122 Glorious Days in Bali

Being able to call Bali my home for the last four months has been nothing short of amazing. I met some awesome people from all over the world, saw some stunning scenery, experienced a string of near-daily earthquakes, and made many unforgettable memories. First and foremost, I … have… a… BOYFRIEND! Cue your mouth dropping to the floor. Mary Poppins has found her Bert! Or as Flynn would say, Laura has found her Llyod! I know you are all dying to hear the details as it’s been nearly seven years since these words have come out of my mouth so here we go…

Anthony and I first met back in January in a Kuala Lumpur hostel. I had been doing research on my laptop for Adam and my Thailand trip for a few hours when I heard, “Are you working hard or hardly working?” Quite the pickup line, I know… I gladly welcomed the break and we hung out for a few hours until I headed to the airport to catch my flight to Bali. He was also planning on going to Bali two weeks later to celebrate his birthday so we exchanged Facebook Messenger and off I went.

Remember when I randomly went to that AirBNB in Balian Beach with the two Americans for two days? Anthony was one of them. We spent two weeks together in Bali and then parted ways as I was heading to Thailand to get certified to teach English and then off to Cambodia and Nepal with Flynn.

Fast forward to May, I got a random phone call from him about three days before I was flying back to Bali to start this whole teaching gig. Turns out, he never left Bali from the time he first arrived back in January, apart from visa runs. Bali is truly THAT amazing! About a week after I arrived back in Bali, we met up for dinner and the rest is history.

Fun facts about Anthony: He was born in Jamaica, immigrated to the US when he was nine, and became a US citizen in 2002. He served in the Marine Corps. You know I like those military men! He has been traveling in Asia since February 2017. He meets my four minimum requirements of 1) Doesn’t live with his parents, 2) Is financially stable, 3) Doesn’t have kids, and 4) Believes in God. He crushes my “It’d be a bonus if he was…. List”, but I’m sure you have better things to do than hear me gush about how wonderful of a man he is.

So without further ado, here are some of the highlights since the last blog post (Full disclosure – Anthony has granted me permission to write about him without any sensors. Bless those famous last words of his) :

7/29 – Sunday morning as I was lying in bed awake at 6:30am (thanks rooster who lives behind my house), I started to feel an earthquake.  Here we go again. Although this time, it wasn’t over in a minute and was stronger than the previous ones. Um… why is it still happening? At what point do I get out of bed and take cover?? What would I even hide under? Our dining room table outside??? But if I’m outside, I might as well just stand in the rice terrace as nothing would fall on me there… As I was lost in these thoughts (and still lying in bed), the earthquake stopped. A quick Google search informed me the earthquake was, in fact, the biggest one I’ve been in…. a 6.4!

8/1 Anthony and I went on a weekend getaway to Uluwatu to check out the southern part of Bali. I was a little hesitant at first as we had never spent more than 16 hours together and I like my own space. We didn’t really do much besides work and check out the nightlife at Single Fin. We spent most of the day in our little villa. On Sunday, as we were eating breakfast before heading back to Canggu (where we both lived in Bali), we were reflecting on the weekend. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m actually surprised I didn’t get annoyed of you and or feel like I needed space. I was a bit nervous about this weekend before we came down here, ” I said. “I was thinking the same thing, ” Anthony replied with a smile. This might actually work out…  Uluwatu Nyang Nyang Beach 8

Git Git Waterfall 278/4 – After the successful Uluwatu weekend, Anthony and I decided to try our luck again with another mini vacation and spent four days in Ubud. After checking in to our AirBNB, we drove up north to GitGit Waterfall as it had been on my list to check out since I was first in Bali back in January 2017. And I wanted to see if Anthony could keep up with my adventurous side. After a short little hike down through a forest, we arrived at the first of seven waterfalls. The area around these waterfalls was even cooler than I expected. There were some awesome photo ops; there was a giant swing; there was aGit Git Waterfall 37 cliff jumping platform! You know I love a good cliff jump! Anthony declined my offer of cliff jumping so I had him be my photographer and videographer instead. This could really work out!

After a few hours of fun in the sun, we began our two hour journey back to Ubud. About an hour in, the sun had gone down, it was raining pretty heavily, and my phone had died. I was set on making it back to our AirBNB by all means necessary, but Anthony was quite the opposite. My view: we already paid for the AirBNB, I have my rain jacket on, we’re only an hour away, this will be quite the adventure trying to navigate our way back in the dark and rain! This is AMAZING! Why does he keep stopping? Why is he grumpy? He’s being such a diva. I don’t think he’s going to be able to keep up with me. Looks like I’ll still get to have real adventures by myself.  His view: This is dangerous. Why take the risk? I’m cold. There’s a hotel just up the road we can stay in. This experience is not the reason I’m traveling. This is her view of fun? What is wrong with her?!

After some discussion, we ended up staying the night in Saranam Resort as it was the first, and really only, hotel in the area. And oh… my… gosh… it was BEAUTIFUL and luxurious! I’m talking pillowtop mattress, plush robes, a balcony overlooking rice terraces, pool, two restaurants on-site, etc. Full on resort in the middle of nowhere. We lived like a king and queen for the night and soaked up all their amenities, including a fantastic breakfast complete with Western foods that I had been desperately missing.

Saranam Resort and Spa 2

The view from our balcony at Saranam Resort

8/5 – After arriving back in Ubud and settling into our hotel, I began my evening shift of teaching. In the middle of a class, I felt shaking and heard the dishes rattling in our kitchenette. Eh, it’ll stop here shortly like all the others. This time, however, it kept getting stronger and it wasn’t stopping. All of a sudden, I yelled to my student, “Shit, I’m in an earthquake!” and went into full-on panic mode. Since I was teaching out on our balcony, I ran inside, threw my computer on the table, and sprinted outside towards the street. That’s when I realized that I didn’t even think about making sure Anthony got out as well. I think I’ve been single for too long…. Do I go back inside to get him? Is it safer to stay out here? He surely must have felt that even though he was in the upstairs of our hotel room. But what if he’s sleeping? Does he know what to do in an earthquake? After going back to get him, we had a discussion on what we should do if another earthquake happens again. After some quick Google searches, we found out that earthquake hit the next door island of Lombok and was a 7.0.

Ubud LOL Bar

Introducing Anthony to the wonderful world of wine at Ubud’s LOL Bar

We felt numerous aftershocks through the night and well into the next few days. On August 9th, when we were back in Canggu, Lombok was hit again with another earthquake; this time a 6.2.

 

Over the next two weeks, 20+ earthquakes (5.5 or smaller) were felt on the island of Bali. It got to the point that most times I couldn’t tell if I was still feeling aftershocks or if my mind was playing tricks on me so I ended up putting a glass of water on my dresser. If I was feeling shaking, I just looked at the glass of water to see if it was also moving. Due to all these earthquakes/aftershocks, there was some chatter about a threat of a tsunami coming. There’s really not too much you can do to protect yourself from a tsunami when you’re on a small island. After some discussion with my two roommates, we came up with our own evacuation plan —- grab surfboards and attach them to our ankles. Surfboards float and are pretty durable. Never in my life did I think I’d have to have evacuation plans for both earthquakes and tsunamis. My, how my life has changed…. 

8/11 – I had been taking Indonesian classes consistently for about a month at this point. Whenever I interacted with a local, I would try to speak to them in Indonesian for as much as I could before switching over to English. On a few intoxicated nights, I seamlessly spoke in both English and Indonesian to Anthony, only to realize later that he doesn’t understand any Indonesian. Is this the first sign of fluency in a second language?!

8/14 – After two successful trips around Bali, we decided to go on one last trip to make sure traveling together could actually be a reality. We decided to treat ourselves to four days at that REALLY nice resort we stayed in on a whim during the bad rainstorm the previous week. After checking in to our room, Anthony used the bathroom. Soon after, I heard, “Um… shit. SHIT. ” He came out of the bathroom and said, “We’re about to get really close…. everything that I just did in the toilet… is now all over the floor…. DON’T GO OR LOOK IN THERE!”  After laughing for a solid ten minutes, we had maintenance clean up the bathroom while we were upgraded to the business suite. Yep, I think we’ll be just fine traveling together.

The next day we drove two hours to Aling-Aling Waterfall. I was super excited to go there as there were a couple of highly sought-after cliff-jumping spots. In true fashion, Anthony stayed down low to video/photograph me while I gleefully hopped off 5, 10, and 15 meter (16, 32, and 49 feet) high cliffs. On the walk back to our scooters, Anthony said, “You’re the first person I’ve dated with this personality. Like, you talk about doing all these cool and extreme things and then you ACTUALLY do them with no hesitation!”

Aling Aling Waterfall (29)

Scoping out the 15 meter cliff jump!

Aling Aling Waterfall (46)

Aling-Aling Waterfall

8/25 – With Anthony being a big movie buff (he’s seen every movie that has come out in theaters in the last 3 years), we went to a real movie theater to watch Mile 22. The showing that we wanted was already sold out  upon arrival, so the cashier offered us a showing 45 minutes later in their Premier Experience. So for $7 each, we got blankets, comfortable leather recliners, and they only allowed a total of 16 people in the theater. I could get used to this! A movie in a regular theater in the US is at least $10 and that’s if you go to a matinee! After the lights dimmed, the previews started rolling. Only in Indonesia do you watch the trailer before the show starts. Yes, literally the last preview before the movie started was the trailer!

8/28 – I was randomly thinking about my teeth one day. I usually get my teeth cleaned twice a year, but since traveling, I haven’t had a cleaning in 2 years. After getting a recommendation from one of my local friends, I headed to the dentist. My bathroom was bigger than her office. The equipment was from the 70s complete with a spit sink, but it smelled like a dentist office back in the States so I went with it. 30 minutes and $20 USD later (without insurance), my teeth were sparkling clean! I will definitely be back to her next time I’m in Bali.

8/31 – Ooo… this was a rough one… I had a complete mental breakdown day. I wound up at Anthony’s with tears streaming down my face and a racing mind that I couldn’t quiet down. I hate teaching! I feel so burnt out. But if I don’t teach, how will I continue to travel? Anthony and I will now be traveling AND living together. My minimum requirements in accommodation are much lower than his, so how do I find us a place that stays within my budget but that’s he’s happy with? I really need to buy another round of health insurance. Etc. Etc. Basically, I was stressing out about money. Back in the States, I had always kept to a strict budget while still being able to put money away into savings after each paycheck. I knew exactly how much was coming in and how much I was spending. But with traveling and teaching, a) you don’t entirely know your budget before entering a country and b) students can cancel class up to a minute before which causes me to lose out on money I had already anticipated getting. Even though I open my hours up for 40 hours per week, it greatly varies on how much I actually teach. If I don’t teach a class due to a cancellation or the slot not getting filled, then I don’t get paid for it. It’s even worse than an hourly job because at least with hourly, you are essentially guaranteed those hours for the shift that is assigned to you. I’m really just living paycheck to paycheck at this point and I have NEVER done that in my life. You can do research up to your ears, but you still don’t have an exact understanding of what just basic items cost such as water, local food, transportation, etc. So I was majorly stressing out as Anthony and I were headed to Hong Kong for a week and then off to Taiwan. A few days after he talked me down off the ledge, I was able to come to some conclusions:

Being a digital nomad doesn’t mean you work less… it really just means you can work from anywhere in the world. You’re able to live in some of the most exotic places that other people only get to experience during a short five-day vacation. You get the chance to live like a local and really immerse yourself into the culture rather than just be a tourist. Teaching English is definitely not something I want to do for the rest of my life, but it’s what allows me to continue to travel the world right now.

While I’ll definitely miss Bali, I’m excited to explore new cultures and countries again. A little piece of me, rather a LARGE piece, is sad that I can’t say I’m solo traveling anymore. I love the look/reaction I get when locals/other travelers find out I’m traveling by myself, especially as a female. It’s that look of utter disbelief mixed with respect that I crave. I also like being able to do what I want, when I want, without having to take other people into consideration. Since Anthony and I started making plans to travel together, I’ve had numerous conversations with Barb about this internal struggle. The best advice she gave me was, “You’ve never traveled with a significant other before. Maybe you’ll enjoy it even more than solo travel.”

I guess we’ll find out soon enough…

Kuta Sky Garden 2

Girls’ night with Haley at Sky Garden

Uluwatu Balangan Beach 3

Trying to catch the sunset from Balangan Beach in Uluwatu

Uluwatu Nyang Nyang Beach 6

Mini hike down to Nyang Nyang Beach

Uluwatu Nyang Nyang Beach 12

Nyang Nyang Beach

Canggu X Bar 7

My last night out in Canggu was spent with this wonderful lady and housemate, Layla

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Nine Months of Solo Travel

Woo hoo! It’s been nine months since I started out on this solo travel adventure! I swear I just wrote a post about crossing the eight month mark. Time is absolutely flying by. I’ve now been living in Bali for 77 days!

I have enrolled in Indonesian language classes to further my understanding and speaking of the local language. Even though majority of the locals here can speak English, I find I get more respect and better prices when I attempt to speak Bahasa Indonesian. Plus, I can relate to my students on a whole new level now! On the first day, my teacher commented that I have a Jakarta accent which would totally make sense. My Bali boys taught me the basics so I just mimicked their pronunciation and one of them is from Jakarta. Jakarta is on the neighboring island of Java.

After some contemplation, I have decided to take a short break from updating this blog. Not only am I super busy with work, activities, and friends, but I’ve also settled into a daily life routine where I find myself writing about the same things week after week.

I’m nowhere close to being done traveling and will resume this blog in the near future.

Canggu X Bar 2

Layla and I at our favorite spot, X Bar.

Kuta Sky Garden

Getting down with some locals at Sky Garden

 

60 Days in Bali

What a whirlwind these last two weeks have been! So much has happened that I couldn’t even find time to write a post last week. Ok, let’s see if I can remember all the highlights…

It’s been fun to watch the World Cup matches as there are always citizens from both countries in attendance. PSA: French and English fans are absolutely NUTS, especially when they score.

Canggu Old Man's

Brazil vs. Mexio at Old Man’s

On Friday, June 30, I was hired on by Hujiang and offered the highest possible starting rate! Hujiang is a digital company that teaches daily and business English to Chinese adults through an audio only platform. After having a big night out celebrating this awesome accomplishment, I got to work on completing the nine modules of training. Rather than the free flowing conversations on Cambly, I will need to stick to the provided Powerpoint teaching materials. I will be responsible for getting through all the slides in each 25 minute class, providing feedback to each student within 4 hours of their lesson, and conducting skills tests to determine if students can move on to the next level.  I plan to work on Cambly in the mornings and Hujiang in the evenings until I build up a solid student base and can transition completely over to Hujiang.

Another work related accomplishment – This week I opened up my schedule for 30 hours on Cambly and I was booked with students for 25.5 of those hours which is my highest reservations to random students ratio so far. Also, my rating improved from 4.91 to 4.92 out of 5! I am the highest rated teacher on Cambly with over 1,000 chat sessions completed. This is so awesome! Especially since I came into this industry with zero experience. 

Starting the night of Sunday, July 1, Mount Agung, the volcano located on this island about 70km (43 miles) away from me, erupted six times within a 24 hour period. The most significant one lasted seven and a half minutes. It caused lava to overflow out of the crater which made all the trees and other vegetation catch on fire. Several thousand people were evacuated. This is the most active this volcano has been since the devastating eruption of 1963. We’ve since had multiple eruptions on a daily basis. There has already been three today and it’s not even 1pm here.

Bali Agung Volcano

View of the vegetation catching on fire at Mount Agung

On Tuesday, July 3, we had an earthquake of 4.3 magnitude. It shook my house and rattled the windows in the middle of a student session. “Woah! Jack, could you hear that?! That was just an earthquake!” What’s next? A tsunami?!

Thursday, July 5, marked my 60th day in Bali for this stint. I feel like I just arrived here! Is it really already the beginning of July?! As my visa expired, I had to do my first ever visa run. A visa run is where you leave the country for a certain amount of time so that you can start a new visa upon arrival back. Luckily for me, Indonesia doesn’t have a minimum amount of time you need to be gone from the country. As soon as you cross the border, you can come right back in. So I hopped on a flight at 1:35pm, arrived in Kuala Lumpr at 4pm, chilled in the airport for a few hours, and caught my return flight back to Bali at 9:55pm. $124 for the roundtrip flight, $35 for an extendable 30 day visa, 15 hours total out of my day… but I’m able to stay in Bali for another 60 days! Yeah buddy!

When you arrive in Bali’s airport, the taxi drivers swarm you like koi fish at the zoo when visitors drop crackers down. “Miss! Miss! Where you go? You need transport? Cheap price for you!” This time, all it took was me saying, “Nope, I live here” while flashing my scooter key and then I was like garbage that had been basking in the sun for a week. They all dispersed and went to claim their next victim, I mean, passenger.

Speaking of living here, Dude, I freaking live in Bali!, I’ve been getting more and more involved in the community. I take the newbies under my wings and show them the ropes. Ana and I now moderate the weekly lunch meet up for digital nomad girls.  Piggy-backing off Eat, Pray, Love putting Bali on the map, Ana created a group chat for our friends called Eat, Play, Drink. Everyday we find something to do that falls into one of those three categories. This takes me back to my social coordinator internship days on Chicago’s Navy base. 

I felt a sense of community before, but it’s an even stronger feeling now. I feel like I’ve made a name for myself here and it’s been quite some time since I’ve had that feeling. About 10 years to be exact… back to my college soccer days. It’s like a “big man on campus” feeling. For example, I’ve been invited into this elite secret bars group. To access one of these hush hush spots, you walk into a convenience store and one specific refrigerator door is actually the entrance to their secret bar.  Like… whaattttt?! This place will definitely be hard to leave… if I ever do…

Canggu Mocca Cafe (2)

Weekly lunch at Mocca cafe

Canggu Bahn Mi

Ana and I enjoying a delicious banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich)

Canggu X Bar

Another eventful night at X Bar… literally a tiki hut on the sidewalk

You Can Find Me Watching the World Cup

The World Cup has officially taken over my life! Old Mans, one of the bars in town, live streams every game with their giant projector screen on their massive patio overlooking the ocean. Since the US didn’t qualify, I chose Brazil to be my team for this year.  On Sunday night/Monday morning I watched Brazil vs Switzerland which started at 2am. I woke up at 1:30am to head into town, got home at 4:15am, and had to teach for 5 hours straight starting at 7am… I could barely keep my eyes open during the sessions. For the rest of the week, I only watched the 8pm games because I didn’t think I could teach after another sleepless night.

In case you haven’t tuned in, here are some highlights – Argentina (Messi) won’t make it past group play, Mexico upset Germany, Japan was the first ever Asian country to beat a South American country (Colombia) in a World Cup match, Neymar is a crybaby and would rather fall in hopes of getting foul than stay on his feet to score a goal, Brazil plays emotional, and there have been some SIIICCCKKKK set piece goals (Ronaldo, Kroos, Golovin).

I had a few instances this week that made me really feel that I’m at home. My laundry ladies now remember my name and don’t make me prepay. Just about every time I’m in town, I run into someone I know. Even when I’m driving I hear, “LAURA!!!!” from the sidewalk. While I love experiencing new countries and cultures, it’s been nice to have a sense of community here.

I didn’t make any progress on my videos this week, but hopefully these pictures of beach volleyball will tide you over until next time!

Canggu Community Volleyball (2)

Canggu Community Volleyball (4)

I mean… I really have no fighting chance here against Paul.

Canggu Community Volleyball (1)

Not captured: my awesome diving save seconds before this

Canggu Community Volleyball (3)

Jumping in the sand is HARD.

 

8 Months of Living My Best Life

Remember how productive Layla and I were regarding our list last week? Well…. this week, we only completed one item – eat at a new warung. Yes, we did cross this one off last week, but we tried three different warungs on the beach 500m from our house this week. All three turned out to be delicious and came with free use of their beach chairs!

I had two big milestones this week.  On Tuesday, June 12, I completed my 1,000th chat on Cambly. When I sit down to think about it, it’s quite a large number! During one of these chats, I was interviewed by a lady in advertising/marketing about what questions are inappropriate to ask a tutor. She will be compiling multiple answers and will create a promotion video targeted towards new students.

My second milestone of the week was Wednesday, June 13, marked eight months on the road for my solo traveling journey. What’s next you ask? I have decided to stay in Bali until the end of August and just enjoy living in my favorite place. I’ve met some really awesome people; I get to play soccer and volleyball on a regular basis; the weather is almost a perfect 80 degrees daily. What more could I want?!

I was able to get another video made this week: The Philippines

Canggu Sunset 1

Sunset view over the rice fields from my house

New Things

I started the process of extending my visa two and a half weeks ago. I could have completed the visa extension on my own for 350,00 IDR ($25.11 USD), but it would have required me to drive an hour down to Nusa Dua three separate times and to navigate the immigration office which is primarily in Bahasa Indonesian. Instead, I hired a visa agent to handle everything for 650,000 IDR ($46.64 USD). On Monday afternoon, I headed down to Nusa Dua to get fingerprinted for the visa extension. My visa agent had arrived a few hours earlier to wait in line for me so that by the time I arrived, I only had to wait 10 minutes in the line. I was in and out of there within 15 minutes which was awesome! Other foreigners who took on the process by themselves had been in line for over two hours. WELL worth the money spent on the agent! How has it already been 30 days?! I feel like I just arrived here yesterday!

Last Sunday Layla and I created a Fun Things To Do checklist because during the week we talk about different things we should check out, yet we find ourselves doing the same things – eating at the same few restaurants, going out to the same bars, lounging around the same beach, etc. So for this week, we decided to check some items off. Some were a success, while others were total letdowns.

Item #1: Play pool at a different location. We’ve been playing some games of pool the last few weeks and our running tally is split even. We were pretty excited to try out a new place Tuesday night that we had seen from the road a few times. Upon arrival, we found out it was actually a billiards table. FAIL.

Item #2: Find a place to play soccer. This item was solely for me as Layla doesn’t play any sports. I’d seen some locals playing soccer on a nearby field on the nights when I was driving back from volleyball. There seemed to be three different groups that would rotate using the field throughout the five weeknights. After some stalking, I’d pinpointed which group I wanted to play with.

On Wednesday, I headed out to the field which was super nice for Indonesian standards – grass field, 11v11 sized, pennies, one ref, and LIGHTS. When I got there, I told one of the guys if they needed an extra player, I would love to play. “Um, yeah, maybe”, he replied as he sized me up. “Cool, I’ll just sit over here and you let me know.” After talking with some of his buddies, he came over and told me I could play with them. In the beginning of the game, they didn’t pass me the ball once. They don’t think I can play…that’s fine. You boys just wait. My team was awarded a PK and since we were already ahead by two, they offered to let me take it. They’re just being nice. Oh, this is going to be good! In true fashion, I placed the ball in the lower left hand corner which the goalie was unable to stop. I turned around with a big smile and all their faces were in complete shock. “Bagus! Bagus!” my teammates said which means Good! Good! After that, they frequently played the ball to me for the rest of the game. At the end, the few who could speak decent English approached me. “Wow. You have good skills! You should play with us tomorrow?!” And that’s exactly what I did! I haven’t played since I was back in Colorado this fall and it feels good to get back into it. I just need to get my legs back into soccer shape… I could barely walk on Friday after back to back nights of playing.

Item #3: Eat at a new warung. A warung is a local restaurant that usually seats between 5-20 people. On Thursday, Layla and I drove around scoping out new warungs. For lunch, we ate on the beach and for dinner we settled on Padi Padi Cafe which both turned out to be complete fails. The portion sizes were tiny… I’m used to Asian serving sizes, but these were on a whole new level. For lunch, I was given a single piece of bread for my mango guacamole – mango yogurt mixed with avocado… interesting combination. For dinner, the single piece of fish from my Fish and Chips order was smaller than my palm.  Lesson learned: stick to our few rotating restaurants.

Items #4: Spend a day in Uluwatu, the southwestern section of Bali. Uluwatu temple is a highly regarded Hindu temple so we drove down in time to catch the sunset. The area was supposed to be beautiful and the temple magnificent. When we arrived, there were easily 100 tourist buses and 300 cars and scooters. Ok! I’m excited! This is going to be awesome! After paying the $2 entry fee and putting on sarongs to be compliant with the dress code, we headed in only to be greeted by an abundance of monkeys. I absolutely hate the monkeys  here. They bite/scratch people; they can turn aggressive; they’ll snatch anything in sight; they’re just gross. Not exactly the welcoming committee I had envisioned. Then we found the actual temple which was tiny and we were only allowed to see it from a distance. This it it?! This is what everybody talks so highly about? What’s so great about it? I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of beautiful places and temples during my travels, but this was definitely not one of them. I still don’t get what the hype was all about. Maybe my expectations are really high for something to blow me away these days. Either way, Uluwatu temple is not a place I would recommend.

Uluwatu Temple (2)

See the triangle shapes on the edge of the cliff? Yep, that’s Uluwatu temple.

We stayed the night down in Uluwatu which felt a bit like a vacation. The excitement of heading out of town on Friday after work….  Did I just take a mini vacation from an already long-term vacation? We woke up bright and early Saturday morning which probably had something to do with our electricity being out since 2am. No running water, no charging of electronics, no air-con… might as well get on with our day.

Remember back in January 2017 when I tried to see Nyang Nyang Beach, but turned around because I was too scared about getting lost in the cliff-side forest???? I decided during this trip to Bali I would revisit it. This time, I brought Layla along and we successfully made it down to the secluded beach! It was a bit more developed than last time as they cut a wide path through the cliff which looks like cars will eventually be able to drive down. There was also a sign off the main road advertising the beach so I’m guessing within the next year or two, Nyang Nyang Beach will no longer be a hidden gem. Luckily for us, it’s still pretty unknown because we only saw four other people during our three hours there. It was so beautiful, quiet, and relaxing which was just what Layla needed after her stressful week of work.

Nyang Nyang Beach 1

Now THAT is a beautiful sight.

Nyang Nyang Beach was the fifth item we checked off this week. We had planned to check one or two items off each week during our time left here, but we were a bit aggressive with the list this week so we may need to add to it. It was nice to get out of our routine and check out new things. I’m realizing it’s a bit different to work while traveling as I can’t just fly by the seat of my pants. It takes some of the spontaneity out of it because I have certain hours I’m committed to working and I have to have a certain internet speed and quiet background that not all places offer.  I feel like my day to day life isn’t as interesting or exciting as before. While I’m adjusting to this different way of traveling, I definitely feel privileged to be able to call Bali my home for the time being.

Good Deeds

The owner of the house that I’m renting also has a warung (local restaurant) at the start of our lane. I eat there at least once a day, if not for both of my meals. While I was eating lunch on Tuesday, she kindly informed me they would be closed for the next two days for Galungan, a national holiday. Even after she tried to explain it to me twice, I still don’t understand the national holiday. All I know is that they spent their time in the temples and dancing in the street to music.

“Wait, how am I going to eat? You feed me everyday!”

“And your maid not come two days.”

So this means I have to cook and clean for myself for 48 hours?! I don’t know if I can handle that kind of lifestyle again. I hurried to the grocery store to grab some ingredients to tide me over. Turns out, I wasn’t the only foreigner scrambling to pick up some food before most of the island shut down. The staff could barely restock the shelves before we cleared them out.

After working on Friday, I headed into town to buy some jewelry. When I stopped for gas, the girl in front of me asked where she could buy a sim card. I told her there were plenty of shops on the main road in town that would sell them. “And… where is town?”, she asked. I told her I was heading there and that she should just follow me. After getting back on the road, I noticed she wasn’t driving more than 15 kmph (9 mph) and she looked terrified. This is going to take FOREVER! I quickly pulled over and asked if she wanted to hop on the back of my scooter. “Yes! This is my first time solo traveling and first time on a scooter.” I spent the next two hours helping her exchange money, buy a sim card, and shop for some clothes. How she even made it up to Canggu on her own is a miracle. 

That night I went out with some friends and what a night that turned out to be! After saying goodbye to Layla as she was the first to head back home, I noticed a commotion by her Go-Jek driver (Go-Jek is the Indonesian version of Uber). When I got to them, Layla informed me the local taxi drivers were threatening to hurt her Go-Jek driver if she got on the back of his motorbike. I’d heard stories of Go-Jek and Uber drivers getting beat up by the local taxi drivers before but never witnessed it. After realizing they were serious (no wonder these taxi drivers are referred to as the mafia), Layla and I rode four deep on a scooter to an area where the mafia didn’t have control over. How in the world did we fit four Westerns on one scooter?!

Once Layla was picked up by a different Go-Jek, Linda decided it was time for her to go home as well. While waiting for a friend to come walk her home, a drunk guy from New Zealand crashed his scooter in front of us. I helped the guy up off the road while Jay pushed the scooter into the convenience store parking lot. Not realizing the scooter was still running, his hand slipped on the accelerator which caused it to pop a wheelie while moving…. and hit Linda in the face. Her eye and cheekbone were instantly swollen so after taking the keys out of the ignition, I ran into the store to grab some ice. After quizzing Linda’s friend on his ability to safely walk her home and keep ice on her face, I made the New Zealand dude drink water to sober up… while I sat with the locals drinking arak, the local home-brewed alcohol. Am I really the best person right now to decide when he should get his keys back? Did I just go into “Mom mode”? Once I was ready to go home and my ride had arrived, I gave the dude his keys back and told him to wait 10 minutes before driving as I didn’t want to be on the road at the same time as him.

While I was eating dinner Sunday evening, I noticed a girl walk past on the dark road with just her cell phone. That’s an odd sight this late at night. A few minutes later, she walked by again, a bit frazzled, and asked me if I knew how to get to Hideout Hostel. I gave her directions and then quickly asked if she just wanted me to drive her there since the road wasn’t lit and there weren’t any sidewalks. “Oh my gosh! That would be amazing! I’ve been walking for over an hour trying to get back to my hostel.”

In reflecting on this week’s good deeds, I think it was just my time to give some good karma back into the world after some of my own experiences – when the two guys in the Philippines helped to fix my flat tire on the remote road, getting my wallet back in Kuta with all my money still inside, the stranger in Malaysia that gave Kuzain, Kuzac, and I a ride back into Penang when no Ubers, taxis, or buses were available from Frog Hill, etc.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… There are more good people in this world than bad and the world is much safer than we think.

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Flashback picture to Nepal. Catherine and I with Bastian, the French dude whose 14 person tour group adopted me into their family for a few days while on the ABC trek.

 

Routine

This week I fell into the same routine as last week: Work in the mornings, lay out, take a nap, meet up with friends for either volleyball or dinner, work one hour in the evenings, go to bed, and repeat. The weekend was spent enjoying nightlife activities.

I have a new regular student from Brazil who has educated me on the ways of his country. The most mind-blowing information came during our talk of correctional systems. Here’s some fun/disturbing facts on the Brazilian correctional system:

  • You receive immunity if you are 80 or older. So if I ever have the urge to commit a crime, I just need to wait until I’m 80, head to Brazil, and do whatever I want?!
  • Drunk drivers don’t receive jail time.
  • You will not be placed in jail if you hit someone with you car as long as it wasn’t pre-meditated.
  • The maximum sentence is 30 years, no matter what your crime is.
  • All inmates are offered parole.
  • If you have a bachelor’s degree or higher, you are placed in a different part of jail and given TV privileges.
  • On Mother’s Day and Christmas Day, ALL inmates are released for 24 hours to spend time with their family. No ankle monitors. No questions asked. 95% of inmates return to the jail after the 24 hour period. What?!?!
  • If you are in jail and have children, the government will send a monthly stipend to your family to cover the costs of your kids.

To make up for this short and uneventful blog post (I’ll try to have a more interesting life next week 🙂 ), here’s a video from Adam’s and my canyoneering excursion back in the Philippines! I’m finally setting aside time to go through all my video footage. I’m hoping to get caught up on creating videos while I’m in Bali. Fingers crossed.

Here’s a refresher of this fantastic November day:

Saturday. Canyoneering excursion near Moalboal in Cebu. Best. Excursion. Ever! Adam and I were fully prepared for another cramped 12 passenger van for the two hour drive from Cebu City to Moalboal and then a big group excursion. So we were blown away when we were picked up in a private SUV and had a private tour guide. After getting outfitted in our helmets, lifejackets, and aqua shoes, we hopped on the back of motorbikes and were driven about 10km into the countryside. From there, we had to hike 2km to the jump off point and then down into the canyon. There were other groups here, but we skipped ahead of them as they were moving slower. This made the experience even better because no one was hindering our speed and the water wasn’t kicked up. Over the next two hours, we swam, jumped off 10 cliffs, and hiked through the canyon. The tallest jump was 10 meters (30 feet). The scenery was remarkable; the jumps were a thrill; our guide was great and basically our personal photographer.

Cebu Canyoneering

P.S. There wasn’t a soundtrack better than the sound of our constant laughter and shrieks!

Bali – Round Three

A few days before arriving in Bali, my five week dog sit fell through. I was disappointed as I was looking forward to having a free place to stay and free use of their scooter. I quickly turned to Facebook to get ideas on where I could find a month-to-month rental. Within six hours, I secured a luxurious room with a private bathroom in a house shared with two other solo female travelers.  Fingers crossed the room and house are as good as the pictures show.

I arrived in Bali the night of May 7th. I chose to pay $35 for a 30 day Visa on Arrival (VOA) this time so I could extend it for an additional 30 days. The other two times I’ve been in Bali, I went with the free VOA which requires you to leave Indonesia by day 30.

My first day and a half in Bali was spent down in Kuta. I hung out with my Bali boys, ate some delicious mie goreng (fried noodles), buzzed up to Canggu to see the house in person, and rented a scooter for the month. On the afternoon of May 9th, I moved into the Canggu house and was instantly greeted by Layla, a Dutch digital nomad.

Digital nomads are people who work completely online and are location independent. One week they might work from a coffee shop in Spain and the next week they could be working from a public library in Russia. This type of employee is quickly gaining popularity especially in the graphic design, social media management, writing, and computer engineering fields. Bali, specifically Canggu, is a common hub for digital nomads due to the low cost of living, beautiful scenery, and high-speed internet. Most digital nomads plan to spend one month in Bali, but end up staying for six months or more.

My first two days in Canggu were pretty low-key. I worked four hours in the mornings, took afternoon naps, and caught the sunset on Batu Bolong Beach in the evenings with Layla. Side note – our other roommate, Guila from Italy (pronounced like Julia), left on the 10th for a two week surf trip near the island of Sumatra. I joined the Canggu Nomad Girls group on Facebook which connects other female digital nomads in the area.

My first weekend was spent exploring the nightlife of Canggu. Friday night’s hot spot was a DJ spinning tunes on the beach (nothing like the Full Moon Party) and Saturday night’s was at Pretty Poison, a bar where patrons gather around to watch local and foreign skateboarders alike drop into a bowl to show off their tricks.

On Sunday, May 13th, I woke up to a text from my Bali boys notifying me of three suicide bombing attacks in Surbaya on the next door island of Java. This is the same island where I hiked Ijen Crater last time. Soon after, I received an email from the US embassy stating they believe the three bombings to be connected to each other, but isolated from future attacks. The most sickening part of these bombings was the fact that children were used – two teenage brothers and their nine and 12 year-old-sisters, alongside their parents. Were the kids in on the plan the whole time or did they just think they were running errands that day?

This past week, I set myself a pretty regular schedule for tutoring. Work five hours in the morning and one hour in the evening with two and a half days off. Each afternoon I layed out and then enjoyed a different activity. Monday and Friday were spent playing beach volleyball with a group of expats from all over the world. We used bamboo for poles, PVC pipes for the stakes, and a real net. Tuesday was spent at the beachfront property of La Laguna watching Alice in Wonderland on their projector screen. La Laguna provided beanbags, blankets, and popcorn. Is this the Indonesian version of a drive-in movie? On Wednesday, I went to the weekly lunch meet up with the Canggu Nomad Girls members. I met some fellow Americans and my first Serbian! After lunch, I opened a text from the Bali boys notifying me of yet another bombing, this time on the western island of Sumatra. Because some terrorists escaped, the boys warned me to stay away from certain nightclubs that could be targeted as well as the suggestion of just staying in for the next few nights. Again, shortly after, I received an email from the US embassy stating the attacks were ISIS related and they anticipate more bombings to occur countrywide during the next month of Ramadan (Muslim fasting period). However, the embassy didn’t increase their travel advisory level. Unfortunately, terrorist attacks can happen anywhere (Paris, London, US, etc.)  so I won’t leave Indonesia unless the US embassy tells me to.

Friday night I headed down to Kuta to hang out with my Bali boys. While it’s only 17km (10 miles) away, it takes 45 minutes to an hour to drive there due to constant traffic. Before arriving at their house, I stopped at a convenience store to pick up some pop. Fast forward three hours later, I wanted to grab some more liquids but couldn’t find my wallet. I knew it had to be somewhere between the convenience store and their house which is only 300 meters. After coming up empty by retracing my steps and the male employee telling me they didn’t have my wallet either, I sat down and started making a checklist in my head. Cancel my credit and debit cards. Order new ones which will take probably two weeks to arrive. Estimate how much money I’ll need to live off of for at least two weeks. Have Barb make a Western Union transfer out of my account. Make sure she includes my middle name on the transfer. Good thing I brought my expired drivers license. My passport is safe in my house. Feeling annoyed but calmer than I probably should have, I headed back to the Bali boys’ house. As I walked past the convenience store, the female employee rushed out and grabbed my attention. “We have wallet! He not understand English words.” Yesssss!!!! Apparently I had left my wallet on their counter while putting the bottles of pop into my bag. While I was gone, they secured my wallet in their safe and all my money and cards were in their correct place. I just made an ATM stop and they easily could have wiped out all the cash I just withdrew. There still are good people in this world!!

After playing more beach volleyball Sunday evening, I spoiled myself at the grocery store. I bought bananas, apples imported from the US, chips and salsa (Ortega brand!), mango juice, strawberry juice, chocolate milk, cereal, 1% milk, pasta, pasta sauce, cheese, hummus, and bell peppers. Oh the joys of Western food!!!!!

After four weeks of trekking in Nepal and two weeks of bouncing around the Thai islands, I was really craving some stability. It’s safe to say that I’m definitely feeling settled in here within my first two weeks. I love that there is a community vibe and that I feel I’m a part of something. There’s lots of meetups for digital nomads where you can either bounce ideas off each other or just have that friendly coworker chat that is missing from remote work. Being able to completely unpack my bag and put my clothes in a closet and dresser is glorious especially after the daily unpacking/repacking I did on the Annapurna treks. My room and house are definitely luxurious (daily maid service, private gated entry, high vaulted ceilings, I even have a rainfall shower head!) which only cost me $350 for the month… a splurge I’m absolutely ok with. It’s really easy to be motivated to work because everyone here is working the same online schedule – work in the morning, break/have fun in the afternoon, work a little bit more in the evening. I’ve already marked my spot in the beach volleyball group and hope to find another group to play soccer with this coming week. Life in Bali is surely amazing.

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The view while relaxing on my front porch before writing this blog

Adam’s Second Southeast Asian Adventure

After Nepal, I flew to Phuket, Thailand where I sequestered myself into an apartment for a week to teach English online and wait for Adam’s arrival. I was a bit hesitant if I’d have any of my regular students back as I took seven weeks off. To my delight, I had fifteen reservations waiting for me when I logged back in!

Adam was set to arrive through the night of Thursday, April 26th. When he got to Chicago O’Hare, he found out his flight from Shanghai to Phuket had been moved up by 4 hours which was impossible for him to make. Is that even legal? I’ve seen flights delayed or cancelled but never heard of flights being pushed and by four hours? That’s a bit aggressive! Because of this, he had to get on an additional flight through a different airline. He arrived on Friday, April 28, only eight hours later than originally planned.

After I taught a couple sessions and Adam took a nap, we rented one scooter to run some errands and drive around Phuket. Boy did we get some stares as Adam was on the back while I drove! I’m pretty sure he felt like less of a man for the whole two hours we scooted around.

Phuket 2

Only in Thailand do you see an elephant crossing sign.

That evening, we laid low as I taught two sessions and got on the phone with both my debit and credit card companies. Back in Nepal, my debit card number was stolen off an ATM skimmer and someone in the US had been trying to pull money out of my account in both Chicago and Indianapolis while I was trekking. I unfortunately did not find this out until I attempted to pull money out on Thursday and all the ATMs declined me. After a few phone calls, the issue was cleared up and we had a plan of attack. Charles Schwab expedited a new debit card to Bali where I was headed next for a 5 week dog sit. Capital One added a pin number to my credit card so I could do cash advances through ATMs in the meantime. Such a hassle but I was finally able to access my money again!

On Saturday, we left our Phuket AirBnB and headed to the bus terminal for a full day of travel to the island of Koh Samui. I very gently introduced Adam to the backpacker lifestyle in the Philippines back in November by having him travel with a backpack and stay in a very nice four-person dorm room in a hostel. For this trip, I decided to give him typical Thailand backpacker experiences. We could have flown from Phuket to Koh Samui for $110 per person which would have taken just under an hour. Instead, we took a six hour bus to a two hour ferry for only $16.55 per person. Welcome to the backpacker budget! Typical Thailand backpacker experience #1. Adam did much better on the bus than I expected, although I think that has something to do with the bus having WiFi strong enough for him to stream YouTube the whole time. I, on the other hand, slept for most of the trip as I typically do.

We were greeted by a massive rainbow over the island of Koh Samui upon arrival. After checking in to our hotel, we rented a scooter and drove 40 minutes to the other side of the island to catch a Thai boxing fight night. Typical Thailand backpacker experience #2! We witnessed two knockouts within the six matches, one of which ended with a boxer carried out on a stretcher. The last fight of the night was a female match and they jumped right in to throwing punches and kicks. The first rounds of the male matches were pretty slow…. both fighters kind of dancing around and throwing jabs here and there. The females though… woah…  as soon as they were signaled to start, the girl in red landed a punch square in the jaw of the girl in blue. Finally some action right away! This is awesome! Girl power!

Koh Samui (1)On the way home, we noticed we were running low on gas. We passed a few gas stations, but they were all closed as it was after 1am. We’re 10km from the area of the island we’re staying at. Yet, our fuel gauge has been blinking at us for awhile now. Think we can make it the rest of the way? I guess worse case scenario, we just have to walk home. Although Adam might die. On the side of the road, we finally saw some bottles of rum filled with gas which were guarded by a guy sleeping in a hammock. After waking him up, our gas tank was refilled and we successfully made it back to our hotel.

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I’m still not sure why I agreed to let him drive the scooter

On Sunday, we headed back out on the scooter to try and find a swimsuit shop I had seen the night before. The shop was closed when we arrived so we stopped for some mango sticky rice instead. Typical Thailand backpacker experience #3! Mango sticky rice is my favorite food to eat in Thailand. It’s fruity; it’s sticky; it’s sweet; it’s delicious! I was super pumped to share this goodness with Adam. “So… what do you think?!?!” I asked all excitedly as he took his first bite. “The mango has no flavor and the rice is OK”, he replied. I forgot Adam is one of those weird people who doesn’t like sweets… More for me then!

Koh Samui (5)At 1pm we caught our half hour ferry to the island of Koh Phangan. This island is known for their Full Moon parties which is what our entire trip revolved around. We hit the streets to find our gear (the brighter the neon, the better!) and pre-game drinks for the night. Our plan was to lay out at the pool for the rest of the day and head to Haad Rin Beach for the party around 9pm. Mother Nature had some other plans in mind… it rained off and on until 8pm and then a torrential downpour occurred. At 11pm we finally felt confident the storms were out of the area and we headed south to the Full Moon Party decked out in our neon. Typical Thailand backpacker experience #4!

Koh Phangan (13)As Adam puts it, it was “the most intense event I’ve ever experienced!” 20,000+ people gathered on a 1km long beach, sand buckets filled to the brim with cocktails, jump ropes lit on fire to find the souls brave/dumb enough to try their luck without burnt, beachfront properties each blasting a different genre of music, partygoers decked out in neon shirts and body paint, massive dance parties, people relieving themselves in the ocean, 18-45-year-olds all gathered together with one common goal: to have one of the best nights of their lives. For Adam and I, the Full Moon Party did not disappoint one bit! We rolled back home about 4am and were pretty worthless for all of Monday.Koh Phangan (1)

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Fire-burning jump rope

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Taking a break from the crowd of 20,000+ people

We did muster up enough strength to eat dinner at a local food court Monday night. Imagine a farm shed filled with picnic tables, vendors, charcoal grills, and fans. We selected spring rolls, an ear of corn, and a chicken kebob which were put right on the grill (who knows how long they’d been sitting out for) which cost us the equivalent of $1 each. Typical Thailand backpacker experience #5!

In the morning of Tuesday, May 1st, we hopped on an hour and a half ferry to the island of Koh Tao and hit the ground running once we dropped our bags at the front desk of our hostel. We rented a scooter and drove to the east part of the island to check out Tanote Beach. After a bit of sunbathing and lunch, we headed north to Mango View Point. Adam got to experience the sketchy roads I usually encounter on my way to waterfalls and we promptly turned around with 3km left to the top.

Our next stop was Dusit Buncha Resort where we caught a five minute water taxi to Koh Nang Yuan. This island is where 90% of the images are taken from when you search Koh Tao on Google. This is going to be great! The beaches here look to be amazing! What. A. Letdown. The area is popular with snorkelers which means the beach is made of broken and washed up coral. Note to self: it’s VERY uncomfortable to walk on barefoot! We decided to try our luck in the water and same thing – sharp and pointy rocks everywhere. We retired back to our beach chairs and silently contemplated what we were going to do for the next hour and a half until our water taxi picked us up. “You wanna hike to that viewpoint?” Adam asked me. Woah… if Adam, notorious for hating hiking and hippie-loving tree huggers, is suggesting we hike, he must REALLY hate his life. “Yes! I would love to!!!!” was my reply. After a short clamber through a forest, we were greeted with this view:Koh Tao (2)

That evening we checked in to our hostel — a 12-person dorm room with personal lockers the size of my drawstring bag. Typical Thailand backpacker experience #6! Adam again did much better than I anticipated. It probably helped there were more girls than guys, no one snored, and there was an en-suite bathroom.

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Except the urinal was located outside…

Wednesday was another full travel day. Our morning started with a 6:30am ferry back to the island of Koh Phangan. We switched to a different ferry which made a stop in Koh Samui before getting back to the Thailand peninsula. We hopped onto a bus for four hours to the town of Krabi where we were transferred by taxi to a van. The van drove us to our hotel on the island of Koh Lanta, but not before we had to ride on a car ferry (a first for me!). Cars, construction trucks, scooters… you name it, it was on the ferry. Koh Lanta - Car Ferry

Thursday, May 3rd we rented yet another scooter and explored the island of Koh Lanta. We had a long and gradual incline before dropping down to Mu Koh Lanta National Park. Koh Lanta (5)After scoping out the viewpoint, we placed our bags and clothes under a palm tree and laid out on Ta Nod Beach where we only saw a handful of people. “Uh…Laura… there’s a monkey going through your bag”, Adam said nonchalantly. “What?!” I jolted out of my daydream and ran towards the monkey, clapping my hands and yelling. The monkey was clearly looking for food which I didn’t have and ripped through my plastic bags which hold my passport, contacts, glasses, international drivers permit, etc. Basically all my important items. I should have taken a picture to show how he scattered my items about once he rifled through them. Serves me right… I always make fun of people who get their sunglasses and food swiped from these monkeys… and yet here I am… just another victim even without having their prized possessions with me. 

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Ta Nod Beach

We packed up our things and headed out of the national park to explore another part of the island. Shortly up the massive hill, our scooter putzed out on us. It didn’t have enough power to go any further. Talk about a fail! “These 125cc’s aren’t made for two Leber’s!” Adam declared. While I drove the scooter back down to get a running start up the hill, Adam walked the rest of the way to the top. He’s going to be an avid hiker before he knows it!

We grabbed lunch on a cliff overlooking the ocean. I had Adam order Tom Yum which is a spicy Thai soup. Typical Thailand backpacker experience #7! While he could taste some heat, the level of spice hardly fazed him. I, on the other hand, felt my mouth burning as soon as the broth touched my tongue. So much for my spicy food tolerance.

Our last destination for the day was Ba Tan Kiang Beach which we had all to ourselves! It was amazing. After we felt tan enough, we drove back to our resort for some drinks at the beach bar, took in a fantastic sunset, and played some cards.

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Sunset at low tide

What we thought was tan had actually turned into a sunburn by the time we woke up on Friday. Even with a t-shirt on, I could feel the burn on my shoulders intensify when I walked outside into the direct sunlight. We lasted all of one hour at the pool under shade before we took cover back in our room until catching an afternoon ferry to Koh Phi Phi, our sixth island of the trip.

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This was our transportation to the ferry port – a scooter with an attached side bench in a cage

Koh Phi Phi was hands down the most beautiful island of our trip. It instantly reminded both of us of El Nido, Philippines. Clear water, different shades of blue, giant rock formations plunging out of the water, long tail boats everywhere…. paradise. Up until now, the other Thai islands looked better in pictures than what we saw with our eyes. But Phi Phi… man, it was even more beautiful than our cameras could capture. Koh Phi Phi 4

While walking around the island, Adam saw an advertisement for Captain Bob’s Booze Cruise which he had remembered from his initial research — I planned out our Philippines trip; Adam planned our Thailand trip. Adam was fully on board to book the cruise for the next day, but I was a little bit hesitant due to the $80 USD price. I looked up what all was included in the cost – 6 hours, unlimited drinks on the beach (Thailand has a law where you can’t serve or consume alcohol on a boat), water activities, and food. Ok! That’s pretty good. Then when I looked at the reviews on TripAdvisor, 94% of the 839 reviews were all 5 stars. Aannnddd…. I’m in! I walked down to their ticket booth to reserve our spots for the next day and found out even more things were included — full access to proofs of all the pictures and videos they would take, an extra meal, an additional hour of fun, and alcohol would in fact be served/consumed on the boat, just concealed inside Sprite and Coke bottles. This price is actually a STEAL for everything that’s included!

After lathering up with lots aloe vera, we had some drinks in our hotel room and played cards until bedtime. Saturday morning, we put more aloe vera on our bodies and sheltered ourselves from the sun until we had to be at our 12:45pm meeting point.

After everyone arrived, we walked quite a ways to Camp Bar to begin the festivities. Their slogan is “Active Drunk” after all. After introductions were made (93% North American, 6% British, and 1% Norwegian), we played some drinking games and soaked up the sun before hopping on the boat. Our first stop was Monkey Beach where we fed peanuts to monkeys to get the perfect photo op. We never made it to the beach as the monkeys cannonballed from the rock cliffs into the water to grab our peanuts as we were swimming. I think the monkeys are gross and have seen them scratch and bite humans so I just treaded water while Adam and the others got some great shots.

Next up we snorkeled at Loh Samah Bay. Last time Adam and I snorkeled, it ended badly with both of us scrapping our legs. This time was actually a blast! I realized it’s too much for my mind to handle keeping my body afloat while breathing under water. So I laid on a lifejacket and just focused on breathing or I caught my breath on the lifejacket after going under for a bit…. so much better and less stressful!

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Snorkeling is not too bad when you have a life jacket waiting for you on the surface.

Our third stop was some lagoon where we were able to swim around and use standup paddle boards. We tried to beat the record of 10 people on one paddle board, but the most we could get was nine before tipping over. After some food and more drinks, we headed to Maya Beach which was made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s hit movie, The Beach. Our boating time ended with watching the sunset. Then it was back to the beach bar we started at for some dancing, drinks, and food. Such a fantastic and extremely fun way to end our travels in Thailand. Koh Phi Phi 16

On Sunday, we hopped on our final ferry back to Phuket, checked into my hotel room, and walked Adam to the airport to catch his flight back to the US (also moved up by four hours).

Final Thoughts on the Thai islands: There were only two things on my Typical Thailand Backpacker Experience that Adam didn’t get to – Thai massage and a fish spa. I really wanted to hear Adam’s opinions on a Thai massage but that’ll have to happen on another one of our trips. Besides Phi Phi, the other Thai islands were beautiful in our pictures, but we didn’t really see that beauty in person. Because the islands are so popular, they are actually quite expensive. Adam liked the amenities better in the Thai islands (air conditioning, electricity, wifi), but thought the Philippines had more untouched natural beauty. I’m glad I visited and experienced the Thai islands, but I have no desire to go back. It was a one and done for me.

P. S. Here is a video I made showing a glimpse into the life on a teahouse trek in Nepal.

Koh Lanta (7)Koh Tao (3)

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What a life to be living!

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Sunset from our booze cruise