A Travellerspoint blog

Staycation in Ubud

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We arrived in Ubud (the "cultural center" of Bali) 6 days ago, with reservations at a temple-turned-bungalow compound for one night. Within the first few hours of being in the city, we both knew we weren't going anywhere anytime soon. Perhaps it was the Balinese Traditional Healing Center that fed us Ubud-addictive potion, or the Yoga Every Day at a yoga studio that we rode our motorbike to, or maybe it was just the plethora of delicious restaurants with soft seating.

The Balinese Traditional Healing Center, featured in the (in)famous book Eat, Pray, Love, turned out to be the site of many a crazy experience. Wayan, the healer, and her sixteen-year-old daughter are both amazing women, and I (Annie) spent a good three hours in her humble hut, eating bitter leaves, swallowing root-pills, and having my body balanced. Wayan showed me my brain wave line, which I found pretty funny. It was a frenzy of activity followed by a straight line of nothingness, followed by frenzied activity, and then straight again. For anyone who knows my propensity for hypomanic intellectual activity followed by time off spent lounging like a cat, this made me laugh a whole lot.

After my experience at the Center, Jeremy decided to at least go in for a body reading, which turned into much more than he'd bargained for. He was minding his own business and drinking his turmeric juice, when Elizabeth Gilbert (writer of the infamous Eat, Pray, Love) and her husband walked through the door. Wayan made no sign that this was someone of note besides being a good friend, and Jeremy clearly had no idea who this woman was. For the next 2 hours, they all relaxed around Wayan's coffee table and received treatment (much more than he actually paid for, it turns out), followed by all of them wearing sarongs and being scrubbed down with healing herbal leaves. No big deal, just at a hut/spa with famous people. It was only after he had returned that he realized who they were. What's more, The Gilberts ended up having some great advice for places to go in Ubud.

While in Ubud, I was also able to worm my way into spending some time at the Bumi Sehat clinic, a traditional midwifery clinic just outside the city. I spent a day there, and labored with a woman and her husband along with a really incredible Australian midwife. It was a very different experience from hospital births, closer to those I experienced on Whiteriver Reservation in Arizona. No IVs, no monitors, no medications. I learned accupressure for relieving pain and strengthening contractions, and how to use different herbal remedies. I will say that I would be very nervous being in that room as the one in charge of the maternal and fetal outcomes, but perhaps that's my Western medicine talking. After 55 hours of laboring, the woman squatted onto her sarong and delivered a (seemingly) perfectly healthy baby. Again, no tests, no needles, and no medications.

Lest you think we're getting too hippie-dippy over here, I am still maintaining a healthy brand of skepticism for everything we're learning. But I will potentially be ordering the book "Placenta: The Forgotten Chakra" by Robin Lim, who runs Bumi Sehat. Just for something to think about.

Following are some pictures from the past few days:

This is a shot from an evening Legong dance show that we went to. There are many distinct Balinese dances/styles - this one seemed to be characterized by very wide, darting eyes, and twitchy fingers.
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This next series is from a walk we took up above Ubud on what's known as the Campuan ridge.
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Enjoying some lime juice with honey at a table for two at a roadside kafe.
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Gorgeous shot of a rice paddy ready to be harvested.
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Our beautiful bungalow, on our last night in Ubud. Sadness.
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One last thing: we have figured out the schedule for our second month of traveling - beaching it in the south of Thailand until March 3rd, spending a few days with friends in Bangkok, then exploring Chiang Mai and the north of Thailand before returning to Bangkok to fly to Tokyo on the 17th. We had planned to go to Laos, but Thailand is such a large and amazing place that we decided we wanted to try to see as much of it as we could. The rest of southeast asia will have to wait till next time :)

Posted by jeremyandannie 05:32 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali Comments (5)

Settled in in Ubud

Bugs, Lizards, Frogs, Fish, Mice, Dogs, and Spiders (for Jeremy) and yoga, couches, incense, and curry (for Annie)

sunny 85 °F
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Regardless of what's really getting us going (see sub-heading), I think we both feel as though the last 5 days or so since we left New Zealand have been some of the best of the trip. They started with a late afternoon rip-roaring drive from Queenstown to Christchurch, a 3 day stay on the breathtaking island of Nusa Lembongan, a luxurious evening at a hotel in Sanur, and, now, a day or so of our visit to Ubud. Indonesia and Bali seem unbelievably beautiful to me and though we're visiting in the "low season", the weather has seemed perfect, only brief heavy rains last night and this morning giving away that its not. This morning was actually something of a "wash", as we drove around on our rented scooter ($5 a day) for 30 minutes trying to find the most famous yoga studio in this place of famous yoga studios. It was barely marked and by the time we got there, the class had started. Oh well, I guess we'll have to go to the 4pm class after our massages!

In reference to Jeremy's favorite parts of Bali, animals seem to be completely integrated into daily life here. From the geckos in the thatching of our roof at night, to the feral dogs pawing through food on every corner, to the carp in every urban pond, they are everywhere. On Nusa Lembognan, we actually spent a morning looking for a new hotel after waking up with bug bites on our hands only to find the same spiders and mosquitoes in every place - one manager even showed us a room that had a dead mouse on the floor! His explanation, "don't worry, pest control sprayed chemicals in this room yesterday". Ah, right. Sign me up.

A lot of what we've been up to since the last post is actually much better told through images - so now that internet is so cheap ($1 per hour) and the bandwidth is better (really not sure how Indonesia beats the pants off NZ in this department), I thought I'd try a post a bunch of photos and short descriptions of each. Enjoy!

Jeremy about to go scuba diving for the first time in 10 years!
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A nice shot of Mushroom Bay, where we were based on the Nusas (Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan)
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View of Jungutbutu, the main town on Nusa Lembongan. The industry there is mostly seaweed farming. Taken while out on a round-the-island scooter ride.
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A few gorgeous shots of sunset at Sunset Beach, now called Sandy Bay, from the restaurant at The Beach Resort, formerly called Scallywags. We had dinner here twice while on Lembongan.
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A couple shots from our fishing adventure with a local "captain". We fished using the traditional indonesian method - holding the line in your hand. He was certainly better at it than us! The last one is of the fish we caught after our hotel cooked them for us. We learned later that one of them was called "Leather Jacket Fish". How do you think they tasted?
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Our last day on the Nusas - these were taken on Ceningan which is much less developed than Lembongan. There appeared to only be a few establishments that catered at all to tourists. One was aptly named "Jumping Point". (Can you tell what I did there?) The one of Annie is from the only restaurant we saw on the island, Seabreeze Warung.
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Our room/temple in Ubud and a view from the perspective of a mojito at our first dinner out - at an amazing restaurant called Bollero.
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Posted by jeremyandannie 21:11 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali Comments (2)

Southern Laughter, 1876, and Cafe 111

In the lap of luxury in Queenstown

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As you can see from the heading, we have spent the last couple days here in Queenstown living luxuriously - eating at restaurants, checking movie listings (though we didn't actually make it to see any), sleeping in a comfortable bed, and showering daily. We felt we deserved a break and some celebration, as we just finished a 3-day hike through Fjiordland, and these were our last 2 days in kiwi country (NZ). We stayed at a beautiful backpacker called Sir Cedrics Southern Laughter Backpacker and wandered around, checking out shops, beer bars, and adventure travel operators. While Queenstown is supposedly one of the larger cities in NZ, its permanent population is only ~13K people. Though it certainly seems to be many times that with the number of travelers passing through.

We had our first full dinner out last night at a great spot called 1876 - we'd promised ourselves that we would try the lamb before we left and it did not disappoint. We also treated ourselves to a brilliant chocolate fondue for dessert (truly a celebratory night when chocolate fondue is involved). We followed that up this morning with a beautiful breakfast of eggs benedict, bacon, and toast at a cozy spot across the street from the hostel called Cafe 111.

The 3 days on the routeburn were really amazing. It was about 32K of total hiking, with about 3000 feet of elevation changes thrown in and most of it covered over the first two tiring days. Wednesday, the last day, was mostly a slightly downhill winding trail, following the Routeburn River as it meanders out of the mountains. Throughout the 3 days we had spectacular views of rivers, valleys, and mountain ranges. On the second day, easily the most challenging of the 3, we started out with a climb above Lake McKenzie (where we had camped that night) and soon found ourselves completely enveloped in soggy, low visibility clouds which wouldn't lift for a few hours. We're not sure what views we missed during that period but it may have been best not to be able to see, as most of that time was spent walking along a very thin, exposed alpine path where we were mere inches from sheer cliffs. The bugs were also a real nuisance - everyone warns you about the sandflies and they are truly awful, though fortunately too slow to be a bother while hiking. They were bad enough at night to prompt Annie to compare being in the tent at night with them buzzing around to shark diving! (ie, she can admire the swarms of bugs without having to worry about them eating her for dinner.)

The view from our camp in the Routeburn Flats before sunset on day 2

The view from our camp in the Routeburn Flats before sunset on day 2


View from above Lake McKenzie just before we went into the clouds on day 2

View from above Lake McKenzie just before we went into the clouds on day 2


Day 1 at Earland Falls

Day 1 at Earland Falls

Our first stop on day 1 - Lake Howden

Our first stop on day 1 - Lake Howden


About to set out!

About to set out!


Annie enjoying the road to Routeburn Flats on day 2

Annie enjoying the road to Routeburn Flats on day 2

In an hour or so, we leave Queenstown for a 6 hour drive across the south island to Christchurch, where a plane waits to take us to Denpasar, Bali and our next adventure. Talk to you soon!

Jeremy and Annie

Posted by jeremyandannie 16:29 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Milford Sound

is absolutely insane

sunny 67 °F
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We weren't sure what to expect on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound but all our expectations were blown away. Yosemite is an amazing place but so far it has been completely eclipsed by what we've seen here - it seems impossible to capture the beauty of the mountains, water, and sky here with word or photos (don't worry, we will be posting photos at some point :) ). We're spending the night at the Milford Lodge, with bed and shower, to pamper ourselves a bit before 3 days of hiking and camping. Last night we camped near Cascade Creek, a beautiful, if bug-ridden, DOC maintained site about 70K south of the sound. We plan to spend the day doing laundry, cleaning up, getting our gear in order, and, of course, taking a cruise on the sound.

The logistics of hiking this place are actually quite complicated. The Routeburn track essentially crosses between The Divide and Glenorchy and so while you can walk the 25K or so in 3 days (1 or 2 if you didn't want to take your time), its actually about 4 hours of driving all the way down to Te Anau and back north again. To avoid the hassles of taking buses, we hired a car relocation service - when we arrive at the end of the trail our car should just be waiting for us! Surprisingly this is about the same price as busing in and out and we get the convenience of having our car on both ends.

Since we last posted we've driven the bulk of the South Island and seen quite a few amazing things. A few highlights: In the Catlins we saw 2 male sea lions fighting 20 feet away from us on the beach in Surat Bay and visited Nugget Point, the windiest place either one of us had ever been and the loneliest place ever for a lighthouse. Whiskey tasting in Oamaru was very cool - the restaurant is called Loan and Merc and is housed in a 19th century grain storage facility where you can see and smell the history of the place (we'll post photos of this later). We took jumping pictures on the Moeraki Boulders, an apparent must see attraction :) And finally, we visited Speight's Brewery in Dunedin, which had some really tasty beer (maybe the best Pilsner I'd ever tasted and an amazing porter called Old Dark)

By the next post we will have covered the Routeburn track and will be resting comfortably in Queenstown.

Jeremy and Annie

Posted by jeremyandannie 14:30 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Goodbye Fiji

Hello NZ

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Sorry we haven't posted for a while but being on the road without constant access to internet makes it harder to write than you'd think--especially after your laptop gets stolen out of your checked luggage leaving Fiji...not a big deal but definitely a bummer to lose. I think I was ready for a new one anyway - once we return to SF, Hello Macbook Air 11"! Regardless, we are having a wonderful time and have successfully navigated the air and road from Fiji to Auckland, down through the North Island and on to the South. We may not have made it at all had Annie not had the genius idea to pay $8 a day for GPS. We spent about 3 hours trying to get supplies in Auckland and getting no where before she said we needed to go back to the rental car office to have it installed. Needless to say, avoiding the wasted hours and anxiety of not knowing the precise route and travel times have been well worth that price. We're currently staying at a wonderful hostel called the Green Monkey in Nelson and I've never been so happy to find a comfortable bed as I was yesterday evening.

We just finished a 2 day kayaking adventure down the coast of the Abel Tasman park, truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The gateway is Marahau, where we stayed Sunday night. They have a number of fantastic backpacker accommodations. Old Macdonalds Farm, where we stayed, seemed to have a much more communal feel than other places we've stayed. Some of the guests are actually full time residents and maybe because of that the facilities/common spaces seem more functional and taken care of than at other spots. We had a great time cooking a dozen huge green mussels we'd purchased on the road in Havelock, the self-proclaimed green mussel capital of the world, and drifted off to sleep early. In the morning, we woke up early and searched around for a company that would rent us kayaks for 2 days, set up hut accommodations in the park, and tow us about 15km up the coast. We went with Abel Tasman Kayaks, and got a pretty sweet morning crash course on how to kayak, avoid sea monsters (aka giant waves and killer whales), and haul our camping gear safely in the hatches. Picture beautiful emerald water, mountainous coastline, and endless sandy beach coves to park your kayak, and that's what our 2 days had in store for us. It was probably only about 6 hours of total paddling to return to Marahau, but it certainly tired us out! It may have had something to do with the wind that whipped up a nice semi-white water kayaking experience for us the first afternoon. Excitement abounds! We visited a number of gorgeous secluded beaches and seal/seabird colonies, harvested mussels from a freshwater stream, and cooked chili over a propane stove before bunking with 22 other people in a DOC hut in Anchorage, one of the beaches along the way.

Other stuff:

Auckland was a really great city, and we spent some time wandering around the streets of Parnell, one of the suburbs. Sort of like a mix between Portland and San Francisco (ie too good to be true?).

Rotorua (on the north island) had some great hot spring attractions, but we weren't jazzed by all the tourist attractions. After all the hype of hearing about it being a major hub we found it overpriced and well, super touristy. Traditional Hangi dinners cost ~$100 per person and all the other tours/adventure activities were all in that range and none of them seemed worth it (for example, rolling down a hill in a hamster ball for 45 seconds was 50 bucks!) We camped at Cosy Cabins campground, on top of ground that was actually warm from the hot springs. In the morning, we went to the Polynesian Spa before our departure and relaxed in some beautiful mineral pools overlooking the lake. There's no better camping experience than sleeping on warm ground and waking up to soak in healing, radium mineral baths. That was well worth it and reminded me of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. On the road south of Rotorua, we came across Lava Glass (a glassware galley/workshop) and spent a half hour checking out their work and watching mesmerized while one of their glass-blowers created vases.

Napier was amazing - sort of a smaller version of the California wine country. The National Aquarium of New Zealand, which is housed there was well-tended and had some interesting animals, even a few fish from my aquarium growing up, like the Neon Tetra and the fearsome Red-Tailed Shark! They also have a basement Kiwi exhibit where we watched two forage and play for 15 minutes. What bizarre creatures. After that, we spent the afternoon riding rented bikes past beautiful orchards to visit vinyards/breweries and sampling tasty beverages, and stayed in a great hostel, Andy's Backpackers, with a view of the ocean.

Getting photos up here is difficult from public computers but check the twitter stream http://twitter.com/robustican

~Jeremy

Posted by jeremyandannie 16:54 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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