Sydney to Brisbane

Not quite the backpacking trip we usually take. This is what happens when you have a full time job, ah well, it’s not forever! A whirlwind between Sydney and Brisbane.

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We’ve been to Sydney quite a few times in the past, we like Sydney and fondly call it Auckland’s big brother and London’s baby sister. Brisbane on the other hand was new territory, a whole other state of Australia, we feel like Captain Cook and his first mate!

Highlights of our journey in photos

A boat ride up Sydney harbour

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Lots of rest, Australia is really hot!

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Walking Bondi to Coogee

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Champagne breakfast

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Visiting Pelicans

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Heaps of golden, golden beaches

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Time on Tangalooma island

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And last but not least, a hot air balloon ride!!!

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We decided to fly from Auckland to Sydney and from Sydney to Brisbane then Brisbane back to Auckland. The price of flights on all these routes is so competitive, so we got a really great deal especially between Sydney and Brisbane, which would have taken upwards of 12 hours (with my slow driving) to get to our accommodation.

I’m afraid there is nothing actionable in this post, but I plan to put together a Brisbane in a weekend and Sydney in a weekend itinerary in the next installments to this blog so do check back!

Nusa Lemborgan

After a what we thought was a treacherous boat ride from Gili T to Nusa Lemborgan (according to regulars who cross however, this was in their words the crossing was “no big deal, a bad crossing is where everyone is being sick or the boat is sinking”) – reassuring!

Once on solid ground (thank goodness!) We hopped onto a utility truck (which Dawn kept calling a folk lift truck) 8 passengers, 16 pieces of luggage and a surf board of which the (typical) Aussie was saying “oh I feel so bad” did he heck he was glad his board wasn’t being stood on, to this discomfort of other passengers! Ten minutes later we’d arrived at our first accommodation, The Well House. Set in calming gardens with an infinity pool, we instantly felt relaxed. We’d rented for two nights a traditional Lembong house overlooking the pool. It was spot on and again like Gili, just 2 minutes’ walk to the beach and two minutes to where our friends Adrian and Rowan were staying!

The Well House
The Well House
Where I lay my hat is my home...
Where I lay my hat is my home…

After a quick exploration of Mushroom Bay we caught up with Adrian and Rowan for a spot of dinner at their accommodation, Alam Nusa. Adrian was really hungry and had two dinners (good bye Bali belly!), the banana in palm sugar was so simple, yet delicious.

Mushroom bay
Mushroom bay

The next day we explored Dream Beach, The Devil’s Tears (number one tourist spot according to Trip Advisor) and Sunset Point. Unfortunately this is the point that our camera broke…we were limited on snaps!

We met up again with the guys for lunch at the Dream Beach Restaurant, fish was mediocre – could have been better. We spent the afternoon at their accommodation as they told us they found a gem of a place, we didn’t really believe it until we saw it!

The place was called Sunset Villas, just a stone’s throw away from Sandy Bay beach (aka sunset point) it was quiet here (we are visiting in low season, apparently). Sunset Villas had two pools, one of them being the biggest on the island it was a 25 metre full length pool. Adrian and Rowan bagged the pool side villa for £30 a night and when we found out the villa next door was available we bagged it for the princely sum of £30 per night, bargain! The owner Blacky was super helpful and friendly to deal with and laid back. The last days of our holiday are coming together nicely, a perfect way to spend our last few days together in Indo.

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Sunset Villas
Sunset Villas

We moved in the following day, below are a few pictures of our accommodation including the separate lounge area than the bedroom! At Dream Beach the day before we saw this truck pull up and drop around 8 people there for lunch, we approached the guy who was called Helli (as he liked to say “like  helicopter”), we were looking for a personal tour guide to help us get around the island without renting mopeds. He was glad to help us for 400,000IDR (roughly £20, or £5 each). We asked “How long can we have you for”, his reply was “As long as you want boss” he was the right character!

Helli's truck!
Helli’s truck!

True to his word he came back at 9:30 and took us from the Well House over to Sunset Villas where we checked in and met up with the lads. After this our next stop was cash, with just one ATM on the island of Lemorgan and we’d not taken out any cash in days –  we so desperately needed some to pay our way. After visiting the ATM we were on our way, driving towards the mangrove forest for a quick boat tour – captained by Adrian and Rowan. After this we visited the north of the island and Helli picked up a crate of beer for us for our beer fridge (burp!).

Thanks Rowan for this snap!
Thanks Rowan for this snap!

Helli then drove us to the bridge that joins Nusa Lemborgan to Nusa Penida. Trucks (such as folk lift trucks 😛 ) can’t cross the bridge and so Helli dropped us at the bridge and left us for a couple of hours to explore the island. We walked over the precarious bridge to the other island, avoiding motor bikes from both directions! We didn’t expect it to be much different, but it was. It was very unspoiled and under-developed. We were walking through villages observing the locals as they carry on their day to day lives – mostly seaweed farming. We had a lunch at a lovely look out spot that spied the bridge and shallow waters separating the two islands. After an hours walk we headed back to meet Helli and back to our villas for a swim and some beers before we set out for dinner!

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That evening we had some dinner at Sandy Bay beach café – beautiful food! That evening after a couple of beers and belly full of food we got lost on the way home, what should have been a five minute walk turned into a thirty minute one, doh!

The next day we spent mainly at Mushroom bay, we lounged, we ate (two lunches!) had a massage, and relaxed…

sleep sleep
sleep sleep

We missed the sunset and somehow managed to miss dinner also! It seems the island shuts down for food at 8pm and for drinks at 10pm meaning every restaurant we approached at 8pm would not serve us! Luckily our host Blacky saved the day by taking Adrian with him to get some kai (noodles, pringles and oreos). Sorry no pictures it was a kind of a must eat scenario with no phones or camera time!

With one final day together we started early with a pool party before, a few beers down us and Isaac flaked and needed his afternoon nap!

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Poool Partay!
Poool Partay!

 

It was a really enjoyable day together but with not much action, we did see an epic sunset though (finally!)

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capturing the sunset
Capturing the sunset

The walk home from the restaurant was fun! (this time we didn’t get lost!) We saw shooting stars (Rowan saw 7, though he’d drank a few beers) and then a large hermit crab which seemed to be followed by a huge snake that crossed our path putting the heebee jeebees in us for the rest of our journey.  Dawn and Adrian ran and laughed, Isaac just stared in amazement and shone the torch on it and Rowan, well Rowan ran the opposite direction and then stood still! He needed some encouragement to walk past the snake!

The final goodbye...
The final goodbye…

This is of course a super late post! We have been in NZ now for a few weeks and simply having too much fun! We will keep posting as much as we can, so watch this space!

Lombok

After the (week of) birthday celebrations we decided to go to Lombok, an island the same sort of size as Bali which is not as developed. From the Gili islands we could see Lombok, it looked green and lush with vegetation, golden beaches it had a certain mystery surrounding it, it would be rude not to visit, wouldn’t it?

 

Our Lonely Planet guided us to a tourist hotspot town of Sengiggi on the west coast of Lombok. We decided to use this as our base for two nights whilst exploring the island.

We took an extremely short and peaceful boat journey (just the two of us on board!) to Lombok with Scoot Cruises who then drove us directly to our accommodation along windy, but smooth roads. The drive was only 20 minutes and the views either side were of luscious greenery, sea/ocean, sand and coastline on the other.

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Ahh this time Dawny let Isaac pick the accommodation, and this will be the last time (till next time ;-)) Our room was small, dark, and dingy, next to the reception and we were greeted by an extremely large Gecko. The staff said the Gecko was harmless and won’t eat us…phew!! It took some convincing for the staff to remove the foot long reptile pet.

After doing some reading we decided the best way to explore the island in the short time we had was to get a driver for the day. Enter Eko, he had raving reviews on Trip Advisor and had been in the private tour guide business for more than 15 years. His business model was fascinating, he has relied only on referrals (Trip advisor) and word of mouth to generate business all these years and he is a very busy man. Together we agreed on an itinerary for North Lombok, including markets, waterfalls and mountains – he would come with an air conditioned vehicle, himself and a driver for 900,000IDR.

Driving
Driving

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Random beach!
Random beach!

The highlight of our trip was the waterfalls a couple hour drive from Sengiggi, Eko organized another local guide to take us to the actual waterfalls – I think he has a gambling problem or something they like cards out here! According to Eko, you need to pay a local guide 60,000IDR to visit the waterfalls – our chap was pretty helpful and assisted Dawn across slippery rocks and carried our bags when we were hot. We took shoes, these weren’t needed as it was hot and dry when we visited. The waterfall was a 70 metre drop which local (and tourists) used as a sort of shower. I imagine being under the waterfall would probably strip shorts and bikini bottoms, hell of a force! The second waterfall was smaller but had a deeper pool of water, so Isaac had to swim while Dawn got soaked from the spray (should have come for a swim!) The water here was ice cold and technically mountain spring water – therefore drinkable?

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Isaac Swimming!
Isaac swimming!

That evening we caught a beautiful sunset behind a little Hindu temple carved into the rock face.

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And while walking the beach chanced upon a little Italian restaurant (this place was better than some of the pizza we had in actual Italy). The next morning we researched moving on to catch up with Mr A and Mr R who were by now on Nusa Lemborgan. A couple hours later we were back on a Scoot boat heading to Gili T, then on to Nusa Lemorgan. What a rough trip this was, wish we took some sea sickness tablets – alas we arrived safely, we couldn’t wait to get off the boat! Hello Nusa, more in our next blog…

Dawny’s Birthday

Just a short post today about the event that is Dawn’s Birthday. Let’s not forget that this whole trip was masterfully centred around the 6th December! We checked into the Oceano resort using Birthday money from the family (and Isaac). We stayed in a plush beach bungalow, a stones throw from the beach front and north of the island. Here we ate, bathed, drank, slept, swam, cycled and relaxed a lot.

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Our room
Our room

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Our resort had a ‘pool bar’, basically some stools in the swimming pool facing a bar. Is a pool bar for lazy people who drink lots then take a pee in the pool? Eww!

We rented bikes one day, it was the easiest way to get around. Going around the island the second time we found things we hadn’t seen before such as the sea swing and other bits pictured below:

Birthday lunch!
Birthday lunch!

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Just swinging!
Just swinging!

In the evening, the heavens opened! Just as Dawn dialed her parents and sister on Google Hangouts. When it rains out here – it really badly affects the WiFi, so it wasn’t possible to speak for long, which was a shame, bring on NZ (please have better Internet!!). Our backpacking travels had once again turned into a leisurely holiday in paradise.

The Gili Islands

Ah, paradise! No trip to Bali would be complete without visiting the famous Gili Islands, Gili Trewangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. We planned to stay 5 days on these islands and meet up with Adrian, Amy and Rowan for a few lazy, exciting and hopefully one boozy (Birth)day!

Birthday joy
Birthday joy

You can get to the Gili Islands two ways: fly or by boat (the boat option is more popular but you have to cross an ocean which claims a lot of boats!!) We heard from Adrian that the airport in Lombok (the nearest island to the Gili, as The Gili Isles do not have an airport between them) has recently moved 2 hours south within Lombok. For Mr A this means a longer and therefore more expensive journey. Because of this, we researched ‘safe’ and fast boats, going with Blue Water Express (£30 one way per person), a total journey time of just 1 hour 15 minutes. The friendly chaps even came and picked us up at 6:30 from Ubud, by 10:15 we had rocked up in what we can only describe as paradise!

The ride was so quick, Blue Water Express has fitted racing style seats too, just needs go faster stripes now! The water was fairly calm and wasn’t too bumpy, not as bad as some trips on the Scillonian!

Fast boat to Gili
Fast boat to Gili

On the other end, we hailed a horse and cart who took us to our accommodation 5 minutes from the main centre of island.

Scary ride on the horse and cart!
Scary ride on the horse and cart!

Wisma Bunda is where we called home for the next few days. Wisma Bunda was a great find, a deal, a steal for £20 a night we had: air conditioning and fan, check, fridge, check, free water, check, free bikes, check and a 2 minute walk from where the Blakes and the Blewett were staying!

Cows on the road near Wisma Bunda
Cows on the road near Wisma Bunda

During our first day we ate, relaxed and soaked up the good weather, washed down with a couple of cheeky Bintangs (local beer). Around 16:30 we went for a snorkel and a hungry sea turtle swam within feet of us – Amy moved so fast to keep up with it! We visited the local night market for dinner and had snapper, coconut water and pancakes – the fish and coconut water were much better than the pancake (which was more like a cake).

The moment Amy realised she was near a Sea Turtle!
The moment Amy realized she was near a Sea Turtle!

The next day we spent some more time lounging (or lazing). In the afternoon we took advantage of our free bikes and started to cycle the island. When we left, it was drizzling a little, refreshing we thought. By the time we’re halfway around, the heavens opened up and it didn’t just rain, it POURED! We had major déjà vu – long cycles in Indonesia = rain for us? We managed it though, with the help of shelter in the Oceanio resort café for an hour while the worst passed. As a group, we had dinner of tuna steaks and chicken fajitas at a friendly restaurant called Scallywags. We were all super tired though and we knew we needed to conserve energy for our last and final day together!

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A bit wet!
A bit wet!

On our last and final day with the chaps, we managed to organize a private boat and guide for a 5 hour snorkeling trip inclusive of numerous snorkeling spots, visits to Gili Meno, and Gili Air (for lunch best Nasi Goreng). On the last snorkel spot, our guide managed to locate two turtles which we all frantically swam after (like Amy on our first day!) Here are a few snaps of our day together…

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Best group photo we had!
Best group photo we had!

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Rowan
Rowan

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Adrian
Adrian
Sea Turtle!
Sea Turtle!

We munched a special Birthday dinner at the Pearl Beach Lounge Club splurged on Rose wine (first glass of wine in 6 weeks!!), a cheeky cocktail (DA: Margarita, IB: Mojito) followed by a PINT of Guinness, yes that is right no (Appleby) Birthday celebration would be complete without a Guinness!

On day four, the guys left us, but we meet with Adrian and Rowan next week for more good times (Amy has left to go home). We moved to beach resort for relaxation and luxury for my birthday.

Our next post will be about Dawn’s (real) Birthday day and our time on the other side of Gili T, here’s a snap of the sunset to finish the blog off!!

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Bali and Ubud

 

This morning we had to be up at 5.30am (yawn), this equalled a very grumpy Dawn! We were in the car for nearly 3 hours…

Snore
Snore

When we arrived at Mount Batur for breakfast with this view…

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After breakfast we were taken to a Coffee and Herb plantation to learn more about Balinese coffee, more importantly we were invited to try the different coffees including the famous Luwak Coffee.

Coffee
Coffee

This coffee is basically the end product of a ‘cat like’ animal who eats and semi-processes the beans, then poops them out. They are then cleaned, roasted, ground and turned into coffee.

“This Coffee tastes like Shit”

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In Harrods you can get this coffee for £75 a cup and one must say that it was a fine beverage, jolly good stuff. Even Dawn has a crack and she doesn’t like coffee.

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The cat that produces the poo coffee
The cat that produces the poo coffee

After drinking poo coffee we went with Bali Eco Cycling tours to a village high in the mountain where we set off on a three hour cycle ride. We were aware that the majority was downhill, but it was actually pretty much all down hill – so great for lazy Dawn! Half way through our journey gods bathtub overflowed and the roads became little rivers, our tour guide handed out florescent coloured ponchos.. for the next hour it poured!

Before
Before
and after it rained!
and after it rained!

We couldn’t take many snaps on our cycle ride due to the rain which was a shame. Before It rained however, we managed to visit a local Balinese family (who kindly leant there squat loo to Dawn, eww!) It’s amazing how humble the family were and happy for us to have a look around, find out more about the traditional family and interact with them. The youngest children insisted on playing football – the universal sport.. who is David Beckem?!

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Lovely family!
Lovely family!

After the cycle ride we had an Indonesian buffet lunch, which was OK, nothing special. Another 40 minutes and we were being dropped to our next accommodation Gerhana Sari 2 Bungalows in Central Ubud. No aircon – uhoh! But a lovely outdoor seating area to relax in, it was covered which was great as it was still raining – maybe we should have come during the sunny season, all this rain is really wet!

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On our travels around China we met a nice Canadian girl who was travelling solo. She hated the traditional hard Chinese beds and beg bugs (understandable!!) so carried around a lightweight hammock,. The company who manufacture them are called Ticket To The Moon and they happen make their products here in Bali! Isaac had decided then he wanted to check them out and so we headed off out to their outlet in Ubud!

The lady in the store was great and let us try out all the hammocks we eventually purchased the king size one with ‘tree friendly’ straps, it will be great for camping in NZ!

 

Our Hammock
Our Hammock

After exploring the town of Ubud we had a bite to eat nearby and headed to bed. The next day we had breakfast and Isaac decided he wanted to head into town to by some new vests for himself but perhaps he really went to get a present for Dawn, wink wink!

We spent the day relaxing and planning our boat trip and next part of our adventure – the Gili islands featuring Amy, Adrian and Rowan!

Bali and Jimbaran

After a 12 hour stop over at Singapore airport, a tiresome, long wait for our connecting flight thanks Tiger Air (not). Whilst in Singapore airport we made the most of the free Singapore tour around the man made metropolis – hard to think of this place as SE Asia.

Singapore!
Singapore!

We arrived into Bali early in the morning, greeted by blue sky and what felt like 30 degree heat. Our driver was waiting patiently for us in the lobby (finding accommodation which offers free pickup or can arrange transfers for us is key in our decision making and stops the taxi men hounding us). After heading south for about 20 minutes by car we were in Jimbaran, a popular strip in the evening for dining and beaching during the day. We decided on this location to try the fresh local seafood and to relax in the sun as it had been a long 3 days since our last visit to a beach!

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Jimbaran beach
Jimbaran beach

The beach was very local by day and by night tourists from all over arrived by the bus load for tasty fresh local BBQ food, entertainment in the form of a band and the sun setting in front of them.. how romantic.

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There were what seemed to be endless restaurants on the strip of beach, in this situation Trip Advisor was consulted and we wound up at Barung Café. We asked to inspect the goods and were taken out back where we inspected and chose our seafood (a trip advisor tip), priced it all up – happy days. Looking at all that tasty seafood we probably (definitely) ordered too much, regardless it was the best meal we had in SE Asia so far. Our order was for one snapper, six massive prawns (not like the ones we get back in England) and two crabs. Our meal came with salad and soup starter, rice, potatoes and some veg. The seafood was simply outstanding combined with the setting and entertainment provided quite a romantic evening for us and the other couples dotted around the beach. Top tip: If you go to a beach restaurant and its candle lit, bring a torch. We had to eat the fish by hand at times and the crab was fiddly, luckily it was dark and no one could see us fingering the food.

Our Supper
Our Supper
Nom Nom
Nom Nom

The next day we were still feeling super tired from out flight and just rested, researched Ubud and swam in the pool at our accommodation.

The pool
The pool

We were looking into transport from Jimbaran to Ubud, a taxi would cost us 350,000(IDR) one way for less than an hours drive, it got Isaac thinking, what if we do a tour and get the tour company to pick us up? Enter Eco Cycling Tours, for 480,000(IDR) each they would pick us up from Jimbaran and take us to our next accommodation in Ubud for no extra cost! We saved our selves some money, get to see some of the mountains and haven’t lost a day in moving around the island – win win!

With our last day in Jimbaran rounding to a close we went back to the beach and had more fish for dinner!

More Kai!
More Kai!
The sunset
The sunset

Cat Ba Island

 

Cat Ba Island is the biggest inhabited island in Halong Bay and it is by far the most beautiful island we have ever visited! Most of the island forms part of Cat Ba National Park, a sanctuary for thousands of species including some rare species of monkey lurking somewhere amongst snakes, spiders and thousands of beautifully coloured butterflies. On our first day we entered the National Park with the intention of trekking to the peak which provides a vantage point out over rolling hills unspoiled by humans.

The trek should have taken us two hours, but within just twenty minutes of trekking we lost our group (Our excuse: it was so hot and we were taking too many photos!) We tried to catch up but there were too many forks in the road, we had no idea which route the rest of the group had taken.

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We continued on at our own pace taking in the scenery for what we thought was another half an hour, then turned back having not reached the vantage point *sad face*. Better than missing out ride to Cat Ba Town! At the bus, we were joined by many sweaty people who told us that the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze (the view was disappointing, given the effort taken to climb) this made Dawn feel better!

Getting Lost!
Getting Lost!

After the trek we were transferred to Cat Ba town and to our resort Cat Ba Beach Resort. Our home for 3 nights was called a seaview (more of a garden view with a glimpse of possible sea or maybe sky actually guys, get it right).

Our bungalow
Our bungalow

 

And the view...
And the view…

The room was novelty, this was what Isaac pointed out when entering, it took Dawn three days to realise this. The room was fairly small and had an outside bathroom – you’ll understand from the photo below!

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It wasn’t the best beach hut we had stayed in, but the cove it was built on made up for it. It was bliss for four days and three nights, ahhh.

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We were located around 20 minutes from the main town along pretty much the same road, so it was easy to nip into town for food (and Tiger beers -30-50p a pop) and wobble home. The town reminded Dawn of Hugh town in the Scillies because it was a small town where everyone seems to  know everyone). We located a cheap supermarket (CT mart) and loaded our fridge with Hanoi and Tiger beer!

Cat Ba Town by night
Cat Ba Town by night

One thing we did struggle to find on Cat Ba Island was good food. We were told that this season is low season for the island and this was evident when walking down the streets – many shops and restaurants were closed (In the north of Vietnam it is winter, a chilly 25 Celsius and these guys are shivering when taking their big jackets off). The town seems to be a bit of ghost town in the day but becomes lively at night and with trip advisor only recognising around 30 of the restaurants with low review numbers, finding a good feed has been a challenge! Beer on the other hand hadn’t. In many of the bars here ‘happy hour’ actually lasts the entirety of the day- so no need to rush. One bar has the following sign: “if you drink to forget, please pay as you drink” – I can understand this now.

Our time on Cat Ba Island has mainly been spent sunbathing, drinking, eating, kayaking, trekking, swimming, writing this blasted blog and reading our books! Sounds like a holiday, doesn’t it?

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Just a little bit merry!
Just a little bit merry!

We visited a fort on top of the tallest hill in sight used during WW2 named Cannon Fort. It was a hell of a trek, why, why did we decided to go in the heat of the day! A walk which was meant to take just 40 minutes, took us about 1 hour 30 minutes… At the top though, well worth the sweat, tiredness and time…what a view! To the north you can see the vast view of the National park (see no need to climb the peak anyway!) from the east you could see famous Monkey Island and the coves where our accommodation was. From the South you can see the vast amount of floating villages where most of the locals do actually live and from the west you can witness the amazing sunset. We didn’t actually watch the sunset from here but from the town you get a beast of a sunset in the comfort of Happy Hour, why not…the ice creams by the way at the top of cannon fort were manky!

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Our time in Vietnam is coming to a close, we haven’t spent enough time here and plan to return here in the future – so much culture, tasty food, humble people and this place represents great value for money. Perhaps on our return journey to England some day we will pop into Nam for a couple more weeks and check out the centre and south! Now onto Bali!