Waking early to the sound of the cockerel in our beautiful new home, we soon began to enjoy the relaxed pace of life in Penestanan on the outskirts of Ubud in Bali. Intimate visits with our host family to local temples, traditional community street theatre and the insatiable beauty of the surrounding countryside were real highlights our time there, but amongst all of the beauty and traditions, we discovered that Bali has a dangerous cancer that’s growing from the inside out.
In this short blog, we offer a few simple tips on how to find a place to stay in Ubud. Bali really is a special place, full of jaw dropping scenery, energetic culture and traditions that have stood the test of time. We took some time out from our travels to live in Penestanan, a few kilometres west of central Ubud in April 2012 in a beautiful, traditional Balinese house.
For three weeks in April 2013, we lived in a wonderful detached house in Penestanan, in the suburbs around Ubud in Bali. Located down a quiet road in a local area, away from the hussle and bussle of central Ubud, we found ourselves surrounded by peace and tranquility and were able to relax from the rigours of travel, get some work done and enjoy an authentic Balinese lifestyle.
Our Mexico, Central America and Columbia Lonely Planet guidebooks have just arrived in the post – and with a clear blue sky above us for the first time in weeks here in the south of Germany, mirroring the images inside – it’s an understatement to say that we’re slightly excited about the next chapter in our journey. The Americas!!
Travelling from Ketapang in Java to the port of Gilimanuk in Bali by ferry is incredibly easy, very cheap and quick. However after travelling for two days in a minivan from Yogyakarta, and being exhausted from getting up at 4am on both of those days and trekking up two volcanos, meant we were perhaps a little too tired to realise just how simple it actually was.
When we decided to travel from Jogjakarta to Bali via Gunung Bromo and Ijen, we needed a quick, cheap and convenient option. Working as digital nomads, we have to be responsive to our clients, which means we can’t always choose the alternative travel routes, especially in places like Indonesia where internet access is limited.
If you’re thinking of buying outdoor gear in Tokyo or are planning to hike Mt. Fuji, then this is the place for you! ‘L Breath’ – the best outdoor shop that we could find in Tokyo.
Our budget and itinerary for our first day in Tokyo, plus what we now know about the city. Our itinerary included:
1, Sleep in after yesterday’s long flight and late arrival
2, Get to grips with new toilet technology
Prachuap Khiri Khan ended up being one of our favourite towns in southern Thailand, especially because of its close proximity to the wonderful Kui Buri National Park – a cool place to spot elephants in the wild.
Although a sleepy town, it had an unusual, almost English seaside town feel to it, plus cheap accommodation, a peaceful and hassle free atmosphere along with phenomenal sea food restaurants, friendly locals, and only a couple of other tourists too. The perfect remedy after busy and brash Ko Phangan.
We’d never even heard of it, yet the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, is produced right here in Indonesia! and when we heard that the bizarre plantations were right on our doorstep, we had to find out more.
Although one of the lesser known ‘wonders’ of Buddhist architecture in South East Asia, our guidebook assured us that Borobudur temple was equally as impressive as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, and just as magical as the temple scattered plains of Bagan in Myanmar (Burma). We were sceptical about this as we made our way out of Yogyakarta at 5am, but on our return a few hours later, our doubts had been quashed. We had quite simply had our breath taken away.
Arriving close to midnight in Yogyakarta on one of the busiest days of the year to find almost every hotel full, wasn’t something we were expecting as we finally collapsed into bed – exhausted. It had been a long journey from Surabaya and so the VIP room (the only room left in town), was a little expensive, but also very welcome for two weary travellers. In the days that followed, we found some of Indonesia’s most special cultural delights, plus a few of its worst too.
We love to travel overland (or sea) as often as possible, as we believe that the journey can be just as adventurous, if not more, than the destination itself, and the four day Kencana adventure tour from Lombok to Flores is certainly a great way to travel east in Indonesia. And what better reward after those four long days, than to land on a modern day ‘Jurassic Park’ where man-eating dragons roam.
Finding ourselves on one of Java’s economy trains wasn’t quite what we had planned, but the incredibly low priced ticket was too good to refuse for a relatively short journey. So what do you get for $3.60 ticket (€2.80, £2.38) to travel 308km across Indonesia?
Today we returned to the southern hemisphere, this time to a country that we’ve both wanted to visit for a long time. With around 20,000 islands stretching from the Indian ocean to the west of Malaysia all the way to the northern most tip of eastern Australia, a population of over 240 million (the fourth most populous in the world) and a multitude of languages, religions and landscapes, there’s certainly a lot to see and do.
We recently spent nine days living on Haad Yao Beach on the Thai island of Koh Pha Ngan. Living meters away from a powder white sandy beach, with calm, gin clear water and pale blue cloudless skies was bliss, but it did have its ups and downs.
We entered Laos at the Chiang Khong / Huay Xai border crossing after being told that our Thai visas had expired, and so with a new adventure ahead of us, we decided to embrace this mis-hap in our plans and take the slow-boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, a journey that we had wanted to take back in 2010.
Chiang Mai is a relatively cheap place to live in comparison to Bangkok and the south of Thailand, although improving transport links, a youthful population and a growing economy means it probably won’t be cheap for much longer. So how much does living in one of Thailands biggest cities cost?
After spending nine months living and working as digital nomads in Chiang Mai, we’ve finally managed to tear ourselves away in order to continue our travels. We moved to the city initially without knowing anything about it, but soon found it to be an extremely friendly, safe, affordable, and easy place to live. This post offers a few practical ideas about the city.
For those looking for a little inspiration on what to see and do in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, we’ve compiled this little list of some of our favourite activities and sights in and around the city. Read more
Working as digital nomads allows us to work pretty much anywhere that we choose, as long as there’s an internet connection of course, and during our time in Chiang Mai we found a huge amount of cool cafes where we could hang out, drink delicious coffee, smoothies and juices whilst getting a few hours work done. In fact, Chiang Mai must certainly be a contender for having the ‘most cafes in a city’ prize – if there is one. All of the places listed here have a good wifi connection.
After spending the last nine months in Chiang Mai, enjoying its culinary delights in many of its restaurants (almost every night), we think we’re fairly well placed to be able to write a little list of our favourite restaurants in the city. The word restaurants is a loose term here.
Have you ever been in a foreign country, in a potentially dangerous or terrible situation in which all hope seems lost, and then, through the goodwill of a complete stranger everything has turned out okay?
We have, and we’re quite sure that many other people who travel have too, which has lead us to believe that most people in the world today are good honest people. Having this belief allows us to travel with more courage, have more faith in others and has changed the way we feel about the world. It’s just that ‘good news stories’ never seem to get told, but if they did, perhaps we’d all have a better view of our Big Little Planet.
70KM north of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand lies the small town of Chiang Dao, a quiet, rural town with nothing much of note about it for any tourists passing through, except of course that it’s surrounded by limestone mountains and the highest limestone peak in Thailand, Doi Chiang Dao.
We’ve been in Thailand for 8 months now and although Thai is a difficult language to learn (it’s a tonal language), we’ve managed to pick-up enough of it to get by on, which has not only made communicating easier, but has also enriched our Thai experience. Wherever you’re travelling to, we think it’s important to learn a few words before you go, so that you are able to communicate (even just a little bit), with the local people. Believe us, it really does make all the difference.
Imagine tens of thousands of paper lanterns illuminated bright orange by their flame, floating simultaneously into the darkness of the night sky. Add to this picture, the peaceful ambience of a traditional Lanna Buddhist festival, where prayer and chanting precede the lantern release, and the excitement of thousands local Thais and tourists bursting with excitement in anticipation of making a wish and seeing their troubles drift away in a collective galaxy of lanterns. This is the Yi Peng Sky Lantern Festival, a festival like no other.
During our three week tour of the Philippines back in October 2012, we had the opportunity to swim with whale sharks in one of the more remote, ‘off the beaten track’ kind of places, and so we thought it was an opportunity we just had to take. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s not everyday that you get to swim with the world’s biggest fish, is it.
However, following our brief encounter with these majestic beasts we found ourselves asking: Was it worth it, and more importantly, is it right?
2012 turned out to be somewhat of a monumental year for both Silke and I, as we quit our jobs, sold everything we owned, started a travel website and bought a one way ticket out of the UK with the intention of becoming digital nomads. Well, we say that now, but initially we didn’t really know what a ‘digital nomad’ was, nor did we really know what we were doing, in fact we didn’t have a clue. All we knew was that we wanted to lead a more exciting life, have adventures, live in countries that we’ve never been to, stay in places that we could never afford in the UK, learn new skills and languages and discover more of the world, finding out how other people in other cultures live.
We very often have quite specific plans set out for short trips, when we know that time is going to be limited at our destination. Therefore it’s important to know in advance what you want to see, do and experience and maybe even where you’re going to stay, as this can take a lot of stress out of any trip. Putting in some good research before your trip can really help to enrich any travel experience. But sometimes, the best travel experiences can come from the most unexpected, unplanned moments!
According to the official tourist website, the island of Bohol in the Philippines is ’God’s little paradise’, and we don’t think they’re far wrong. With a lush green interior, amazing shoreline, great diving on Panglao island, action and adventure sports, resorts catering for all budgets, plus the smallest and cutest primates on earth, it certainly appeals to most travellers’ needs. We spent three days there discovering all that God was able to deliver. He didn’t do a bad job.
Our small bangka sailed swiftly through the choppy water, moving across the waves with ease. The salty water regularly splashed up onto the deck and over our heads, and before long, we were soaked to the skin. Our destination was a small dot of land in the distance. Getting to Apo Island from the island of Negros, is the closest Robinson Crusoe experience you’re likely to have. Read more
Arriving into Dumaguete airport on neighbouring Negros amid a tropical storm, it was a really bad landing. A few hours later on the tiny ferry to Siquijor, the rough seas from the continuing storm were throwing us around like a matchstick, which wasn’t helpful in any way as the onset of food poisoning began to take its toll. Once on dry land, we tentatively made our way in the pouring rain towards the road, only to find an army of tricycle drivers baying for our service at the usual inflated price of ten times the norm. We rushed through them with our eyes fixed on a Jeepney, already half full and about to leave. Our introduction to the island of Siquijor and the Visayas was as draining as any travel experience we’d ever had.
We’re extremely excited to announce our travel plans for 2013!
It’s been difficult trying to decide where next to travel to, especially as we’re having such a great time here in Chiang Mai, but we’ve finally decided that in 2013 our travel schedule will look something like this:
We hadn’t heard of Mount Pinatubo before we arrived in the Philippines, but mention it to any Filipino and they’ll each have a story to tell about this inconspicuous volcano. On June 15th 1991 Mt. Pinatubo, which had been dormant and peaceful for hundreds of years, caused panic and mass evacuations as it suddenly rumbled to life and literally blew itself apart in what has been described as one of the most powerful eruptions of the 20th century. The volcano lost 300 metres in height and up to 10,000,000,000 tonnes of dust and rock was catapulted 40km into the air, and due to the gases released, global temperatures dropped by about 0.5 °C. To make matters worse, a typhoon hit the region at the same time as the eruption and turned the ash into lethal lahar rivers, which flooded down the mountain, buried whole villages and completely changed the landscape of the area forever. So it was with both excitement and trepidation that we approached the mountain in order to hike into its daunting crater.
With almost 40% of the country living on less than US$2 a day, the Philippines is no stranger to hardship, with crime, political tensions between the MILF rebels and the military in the south of the country, poor infrastructure, corruption, an exploding population rate, pollution, begging and prostitution being high on the list of issues it’s easy to see why many tourists are put off from visiting these shores. But look a little closer and you’ll find some of the friendliest and most helpful people you could hope to meet in a country rich in culture, history, effortless beauty and an environment and landscape so diverse that it has more unique species of plant and animal life than the Galapogos Islands.
Lampang is one of northern Thailand’s lesser known towns to visit. Situated a few hours south east from Chiang Mai, it’s an easy place to get to either by train or bus and has a pleasant, relaxed vibe. The sound of horse drawn carriages trotting through streets lined with teak houses, and stunning architecture makes it an aesthetically beautiful place to visit. But with friendly locals, a whole load of local pottery, and a buzzing weekend market, it’s certainly worth a visit if you have a few spare days around Chiang Mai.
As our first Thai tourist visa was running out, it was time for us to make our first visa run from Chiang Mai to Mae Sai. We weren’t sure of the best way to get there, but what we did know is that we didn’t fancy taking a mini bus as they tend to be driven by lunatics, and the thought of being cramped in like sardines for eight hours without having the chance to stretch your legs didn’t sound like a lot of fun. So after a little research, we decided to take the ‘Green Bus’, which looked like it would offer us a little comfort and flexibility for a decent price.
Ensuring that you have the right vaccinations for travel in South East Asia is an important consideration for your travels, but one that can be costly too. So getting your vaccinations or boosters in Chiang Mai is certainly a more affordable option than in most western countries.
Making the visa run to Myanmar is an ongoing saga for most long-stayers in Chiang Mai, and one that becomes more and more tedious the more often you have to go. For our second visa run to the border, we opted not to take the Green Bus as we had done first time around, but this time we’d make it an adventure. Jumping on our Honda Dream just after sunrise with just a small backpack and a map felt like a real adventure….. and it certainly was.
In a quest to escape the heat of the city and explore the fringes of Doi Suthep National park, we took our little scooter for a trip up into the mountains hoping to find a little culture, some nature, a cool breeze and a nice cup of coffee.
So off we went on our journey into the unknown after selling everything we owned for a life of travel. Our first stop was Panwa Beach Resort on Phuket, Thailand, and although the location wasn’t one that we would normally choose – as it’s probably the most touristy island in Thailand, but with such a good deal on the the flight, we decided to give it a go (sometimes looking for flights to the most popular destinations returns the best prices) but we weren’t disappointed with our choice, and were able to find a little piece of Phuket that was both beautiful and quiet.