Saturday, 29 December 2018

Indonesia!- Home to dragons!


Our next stop was Bali Indonesia. We were both excited for Bali as everyone had said how good it is. We landed at the airport at 12am only to be told our taxi was going to be triple the going rate. "Its Bali New Year" they all said so it cost us £40 to get to Ubud. We then arrived at our homestay to be greeted by a grumpy old man. 

"Do you have food for tomorrow", 
"Everything is shut tomorrow, all the other guests have food, why don't you?"
"Maybe its because its 1am in the morning and no-one told us it was New Year and everything was shut, that's why.. Including yourselves!"

So it turns out it was a day of silence where no one could leave the hotel and everything was shut...Welcome to Bali!

So our first day was spent in our hotel as we weren't allowed to leave. What a waste of a day.

Finally the next day arrived and we ventured out into Bali, now disheartened by the place.

We walked about the streets looking at little shops and restaurants and booked a private driver for a tour of Bali for the next day. Most things were still closed as it was the day after New Year's Day but we went to the palace and did a bit of shopping.

We ate in lovely little cafes full of healthy food and went to the monkey park.

The monkey park had loads of monkeys roaming around it and the park itself was pretty impressive. It was the highlight of my day. There were loads of babies too.

The next day we went on a tour of Bali. We started of visiting the mountain Batur, which is an active volcano, which was a great "wow" moment as it was set in spectacular scenery:

Then we went to the Tegalalang rice terraces.

 These were pretty amazing to see, although you have to pay to see them. They were on massive hills and you could walk right round them. It was a pretty cool site. 

Then we drove for an hour to the famous temple Tanah Lot.

The tide was in so we couldn't go inside but we saw it from a view point. This temple was a little disappointing mainly as you couldn't go near it, but don't worry you could wander through a massive market selling tat to get to it!

The next temple we went to was Uluwatu temple, which was tiny. It was a bit of let down as it was quite far away and you couldn't go near it, the whole temple looked like a miniature toy!

After we went to the beach where Eat Prey Love was filmed.

 Again I got there and paid money to see the beach and it wasn't like the film. I think in the film the sand was whiter and the sea was bluer and obviously there wasn't hoards of tourists, so again a bit of let down. 

Then we drove for another hour and a half back to Ubud. It was a pleasant (although slightly disappointing) day spent.

Our last day was spent looking at the shops and eating in the nice cafes. Ubud is quite pretty and there are lots of shops and restaurants to eat in with lots of healthy options. Easy to spend a couple of days doing.

Bali was pleasant and nice but it wasn't as amazing as it was made out to be. Maybe it was the hype before coupled with our unfortunate silence day fiasco that didn't make it amazing. Definitely worth a stop if you are in Asia but not flying direct from the UK, there are nicer places in Asia. Stay in Ubud as the main cities didn't look very nice but the hour trip from the airport is worth it for Ubud if you do come to Bali. 

Labuan Bajo

I had high hopes for Lubuan Bajo, the flight we caught with Guruda airlines was really nice and the airport had beautiful scenery. However, I was wrong! our hotel had forgotten to pick us up, but thankfully another member of staff was there picking up his friend (not sure why he couldn't bring us back too) so he called the hotel and eventually some jokers in a truck with the wrong names came to collect us. We were then given a room with broken air conditioning (which I couldn't handle) so we managed to change rooms eventually! They then took us into the town to book our Komodo dragon tour for the following day. The town itself consisted of one road, full of construction! It wasn't great. We found a coffee shop (there wasn't many) and they seemed very relieved for customers, as it wasn't a very touristy place.  We stayed there a while as there wasn't much to do that didn't involve a day trip somewhere then found somewhere for dinner. We were then picked up by our hotel again.

The next day we headed out to the boat at 5.30am. It looked ok for an Asian boat and wasn't nearly as bad as our boat from hell in the Philippines. There were some Swedish and Canadians on board that we made friends with and we were on our way for a 2.5 hour boat journey to the islands. The scenery was very beautiful and there were so many islands.

We arrived at our first stop, which I thought was Komodo island so I climbed up loads of steps only to discover it was a trek up a massive mountain. Needless to say I hate walking up mountains so passed and sat on a black beach talking to some old Indonesian men- which mostly consisted of them saying Scotland to me every few minutes!

Then back on the boat and finally...Komodo Island! I have always wanted to see Komodo dragons and this is the only place you can see them. After paying our fees (of which there are lots) we went on the hunt and it wasn't long before we saw them everywhere! Females, males and babies. They were great. Mostly just lazing about but some were walking around. They are quite dangerous and have been known to eat people if really hungry.

After spending an hour on the island it was off to pink beach... which wasn't pink. We never even got to go on it was you had to pay for a water taxi to get there and we had all run out of cash paying for Komodo national park fees. 

Our final stop was Manta point where I went snorkelling with mantas. There are no pictures as they are only really visible in the water but they were massive and an amazing site. I saw 4! (pic from the internet in case you don't know what I am talking about)

Image result for manta rays

Then it was back for a really choppy boat ride back to the town. We then had dinner on our last night and flew out the next morning. 

Labuan Bajo and Flores Island is great for Komodo dragons and people mainly go there for amazing snorkelling and diving. I am sure they are other day trips into the island for some beautiful scenery but do not expect anything from the town, but if you are an avid diver then this will be a nice place for you to visit.


Our final stop in Indonesia was to see the famous temples. We had enough of backpacker life for a while so checked in to a 5 star hotel (it was only £20 a night after all) It was a little paradise. An amazing pool and a massive buffet breakfast. The only problem was the 4am prayers blasting through the hotel. It is a Muslim country after all. 

Our first day was spent walking to the Sultan's palace, which was not very interesting. I even struggled to find things to take pictures off:

Then we walked through the famous shopping street, but again there weren't many shops (I think it was more lively at night) and found a nice coffee shop to sit in (ok it was Starbucks but we were getting desperate as there wasn't really any coffee shops around) then found a post office and wandered to the water palace (where it turned out to be a ruin with no water).

We did have fun walking through lots of little alleyways and back streets full of houses and small shops etc. Then we went back to the pool of our hotel.

The next day we went on a tour of the temples which had a disastrous start. The driver was over an hour late because of car trouble and failed to let us know so we thought we had been forgotten about. We hadn't been, and when he eventually turned up we drove to our first destination: Borobudur. 

This Buddha temple complex is magnificent, even if it was crowded and we were constantly asked for photos. There were loads of bells and Buddhas but it was a cloudy day so my pictures are a little dark.  

Then we drove to Prambanan temple which is a Hindu temple complex. There are over 240 temples and we were shown around the main temple by some school children who were trainee volunteers for work experience. After which, we then went to some of the other temples before heading back to the car. They were really interesting and worth it to go see these temple complexes. We then spent the final day lounging around the pool in our 5 star hotel! (It's called flash-packing.)

I think Ubud was my favourite part of Indonesia but I did love the dragons. Overall I would say Indonesia was a pleasant trip with a couple of great things to see. 

Monday, 26 March 2018

Philippines- pleasantly surprising!

We left New Zealand and had to go through China to fly to Cebu. We thought we would have enough time to visit China for the day but our airline thought 12 hours wasn't enough time to go into the city and back again so we ended up watching a lot of Netflixs in Chongdong airport. This was also Stacey's first experience in Asia and was met by the most terrifying security people I have ever encountered.

Anyway, we finally made it to Cebu city in the evening so was just time to check in and go to bed.
The next day was my birthday and to start the day we went to the Dessert factory and had blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

We then walked through the really busy streets full of interesting things to look at and found our way to the oldest church in the Philippines, The Basilica del Santo Nino. It was massive and there was a mass on so it was packed.

Outside was the Magellan's Cross which symbolises the place where the first catholic sermon took place.

Then we went to Fort San Pedro. This was the old fort and most of it still remained today. A lot of the architecture was quite spanish looking.

Cebu was very hot, very busy and full of traffic and people trying to sell you stuff, but being in the fort was quite peaceful.

Then it was time to get the ferry to Bohol. We had a mad rush to get the ferry as we had to wait in queue for a ticket only to find we still had to pay terminal fees and luggage fees and present our ticket to various people so we managed to get on 1 minute before departure. The ride was two hours and then we found a tricycle on the other side (a motorbike with seats on either side).

We arrived at our resort (living the backpacker dream). It had two pools and a nice restaurant etc. We walked to the beach which was very busy, full of cafes and restaurants and had dinner and drinks by the sea. I also had a coconut.

The next day we had booked a tour of Bohol. We didn't realise it was a private tour until a man turned up in a big air-conditioned car and we thought he was just taking us to the bus. But no...  it was ours for the whole day.

We started of at the Taiser sanctuary where we saw the world's smallest monkey. They were really cute but hate noise and light so we had to be very quiet around them.

After, we went to see the chocolate hills. They are thousands of big hills in the same shape and in season are brown so look like chocolate. These were amazing and went on for miles.

Then we went to a man-made forest built entirely by Boy scouts! I was really impressed with it being a Guide leader myself.

After we went to a wildlife sanctuary which was really upsetting as the animals were in really small cages with nothing but concrete cages. There were birds and cats and monkeys all caged up.

Then we went to the bamboo bridge which was terrifying as it was entirely made of bamboo and i had to walk across it... and back!

We then had lunch on board a floating river restaurant and met an older man from Essex who was in the Philippines meeting his new asian girlfriend for the first time (yep one of those). He was really nice though.

We then went to an old church and to the Blood Pact site (which was where the Spanish and Natives made peace) before going back to Panglea Island which was where we were staying.

We then went for dinner at the beach again.

The next day was horrific! We had booked a boat to take us to see whale sharks. We thought we were getting a luxury bus and boat but no.. A tricycle turned up to take us to the beach. There were 5 of us on it when it was designed for three. Then we got to the beach, which was beautiful at 5am and very calm with lots of boats in the water. We then had to wade out to a speed boat which had a hole in it and lots of people with heavy luggage. This took us to our boat. It then started to pour in rain and we sped through the sea in the rain and the waves crashing over us. By the end we were freezing and soaking wet. At the other side we had to get on a rowing boat and the man pulled us to shore with a rope. Then Stacey and I ended up on the back of a tricycle to the whaleshark place. We then ended up on very long thin canoes and luckily we didn't fall over. We did see whale sharks though, the biggest shark in the world. They were amazing and made up for the awful journey there and back. However, it was soooo wet we didn't take our phones or cameras out so never caught any pictures of them.

We then had to do the whole journey back with the added bonus of waiting for an hour on the boat for a family that didn't turn up. I felt like I was on the sea again every time I closed my eyes for the next two days.

The rain had cleared when we arrived back to Panglea so we went and sat on the beach. It was a lovely beach, then had a look at some souvenir shops and had dinner and drinks again before bed.


We then had to get our flight to Boracay which involved a 6am ferry ride complete with 10 cockerels (needless to say no peace for 2 hours). But we made it to Boracay.

We had to get a boat to the island and it was similar to Bohol island but the beach was a lot nicer. We spent the next two days looking at the shops in this really cool outdoor mall and wandering the bars and restaurants and also sunbathing and swimming on the beach.  They also had lots of performers singing at the cafes and fire dancers. We also met two guys and a girl from London and one was really cocky and after asking us to watch their things while they go paddleboarding proceeded to take the mick out of us for being two white and blending into the sand. I don't think he realised that we were actually quite tanned and he should have seen us before. He then started boasting about being rich and then they then left all their rubbish on the beach next to us and we had to clean it up. They weren't great people especially as we did them a favour.

Our trip back to the airport was again eventful when we had to wait an hour at the ferry terminal after getting up at 4am, for a school bus and then waiting 4 hours in the airport for our flight to Bali. Our flight was also delayed so when we got to Manila our connecting flight was in another terminal building and we had to wait for the shuttle bus. We waited an hour to find out we had to pay and we had no cash left. Then they told us that we could get a free transfer but we had to wait another hour for it. We had no choice but to wait and arrived in international just in time. Why do our flights never go right?

I liked the Philippines. I prefered Boracay to Bohol even though Bohol has more to do, but the beach in Boracay was beautiful. The people are friendly and do not pester you for things and we never got scammed once and it was very safe. It wasn't as touristy as other asian countries either with a bit more of a rustic feel.

Friday, 16 March 2018

New Zealand- Again surprisingly like the UK!

Christchurch- Construction City

We made it to christchurch... But our bags didn't. This was due to our connecting flight being late but they did come the next day.

Christchurch was cold. Like Scotland when it's cold. It was 6am and we were freezing so we found a nice coffee shop for breakfast. Then had a wander to another coffee shop and so on until things started to open. Eventually we went to the Art Gallery, which mostly had modern art and then went the the fantastic museum at the edge of the botanical gardens and near our hostel.

Christchurch had an earthquake a few years ago that flattened most of the city. You can see when wandering around how Christchurch used to look. There are a few really lovely wooden houses left and a few preserved streets. There are tram lines everywhere and big open spaces, but.... there is a massive amount of construction and most of it is creating new modern buildings which is taking away from the old town feel. Its not the prettiest city anymore unfortunately and at the moment most of it is under construction-understandably. I felt very sorry for Christchurch as after the earthquake it clearly isn't what is used to be, but there are a lot of interesting things within the city. For instance the locals have made shops and cafes out of big containers and there is a lot of street art which I think is much nicer then the Melbourne street art. There is also a lot of little things like bollards being made out of pigs etc to try to make the city a bit more unique.

It's also quite cheap coming from the UK as you can pretty much half every price and it makes shopping a lot more fun 😀.

The next day we went to the botanical gardens which were very pretty and had a beautiful river called the River Avon running though it which felt very like a little english village.

We then watched an army band play some music and they were really good, then visited a night market for some food.

The next day we went on a trip to Akora. This is a lovely french village down south and the scenery was fantastic. We went on a nature cruise here and saw Hector dolphins (which are the world's smallest dolphin), baby fur seals and a penguin! It was a great cruise and the scenery was stunning.

I loved Akora and liked Christchurch and I think when the construction is finished it will be great again, but there is not much to do at the moment unless you use the city as a base to explore Canterbury province.

Queenstown- AMAZING

We arrived in Queenstown in the most scenic flight ever, we flew through mountains! It was beautiful. The actual town is also really beautiful and if you like adventure then this is the place. Although it was pouring in rain, We went to our hostel-haka lodge and had to share a room this time with two other people- Matt and Garrett from Canada and USA. They were great and we went out on a night out with them to some of the bars in Queenstown.

The next day Stacey decided to do a skydive so I cam along for the ride. We were due to be there for 7am but when we arrived they had cancelled due to the wind. So we came back at 9am. We went on the bus to the remarkables and when we got there and suited up etc they cancelled it again! So we had to come back to Queenstown. We wandered around looking at the little souvenir shops:

and went up the gondola which had the most spectacular views,:

We then went for hot chocolate in Mrs Ferg cafe which was one of the best hot chocolates I had and we sat drinking them at the stone beach by the lake. The lake was beautiful in between the hills.

The next day was Milford sound and we had booked a tour. We had a four hour bus journey through some beautiful scenery, some of which features in Lord of the Rings, and made friends with two guys from England, Dan and John. They were a great laugh and we went on the cruise together. The Milford sound was amazing. There were dolphins and fur seals as well.

Then it was time to go back to Queenstown and we went out with the the two guys to this bar called cowboys which was basically an all american bar complete with buckaroo!

Queenstown was amazing and even though I didn't do the adventure things I still really enjoyed it. It reminded me of the scenery of Scotland.

Wellington- Party Central

We landed in Wellington in the afternoon and by the time we made our way to the hostel it was quite late so we opted for the cinema near us (which was only £5). The main town centre is host to lots of bars and restaurants mainly selling pizza and burgers. It was full of people partying on a wednesday night. No one had said it was party central but it felt a lot like a street in Magaluf!

The next day we went to the harbour and had breakfast. It felt a lot like being on the docks and they had used containers as shops which was interesting. We then went to the Te Papa Museum and it was fantastic. we spent most of the day there. It was all about New Zealand, it was a great museum and free!

Then we went to the Museum of Wellington to learn all about Wellington. It was housed in a lovely old building. After, we wandered the streets looking at the shops. Then went for dinner.

The next day we went to the cable car and on to Zealandia which is a conservation area housing loads of birdlife. We were able to spot most of the birds on the list. It was a beautiful area on the outskirts of Wellington with a river and there were shags, parrots and different robins etc. There is also the kiwi but it only comes out at night. My camera broke taking a picture of a bird!

We then were given a lift back to the botanic gardens and wandered through them. They were quite hilly and it didn't feel like we were in the middle of the city.

We walked to the houses of parliament building and to the Beehive (called that cause it looks like a honeycomb apparently)

Then strolled along the waterfront and had dinner. We were then approached by two guys who offered us a drink and we sat with them chatting at the waterfront. They were interesting guys but a bit drunk 😊.

The final day was spent at the art gallery which was awful. Full of modern art that made no sense. Then I bought a new camera (thanks for the birthday present mum) and we went for dessert at a cafe. We walked up cuba street which was a bit of an eclectic street with some interesting cafes and normal shops. We then sat at the man made beach looking at the harbour which was very pretty.

We were also given a gym pass so went tot the gym in an attempt to be healthy!

I'm not sure I liked Wellington as a city. I loved the museum and Zealandia but I thought the city itself wasn't very pretty. The centre was a lot like being in a party town (which is great if your 18) but not when you are trying to find things to do. I think the surrounds of Wellington would be really pretty though.

Auckland- Hobbiton

There was a transport strike when we arrived at Auckland so it took us 3 hours to get to our Air B&B in Auckland. When we did we were greeted by an interesting lady. She was older and very bossy and quite particular about everything. We thought it was hilarious. She had a lovely wee dog too who kept trying to escape and succeeded! We arrived quite late so just went to dinner and then came back but the next day we went to pick up our car for the Bay of Islands.

We drove 4 hours to the Bay of islands and the scenery was lovely. The actual wee villages next to the Bay of Islands were lovely too and we took a ferry across to Russells and had fish and chips.

The Bay was beautiful with massive Islands in the distance, it almost felt like I was back in Halong Bay.

We also had the car for the next day so we went to Hobbiton! It was a two hour tour and this was great if you like the Hobbit as it was the film set and a village with lots of hobbit houses and really detailed scenery with Gardens and the houses etc.

We then had to give the car up so the next day we went into Auckland. It's really expensive to do things in Auckland like museums etc. if your not a local as international people are charged $25 each time so we walked to the docks and had coffee at the harbour.

There is a boat race coming up so it was full of boats. We then walked to the Domain Gardens and the Winter Gardens. There are a lot of parks in Auckland. We also did the Albert Park too. Then went to the dessert shop Miann which was recommended to me by my New zealand friend Penni. After, we wandered round the shops before going home for dinner. Then the dog escaped and we spent the next hour looking for it!

On our last day it poured in rain so we went to another park and got soaked but saw loads of birdlife then it was time to get the plane for our overnight flight.

I loved the scenery in New Zealand but not really the cities, there wasn't anything special about them. If coming I would recommend avoiding the cities and going round the villages and natural beauty etc as this is the best thing about New zealand!