Seoul

We spent the national holiday in Seoul this year. We have been to Korea before (North for a day, and the island of Jeju) but never to Seoul. We had nothing planned but figured it out along the way. We stayed in the area of Hongik University, which is a busy place, full of restaurants, shops, coffee places, stalls etc. We were lucky with the weather in Seoul and spent most of our days doing little day hikes. It’s so easy to get out of the city by metro and be hiking in a mountain in less than an hour. I wish Shanghai had that.

There are plenty of sights to see in Seoul so the first day we checked out Gyeongbokgung  Palace, the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty (built in 1395). It’s a pretty palace. I enjoyed watching the locals all geared up in their hanboks. We managed to see the guards changing also, although it wasn’t that impressive.

Near to the palace is the National Folk Museum. This is free so we checked out that museum and the old korean streets which are outside it. There’s a nice temple in the area too. Overall, a good spot to see some traditional korean sites. That was most of the touristic spots that we visited. The other days we spent doing little hikes and the evenings checking out different neighbourhoods.

Inwangsan

We came across this little mountain  after visiting the palace. We passed by the presidential house and saw this mountain so we decided to check it out. There are many different trails to follow. In the end we went on the trail that leads to the top. We met nobody along the way..just army officials who told us turn around as Monday was mountain day and that we weren’t allowed ;-(. It was ok, we soon found another cool path that brought us along the city walls and back down into the city again.

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City walls

Bukhansan

Bukhansan means “mountains north of the Han River.” It’s a national park that is easy to get to from the city centre and has the highest peak in Seoul called Baegundae (837m). To get there we took the metro to Gupabal station (line 3, exit 1) and the bus 704 or 34 is also ok. Once off the bus its about a 20 min walk to the information centre. From there a nice hike. It took us longer than expected as we walked it with a Korean man that we met while waiting for the bus. Kim wan soo, a 62 year old who didn’t plan on doing the peak but joined us in the end.  The trail is super clean and towards the top there are ropes that you can use to help pull yourself up. Great views of the city from the top.

 

Namsan

Namsan park is another area in the city that has a park and little trails to follow. To get there take the metro to Myeongdong station (exit 3). From here follow the signs to the cable car. We didn’t take the cable car but instead walked to the top. The N Seoul tower is there if you want to visit that but we just enjoyed the views from the top.

 

Gwanaksan

This is another little hike that we went on and one we probably enjoyed the most. To get there we took the metro to Gwacheon station (exit 2) and follow the signs for the mountain. There are a lot of steps on this hike. At some stage there is a hermitage called Yeonjudae which is impressive sitting on the mountain cliff. We checked that out and continued the hike down to what we thought was Sandak station but we ended up taking a longer route and found ourselves back at the station that we started from. It took us around 3 hours overall and was a great day out.

 

Other places we checked out were Myeong-dong. This is really busy, full on food stalls, shops etc. really cool to see.  Itaewan, which had so many restaurants from all over. Our neighbourhood, Hongik university is pretty busy also at night especially when teenage dancers take to the road and show there moves.

Overall, a great few days in Seoul. Good to know that there is plenty of nature around the city and still a lot more to see.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sri Lanka

Taking advantage of our trip back to Shanghai for work in we decided to take a trip to Sri Lanka from Dubai. Only 4 and a half hours from Dubai it seemed like a good opportunity to check out this country-number 64 for us both!
A few days before our flight, Edgar sorted out the visa’s for Sri Lanka. An easy way to get the visa is through the website: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/
It cost us $35 for a 30 day visa each.
We didn’t have anything planned for Sri Lanka. Ella seemed like a good spot plus  checking out some beaches. So that’s what we did.

Arrival in Sri Lanka
 
We arrived late at night/early morning to Bandaranaike international airport, got some cash from the atm there and made our way outside to try get a tuk tuk. The tuk tuks are just outside the main entrance of the airport. We booked our first night in Negombo as we were arriving around 1am and it was close to the airport. Our place was around 6km from the airport and our tuk tuk cost 500 rupees (200 rupees is around 1 euro).  Our accomodation was called: Transit studio. Eventhough it was around 2 in the morning by the time we arrived, the owner was expecting us and showed us to our room. Nice, clean place. 1 night cost: 3650 rupees.

Negambo to Kandy

The next morning, we checked out, and the owner drove us to Negambo bus terminal (Rp550) . Here we got on bus to Kurungala with a/c. It cost us 235 rupees​ each plus another 235 for our bag…Yes, we paid for our bag. Buses in  Sri Lanka don’t have a lot of room, although there is some space up by the driver, that’s where we left our bags.  We left around 12.50, changed at Kurungala and got the bus to Kandy (156 for both to Kandy). We didn’t have to pay for our bags on this bus. Actually from all the buses we took in Sri Lanka we only paid for the bag for that first journey. Once we had arrived in Kandy, we walked from the bus stop to our place. We must have been the first ever guests in our accomodation, called: the Lake corner inn. It was near the Sangaraja temple and a short walk to lake. We didn’t do much that evening as we were tired from the bus journey. Also, it was dark early and rained.

Kandy

Took it easy in Kandy, walked around the lake and around the centre. Checked out the Garrison cemetery. Weather wasn’t too good for us, it lashed rain, so spent our time in different cafe’s watching the locals go by. We walked up to the buddah statue but didn’t go in. We did check out a traditional dance (1000 each), which lasted around an hour, pretty cool. Not sure if I would return to Kandy.

Train journeys: Kandy to Nuraoya 

This was our first train ride in Sri Lanka. We had to be at the station super early to get our train ticket. There was a pretty big queue also. It cost us 160 each to Nuraoya in 2nd class. No seats available for this trip, but in the end we paid a guy to get us seats (1500 for both in 3rd class). We left at 9am and arrived in Nuraoya around 12.45am. The journey was really nice. Although the trains go slow, the scenery is really impressive, passing through tea plantations and mountains. It is one of the highlights of the trip. In Nuraoya, we stayed in Train view hotel. It’s easy to walk to from the station. Nuraoya is in the middle of tea plantations, high up so it’s pretty cold also. Not many options to stay or eat, maybe that’s why there wasn’t many tourists at all, maybe because its cold and damp too.. We stayed with the Tamil family in their hotel and ate the meals prepared by the owner there. In the afternoon we walked with the owner of the hotels kid, Vidu to a nearby waterfall along the tracks. Later in the evening we checked out the tea plantation. Cost: 3740 including breakfast and dinner.
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Nunyora to Ella

Another train ride through the countryside, this time heading to the touristic spot of Ella. This cost us 60 each for 3rd class ticket. We were lucky to get a seat. This journey wasn’t so smooth as we stopped many times and had problems but in the end we made it to Ella.
To get to our accomadation on the top of waterfall road we walked along the rail tracks for about 20 mins then managed to find it. We stayed at Madushanka for 2 nights. This place had really nice view of the mountains from the balcony and the breakfast was the best we had on the journey, so much fresh fruit-super. Once settled in we started our walk to the famous nine arch bridge. To get to here, just walk along the rail tracks in the direction of Dromodoran. It took us about 30 mins, going through a tunnel towards the end. We took some obligatory pics sitting on the bridge, then headed back to the town to a place called the hiking bar where we had some local lion beer.

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Ella rock and little Adams peak

The next day we took on both Ella rock and Adams peak. We started with Ella rock first. Like yesterday, we walked on the train tracks for about 45 mins, passing a bridge and a shrine. At the shrine we turned left and then we got lost a bit in the tea plnatations. A local woman found us and brought us on the right track again until we we knew where we were again. It was a super hot day, but very nice. The views are really pretty from the top.We returned to our placed, showered had lunch and then walked to Adams peak. Not such a demanding hike but still pretty and the views were great from the top. We chilled out later in a place called one love which had giant bean bags and ate in the really nice restaurant called dream cafe.

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Beaches 

The last week of our trip we decided to relax and explore some of Sri Lankas beaches. Starting from Tangalle​ we moved along the coast stopping off at Mirissa, Unawatuna, Galle and finally Negambo.

Tangalle This was was our first beach stop  and we spent the longest time there. It has big stretches of beaches which are all connected and easy to walk. There was hardly anybody on the beaches, sometimes we had them to ourselves. We arrived to Tangalle from Ella, many other tourists were headed for Arugam Bay instead. After a 4 hour journey we arrived in Tangalle at our acommdation: Ceylon Sea Hotel. When booking accommodation  in Tangalle you have to  pay a city tax which you can pay through booking. Once settled in we checked out the area and its beaches. Tangalle is beautiful. Clean beaches that go on forever and huge waves that don’t stop. There’s a nice path alongside the beach that you can walk to get around or on the beach itself. We spent our days at a place called Medilla beach. It’s right beside a place called Mangrove beach chalets, which has great food too. Medilla beach is a really good spot for a swim because the others areas are a bit too dangerous, the waves being to high.

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Mirissa After some days in Tangalle, we headed to Mirissa early morning, sending some postcards on our way to the bus station. To get to Mirissa, we took bus 32 (500 for both). The journey ended being a bit complicated. The bus ended up going the long way around, then we had to change bus in Matara. Finally after around 2 hours we got to Mirissa. We stayed in a place called: Celestial inn. A really nice place on a small road opposite the beach. It cost 9540 rupees for 2 nights including breakfast. The beach of Mirissa is really nice, there’s a lot of surfing going on there and plenty of walks to do from the beach. There’s a little mountain cliff that you can walk up and see the view from the top, a walk along the beach which passes by other little beaches..which have nobody on them. Towards the end of the walk there is the coconut hill where a lot of people were getting their photo taken. It’s a pretty place. There’s a bar/restaurant just before it which is nice to have a beer. At night on the beach there are restaurants. We hung out mainly at a place called Mirissa Eye. Good music, good food.

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Unawatuna Unawatuna was next up and not too far from Mirissa (60 rupees). Unawatuna is definitely more of a touristic spot with shops, restaurants and bars everywhere. We stayed in a place called Out of rupees, which was a little bit out of the way but it worked out. Unawatuna beach seemed nice, one of the more busier places. It’s easy to take a trip to nearby Galle from Unawatuna so that’s what we did one day.

Galle Galle is really pretty and worth a trip. There’s a lot of small narrow streets with cool little coffee shops and boutiques and really good food. There’s also the fort which is what most people go to see, the lighthouse and the Portuguese/Dutch architecture in general. Cool little place.
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Dalawella We checked out this place from where we were staying in Unawatuna walking from our place. A secluded beach with not so many people and it was possible to go into the water as the waves were not too crazy. A good option away from the busy beach of Unawatuna. On our walk back to Unawatuna, we stopped off for lunch at a hotel and took advantage of the amazing pool they had there. We had it all to ourselves!

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Negambo We spent our last days in Negambo. To be honest we didn’t go to the beach much we stayed in our hotel which had a pool so we enjoyed that more. Negambo seemed like a nice city. Different buzz from the other places we had stopped off on but still it was nice. It’s convienient to get to the airport from.

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Overall, Sri Lanka was great. The weather was not too hot, buses are cheap, train journeys too with amazing views. Locals were helpful and friendly. Didn’t see many women, mainly men working. Women where are you? Would definitely return to Sri Lanka and explore up north region around Jaffa.

Wuyishan

Wonderful Wuyishan

For the Qing Ming holiday we decided to stay in China and go somewhere not that far away-Wuyishan. Wuyishan is in the province of Fujian and is popular for bamboo rafting on the 9-Bend River along with its hiking trails and tea cultivation (Oolong tea, Black tea and the famous Da Hong Pao tea (big red cape). It’s park is called Wuyi mountains and has been recognised by UNESCO since 1999. By train its not that far from Shanghai- around 3hr 40 mins. We stayed 4 nights in Wuyishan in a place called: Wuyishan City Chun Hui Traders Hotel. 

Arrival in Wuyishan
Wednesday evening we took the train at 6.40pm from Hongqiiao to Wuyishandong. It took around 4 hrs and cost 200rmb. Once we arrived we got a taxi to our reserved accommodation (Chunhui ). It was around 40 km from the station to our place. The taxi was cheap, charging us 100 rmb. Once we arrived at our place the owner made us some Oolong tea and explained many stories about Da Hong Pao. He even went and bought us instant noodles as it was late in the night and we hadn’t eaten dinner. A real friendly owner who also helped us with our itinerary for the next days. The price of the hotel was 115rmb per night.

Day 1: Water curtain cave-Da Hong Pao trail-Wu Yi Temple-Tiān Yóu Fēng
We got up pretty early and went to find a place to have breakfast. There was not many options where we were staying, but we did manage to find a place and we continued to go there every other morning. Typical rice porridge and boiled eggs and we were set. Back at hotel the owner wrote down a plan for us of what to see. Around 12 we headed to the park, the north entrance. It took about 15 mins from our place.  Once there we bought our tickets. There are different options depending on how many days you want the entrance for and if you want the bamboo rafting also. We bought the 3 day entrance to the park for 160 rmb and the transport around the park by shuttle 95rmb. The rafting costs 130rmb. So, in total 385rmb each. For 2 days all of the above costs: 365rmb, 1 day: 345rmb. We were lucky to get a place for the bamboo rafting for the Saturday as all other days were fully booked.

 

First stop was the water curtain cave (Shui Lian Dong). This was very impressive, a huge rock, with a waterfall. After walking around this area we headed onto the Da Hong Pao (Big red cape) trail which is around 2.8km from the water curtain cave. This trail is very pretty, its like walking in a giant tea garden, very green and lush.  We passed by the Boat-shaped Cliff Coffins (wǔ yí shān xuán guān), these cavities were carved out of the rock faces at the great heights that once held boat-shaped cliff coffins 4000 years ago! Surprisingly, we didn’t find many tourists on any of the trails. Next, we took a bus to where the bamboo ride ends called Wu Yi temple. Here there is also a street called song street where you can find places to eat. There is also a peak nearby but we didn’t do it as we wanted to go to Tian You mountain first. Once we arrived at the stop for Tian You Feng mountain, Heavenly Tour Peak (tiān yóu fēng) there was a bit of a walk and later steps (848 of them), reaching  400 metres. It was pretty steep in some areas. The views were very pretty at the top. Descending goes down the back way and took us around 30 minutes. The park closes at 6 so we had to take the last bus available which was to the south station. So, from that station we had to take a local bus (6,7,9 are all good). We took 6 and got off at Gao Su Ban, found a noodle place full of locals, ate chaomein for 7rmb each went back home and relaxed. Here are some pictures of the main sites seen from our first day!
On the way to the water curtain cave

On the way to the water curtain cave

Water curtain cave

Water curtain cave

Da Hong Pao Trail

Da Hong Pao Trail

Tiān yóu fēng

Tiān yóu fēng

Day 2: Yíxiàn Tiān-Hu Xiao Yan-Yù Nǚ Fēng
Same story as the day before. Ate breakfast in same place 12 rmb for both. Got some bread across the road and picked up some fruit from the same lady yesterday. We seem to be the only foreigners in this town, people do look at us, but in a friendly way. We started around 12 again, walked to north entrance and took the bus to Da Hong Pao and onto Wu Yi Gong and then to Yi Xian Tian. Thread of sky (yíxiàn tiān) Here there is a special crevasse in a giant rock that covers three caves. It leaves just a tiny gap less than 1 meter which allows the light to come through. It’s a tight squeeze for the body but pretty cool. We went to screw cave also in this area. We couldn’t actually go inside the cave as it was full of water. We took the shuttle bus onto Hu ciao cliff. This was very nice, steep steps maybe 400 but great views on top. On our way back down we walked to walked to Jade Girl Peak (yù nǚ fēng). Saw plenty of bamboo rafts pass by. A very pretty
place.
View from Hu ciao cliff

View from Hu ciao cliff

Yù nǚ fēng

Yù nǚ fēng

Day 3: Tian Shang Gong-Wu Yi Gong- Da Wang Feng
Our last full day in the park and we spent it doing bamboo rafting and climbing Da wang peak. The bamboo rafting is fairly popular in Wuyishan. We were lucky to get a spot for the Saturday as all other days were booked out. The rafting takes about an hour or more down the Nine-bend Stream (jǐu qǔ xǔ). We had great weather and saw some places that we hadn’t seen from our other days in the park. It ends in the Wuyi Palace (wǔ yí gōng) and from there we decided to go up Da wang peak. This was probably the most challenging of the last days as it involved crawling through a very small space. The views from the top were worth it though.
Nine-bend Stream (jǐu qǔ xǔ)

Nine-bend Stream (jǐu qǔ xǔ)

Da Wang Feng

Edgar squeezing through

Da Wang Feng- Views from the top

Da Wang Feng- Views from the top

Day 4: Return back to Shanghai
Took the train back to Shanghai from a different station to what we arrived at. All good. Overall, Wuyishan is a cool place to check out. Its not far from Shanghai, can get there by train and its all nature. Yay.

Komodo Islands & Labuanbajo

One word: Amazing

I’ve always been interested in Komodo dragons so when we decided to spend the Xmas holidays in Indonesia, it was clear that we would go visit these islands.The days spent in Flores and the Komodo islands were really great. These islands have a hidden natural beauty that for now is unspoilt and hasn’t been invaded by a lot of tourists..yet.

Arrival in Labunabajo

We flew to Flores (Labuanbajo) the day before Christmas Eve after being delayed for 4 hours. It wasn’t fun waiting in the airport in Bali. We had already been 2 hours early so we spent from 12-6pm in the airport ;-(. Anyway, we got over that and arrived to Labuanbajo after about 1 hour on the plane (small plane, bit scary). The airport is super small with one conveyor belt. It reminded me of the old Cork airport! It was around 8 in the evening when we arrived and our hotel, Green Prundi had arranged our pick up. We only spent about 5 minutes in the car..the hotel is very close to the airport. At first I thought..oh no, we are outside the centre but it worked out well. The hotel provided transport to the centre and back to the hotel (which was only 10 minutes away) and it was nice being in a quiet place. The hotel was basic, no hot water, breakfast was included and transport. The staff were super helpful and friendly. Once checked in we dropped our bags and went to the centre where we had arranged to meet an old colleague of mine from Shanghai, Amit and his wife Lena. We met and ate in a place called Warung mama, spicy. We discussed about visiting the tradional village Wae Rebo together but realised it was a 7 hour drive away. We didn’t fancy that and it didn’t work out time wise for them. It’s a good reason to return! So, we went to some agencies to check out going to the Komodo islands. We went to one agency to ask about the trip to Komodo, but the guy basically said no trip for tomorrow (I think because he wanted to celebrate Christmas -Flores is the only island in Indonesia that follows Catholic religion!

Cunca Rami Waterfall
We spent Christmas Eve on the back of motorbikes and hiking through a jungle in the rain to get to see a wonderful waterfall! It was worth it. We met with Amit and Lena early morning and decided that we would try and see the cunca rami waterfall. We organised motorbikes for myself and Edgar and off we went (365,000 for both of us). We spent 2 hours on the motorbike. My driver was always in the front and flying. The road got a bit crazy towards the end, potholes everywhere. A bit difficult if you had a crappy bike.  Our drivers had never been to the waterfall so when we were getting close to the starting point for the hike they had to ask some locals. We managed to find it and off we went on the hike. About 10 minutes into the hike, it started to lash rain and it didn’t stop for the entire time! About an hour later, we arrived at the beautiful Cunca Rami waterfall. The drivers even seemed delighted to have made it. They made sure to take a lot of photos of us there with them. We hung out at the waterfall for a bit and soon headed back. The journey on the bike was rough. I was frozen and it started to rain again. As soon as we were approaching Labuanbajo, I could feel the heat again. It was a great day out. We got soaked but it was fun. We ended up spending the evening in a restaurant called Mediterranea and had the best pizza.
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Nice and dry before we got soaked on our way to the waterfall!

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Cunca Rami waterfall

That evening we booked our Komodo trip with Dominik Komodo Travel for the day after Christmas Day. We decided to go on the 2 day 1 night trip. It seemed they had enough people to go on the boat for that day so all was good. We also talked about going on a snorkeling trip for the next day.

Waecicu beach and sunset point
Christmas day in Labuanbajo. We did think we were going snorkelling but when we arrived to Dominik’s agency it was closed. Instead we decided we would check out the coast and started walking to whats called Waecicu beach. We passed many churches along the way, full! After about an hour walking we arrived to the beach. Amazing! It’s a very small beach. There were only a few people there and we stayed there most of day relaxing, swimming across to another island and spent time with Lena and Amit. That evening we walked a bit further down the road and ended up at a place called Sylvia resort, it was just next door. Very fancy place. We ate and checked out the beach there. Later that evening we wanted to see the sunset and it just so happened we were very close to the sunset point. It’s pretty much opposite the Sylvia resort. There are a few green hills that you can climb and see the sunset. So, that’s what we did. We climbed up a little mountain to find lots of locals on the top who made sure to take a lot of photos of us. Edgar was quite popular. Just as we had finished taking some photos the rain came out of nowhere. I never got down a mountain so quick and wearing flip flops! We were completely soaked, so we just started walking back to the centre. Luckily, we managed to get a lift from a family, in the back of a trailor! What an evening! Dinner was normal, we ate fish at the port. You chose your fish and they cook right there and for very cheap.
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Sunset point

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Edgar was popular with the locals!

Komodo Islands trip
Day 1: Kanawa island, Manta point, Padar island
Day 11 of our Indonesia trip and first day of our Komodo island trip. The price for this trip was: 750,000Rp per person (which included the boat, snorkels, food and bed) plus 280,000Rp each entrance fees for the islands of Rinca and Komodo. We started the day early meeting at Dominiks agency around 7.45. We met another guy who would be joining us from Slovenia. Once we got our snorkels (a bit rough looking) and paid in full off we went to the boat. We were the last to arrive to the boat. There was already 10 people on there, mainly Australians and a few Europeans. 3 agencies had combined together to do this trip as numbers were low. First stop was Kanawa island. A fee of 10,000Rp had to be paid to enter. We spent about an hour on the island snorkelling. Plenty of fish to be seen there along with a lot of star fish (similar to an island off  Honda bay in the Phillipines. Next, we stopped at a place called Manta point, an area where there are usually a lot of mantas to be seen. In the beginning I wasn’t seeing anything but then all of a sudden there were three of them. Massive. One swam right under me. I was kind of freaking out inside. I managed to get a little video of it too. Really cool.
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Hanging out on the boat

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Kanawa Island

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Starfish

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Manta ray

After the manta ray point we headed to an island called Padar island- absolutely stunning views from the top. We spent some time there hanging out, taking pictures and enjoying the views. We docked somewhere after that, ate dinner and slept. Sleeping conditions were basic but fine. We slept what kind of looked like an attic-super tiny head space and we had a mattress. Slept good. Below are some pictures from Padar island!

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The views from Padar island

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More pics of Padar, this time with us!

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My obligatory jump!

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From where our boat was docked

Day 2: Komodo island, Pink Beach, Rinca Island
Everyone on the boat was pretty excited as we were going to see Komodo dragons today! We arrived early morning on the island and paid the fee for the ranger. There are different walking tours that you can do of the island. Our ranger decided or us. We would walk the medium tour. It was a little disappointing to be honest, as we thought we would see more komodos. We saw only one on this island and it looked like it was going to die any moment. We were still impressed and got our photo taken but expected to see a bit more. Next stop, on to pink beach for some snorkelling. This was great, loved it. Plenty of different kinds of fish.
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Snorkellers

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Some fishes

2 hrs later we landed on Rinca island- hopefully to see more than one komodo. Apparently there are 1,500 on the island. We had to pay a fee once more which wasn’t part of the deal but we all did in the end just to keep moving. Again, we did a medium walk. Plenty of deer, water buffalo and monkeys around. We did see more komodos on this island, mainly around the area where humans were-like near the restaurant.  It seemed all a bit staged really. The komodos that we saw were all under the restaurant or nearby. It was still impressive to see them. They were much more alive and energetic compared to the one we had seen on Komodo island. Once we had finished on the island, we headed back to the boat for the long way back to Luanbajo. We arrived around 5.30pm, said our goodbyes and headed straight for food in the Mediterraneo.
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Looks like he may not have long left

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The komodo dragon!

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Nice claws!

Day 13. Walked to airport (which is very close to Green Prundi- but not close enough to hear planes-we heard none!) to book our flight to Bali. We booked it for 4pm that evening. The rest of the day we spent at a place called Molas cafe, in the centre. This place was brilliant. There is a free pool and the food is fresh and healthy. We were the only ones there which was also really nice. After a relaxing day there we were ready to fly back to Bali.

 

 

Prices:
Green Prundi: 4 nights cost: 1200000 (around 80eur) including breakfast and pick up collect from anywhere around labuanbajo.
Flight from Labuanbajo to Bali 789,000 (57eur each) with Lion air.
Komodo island trip: 750,000Rp per person (which included the boat, snorkels, food and bed) plus 280,000Rp each entrance fees for the islands of Rinca and Komodo.

Bali and Gili Air

We got to explore some islands of Indonesia this December. Indonesia has thousands of islands. It would probably take a lifetime to explore them all. In this trip we visited Bali, Gili Air, Flores and the Komodo islands. Indonesia is mainly a muslim country, so it was interesting to see that two of the main islands we visited had different religions. Those were were Bali (Hindu) and Flores (Catholic)

 

In Bali we explored the following : Seminyak-Ubud-Coffee plantation-Tegallalang Rice Terraces-Ulun Danu Beratan Temple- Jatiluwih Rice Terraces-Camphan Ridge Walk-Kecak Traditional Dance
Seminyak Sunsets
Day 1. Once we arrived to Denpasar it was around evening time. We took a taxi to Seminyak (cost 100,000 Rp) where we planned to stay a few nights. We actually were not sure where to base ourselves but from reading about Seminyak is seemed like a good choice. We weren’t disappointed. We saw some beautiful sunsets there, had our first bintang on the beach chilling on beanbags. We stayed for 2 nights in a place called Lotus tirta which cost  750,000 Rp for 2 nights incl. breakfast.
Sunset in Seminyak

Sunset in Seminyak

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Our first bintangs of the holidays!

Day 2. Didn’t do anything special. Checked out the beach. On the way there we got stopped by a guy who gave us a type of scratch card. We won a prize, apparently the best one (looked like a holiday, a go-pro or cash). We were not sure about this but the guy who gave us the card looked really delighted that we had won something as it meant he would get some cash for doing that. So, the deal was that we had to visit the hotel that was giving this gift. We went by taxi with the guy (he paid for the taxi). The name of the place was the Karma hotel. We stayed for awhile there..we had to listen to a guy trying to sell us some deal with this hotel group..we were not interested..we just wanted to collect our prize (if there actually was one). The prize that we got was a free stay for like 2 weeks in one of their fancy hotels. The choice included Chiang Mai, Goa, Bali and someplace in Germany. We took this and left. Not sure if we will use this. The rest of the day we chilled out, walked around, saw some temples, got foot massages and went to  our pool for a swim.
Ubud
Day 3. We decided to leave Seminyak and go to explore Ubud. We got a taxi using the Grab app to go to Ubud, costing (145,000Rp). We stayed in a place called Diana dari 918,000Rp for 2 nights. This was a really nice place, hidden away from the main road with lovely views of rice fields and a nice pool. Once we had settled in we went to check out the monkey forest (50,000Rp). Plenty of monkeys there, its a nice place to walk around. The Hindu temple there was really busy. So many people were carrying offerings to the temple. Pretty cool to see how the locals carry the offerings on their heads.
Monkey forest

Monkey forest

Carrying offerings to the temple in Monkey forest

Carrying offerings to the temple in Monkey forest

Balinese dancer

Balinese dancer

Later in the evening we had a Balinese body massage (70,000Rp) for 1 hr and went to see a show with Balinese woman dancers (75,000Rp). That was interesting. I’d recommend it. At night there was huge celebrations as it was the dark moon ceremony. Lots of people dressed up it was really packed so a bit difficult to see it.
Coffee Plantation
Day 4. We decided to do a little bit of a tour of the main sights nearby. These included visiting the coffee plantation, Tegallalang rice fields, Mount Batur lake view, Ulun danu beratan temple and the Jatiluwih Rice terraces – all with the man who brought us to Ubud. He charged us 450,000 for the day. Our first stop was the Luwak coffee plantation.
Cheers!

Cheers!

This coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. It comes from coffee beans that have been digested by the luwak animal (kind of looks like a weasel). The pooped out beans are then collected, cleaned and roasted.  Edgar tried a cup (cost 50,000Rp) and it included a huge sampling of many teas and coffees for free. Interesting place to visit. Free entrance and there is a super cool swing that you can go on and costs 150,000Rp.

Tegallalang Rice Terraces

Just up the road from the coffee plantation is the Tegallalang rice fields. How have to give a little donation as you enter but it seems to go to the locals which is good. It’s really beautiful there. So much green. We walked around the fields although we didn’t spent a huge amount of time there.

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Rice terrace

We continued the journey going up north to see Mt.Batur from the lakeside. The day was a bit cloudy so it was a little difficult to see it clearly. We didn’t hike the mountain for that reason and also the fact that you have to get up at a really early hour to do the hike in order to catch the sunrise. A different time of year maybe is best to do it. 
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
1 hour later at 1200 metres above sea level in lake Beratan we came to the famous temple that floats on the lake called Ulun Danu Temple. It cost 50,000Rp to enter (the 50,000 note actually features this temple) maybe that’s why they charge that amount..not sure, but we found it to be only alright. We really didn’t spend a long time there. It’s a short walk around. Some paddle boats are available and there are some shops around. Not sure if I would return to this place.
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
Another hour in the car and we arrived to the famous Unesco World Heritage Jatiluwih rice fields. We had just arrived and the rain came down, really heavy and it really didn’t want to stop. Luckily there is a restaurant there so we ate there and waited for the rain to stop. ..but it didn’t! So, we decided to check out the rice terraces anyway. Apparently the rice fields are 503 hectares with around 511 farmers. I only saw women working on the rice fields there in the rain.  Even though it was raining the views were still really impressive. The greens are fluorescent and they go on forever. Definitely worth visiting and this was 40,000Rp each to enter.
Jatiluwih rice fields

Jatiluwih rice fields

Camphan Ridge Walk
Day 5. A rainy Ubud. The rain eventually died down and we went to the centre and hung out in coffee place and tried to plan the rest of the trip. When it cleared up we walked whats known as the Camphan ridge walk. It’s an easy walk with some nice views along the way. There is a really nice place called Karsa Kafe around there. Once we walked back to Ubud, I saw a sign down an alleyway for a magic rice fields view. So, we followed it and yep it was pretty magical. It was off the beaten track and very nice. There was little cafe’s around the area too. We ended back on a nice street called Kejung back in Ubud. We went to an agency and booked Gilli air (400,000Rp return pp) for the ferry.
Camphan ridge walk

Camphan ridge walk

Kecak Traditional Dance
We also bought tickets for a special dance called Kecak fire dance which was just down the road from where we were staying. Cost (75,000Rp). Pretty cool dance. A group of men start by chanting some kind of sound and they don’t stop for the whole show. There are also some dancers. Good show.
Kecak traditional dance

Kecak traditional dance

Gili Air
Day 6. Left Ubud early morning to make our way to the port to catch the boat to Gilli air. We stayed in a very basic place called Hello lumbung which is quite close to the mosque. We walked around the whole island island stopping off for a swim. There really was hardly any tourists on the island. Many of the locals there and in Bali were worried about the lack of tourists- all because of the eruption of the volcano- Mount Agung. It didn’t stop us from going and it was completely safe. Unfortunately, it lashed rain entire night. We were not sure whether we wanted to stay on Gilli air for more time.

 

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Day 7. We left Gili air around 12 by boat using the Wahana company. First the boat has to go to Lombok and later to a place where transport waits to pick you up and bring you to whereever you want to go. The journey is a long one with the boat and later the car. It takes most of the day. We got dropped off at the domestic terminal in Bali and went and booked our flights to Flores for the next day. We stayed in Kuta for the night and flew to Flores the next day.
Relaxing days by the pool
Day 13: We returned to Bali after spending some days in Flores and the Komodo islands and spent the last 3 days of the holiday relaxing by the pool.
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Pool time

Overall, a nice time in Bali. Still plenty to do and see there.
Oh, a word of caution: Be super careful when using your bank card in the ATM machines or anywhere there. After we came back from this holiday we realised that money was taken from our account. The card had somehow been copied somewhere. Left a bad impression for us after a nice trip.

Sanya

We took a little break from a cold Shanghai to go visit sunny Sanya for Edgar’s birthday in November! Sanya is a city on Hainan island, known to the Chinese as  ‘China’s Florida’. We flew with Spring airlines – costing 2880rmb for both return from Hongqiiao T1 arriving at Phoenix airport in Sanya. We left Shanghai pretty early on the Saturday morning,  arriving to Sanya around 9.30am. Across from the airport there is a bus station which if you take bus no.8 (5 yuan each) brings you along the coast road called Sanyawan and into the centre. We spent about 30 minutes on the bus and our place was across the street from the bus stop. We stayed in a hotel called: Canacoast on Sanyawan street. The cost for one night was 169 yuan. Once checked in, we changed and headed to the beach across the road. It was so nice to sit and relax on the beach. We stayed there most of the day, going for swims and eating the fresh pineapple (3 rmb) and coconut (6 rmb). The beach was super clean. We didn’t venture far around Sanya, just along the beach and ate in the local Muslim restaurants, bit more expensive than Shanghai. In the evening along the beach, the place comes alive with locals singing and dancing. One thing we found interesting was the number of retirees. There seemed to be many elderly people hanging out on the promenade and others it seemed getting a day out from hospital. There wasn’t many other tourists in Sanya, the ones we met were Russians. It’s a popular destination for them and handy as almost all information, menus and bus stops are in Russian. Sanya was a quick get away to the beach for us, but seems to be a lot of interesting activities that could be done there if going for a longer time. We enjoyed the escape from a cold Shanghai! Here are some pics of our weekend!

Liverpool

We spent a weekend in Liverpool recently to meet up with my sister and her partner, Jay before we head off to Shanghai. We booked our flights with Easyjet and accommodation with AirBnB.
We arrived on Friday in the afternoon to rainy weather, a big change from the heat of Barcelona but we kind of expected that! We took the A500 bus from the airport to the centre, getting off around the John Lewis centre. The ticket cost £2.60 each and took around 30 mins. Once we had eaten, we set off to the the Albert docks which has plenty of amusements, many museums including the Beatles museum. We spent some time in the Tate gallery area which was free and pretty interesting. To avoid the rain outside we stayed in the Tate coffee place where we would meet my sister. Once we had met we walked around the other side of the docks and into the centre. Plenty of shops going on in Liverpool. However, we passed these and went to Matthew street, one of the main entertainment streets. We entered the Cavern Bar, which was were the Beatles got signed. There is a cover charge of £2.50 to enter but it’s well worth it. There was live music and a great atmosphere. We stayed there some time and moved to the other sister bar of the Cavern, where a band were playing. The music was great in both places.

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With the Beatles in Albert Docks

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Matthew Street

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Having the chat with John Lennon

We ate dinner in a place called Shiraz Palace near to Matthew street. Great food at good price. Got the bus 432 across the river Mersey to our place. The bus we used for the weekend was called Arriva and we usually bought a single ticket to the centre for £3.30. The great thing about the bus was that they all have wifi.

The next day Anfield was on the cards. Jay booked a time for us online to go visit the stadium so we all met there in the morning. Cost of the tour: £17. The tour was great and included a museum tour as well. We didn’t get to go on the pitch as they are in the process  of extending the  stadium, but we did get our photo taken with the cup!

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In the dressing rooms of Anfield

Once we had seen everything regarding Anfield stadium we took a taxi into the centre, arriving to the bombed church (bombed during World War 2) and later walked to see the entrance to Chinatown which looked impressive. We did some shopping also. Edgar got kitted out with the help of my sister, his personal shopper!

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Chinatown entrance

The rest of the evening was spent in the pub where we met some of Jay’s relations. We ate in a place called Byron Burger which was very nice.

Last day, started with rain but didn’t last long.  It turned out to be a hot day. We had breakfast in Shiraz cafe and walked around Church street. Once we met with my sister we walked by St.Johns Garden and around that area. The time went fast and it wasn’t long before we said our goodbyes. Myself and Edgar had a few hours until our flight so we went back to the docks and hung out there. If you don’t want to carry your heavy bag around like us, you can enter the Tate gallery which is free and put your bag in one of the lockers there for £1. The docks looked so much better when the sun was out compared to Friday when it was raining!

To get to the airport we took the same bus again, the A500 across from the docks near the Hilton hotel.

We had a great weekend in Liverpool. It was great to see my sister and Jay and hang out with them. We really enjoyed it. Till next time Liverpool. You were boss, la 😉