of explaining how it is done.

So batik is an artwork that uses wax which is applied to a cloth sheet using a small and simple pot and tube-tip pen-looking thing. The wax can be painted on as well but this is a modern twist to the original method. The cloth is then dipped in dye and the waxed parts resist the dye and keep the original colour of the cloth. The cloth is then washed with hot water to remove the wax. This process can be repeated many times to make some amazing looking pieces of art. The planning that has to go into some of the pieces is quite outstanding. It is a traditional Indonesian method that is practised all over the Island of Java, even walking down the street you will see people sitting on their stoeps and doing it.

We were astounded by the technique and what goes into it, so we bought a “painting” that we loved. The best part is you can fold it up like a piece of clothing and put it in your bag so it takes up very little space.

(This is not the piece we bought)

We then returned to the hostel and checked in. We got hold of the Frenchies and made a plan to meet up for dinner. Marie was fantastic at finding out where the good places to eat are… 🙂 Instant Friend in my books!!! Guillaume seemed to be good at picking up the local language, Bahasa Indonesian, so with the both of them around we were bound to have a fantastic time.

The next day was quite a full day. We made our way towards the Sultans Palace and after getting a little lost and directed the wrong way by a local rickshaw driver, we ended up being shown how the puppets, used in the shows around the city and all over Java, were made. Each aspect of the Puppet had specific meaning from the big Bums to the pointy noses. Afterwards we were asked to buy some of the puppet merchandise but declined because they would certainly break during our travels, and they were quite expensive! We spent some of our time walking around the Sultans Palace, which was not that spectacular to us. It was a large and Grand place but the grounds and surrounding buildings were not very interesting. The resident musicians and puppeteers put on a very good show that we watched for a bit, but after a while the translation becomes an issue. The other interesting thing is that the staff prepare the Sultans lunch around midday everyday in monstrous proportions, regardless of whether he is in his residence or not.

We went by ourselves and we knew that Guillaume & Marie would be there in the morning too, so we bumped into them during our walk-about and continued on with them.

We then went to another Batik gallery that was recommended by another local, which was starting to become a trend. This time, however, we actually sat and did a very small amount of wax work with some material and got to see the demonstration, and we bought another painting which I loved!!! Guillaume & Marie also bought one… 🙂

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We got commandeered a hundred times by local Javanese people, mainly the school children or varsity students wanting to speak English, although the main purpose was for a selfie. After a few we decided we wanted our own selfies with all these people too. It felt like we were celebrities!

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I held onto some reptiles in the middle of the street, it is not something I would recommend but when a large Albino Python gets thrown around your neck you just kind of go with it, the monitor lizard was also very docile, which we saw when we walked away was because all of these animals are kept in cold water, which pretty much makes them not want to do anything. Sad.

We then had the privilege of meeting The Free-Flight Community. They are a group of parrot and parakeet bird owners who take their birds into the park and fly them like falcons! They use a whistle instead of day old chickens, but the idea is similar. We figured, by watching the one guy blowing his whistle frantically into the tree and climbing a wall, that it takes time and patience just like Falconry. It was surprising and also amazing.

It was a fun day and we had a ball with the Frenchies. To finish off we wondered around the one park which is home to the Mystical and Magical trees. Eko, remember our Uber driver, had told us about this place before we left Bali.

So the way it works is – there are these 2 trees that are about 20m apart. You simply have to stand about 100m or so to the North, put a blindfold on and then walk through the middle of the trees. Apparently if you can do it then you are Pure of Heart. Seems easy enough, but its not! We watched lots of people trying and failing in a hugely amusing fashion. Marie tried first and was heading way left straight for a vendors barbecue fire so we had to stop her before she had even reached the trees. Guillaume also veered off to the left side but not quite as badly. Jolene started quite well for the first 10m or so and then almost did a 90 degree turn to the right, but we let her go for quite a while.

Then…… lets just say, at least there was one pure heart amongst us!!!! 😉

If I remember correctly we ended up at the same restaurant for dinner as the previous night, ViaVia, eating Italian. Guillaume and Marie had shared their culture with us and were such an amazing couple. They loved wine and good food so we loved them!!! They were young and easy going, and fun being around. We would not have had such a good time in Jogja without them and I like to think that our lives were made better by meeting them. They were there for 3 or 4 days and we realy loved their companionship and friendship. We cannot wait to meet up with them again, whether it be in France or SA, or anywhere for that matter!

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We went to the Water Palace the next morning and it was about 1000 times better than the Sultans Palace. It is basically the place where the Sultans wives used to stay a long time ago. The story goes that when the Sultan wanted to choose which wife to lay with that night, they would all get into the large pools and then the Sultan would stand in the tower and throw a flower down. Whichever wife it hits he will sleep with that night… Interesting.

The grounds are not in use today except for tourists to see. There are cool buildings and tunnels and stairwells and towers.

Then we made our way to one of the Major attractions in the area – Prambanan Hindu temple.

The place was magical. It was the most impressive temple that we had seen up to this point, and we had seen a lot. There were renovations taking place when we viewed it and there were so many piles of stone bricks piled up that were getting examined and marked by people so that they could remember where to put them all. It was like an enormous Lego worksite. The main temple was mainly assembled with a few touch ups being done, but whilst standing in the middle it took us back in time. It is amazing what people accomplished back when they had none the technology of today, albeit the technology was mostly replaced by man-power. The detail of the carvings on the walls and the architecture was mind boggling too!

We walked around for many hours although a lot of the time was taken by answering the questions from mass groups of school students. At around 2pm a huge number of kids ascended on the Temple with one goal, to get an English-speaking tourist to answer their standard questions… problem was that there were not many of us. We were approached by a group and asked questions like – “What is your name”, “where are you from”, How long are you staying in Indonesia”, “What is your favourite food”, “Do you like this temple”, and “can you speak any Bahasa Indonesian”. This was followed by a mandatory selfie! It was great and for a while we felt like we were famous. We answered a few of the groups questions and then slowly started to realise that the crowd around us was just growing. Finally after an hour of this we had to apologise to some groups and pass on answering any more questions, because we would have been stuck there until the security kicked us out. We also had the surrounding temples to see still.

It was a long day of walking and that night we were witness to a beautiful electrical storm. I have never seen lightning strike that continuously in my life. There was no rain and most of the lightning was concealed in the clouds but the clouds were constantly lit up for ages!

The next morning we climbed out of bed crap-early and scooted ourselves towards the other big attraction in the area – Borobudur Buddhist Temple. We were trying to make it up to the viewing hill for sunrise. A lot of people go there to see the sun rise up over the Temple, as did Guillaume and Marie because they had booked accommodation for the night in the town close to Borobudur… smart peeps! We were going to try meet them there but after arriving at the entrance of the Temple only moments before the sun was about to pop up and after being approached by a few guys on scooters, offering to take us to the hill that was 10 minutes away for a fee that we were not willing to pay, we decided to go to another spot. We double backed to some rice fields that we had driven past, which had the Papak volcano in the background, and sat on the side of the road. The sunrise was spectacular. The mountain and the rice fields made for some of the best photos and the surroundings were just amazing.

Finally we entered Borobudur once it had opened and we saw Guillaume and Marie there so we joined them. The circular formation of the temple and all the buildings and Stupas in it was quite a spectacle. It was astounding the amount of Buddha’s in the place and the detail that had gone into carving each one. Again it had such an impact on us, to think that this was built so long ago. We did come to the conclusion that Prambanan was our favorite of the two though.

Funnily enough, as we were walking on one of the higher levels, we walked around a small Stupa and bumped into 2 familiar faces. It was Sunil and Everett, the Americans that we had met in Bali up at the twin lakes. We knew they were in Jogja around the same time as us and although this was one of the main attractions, it is a vast place and it was quite a stroke of luck that they were there at that exact time! We chatted about our plans and also made some plans to meet up with them later as they were heading off to Jakarta the next day before Everett had to make his way back home. We walked around a bit more and took a whole bunch of selfies, I then did some Yoga pose, because it seemed like it was appropriate. Then we found some photo opportunity that would replace Buddhas head for ours because so many of the Buddhas were missing their heads, which was probably not that appropriate.

Then we started to see some groups of school students, so we legged it, although we were caught by one or two of the groups…

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We made our way to the viewing hill to go see what we had missed out on that morning, and I am happy to say that we thought our place was better. The hill does look over Borobudur but it is so far away that the whole “grand” picture that we had in our mind was wrong. I got my years worth of exercise because I ran up and down the hill buying water and going to the toilet, also because Guillaume and Marie were supposed to be meeting us there and after we waited at the top for a while we were worried that they were waiting for us at the bottom… It was an odd situation and when I finally made it to the top (Again) I found them there with Jo. They had obviously passed us whilst we were in the toilet or on the one viewing deck near the bottom. They also then continued past the peak view to go see the Chicken Church, which is a Church…. in the shape of a Chicken! The view is stunning and the sunrise must have been beautiful, but with what we envisioned of the sun rising up over the temple, we felt that we would have been a little disappointed.

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And then the heavens looked like they were about to open up so we said our fond farewells to the Frenchies, Guillaume and Marie, and made a dash for Jogja.

We met up with Sunil and Everett at a restaurant in the city. It had a large Buffet setting and you just selected whatever you wanted and paid at the counter. There was also a large bakery in the restaurant that all the pastry-lovers could not resist. I just wondered around looking at all the stuff thinking what a waste of time and energy must have gone into making all this… (Sorry, not a pastry fan). I am quite sure that not everything that was bought was actually eaten, but I am not here to judge… 😉

Now I have to admit that memory fades me a bit but the next day had no photographic evidence of any activity. I do recall a rainy day and I believe we spent it watching series and relaxing at Oscars place. So I am going to hazard a guess and say that this was the day that we did sweet F-all… and we deserved it…

That evening we went out for some drinks and a game of pool with Ana, one of our dormmates. She is a Mexican, from Chihuahua, who has been working in the states for the past 4 years as an engineer. She was so cool, and a million tons of energy all bundled up in a small frame. She was power travelling… bouncing around all over the show in a fraction of the time we were planning. I think she was planning on going to almost as many places as we were, but in a third of the time. After spending a short time with her we realized that if anyone could do it, she could!!! She had come into our dorm the a few days before this and introduced herself, followed by questions about our plans for the area and was trying to work out how and what to see in the 2 or 3 days she had in Jogja. She was then planning on heading for Bali, so we gave her Eko’s contact number so that she could get around as easily and quickly as possible.

We took the scooter out the next day and followed my maps app, Maps-Me. We pinned a few attractions and headed out to see what they were all about. We saw a stunning viewpoint that overlooked a reasonably large river. It was a small scale fruit farm that a local lady showed us around and we bought some of the local fruit. There were also wooden cabins that accommodated school campers and groups that looked like they were doing team-building activities. It looked like a place that locals went to picnic and take selfies! We visited a cave which was apparently where the Sultan would go and pray at some stage. It was a tight squeeze to get into the prayer chamber and it was quite small when inside. Our local guide seconded as our personal photographer!

At the same place there was also a waterfall which was a fantastic place to swim… but we got shouted at and told to hire life-jackets before jumping in. At the local eateries we learnt that the fires that looked like they were fueled by coconuts were actually heating up the young coconuts for drinking… They were amazing, and they stayed hot forever. We also found that there was so much liquid in them that they actually filled you up! It was a healthy drink and meal all bundled up in one nut!

The next morning we were issued with face masks at the accommodation and told that one of the rooms was going to be fumigated for bed bugs and other creepy-crawlies. It was a scheduled routine that took place every couple of weeks and the owner, Oscar, explained that he had a contract in place with the company that was doing it. He had a very good point in saying that he would rather maintain the standard as opposed to have to deal with outbreaks of the little critters.

We had spoken with Oscar the day before and because we were staying there for 8 days he invited us to go along with him and a few other guests on a day out in the city.

That afternoon we were joined by 3 other girls, so Oscar and I were the only boys. He chauffeured us around and I accompanied him in the front. We were booked into a very nice Spa for a fantastic Massage! I opted for the firm, full body massage which included the lady walking all over my back. At one point I was sure my body was going to break but it felt as though I was reborn afterwards!

We had an enormous late lunch consisting of the local favourite, Nasi Padang. This was a variety of dishes that were laid out on the table in front of you and endless supplies of rice. You just picked and served whatever you wanted, with choices like Fried whole fish, Beef Rendang, vegetables, chicked, seafood and a ton more. At the end you just paid for whatever you had eaten.

We finished off the day with a movie at the Cinemax styled theatre. We were waited on and ordered snacks and drinks as we pleased, although we were still extremely full from the late lunch. We did have to have popcorn though, because you cannot go to the movies and not have popcorn and a soda!

We headed off into the countryside the next day to explore the viewpoints, waterfalls and a beach. We ended up on long, windy roads that led to nowhere and then back. The rustic coastline was absolutely amazing and for some parts reminded me a bit of Kei Mouth, back home. We even managed to get some beach time in at the very secluded beach that was stunning, but not the best for swimming. It was nestled in between cliff faces and there were only a handful of locals there taking photos for photo shoots or Facebook. To get there we had to walk through some farm lands that had little goat pens and coconut plantations.

We scootered through local villages which were well equipped with satellite dishes all over their rooftops and marvelled at the lifestyle of the people in this beautiful countryside.

The waterfall we found was a little disappointing but I have to blame the one waterfall in Bali, none could stand up to its beauty for the rest of our SE Asia trip.

That evening we pulled off at a restaurant and viewpoint that overlooked the city of Jogja. It was so perfectly located and it was quite astounding to see the city at night with all the lights!!!

We had been extremely busy in Jogja and spent our time with some really good people. It was sad to be leaving such a culturally rich and beautiful part of Indonesia, but we had spent the right amount of time there and we felt that we had achieved and experienced enough to say goodbye.

Bali Lakes & Leisure

Waterfall and Crab Heaven.

The staff at our accommodation, Bukit Kembar Ecotourism, were very accommodating and kind. Only a few knew how to speak English and mostly their children were called in to help translate as they were being taught it in school. We waited a little while for the rain to slow a bit before attempting to make a dash to the room with our bags because although the walk was short and mostly covered the rain was so hard you would get drenched in a matter of seconds. Finally it did slow and we managed to check in properly. Whilst sitting in the common area I started to chat to 2 American lads who were planning on making it out to some waterfalls in the area when the rain stopped. I thought it was a long shot but they did get an opportunity and took it… apparently that was a bad move. Well, not entirely a bad move but they did get caught in some heavy rain on the way back from the waterfall.

We had a fantastic afternoon nap and Jo was right as rain again and had managed to kick the Bali Belly in the Balls. The weather was not much better so we stayed in the guesthouse and had dinner and drinks. We sat with the Americans, who also have names – Sunil and Everett. They were friends from high school travelling together, although Everett was going to be flying home in about 2 weeks time and Sunil was in it for the long haul…

We sat talking politics and non-politics, we mixed in some travel war-stories and experiences and drunk a few beers and had dinner.

We were then given an interesting talking to by the owner of the establishment about peoples responsibilities towards looking after the planet. He had a microphone and stood on a stage, it was a proper seminar. Some of it was a little long winded and repetitive but I felt that the world was a better place with people like him in it.

The speech was followed up with by a fantastic traditional dance show given by the owners daughter. The owner was playing some local instruments with some of his buddies whilst she did the dancing. Then as a finale she called Sunil up to the stage to show off his dance moves, which were surprisingly good, almost too good! Everett also had a go and did a good job, although we were getting worried that we were going to be summoned up. It never happened, to our delight.

We swapped details and had made Sunil and Everett our true friends by adding them on Facebook!!! We were likely to be bumping into them on Java Island in Yogyakarta.

The next morning we woke up quite late and decided that the weather was decent enough to make it to the waterfall. We put on our walking shoes and started trekking. It ended up being a long walk down some steep terrain, which meant it was going to be an even more strenuous walk up. We walked through a coffee plantation, past a bunch of barking dogs that followed us for a bit until you turned around, then they would run away from you. We finally arrived at a small parking lot which had a little hut and a group of guys who we paid the entry fee to. After a 5 minute decent down a slippery path we arrived at one of the most magnificent waterfalls I have ever seen. It was not the same majestic or vast falls like Victoria falls or anything of that sort but it was just beautiful. It was probably 20 to 30m tall and maybe 7 to 10m wide. It had this Ivy looking plant stuff growing down it and the valley was just stunning. To be honest I am probably just doing a botch job trying to explain it so here is a picture… keeping in mind this does not have the same effect as when you see it with your own eyes!

I had a small dip in the crystal clear and cool water before we had to make our way back up the long and steep road and paths back to the accommodation. We had to do it at pace, because Eko was meeting us at around lunch time to take us to our next destination on Bali. Jo was borderline on a heart attack by the time we reached the top and I did feel like I had been a bit of an Army Training General all the way up. We did make it just in time though because as we were buying some snacks and water on the way back, Eko drove passed us. He was cheerful as ever and also highly disappointed in us for going through the whole thing with the Taxi driver, to get up here from Ubud, instead of calling him up. We apologised profusely and promised that we would always give him a call before going anywhere, even if we were in a position that seemed too far out of his way.

Also just so you have a small insight into how much he had saved us, we paid him 2/3 of the price of the taxi, which just had to drive us for 2 and a half hours from Ubud to the Twin Lakes (and then back with possibly nobody in the car). Eko had to drive about 3 hours, at least, to get to us and then drop us off in Sanur which is a 2 and a half hour drive and then from there it is another 30 minutes back to the city where Eko operates out of. Bear in mind that these times are generally because of traffic and also a much slower pace of driving than that in South Africa. The times may vary greatly depending on a lot of different factors but just the inconvenience of the whole thing shows how amazing Eko was to us. Thus our point of view on the Taxi industry in Bali (actually anywhere in the world really.)

We saw a stunning looking Hindu Temple on the side of a lake whilst driving to Sanur and Eko explained that it was a big attraction in the area and was surprised that we had not heard of it. He told us a bit about it and we stopped there to have a look around, which ended up being about an Hour and a half. It was beautiful. There were lots of different shrines and buildings set in amazing gardens. We also witnessed a ceremonial procession taking place with a few men and women carrying shrines and offerings through the gardens. The weather was a bit dull and there was the occasional drop that fell so the lake looked a bit dreary in the photographs.

Once we made it to Sanur we had a little difficulty finding our accommodation due to there being a road on google maps that has long since been overgrown with trees and grass and then a building had been built on it. When we did find the place we were walking and driving around the property a bit to find the entrance because it was not so clear. The heavy rains and winds had apparently blown down the reception/entrance sign.

We had already made arrangements with Eko to take us to the airport in a few days because we were going to be flying to Yogyakarta on Java Island. We said goodbye and then had a small marvel at our accommodation. It was very very neat and tropical in feel. There were palm trees and a pool, and the room was big and bright. It had lots of amenities and a TV with cupboards and a safe, which is normally all out of the backpacker budget that we were on. We had got the recommendation from Sunil and Everett who had stayed here previously. They were right about everything! We were highly grateful for this recommendation. The place was called Griya Pasir Ukir.

We spent our 2 nights wondering around the town and the beachfront looking for good food, which we certainly found, and seeing the scenery. We spent most of the daytime in the pool and writing this blog and drinking gin & tonic and wine.

The first night we had dinner at a local stall along the beachfront market, where we both had different soups. The one I had was good except for the large floating bits of “Meat” that was a little chewy and did not come from any of the usual cuts of meat we are used to, but its best not to ask. Jo had a decent one though.

The following day we spent our time wondering down the beachfront looking for breakfast. We came across a place right on the beach and we noticed a capsized and washed up boat in the shallow waters of the beach. A small crowd had started to gather and ropes were being strategically placed. When everything was in place a mass of people ran in to give a helping hand in trying to tip the boat back up. I went down to offer my services, which was very warmly welcomed. None of the other foreign onlookers were interested in helping, which I guess is their perogotive.

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On the second evening we were approached by a smiley girl with a French accent, asking whether we had hot water in the shower. We did and for some unknown reason I had been onto our little patio area where our gas water-heater was and made sure it was on maximum. Jo had also had an issue a little earlier with the water not being hot but the gas heater had just not fired up properly so she just had to turn the water off for a bit and then back on again. I explained that the heater may not be firing up or the gas bottle is empty. She then tried to find someone from the property who could assist with this. There was no one to be found anywhere and I do remember that she really needed hot water for washing her hair… I have no idea how this works or what the relevance of hot water is, but it is best to keep quiet in these kind of situations… 😉 We had seen her and her partner around the accommodation and they were staying about 3 rooms down

That night we had a fantastic dinner. We took cover in a local tent restaurant on the side of the road because the skies had opened up and decided to drop a crap load of water on Bali. Finally after a short while and no sign of the rain letting up we decided to order a fish and the chilli crab (It was a seafood tent.) My Word was it good. The fish was deep fried whole which is a scary thought but the skin goes super crunchy and the meat is still so soft and tender. The highlight was the crabs though, and even though I have a shellfish Allergy, I know what good shellfish tastes like (I wasn’t always allergic.) There was a boat load of them on Jo’s plate and they were covered in this amazing chilli sauce that was so good and pretty hot, it brought tears to our eyes and our noses were constant waterfalls, but shit it was good. I also thought that the chilli would neutralize any of the stuff that I am allergic to… 😉

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It was the perfect end to our 2 week Bali excursion. We were never expecting to stay for so long but with getting sick and also realising how big the place was we had to stay for that long.

Eko picked us up at “stupid o’clock” in the morning and took us to the airport. We said our goodbyes and we swore to recommend his services to anyone that we met who was on their way to Bali.

Once we checked in and were sitting having coffee we happened to bump into the French couple who were at our accommodation. They were also heading to Jogja on the same flight, so we sat and chatted to them until we boarded the plane.

Then it was onwards to Yogyakarta on Java Island!

Bali Mountains and Monkeys

Firstly let me apologise for the extended leave of absence from posting anything… To be honest I have not even written anything new for a while. I blame the awesomeness of the Philippines!!!

So back to Bali:

Ubud

Our trip from Uluwatu to Ubud, with Eko was a really cool experience… For me, Jo was still feeling horrid and so she slept on the back seat for most of the way. Eko spoke about the Bali traditions and about the food, of which he highly recommended the Babi Guleng, which is a baby pig on the spit. I was really keen to try it out. He told us of a few places to try it. There were a couple of other dishes that were not Nasi Goreng or Mie Goreng (Fried rice and Fried Noodle) which we were happy about.

We were speaking about the famous Indonesian coffee, Koppie Luwak, which is the most expensive coffee in the world. It is also collected out the poo of a civet looking cat thing called a Luwak. They are nocturnal and go around at night eating the ripe coffee fruit, and they end up crapping out the coffee bean. The bean is collected and then washed and processed to make the end coffee product.

Eko offered to take us to a Coffee house where they produce the coffee and where we could get a tasting for free, however he did say that the tasting is for a wide range of different coffees and teas and you actually had to buy a cup of the Koppie Luwak if you wanted to try it. It was IDR50000 per cup which is about R55, or around US$3.75. It is actually extremely good, we thought. It was strong but smooth and when you taste it compared to the other coffees you could actually tell it was so much better. The place did have the Luwaks in cages and they were getting woken up from the activity around them which was one thing we did not like. I think that the whole production of this coffee is now very commercialised and that is to the detriment of the animals. We vowed never to buy it again. The other products they made were very different, with the tasting consisting of Flavoured Coffees and Teas, all in the setting of a beautiful garden with coffee trees and cacao trees all around. I fell in love with Rosella tea. We had had Rosella juice in Thailand at the Land Split but never as a tea. It is naturally sweet but not too sweet like everything else in this part of the world.

Afterwards Eko dropped us off at our accommodation and we checked into the Villa looking guesthouse. There were small walkways amongst the palm trees and tall 3 storied buildings with little balconies and stairways leading up to the different levels. Our room was a decent size and it was pretty clean. It only had a ceiling fan which was more than useless. Literally a butterfly could fart harder than that fan could blow air! The blades spun at a decent speed so I decided to do a slight, manual, modification on the shape of the blades. So I bent them more so that they would move more air… Turns out there is a bloody kids toy motor that runs this whole thing, the stupid little thing could not rotate properly because the modified blades created too much resistance!!! I decided to bend them back because I would rather have the blades spinning than nothing at all. We ended up sleeping fine on all the nights, I just had a lot of cold showers during the day and before I jumped into bed.

That evening Jolene was still down and out, I just ran into the town and got some Tomato Soup for the both of us. She had a few sips and then just went back to bed. I stayed awake for a bit and worked on the blog.

The following day Jo was starting to feel a bit perkier, but still quite wary. We decided to stay in Ubud town and just do some things in the area. I finally found an Optometrist who could make up some new glasses for me in 48h and at a reasonable price. I was sick of not being able to see… The frame I picked was nothing like my old pair because I thought a change in look would be good, and also this frame came with a magnetic sunglasses lens. We then had a phenomenal Coconut Ice-cream with fruit salad for lunch.

Ubud is a very Westernised town of Bali, where there are tons of little Cafes and boutique clothes shops and well presented restaurants and bars. It was also like being in the middle of Australia… Australians everywhere!!! It is a short flight for them so it can be a weekend island getaway. In all honesty Ubud had the most tourists walking around than anywhere else we visited in Indonesia. Also the Taxi drivers here were relentless, they were like vultures lined up along the road. They would haggle at you consistently to no end, and they just could not get the concept of just walking and having a general look around the town. There was a feeling that you had to be heading to a final destination and you knew exactly where that was. On occasion when we did mention a destination that was around a few kilometres away they would offer the most ridiculous price that there was no point even trying to haggle them down. We ended up just ignoring them entirely and not even giving them the time of day.

We decided to visit Monkey Forest, which is a forest (No shit) with a Balinese Hindu temple in it, and a crap load of Monkeys… We weren’t too keen on going in the beginning because we were quite sick of seeing monkeys, which is not normal for me as I like to see most animals. These monkeys, however, were fed by humans and the close interaction had become quite sad and also dangerous. The monkeys in S/E Asia had a distinct addiction to sugar and they would steal anything from your bag but in most cases lose interest in anything that did not contain sugar. Also if you tried to resist them taking something then they would become aggressive. I felt feathers for people who were bit and were asking for it. We would walk past monkeys without fussing over them and we had no issues, except for the one time in Malaysia but that will come in a future post.

The natural forest was beautiful as was the temple. The walkway through the forest had a mystical feel to it, with the sun shining through the canopy in rays and the large twisted vines creeping up the trees. The temple shrines in amongst the forest gave it a slight Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider feel. Their were also some entertaining young monkeys who were jumping off some branches of a tree into a pond and then running up the branches again to jump back in. It was a hot day and I think they were feeling it too. We also took some photos of a couple of older monkeys licking the walls of the temple which was interesting and confusing.

That was all the activity we did for the day, which did turn out to be a lot of walking around.

Jo was feeling crappy still but was willing to start exploring further afield, so we hired a scooter and headed for the rice terraces in the surrounding farming area. The drive out was stunning as we made our way up and down small hillsides and in amongst the rice paddies. However when we arrived at the Terraces, and the rain subsided, we forgot all about the ride because our breath was taken away by what stood in front of us. The terraces are stunning and make for some epic photos. The crazy part was that they had to make all these terraces at some point and they sure as nuts didn’t use a tractor or earth mover. It was incredible. Oh yes and a lot of bamboo structures, water catcher, boom gate, fences amongst other things, had wooden dicks attached. Yes you read right, the one thing we started to notice on Bali was that they liked to make wooden dicks that they sold on key chains or huge ones that I don’t have a clue what you would do with. They were attached to random structures in all sorts of places. I think it had to do with the god of fertility, or atleast I know it had something to do with Fertility. It was weird.

I hope the photos give a reasonable idea of how beautiful this place was.

That evening I picked up my new Glasses!!!!!!!

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Dinner was an amazing mixed grill and some chicken sate.

River Rafting was the activity of the following day. We were given our life jackets and a paddle to carry whilst we walked for about 30 minutes to the edge of the river. There were 7 of us including the guide. We were briefed and then thrown down the river… It was not actually that intense but it was a ton of fun. The guide kept slapping the water with his paddle and shouting crocodile, which got a bit old but otherwise he was reasonably entertaining. The GoPro kept fogging up because the water was so much colder than the outside air, so not too many great videos or photos were taken. I did manage to ruin every ones final photo, which the rafting company takes from the side of the river, by pulling the most ridiculous faces… It was worth it!

We called in early that night because we had a 2am wake up the next day. We were going to go do the Sunrise hike up the Batur volcano. The morning was difficult and even the strong coffee did not help to wake us up properly. We stopped in at a coffee shop which the tour company that we used owned, for breakfast and coffee at around 3:30am. The actual hike started at about 4:30 and once we started to walk we felt more awake. There were a shit-ton of people doing the same thing. The train of torch lights ran all the way from the bottom of the mountain to the top. It was quite a sight to see in itself. The walk was strenuous but we went at a slow pace due to the other million people doing the same thing. It was so so so worth it though, the sunrise was beautiful. The place we were sitting was a perfect place that allowed us to get some amazing views. It was chilly up in the mountain and we were lucky that we were both wearing long sleeve tops and long pants, others were not so lucky. Once the night had given way to the sun we could see the crater much better and there were tiny spots where steam could be seen coming out from the crater. All in all it was a beautiful morning and well worth the early wake up.

Once we were back in Ubud we packed up our bags and checked out. We were heading for the Twin Lakes, Tamblingan and Buyan, up in the highlands. Our planning was terrible and we had not made contact with Eko, our trusty driver, which made us feel bad about calling him up over the weekend and asking him to travel 2 hours to come pick us up and take us a further 3 hours away. We also checked and Uber was not available in Ubud, actually taxi drivers had made sure that the Uber drivers were not allowed in Ubud. We finally decided to take a knock and got a taxi, which firstly was way too pricey and then kept trying to make us stop for coffee and food at their pals coffee shops and restaurants which we did not entertain and just insisted that we go straight to our destination. After he dropped us off we decided that we would not make use of another taxi!

It was raining Cats, Dogs, Cows and even elephants when we arrived. We got completely drenched just from running 3m from the car to the reception building. The towns name was Wana Giri. and it was a very untouristic area with a very rural and local feel to it. We knew there were lakes right in front of the accommodation but the rain was so heavy we could not see them.

Bali Beaches and Bellies

Bali. Our official Start to Indonesia.

Our start to Bali was, at best, experiential… The day after my birthday was just a horrid day. In amongst throwing up anything we ate and all the beer we had the night before we also had to make our way to the Police Station to write up a report. Once that was all done we avoided the burger place and the bars from the previous night, and we settled with a single pizza from next door and we slept the rest of the day and night away.

The following day we decided that despite a rocky start, we needed to put it behind us and go explore a little. We made it to the beach and had a beach day… 😉 In our defense we were still feeling quite weak but we were not entirely sick. The day was beautiful with plenty of sunshine, so a beach day was not a terrible idea.

 

The following morning we said Fuck it and packed our bags and headed to a different area of Bali called Uluwatu. We ordered an Uber, because fuck the taxis (they had continuously ripped us off at any stage that we used them and that is the same as in our home city.) We liked Uber and when our driver arrived we ended up liking him even more. Eko was the name of this fantastic gentleman and by any means if you EVER go to Bali please ask me for his contact details, it will make your life so much better when you get there. He was a youngster with a wife and one child. He told us all about his life and took an interest in ours. He explained how he had made friends with another South African guy who was using his services at the moment, although that guy was always a few steps ahead of us so we never met him. Eko told us about the Island and where to go and what to see, as well as what to eat, which is super important in my books. We ended up using Eko to take us all around the Island, wherever we wanted to go. He was pretty knowledgeable about the island and Indonesia in general but would not bullshit you if he didn’t know, and his English was perfect. He is really friendly and always had a smile on his face.

Uluwatu was a much more chilled out place with lots of surfers running around with their boards attached to their scooters. Our accommodation was very neat but it did not have Aircon, just a fan, so this was going to be a first. It turned out fine and we did not have any problems sleeping. We hired a scooter, with no surfboard carrying rack, and made our way around the area by ourselves…. because fuck the Taxis…

The first objective was to hunt down the strange airplanes that were randomly sitting in a dug out plot next to the road. The small Boeing was fully intact and looked like you could jump in and fly it away, the problem was that it was, in essence, in a hole. It is said that the plane was put there to be turned into a tourist attraction, actually a restaurant, but the owner ran out of money. I am not sure but the fact that something that big was transported through residential areas is quite mind boggling.

There are 2 different planes in different locations and we just visited the one.

We then scooted along to the coast and walked down a bunch of steps to a beach that we had heard of with a cave on it. We paid our usual parking and entry fee, which turned out to be the standard practice throughout Indonesia, and went down to the beach. It turned out that the beach is only existent when the tide is low, otherwise you have to make a mad dash between waves to where the cave is and then take shelter in the cave. From the looks of it you would get stuck in the cave when the tide was at its highest. We arrived as the tide was on its way up. The view was spectacular and the ocean was beautiful, but we could not stay long because we would have been trapped in the cave for a few hours until the tide went down again. It almost seemed like a bit of a waste having to pay to enter, and we thought it would have been nice to have been told at the entrance. I know that some people would say we should have done our research and that people have to make a living but I will argue that we would have come back anyway at a better time and the same people would have got the same money so that argument is quite mute in my book!

The next part of the day made up for anything that may have made me negative by this stage. We drove along a road which ended at a point which just said Coast With a View on my maps-me app. To be fair it was the coast and there was a view, but what a view it was. I do possibly think that there are more spectacular coastlines, but the contrast of the cliffs that had been cut away to accommodate a road that zigzagged its way down to the ocean, then you had a wooden boat lying next to the road and a water break looking protrusion that had a couple of wooden buildings on it that were operating as a restaurant. On top of that there was a temple-like entrance wall with arches and a door that were randomly on the beach area. Also the beach itself was part natural and part sand that had been deposited between the cut-out cliffs. The colour of the water and the reef that showed in dark patches was just fantastic… For me it was just both naturally and unnaturally beautiful.

We then decided to go to the beach where the bits and pieces of a ships hull were. It was quite a steep and long hike down a cliff-like hillside to get down to the beach, but the views were amazing along the way. We hiked through forest which still felt like 100 degrees Celsius and it took us a good 30min to get there, which is not a long hike but in that heat and when you can see your destination the whole way it seems like forever. The fact that there were ladies at the bottom who had carried a massive box filled with snacks and drinks, including ice, to sell to the beach-goers makes it very unfair for me to complain though. The beach was Long… crap long, and there were only a handful of people on it. It was a beautiful white beach and the water was crystal turquoise, however because of the bedrock and broken up coral pieces, it was a terrible swimming beach. We had to tip-toe into a tiny and shallow pool and just sit down to get a bit wet, because at this stage we were baking. We ended up taking shelter under the hull of the broken up ship. The pieces of wooden hull made for spectacular photos and we took full advantage of that.

The swim was pointless after walking back up the trail for 2 minutes, I was dripping in sweat again and our water reserves were about to dry up. It was a very tough walk up, but we seemed to always keep in mind that we had done over 1100 steps up to the Buddha statue in Thailand, and that seemed to give us a bit of encouragement to not complain too much.

Our final excursion for the day was to visit the Balinese-Hindu temple, which was located on the top of some magnificent cliffs. It was the perfect place to sit and watch the sunset, and there were hundreds and hundreds of people who thought the same. There were stages being broken down in a central outdoor auditorium so I think they had some sort of show on during the day, or it could have been a wedding because we saw a couple having their photos taken on the edge of the cliffs. There was a theater area where they did traditional dancing shows every evening and when we walked past it looked packed already. Apparently it is something you have to go see but we were, later in our trip, spoilt with a little demonstration show so we don’t feel too bad about missing this one.

To finish off the evening we had a decent dinner of fried rice and fried noodle, locally known as Nasi Goreng and Mie Goreng, down at a local restaurant around the corner from our guesthouse.

I think I should reiterate, at this point, to anyone reading this that this Blog is for our memoirs of our travels and possibly some entertaining reading in the future, we do not intend this to be a guide whatsoever in how to travel around South-East Asia. There are times we were downright disappointed in the locals behaviour or certain ways of doing things, other times we were disappointed in our own, this Blog simply captures those feelings we were having and the opinion we had about certain things. If you had different experiences and feel we misjudged a situation then write about it in your own blog, or keep it to yourself.

We decided that the following day was going to be entirely dedicated to the beach, as life had been tough the last couple of days, as you can imagine… 🙂 We went to a well known and well reviewed beach called Padang Padang Beach. It was a decently long beach and we found a nice spot under a large tree. Again the ocean was beautiful but whilst the tide was low you had to find a small pool in amongst the rocks and coral to actually get reasonably wet. It was crazy hot so there was no way that we were not going to swim, which is why we would crawl over the rocks for quite a distance before we found a good spot to cool down in, then we stayed there for a long time. Everyone looked very uncomfortable whilst getting into the water. We then finished the day off with a reasonable dinner of fried noodle and rice, again, before getting hammered on our balcony with a bottle of Gin and a whole lot of Tonics… It was an entertaining evening.

The next day we scooted ourselves over to the other Padang Padang beach, or as some call it – Labuan Sait beach… Jo had woken up feeling a bit under the weather, but not in a hung-over way. We started to suspect it was what they call Bali Belly. We thought a swim in the ocean would cool her down and make her feel a bit better. We had to walk through a very narrow crack in the rocks and down a few stairs before being greeted by an amazing view. This beach was nestled in amongst some cliffs on one side and boulders on the other. The ocean was again a pretty blue/turquoise colour and it was deep and sandy, so perfect for swimming.

That day at around lunch time we had arranged for Eko to pick us up and take us through to our next destination, which was the town of Ubud.

My Bali Birthday

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to m….. Ah F**k it.

We had a decent flight from Bangkok to Jakarta. It was not too long, the time difference of an hour also played a part in that.

Jakarta was a culture shock in terms of the way the traffic worked… or didn’t work.

There are people who make a living out of walking into the middle of the street to stop traffic, so that all the cars and scooters coming from a side street can turn into that street. Our Uber driver (yes we were delighted to learn that there was Uber in Jakarta) passed a few coins to these people, so we asked why do you HAVE to “tip” them, after which he said you did not have to but then you would most likely have your car keyed or kicked… So in essence you are bullied into paying these “human traffic lights”. It was an interesting discovery. The Traffic in Jakarta was ridiculous.

Our plan was to stay the night and then start making our way down to Bali over the next couple of days. We decided that night that we would just go to the Airport in the morning and get the next flight out to Bali… It was my birthday the following day after all.

The morning of my birthday started out positive. We had our bags packed and our Uber was ordered. I was pretty excited that I was going to be in Bali for my 28th Birthday!!!! Jo was keeping the day exciting and was making sure that everything was going smooth and that I was always cheerful. She kept reminding me that it was my birthday and that we were headed to Bali…

Our driver asked how long we had been in Jakarta and seemed a bit disappointed when we told him only overnight. He mentioned the places that we could have gone to see and what there was to do, and I know that all these big cities had so much to offer and there are always wonderful things to see, however Jo and I shared the feeling that this trip was not about the cities… we wanted to explore the countryside and see the natural beauty of places.

At the airport we were busy trying to buy the tickets to Denpasar, Bali, when I realized that I had forgotten our passports in the safe of the hotel that we had spent the last night… F*&k!!!!

So we ordered another Uber, bearing in mind we stayed about an hour and a half away from the airport. We told him to try his hardest to get us there the soonest, my mind was racing about if the staff had already cleaned the room. The worst always comes to mind when this sort of thing happens, I was thinking about where the closest Zimbabwe Consulate was and how I was going to get back into South Africa, or if I would have to go back to Zim first…???? I did then start thinking that surely they wouldn’t have any use for a Zim passport or even Jo’s South African one, however her German one was the one that would possibly have the most interest! I know, I know, I shouldn’t assume the worst of people!

When we arrived back at the hotel we discovered that no one had even been inside yet so I went into the room and opened the locked safe to find the little side bag happily sitting where I had left it… I felt so so so relieved. So it was back into the Uber’s car and back to the Airport. We arrived at the airport at around 3pm, and had originally wanted to take the 3:15pm flight. We were delighted to find out that we could still take that flight because it had been delayed until 4pm. YAY!!!!!

We made it through to the waiting area where they announced for the first time that the flight was going to be delayed. We looked around as we saw many disappointed faces and were pleased that we already knew this and were happy for it. We got some free water and a free meal package for the “inconvenience” which was an added bonus.

The flight only took off at around 5pm!!! We were also then shocked to find out that it was not a 3 hour flight but instead there was a 1 hour time difference between Jakarta and Bali. This means that I would lose an hour of my birthday to nothing…. 😦

We arrived at around 8pm and were determined to make what was left of the day an awesome one! We ordered a taxi at the airport because it was the quickest thing we could find out about and made our way to the guest-house,Warung Coco, which turned out to be only 4km away, but that still took about half an hour due to traffic and the buckets of Rain!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We arrived and had to make a dash for cover, where we were greeted by the friendly staff. We checked in and got ourselves showered and dressed up, ready to salvage what was left of this day. The staff had told us to watch out for our stuff because there were pickpockets around the main Party Central areas and to also take care on the roads when walking around.

We crossed the road and sat at the burger place to get some sustenance into ourselves before we go and throw a bunch of booze into our bellies. We then hit one single bar where there was a lot of activity, and soon find out that there is a beer special on some weird named beer. We take it, all of six cans. It cost us close to nothing and it had a decent 5% alc on it so we were happy. After those few we met a rowdy couple, one from Australia and the other I cannot remember, somewhere european. They seemed to like shots, and strong ones! So we took down some tequila, much to my delight, but it was not the greatest but it was still shots, and I felt that I needed them…

By this stage it was just after midnight and we were feeling pretty sloshed so we decided to call it a night. We started walking down this road that connects the party street with the one we are staying on and the heavens decided to open again. We took some cover and thought we could wait it out. We couldn’t. We decided after 15 minutes or so that we should just try get home, even if it means getting wet. I had Jo’s wallet in my underwear and both our phones in my jeans pockets. We started making our way through the rain at a mild jog, with me in front and Jo about 10m behind me. I turned around and saw 2 guys on a scooter pull up next to Jo, they then pull away and I figured they were probably like all the other taxi and scooter-taxi drivers we had met that evening, all offering rides and most also would offer you drugs. I presumed they were offering the latter, but as they drove past Jo shouted “Fuck, they took my bag”. I immediately turned and bolted after them, in the pouring rain, I saw them slow down a bit further up so I had a bit of hope that I may catch them (Not sure what would have happened then, but that is never important at this stage). I ran through a large puddle which was so big that it was also concealing the walkway, which had disappeared because there was a turn off into a house so I lost my footing on the step down and just as I was recovering, I face-planted when my foot tripped on the step back up onto the walkway. I had managed to get my hands down but I could feel that flesh had been torn. The scooter turned a corner and was gone. I then went back to Jo, who at this stage I could not see too well because, during my slow-motioned trip, I had lost my glasses. I tried retrieving them but soon realized with the amount of water running down the street they had probably been washed away.

We had a small recovery break and checked to see what had been lost, before running back to the Guest-house. They had made away with Jo’s bag, which was a gift from my mum when she went to Aus, a credit card, which we cancelled immediately, a hair brush and some tissues. The valuables and our cash was all with me in my pants! Thank heavens.

We then had another beer at the guest-house before retiring to the room where I cleaned up all the damage on my hands…

Love being in Bali for my B-Day!!!

The following day both of us were horribly sick, and not the hungover kind. For some reason the beer special beer had not been processed by my body and was still sitting in my stomach, until I threw it All up that morning… Both of us were just throwing up beer, it was horrible.

***We have no photos of that day or the following day so I am just going to attach this one of my happy family to make me feel better***

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We had to make our way to the Police to report the incident and we also phoned through to the insurance company just to find out what we needed to do.

We were a bit beaten up about the events that had taken place and it put Indonesia on the back foot when it came to our thoughts about it… but as you will read up in the future posts, it ended up being a magical place.

The Final Chapter of Chiang Mai

The Last Post of Thailand

We arrived back at Potaes House, after our scooter “tour”, exhausted and looking forward to having our room back. We felt lucky to have been able to experience what we just had.

Our bags were well looked after, Latte had made sure of that… 🙂 At the end of our Chiang Mai trip I would have packed that cat into my bag if I didn’t know that she and Potae would both have kicked my ass…

It felt as though both a lifetime and no time at all had gone by since we left. Jo, Potae and I had a big catch-up, and this is why the time felt more and less – It had gone by so quickly but there was so much to tell.

We were bushed and did not have the energy for much that day so we just had dinner and sat chatting to Potae and a few of the other guests. It was a welcomed relaxation day, so much so that we spent the next day just grooving around and eating… 🙂

Our friend Robert was still in town so we met him for dinner and had a great catch-up. He had given us so much advise on where to go and what to see that we had to let him know what we had seen. He was busy trying to find a doctor who could help him with his hip problem, but it was looking like he was going to have to do some more digging. He also needed to get his retirement visa sorted out because he was hoping to stay in Thailand for his retirement.

We booked ourselves on a Thai cooking class for the next day. We were picked up and taken to a local market where we met one of the chef instructors, Gun (Like “Bang Bang” gun) . She showed us the ingredients that we would be working with during the day and what the different uses were. We were then given some time to walk around and get something for breakfast… Jo and I had been forewarned about eating too much before the class, so we had some fruit, bowtie thingys and a doughnut thingy that did not taste like a doughnut. We were then whisked away to the kitchen in the bus/truck. The class was held in a beautiful kitchen hall that was set in the veg garden of the property. They grew a whole bunch of herbs, chillies, veg and flowers which we were introduced to by the very enthusiastic “Ladies”. We selected the dishes that we wanted to cook, so naturally Jo and I selected different things so that we could jointly get the most out of the class.

Our instructor was very enthusiastic and kept the descriptions, in her words – “Sexy”. Everything about cooking Thai food was “Sexy”. It was an absolute gas, we had so much fun. I also cooked the best food that I have ever tasted… (Official, non biased opinion). Jo cooked good food too… The best part was getting to eat all this food, I was stuffed by the end of it and there were leftovers!!!

The cooking school, Mama Noi Thai Cookery School, has put together a fantastic package, in an amazing setting and with the perfect instructors.

As you can imagine we returned home full and not really interested in dinner plans. A few beers and a quiet evening with Potae and Max, a German youngster who we took a liking to very quickly. Also his full name was Maximillian, who cannot be friends with someone with such a cool name… It is one thing we noticed during our travels – you learn who you like quickly and those are the people that you end up remembering for your entire life, simply because they make such a big impact on your life at that time. You do not have time to go to a few events to work out if you can be friends, you just get a vibe and you completely trust and befriend them immediately. That is probably why we end up having such crazy times with these kind of people.

The next day we hopped into another truck/bus/taxi thing (for those who understand, it is a single cab Bakkie with a canopy that has no tail gate and no door on the canopy. You then sit on a bench on either side of the back area.) We started talking to the friendly couple who were with us. Turns out they are from the Czech Republic. We headed to the place which is known as The Grand Canyon… in Chiang Mai. It turns out to be a big Quarry looking place that has filled up with water. It looked amazing and we knew that you could swim there and in the humid heat we were excited about this. There was a general entry place where there is a small restaurant and some vendors or there was a Water Park. The park was expensive for our backpacker wallet so we went into the general entry area.

At some point we finally introduced ourselves to our Czech friends… Jiri and Adella. We had been having fat conversation with them the whole time and had not actually got their names. We already knew we liked them though, so that was all that was important…

The whole time we just spent swimming and jumping off the cliff into the water, also cheering other jumpers on. There was an individual who needed more encouragement than most but he did finally jump… the problem was when he wanted to go again then he was even more scared than the first time, and to date we do not know if he jumped again.

I had been in the water for so long that my skin was all wrinkly on my hands, but the water was very warm, especially by Cape Town standards. We finally decided that, after hours of just floating around, we should head home.

That night it was one of the English guys birthday so it was a party night. Potae had organised a large table at the Korean Barbecue Restaurant for dinner. The Korean barbecue place had a couple of large tables with fresh, uncooked produce from meats to vegetables and fruits. There were a few ready to eat dishes that you could also just help yourself to. On your table was a “hotpot” which was on an electric hotplate, and inside the pot was a stock. Then there was an electric metal dome thing with holes in it. To best understand what it looks like just think of a very big, old school, metal, orange juicer. It was a set price and you just ate as much as you wanted. So you would pick whatever you wanted to “Barbecue” or boil up and you cooked it at the table. It is a very sociable way to be actively involved in your food… I just ended up stuffing my face with as much of everything that I could, typical. It was a lot of fun and we ended up having a few other Korean Barbecues further on in our travels in Thailand.

We hit the town hard that night. The birthday boy managed to break a table at the club, and his head. It was quite overboard, but we had tons of fun. Lots of alcohol was consumed and there were all sorts of shenanigans that were revealing themselves as the night unfolded. At the end of the night we sat with Max at Potaes aunt’s guesthouse just down the road from Potaes House. He told us a very very funny story about something that happened during the night… It is imprinted in our minds so for the sake of certain peoples dignity we will let the story be a mystery to anyone reading this. We do not need to write it down to remember it……. 🙂

The next day we plucked up the courage to get our asses back on a scooter and headed to the “Sticky” waterfall. Potae recommended the place and we had heard from a few guests that it was a brilliant experience. The ride was still painful and our bums were not at all impressed, but after a while we made it to the location… and just in time for the Thunderstorm to hit us hard!!! I was convinced that the earth was going to flood and that this was the end, a large branch crashed down close to where we parked the scooter. It was some impressive rain! We were stuck in the small restaurant with another local couple from Chiang Mai. We chatted a lot with them and the guy, Note, owned a coffee shop, Note Espresso… which is a deal maker in Jo’s book, we instantly liked them. They were just visiting the waterfall for their day off but were not too phased by the rain because they were in a car. They got the local guys to roll Jo a local cigarette. It is like wild tobacco rolled in a banana leaf, it was massive! It was also kak strong. A few drags and Jo was done! Note and his wife, left without going down to the waterfall but they did give us a raincoat of theirs before they left because they felt that we were going to need it.

I was so grateful for that gesture and still months on I am still using the same raincoat.

The waterfall is quite crazy. The mineral composition of the water left a deposit of calcium and other things on the rock and this gave the rocks unbelievable grip. You could walk up the entire waterfall without being afraid of slipping. It was really cool. The weather did dampen the experience and Jo did not get into the water, but I had to get the feel of the “stickyness” of the Sticky Waterfall. I walked up a part of the waterfall and had a small dip in the water, but our stay was relatively short. The rain was not completely gone as well. We thought it was best to take the gap to make it back to Potae’s.

That night we spent the evening with Potae, as it was our last night. We had a pasta dinner at her Aunts place (she was running it whilst her aunt was away) and talked about our next few destinations until we left Thailand. We were headed for Koh Chang but Potae recommended that we go to Koh Kood instead. It is apparently much more beautiful and serene. As you know, the weather did not play ball and we ended up staying in the quiet town of Trat for 4 nights, relaxing and mulling over what a fantastic time we had had.

Thailand was the most amazing place and it was certainly an extraordinary place to explore at the beginning of our travels. It did, however, set the bar extremely high for the rest of our trip.

Thank you Helani, Matteo, Ria and Willemien

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Thank you Robert

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Thank you Potae and Latte

Thank you Jeroen, Max, Jiri and Adella.

You all impacted our lives in Thailand and made it the experience that we can never forget, It was Fantastic!!! I hope to see all of you in the future!

Our six day Loop

SCOOTER EXPEDITION IN THE NORTH, THAILAND

Of all the experiences we had during our stay in Thailand I think this was the most awe inspiring. It is hard to say which experience was the “best” because there are too many that appeal to a different part of our character. So I think it is fair to say that this was the most naturally beautiful part of our Thai stay.

We had our 2 small “daypack” bags ready and our large Backpacks were going to stay at Potae’s House, under the watchful eye of the “boss of the house”, Latte. Latte is Potae’s adorable and ferocious kitty. She is really a sweet cat, that on occasion will attack your hand in the hallway, just because…

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We were extremely happy that we could leave the big bags, because it would have been a whole different ball game if we had to take them with us on a scooter…

This packing arrangement did mean that we had to pack the bare minimum. I packed my stuff into a quarter of the one daypack and Jo filled the other bag and three quarters of my bag with her stuff…

We had hired a Yamaha N-Max 150cc Scooter as our vehicle for the next 6 days. Our first destination was the original Hippie Town of Pai. We had heard a lot about the place whilst staying with Potae and it was described on many occasions as a Hippie Town, although we did read up a bit online and there were a few Hippie comments saying it had become too mainstream… ?

We were on the highway out of the city and on our way, excited because apparently the beauty of North Thailand is only fully experienced when you go on one of these multi day loops. Of course there was a police roadblock on the way out which turned out…uh… expensive!? I think that is the best way to put it, and it was a bit of a dampener on our moods. However we soon forgot about any wrong doings as we were punched in the face by amazing views and epic roads that wound their way up and down the mountain sides and valleys. It took us about 4 hours to do the 120km because of all the stopping and taking photos. There was also a bit of rain and the lunch stop on the side of the road at one of the local stall restaurants!

Pai was a pretty little town with a definite hippie feel… everyone was scooting around without helmets and wearing long “yoga” pants. The place we stayed at, Buzzas, was a sweet little place with very simple bungalows on the edge of a rice paddy.

The town and surroundings had a lot to offer and our 2 night stay could have easily been extended by another night to see and experience even more.

The first night we just stuck to the town and had dinner at a small restaurant which Jo said did not make Khai Soi properly… 🙂 I had a decent Pad Thai.

The next day we managed to get out and see the Pai Canyon, which is a very picturesque place. It is a limestone region that has been weathered away by rain water and has left these bare limestone cliffs and canyons with thick green vegetation growing in between. I can only presume that a decent photographer would have a field day in a place like this. Jo was not too happy about the half broken bridge that we had to cross…

We then went on to see the Land Split which is a crack that was caused by an earthquake in 2009. For us it was a reasonable attraction to go see, but what makes it a place you cannot miss on a trip through Pai was the farmer who’s land it occurred on. The crack has caused quite a bit of touristic interest in the place and the farmer has taken to building an awesome rest area with tables and benches or even hammocks, then he offers fresh Rosella juice and small bowls of fresh food from his farm. All of this is free. He has a donation box but he does not make you feel even slightly obligated to put anything in there. After he explained a bit about the land split and when it happened, also how he processes all the produce from the farm, we could not imagine that anyone would not want to give this man their money… he was such a good host and friendly person.

The rest of the day was spent chasing waterfalls, which surprisingly had roadblocks on the way to, and these police were not the expensive kind… although had they found any substances of the Narcotic variety after searching the scooter and our bags, the situation may have changed drastically.

We also stumbled across an amazingly clear and reasonably quiet hot spring, that was more warm than hot. It was a nice place to relax for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening we had “Family Dinner” with everyone staying at the hostel. The staff and a few guests had already been to the market and we all sat together preparing the ingredients. The end result was a phenomenal meal that left us rolling to bed…

The next day we headed out for Mae Hong Son. I actually wish I had the vocabulary or the camera which could have captured the beauty of this part of the trip. The roads were even more obscure and passed through places that I can only wish I had been there when they built it.

We stopped off at the Tham Lod Caves. You had to take a local guide who was equipped with an old school oil lamp to show you the way. The cave has a river running through it and you had to cross a section on a bamboo raft. Once inside it was quite extraordinary, the formations of stalagmites, stalactites and columns were crazy but the camera does not do them justice in the dark conditions.

Our guide was quiet and we found that her English was limited, but we both felt that our Thai was worse, so who are we to complain…

At this point I really was enjoying riding the scooter. The windy roads and extreme hills with stunning scenery, bought out the inner child in me. I started to imagine I was riding a Ducati Diavel at some stage and Jo noticed it too. At a few points she would point out the fact that we were on a scooter. It was still amazing fun regardless… It gave us the idea that we should look at purchasing one of these magnificently fun machines when we return home… (Sorry Mum!!!)

Anyway, our accommodation at Baan Mai Guesthouse felt more like a home stay. The couple that ran the place were super kind and always smiling. We were given a nice big platter of watermelon and Paw-paw (Papaya) on arrival. Breakfasts were also amazing platters of fruit. For dinner that evening we walked around most of the Town looking at the menus of all the restaurants, finally eating at the 3 food stalls which were operating out of the Post Office parking lot. The food was delicious and we were introduced to hot soya milk with a bit of syrup and some sort of deep fried pastry that you dunked into the milk… it was amazeballs!

The following day we took the windy road to the Chinese inhabited town of Ban Rak Thai, which is the perfect place to grow tea. It was chilly up in the mountains and the weather was a little gloomy but we still managed to get there and try out the tea. The town was really small and very quiet, but judging by the amount of touristy shops and tea rooms/restaurants it is probably quite abuzz during season. I am not a great tea connoisseur so was not too blown away by most of the teas… except the Rosella Tea. I loved it and we bought a box to take with us.

We then went to a dam that was home to some beautiful black swans and 3 very playful dogs.

Then we stopped over at a the Queens Garden, which is actually an agricultural research centre. We just so happened to stumble across an area where there was a presentation taking place on the growing of Avo, passion fruit and the Cape Gooseberry… We were invited to have lunch and sit and watch the presentation, during which we were discussing how nice our Avo’s back home were. We were then presented with a freshly picked avo and had my taste sensations blown away… It is truly one of the creamiest and delicious Avo’s I have ever had…. It was such a cool experience to have stumbled across.

The rest of the garden had some interesting birds and deer in enclosures… The only thing was the wild cats that were kept in the enclosures were a bit depressing, we are not big fans of this kind of thing.

We went to a waterfall, which we could not swim at, and a hot spring, finally finishing off the day at a private and secluded waterfall which we were not sure if we could swim at or not, but there was nobody around to tell us not to…

The day was concluded with dinner at the ladies at the Post Office again. We were so impressed with the quality and taste and value of the street food that the restaurants seemed so uninspiring.

The next day we made our way slowly towards our next stopover, Mae Chaem. The route was littered with signs pointing in the direction of Microwaves???? Not sure, but we guessed satellites or cellphone towers. We stayed in 2 different places during our 2 night stay. The first night we stayed at a place called Hot Coffee which is actually about 20 minutes out of the town. It is a really sweet little place and it is set in a stunning location. The problem was, firstly the location was a bit out of the way, and secondly the staff were a little uninterested in anything so the vibe was really dull. We made our way into the one-street town in the evening and were blessed with an amazing view over the rice paddy just out of the town. The green of the rice and vegetation was just stunning! We had a brilliant dinner (I am running out of words to describe the food experience we had in Thailand) of Thai Green Curry and a Whole fried River fish.

At this point we had seen 2 different vehicles upside down and in a ditch next to the road, and that was just in the short drive from the accommodation to town. So it was a bit of a slow and scary drive back home in the dark that night.

The next day we spent a bit of the day making our way up to the mountain, Doi Inthanon, in the National Park. It was wet and miserable, we could not see anything more than 5 metres in front of us, but we did persevere to get to the top. I was very glad that we had pushed on because when we stopped at the restaurant near the top we were blessed with an amazing sight… or sights… 2 awesome Ducati Diavels and a Monster. What beautiful looking bikes!!! They gave me an image in my mind that I could imagine when winding down the road on our 150cc scooter…

But that was all we saw that day.

That night we stayed at Kwan Lah Homestay and were invited to have dinner with the family – very sweet people! It was a really good place to stay and we wished we had spent both nights there.

The next day the weather was a bit better but only slightly. We made our way back to our Home-away-from-Home, Potaes House. It was an uneventful day, although by this stage our bums were not happy with the scooter any more. The ride was becoming pretty uncomfortable and I can safely say that I was looking forward to not riding a scooter for a while. We finished off with a photo of our helmets, because our Belgian friend, Jeroen, had not used his and stored it under the tail lights of his bike. His helmet was absolutely ruined by the time he got back. The rear wheel had eaten into the outer shell and made a fantastic indentation, so we sent him these pictures to tell him we were home safe!

It was such a fantastic experience, I truly would recommend it to anyone going in that direction. It gave us a glimpse at just how stunning that part of the world is! I really hope it goes untouched for many more years.