Bali: The Island of the Exotic

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Bali has always been the ideal tropical getaway for years, and when Eat, Pray, Love came out, the seams of tourism for this little country island exploded.

The locals suddenly saw an onslaught of Western tourists and adapted accordingly; they picked up basic conversational English and an exceptional customer service attitude. Embarrassingly, my friend and I didn’t know Indonesian or Malay – except for a few well-known terms like “thank you” and “exit”, so it was a pleasant surprise (and relief) when they could speak to us in English.

We stayed in Bali, Ubud, for about 3 days and flew to Bandung for 6. Looking back, we would have gone with 4 days in Bali and 5 days in Bandung instead. We didn’t visit any beaches (what blasphemy!), but we had a ton of fun doing other activities like volcano trekking, water rafting, cafe hopping, indulging in balinese massages and rice terrace visiting. Our itinerary is pretty cookie cut-out, and I remember wishing we were more divergent on this point :(

Okay, here’s our itinerary for the 3 days we were in Bali.

Day 1:

  • Checked in to Jalan Tirta Tawar, Indigo Villas (they will be closing this year, sadly)
  • Dinner at AA Juicery & Cafe (4.6 star rating) – A vegan cafe with genuine fruit juices! Very delicious and cosy setting!

Day 2:

  • 2am: Mount Batur Volcano Bali Trek (about 2-3 hours to reach the top if you go at a consistent speed)
  • Lunch at a place which had quite bad food. It was part of the package.img_7708
  • Rice terrace visit

Day 3:

  • 8am: Water-rafting
  • Ubud Money Forest
  • Coffee Plantation (Famous for Luwak Coffee aka luwak poop coffee)

    This was amazing. They let us try 16 different kinds of coffee in small cups! So delish! We didn’t try the luwak coffee though.

  • Balinese massage (no photos here! haha)
  • Bamboo Bar for our last night, and Spanish foodfor dinner before that. (it’s nearby the Bamboo Bar, you can’t miss it. I can’t remember the name unfortunately)

A few points to note:

  1. Mozzie infestation: Especially at night. It’s a bloodfest. If you frequently get bites in your own country (less mozzie-ish country, that is), you should plaster yourself all over with mozzie stickers here.
  2. It’s expensive: Bali, it seems, more than the other Indonesian states, charges way too high. A day tour package is at least USD$65 and at most a hundred. So watch out for the lowest prices. Haggle, if you can.
  3. Bring good walking shoes: You’re probably going to do a lot of walking during the day tours so bring along a pair of comfy walking shoes. I brought a high-cut converse pair of shoes and suffered abrasion bites from the shoe’s high flap :(
  4. Mind you, volcanoes aren’t hot. They’re cold at the top. Contrary to popular belief (or maybe it’s just me), volcanoes are just like mountains when you climb to the top. I can’t believe I was so silly to have thought otherwise. So bring proper thick jackets when you go volcano trekking!
  5. Adventure water rafting (don’t try the commercialised ones for the real kick!): At first, we thought that we’d be tumbling over three meters high waterfalls in our dinghy. It was quite smooth-sailing, nothing scary. I’d have to say that USS’s Jurassic World water rapids ride was a lot more hair-raising. We went to the Ayung river. I can’t recommend you others because we didn’t get to try ‘em, but if you’re looking for a real thrill, you might want to seek out another river.
  6. Taxis are a convenience. Watch out for over-friendly taxi drivers, too.
    1. The taxis are affordable, even if the day tours aren’t.
    2. I also can’t help thinking it’s because of tourism that has made these taxi drivers a whole lot more “open” than they would usually be… Some would even go as far as to invite you out for drinks and stuff – see what your limits are and act accordingly. Don’t be pressured into thinking you’ll be a prude / rude if you refuse.
  7. Indonesian and Western food galore. Yup, a lot of the shops sell a variety of Indonesian and Western food. We absolutely enjoyed the rich flavours of the Nasi Goreng, Ayam Penyet, Mee Soto and Balinese Chicken Soup. The average pricing for a local dish would be between RP15,000 to RP25,000.
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The Curious Science Behind Wanderlust

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Picture yourself on the trip of a lifetime, maybe trekking through the icy villages of Greenland or scouting for pink auroras in Norway. Maybe the idea of ibexes climbing steep dams excites you to want to do the same.

Wired to Travel?

I have a friend whose Chinese name means 宇: World, Universe… paired with 川: Hills, Creeks or Water.

He’s a travel photographer with a penchant for getting lost, so as to find.

He feels the need to escape the predictable to learn more about the voracious world out there.

Was he born an insatiable adventurer?

Our brains are smart and they catch up fast. They know exactly what we want and they activate the flush and rush of emotions to match, making us want to “take that risk” and go for the trip despite us being low on the leave count. If you perpetually get estatic just by looking at a postcard, it’s likely that you…. have an incurable case of wanderlust.

First Things first…

New things, exploring and the unknown all tempt us. Here’s my attempt to explain why:

Our fiesty pal, Adrenaline, loves the “newness” of things. The electrical neurons in our brains connect excitedly to each other upon contact, and make stronger bonds.

We remember our first kisses, our childhood friends or the very first time our hearts broke. Similarly, the brain functions like that when you travel. We remember the firsts and new, best. Even when we don’t want to.

When was the last time you saw something for the first time?

The first time you’ve ever seen a Roman, or tasted Risotto, sang with a blind busker, kissed the crystal waters of New Zealand… listened to Irish laughter…

You made first contact with the further world, took an alfesco stroll among the wild springs of a seemingly infinite gaia.

In those moments, wanderlust is just another silly term social scientists come up with. You’re really in love with the unexplainable little glories of the earth.

It’s all yours

All the wide & wondrous world is painted before you
Your star struck eyes a-dancing
Won’t you pick up your brush and join in?
Blend the colours of firsts into everything

Perth ain’t no pushover

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“Land of the farm animals and infinite fields,” declared a friend of mine.

Just tell someone you’ve just been to Perth for a holiday – then watch their expression go from excited to confused (something that of an odd horror). “What did you DO there??” they ask, genuinely surprised. Or “Did you do farm stay?” As if all Perth is known for is their cows, farms and fields. Or the occasional honey and nougat.

Alright, okay, I used to believe that about Perth too.

Until I visited it in June, and then promptly decided that I had to go back someday.

Contrary to popular belief: Perth has beautiful towns, cities and streets. Perhaps it is because I stay in Singapore, where everywhere is bustling, energetic and loud – that I appreciate that perfectly fine balance that Perth offers: both the bustle and the tranquil, quiet living.

Fremantle: Your mish mash of lovely food, buildings and things

fremantlemarketLet’s take a walk down Fremantle (or Freo, as it’s affectionately known) at nightfall. The streets are lit up with orangey lights. There are colonial and Romantic buildings at every turn. Nearby, choruses of laughter echo from Sandrinos, a fantastic Seafood and Pizza restaurant ($35 per person). The three of us marched into the crowded but very welcoming restuarant – the long queue (a good indication) didn’t feel like an eternity, and the hostess chatted with everyone in the line with perfect ease. I still remember her cropped short hair and blue eyes. She was obviously busy, but she sure didn’t make us feel unimportant. Our turn soon came, and we discovered the best way to eat mussels: chilli-ed. The seafood platter (which was meant for two) filled us three up at only AUD$42, and the carbonara with mushroom and ham, was first rate.

Sandrinos kakulasisters

Another curious place we visited in Freo was the famous Kakula Sisters, a quaint little shop selling raw ingredients, creative knick knacks for cooking and all sort of gustatory supplies. A heaven-sent place for the chefs. If you’re looking for quirks like the whole nutmeg or mung beans, you’re in the right sort of place.

It’s great how their beaches are nearby the towns. The City Beach, which is a short drive away, is perfect for that whim of ocean and books. It’s a very interesting beach. Before your eyes meet with the crash of waves, you are greeted with hilly sand mounds, all with dancing green plants atop of them. It’s different from your ordinary beach, I reckon. A good kind of different. Just. Look. At. This:

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Obviously with a name like City Beach, you’d know the City’s around the corner. A mere 15 mins drive away.

Sadly, our trio didn’t get to see much of the City, since we only visited it on our last day (how ironic), however, whatever we saw of it was good. A special place to just make a detour in the City is the lovely London Court. Though it’s a tad touristy, you still get a wonderful feel of the Harry Potter-like street (it’s a setting of Tudor England, to be more accurate).

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Leederville, Subiaco and Mount Lawley: Small Towns with Big Charm

Alright, these small towns have big personalities, and what we truly loved about ’em most were their cafes with delicious decor and food. So, first on our honour roll is….

1. Piccolo’s Corner, Leederville

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Amazing breakfast or brunch on a budget. It’s super old-school and vintage-y, yet not without elegance and charm. The food takes a while to prepare, but they were all awesome. We had Piccolo’s Breakfast (Free range poached eggs with bacon, avocado and spicy capsicum with relish served on toasted ciabatta, $17.50), Home-made Beetroot pesto, free range poached eggs, danish fetta and fresh basil on toasted ciabatta with a garlic rub ($15.50), and Tarragon and garlic field mushrooms served with wilted spinach, asparagus, homemade basil pesto and a poached egg on toasted ciabatta ($18.50).

2. Tuckshop, Northbridge

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It didn’t sound very appealing to me at first, but I was dead wrong. Tuckshop is a simple casual cafe with complex dishes. We ordered Ciabatta with Tasmanian smoked salmon, lemon ricotta, asparagus and fennel salad ($18.50), Smoked cod, potato and leek bake with poached egg, cheddar toastie ($18.50) and a Lamb, rosemary and vegetable pie ($12.50). All of which were impeccably prepared.

3. Little Caesar’s Pizzeria, Leederville

On our first night in Perth, our host brought us to Little C’s to grab pizza. Really delicious, (Yea, I can be a little repetitive when it comes to describing food) but the time it took to prepare the pizzas was really quite long. My friend had gastric while waiting.

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4. Chocolateria San Churros, Leederville and Subiaco

San Churros has got pretty tasty churros and average tasting hot chocolate – though I would rather recommend Koko Black for hot chocolate of any sort.

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5. The Walk Cafe, Subiaco

Wicked coffee, and at a dirt cheap price. ‘Nuff said! $3 for per cup.

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Caversham Wildlife Park: Aussie Animals

For AUD$25 per person, I think there ought to be more animals in here. It’s a lovely and cosy zoo, but the variety of animals and birds aren’t very much. You get to see the usual range of australian creatures and a few more others, but I don’t think the wildlife park fully justifies the $25 that you pay. The must-sees are the kangaroos (the albino ones are really adorable), wombats, quokkas, farm animals (llama gangstass), koalas and a species of birds that makes sounds akin to your heartbeat. It’s pretty cool.

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And that wraps up my short stay in Perth. For what’s it worth, Perth was great. Though 5 days might be a little short to conclude that “Perth is no pushover”, I’m still sticking to it. I need to go back there someday, and if you’re still not convinced, visit it yourself. <3

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