Saturday, January 30, 2016

Beautiful Bali

After New Years, Korie and I decided we wanted to take one more trip outside of Australia before heading back to the states. We originally were going to head to Uluru - Ayers Rock in Alice Springs, Northern Territory but the flights and tours were surprisingly much more expensive than traveling internationally to Bali. We were able to book a roundtrip flight with 5 nights accommodation in a nice villa for under $500 USD each. I randomly met this couple at the restaurant I was working at and they gave me some great suggestions on where to go, where to stay, and to hire a driver they highly recommended. We added our driver, Putu BJ, on Facebook and we made a rough outline of what we wanted to see on our trip. 

We left Sunday morning for a 6 hour direct flight to Bali from Melbourne. We landed at 2:30pm and Putu took us to our villa for only $15! Our dollar is very strong in Indonesia right now and everything was extremely affordable (the villa was $37 USD a night and very clean, safe, and included a nice breakfast every morning). After settling in, we walked down our street and found a local restaurant to grab an early dinner (I made sure to try the good)! The service in Bali was great and everyone was extremely nice. We actually returned to this little restaurant every night to say hi to them and enjoy a glass of wine before going to bed. Since Bali is 3 hours behind Melbourne and we had woken up at 7am that morning, we called it early night and grabbed some shut eye. 

On Monday, we started our day with breakfast at the villa. There were tons of spas on every street and we had walked past one earlier with a fish spa! This wasn't quite on my list of things to do, but it had always intrigued me. Since it was only $4, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to try something new, so we put our feet in. It was such an odd feeling! I was a little scared to put my feet in at first, but once I got past the initial tickling sensation, I got used to it. After 20 minutes, I could tell a little bit of a difference in the smoothness of my feet and some dead skin was gone. Yum? 

We then got 60 minute massages for $8. For lunch, we walked about 20 minutes around the town and made our way to a beachside restaurant/bar called Ku De Ta. Afterwards, we walked on the beach to another restaurant lounge called Potato Head (which we liked a bit better because they had a swim up pool). We stayed there for most of the afternoon before heading to a restaurant called Laca Laca, which had some of the best Mexican food and margaritas we've had since leaving the states. 

On Tuesday, we had made arrangements with Putu to pick us up at 8am for a day trip around the island. Unfortunately, it was a bit rainy so he made sure to take us to a few indoor locations in the morning. We started out at a Batik factory where they make so many beautiful items of clothing, scarfs, bags, etc. by hand. Batik is a technique of wax dying the cloth multiple times, with each color they wish to use. They also hand weave items with this interesting machine. 

After buying a few things, we went to a traditional Balinese dance show, The Barong and Kris Dance, which tells the story between good and evil spirits. We were intrigued to learn that the main religion in Bali is Hindu, unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is mainly Islam or Buddhist. 

Following the performance, Putu took us to a handmade jewelry store, an art gallery, and the sacred monkey forest sanctuary before having lunch at the rice fields. 

I made sure to tell him before we even arrived in Bali that I HAD to ride an elephant while I was there. Thankfully, it stopped raining after lunch and he answered my wish! We arrived at a safari park where I was able to cross another item off my bucket list! 

I also got to hold a monkey. The day ended with dinner, drinks, and an episode of Vanderpump Rules. 

On Wednesday, we slept in a bit and had breakfast in bed while catching up on The Bachelor. We weren't quite done taking advantage of the inexpensive spas, so we opted for a 45 minute facial for $6 and I decided to try ear candling. This is another thing that wasn't really on my list of things to do, but again, I couldn't pass up the chance to try it while there. If you thought fish eating dead skin off your feet was gross, you should see the amount of wax that comes out of your ears after the candling. 

As appetizing as that sounds, we then grabbed lunch at a small restaurant across from our villa and I laid out by the pool for a bit before a storm rolled in out of nowhere. It stopped raining by dinnertime so we headed out to an Italian place on the beach called La Lucciola, which had some of the best pasta I've ever had! We then walked to Motel Mexicola for a few margaritas before calling it a night. 

Thursday, we slept in before heading to the beach. This was the only day (other than the day we arrived) where it didn't rain at all. We hung out on the beach for a few hours before getting ready for dinner. Putu picked us up at 5:30 and we drove about 40 minutes south to a highly recommended restaurant called Rock Bar. It's located inside the beautiful Ayana Resort and the restaurant is dug out of the side of cliff. It was a bit pricey (the most expensive place we had been so far...about $50 USD each for 2 drinks each and appetizers) but that's to be expected for the amazing view.

Friday, Putu took us to the main shopping streets where we used our bargaining skills and negotiated some great prices for Bali souvenirs before heading to the airport to return back to Melbourne. Our next planned trip is exploring the east coast of Australia and making it to Cairns, Brisbane, and Sydney before flying back home to Texas April 12th! 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Years in Tasmania

Back in October, Korie and I were discussing what we should do for NYE over in Australia. We originally thought about Sydney, but quickly realized it would be quite expensive and a little too crowded for our taste. Korie's friend recommended Hobart, Tasmania, and after a bit of research, we were able to book a cheap flight and accommodation. Our flight left on the 31st at 6:50am, so it was quite an early morning. 

We landed around 8:15am, walked around the docks and grabbed breakfast before we could check into our hostel. There was a big yacht race called "Sydney to Hobart" that had ended a few days before we arrived, so tons of boats and people were around the harbor. 

After browsing some shops, we were able to check in and grab a quick nap since we knew we'd be up late for NYE. We ended up going out to an area called Salamanca with tons of restaurants and bars where we easily grabbed dinner and wine before finding a place to catch midnight. This area was definitely our scene! Low key, fairly casual, crowded but not impossible to get a drink or walk around, and overall the perfect place to enjoy the beginning of 2016. 

We ended up meeting a really fun group at an Irish pub and coincidentally they were staying on our hall in our hostel. We spent the night and the entire next day hanging out with them. Thankfully, they're from Melbourne and surrounding cities so we can see them again. 

On the 2nd, Korie and I woke up early to catch a jet boat tour of Bruny Island (an island off the coast of Tasmania and similar in size to Singapore, but only has a population of about 500 people). The boat tour lasted 3 hours and we got to see some of the highest cliffs in Australia (Tasmania is considered part of Australia). 

It was about 50 degrees and windy out so these jackets helped a bit...

We sat in the back and made friends with the captain so he let Korie drive for a bit!

The best part of the trip was seeing dolphins swim and jump alongside our boat for about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any pictures to turn out, but I'll never forget it. Once we returned to shore and warmed up, we grabbed dinner and were in bed by 9:30.

We weren't scheduled to leave Tassie until 9pm on the 3rd, so we made the most of our day and took a bus tour up to Wineglass Bay. It's about a 2.5 hour drive north of Hobart and had some of the best views I'd ever seen. 

Then we drove back down a bit to Honeymoon Bay and Tourville Cove. Honeymoon Bay came super close to measuring up to the Fiji views we had.

Tourville had cool views of the Tasman Sea. It reminded me a bit of Western Ireland. 

Around 3:30, we made our way back to Hobart and headed to the airport for our flight "home" to Melbourne. Now it's time to plan our trip to Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, and Brisbane!