Day 225: Hat Trick

Well today was certainly an emotional roller coaster, particularly for Ann and Sarah at least. After seeing how Ann reacted on the crazy boat crossing I saw where Sarah gets it from. Today saw us packing up and moving on from Lembongan and heading for Kuta. This was the nearest port of call for Ann and Simon to get to the airport, and rather than stay on the island, Sarah and I returned with them. The rest of the day was pretty straightforward after that, we checked in to our hotel, went into town, and finished the evening with a beer at the hotel. Now lets go over what else happened on this wet and stormy day…

I finally got that lie in I’d been craving. Sarah got up ahead of me and began packing her bags. The time must have been around 7:30 when she started. On and off I could hear her rustling about in the background, but was so tired that I kept drifting back off. It was 8:45am by the time I eventually woke up, and Sarah was nowhere in sight. I had only been awake for 5 minutes before she came back. I’d just started packing my bag when she told me “we” are all going for breakfast. I told her to go on ahead with her parents, and I’d be down in 5 minutes when I’d be both finished and more awake. This wasn’t good enough, so to prevent an argument I chucked on some shorts and we all sat around the table. I wasn’t feeling too chatty on accounts of being a little sleepy, but I soon perked up after the Bali coffee. Again, the four of us ate pancakes, then immediately afterwards I returned to the room to pack the last of my things.

It took longer than I’d anticipated, because we were heading to Australia next my bag was bursting at the seams with additional clothing. When I’d finished I returned to the pool to lie on a lounger beside Sarah. I read over the previous days blog and uploaded it to the server, then Sarah returned to the room to pack the last of her things. Simon and Ann were efficient enough to have packed their bags already and went out for a morning stroll. The bags were then stored beside the bar area. As we spent some more time beside the pool a slight disagreement ensued over the return boat times. Seeing as we had a return ticket all we had to do was pick one of three times: 9:30am, 11am, or 3:30pm. Sarah would have preferred the 11am one because of how bad the morning ride was last time, and she feared there would be a storm later that afternoon. How right she was. As we sat around the pool small droplets of rain began to fall. We deemed that a good enough excuse as any to leave and go for dinner. We chose a resort 50m away from ours.

It was getting on for 1pm when we sat to eat. Seeing as we still had a couple hours to burn, and the saying “you never know where your next meal will be coming from” was on my mind, I ordered two dinners. The food was ok, and the views of the crashing waves were delightful, but the constant swarms of flies annoyed us to no end. We couldn’t take a single bite of our meals without having one pitch on our arms. The whole time we sat eating Sarah wound herself up something chronic.
“Oh god, look at those waves”,
“Oh no, look in the distance. Those rain clouds are blocking out the mountains and they’re heading this way”,
“Why didn’t we just get the earlier boat”.
This went on for sometime, and no level of rationalisation helped her nerves. If it wasn’t for the bad experience on the way over she’d have been fine, but because the boat nearly tipped, she feared there would be a repeat performance. Near the end of our meals the weather worsened, causing Sarah to be completely beside herself. After dinner we still had half an hour or so before the boat was scheduled to leave, so we returned to our resort to wait with our bags.

A miracle happened when the storm passed and the sea became as still as a peaceful lake. For a moment it appeared as though Sarah’s worrying had been for nothing… that was until we were about to leave. The shuttle bus arrived 10 minutes early, and no sooner than we grabbed our bags the storm came back with a vengeance. Heavier and faster than before the rain poured down. They even brought their friend thunder along for the ride. The staff helped us throw our bags aboard and guided us out under umbrellas, but when we were seated it got a lot worse. There were no rain guards or plastic sheeting to keep us dry, the rain from the cab roof bounced back into the truck where we were. Sarah and I put the rain covers over our bags, and I held an umbrella up against the gap to prevent any more aquatic onslaught. Ultimately there was little we could do, there was just too much water. The rain was coming down so fast that it sounded like a million Michael Flatly’s dancing on the roof. When we arrived at the beach we were told to wait at a nearby restaurant while the crew prepared the boat. It was a nightmare, Sarah was becoming more and more agitated by the ever increasing bad weather. The road around the shuttle bus was completely flooded, making walking with my bag damn near impossible. There were people helping to carry them, but I didn’t like them doing it when I was perfectly capable. We had to wait all of 15 minutes while they added fuel to the engines and made space for the bags. By now Sarah was fuming, she kept looking out over the sea and felt sick with worry whenever she looked at the fast coming waves. I found the whole thing funny like I always do. There was nothing that could be done about our situation bar see it through, so in my opinion there was no point in worrying about it. I spent the time taking pictures of the bad weather and Sarah’s grumpy face. It wasn’t just Sarah who was worried, Ann was equally as nervous. She hated the first ride so much that she had managed to pass those fears on to her daughter. Simon was just as relaxed about our situation as me, if not more so because of all his years experience at sea from the times he’d gone sailing with his friends. Eventually the boat was primed and ready, and unlike last time, it was a darn sight easier to get aboard.

The waves weren’t pushing the boat left, right, and centre this time around, and everyone got on without falling over. Also unlike last time, there weren’t as many people. There can’t have been any more than 10 of us, during the first trip there were closer to 40. The passengers had to be shifted about for weight displacement purposes before we could go anywhere, then the captain struggled to get the engines going, this didn’t help Sarah relax at all.
“Why isn’t it working?”
“We’re stuck in the middle of the sea now, come on, why isn’t it working?!?!”
First of all we weren’t in the middle of the sea, we were 20ft from the shoreline, secondly he got the engines going in under 5 minutes. Then the real fun began.
BOOM, BANG, WOLLOP!!!!
These were the sounds and feelings as we came crashing down atop the concrete like waves. At the speeds we were going it certainly felt like concrete at least. Occasionally I looked over to see Sarah and Ann, only to be amused each time. Ann had her hands firmly gripped on the seat in front, and her eyes closed and head down. Sarah had her fingers in her ears and also had her eyes closed. I couldn’t help but laugh, there was nothing to worry about. Had sarah not looked at reviews online, or read about the boat journey in the Lonely Planet, she’d be laughing too. Additional sights that made me laugh were the captain and his right hand man. All around the boat were “no smoking” signs, and there they both were puffing away, even the passenger behind me pointed and chuckled. Somewhere close to the halfway mark there was a large wave which hit us side on, this was the only time you could say there was cause for alarm. The boat tipped to one side to quite an extreme degree. This caused Ann and Sarah to both begin crying and fearing for their lives, I think Ann may have even started praying at one point. The captain did extremely well to navigate us through without anything bad happening to us. Even now as I write about it I am impressed with his skills behind the wheel. He reminded me of Denzel Washington in the movie “Flight”, keeping a cool head under pressure. When we reached the mainland it was nothing like the first time at all, there were no big waves, just small gentle ones that lapped lazily against the shore.

On the beach the porters ran back and forth unloading the passengers bags. When one man brought both mine and Sarah’s to us, he stood waiting with an open hand out repeating the word “tip”.
“Tip the porter?” He said over and over, and was quite persistent about it as well. I paid him 10,000 rupiah (80p) for unloading my bag, only for him to ask for more money when he unloaded Sarah’s. When her parent’s bags were unloaded by a different man, that man also demanded money. We pointed to the first man we’d already given 20,000 to and he turned to him to demand some of it. They were like vultures. I didn’t really understand the situation, from what I could gather it appeared as though they charged per bag not per group. Somehow in all the confusion, one of Ann and Simon’s suitcases went missing. Another porter was wheeling it off down the street, but he wasn’t stealing it, he was just helping get it up the stairs. When we caught up and thanked him, he then asked for some money. We explained how we’d already paid a fortune back at the beach, then guiltily took the suitcase from him. They’re like fish after bread, throw a piece in the water and they’ll fight it out amongst themselves. It was sad to see, as clearly this was their way of making money, but we couldn’t exactly give them all money otherwise we’d have paid a fortune to get our bags carried from the boat to the beach.

We had the same driver as before when reached the booking office. However, he didn’t recognise the name of the resort we’d pre booked, after having a word with the people inside, he was clued up and ready to go. I was a little disappointed with the driver today because he wasn’t as chatty as last time, and I wanted to hear his voice again. The way he sounded and the way he rolled his R’s, I could just imagine him being the voice of a charismatic cartoon villain. After 15 minutes driving we ended up in a traffic jam. We were out during rush hour, everyone had finished work and the traffic was gridlocked. Eventually the police came to usher vehicles around, as nobody would let anyone move, this caused junctions to be blocked and scooters to weave in and out of stationary traffic. The driver had to make a couple stops along the way to ask others where Sun Boutique Hotel was, after the third stop we were back on track. I briefly looked out the window at one point and spotted it. He did a quick u-turn at the end of the road (narrowly missing other road users) and dropped us off outside reception.

After checking in we were each given a welcome drink. It didn’t taste nice, but as to not appear rude, I drank both mine and Sarah’s. We were then shown to our large, spacious, futuristic looking rooms. In fact the whole place looked years ahead of its time, even the elevator had touch screen controls. Before heading to our rooms we asked reception if they’d mind ordering a taxi for us for 20 minutes time. Somehow Sarah thought she’d have enough time to shower and blow dry her hair – WRONG. It ended up taking her to 35 minutes to get ready. When we got downstairs there he was, our blue chariot was waiting for us outside. We explained to the driver that we wanted to go to a market, so he took us towards Poppy’s street in Kuta town. We didn’t think he was very happy when we arrived because of how little a distance he ended up driving. Seeing as he was phoned in to collect us, it meant we had to pay the minimum call out fare of 25,000 rupiah (just under £2), even though the meter read only 19,000. We then got out and began exploring.

Kuta was a place for drinking, dining, and shopping. The streets were filled with bars and restaurants, and best of all… market stalls. I didn’t mind shopping here so much as there were no longer tacky items like oils and statues. The stalls resembled those of Thailand, with such items on offer as hats, vests, and shorts. Granted every stall sold the same garments in various shades, but it still beat the markets of Ubud. During our time walking the never ending market stalls, I couldn’t keep my wallet in my pocket. I ended up buying not one, not two, but three new hats (and that’s where today’s title comes from). I couldn’t help myself. There were so many hats in so many different colours, and they were all of good quality like my original one from Malaysia. Sarah also bought some new items, a top and bottoms, and a couple pairs of sunglasses. Even Simon splashed out and bought himself a pair of knock off Ray Ban sunglasses, more commonly known as “Ray Ben” seeing as it was printed on the lenses. Simon also bought another item, but he did it on the sly. He haggled with a stall owner to buy me a new pair of headphones to replace my pair that had broken. I wasn’t expecting it at all, so once again thanks for that Simon, it was very kind of you.

At the end of the street of market stalls was a large shopping complex containing fast food joints, established restaurants, designer shopping outlets, and a cinema. We all had a quick look around but didn’t buy anything. It made me laugh, the whole way around Sarah was complaining about being hungry, yet whenever a shiny new item of clothing appeared, she’d forget about being hungry entirely. When we eventually managed to pry her away, we stopped in a nearby restaurant to look at their menu. This place looked very fancy and was part of the even fancier looking resort it was attached to. The whole fancy factor was completely destroyed when we sat at a table. Instead of relaxing, gentle music you’d associate with such a place, there was loud hardcore rap music in the background. It was so loud that we had to shout to communicate with each other. In the end we decided against eating there and found a quieter, and cheaper place around the corner.

This was our last evening meal together. To commemorate the occasion I enjoyed a mouth watering king sized burger and had a Singapore Sling along with Ann and Sarah, although non of us enjoyed it. For once, I had a burger that stayed together until the last bite. It was perfect, and Sarah impressed me when she ordered a steak instead of a salad like usual. After eating it was straight back out into the world of shopping. We decided we were done with the markets, so instead we went back to the mall. We had to walk through metal detectors this time, Sarah informed us these were put in place because a little while ago there was a bombing in Bali which killed over 100 people. Damn terrorists, you can’t even go shopping now without those jerks spoiling the fun. During our second visit to the Beachwalk shopping mall Sarah made another purchase. She went into one of her favourite girly shops and found the dress her parents couldn’t back home. Fancy that, everywhere Ann and Simon looked it was sold out, yet halfway across the world there it was in all its black and white Aztec glory. We stopped briefly in a Dairy Queen so sarah could show her parents the franchise’s upside down ice cream trick, then after spending a further hour or so wandering around aimlessly, we hailed a taxi back to Sun Boutique.

When we got in Sarah was exhausted, but came through for her parents by helping them check in online for their flight home the next day. Afterwards both her and Ann retired to their rooms, while Simon and I transferred the last of my photos to a flash drive for him to take home. While I was halfway through the process Ann came back downstairs to tell me Sarah and I had to change rooms. The reason being the roof above our bed was leaking, and the bed sheets had become completely drenched. When I got upstairs all my bags were packed outside the room, then an employee came up to take us to our new home on the second floor. This move was much to Sarah’s distaste. When she’d booked the rooms online she requested they be far away from the busy street outside. Our first room on the third floor was, but the second room looked out directly on to it. Whenever a beeping car, or a whizzing scooter passed by, it made one hell of a racket. Luckily for Sarah she had some earplugs, and luckily for me I can sleep through anything. When the bags were dropped off I went back down to Simon to find there was only 5 seconds of the transfer left. When it finished I could relax, as I had officially backed up all our photos since Vietnam – I just hope I haven’t spoken too soon by writing that, maybe I should delete that last sentence just in case.

With the photos saved we returned the laptop and retired to our rooms. Our room was lovely, it was even more spacious than the last. I spent a long time going through the evening rituals, shaving my face, and taking a shower, before getting into bed around 12:30am. I then began typing the blog feeling only slightly tired. Now that I’ve finished at 2:36am, I am very very tired. It’s been a great day, but it’s sad to think this was Ann and Simon’s last, their three week holiday has flown by. It only feels like yesterday that they arrived in Singapore. Just where does the time go?

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Day 220: The Confessions of a Shopaholic

It still baffles me to this day, how are women so easily able to be interested in shopping. Here in Bali, every third stall is the same. I have stressed this point countless times, yet both Ann and Sarah are always able to find something to buy. Given the chance I’m sure they’d be capable of finding mud in a snowstorm. The reason I have opened today’s post like this is because for a part of the day both Simon and I were dragged around the shops. The rest of the day was spent at the resort. That’s right folks, today we took a day off the tourist thing and just relaxed.

• To say it was our day off Sarah still insisted we set an alarm. This meant after breakfast she’d be up early enough to capitalise on the sunbathing all day. At 8am we all met at the restaurant and conversed around the table about the newest headline in England. Two Muslim extremist had chopped off the head of an innocent British soldier. This was horrendous news, and what’s worse was the attacker’s rationalisation to the cameraman of what he’d done. Throughout the day Facebook was plagued with the opinions of armchair philosophers, each throwing in their two pence worths on the subject. The most common being “kill them all!!!”, or “get them out of our country!!!!” Both opinions are fine, as they are after all only opinions, but what’s not acceptable is the fact they are uneducated opinions. Instead of these people directing their hatred towards the Jihad extremists, these people posting nonsense on Facebook, believe all Muslims think like these men, and therefor should be punished. It’s sad that the press in our country push these ideas upon people, leaving everyone scared and angry for all the wrong reasons. I hope one day, as human beings, we will evolve to something greater than we currently are. All this violence will only evoke more violence, and on some level I guess that fuels wars, all the while the cowards in the governments continue to get rich from it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these two psychopaths shouldn’t be punished in some way or another, I just feel that if we were to live in a society that kills out of revenge, what would that say about society itself. It’s a very delicate subject indeed, I’ve been walking on eggshells just by mentioning it in this post, and I chose not to have an opinion on the subject because, ultimately, I can’t do anything about it. All I will say is I don’t think violence is the answer. By killing these men more extremists will act out. Then again, the popular reaction to that would be, by killing them it would set an example for others who’d attempt the same mindless attack. Over the period of the day this topic was discussed, but in the end, everyone had to agree to disagree. At the end of the day the human race is going to be its own demise anyway, in the mean time read my blog and be happy for what you’ve got.

With the world set to rights for the second day running, we chilled by the pool. I began by reading through previous blogs to get up to date. I quit after half an hour or so to return to the room where it was cool. It was too hot to concentrate, and there were no shady spots. In the comfort of the a/c I spent the next 3 hours finalising everything. Just before I’d finished, Sarah came back to take a break from the heat as well. Within 10 minutes of her arrival, the weather outside changed. Down came the rain, soaking everything in a matter of seconds. We were then trapped for the next hour or so as we waited for it to pass. Eventually it subsided and Ann came knocking on our door with some bags in her hands. Inside each one was additional clothing they’d been holding onto for us. I tried on one of my shirts, but was saddened when I looked like a young boy in his dad’s clothing. There used to be no room to breath when I wore it, nowadays it looked more like a pyjama top. If I were to wear it again in Australia, one thing’s for sure, I’d need to hit the gym hard to get back what I’d lost. Sarah and I strategically packed everything into our bags, leaving little room for anything else, then the four of us walked into town now that the rain had stopped.

The first thing we did was order food at a restaurant we’d eaten at the other day. I had two dinners on accounts of being so hungry. After that we spent the next 2 or 3 hours looking around the many shops. I absolutely hated this by now. Sarah and I were still looking for acceptable gifts to buy our friends, but there was literally nothing, unless of course they’d like a mini statue of Buddha or a frog. As we walked down the street we crossed over back and forth many times, stopping in every shop which sold trinkets, sarongs, and other junk. At first I thought I was going mad, how was it possible for these two women to keep finding something new to look at!? My mind was put to rest when I discovered Simon shared the exact same thought, for the most part he’d wait outside while the others went in. It always seemed I’d follow them in each place like a lost puppy. One particular shop we stopped in saw me being the main attraction. I was the eye candy for once! There were three women (short women) working inside, when I stepped through the door they made a point of telling Sarah I was tall – you know, in case she hadn’t already noticed. One of the ladies then stood next to me and took off her high heeled shoes. She was now shorter than ever, and just about came above my belly button. “While you’re down there love!” Would be the popular sexist phrase wouldn’t it?

After a while of walking around aimlessly, we reached the indoor market area. This was a ridiculous place that frustrated me to no end. If every shop up until now looked the same, these small stalls were practically mirror images of each other. The first section seemed to sell nothing but sarongs, yet Ann and Sarah spent a good 15 minutes looking at everything. We then moved on to the next area which sold slightly different merchandise, but for the most part it was pretty much the same. Masks, penis bottle openers, children’s clothing, plates, sarongs… I can’t emphasise enough just how many sarongs there were. I’d had enough when we were nearing the half an hour mark. Upstairs I managed to buy a couple more pairs of shorts, but this didn’t make me any happier to be there. The lady initially started off the bidding at 250,000 (£17) for both pairs. Seeing as I’d only ever paid 40,000 (£2.71) each, that’s all I was willing to pay. She put up a good fight, coming down to 200,000, then 150,000, followed by 100,000, before finally matching the price I was used to. Shortly after that purchase we called it a day. We made a quick cash withdraw ready for Lembongan tomorrow, then made our way back towards Inata.

At first we feared we’d have to walk the whole way because we hadn’t rang the resort for a shuttle. By a stroke of luck, when we reached Cafe Des Artistes, the shuttle happened to appear behind us. It was a new driver behind the wheel, so he didn’t recognise us, and nearly didn’t stop. After much hand waving and frantic jumping, he hit the brakes. He was then kind enough to take us the rest of the way, saving our tired legs the additional 15 minute walk. Back in our room Ann helped me with my online banking again. It took a while, but eventually we sorted everything out. After that, Ann returned to her room, then I Skyped my mum. Over the period of our conversations she told me about a film she’d recently watched, and in return I told her about “The Mentalist”. Together we would solve the mystery of Red John. Around 7:45pm we caught the shuttle to the Cafe Des Artistes area. There was a nearby restaurant we hadn’t tried yet, and seeing as it was our last night in Ubud, we gave it a go.

Their food was nice, if not slow to arrive. I wasn’t feeling all that hungry so I only ordered a chicken sandwich. We had the pleasure of sitting around a paraffin powered candle, which Simon toyed with throughout, making the flame roar and simmer. To both Sarah and I the smell reminded us of the flame dancers from Phi Phi. When it came time to get the bill, because of how long it took to arrive, we were against the clock. We told the driver we’d be ready by 10pm, and it was already getting on for five to. Sarah and I popped to a nearby convenient store, while Ann and Simon settled what we owed. We grabbed a few items, and made yet another withdraw ready for Lembongan – there are no cash machines there, so it was better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. When we got back, Sarah’s parents were waiting on their change. With everything sorted we walked up the road to find our driver. Back at Inata we said goodnight to Ann and Simon at our door, then went about packing our final items. I took a quick shower, then concluded the evening by writing the blog. I even checked it over ahead of time, as I wanted to be completely free tomorrow for one reason, and one reason only, it was my birthday. Like the famous song goes… “It’s my birthday and I’ll not check over blogs if I don’t want to!”

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Day 219: What a Liberty

So today involved a lot of time in the car. Our private taxi driver showed up first thing this morning ahead of time, and stayed with us right through until 5:30pm. We decided that today we wanted to visit Tulamben so we could do done snorkelling. Because we were staying in Ubud it meant a 3 hour drive to reach our destination. Seeing as I’ve already explained countless times how green and pretty Bali is, I will save time by not repeating myself over and over again. Everywhere is green, and rich with rice, and water, and wildlife. There are only so many ways I can say that without coming across like someone with Alzheimer’s. it truly is a stunning place that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s almost as if you enter a world in HD. Now, enough about that, lets get started with the day.

It was the earliest start yet, the alarm rang at 7:15am. I had accidentally set it for the wrong time, as that was when we’d scheduled breakfast to be served. This meant we had little time to get ready and meet Sarah’s parents at the restaurant. I quickly packed a day bag, then we headed over for food.

Sarah didn’t like hers and ended up leaving the majority of it. I wasn’t all that hungry either, but shoved it all down to clear the plate. At just gone 8am, while I was returning to our room, I saw the driver pulling up. Quickly we darted around the room and grabbed the last of our things, before climbing into our taxi for the day ahead.

Our plan was to visit Tulamben, where we could snorkel the shipwreck Liberty. The ship once belonged to the US Navy, and was used to carry cargo. It was torpedoed in January 1942 by a Japanese submarine near Lombok. It was then towed and beached at Tulamben, where its cargo of rubber and railway parts were saved. This was prevented by an invasion by the Japanese, and the ship sat on the beach until the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung broke it in two, leaving it just off the shoreline. Nowadays it’s home to many sea creatures and encrusted in coral, much to many divers and snorkelers delights. The journey to reach Tulamben was very peaceful. There were hardly any tight windy roads like the day before, and instead we had long smooth straight roads for the 2 and a half hour journey. During which time the three of us put the world to rights by covering the various topics of religion, politics, supernatural phenomenon, and many others that nobody really knows the answers to. The reason it takes so long to get anywhere in Bali is because there are no motorways or other forms of fast road. Not that this matters, as you’re never really in a rush to get anywhere, and the views outside the windows are forever captivating. Around 11am, to midday, we had arrived.

We initially stopped outside a dive centre hoping to hire some snorkel gear, only to be directed down the street to a more popular area. One of the guys showed us the way on his scooter, shortly followed by another man when they switched out. The end result saw us parking up in a car park just beside a pebbled beach. Here we could hire the gear from a nearby shop, as well as buy food and drinks from the neighbouring shops. At first we wondered if our driver had brought us to the correct place, because there weren’t that many tourists around. After asking a couple people we found out it was, it just happened to be a quiet day. Immediately we walked over to the shop to get our gear, but were staggered at how much they were asking for. 100,000 rupiah each. Like usual Sarah bartered them down, saying it suggested a price more along the lines of 30,000 in the Lonely Planet. The guy came down to 60,000 after that, and although we weren’t happy about it, we paid. Ann then paid an additional 20,000 when she requested a life jacket. The price for that was also negotiated, as to begin with he wanted another 30,000.

We left a few things with our driver in the car, then Ann began trying to put in her contact lenses. This was something she’d not had much practise in, and it took a good 10 minutes before the first one was in properly. It involved a lot of blinking, eye watering, and frustrated attempts before it stuck to Ann’s eyeball, but we all cheered her when she accomplished the task. It’s not an eat feat, but like anything, it gets easier with practise. The hardest part is always remembering to remove them after a night out. With Ann’s contacts in, and our gear in tow, we went to the beach. It was here that I wished I hadn’t left my flip flops behind. The pebbles were all different sizes, and this made for an extremely painful experience as I walked across them. Sarah and I were the first to get our fins and snorkels on, and went on ahead. By the time we were 20 metres out, Ann and Simon were still figuring it out on the shore. Instantly we saw all the usual fish we were familiar with, angel, parrot, clown, trumpet, as well as many others. All of which were minding their business sucking on rocks, a sound that could be heard anytime you put your head under. As we swam out a little farther, that’s when we saw it, the two pieces of the shipwreck Liberty. Surprisingly the individual rivets on each panel of metal were still visible. Just as promised, all around it were different types of fish swimming in and out of the many clusters of coral. Deep down, near the bottom, were divers. As we snorkelled about on the surface, every once in a while their oxygen bubbles would float to the surface and tickle our stomachs. It was amazing to see a ship wreck up close, and have it be so near to the surface. Usually people would have to be advanced divers to get this experience, I was happy because it meant I now wouldn’t have to pay an additional £200 to upgrade my divers license. I could tick “explore a shipwreck” off my bucket list and be happy about it. Sarah and I couldn’t have been at the wreck for any more than 5 minutes before I told her to stop looking, and instead pay full attention to a far greater sight. Ann was now making her way into the water. In an uncoordinated manor she began walking backwards whilst wearing her fins, all the while Simon was walking forward holding her hand and guiding her. It was like watching someone who’d had one too many drinks. You knew she was going to fall, you just didn’t know when. Every few steps Ann had to regain her composure before advancing a couple more steps. Eventually Simon left her to it, and she stumbled down in. Sarah and I then made our way back towards her, where she became an even more uncoordinated mess.

Because of Ann’s life jacket, it made turning from her back to her belly damn near impossible. She then said the other reason she didn’t want to turn over was because she didn’t want to get her face wet. Like the timid little mouse Ann is, she feared the water would get under her mask and she wouldn’t be able to see. Sarah helped roll her over, and held her hand as they began swimming out. At first she kept her mum in the shallows to build up her confidence, then when she was ready, Sarah guided her over to the wreck. There was a constant current throughout our visit which made staying in one place very tricky. When I saw a group of divers at the bottom of the ship I swam down to say hello. It was so deep that I almost feared I wouldn’t make it back, I had to clear my air spaces 3 whole times before I reached the bottom. I grabbed a handful of sand while I was down there, then when I looked up, I had to have been a good 20 foot down at least. Quickly I began swimming back towards the surface, and I gave Sarah the ash like sand as a gift. She was also scared I wouldn’t make it back to the top. Sarah and I were the only ones to be constantly stung by the sea lice, every so often we kept feeling quick sharp stabbing pains whenever they touched our skin. After a while we’d had enough, and decided to go for dinner.

It was a trickier process to get out of the water than it was getting in. Eventually we all managed it, but because of the current, we ended up farther away than planned. I was the first one back, so I threw Sarah her flip flops, followed by Simon’s and Ann’s, then we returned to the car park to shower off. We would’ve liked to have visited Ahmad after lunch to snorkel some of the coral there, but our driver told us it was too far away to go both there and back to hand in our gear later on. Instead we told him not to worry about it, then found a restaurant on the main road. The food was great and hit the spot, the only qualm was the amount of flies around us. Every two seconds they were pitching on our skin. When everyone had eaten we returned to the waters.

This time however, we weren’t there for long. Probably around 40 minutes. Simon sat on the beach the whole time, while the rest of us went to see what we could see. By now the current was moving in a different direction, and we allowed it to take us on its current, observing the coral reefs as we went. Ann was fortunate enough to see both Nemo and Dori during our time there, and there were also giant starfish of various bright colours. I grew tired and bored after a while, because for me, nothing’s been the same since the Perhentian islands. We saw so much there that I’ve spoiled it for myself anywhere else. I left Sarah and Ann to swim around and returned to Simon, but ten minutes later they’d also had enough. I found it quite difficult to get out, but nowhere near as difficult as the others. Sarah had her toe pinched by a crab. She screamed so loud that it set of some nearby dogs. Whereas Ann could barely move two centimetres before she looked as though she was going to fall over. It took them about 5 minutes, but eventually they reached us. We then returned the gear, and showered and dried off, before getting in our drivers car. I think he was happy because we decried to leave earlier than planned, this meant he would get back in good time to do his chanting at the dance show later on that night.

It took longer to get back than it did to arrive because of the weather. An hour in, the skies turned black and the rain began to fall. It took about 3 hours, most of us were tired on the way, so conversation was scarce. Our driver asked us at one point if we wanted to stop at a silk factory to see how the locals made it. Inside, the factory looked how I’d imagine a sweat shop to look. It wasn’t, it was all above board and belonged to a local family who all worked there together. The silk products were created using wooden machines which weaved tiny strands of thread into beautiful one off items. These varied from cloths to scarves, which we got to see in the shop upstairs. After a 15 minute stop we got back in the car and returned to Inata resort.

When we pulled up at the entrance the staff ran to our aid with umbrellas in tow. Simon made the joke that they didn’t need to worry because we were from England, and such weather was a normality. We each selected what we wanted for breakfast the next day, then returned to our rooms. We needed a shower to help warm ourselves up, as the rain had left us feeling somewhat chilly. There was so much rain in fact, that it caused the road outside our resort to flood. The showers were cut short when Ann showed up at our door requesting help with the removal of her lenses. I tried my best to pinch them from her eyeball, but she squirmed to much for me to get a grip. I gave her instructions, then she returned to her room to try again. I spent the rest of my time watching films, while Sarah took the phone to her parents room to FaceTime her sister and niece. After an hour or so, everyone was ready to go out for the evening.

We caught the shuttle into town and got dropped off in a different area of Monkey Forest Road. Sadly, in the area we were dropped off, most of the shops were closed. I say sadly, what I actually mean is thankfully. Because of this, we spent what time we would have used visiting those shops in a supermarket instead. It was worse than I’d thought, after collecting the usual toiletries and snacks, Sarah and Ann spotted an upstairs section, and like moths to a flame they went towards it. The upstairs section sold such items as clothes, shoes, sunglasses, and my personal favourite… knock off toys. They looked identical to their authentic counterparts, but had much more exciting names like “super warrior”, and “robot terminator”. After finding nothing to spend our money on, we headed back downstairs to pay for our goods, followed by finding somewhere to eat. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant, but the food was served twice as fast as the previous evening. Although the food wasn’t the best, at least we got to listen to the truly unique sounds coming from a woman in a nearby temple. No, I’m not talking about hymns, chanting, or prayer, instead this woman was hocking up something from 5 years ago. At least that’s what it sounded like. Every 5 minutes, just as we were about to place a forkful of food in our mouths, we heard the attractive sound of “harrwwwkkkkkkkk”, followed by the even more attractive sound of it leaving her mouth. It was the perfect soundtrack to our meals. After we settled the bill, we got the staff to phone our resort requesting them to send the shuttle to pick us up. I barely had enough time to grab a bottle of water before it arrived.

The driver and Simon spent the whole journey back talking about football, and as we neared the resort the roads had worsened. The mud and water together had created a murky river floating across the surface. Fortunately for us we were in a 4X4 and it didn’t slow us down at all. When we got back I just managed to catch my mum on Skype before she headed out to work, then I got to work on solving one of life’s biggest mysteries… “Who is Red John?” For those of you not in the know, Red John is the name of a serial killer on one of mine and Sarah’s favourite American tv shows. For 5 series now the viewers have been kept in the dark, as the stories protagonist “Patrick Jane” tries to figure out who the murderer of his wife and child is. It’s a brilliantly made tv show, and does a great job of keeping you guessing. After an hours research I am still led to believe my first hunch, that Patrick Jane himself will turn out to be Red John. It’s just an idea, but there is evidence to support it. Obviously this means nothing to those of you who don’t watch the show, but to those of you who do I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject. Drop me a message on WordPress if you like, or add me on Facebook (Ben Norris) and together we’ll solve this mystery. After my detective skills led me back to what I already believed in, I got to work on the blog. It took forever and a day to complete, and my eyes are on fire from the constant battle between concentration and fending off sleep. It’s been a long time coming, but now I’m truly ready to catch some Z’s. Maybe in my sleep I’ll solve the Red John case once and for all.

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Day 217: The Day With No Name

By comparison to yesterday’s action packed shenanigans, today was slow and boring. We did nothing bar eat breakfast, sit by the pool, go into town, and go out for tea. That is it. Literally, that is it. I don’t even know what to name today, I can’t think of anything witty at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about it at all, it was quite nice to relax for once. Since Sarah’s parents arrival we’d been moving nonstop. I think they were quite happy to do nothing as well. I will do my best to elaborate on the day’s happenings, but don’t be expecting a lengthy read by all means.

Our day started at 8:55am. The alarm was set for that time because Sarah’s parents preferred to have breakfast early. Thanks to all the walking and swimming the previous day, I was out for the count. I was in such a deep sleep that when I awoke and stretched, I thought I was a balled up piece of paper unravelling itself. For once Ann was impressed when she came to our door because we were up. When Sarah and I were dressed, the 3 of us went for breakfast.

For the first time since our arrival, new guests were beginning to check in. Because of this, before having breakfast, Simon and Ann did the trick of putting towels on the loungers in the hopes of reserving some. Something they’d probably leaned from the German couple during their bike ride yesterday. Ann, Sarah, and myself all had the same meal, strawberry pancakes. To say they were small, we all struggled to clear our plates. Afterwards we went over to the pool area where we spent the majority of the afternoon. To be honest there’s not very much for me to say. I started off listening to my iPod on one of the loungers, and because of the heat I sweat buckets. I sweat so much in fact that the material of the lounger cushion left an imprint of my body on it. It resembled the chalk outline of a body at a crime scene. The funny thing about the heat, although it was hot, Sarah and I didn’t mind it. It wasn’t until her parents came out that we realised we’d acclimatised. They always chose to stay under the shelter of a parasail, and it’s too cold for us to go in their room because of how frosty 18 degrees feels to us now. At the beginning of this trip we were the ones setting the a/c that low, nowadays it’s all about the 25. I spent the afternoon lying in the sun working on my blog and going for a swim when I was too sweaty. Around 4:30pm we thought about going out for dinner. We returned to our rooms to get ready, then walked down the cobbled hill to town.

There was a slight problem at the bottom. A solemn monkey from the sanctuary was busy eating leaves. Ann was petrified of them after our visit the other day, and stayed close to the others as they passed. We followed a different street this time around and bought a few items. I bought two new pairs of shorts for the beach and pool, while both Sarah and I bought gifts for friends. Again, I can’t say what they were in case they’re reading this. By now shopping enraged me. I never enjoyed it, and every other shop sold exactly the same things, yet we still found ourselves stopping in each one. Fortunately, during this visit there weren’t that many to look at, but we were walking so slowly that it drove Simon and I crazy. After about half an hour a storm came over head and forced us into the shelter of a nearby cafe. This was where Ann was introduced to Pad Thai, but sadly it was a bad one. It had no flavour and was full of spicy evilness. Ann then said she’d never have one again, the poor thing didn’t know what she was missing. After dinner we continued up the road, only to come back on ourselves. There were no more shops to look at, so we ended up going back in the ones we’d already visited. Eventually we reached the slip road which took us back to our resort. I told Sarah this was my stop, then Simon and I left the girls to visit a spa, while we returned to Inata.

When we got back all we did was sit on the loungers beside the pool. I briefly signed into Skype to see what was happening, and as luck would have it, my nan was online. I gave her a quick ring to see how everything was going, and I showed her our resort. When my uncle showed up at her house I gave him the same treatment. He predicted the beautiful resort cost us £60 a night… sucker, it only cost us £30! The phone call lasted around 40 minutes. When I’d hung up I returned to find a sleeping Simon. Together we tried to figure out why the tablet still wouldn’t read my sd card. I gave it one last try by wiping the card clean and blowing into the sd port, Ureka, it worked. Sarah would be happy, all our tv shows were back, as well as our photos from the early parts of the trip. In that moment I felt like a technological genius. Next up, the build of an Ironman suit. Around 6pm the Mosquitos came out, so we returned to our rooms.

I took a quick shower then got into bed to watch a newly saved tv show. After it had finished I began writing about the day. I managed to write the first paragraph before Ann and Sarah came back. 7:45pm was the time, and those pampered princesses had been out this whole time getting various treatments. My mind was elsewhere when Sarah got in, and she began asking me what I’d been up to since she’d been gone. I sort of answered them, but I’m not fully aware of where my mind was. 5 minutes previous I was in bed in my own little world typing away, then out of nowhere Sarah disturbed the peace. She then sarcastically said “yes the spa was great, thanks for asking!!” My mind was everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and I hadn’t thought to have asked her. I was thinking we’d be going out for dinner and we’d talk about it then. With a newly p***** off girlfriend we got ready to go out.

Sarah and Ann had made a plan for what we should do the next day. They had discussed it with their taxi driver on the way back from the spa earlier on. Everything they had in mind was a good 2 or 3 hour drive from the resort, so if we wanted to do the various trips they’d have to be spaced out over two days. We all discussed it with the staff of our resort to get a better feel for everything, then caught the shuttle bus into town. We were dropped off outside Starbucks, then walked down our second different street of the day to locate a lovely restaurant. It was called “Nomad” and prided itself on selling foods that contained no additives. There was a brief explanation at the front of the menu which told the story of the owner. He looked to be a successful man having founded several different businesses throughout Indonesia, and named the restaurant “Nomad” because of the many places his job takes him. Their food was great, and afterwards we walked back to Starbucks to get our shuttle back. Because we were running 5 minutes late, the driver had walked up the street to greet us, at first I almost mistook him for another taxi driver trying to get our business. I had to stop myself from shouting over “no thank you” when I recognised his face. Back at the resort we booked a taxi for another all day session tomorrow, and returned to our rooms. Sarah and I then got into bed and concluded the evening with a movie called “I give it a year”. To say its an example of a British comedy making a comeback is an insult. Neither of us found it funny, in fact, I imagine it was about as enjoyable as reading today’s post. If so, I am terribly sorry!

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Day 216: DRAAAAAGOOOOO!!!!!

Today, much like Rocky in Rocky 4, we climbed a mountain. But unlike Rocky In Rocky 4, we didn’t run to the top and scream the name of his Russian opponent. Also unlike Rocky in Rocky 4, we didn’t do it for training purposes, instead we simply climbed to the top for s**** and gigs. I was mighty impressed with myself and the others with me, because we found it surprisingly easy. None of us were out of breath when we reached the summit. The day started really early. With an alarm set for 1:40am we crawled out of bed and began getting ready.

Sarah and myself stood at the entrance to our resort a little later than 2am, I think it was closer to ten past by the time we got there. At first we thought we’d missed the pick up, as on our receipt it said to be ready between the hours of 2am and 2:15am. When the clock read 2:30am we began to worry. To find out what was going on we had to wake the sleeping receptionist. He was led on the floor behind the counter, as I got close he sprang to life, startling me slightly. He rubbed his sleepy eyes and put on his glasses, then told me I’d have to phone the number because he couldn’t read it. No sooner than I was about to pick up the receiver, a car pulled up. It was our ride.

The driver apologised for being late, and told us he’d made the mistake of going to a different Inata resort first. There was already one other tourist in the car, his name was Tony, and came from Finland. If you want to know what he sounded like, just say this sentence in your best Count Dracula impression:
“My name is Tony, and I come from Finland, mwoa ah ah!”
Ok, he didn’t say “mwoa ah ah”, but you get my point. There were four of us doing the day trip in total after we stopped to grab Matilda from her hotel. Matilda came from Cambridge, and as soon as she got in the car she began chatting. Whereas Tony kept to himself all day, and only spoke when spoken to. It was now close to 3am, and the first thing on the agenda was breakfast. Our driver took us to a coffee plantation on the way to Mount Batur. There we were each served a banana pancake, and had to endure the awkward moment when the plantation owner brought out samples of the many coffees he sold. They never reveal their true intentions until you start sampling their products. There were 5 different coffees in small cups placed in front of us. At first we feared one of them was the Luwak poo coffee, after seeing a poster advertising it behind us. It turned out none of them were, as it was too expensive to give away as samples. As soon as we started drinking, the owner came over and began putting his packaged coffees on the table and said, “if you like, you can buy? I have many different sorts”. None of us wanted to buy any, yet we felt obliged to because of how awkward we felt. Sarah was quick to respond saying we had no money. Then the owner walked away leaving the products on the table staring at us. Eventually our driver came to the rescue and took us away.

The drive to the bottom of the mountain was only 15 minutes from the plantation. When we got there our guide introduced herself to us (although I forgot her name instantly I’m ashamed to say). We each took a quick bathroom break, and were given torches afterwards to light the way. It was pitch black all the way to the top, and because there were no buildings to cause any light pollution it meant the night sky was painted with billions of little white dots. The stars shone so brightly above our heads, but our cameras couldn’t pick them up, and it was a shame we didn’t stop frequently enough to appreciate them. I liked the pace our guide set for us, it was very quick. There were many other groups attempting the same feat as us, but we passed them every time they’d stop. I think we stopped all of two times on the way up. Once to have a drink of water, where we met a cute little girl selling water, named Kirsty, and a second time for our guide to make an offering at a shrine. She thanked us for waiting for her, then marched us up the rest of the way. It was tricky in sections because of the loose rocks. I was surprised, because of how fast we were ascending, that none of us were out of breath. To say the only exercise we get these days involves lugging a holdall between accommodations, we did very well to feel as good as we did. Perhaps all that walking in Singapore had prepared us for this. The higher we climbed the more clear the air was to breath in. I’d forgotten what brisk air felt like, because of our altitude, and the time of day, the air was thinner and less humid. For a second it felt like home, and almost as if someone switched on a giant air conditioning unit in the sky. Just before we reached the halfway point our guide slipped on a wet rock, and cut one of her arms and legs. It wasn’t bad, but she made one hell of a thudding sound as she hit against the rocks. Afterwards she told us she walks to the top of the volcano everyday, and that was the first time she’d slipped. At 5:30am we’d reached the halfway point and the world around us was flat and smooth, no more jagged rocks to watch out for. It was here our tour guide gave us some bad news.

She told us that our trip ended there, something we hadn’t been told at the time of booking. The people we’d booked with also said water would be provided, which it wasn’t, hence why the young girl, Kirsty, was flogging the stuff. Our guide then explained that if we wanted to go to the peak we could, and it was up to us how much we wanted to pay her to take us there. After a team huddle, and brief discussion, the decision was unanimous. Of course we wanted to go all the way to the top, what would be the point in climbing all that way only to stop at the halfway point. Seeing as it was only another 20 minute walk we agreed that 50,000 each would be sufficient enough for her. It’s always difficult when they say “it’s up to you”, as you never know what’s considered fair. The last thing we wanted was to come across as offensive. Even at the halfway point we didn’t stop for a rest, our guide knew that if we wanted to make it in time for sunrise, we’d need to leave ASAP. The sun was already changing the colour of the sky in the distance. So off we marched up the steepest slope yet, overtaking more groups as we went. This section was slightly more dangerous than the last. Instead of loose rocks to worry about, we had to go careful not to slip on the black pumice. If we did, the only thing to grab ahold of was the sharp volcanic rocks. Fortunately we all made it without any injuries, all except for Sarah, who got a slight boo boo on the palm of her hand.

To be at the top of the volcano gave me a great sense of elation. They say “nothing in life is worth having if it comes easy”, and I’d just like to say that the view we got to witness definitely didn’t. It was unlike any other I’d seen on earth. As we sat at the edge of the mountain, overlooking all that lay before us, our guide told us we were very lucky that it was so clear. All this week it had been cloudy and raining. I didn’t envy previous climbers in that moment, it was very cold already, had it been raining as well it would have been close to freezing. We could see for miles around. In the distance was the tallest mountain, Mount Agung. Off to the side of that, a little farther away, we could see Lombok, one of the Gili islands. At first it was fairly dark, the sun was still low in the sky at this point, and all that shone from behind the clouds was a red and orange wave of colour. We could just about make out the silhouette of Agung, and see the sheet of clouds praying at its feet. More and more became illuminated with the suns appearance. At first it took its time to rise, but when it started moving you could practically see it climbing higher and higher. The sky looked as though it was warming up. Colours of red, orange, yellow, pink, green, blue, purple burst through the clouds as if someone had spilled paint pots everywhere. Even with all the photos we took, we couldn’t capture what we saw. It was like heaven’s doors had opened, and out walked an angel. In the very moment the sun peered over the clouds, it was almost as if Mother Nature herself was being revealed. It was a moment that will stay with me forever. Much like the Perhentian islands of Malaysia, it’s something I’ll never truly be able to put into words. I felt something that morning, and suddenly I was more grateful than ever for everything I’d seen and done these past 7 and a half months. This truly was what travelling was all about, and to think that if I hadn’t taken the redundancy at work I’d still be there now, missing all of this.

With the sun above the clouds we could finally see everything transparently clear. The clouds floated gently above the lake below like an inviting bed from the gods. They were so close that we were tempted to see if we could run across the tops of them. All around us was nothing but greenery, the hills, the fields below, the rice paddies. It looked like Eden. Now, years of drawing cartoon volcanos as a child gave me extensive knowledge as to how a volcano should look, and what we were sitting on certainly didn’t coincide with my pictures. Instead of the grey quadrilateral looking shape with a wavy line of red lava, and a cloud of smoke bellowing from the top, the real thing was grassy, grey, and no sign of lava anywhere. There wasn’t even a giant pit with lava at the bottom. This was probably a good thing, because had it looked like my drawings, we’d all be singed to a crisp, and in years to come we’d be a tourist attraction like the poor people of Pompeii. While we were sat admiring the view our guide brought over our second breakfast of the day. It was an unorthodox meal to say the least, banana sandwiches and one hard boiled egg. I ate mine, and ended up eating Sarah’s when she couldn’t stomach it any longer. It wasn’t long after that, that our guide suggested moving on.

It wasn’t that much farther to the highest peak of the volcano, and when we got there we were surprised with what we saw. Monkeys. There were actually monkeys at the top of a volcano, I’ve seen it all now. I think it was probably because food was being cooked there that they stayed, but where they’d come from in the first place was the biggest mystery. Mind you, there were a coupe dogs walking around when we were eating our sandwiches. The people who prepared the food used the heat from the volcano to cook it. There was a cavern which they used as a large oven. The top made for very nice photos, not only because we could see down the volcano (which was a grassy hill with steam coming out) but because from the other side we could see all the open green land. It resembled what I’d like to imagine Canada looks like. After another short stop to take more photos, we continued along the rim of the volcano.

This part of the trek was the most precarious. We had to walk along a thin stony ridge. One wrong move would see us falling to our deaths. Had we been in England this sort of behaviour wouldn’t have been allowed. Health and Safety wouldn’t be able to cope. Although it was dangerous, it didn’t stop Sarah and myself stopping to take photos every 5 minutes. Poor Tony had to stop every time because he was behind us the whole way. Once again the trolls made their appearance. By now they’d travelled farther than my uncle, who in his 40 something years has never left England. I was slightly embarrassed as I tried to take a picture of them, because people who passed me were staring. They only laughed, but when you’re almost 25 and you’re playing with trolls, people tend to judge. The sights only got better as the walk went on, which you’ll be able to see at the bottom of this blog. After we’d circled the entire rim we made the descent back to the bottom. It was even harder to go down, Sarah had to hold on to the tour guide’s hand because she found it so difficult. The black pumice gave out underneath our feet at every step. It was a similar experience to walking down a sand dune, there was nothing we could do about it but move slowly. To compensate for the loose terrain I found it easier if I walked with my legs slightly bent, meaning they were tensed the whole way – something that caused them to feel like jelly later on. Eventually we were back on the path we followed up, and the ground below us was rocks again. This wouldn’t have been so bad had sarah and I been wearing a different pair of shoes, but the dap like material our trainers were made of meant we felt every stone. By the end I was used to it, and treated it like a reflexology treatment, but because Sarah’s shoes were knock offs, it was nothing but agony for her. There was an annoying moment when we were close to the bottom. A group of hikers decked out in full hiking gear (I’m talking sticks, boots, brightly coloured waterproofs. They looked like skiers minutes the skis) were rude enough to push passed us. Well I say a group, the majority were polite enough to say excuse me and thank you where it was due, but there was one smaller older woman who wasn’t. In that moment we all wanted to grab her sticks and smash them with a rock. As we walked a little farther we were greeted by Kirsty again.

On the way up she’d asked us if we wanted some water, at the time we said no, but Sarah said we’d buy one on the way back down. However, she’d changed her mind because Matilda gave us a spare bottle. Not wanting to let the little kid down, I paid the extortionate price of 25,000 rupiah (almost £2) for a bottle of coke. It was her cute husky voice that won me over, and the fact she’d been lugging a backpack filled with glass bottles up and down the hill. She put us to shame, because she made it look easy, even jumping down rocks in places like a mountain goat. When our guide was ready she took us the final 20 minutes to the bottom. It all looked so much different in the light of day, although we’d walked it earlier on, we could only see our surroundings via torchlight. Everything was so colourful, and the lake below was reflecting the mighty Mount Agung perfectly on its mirror like still surface. Along the way she informed us that the volcano erupted back in the early sixties, killing 2000 people in the village below. After that, many of the villagers left to find a safer location, but even to this day there are families still living there who refused to move. When we reached the car park it was hard to believe we’d climbed all the way to the top, as we looked back to see what we’d accomplished. I was thankful it was dark when we’d arrived, as its gargantuan stature was intimidating. The four of us then paid our guide the 200,000 rupiah for taking us to the peak, then she walked us to our driver. We shook her hand and thanked her sincerely, then climbed in the minivan to sit on the soft leather seats, and enjoy some a/c.

We made one stop on the way back on a bridge overlooking both volcanos and the lake below. Mount Batur stood around 5600 and something feet, and we’d scaled it all the way to the top. After taking some more photos we got back in the minivan. Tony was dropped off at his hotel first, followed by Matilda. We got her details for Facebook and said our goodbyes, we were then taken around the corner to Inata Resort. The staff at our resort were so nice to us, even though the time was 11am they still served us breakfast. Their usual hours were between 7 and 10am. I guess it was extenuating circumstances for us, we had just climbed a volcano after all. We sat by the pool while they prepared it, then moved over to the restaurant area when it was ready. I uploaded one of the photos to Facebook during the meal, which annoyed Sarah slightly. She claimed it meant she had to eat alone, “hypocrite” is all I’ll say. After breakfast we spent the majority of the afternoon by the pool.

Ann and Simon were out on a day trip all day, riding push bikes around Ubud. So pretty much all day it was just Sarah and I. I think I may have an addictive personality. I’ve said before that I’m not one to do things by halves. Even though my legs felt like jelly from the volcano trek, I pushed myself to spend the afternoon swimming. I did breast stroke, front crawl, back crawl, butterfly, every type of movement possible. Although the pool wasn’t very big, it was enough to make my body ache afterwards. The whole time I was doing that, Sarah was working in her tan. The sun wasn’t out for long, and for the most part, the weather was overcast with a chance of rain. Yet Sarah still managed to get some colour, perhaps it was the new tanning oils her parents had brought out. When we grew tired of the pool we returned to our room to watch a tv show. By now it was around 3pm, and Sarah’s parents STILL weren’t back. We went back to the pool for a further half hour, to an hour, then called it a day and waited on their return in our room. Somewhere around half past four they showed up.

They appeared to have enjoyed their trip. Ann seemed ecstatic about the whole day. She said it was very educational, as they learned fun facts from their guides. They shared the trip with a German couple. Although, they said they didn’t do all the uphill sections like they did. For which they were glad, because by the end they said the Germans clothes were ringing with sweat. They also happened to enjoy the dance show the previous evening while Sarah and I slept. I think they liked the show more than the bikes though, as Ann isn’t the most confident on the two wheeled vehicles. We all spent some time telling each other about our trips, and Ann and Simon couldn’t rave about the dance show enough. Although Sarah had already seen one on her last visit to Bali, it sounded like something we’d have to do again. We were all tired from our excursions, plus Sarah and I had been up since 1:40am. Instead of going out immediately, instead we stayed in our rooms for a couple hours. I used that time to rest while writing my blog.

At about 6pm Sarah, Simon, and I went out for tea. Ann wasn’t feeling too good after picking up a bug from somewhere. All evidence pointed towards the tap water. They’d been using it to fill their kettle for cups of tea. So Ann stayed in bed, while the three of us went back to Cafe Des Artistes. Now that my cold had gone I’d be able to eat, taste, and enjoy one of their many dishes. Rather than have the steak again, I chose the marinated BBQ chicken for the same price. It was amazing. At the end, when we asked for the bill, we also got them to phone our resort for a pick up in an hour and a halves time (9:15pm). This would give us enough time to look around the shops. This time I didn’t mind shopping as much because we were looking for presents for our friends. We managed to find a couple little things, but nothing worth writing down here (besides, it needs to be a surprise for our friends). One thing I did notice as we walked the streets were the amount of beggars. The most popular being the mother carrying a baby, if it wasn’t her it was young children sat with their hands out. As heartbreaking as it is, and was, to see, we kept walking, ignoring their pleas. I always feel so bad though, if I could afford to I’d give them the world. Plain and simple. We briefly stopped in a convenient store for some water, then walked back to Cafe Des Artistes for our pick up.

Fortunately the drivers arrive ahead of time to get you, as when we got back there were still 15 minutes to spare. I don’t think we were waiting any longer than 5 minutes before he showed up. We had to pick up one more guest from our resort before heading back, the driver apologised for this, then we drove no more than 500 metres to find her waiting on the pavement. With a car full of passengers we returned to Inata. Ann was still sick and looked very uncomfortable in bed. We discussed how she felt, then Sarah remembered we might have some tablets from the time I was sick at the beginning of this trip. We both returned to the room, and she began searching the various medicine bags. She found some form of pill or another, before rushing back to her mother’s aid. I remained in the room getting ready for bed. When Sarah got back we watched some tv shows, and around 11pm she fell asleep. When “Family Guy” ended, I began typing up the rest of the day’s activities. It was 12am by the time I’d finished, meaning I’d nearly stayed up for 24 hours straight. Funnily enough I’m not that tired, although, my eyes do sting, and I am now able to transcend both time and space, but that’s normal right?

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Day 211: Semin-Yuk

Today was similar to mine and Sarah’s time on the islands. The four of us didn’t do much, instead we sat on the beach for a while, took a stroll, and visited a market. Yet somehow having only done so little we still managed to walk so far. We walked for miles, at least that’s how it felt. And once again our day didn’t end until gone midnight.

• For some unknown reason Sarah felt the need to wake me up early this morning to know the time. There was no reason for this as we didn’t need to be up and ready until 10am. Just one of her many quirks I guess. Her defence was that she couldn’t sleep comfortably knowing there wasn’t an alarm set. After getting back to sleep neither of us woke up until 9:30am. Sarah was the first to get ready, with me leaving it until 9:55 in order to be causally late for breakfast.

• When we were ready we headed downstairs to enjoy breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant. The food was well presented, but that usually means you don’t get very much. In this case one small hash brown was all I received, when on the menu I could’ve sworn they were plural. After eating we returned to our rooms to apply sunscreen and pack the dry bag with goods. When everyone was ready we set off for the beach.

• Our hotel was perfectly located, no more than 500m away was the sandy beast. When we arrived the first thing I noticed was the size and frequency of the waves. No wonder there were so many surf schools around Bali, these waves were perfect for it. I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, so by the time we leave the island, hopefully I will have partaken in a class or two. The sand itself wasn’t very nice. It was a dark colour, we presumed it was because there were a lot of volcanoes on the island, and the sand contained volcanic ash. A little way down the beach the waves were a horrible orangey brown shade. Why that was we didn’t know, but it made the place look dirty. Instead of sitting near the entrance to the beach we continued until we got bored. Along the way we passed luxurious looking resorts, one of which contained a really long infinity pool. There were sun loungers every 5 yards along the beach, each set had Balinesian men heckling to get our attention as we walked by. After walking for about a mile we could see a construction sight in the distance, and we were no longer coming across loungers. That was when we chose to turn around and hire some sun beds in the direction we’d just come. Sarah did the haggling, at first the man wanted 50,000 per bed, but after Sarah read in the lonely planet they should only cost 15,000, that’s what we paid.

• The waves were deceiving. One minute they’d keep at bay on the shore, then all of a sudden they’d come right in as far as our beds. Even coming as far as where we were led, leaving us surrounded by water until they went out again. By now I was miles behind on my blog, so for the whole time we led there I read over old ones hoping to catch up. All the while Sarah was trying to tell me fun facts about Bali from the lonely planet. I wish I could have given her more attention as everything she was saying sounded like great fun, and it made me wish we’d come to Bali sooner. But my blog was my curse, and so long as she was around I’d never truly be free. After a couple hours there was a slight drizzle of rain. In the distance we could see a huge team of storm clouds coming in, so we packed up shop and returned to our hotel.

• Just in the nick of time. As we were walking back the rain came down a little heavier, but by the time we’d reached our rooms the heavens had opened. Sarah and I both took showers to get rid of any sand stuck to our bodies. We moved around like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. We were extremely careful not to get any sand on the bed or surrounding area, as it’s a horrible substance to sleep with. We also used the bum spray hose to push any loose sand down the drain, all in all the sand removal was a success. When we were dried and dressed we all sat in the restaurant while we waited for the storm to pass. As time went on the rain grew less and less, until eventually it stopped. This was our time to strike. We decided to take a stroll around Seminyak to see what we could see.

• Seminyak isn’t a pretty place. To say it’s in Bali, it certainly doesn’t look like a place you’d associate with it. As I’ve said before, the roads are of bad quality, the hustle and bustle of traffic is a nightmare, and it just looks outright dirty. Thanks to the rain the roads were soaked, large puddles formed in the cambers, so when any cars passed they splashed us. That wasn’t fun. The strange thing about the area were the salesmen. Every shop we walked by we were constantly heckled by the owners.
“My friend, good’ay mate, hello my lovely”, were just some of the many terms of endearment they used to try and pry us in. I was actually in the market for one particular item… a plug adapter. Everywhere else we’d had no problems charging our devices, except for Indonesia. It had a different socket to the others. Instead of a three pronged plug like home and Singapore, and instead of the two flat pin plugs like Thailand, Vietnam, and the others, Bali required two circular pinned plugs. Even attempting to stretch our current plugs didn’t make a difference, so an adapter would be something we’d need given the fact we’d be here for 3 more weeks. I enquired at one shop but after the man said 100,000 (£6) I said “no thanks”, and walked away. There would be other cheaper places to go.

• As we continued around the many different roads, two more things made themselves apparent. The road users didn’t care how they got around, and there were countless offerings to the gods lining the pavements all over. In fact you had to go careful not to kick them as you walked. They were only small decorative pieces comprised of a banana leaf, some small colourful flowers, and a few incense sticks. It wasn’t much, but to the people it was a huge deal I’m sure. As for the traffic, Sarah and I were completely used to the mayhem by now. Especially after visiting Hanoi, Vietnam. This was tame if anything, but to Ann and Simon it was pandemonium. Every junction had no lights to control the flow, it was a case of do or die. Every driver manoeuvred around the other in a vehicular ballet of horn blasting and narrow misses. As we walked along the pavements we had to watch out for the odd scooter rider who was too impatient to wait on the road. It made Simon and Ann laugh, but to Sarah and I this was day to day living. They made sure to capture the sight on camera, and I’m sure this would be one of the things they’d take home with them to tell to others.

• We didn’t achieve anything by the end of our walk, only learning that Seminyak was quite a dirty place. Fingers crossed for Ubud – our next stop. When the four of us couldn’t stand the constant honking and swerving traffic any longer, we took a side road which lead to the beach. From there we could easily navigate our way back peacefully. Seeing as it was 6pm by this point we decided to stop in one of the many beach bars for a beer. We located the best one with large beanbags outside, which made for really nice chairs to relax on as we drank. I had a large Bintang, as did Simon, whereas the girls only had small ones. We were hoping to see a great sunset because of how cloudy the sky was. Past experience had taught us it usually made for the best ones. However, tonight was an exception. It was too cloudy and dark. The setting sun still reflected on the shore whenever it broke through the odd patch in the sky. Instead of seeing a sunset, we were treated to the hilarious sight of a dachshund attempting to mount a much large dog. Where the dachshund was so small it fell over every time. There was also a brief moment where Simon fell asleep, which Sarah cheekily caught on camera. After our drinks we found the exit we wanted and returned to the hotel.

• I took the second shower of the day when I got back to the room, for the same reason as the first. To get rid of the sand. Because I got back ahead of Sarah and her parents (because they all walk so slowly) she gave me the bad news. They had been discussing it and came up with the idea of going to another market. At first I said I wasn’t going, and would instead stay behind to work on my blog. I even went as far as sitting in the shower and folded my arms like a toddler to show my distaste for the idea. When I got out and dried I put on my pyjamas bottoms and began reading through old blogs. It was then Sarah said this night be our last opportunity to get clothes, as they had removed the big markets in Ubud to make room for new building, thanks to the increase in tourism. This could’ve been, and probably was, just a ploy to trick me into going. Either way it worked. I then got dressed and the four of us went to reception. There Sarah got information about a so called “good indoor market” named Krishna market. The receptionist then told us it should cost no more than 50,000 rupiah for a taxi. After finding one outside, that’s all we paid.

• When we reached this indoor market we were greeted at the entrance by a lady with stickers. These were welcome stickers you received just for showing up. If only everything in life was so rewarding. It turned out to be a complete dive. Inside it was like a hybrid of Lidl, Primark, and TK Max, all rolled into one. It appeared to be a wholesale place where all the locals went to buy clothes and household items. It wasn’t what we had in mind, and I think we were the only foreigners there. It’s safe to say we didn’t stay long before finding another taxi driver outside to take us away.

• The driver was really friendly and spoke great English. He told us of the many things to do in Bali, and even said any longer than 3 weeks would be too much. As there are day trips you can do which last around 10 hours, and they take you all around the island to see the hotspots. With trips like that you’d see the island in no time. We asked him how much it would cost us in a couple days time to get a taxi to Ubud. He said it would cost around 400,000 if we wanted to make stops along the way to various tourist attractions, but if we wanted to go straight there it would be around 250,000 rupiah. He then gave us a business card so we could contact him on the day, and told us when we reached Ubud he had a friend there who could drive us around.

• The driver took us to Legian street (pronounced Leg-e-an), as there were market stalls and shops which were still open. By now I was still unhappy because of the ever present thought of having my blogs to attend to. This is what I mean when I say it’s a curse, when I’m on top of them it’s great, but when I get behind, it plagues me and won’t let go. We did a whole loop of the block, looking at each shop as we went. It wasn’t until the second time around that I cheered up, and began to forget about the blog. At first I was annoyed by the constant presence of the shop owners watching over me as I looked at their goods, but after a while I made a joke of it. I found the more you had a laugh with them, the more fun the bartering process became. They tend to use the “good’ay mate” phrase a lot, on account of all the Australians that fly to Bali for their holidays. These shops were amazing, granted they stocked the worst quality copies in Asia, but for the prices they were asking, it was practically a steal. It also kind of made me wish I’d bought more clothes in the previous countries because of the poor quality. In the first shop I managed to buy a pair of Quicksilver board shorts for 80,000 (£5.40). Bargain. In the next shop I had more of a laugh with the shop owner. He noticed I had a bag with a newly purchased item in, so he asked me how much I’d spent. I lied and said 70,000, and pointed at some board shorts he had for sale so he knew what was in my bag. He then said quietly to me, “I give you good price, 60,000”. I wasn’t interested in any more boardies until then. Instead I had my eye on a bright pink pair of Bintang swimming shorts. After rifling through the boardies on offer, I found a pair I liked. I managed to buy both for 100,000 (£6.74). They’d probably fall apart in less than 24 hours, but for the time being I was ecstatic with my haggling skills. I left the store like a merchant buying god.

• The next, and possibly most important item on my agenda, was a pair of trainers. Seeing as I’d slacked off exercising for so long, and the rebuild of Ben Norris 2.0 went out the window no sooner than it started, I’d need some good trainers for the gym in Oz. I really liked the light weight Nikes on offer, but after asking in several stores, nowhere stocked my size. One shop owner even said I had Kong Kong feet. Sometimes I wonder if they know they’re being offensive and just say it anyway. I only laughed before we continued on the search. Eventually, when we reached the end of the shops, we found one more shoe store. This was my last hope. We asked about their biggest sizes in the light weight Nikes, but they too only went up to a UK 9. That was too small. To give them their due, they are very god at estimating your size just from looking. He predicted I was around a twelve, and said he had some which were bigger. He pointed to the Vans, but they’d be too thick and sweaty for what I wanted them for. He then found a different pair of Nikes which were incredible. They were a little grubby looking around the bottoms, but that could be fixed. They were a pair of purple and black Nike Airs. These would be perfect for the gym. He said he had sizes 11 and 11.5. Before leaving England I was a UK 13, but could just about get away with squeezing into a 12. I tried them on anyway, not thinking they’d fit, but much like Cinderella, they were a perfect fit. Perhaps because I’d lost so much weight this trip my feet had too, or perhaps the shoes measurements were off. Either way I was elated to find out these beautiful knock offs fit me. Next came the haggling process. He started off asking for 550,000 (£37), they were nice looking shoes, but at the end of the day they were still fakes. Sarah did the haggling for me, for some reason, and they both spoke in Aussie dollars.
“He doesn’t want to pay anymore than 35 dollars”, speaking like I was some high class client of hers who operated behind the scenes.
“No, you give me a better price”.
We were adamant I wouldn’t budge. When he thought we were about to leave, and he was about to lose custom, he cracked.
“Ok, ok, you can have for that price”.
I always feel bad when they give in like that, like I’m giving them a bum deal. But at the end of the day I am sure they start their prices off at an insultingly high level anyway. for now though, I had managed to buy a great looking pair of trainers for just £23. Just as I was about to pay, Ann and Simon stepped in and told me to put my money away. They said they would buy them for me as a birthday present (which by the way readers is on the 24th of May). I thanked them sincerely for their kindness, then shortly after my purchase Sarah was blinded by all the shoes, and even more so at the possibility of buying a cheap pair for herself. It was too much for her to handle and she cracked. She ended up getting a pair of bright blue low top Vans for just £6.50. Another bargain. After that, Ann and Sarah bought some coasters for their home, then we called it quits on the shopping. We then walked around the block one more time until we found somewhere to eat.

• We found one of the best restaurants yet. It was called “Mozzarella”, and they sold dishes which were out of this world. We each had a different plate, and were each happy with what we got. I don’t remember the others orders because I was too wrapped up in what was going on on my plate. I had the wrapped chicken steak. For the first time since being away I actually got a whole chicken breast, not the scraggly little bits you wouldn’t even give to a dog. It was a chicken breast wrapped in bacon and came with mashed potato and a mushroom cream sauce. One word. Delicious. At the end was where it all fell apart. We had the monstrous job of figuring out who owed what, and who owed what to whom from earlier that day. It all became very confusing, so I sat back and watched Ann the banker and Sarah the stress ball work it out. The right money was paid, and the correct change received. We then left for our hotel.

• We decided against a taxi when we learned it wasn’t too far a walk. Around 20 minutes they said. I still wish we’d got one, it would’ve saved a lot of time, and would’ve meant we got in before midnight. On the walk back were constantly beeped at by passing taxis to let us know they were available if we wanted. We walked and walked but didn’t recognise any of our surroundings. Simon was the only one with the keen eye, after remembering what he’d seen in the taxi earlier on. Ann and Simon needed to get money out on the way back, but had to go without when none of the machines worked. I was always much farther ahead than the others, not because I was in a mood, or because I didn’t like them, it was just because my legs were much longer, and they walked a lot slower. I stopped several times for them to catch up, but time and time again I found it kept happening. I was always about 15 metres ahead. In the end I gave up waiting because I just couldn’t walk at their pace. I got back to the hotel before them and was in my pyjamas by the time Sarah reached our room. We said our good nights at the door, then got comfy on the bed.

• We put the telly on to see what sort of channels they had. It was when I found the MTV channel that I discovered possibly the worst tv show ever created. Why tv companies waste good money to make atrocious television like this, and why people invest their time watching the idiots on it is any wonder to me. The tv show was called “Geordie Shore”. It’s a reality show set in Newcastle, and it follows a group of mid-twenty something’s who can’t have a single brain cell between them. The guys are all about fake tan, muscles and women. And the women are all about fake tan, make up, and daddy issues. What a crock of **** that show is. I was both captivated and appalled at the same time. I found I couldn’t stop watching it just because I wanted to see what stupid thing they did next. It was funny to see subtitles running across the screen each time they spoke. This was so the American viewers could understand the drivel that came out of their mouths. I remember Cheryl Cole was kicked off America’s Got Talent’s judging panel because nobody could understand her Geordie accent. Speaking of which, she is just as bad as the cast on that show. God, I knew watching that show would irk and irritate me. The cast get glory for nothing. Why do people like that exist, off screen no doubt they all have god complexes, believing they are celebrities. All they are, are bottom of the barrel Z-listers, who have amounted to nothing but boozing and swearing in tv. Take that away and what do they have really. Now, that’s enough about that. My little rant is over. The second the tv show went off I began working on my blog. That was, after I got the phone back from Sarah of course. She had sent our friend Beth a massive message. I think Beth would need a book mark to go along with it, it was practically an essay. It was 1am when I started, and it’s 3:30am now that I’ve finished. Oh the joys of being a writer. Hopefully tomorrow I’d have caught up and I’d have a little more time to myself.

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Day 210: Sling Your Hook

Today we left sunny Singapore. We saw one last tourist attraction, “The Raffles Hotel”, before wasting time at shopping centres until our flight to Bali. Everything went to plan with no hiccups. The only downside to the day involved a smelly Frenchman, but you’ll have to read on to find out about that. By the time we reached Bali it was late afternoon, and even later still by the time I’d finished this blog. I hope you enjoy today’s post, as it didn’t half take long to write.

• I must have slept funny throughout the night, as when I woke up I was left with a stiff neck and sore throat. One thing’s for sure, I was definitely dreaming nonstop. You know you’re using the Internet too much when you start dreaming about having a bad connection. Sarah wasn’t long behind me in waking up, then we spent the next 40 minutes getting ready and packing our bags. When everything was back in the holdalls we went downstairs to put them in storage. Sarah then hired a locker for the day for our day bags, while I made us breakfast.

• We agreed to meet Sarah’s parents outside at 11am. Just as we were finishing up our toast Simon appeared outside the window. I washed up our things, then we went outside. There was a slight moment of panic when Ann and Simon didn’t have my day bag. It was the second time this trip that it was temporarily lost. It was now more important than ever as it contained mine and Sarah’s hospital bills, without those we couldn’t claim on the insurance. I specifically remembered leaving it in their room beside their safe, but both Ann and Simon said they had no recollection of seeing it there. Immediately we returned to their room, only to find it hidden on the shelf below the safe. I wasn’t that concerned, I knew it would be there as the hotel they were staying in was very secure. It was unlikely anyone would have sneaked in to steal it. We then returned to our hostel to put all the day bags in the safe, and headed to the MRT around the corner.

• The destination: The Raffles Hotel. This building was very exotic looking looking, and was famous for being the birth place of the cocktail “the Singapore sling”. At £11 equivalent to enjoy one at the bar we didn’t bother. Instead we admired the architecture and surrounding grounds, and had brunch in the cafe. All around us were tall white pillars which propped up the even whiter ceilings, and there were long corridors leading to even more elegance. It was easy to see that the Raffles hotel wasn’t a cheap build. A lot of time and effort had gone into the chalk white walls and beautiful gardens. There was a stunning fountain which sat solemnly in one of the many courtyard as well. It would have been nice to stay there for a night, just to see how the other half lived, but at this point in my life it was way out of my price range, and given the way I was dressed I definitely wouldn’t have fit in. Before stopping for food we moseyed around the gift shop. As soon as you walked through the door there was a miniature model of the hotel and surrounding roads. So far it appeared we’d barely scratched the surface, although, a lot of it was reserved for guests only. Such as the swimming pool on the roof. Every item in the shop was highly priced, and rightly so, everything looked like it was made of expensive materials. There were strange items for sale, such as boot polish. It just goes to show, people with money will buy anything. So long as it comes with some level of status they’ll buy it. Who spends 30 plus dollars on boot polish for goodness sakes. Simon seemed to think there would have been a pot in each room for the guests. Some of the other more ridiculous items included umbrellas, plastic carrier bags, and baseball caps. Everything had the Raffles Hotel stitched/ printed on to it in one way or another. After looking around we passed the many designer shops (like Louis Vuitton) and went to the cafe.

• Their snacks and drinks weren’t that badly priced. Unlike the Singapore sling you could get coffee for just 6 dollars, which was about £3. Most things were the same price as home. We each had a cup of coffee and enjoyed some cakes. Sarah took some photos of us sat inside (making me feel like we looked cheap for doing it), then Ann and Simon pocketed some napkins and sugar. You only live once I guess. Now the thieves were feeling high on life from their high stakes steal, we decided to leave. While the girls visited the bathroom I noticed a shop with expensive paintings hanging on the walls. I felt drawn to the pieces on offer. Granted I couldn’t afford the 4,500 dollar price tag, but I really loved the artwork. I asked the man behind the counter who they were by, and he responded by saying they were done by a Singaporean street artist named Zero. Zero did something I’d never seen before, he uses spray paints on canvas to create truly unique and brightly coloured pieces. I took a free art booklet, and slip of paper with the names of each piece on, and quickly snapped a few pics while the man wasn’t looking. When I got back to the others we spent the next hour or so wandering around the Marina Square, and Marina Bay shopping malls.

• Because we had time to waste until we had to be at the airport, the malls were (according to Sarah) the best place to go. In the first complex (Marina Square) the girls looked around a couple shoe stores, thankfully I had a booklet from the art shop to keep me occupied. When Sarah was done looking we began making our way towards the exit. That was until the words “Raymond Weil” caught my eye. Simon also had an appreciation for a fine watch, so he joined me as I went inside the shop. The story of how I came about this particular watch brand goes back some way.
Once upon a time I was flicking through a “Men’s Health” magazine when I saw a page advertising the most stunning watch I’d ever seen. It had a large square shaped, rose gold frame surrounding a black face. Either side of that were brown leather straps. What the picture failed to show was the cost of this beautiful timepiece. This had left me curious ever since, even after going on the company’s website I still couldn’t find out its cost. Well, after going in the shop today I got my answer. It turned out this watch was still in production, but they didn’t stock it in store. Instead there was a similar looking piece in silver. After talking with the woman we found out why. She said, and these were her words…
“We don’t have it here, but we can phone the manufacturer to order you one in. Just to give you an idea of how much it would cost, it’s around 28,000 Singaporean dollars!”
I then burst out laughing like never before. In English money that was 14,000 pounds. She then joked that I had expensive tastes. Well after seeing the expensive artwork earlier on, and always having a space in my heart for that watch I guess she was right. We thanked her for her time, then rejoined the others.

• It was another hot day in Singapore, so the small walk between the two shopping centres was a sweaty one. Again we had to cross the Helix bridge to reach Marina Bay, but we were thankful for the a/c inside. If anything it was too cold. Just outside the front doors were men on harnesses climbing down the large glass windows giving them a clean. It made for a funny photo for the blog. The plan was to go to the Gardens by the bay one last time for Ann, as she was still in love with them from the first light show. I said I’d catch them up as I wanted to check out the ice skating arena on the ground floor. While I made my way down, the others climbed the escalators towards the roof. After I noticed the arena only had a thin smooth later of ice I ran back to catch up, only to find them coming back down complaining that it was too hot. It was true, when I reached the top of the escalator I immediately felt the heat, it was practically palpable. Heat does rise after all, and being on the roof was probably the worst place to be, even the door handles were hot to the touch. In the end we went back down to the ground floor (beside the ice rink) to eat dinner. I didn’t enjoy mine, but the others did. Afterwards we caught the MRT back to Chinatown to collect our bags.

• When we all had our bags we met outside our hostel. Simon then waved down a Mercedes Benz taxi (flash I know) and by some miracle we managed to squeeze all our luggage into the boot bar one, my bag. Instead it went on Simon’s lap in the back. Somehow 2 suitcases, a holdall, and three day bags fit in the trunk. We then made small talk with the driver who told us a couple facts about Singapore. He explained how the Gardens by the bay were only constructed last June, so I’d imagine they’d be hosting a special light show next month. He also said there was a new rail system being built which will take people around the outside of the city, even reaching as far as the harbour. So new arrivals by boat won’t have to catch a taxi into the city anymore. Given how efficient Singapore is it wasn’t difficult to believe they’d have it done in the 3 year time frame our driver described. Outside the airport were a list of airlines on numbered signs, this a small thing that made a huge difference. It enabled the taxi driver to locate which door we’d need for checking in. See what I mean about efficiency. Simon paid the friendly driver and left him with a tip, then we grabbed a trolley to take the bags inside.

• It was inside the front doors we played a game of switch-a-roo. We each had a weight limit of only 20kg. Because Ann and Simon brought out our clothes it meant their bags were slightly overweight. Sarah and I took some of the bulky items and we all got through check in smoothly. I’m glad we’d already checked in online, as the people who hadn’t were queueing up for days. After going through security we wasted time in the duty free shops. It was here Sarah got an early birthday present from her mum and dad, a lovely scented perfume. After that we made our way towards our gate for boarding. While moving along on the travelator we were overtaken by a Frenchman. We could smell him before we saw him. Unfortunately he was on the same flight as us. While standing in line we had the misfortune of standing behind him, briefly sarah caught the number of his seat on his ticket. HE WAS SITTING BEHIND US. After we had our bags scanned once again at security, and we located our seats, we felt sick. We were locked in cabin with no air to circulate the smell, so we had no choice but to endure it. Even the woman sat beside Sarah and I was holding her nose. Before taking off it was like a bad joke, almost as if this guy knew he smelled and did it on purpose. He stood up from his seat to put his bag in the overhead storage, each time using over the top gestures causing his armpits to float about beside us. Luckily the sleeves of Sarah’s hoody had traces of perfume on them from the shop, and they masked the stench. But if it wasn’t for that, I was going to pull down the oxygen masks because this was considered an emergency.

• For the next 2 and a half hours I typed my blog and Sarah watched tv shows. The whole time we did battle to breath healthy air and ignore the fact there was a Frenchman acting as an olfactory terrorist. Around 9pm we touched down in Bali, Indonesia. There were some passengers who stayed on the plane to continue to Australia, but as for us we had reached our destination. Sarah and I were among the first people to get off the plane, but we found ourselves having to wait for the others to catch up. Before we could collect our bags from the magical carousel we had to buy visas for Indonesia. Luckily for Sarah and I we had some American dollars in our bag. It came to 50 dollars for the pair of us, whereas Ann and Simon used the Indonesian money they’d purchased in England. It was the first time they were millionaires. When we received our visas it was a case of grabbing the bags, going through one last security check, and finding a taxi to take us to our hotel. One thing of note, as we waited for our bags a Balinesian gentleman wandered over with a trolley. What he was hoping for was to take our bags outside and in return receive a tip. Although we didn’t ask for him, he stayed until I mentioned it to Sarah. She wandered over to tell him we weren’t interested. Poor Simon wasn’t any the wiser to these tricks yet, and would have probably let the man push them for us thinking it was part of the norm. But one thing was clear, we were in a poorer country again.

• It was strange to be somewhere new. Ever since we’d left the islands, Sarah and I had been retracing our steps by going back to places like Pai and Chiang Mai. Bali was unknown territory for me, I was now in the same boat as Ann and Simon. Sarah was the only one to have been here before. Outside the airport was mental, there were more taxi drivers than ever before. They stood in large groups, as well as lining the streets looking for fares – some were even holding name cards. Every single one of them was eager to get your attention in the hopes you’d go with them. But past experience had taught us they were usually the more expensive ones. Seeing as we had just arrived, we hadn’t quite got our heads around the currency, so I am unsure if we got ripped off with what happened next. There was a taxi booth filled with drivers, also waiting for fares. Sarah did all the talking (like usual) and the main guy handling the money said 85,000 Rupiah. Yet on the board behind him it clearly said 60,000 to Seminyak. He then muttered some words about our hotel being too far away in Seminyak, and told us if we wanted to pay 60,000 they’d drop us in the middle of nowhere and we’d have to walk the rest of the way. We didn’t need the attitude, but in his defence he may have felt sick of everyone telling him what the sign said behind him, and accusing him of being a rip off merchant. We paid the money and our new taxi driver also performed a miracle. Although this car was nowhere near as fancy as a Mercedes, all the bags fit in the boot, except for the day bags which went on our laps.

• It was dark outside by this point, and after being in Singapore for the last few days we quickly learned it was worlds apart from Bali. If anything Singapore was the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The first most noticeable thing about Bali at night was the severe lack of street lightning. I don’t know how the driver managed to avoid the countless amounts of scooters pulling out in front of him. Every other junction they’d pull out without warning. The next thing I noticed was the quality of the roads, they were back to being of poor quality. Potholes every few feet and chunks of concrete missing from the edges was a common site. Then there was the fact it looked a little like a slum, there were small local shacks and the occasional convenient store. I envisioned Bali to be this place filled with luscious green forests, and white sand beaches after watching “Eat, Pray, Love”. I was later told by Sarah that Ubud was most likely to be similar to what I had in mind. I’m not complaining about it at all, to me it resembled Thailand slightly, but for Ann and Simon this must have been a slight culture shock. Eventually we left the shacks, badly lit roads, and stray dogs behind us in the rear view, and found ourselves in the more populated area of Seminyak.

• The roadsides were filled with tourists from all over, Indonesian 7Eleven equivalents in the form of Circle K and Mini Mart, as well as fancy bars and tempting restaurants, basically everything you’d associate with a holiday destination. No doubt this was a relief for Sarah’s parents, as up until then I bet they wondered what they’d let themselves in for. After a 15 minute car journey we arrived at the entrance to “Grandma’s Hotel”. It looked amazing. Just what the doctor… sorry, Duxbury ordered. Ann and Simon did a good finding this place. There was a restaurant downstairs which sold both Balinesian and western dishes, a circular pool right beside it, and a spa off to one side. The staff were really polite and friendly, and they checked us in right away. Our rooms were perfect, and kind of resembled the more expensive places we’d stayed. There was a comfy double bed, an en suite bathroom (with a lovely hot shower), and the most important feature of all… a tv. What’s more, it came with countless channels including HBO and Cinemax. We now had movies at our disposal. We didn’t have long before the hotel’s restaurant stopped serving beer and drink. After dropping everything off, Sarah and I went down ahead of her parents.

• The menu was fairly small, but it had everything you could want, including burgers and pizzas. If all else failed they were my go too’s. I was pleasantly surprised by the sounds of the Indonesian foods, and looked forward to trying some. Instead of ordering the pizza I had initially thought about, I had instead the fried chicken in butter sauce. I don’t know if this was an Indonesian dish or not, but it was very tasty. Shortly after our arrival Ann and Simon showed up. Ann and Sarah both ordered the same dish as me, and we all enjoyed some mocktails to go with it. While Simon had a couple beers and a different dish. We’d just managed to get our orders in 5 minutes before closing. At the end came the confusing math lesson as we figured out the currency exchange. It worked out to be roughly 15,000 rupiah to the English pound. The total for the meals came to around 460,000. Which I think worked out to be just over £5 each. It was very clear that Bali wouldn’t be anywhere near as expensive as Singapore, but it would sure as hell be confusing figuring out the exchange rate.

• After our meals we all returned to our rooms, and for once we didn’t have to walk, or travel, 5 million miles to get there. After showering we got into bed and I thought about concluding the evening with a movie. It was then I remembered I was far behind on my blog, and out of some weird sense of guilt I felt I had to do that instead. When we looked at the clock to see what the time was, we discovered it was getting on for 1am. For the fourth night running Ann and Simon had managed to keep us out until gone midnight. Just how did they keep doing this?

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