Want a trip to the moon?

I can’t really say we were on lunar soil but our brief stay at the Gili islands definitely felt like being out of this world. After a drive to Padangbai, where we took our ferry with a bunch of other travelers, including a group of tatooed bearded cap-and-very-short-and-colorful-80s-style-shorts wearing hipsters who graced us all with the loudness of their exquisite selection of the finest contemporary musical beats, we arrived at the pearl-white and turqoise-blue shores of Gili Air, from which we couldn’t stop admiring the awe-inspiring views of both Bali and Lombok volcanoes and mountains.

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Our group split up in this part of the trip, between the largest island of the three Gili, Gili Trawangan, and the second largest, Air, where we stayed.

We disembarked the ferry in this idyllic, carefree and car-free Eden where your feet are always covered in sand, all the running water is salty seawater, and you gradually feel your skin turn to scales and your hair turn to algae as you transform into some sort of mermaid-like seacreature sorrounded by the Ocean from all sides.

The first few hours in this beautiful island were not so paradisiacal, though. When you’re carrying all of your stuff in a heavy backpack under the tropical sun looking for a bungalow for the lowest price possiblWP_20140823_16_29_08_Proe, even the sights of this magnificent place come second to your need to find a resting place. I have to admit we were definitely way too thrifty in picking our accomodation. We were so afraid we wouldn’t get a nice place, that we chose one without checking out both of the rooms, leading to us staying in a very precarious bungalow – which would be fine, even perfect, except that all of the rustic charm was destroyed by a shitty red graffitti on the straw wall, and a very unstable floor. We were promised a better room on the second day, but ended up not only losing that one but losing the first one as well, and having to put extra beds in one shared room.

Still, one has to remember the best parts of everything, and the truth is we could hear the ocean from the dusty patio around which the bungalows were arranged, and at the entrance of which our very friendly and probably high pirate-like host slept all night in a hammock overlooking the beach bar decorated with Bob Marley posters (Gili Air seems to be divided in two: the Southeast reggae coast and the Northwest trance coast)WP_20140823_15_55_32_Pro

 

After a delicious lunch on the clear-blue-fake-postcard-photoshop-looking beach we tried to go for a swim – and this was a bit of a disapointment for me because I like to be immersed in water at all possible times – and found out that the beautiful white “sand” is actually coral sand which is very hard to walk on.

 

 

We expWP_20140823_16_30_11_Prolored the island, filled with colorful and rustic bars and restaurants overlooking the ocean sprinkled with sailing boats and the amazing views of Lombok, and absorbed the mellow laidback vibe – complete with strangers approaching us offering “a trip to the moon” a.k.a. magic mushrooms (oh, did I mention there is no police in the Gili islands?) and sunset parties to the sound of trippy music.

On our second day we went on a snorkelling trip which stopped just off the shore of each of the islands.

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For someone who would live underwater if only she would be able to develop gills and fins, snorkelling is as close as it gets to home. Time itself becomes liquid as you dive into the deep blue lull and your body eases into the slackening rhythm of your heartbeat. You feel so utterly alone that you almost cease to exist, dissolving in the water, beside all of the stunning creatures you observe, shimerring under the web of underwater sunrays.

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Unfortunately all of that peace was often interrupted by tourists and even guides pestering the beautiful turtles passing by. Still, it was a wonderful experience and we stopped in Gili Meno, the least populated island, for lunch and got an idea of each of the Gilis.

 

 

 

 

 

I had heared a lot about the Gili Islands and they really do the descriptions justice, with colors that seem unreal they are so perfect and a laidback atmosphere that makes time stop.

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Cycling Trivialities

como andar de bicicleta.

como equilibrar-se sobre seis centímetros de borracha que fogem por debaixo dos pés e desbastam o asfalto enquanto este nos promete a assolação

é como andar de bicicleta – diz-se com os ombros encostados aos lóbulos das orelhas, com um encolher de pescoço que os ombros até crescem

como andar de bicicleta.

e quando já não sabemos se os tornozelos nos seguram o volante ou os dentes agarram os pedais?

Who cares in a hundred years from now?

Indonesia Part IV – Wonderful Ubud

Immersed in the coolness of the water, my scraffy red toenail polish peeping out, it seemed like breathing in meant inhaling all of the humid warmth of the air sweetened by the musky incense sticks burning from the colorful offerings on the sidewalk, the wild forest sounds that echoed in the gloomy greenness of nature’s grandeur devouring man-made sculptures of the Mandala Suci Wenara Wana (the Sacred Monkey Forest Sancturary), the immenseness of rice fields that sorrounded us in this magical part of Bali, known for its cultural richness and spirituality (you might recognize it from the beautiful scenes in the last part of “Eat, Pray, Love“)

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Our Hotel Pool

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Our hotel room

I have to admit that I am a bit of a fool for information – I know there’s beauty in experiencing something with absolutely no pre-existing idea of it but I also find it beautiful to have an idea of the meanings and history of places, to better understand rather than just consume each place – but no guide description could have prepared me for the sheer beauty that is Ubud. After being dropped off at the bus station, finding out where the center would be (with the help of a guy on a scooter who took a volunteer to check out a cheap hotel), and the aggravating process of having a 10-person group search for and agree on accomodation (the cheap hotel was actually pretty cheap and some of the rooms were quite good and the others… well let’s just say they weren’t as good), we ended up in what I think was the best hotel we stayed in during our trip: the Wenara Bali, which is where we were now, unwinding in the late afternoon inside the refreshing swimming pool adorned with two statues of women with water pots, sorrounded by lush gardens just outside the main entrance to the Monkey Forest. At night, you could hear the wilderness and, because we were on the top floor, sometimes even the footsteps of monkeys walking on the roof of the hotel.

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We stayed two nights at the hotel, three in Ubud (unfortunately on our last night our hotel was already fully booked). The first day was all about the gorgeous Monkey forest, a true sanctuary and perfect blend of nature and art with some fearless creatures running around like… well, monkeys!

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On the second day we explored the town, the palace complex and the colorful and chaotic market, rented scooters and drove around the area (I had a huge scare – in my fearful panicking head nothing actually happened – that lead to an almost-nervous-breakdown driving down one of the the steep curvey narrow roads), marveling at the terraces of rice plantations cutting into the fertile ground, finding cafés and high end massage parlours with decks overlooking the scenery and beautiful sculptures of Ganesh, and mosaics of lotus flowers, as well as stopping to look at the uniquely embelished and colorful architecture (and being trapped by very nice and helpful Made into a “free” tour of an amazing “local, not for tourists” private rice field, which was accessible from a family home, and through a pigsty, and ended up with our guide demanding a larger tip for a service that was presented as free).

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In Ubud, aside from an invigorantingly aggressive massage, is also where I ate some of the most delicious food I had in Indonesia, and here I do have to thank the guide books and blogs for helping us find this gem: the Dewa Warung. Tucked into a small side street, we had to sit on the steps that lead to the eating room for at least half an hour under a light warm rain waiting for a seat – but it was definitely worth it. The place was packed with tourists and locals alike, loud busy and sweaty, with waiters running around tables filled with cheerful conversation, in a relaxed vibe where you sit at long shared tables and drink ice cold Bintang to some tasty Indonesian dishes. Speaking of food, of course our visit to the palace was preceded by some seriously delicious pig meat (and as a Portuguese person this is saying a lot) at the nearby Ibu Oka Warung made famous by the one and only king of food traveling – Anthony Bourdain. The restaurant is simple and clean, wasn’t as full as we expected, and the food was spicy, hot, tender and delicious.

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Ibu Oka Warung

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Offerings with incense

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On our second night, after much discussing and compromising, we got into full on tourist mode and decided, since we didn’t have that much time, we would see as much as possible of Central Bali in one day. We basically went to the tour service booths on the main street and said: “we want to do this, this and this – how much will that cost?” Took it to a few of the stalls that were open that night and picked the best price. We got an excellent service for an incredible price. They picked us up at the hotel early the following morning, took us in two vans to visit some of the locations to the North that we wanted to visit: the temples Pura Luhur Batukaru, Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and the Gitgit waterfalls, brought us back to Ubud, and the next morning picked us up again to take us to Padang Bai and included the ferry ticket to the Gili islands in the price.

There’s a lot more that could be said about Ubud but you really have to experience it for yourself. Remembering it is feeling encircled by hues of green and grey, rich purple and orange, dense humid warmth and the sweet and musky scent of incense. If I ever go back to Bali I will definitely spend more time in Ubud.

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Monkey Forest Sanctuary

Indonesia – Part III Welcome to Bali

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Next Tuban Bali

Arriving in Bali we went on another one of the dozens of crazy taxi-finding missions we had during the trip, after which we made it to our hotel – the Next Tuban Bali, where we were greated in a tall, opulent lobby. (The next day we would spent a little too much time in it while trying to find transportation to the other hotel: we were always asking for bluebird taxis – the cheapest and most reliable ones – but they are somehow never available). We had booked the first night there, because it was close to the airport and we would be landing late.

Arriving in Bali was definitely a change from Yogya. Clearly much more turistic, but also, in the area close to the Denpasar airport, much more urban (aka dirty and smelly). After checking out our rooms (some of which were fine but ours had a REALLY weird smell we had read about on Tripadvisor beforehand), we went for a walk around the block looking for something to eat. The neighborhood was very dark and we were more than once surprised by small creatures, usually cockroaches, creeping over our toes – which was expected in such a busy area and in such a hot climate. The hotel sorroundings were quite deserted so we ended up buying some instant noodles and snacks at a supermarket, along with air freshners which we sprayed all over our hotel room, and went back to the balcony overlooking the hotel pool to eat and enjoy the warm nightly breeze. The hotel was actually quite pleasant, especially the common areas, and here is where we first noticed something that became more evident the more hotels we stayed in: in low budget hotels the bathrooms are built based on purely practical needs – they are in basic concrete, open showers… often contrasting with very comfortable and high-end bedrooms.

The next morning, we joined the rest of the group, who skipped the second day of Yogya and went straight to Bali where they found a hotel near the beach, at Legian. The Kuta-Legian-Seminyak strip is is where everyone seems to be. Bustling with scooters, lobster-skinned tourists with neon sunglasses, souvenir shop after souvenir shop, bars, restaurants, massage salons… – it reminded me of Praia da Oura, in Albufeira.

Entrance to Legian beach

Entrance to Legian beach

Rosani hotel

Rosani hotel

We stayed in a great hotel (a tiny bit over our budget), the Rosani, in a narrow side street between Jl. Melasti (which leads directly to Legian beach) and the very central Jl. Legian, right in the center of action. The day was spent driving around in scooters (mainly the boys) trying to book tickets for the bus to Ubud the next morning, walking the Legian streets, and then relaxing at the wide sandy beach, drinking Bintang, eating Mie Goreng and swimming in the wavy ocean until sundown. The beach day ended with an incredibly relaxing and at the same time invigorating Balinese massage at PIP’s (Pampurring in Paradise) and a dip in the hotel’s swimming pool.

Then it was off to dinner at a pretty touristy restaurant on the main street, which played an eclectic musical selection (I remember some 90’s gangsta hip hop). After some drinks in a weird shady and extremely crowded bar on a narrow road (which we left after a big fight broke out), we ended the night on the top floor of the fabulously famous Sky Garden, overlooking the sparkling lights of Kuta’s nightlife to the sound of some great music that had us dancing for hours.

Delicious dinner

Delicious dinner

Bintang, coconut water and the Legian sunset

Bintang, coconut water and the Legian sunset

The next day started with the hectic rhythm of trying to get a 10-people group ready and checked out to catch a bus to Ubud. We closed the taxi door a few minutes before departure time, after being stuck in traffic for what seemed like an eternity for a 2km ride, and rushed in to the bus filled with other tourists headed to the peaceful majestic and very spiritual Ubud, in the center of the island.

Indonesia – Part II Yogyakarta

I woke up to the busy sound of Jakartan traffic, well-rested and fresh faced to start the new step of the trip. We hadn’t planned much, just that we were flying to Yogyakarta (or Jogjakarta or Jogja) at 10:30, staying at the Rengganis Hotel for one night, and then moving on to Denpasar (Bali), the next day 20:50.

We packed everything so we were ready to go right after breakfast and rode the elevator down to the dining area near the reception of the Pop! Hotel. Next to a few scattered tables and a balcony, there was some mostly Indonesian breakfast food displayed, which means  coffee cooked similarly to Turkish coffee (steamed water over ground coffee beans) and, if I remember correctly, some bubur ayam (a sort of rice and chicken porridge), as well as some bananas. Since I usually only have coffee for breakfast, it wasn’t much of an adjustment, but having rice and chicken for breakfast may take a little getting used to for those us used to a Portuguese breakfast. So, when we arrived at the airport and went through security, it was nice to have some extra time to hit the pleasant and bright food corner and fill up on (expensive) fruit juice, water and Beard Papa’s, i.e., Japanese cream puffs. Before we knew it, we were flying over (and next to) vulcano summits and landing in beautiful Yogya.

Flying next to volcanoes to Yogya

Flying next to volcanoes to Yogya

Yogyakarta

We landed and were immediately badgered (as happened during the whole trip) “Taxi, taxi….!” Non-stop, everywhere we looked, anyone you made eye contact with seemed to want to offer you transportation. This disoriented us more and made us take more time than we should have figuring out how to get to the hotel. That and the fact that many drivers didn’t recognize the address we had written down. But we finally got to Rengganis – and what an oasis it was! We had some fresh juice fruit, mie and nasi goreng on a sort of gazebo overlooking the pool, and checked into our colorful rooms with cozy and green tiny balconies in front of them, with wicker chairs perfect to sit and read, and, at night, to hear Nature’s silence under the starry sky. Don’t get me wrong, Yogyakarta is a quite a big city (636.660 people according to Wikipedia), and some parts of it are all but quiet, but our hotel was a bit South of the center in a tranquil area.

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Rengganis Hotel

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Rengganis Hotel

After lunch we decided to check with some travel agencies we had seen on the way, and ask for advice on how to visit what we had come here for: Borobudur and Prambanan. On the street of our hotel, in a dim, messy house with walls covered with books and posters of maps, we discussed our travel plans with our agent [I am very sorry that I don’t remember practically any names of the people we met during our trip, I feel really bad about it but it’s been seven months and my memory for names is usually really bad]. When I say discuss, it is an understatement. The truth is we stubbornly haggled the price, as we always did, until all sides were happy with our itinerary and schedule: we would leave the next day early in the morning to Borobudur, stop for lunch, head to Prambanan and then be dropped off at the airport, which meant we had to take our luggage with us in the van. (We didn’t bring much luggage anyway since we knew we would be moving all the time, in my case it was a 7kg bag).

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Becak ride

We had the rest of the day free to roam around the area, ride on a becak (trishaw), take a dip in the swimming pool, and at night stroll around the shopping promenade Malioboro, where we haggled some more and bought a bunch of stuff we didn’t need, as well as some really unique souvenirs. The prices here were truly, unbeatably low. We exchanged some money in a shady looking shack on a side road, after looking around for the best deal (we are the ultimate thrifty travellers), all the time thinking about all we had read in guide books about being alert and counting the bills etc. (it can be difficult due to all the 000’s – 1 Euro was around 15000 IDR, so you end up with millions of IDR in your pocket at times). All around us were beautiful fabrics in traditional patterns, gorgeous dresses, but also cheap looking touristy T Shirts, some handcrafted pieces, some trinkets… It is easy to get lost in Malioboro. We walked it up and down many times, also trying to find a place to eat. There are a lot of fast food restaurants, especially in and around the shopping center. We looked in the side streets for a place that would not be too touristy but also not just a street car vendor, and ended up in an ok place, where we had a (very) cheap meal with some tea. (The whole experience in Yogyakarta just made us spoiled regarding Indonesian prices, we thought everything would be as cheap as here, but it was not so)

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Malioboro

Borobudur

The next day we got up, had some delicious omolettes and scrambled eggs and fruit by the pool, packed our backpacks and met our very nice driver, a quiet, smiling, bony man with a mustache. It was a more or less 40km ride to Borobudur, and on the way we got to see the different parts of Yogyakarta, marvel at the anarchic traffic, motor bikes carrying a whole family of five, beautiful Javanese architecture, such as archways over the road, and, while we drove away from the city center, at the lush greenery and rice fields.

Tip: It is really worth to bring a student card with you to both Borobudur and Prambanan, if you have one, because the ticket is much cheaper with one.

Borobudur is simply stunning, not just the temple but also the vast green fields around it, landscaped gardens as well as the forest, with tall palmtrees. We walked around under the warm sun and the sound of chirping birds and, more soothing even, the Gamelan playing from the loudspeakers. The 9th Century Buddhist temple was built with a mixture of Indigenous Javanese as well as Indian influences, with stunning statues of Buddha, and beautiful relief panels and narrow stairways with spectacular views. The most amazing aspect of it, though, was the amount of times we were asked to pose for pictures with other tourists visiting the site, especially the boys who were constantly approached by groups of schoolgirls in headscarfs calling “Mister, mister – photo!”. The fact that the boys were wearing some traditional shirts they bought at Malioboro the night before was also a success. When leaving the temple, you go through a path filled with very persistent souvenir vendors, and then through a maze of stalls, like a bazar, where we stopped for some refreshing coconut water.

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Borobudur

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Borobudur

Borobudur

Borobudur

After a huge scare, consisting of us not finding our driver (and the van with all of our luggage) anywhere in the large parking area, ultimately having to ask the reception to call him through loudspeakers (he was just waiting for us somewhere else), we stopped at a Silver factory (a touristy place where you see some people working on jewlery), where there were some overpriced restaurants for tourists. Aside from being on a tigh budget, we really didn’t want to eat where all the tourist buses stopeed and asked our driver to take us to some place where locals go to eat. He took us to a beautiful place, on the water, where we shared dishes like caramelized fish and fish cooked in coconut milk, as well as some delicious fruit juices, and asked the driver to join us for lunch (although at one point he disappeared to the main restaurant bulding and eded up eating there).

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Where we had lunch

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Fruit juices

Prambanan

We drove through some rural roads, where we saw groups of schoolgirls in all white uniforms walking, to Prambanan, a 9th Century Hindu temple compound which is still being reconstructed, with different small temples each onde dedicated to a different divinity (I just went up the stairs to Shiva and Brahma, they are quite steep and it was very warm). Around the complex there are also some calming lakes where we rested under the shade, again to the relaxing and magical sound of the Gamelan. After giving back our sarongs, we met our driver at the entrance to go to the airport.

I recorded this sound at Prambanan

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Prambanan

At Prambanan

At Prambanan

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Prambanan Complex

 Mr President

At the small airport we had a really hard time finding a place to eat something substantial. There were some fast food places (like a KFC with a huge Cristiano Ronaldo ad – Crisitiano is, as we found out, the most recognizable Portuguese reference in Indonesia, and I guess anywhere in the world right now) and a local food restaurant where we ended up, even though they didn’t have that much food available. We had a long wait for our flight, and, while we were sitting in the back of the restaurant, we noticed a lot of commotion outside, and the waitresses shrieking excitedly and running towards it. So, of course, we did too. Just outside the restaurant was a car with the backseet window rolled down and a smiling man waving to the large photo-taking crowd. We asked “who is it?” – “The President!” the waitress giggled. It was newly elected Joko Widodo, known as Indonesia’s Obama as I had read before our trip. Inside the terminal, while we were waiting to board the plane to Bali, the agitation when he passed to board his plane was even more frantic. We were almost just as excited: it’s not every day you see the head of State of the country you’re visiting.

We boarded our Lion Air flight to Denpasar for the next part of the trip: Bali.

Indonesia – Part I

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Kuala Lumpur Airport

After more than 30 hours travelling by train and plane, from almost 13000 km away, and layovers in Lisbon (huge line, long wait), London (rushing through the airport to pick up our luggage from one flight and check it in at the next, and then boarding the amazingly comfortable Airbus A380 – yes, the Superjumbo – which made 12 hours feel like no time at all) and Kuala Lumpur (SUPER comfortable and bright airport – where some in our group encountered squat toilets for the first time), at around 11 pm, we finally stepped out of the airplane into the outdated carpet-floor of Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta airport, where we stayed for far too long standing in long confusing lines to get the stamp and pay the 25$ on arrival visa to enter that beautiful country.

At this point, I was in that phase when, no matter how excited you are about all the adventures to come, all you can do is dream about a fluffy pillow and cozy mattress, and you’re almost too tired to people-watch all the strangers sorrounding you in the bustling baggage claim area. So, when I heared that some of our group’s bags hadn’t arrived, and we’d have to wait even longer for them to file a complaint, sitting on the few and uncomfortable chairs under the bad lighting of the airport, my mood wasn’t exactly at its best.

The problem here was that, in the name of spontaneity, we decided to only book our first night in each of the first destinations: Jakarta, Yogyakarta (here only part of the group stayed overnight) and Denpasar. And since we would be travelling around a lot and didn’t have a fixed itinerary, there was no stable address to ship the luggage to. But a solution was found, eventually.

After everything was settled, and we passed yet another metal detector on our way out of the airport, in the dense warm humid air that I love so much, we took two taxis straight to our hostel, the POP! Hotel Airport Jakarta, which was supposed to be next to the airport, but, because of the way the main roads were built, was actually not easily accessable on foot – at least not at night. Luckily one of the boys in the group, who had to take another flight alone because he booked it a few days later than the rest of us (but ended up getting a better deal, with a shorter trip and leaving directly from Porto), had arrived earlier and gave us the tip of not even trying to go on foot. So we squeezed in 5 of us in one taxi, and 4 in the other, causing the first of countless situations during our trip in which we made the local people we’d meet laugh at the scale of our thriftiness.

 

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Here we were, at the hostel – a modern building with bright lights and decorated in vivid colors like green and orange. The tiny rooms, where only the bed and a tight shower fit, were clean and comfortable and all I wanted was to sleep – so I did, right after washing away all the travel stress with a hot shower.

Our trip, which we had been planning for months, had finally started. But it only felt real once, in the darkness of the hotel room in Jakarta, I took in the noises from the busy streets outside, and while drifting off to sleep, actually realised we were there – all those endless frustrating but fun and exciting get-togethers and phone calls of scheduling, meeting, simulating bookings, picking an itinerary… had produced an actual trip.

Indonesia – Introduction

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About a year ago I decided my itchy feet needed to experience something new. It is stunning how quickly after a trip my day to day life starts strangling all the memories of adventure and stirrs up a restlessness only the booking of a new trip can cure. So that’s what happened. I needed a trip, an adventure, something new, somewhere new. And as much as I enjoy travelling by myself, which keeps me from getting distracted by conversation and general socializing and really take in my sorroundings, this time I did something I had never done before: I booked a group holiday. And by group I mean there were 10 of us.

After researching quite obsessively (as I always do when the prospect of a new trip starts shaping itself on the horizon), and some schedule gymnastics that allowed us to set 2 weeks where everyone could take a vacation (August), we checked for the destinations where the climate would less likely betray our fun. Adding that to chosing the most far-away destination possible, to pump up the unfamiliar factor, as well as the budget factor, we quickly put our finger on those scattered islands on the east of our world map, right on the Equator: We were going to Indonesia.

It took a lot of researching, planning, reading, asking for advice from other travelers, arguing, but, in the end, we came up with an itinerary inside this wonderfully diverse huge country: Yogyakarta – Seminyak (Bali) – Ubud (Bali) – Gili Islands – Bukit pensinsula (Bali).

It was a tough decision to make in a country where there is so much to see, but we had to be realistic in terms of time and money. In the end, I think it was a good choice, even if it was a bit tiring to cram so much in so little time.

Since we came back, a lot of people have been asking me for tips on all kinds of topics. So I decided the best way to gather all of the information and make it available was through my blog. I plan on posting about each part of the trip in the following weeks, and hope to remember all of the most relevant practical information for those thinking of tracing our steps (or making their own route by learning from ours).

The places we visited definitely made me fall in love with Indonesia (although I do have to underline that we only saw a teeny tiny little bit of this magnificent country). The palpable spirituality, breathtaking natural scenery, delicious food, and welcoming people we crossed paths with have turned our trip into an amazing experience I would definitely recommend and really wouldn’t mind repeating.

I will try to post regularly, but I make no promises!

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Sunless Days

I had gotten used to the warm paleness of crystal mornings, their shades of blue and pink like the cozyness of a baby blanket unravelling a new day full of possibilities, the crisp air cutting through the skin not being enough to disuade from taking as much of the Winter sun as possible in its daily pithiness, running through dusty paths bordered by evergreens and stone pine or concrete paths by staggeringly harmonic wave sets reflecting an equally overwhelming sky…

Now the dusky tumult of the once deep blue Ocean sends its seagulls’ loud cries to wake me, while they whirl and dance through the curtain of cold raindrops, so thin the naked plants on the balcony drink them up eagerly as it falls into the dry ground.

 

Autumn

Every fall of a yellowish brown leaf, every coat of early dawn frost, every breath of air made tangible by the somehow comforting humidity of the cold oceanic air, the cyclical nature of Nature seems to suprise me with the sort of amazement that should be reserved solely for every-once-in-a-while events rather than a yearly scheduled hibernation.

Opening the terrace door to be wrapped up in the frigidness of a timidly rising sun, the aroma of a freshly made coffee mug warming my drowsy fingers, the discomfort of the cold – or maybe it is simply the changing of seasons – always gives me a yearning for change.

It might even be that Nature’s periodic shaking-off of its old in preparation for the new coinciding with the yearly celebration of my own birth ignites this sort of craving, and the associated sensation of being embraced by love from those around me just gives the final push.

After roaming carelessly and barefoot through the season of sand and salt, of living under the sun and never wanting to be home, now feels like the time to calm down, to quiet the mind, to deeply inhale the early evening air tainted with the smell of fireplaces, of togetherness and home, to bake cinnamon and apple muffins and devour them under a blanket with a side of hot chocolate.

It feels like the time to appreciate, to slow down the exterior and pump up the interior, to start over with the freshness of the grey sky.