Thursday, 27 May 2010

Kualar Lumpar

It was strange being back in a city after 3 weeks of chilled out island hopping but KL was just what we needed. First day was dedicated to shopping with a relaxed evening meal in China Town. The second day, however we uped the pace by begining in China Town hunting down the morning bargins before hopping on a bus to the Batu Caves, which contain several very lovely hindu shrines as well as hundreds of monkeys swinging off the tops of them and munching on coco nuts. We had dinner in Little India where the streets were lined with brightly coloured stalls selling jewellery, head scarves and saris. We then got the monorail back to China Town and had a look at central market where we tried on lots of hareem pants and got a fish spa. The fish spa was a novel if somewhat painful (though mainly ticklish) experience where by you put your feet in a water tank filled with fish who eat all the dead skin of your feet. Its ment to have many health benefits like improving circulation and leaving skin healthy- either way, me and my friends all agreed it was the funnest pound we'd ever spent and did leave our feet super soft.


So... I'm now in Indonesia on a large island called Java. After a horrible 4 days in Sumatra (the island above Java) which consisted of a 30hour bus journey filled with chain smoking locals who refused to let us open the windows, ankots with drivers who'd drop us in the middle off nowhere and charge us highly for the privilege, a massive language barrier and a very sick friend... quite frankly arriving in Java was god send.

At the moment we're in Yogakarta, a pedestrian friendly city (a real novelty here) which is considered the cultural capital. The city is famous for puppets and batik- our first day here we saw plenty evidence of this whilst strolling down the bustling market on Jl Malioboro where stall after stall was selling beautiful batik handbags and purses, puppets along with many other beautiful crafts. We also stopping by the batik art centre where we were given a demonstration of the batik process which involves lots of hot wax as well as a very steady hand. Before the hectic market however, my friend and I decided we couldn't delay an asian massage any longer so stopped into a massage parlour for a 90 minute full body massage with hot oil and free tea. The massage was amazing, at one point they held onto my feet for support and walked over me! I'd never felt so relaxed as after that massage and all it cost me was 6 pounds 50.

The next day was spent doing slightly more cultural things than massages and shopping, as we wnt to the sultans palace and water castle. The water castle was my favourite, carved with a mix of hindu and muslem symbols it was truley beautiful and on the way out we stoped in a puppet shop where the artist explained the puppet making process to us. In the evening we went to see the Ramayana Ballet show which incredible. It's a very traditional indonesian tale, the actors where dressed in incredible costumes, jewellery, face paint and masks. The dancing was unlike anything I've ever seen, the way they can make their body move is nothing like the dancers we have back home.

Today is our last day in my favourite city (in Asia) so far and we've just got back from Borobuddur, a huge buddist monument that attracts travellers from miles. It's a magnificent place with breath taking mountain views. There was a buddist ceremony whilst we visited so we caught some of the procession and got to see the big buddist shrine they'd built filled with insense, candles and golden statues.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


Tioman island was our first real taste of Malaysia and it was beautiful. As soon as we arrived we ran into the ocean and swam until sunset before a delicous curry and cocktails. This island is full of life and on my first day I saw two huge monitor lizards scurrying under beach huts and a pair of monkeys fighting by the lake. One day we walked from one side of the island to the other through the rain forest and past a waterfall- the massive trees made me feel so small. Another day I walked a good couple of hours to a beach in Tekek and swam to Ringis Island where me and some friends went snorkelling. It was stunning and what made it more special is that lurking by some rocks I saw a shark!! I also saw two sea snakes, little did I know that they were actually posionous, I only discovered that afterwards when I described them to the dive shop lady.

We'd heard alot about Monkey Beach so also decided to go there. I hadn't realised how hardcore the walk would be, it was through the jungle. In parts we scrambled over rocks or used ropes attached to rocks to haul ourselves up steep bits (there were alot). We were doing so well until we came across a giant monitor lizard blocking our path and making quite sure that we couldn't cross. He swished his tail about, hissed his forky tounge and stamped. I thought we'd be stuck forever, but eventually after pretending to leave, he moved. We could hear him in the bushes though and as we passed he hissed loudly so we RAN and my heart was pounding the whole rest of the walk to monkey beach, but at least I survived.

I love this island so much because it has such local charm. Most of the malaysians (including the young kids) ride little mopeds with side carts that take up the whole pathway. There were plenty of cafes serving village style noodles and rice dishes full of women in their beautiful long dresses and matching head scarves. The few bars here were so cute, they on the beach frount with a very laid back vibe and often fire shows. It'll be hard to top this place.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

East Coast Australia

Finally I understand everyone's obsession with Australia! This vast, sparsely populated country has just about everything to offer. It took me awhile to get over the initial jet-lag when we arrived in sydney. We walked over the harbour bridge, checked out the opera house and wandered through the massive botanical gardens with bats constantly gliding over our heads, but I still didn't get Australia. I was still pineing over South America and missed the magic of Australia to begin with.

A couple of days later, after flying to Byron Bay however, everything changed. We stayed in a super-cool hostel with a pool, juice bar and loads of workshops. Our first night there was a beach party with a huge bonfire and a couple of guys playing the fiddle and guitar- it created such a great atmosphere. We met all sorts of people, mainly other backpackers and I can honestly say that this was the moment I realised my love for Australia. Our time in Byron was spent relaxing at the more secluded beach, rather than the main one and checking out the cute hippish town, one morning we even got in a yoga class.

We went to Brisbane to meet our friend there for a couple of days. It was lovely to stay with a family, the meals were fantastic! We didn't have much time to look around, but hung out by Brisbane's fake beach and wandered around the town. Cairns was our next stop, home to the Great Barrier Reef. I've wanted to go to the great barrier reef ever since I can rember so it was one of the first things that we did when we got here. Tea, coffe, muffins, a big lunch and afternoon tea were included, as being able to snorkel through the most incredibly beautiful reefs, spotting giant, colourful fishwasn't enough. I had an amazing time and spent the rest of my time in Cairns exploring the different beaches (minding the crocs- I heard they can slip through the stinger nets) and lazing by the lagoon. Our last couple of days in Cairns were amazing- we went to cape tribulation, a beautiful rainforest that runs all the way down to the great barrier reef. We went croc spotting on a trip down the daintree river and saw a snake hanging on a tree whilst we were there too and did afew walks through the different types of rainforest. On our last day we went to the Aborigional Cultural Park where we go to watch live shows in which they performed the creation story, traditional dances and played the digaredoo. I even got taught how to throw a boomerang and spear, needless to say, my skills were such that I'd make a terrible hunter.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


One of the coolest things about Buenos Aires is that it's just a quick hop across the water to Uruguay, just a couple of hours and you're in a completely new country. Colonia in Uraguay is such a cute little city with winding cobbled streets and a long stretch of river beaches. We spent a couple of days unwinding on the beaches before exploring the old town with it's old fort, gorgeous coffee shops and many art gallerys. The perfect place to relax after much travelling.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010


Mendoza is the wine region of Argentina and makes 70% of it's wines, so of course a wine tour here is a must. Maipu is an hour or so outside of Mendoza and is so cute lined with vinyards and organic farms. We began in a family run vinyard where the process is all carried out by hand, before the tasting we were taught to hold the glass to the light to check it's colour and then swirl the glass to release the smell and if it's a good wine tears should run down the side of the glass. We then took a tour of an olive farm where we got to try several different types of olive oil as well as olive oil body products. The second winery we visited was an industrial one so that we could compare the two different ways of producing wine. Finally we wound up at this beautiful organic farm where they produced olives, jams, chutney, honey and delicious fruit juice. We had a tour of the farm an got to hold their bunny rabbits and look at their sheep and horse. Then we were brought to a large barrel of almonds where we had to crack the shells and could eat a many as we liked before the tasting. In this farm w even had time to relax for a while in their hammocks.

Back in the city, we went to a night market for a browse. We ended up befriending some artesan hippys there and were invited to join them and their friends for a large meal, it was so delicious and to top of the night we went to a bar of artesan beers followed by clubbing.

The next morning we checked out an antiques market and then spend the rest of the day learning to make braclets with our new found friends.

Thursday, 25 March 2010


After the craziness of a capital city it felt strange visiting the little towns in Patagonia, but despite there quietness they were beautiful. Our first stop was Puerto Madryn where on our first night we went to gorgeous and very much local seafood restaurant. On our full day there we hired a car and did a road trip around the peninsula where we saw armadilos, sea lions, elephant seals and the cutest little penguins!

We then caught the bus to Bariloche where we stayed in a lovely and very homely, wooden hostel. We were just outside town and really in the nature. We spent the first afternoon walking up a hill to a spectacular mirador with a beautiful view and log cabin selling yummy cakes and coffee, so we sat there with a drink and enjoyed the scenery. The next and best day was our day horse riding with gauchos through the mountains and forest. On arrival there was tea and coffee on the traditional ranch where we were dropped. After the easy going morning ride over the mountains, we sat down, back at the ranch, for wine and a feast of an asado. In the afternoon ride we got lots of chances to canter and when we got back, tortas fritas had been prepared for us along with more coffee. The rest of our time in Bariloche included driving around the
7 lakes and stopping in cute towns for food and drink. The 36km bike ride was the hardest thing we did but there was a cool artesans market that we stopped at.

The last stop in Patagonia was San Martin, the least touristy place I saw in this region. A town with friendly people, a lovely plaza and sweet little chocolate shops (most give out free samples), coffee shops and locally bars, all made from wood.