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Monday, August 31, 2015

Bali/Lombok- Moments Captured

Some of the amazing moments during our time visiting Bali and Lombok

Snorkeling, Amed

The Bukit, Surf mecca Bali

Temple visit Bali
Hermit crabs

Local Lombok fisherman

Kuta, Lombok

Sitting on Gili T, Lombok in the distance

Ubud Temple

Handmade, Ubud temple carvings

Beachside bungalow, Amed- Bali

Friday, August 28, 2015

World's Most Expensive City

Singapore, deemed "worlds most expensive city" was a two day stop over for us before we headed on to complete our Southeast Asia travels in Vietnam. While on the surface everything IS expensive here, ie fancy restaurants, top notch hotels, and shows galore, when you look a little closer there is so much to do and see that even the most budget minded backpacker can enjoy this city in its finest. After doing some research, Brandon and I chose the neighborhood of Little India to stay in, cheap, loaded with Indian food, and close enough to the city center that we could walk. We stayed in our first hostel of the trip and had more fun than anticipated.

Roti Canai, one of our favorite Indian dishes 
After an extremely stressful flight from Indonesia to Singapore (see asterisk below*), Brandon and I took the subway that dropped us a half kilometer from our hostel, with directions provided by our accommodation we walked only 5 minutes and found The InnCrowd. Being a little weary of staying in a dorm with 8 others, we knew it would be a good experience (and it was all we wanted to afford). We threw our bags in the storage room spoke with the hostel staff about services they offer and were informed that they had a free tour of the city at 6 pm that evening. We signed up and set off to explore Little India and eat as much roti as we could before arriving back at the hostel for our tour, scooter tour apparently. Being extremely active, a scooter was NOT something that has ever been in my back pocket of things I'm good at. I've never even ridden one and we were going to be scooting for 15 kilometers, thats roughly 10 miles!

For the next 5 hours we toured the city taking in the sights, the light shows and water shows, an amazing art museum, and eating the famous Singapore chicken rice. The tour was (and I don't say this lightly) one of the best things we've done in our 5 months of traveling. Our guide was fantastic, the city is beautiful, and the scooters were awesome. Brandon and I couldn't stop laughing the entire time. We arrived home completely exhausted, and slept straight through the night without any bother from our dorm mates.

Light show at Gardens By The Bay
The next day was filled with more exploring and researching our upcoming trip to Vietnam. With only two nights in Singapore we wanted to do it right so we looked up the best happy hours and decided to go with a wine bar that advertised all you could drink house wine for ladies from 7-10pm for S$20. That sounded like a good enough deal, and we would just pay per glass for Brandon. As we arrive at exactly at 6:59, we ask about their happy hour and we were told to go upstairs. Hoping that this would work out, we walk upstairs to a deserted room with loads of tables. The waitress brings us a menu and informs us the happy hours is free wine for ladies between 7-10 pm and men S$20 all you can drink from 7-9pm. Wait, what?! Did she just say FREE? As you can probably already guess, we were super stoked, we had essentially 3 hours of drinking for S$20 total. 5 or 6 or more glasses of wine later, happy hour was over. We happily pay and decide that Karaoke being HUGE in Asia was next on our agenda. We do a quick google search and walk to the nearest karaoke bar. We give it our best go with as many songs as we can come up with, John Denver, Eminem, Starland Vocal band. Until it's few hours later, and we decided it was time to make our way back as we had an early flight to catch. We stop by the only open Indian restaurant for a late night roti, make a new friend...

And that was our two days in Singapore.

*If you remember from last year there was a flight that went down in the Java Sea. The evening before our flight I checked the most recent news, and saw that there was a new flight the day before that had crashed. The plane was flying out of Indonesia and the article also notated that numerous airports in Indonesia are in the top 10% of most dangerous airports due to safety oversights. Of course, I continued for the next 5 hours to research this while laying in bed next to my sleeping husband. Knowing very well I would be flying from Denpasar to Singapore only 8...7...6 hours later. Upon further research I learned that the flight last year that went missing was flying the same route as us... and you guessed it, the same airline. Good 'ol budget airline Air Asia. I was terrified. After finally putting down my phone I tossed and turned the rest of the night getting no sleep, wondering if this could be it. I remember texting my mom the exact flight details as nonchalantly as possible, just in case.... you know. I still don't know if she thought that to be strange or not.

Come boarding time, and I am a wreck, I explain to Brandon how I got trapped in the downward spiral of researching on the internet. I went from airline safety, to crashes, to deaths and so on, and he looked at me wide eyed, not exactly knowing what to do or how to control me. We're now on the plane and I get prepared, or as much as I can for my inevitable fate. I make a few more texts, and kiss Brandon and tears pour down my face. Looking back I can understand that I may have been going a little overboard, especially for someone who has been on over 20 flights in the past 6 months, but I lost it.

Fast forward 40 minutes into our flight, we safely make it past the prior crash location (as I was tracking this on my phone) and after another hour or so we were safely on the ground, and the only thing bruised was my ego from my (slight) breakdown. As a side note I have flown Air Asia since then...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

50 days in Indonesia

12 August 2015
50 days in Indonesia

Java - Bali - Lombok - Sumbawa - Flores -


  • Diving in Komodo National Park- Wicked Diving Liveaboard
  • Driving a motorbike across the many islands
  • Mel visiting us from Seattle
  • Watching women weave blankets 
  • Using our hands and body language to communicate with locals

Our adventure in Indonesia is coming to an end and during the nearly two months we've been here I've crashed a motorbike, had my phone stolen out of my hand, had a malaria scare, been on a dive boat so small it almost capsized, gotten food poisoning, missed our departure flight, and had multiple scratches on my body that instantly turned into volcanic eruptions of puss; it is time we say adue.

The beaches here have been something out of a dream with the turquoise water and white sand and amazing snorkeling and diving beneath. We have constantly been on the go to find the next hidden gem or the next great dive site and it seems our bodies are telling us we need to rest. Brandon has been sick on and off for over two weeks now, and today my body finally broke down with aches and we decided a full day of rest was needed.

Kuta, Lombok

After almost a month in Bali we slowly made our way to the island of Flores, via motorbike - a 500 mile (one way) land journey and three ferry crossings.

Motobike Journey across Indonesia

While the overland journey was long and sometimes exhausting, we were able to see parts of the country that most tourists miss out on. The thankfully well paved road followed the coast for much of the way winding in and out of villages lined with traditional stilted houses, while the faint odor of sun dried fish lingered in the background. We saw kids going to school in uniform, and marching to the sound of a whistle, and the constant call to prayer being projected through a megaphone from mosques along the way. Sumbawa is a muslim island, most of Indonesia is actually (with exceptions of Bali- hindu and Flores- Catholic), however most of the country is "modern muslim" which means they are not as strict as traditionalist. In Sumbawa however we found the island to be extremely conservative and traditional, with women being covered head to toe, and some even dressed in burkas that cover everything but their eyes. At one point in our trip we were actually stopped on our motorbike by members of the mosque because prayer was about to start. We waited patiently on the road as cars and motorbikes stacked up behind us while service commenced for the next 45 minutes. I've always been one with an open mind but the way religion is pushed in parts of Indonesia is almost as if you are forced to be muslim. Freedom of religion is definitely not part of their culture.

Nasi Campur

One of very few road hazards
Four days later we arrived in Labuan Bajo, Flores. Dirty and exhausted after a 7 hour ferry ride and days of travel we stagger to the first hotel open we find and crash for the night. Knowing very well we were located right next to the mosque and would be getting an unwelcomed wake up call at 4am.

Labuan Bajo is a dirty little fishing town that has absolutely nothing to do but is home to arguably the best diving in the world. After getting newly advanced certified we were excited for our upcoming splurge on a diving live-aboard, four days of straight diving. To say it was fun would be an understatement. The liveaboard exceeded our expectations with the most incredible dives we've ever been on, delicious food for every meal and great staff.

We began our trip by making our way to the central part of the Komodo Islands. Since it was mid afternoon we only had time for one dive our first day. Our instructors called it a "check dive" where they insure that everyone will be okay in the more difficult to navigate waters. Komodo is also home to some of the most technical diving in the world, with its extremely fast currents. The first dive while only being a check dive was wonderful, but it was only a teaser to what would come the following days.

The next three days were as follows:
Wake up around 6am enjoy a coffee and the sunrise and a small breakfast of cereal and juice. Dive.
Big Breakfast usually with eggs, rice, toast, pancakes, and fruit.
Relax/ lunch
snack/ relax
Dinner/ relax/ play cards
Sleep/ repeat

Dive sights in Komodo are all so different from one another. We had 12 dives in total and in those dives we had sensory overload. Colors shooting at us from all directions. The spectacular fluorescent colors of the reef intertwined with thousands of patterned fish, electric soft corals, massive schools of barracuda and travalies, big sharks, manta rays, and fast currents. I mean really fast, so fast you stop looking at things and just focus on not drifting away fast!

We did bring a go pro with us while diving, but unfortunately the color is completely lost after 10 meters. Below is a glimpse of what we saw in Komodo, and if you're a diver, I recommend taking your next vacation here!

We were asked at the end of the trip what our favorite dive was, and while its nearly impossible to pick a favorite, one in particular stands out. As we descended into the water to our max depth of 30 meters we had to fight a current to get to stay with our dive guide. Not being briefed much on what this dive was going to entail I fight with all my might to stay up with him. I grab on to a coral head to catch my breath as the current continues to try to pull me back and my instructor is nearly out of sight. I look down at my air gage, Ive already blown through 40 bars of air, only 7 minutes into the dive, that's nearly a quarter of my air supply. I'm not going to make it very far at this rate. I slow my breathing, catch my breath, and with Brandon by my side we signal to each other to continue forward. Finally, we beat the current catch up to our instructor and he signals us to clip into a rock. We do as told and soon enough the current is back, but this time all we have to do is hold on and look into the blue. The coral wall we're attached to drops of steeply and when we look out we just see ocean to our front. We see some white tip sharks and giant travailies begin to circle around the area as big schools of fish dance in the swift current. I am amazed by the tranquility of the water down here, even as I'm holding on for dear life in the current; it's as if the fish don't even notice it. All at once the fish dive towards the coral wall and back up. They are completely synchronized. A few more sharks are in the area now. I try counting but loose track as a travailie makes a move at a fish! He gets it but only a piece of the fin. In come the sharks only 1 meter away from us. More than 10 of them circling and thrashing around going at the surrendering fish. I hold on to Brandon hoping we dont get caught up in the feasting frenzy. A minute goes by and its all over. Blood pumping through my veins and my eyes as wide as the triggerfish below, I can't believe what I just witnessed. A silent party goes on below between my dive guide myself and brandon and the other few divers that were lucky enough to witness the event. Fists pumping in the air, we unhook ourselves from the rock and let the current take us to a calm spot to finish off our dive.

Dingy to the dive site

Bamboo shark
White tip reef shark on the hunt

Thanks for reading.... off to Singapore and Vietnam!