30 October 2017

Creepy Hotels and Incredible Islands in Malaysia


After Krabi we made our way to Satun where we boarded the Ferry to Langkawi, Malaysia. The crossing turned out to be easy, just a simple passport and baggage check on the Malaysian side. The only thing that's important to remember is your entry card that was issued on arrival into Thailand, however if you lose it bribes work well and are not uncommon. Aside from the sub-zero temperature inside the ferry, it was pretty relaxed. I would highly recommend taking a jumper though. 


Langkawi


On arrival, we were greeted by a lovely tour guide who explained the history of the island. Originally home to pirates and seafarers, it has been completely transformed into a major tourist resort. Along the way it fell into both Siamese and British rule before declaring independence in 1957. The culture change was immediately clear from the moment we stepped off the boat, as a mostly Muslim country, the women tended to be completely covered. Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, I found this slightly uncomfortable and probably should have chosen a more appropriate outfit. On our first night we ended up eating at a big seaside bar/restaurant called Yellow Cafe. Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for it's food, the cosy atmosphere and live music made this place perfect for casual drinks. It not only had a great view, but also cute little hammocks and beanbags on the beach.

My day consisted of riding a banana boat with some random guys, hiking up a few hundred steps to the Seven Wells waterfall, walking through a colourful market and visiting the Field of Burnt Rice. All of which I would definitely recommend. The white sand beaches are beautiful and not too crowded, I would recommend going in the morning or afternoon as it gets incredibly hot and there is very little shade. As it is an Island, everything is fairly close by and easy enough to get to via taxi. Langkawi is also home to the worlds steepest cable car and a sky bridge, unfortunately both were closed while I was there.

In the evening we all took a sunset dinner cruise, which weaved through the many, mini islands surrounding Langkawi. With free drinks, an extensive food buffet and the chance to sit in the opalescent water behind the boat, it's fair to say that this was one of my favourite experiences in Malaysia. That being said, it was also one of the most expensive. As I booked mine through Contiki, I didn't get the chance to look around for other deals, however I'm sure you could find other companies doing the same for a lot less. 







Penang 


Penang was a stark change from the lazy, serene beaches of Langkawi. Known for it's amazing street food, variety of eastern cultures and intricate street art, it is definitely a must see. It is also home to UNESCO listed Georgetown.


The Street art
Although I wouldn't say Penang was my favourite stop, due to the dirty streets and questionable mix of smells, it was undoubtedly worth it just for the street art. This arty city is covered with paintings, graffiti and random outdoor exhibits, making it impossible to visit without seeing at least one piece of incredible artwork. My favourites would have to be the famous, children on the swings and the man on the motorbike. Instead of just walking around aimlessly I would opt for an online guide, as it would also help with understanding the rich history of the area.


The Food
As a vegetarian in a predominantly meat-eating country, I was prepared for the worst. I was however pleasantly surprised by the variety of food in Penang. You could get anything from hawker stall noodles and steamed buns to five course fancy dining in Little India. Vegetarian food was still very limited, and I did end up eating cream cheese on stale bread one night, but it was certainly a step up from most other places in Malaysia.



Cameron Highlands 

From strawberry picking on a little farm to exploring the huge tea plantations, the Cameron Highlands were an interesting experience to say the least. Located way up in the Malaysian mountains, it certainly wouldn't have been my first pick. Despite my experience being slightly marred by the creepy hotel, which I swear was home to a cult, and the strange derelict funfair just outside of it, I still learnt a lot. 


Tea Plantations
The number one thing to see here. I would recommend having a guided tour around the tea plantation and trying some in the various cafes dotted around. I'm not big on tea, but the fresh green tea tiramisu I had was delicious.


Kuala Lumpur 



As we didn't have much time in KL we ended up doing pretty much everything in one day. Instead of going up the famous Petronas towers, which are very expensive and were almost fully booked, we decided to go to KL Tower. In some ways this was better as it not only gave an impressive view of KL but also of the Petronas towers. We all decided to get the slightly more expensive sky deck tickets, which turned out to be the right idea as we spent most of our time on the sky deck. The main difference is the sky deck in outside whereas the normal viewing platform is indoors. With the sky deck pass you also have access to the famous glass viewing boxes. In my opinion, these aren't that great, they look cool on photos but in practice are a little cramped and gimmicky. 
In the evening we ended up at the Skybar which had a stunning view of the Petronas towers at night. The atmosphere was nice, but the drinks extortionately expensive. We ended up leaving after less than an hour. I would definitely recommend going just for the view. 




Malacca

On our final day in Malaysia we stopped off at Malacca, another UNESCO listed site. With red brick buildings and cute

little rivers, this city was perfect for a day trip.

Extras


- Langkawi is a duty free island, if you want cheap electronics this is the perfect place to get them.
- Visit the Pavillion shopping centre in KL. It is massive.
- Petronas Tower light display.
- The butterfly sanctuaries in the Cameron Highlands. These also house a number of exotic creatures that you can hold and learn interesting facts about.
- Hawkers are the best place to get authentic Malaysian food.

✈ Next Singapore

Links:
Contiki Tours
Penang street art guide

26 October 2017

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham - Book Review



'Die of Shame' by Mark Billingham is a classic crime-mystery novel. It follows the stories of 6 very different ex addicts, who come together once a week for therapy. When it's found out that one of the members has been murdered, it's up to Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner to find the killer, but with all the confidentiality restrictions, will DI Tanner be able to get all the information she needs?

I found this book very entertaining. Billinghams style of writing makes the reader feel like they're a seventh member, making it easy to get lost in the stories, secrets and drama of the circle. I enjoyed the feeling of being immersed, getting to know each character, and feeling connected to each one. Billingham also does this well, by giving the reader an insight into each characters background stories through the therapy sessions. Each therapy session was interesting and I actually found myself excited for what secrets and deep dark memories were going to be revealed. 

I particularly enjoyed the way the crime came together, the snippets of information given by each of the members providing them with a motive for the murder. Unlike many other crime stories, 'Die of Shame' had many layers and really left me lost for who the murderer might be, every time I thought I knew, I was presented with new information which brought me back to square one. Along with their lives within therapy, Billingham also entwines their lives on the outside adding more and more layers and secrets within the group. 

The only issue I had with the book was DI Tanner. I found that I couldn't relate to her as well as the others, partly because she was so cold and removed. This also made me find her slightly irritating, I was far less interested in the 'now' chapters with her than the 'then' chapters with the other characters. Although this did make reading some parts of the book harder than others, it didn't take away from the overall story line. 

If you like crime and thought-provoking books, this is definitely the perfect book for you. 

★★★★☆

21 October 2017

An honest review of IVHQ & Green Lion Bali


As someone who was nervous about travelling alone, going with a trusted organisation was essential. I wanted to be guided and supported every step of the way. After having looked at several different volunteer organisations, I finally decided to go with IVHQ mostly because friends had recommended and used them before.

How IVHQ work:
IVHQ acts as the parent company helping you with everything before you actually reach the country. They organise for you to be placed with a different in-country charity, all of which have been security checked by IVHQ. For example, although I signed up with IVHQ the charity I worked for in Bali was called Green Lion. I had both an out-of-country contact and in-country program manager, that being said, I could easily contact either if I had any problems. 

Website and IVHQ help:
I found the IVHQ website helpful and easy to use, and was instantly sent a welcome email from a lovely team member. The communication between me and the team member was easy and I felt as though I could ask her anything and she would reply usually within only one or two days. They helped a lot with travel and visa information and made sure to check that I was doing everything I needed to do before I left. They also made sure to get me in contact with my in-country program manager before leaving. Again, as someone anxious about travelling alone, their time and commitment made me feel a lot more comfortable and confident. 

Prices: 
Probably one of the most affordable volunteering websites for what is provided. I found it very good value for money. The most expensive thing will always be flights to and from your destination. 

Green Lion, accommodation and food: 

- An amazing charity, run by the most helpful and kind people. I was initially surprised to see how young they all were (early 20s), but, if anything, this only made it easier to connect and become friends with the team. 

- Safe transport from the airport. The driver arrived on time and was waiting for me with a sign. 

- Contact numbers, names and addresses were all given to me before I arrived. 

- Green Lion staff members were easy to contact. I was also assigned my own project leader (if you were ill they would check up on you) 

- The Accommodation was simple but clean and comfortable. Don't expect it to be like western housing, rooms are very open and bugs do get inside. I was surprised that there was a cleaner who came once a day! 

- Wifi in all the houses, don't expect it to work all the time though. (Honestly you probably won't need it that much anyways) 

- A good orientation week including several included and paid for activities. If these don't interest you, you don't  have to attend, although I found them interesting and am glad I went.

- A very basic open air canteen. The food was mainly rice based and once a week there was a western option. It was delicious but fairly repetitive, you can always go out to eat as restaurant food is usually inexpensive. There are several cafés/restaurants near the volunteer houses.  

- The area was quiet and local. All the locals knew the volunteers and the volunteers knew the locals. Although quiet, it was about a 20 minute walk to the centre of Ubud and there was a taxi stand at the end of the street. 

- I felt pretty safe and secure in the area + you meet tons of people and it's easy to make friends quickly. 

The Volunteering

- I had a teaching partner and there were always Green Lion helpers around to help with language barriers and, sometimes, just calming down the kids. 

- Don't expect the class to be quiet and calm, it's probably going to be the complete opposite. It's also okay to feel overwhelmed on your first few lessons. 

- Be prepared because, although you get help, there will be no teacher in the room but you and your partner. 

- A taxi would pick us up in the morning and bring us back after class. 

- Green Lion provided computers, pens and lots of educational equipment. 

In conclusion, I'm glad I decided to go with IVHQ and would definitely recommend others to check them out. The only slightly negative point I would raise would be in terms of the schools chosen to be in the volunteer program. I found that the kindergarten I was teaching at already had adequate teachers, resources, and classrooms. It made me question whether the volunteers could have been more useful teaching in less developed areas, where the chance of an English education could potentially significantly change a child's life. Other than this, I was extremely impressed by both IVHQ and Green Lion and will hopefully be using them again sometime in the future.  

Links   

IVHQ 

16 October 2017

Lake Huts and Golden Buddhas in Thailand


Ahh Thailand, known as the land of, elephants, giant golden Buddhas and copious amounts of Pad Thai. And I can tell you now, it certainly lived up to my high expectations. After finishing in Bali I hopped in a taxi and boarded my 4 and a half hour flight to Bangkok. Unlike IVHQ, Contiki Tours, the second company I used, did not provide airport pick-up, luckily I had friends who picked me up from the airport and let me stay with them before my Contiki Tour started. 

My first impressions of Bankok were not quite as positive as they had been for Bali, the streets were dirty and chaotic, and masses of electrical wires hung messily in the roads. The roads however, did seem a lot more organised and safe than those in Bali, although not by a considerable margin. The weather was also slightly less humid making the heat a little more bearable. I met my Contiki group around 7pm and had a little meeting explaining how the trip worked, who to contact and also general introductions. 

Bangkok
The Grand Palace

On my first full day in Bangkok, Contiki organised a group tour to the Grand Palace. We took the river taxi, which was packed and slightly claustrophobic, through the city to reach our destination. At the palace gates we met our guide and made our way through the crowds of tourists into the main palace area. It consisted of several ornate golden buildings, with the most beautiful, intricate decorations and designs. I'm not going to lie, I found it hard to understand a lot of what the guide was saying, as English was not her first language, but I still managed to get a bit of information. The golden reflective colour is created from rubbing gold leaf onto the buildings, and the statues on the outside are protectors of the palace/temple. The palace, built in 1782, is also home to both the Emerald (dates back to the 14th century) and Jade Buddha. There were hundreds of people queuing to give their respects, as my visit coincided with the recent passing of the Thai king. The architecture and rich history definitely made this a must visit for anyone going to Bangkok. 




Khaosan Road 

One of the busiest most vibrant streets in Bangkok. It's known for having cheap backpacker accommodation, amazing nightlife and cheap shops. I would definitely recommend going both in the daytime and at night. It has some great cheap shops and food stalls/restaurants where you can get anything from cooked scorpion to fresh mango sticky rice. 

The White Buddha & Wat Pho (the temple of the Reclining buddha) 

It's quite likely at some point you'll be pulled in by someone offering you the best price to see all the Buddhas or an all encompassing tuk tuk trip and against your better judgement you'll take it. For us it was a three attraction tuk tuk ride, which was supposed to take us to the white Buddha temple, the reclining buddha temple and one other. When we made it to the white Buddha temple, which in itself was a relief as the tuk tuk was leaking gas and was effectively a 90km death car, the driver dropped us off in a strange back alley. Although we made it to a temple with a Buddha we weren't all that convinced it was the famous white Buddha temple. Never the less it was still pretty impressive but to this day I still have no idea where we actually were. We did thankfully make it to the temple of the Reclining Buddha, which was incredible, but decided that was enough. We decided not to get into the death car again and instead made our own way home. It's safe to say that I've definitely learnt my lesson from this experience. 


The overnight train to Surat Thani 

Initially I was excited for this as I had heard you get cool little bunk beds, it's safe to say this didn't last. We did not get beds, in fact we got hard tiny seats that moved side to side and shook. It didn't make it any better that the cabin temperature seemed to be regulated below freezing. At the time this was pretty much 12 hours of hell, but looking back on it, it was actually an interesting experience.

The Cave temple 

On the way to Khao Sok national park we stopped at a little temple. It was incorporated into a natural cave which you could walk through. The monk blessed us and gave us string blessing bracelets. 


Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok national park is located in south Thailand and consists of the oldest evergreen Rainforest in the world.This is definitely what made my Thailand experience. When we arrived we all took an incredible kayak trip into the Rainforest, this included seeing wild monkeys, mangrove snakes and having an impromptu bamboo brewed tea break. Accommodation was wooden tree houses in the heart of the jungle surrounded by thousands of monkeys and even an elephant!

The floating houses 

After the tree houses I thought it couldn't get much better, but I was very wrong. In the morning we made our way to Cheow Larn Lake where we all piled into several traditional long tail boats. The boats took us far out until all that could be seen were massive limestone cliffs and endless jungle. Our accommodation, tiny floating huts in the middle of the lake, was unbelievable. The huts emerged out of the early morning fog like something out of a movie. They were basic, consisting of just two mattresses and a small naked light bulb. The wooden front door opened out onto miles of fresh water and towering jungle covered cliffs, even photos didn't seem to capture it sufficiently. 

The boat took us to the other side of the lake where we started our hour hike through the jungle. It was muddy, damp and incredibly humid, but never once failed to impress. I was pretty intrigued to find out that pineapples grow in bushes! We then took a giant bamboo raft to the Pakarang caves, where stalagmites towered and bats hid in the darkness. Back at the huts we spent the evening swimming and jumping off the massive dive boards. 






Krabi 
Tiger Cave Temple 

Krabi was our last stop in Thailand. A group of friends and I decided to attempt the Tiger Cave temple, a temple located 1260 steps up a rocky cliff face with a giant golden Buddha at the top. The climb was painfully long and exhausting, with the steps randomly changing size and direction the whole way. I would definitely recommend going on a cool day and taking lots of water as there are no taps on the way, there are however lots of monkeys who will take stuff from your bags if they get the opportunity (so make sure your bags are closed). Although it takes around an hour, or 45 minutes at the fastest, to get up, it is definitely worth it. The view looks over both Krabi and the Rainforest. The temple itself is simple with an absolutely ginormous golden Buddha in the centre. The walk down was pretty scary, considering if you slipped you would probably fall the entire 1260 steps down the cliff, but much less tiring than the way up. 





All in all Thailand was definitely just as good, if not better, than what I expected. Although I didn't particularly like Bangkok, the natural attractions easily made up for this. My favourite part by far was Khao Sok National Park, the scenery and accommodation was like nothing I had ever seen before. My one recommendation for anyone going would be the floating houses Cheow Larn Lake, you will not regret it. 

Extras:

- Search up good places to get Pad Thai, because if not you'll probably end up getting something not that great. 

- Hawkers have good local food (but nothing vegetarian). 

- If you are vegetarian I would recommend buying lots of snacks as not many places sell vegetarian food. 

- If you're going into the Rainforest don't leave anything outside not even for a second, it will get taken by monkeys. 

- Temples or palaces will require you to cover shoulders and legs. Always have a sarong with you. 

✈ Next Malaysia 

Links: 
Contiki Tours
Khao Sok National Park 



13 October 2017

Fully Functioning Human (Almost) By Melanie Murphy - Book Review


I've never really had a thing for books written by YouTubers, not necessarily because they aren't good, but more because I hadn't seen one that particularly appealed to me. So when I heard Melanie Murphy read a sample of her new book, I was surprised to find myself actually enjoying it. In fact I enjoyed it so much I decided to buy it. 

In her book, a "part memoir, part life guide," Melanie explores different moments in her life through five sections, media and my mind, food and body, beauty and confidence, sex and sexuality, and love and happiness. She mixes funny and light subjects, first crushes and terrible dates, with deep raw ones, depression and eating disorders. She writes in a way that feels almost personal, as if it's just you and her having a quiet intimate chat. It's clear from the first page that the book overflows with Melanie's free-spoken, warm and charismatic personality. 

Along with the amusing anecdotes, I found that the underlying message of practising self-care and confidence was particularity uplifting. As someone who forgets this (as most people do), I found the book really helped and motivated me to think more positively. Although essentially it falls into the category of self-help books, Melanie manages to enforce these ideas without being cheesy or constantly bombarding you with corny confidence quotes. 

It was particularly refreshing to read a book that is so open and frank about taboo subjects such as abortion and sexuality, Melanie does well to break the social stigma that surrounds these subjects. With more and more authors and big personalities delving into this taboo-free world, it's interesting to hear Melanie's views and personal struggles with these topics. It feels much more real and harsh coming from someone who has experienced first hand, issues such as, unplanned pregnancy, and orthorexia.   

I would definitely recommend this book to others, whether you watch Melanie's channel or not. It's the type of easy, but interesting, reading where you pick it up and instantly feel better.

★★★★★

  

11 October 2017

Volunteering in Bali


If you asked me a year and a half ago what I would be doing now, I can guarantee you I would never have got it right. Although taking a gap year was a sure thing, I had no idea the types of amazing things I was going to experience. I was always the kid who admired others for having the courage to travel to far off, remote destinations, always the one to say "I'll be there someday," while secretly thinking, will I be brave enough to actually go by myself? So when it finally came to making a decision on where I was going on my gap year, I completely shut down. For months I would just avoid talking about it, or planning anything because I was scared. I was anxious of flying on my own, being so far away from my family and not knowing anyone. 

After talking to friends and researching what others had done on their gap year, I came around to the idea of going abroad with a volunteer organisation. I chose IVHQ, because a few of my friends had used the organisation before and I had heard good things about them. They provided in country help, lifts from the airport to the homestay and food. It made me feel more comfortable that the only thing I needed to worry about was getting on the right plane (Even that terrified me). The program I eventually chose was, Bali - Ubud Kindergarten project. On the project I would be teaching English to kindergarten children, I liked the idea that I would be helping others and would be able to see the difference I was making even in just the time I was there. 

My flight plan: 
Toulouse (France) ==> Frankfurt (Germany) ==> Singapore ==> Denpasar (Indonesia) 

When I arrived in Denpasar airport I was relieved to see that there was someone waiting for me with my name on a piece of paper. There was also another girl who had just arrived. We drove around an hour and a half to just outside of Ubud, where we were introduced to the Green Lion representatives (the in-country charity). My house, called 'Tini house,' had two small bedrooms downstairs and one big one upstairs. It wasn't traditional style Indonesian housing, but did have elements of it. For example, the roof was not fully attached to the walls, the shower had stones on the floor, and the beds were made of bamboo. We also had our own Koi pond and a balcony that looked over rice terraces! The traditional style Indonesian housing was much more basic, consisting of several little unattached rooms (including a mini temple), tiled flooring and thin wooden doors. I was also lucky to get amazing flatmates who made me feel welcome and calm, even on my first day. 





The first week was the introduction period which included a number of different activities: 
1. The monkey forest - Very touristy but also good fun. The monkeys climb on your shoulders and take bananas from your hands. 
2. Batik painting - Making a design and putting dye onto cloth. 
3. Language lessons - Extremely helpful and interesting. 
4. Art village and rice field walk - Basically one very kind little old man selling his very impressive artwork. His speciality was painting intricate designs on eggs. 
5. Cooking lesson - Making spicy Tempe
6. Ubud Market and palace 
7. Balinese dance 
8. Making flower offerings 
9. Holy Water Temple (Tirta Empul) - Sarongs and covered shoulders. We offered our flower offerings at the temple and blessed ourselves by walking along a line of waterfalls. 








On my first weekend, me and a group of 4 friends had arranged to go to Gilli T, one of the small islands just off Bali. There was no need to buy tickets online or before flying out as tickets were much cheaper from one of the little travel stores in Ubud. My boat ticket return, which also included the taxi to and from the harbour, came to 450,000 rp (around 28eur), whereas online it can be as much as 100 euros. The boat ride to the island was interesting to say the least. Most people sat on the roof of the boat, where reggae remixes of songs were being blasted and drinks handed out (despite the fact it was 10am). Arriving at the island was pretty chaotic, there were people swarming the beach. Among the tourists waiting for boats, there were locals trying to sell cheap hotel packages, snorkelling trips and horse and carriage taxis (cars were not allowed on the island). Along with the 30° heat and oppressing humidity it was all very overwhelming. 


After wading through the throngs of people we made it 2 minutes down the 'road' to our hotel/hostel. With a pool, massive rooms (including a separate living room) and a view onto the beach it was well worth the under 13 euros we paid for it. It also happened to be 5 minutes from the main street, although I guess in Gilli most places are. The beach was hands down the most beautiful beach I have ever been to. Endless white sand and crystal-clear waters, not to mention, the colourful coral and variety of sea life. We rented snorkels from some, slightly dodgy, guys and ended up spending most of the day on the beach. We even got to swim with a turtle! Everything was so incredibly relaxed, it was as if nobody had a care in the world. There was music and little lounge areas with beanbags and chairs scattered along the beachfront. 

However, despite being indisputably beautiful it was evident the island was suffering as a result of mass tourism. Piles of rubbish and dirt were not uncommon on the beaches and other areas of the island. It is unquestionable that tourism boosts the economy, provides jobs, and enables the flow of different beliefs, but it also creates huge environmental, social and, cultural problems. With plans to create more clubs, bars and hotels, will Gilli still have that traditional Indonesian charm in 5 years time? 

Gilli at night was alive with hundreds of people drinking and dancing on the beaches. There was this buzz of life and happiness that I hadn't seen or experienced before. The next day we went to the other side of the islands to visit the famous Ombok swings in the water. We decided it would be a good idea to cross through the middle of the island instead of taking the normal route around the edge… we instantly got lost. There were no hotels or tourists, mostly just locals and farmland. In some ways it was refreshing to see that the effects of tourism hadn't spread everywhere. The swings on the other hand were a stark contrast, very touristy. One thing that isn't shown on Instagram and Facebook photos is the massive line of people waiting impatiently behind you. It’s not exactly the serene environment it appears to be in photos. Luckily enough, if you’re someone who likes to take hundreds to photos and not feel pressured, there are many swings around the island some of which are much quieter (but just as good) as the Ombok swings. 



The ride home was far less eventful then the ride there. There was no blaring music or drinks. 

My first day teaching was a little all over the place. Teaching 30 five to six year olds, easy right? Just sit them down with some colouring books and they'll be quiet and entertained for hours. Wrong. If only I'd known this before my first day teaching. It's fair to say me and my teaching partner were considerably under prepared, with our one name game and English song. It started well, we arrived to our kindergarten at 7 am and were promptly pulled into the classroom by several overexcited children. The day started with the teacher talking to the children (in Balinese) about their weekends and homework assignments, before the cutest little welcome song. What we were not prepared for was the fact that after this the teacher would leave us completely alone to teach the class. This meant we basically had 30 over energetic, but adorable, children to look after. Not to mention the language barrier, it's hard to explain something to a child normally let alone one who doesn't understand a word you're saying. At the end of the day we were exhausted but also more confident for the next day as we knew what to expect. 

As the weeks continued we started to get into a routine, creating little games and tasks at Ricefield house (the lesson prep house that had computers and printers) after every day in preparation for the next day. We also started to get to know the children better, it was amazing to see how their personalities changed as they became more comfortable with us. For example there was one little boy who was very clever and always finished his work before everyone else, this proved to be slightly problematic as he was also the troublemaker and ring leader for all the other little boys. We learned that if he wasn't occupied there would be havoc, running around, jumping on tables, throwing things, you name it. It was also clear after a few sessions what worked and what didn't, for example the kids loved the creative activities e.g. painting, colouring, sticking, much more in comparison to the writing exercises. 

Over the weeks I definitely grew attached to my kids. They were always joyful and smiling (aside from that one time one of the kids punched another who proceeded to have a nosebleed and cry, by the end we had five very upset crying kids... but you get me) thoroughly excited just to be sat next to you or holding your hand at circle time. After a while I got used to the constant noise and havoc and realised it was probably never going to be quiet. I also learned a lot from them, not only patience, organisational skills and how to teach English, but also how to be grateful. Even though they had so little they were probably some of the happiest kids I have ever encountered. I learned that you can say things a hundred times, in a hundred different ways but in the end the only way they'll learn it is if you sit next to them and physically show them. And I learned to think outside the box, kids get bored easily and sometimes you just have to make games up on the spot. 

All in all teaching in that kindergarten was one of my favourite experiences from my gap year, and I would do it all over again in a second.  





On my second weekend, my friends and I took a taxi to Gunung Kawi temple located just outside of Ubud. The temple was incredible, with massive stone shrines carved into the rock faces, and a contemporary temple alongside the old temple. It's located in the Pakerisan river valley, down a 300 step-decent which cuts through traditional shops and rice fields.We also got a glimpse at couple taking their wedding photos. The man holding a baton and woman dressed in a jewel adorned dress much like the sari worn in India. After the temple we went to Tukad Cepung waterfall, which was spectacular. The walk down went through a secluded jungle and cave. The waterfall itself was massive coming through a hole in the top of the cave. It was serene, the only sound being that of the water hitting the floor. As a fairly unknown waterfall it was also empty. On Sunday we went to Junglefish a hotel with a infinity pool into the jungle. It was calm and a nice place to get western food (if you need a break from the traditional food). 






For my final week I had three days off from teaching due to religious holidays, so me and my friends decided to spend them on Nusa Cenningan, a tiny island next to Nusa Lembongan. We booked a villa, as prices were low considering we were 8 people, and set off at the weekend. The day we decided to go it started violently storming, and taking a rocky boat with two seriously ill friends was not fun. Then when we finally made it to Nusa Lembongan we realised we didn't know how to get to Nusa Cenningan and spent about 2 hours trying to work out how to get to our villa... We crossed the bright yellow footpath bridge to Nusa Cenningan where a group of guys were waiting to pick us up in what seemed like a pick up truck. This along with the fact that they were filming us made the whole situation slightly uneasy. Never the less we piled into the van and went on a bumpy ride to the villa. 

The Villa itself was beautiful and secluded, with a giant living space and our own mini houses overlooking the sea. During our time on the island we went to 'blue lagoon', surfers point, snorkelled to an underwater Buddha and celebrated Ogo ogo and Nyepi day. Ogo ogo day is the day when all of Bali comes together and parades down the street with massive papier maché evil spirits, shouting and chanting. The next day Nyepi day (or silent day) everyone must stay in their houses and use no electricity, including cooking equipment and light. The idea is that all the noise will lure the evil spirits to the island, however when they arrive to the island on Nyepi day, because it is so dark and quiet, the spirits will think no one is about and will leave quietly. It was interesting to see all the locals come together and be a part of such a big festival. However my favourite part of the experience was by far Nyepi day. 

The idea of switching off all contact with the outside world was initially scary, but as the day went on I felt almost liberated by it. There were no outside influences or pressures from social media. We spent the day talking and playing cards and at night we watched the stars (Cheesy right). It's something you don't really do until it's the only thing you can do. With no electricity on the whole of Bali (this was enforced by police and fines) the stars were incredible. In that night alone I spotted at least 6 shooting stars. It made me realise just how important it is to switch of from technology for a while.  





While this was essentially the end of my core Bali experience, I could probably go on forever about other aspects about it. But considering this is already pretty long I'll just leave you with a list of random important details: 

  1. Motorbikes are the main mode of transport and are also pretty fun
  2. The vegetarian/Vegan food is incredible (Alchemy & Clear Cafe)
  3. Drink litres of water 
  4. The locals are some of the nicest people I've ever met 
  5. Stray cats and dogs everywhere 
  6. The Yoga barn - go take a class 
  7. Massages 
  8. Cupit bbq - go find it
  9. PLANTS EVERYWHERE 
  10. The markets are great - you will want to buy everything 
  11. Silver is cheap 
  12. It torrential rains pretty regularly
  13. Chilli tempe = incredible 
  14. It is so hot and humid you feel like you need to shower 10 times a day 
  15. Chickens everywhere 
  16. Lizards everywhere 
  17. Most things are extremely cheap under 50,000rp = 3.5 eur
✈ Next Thailand 

Links: 
IVHQ
Green Lion 



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