A Travellerspoint blog

Viet Nam in 5 days

rain 30 °C
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Viet Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh – formerly Saigon, is a city of neon lights and an overwhelming intensity of scooters, people and noise.

We picked a cute little cheap hotel on the main tourist street. Saigon Mini Hotel 102/1A Cong Quynh Street - District 1. It scored highly in Tripadvisor and it was not bad at all. Clean and convenient. The street itself was very really hectic "Conh Quynh Street" - proper backpacker central. Gap year students and sex tourists falling drunk out of the westernised bars. Nice. We had a room on the 9th floor so quite a way from any street noises, but after the first night's sleep we were awoken by the earbleeding loud ceremonial drumming at 6am. It turned out to be celebratory/ a blessing for the opening of a new shop. It went on for 4 hours.

I have seen images of Viet Nam through the eyes of hollywood (I have listed all movies relating to the country at the end from wiki) notably the glut of harcore messed up war movies from the 70s and 80s :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War_in_film#Chronological_list_of_films_about_the_Vietnam_War
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Platoon (1986)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Jacob's Ladder (1990)

So I was quite surprising to see so many american tourists and also consequently so many items and services on sale in $s. Viet Nam has had quite tumultuous history with a number of occupations including 1000 years rule by china and then western colonialism through the French traders and missionaries and consequent revolts and then of course the rise to power of Ho Chi Minh and the Communist party and the American attacks and eventual withdrawals. It was only in the early 1990s, the government encouraged foreign investment and sought to improve relations with the United States.

To find out more -
Brief History : http://www.vietventures.com/Vietnam/history_vietnam.asp
Ho Chi Minh : http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/ho-chi-minh/biography.htm

Another whirlwind tour didn't leave us with much time to explore the city in great detail and instead we opted on hiring a taxi for the day to check out a couple of sites just outside of Viet Nam.

Cui Chu tunnels

Because we were doing things in our own time, as we started this trip, most of the tour groups were leaving, this meant we shared our guide with just another couple (americans who lived in australia).

A bit of background
http://www.vietnamtrip.com/cu_chi_tunnels.html
"The Cu Chi Tunnels were pivotal to the Communist's victory over the Americans and the South Vietnamese Armies as they allowed the Viet Cong to control a large rural area around Saigon. At its height, the tunnel system, parts of which were several levels deep, stretched over 200kms from Saigon to the Cambodian border.

The area of Cu Chi was one of the most pro-communist districts in the far south; indeed the VC used the tunnels to organize the 1968 Tet Offensive. During the American War the entire area of Cu Chi was designated a free fire zone and was heavily bombarded: you can still see numerous craters caused by 500 pound B52bombs.

It was this persistent bombing campaign that drove many of the residents of Cu Chi together with the Viet Cong underground. Originally the tunnels had been created as far back as 1948 to help combat the French."

The tour started with a 20minute 'orientation' or propoganda movie. I wasn't sure if it was pure documentary to set the scene or actual double bluffing a bit of brainwashing while we were chuckling at the irony of it.

With a childlike innocent nursery tune score, the narrator would chirp gems like, "... is only 13 and she has killed 5 Americans, she has gained a prize for being an American Killer" as it showed a pretty young girl who looked a lot younger than 13 crawling on the ground with a gun against a backdrop of b52s explosions.

There was the opportunithy to shoot with an old AK 47 for $30 ten bullets – now that was war as entertainment gone too far.

We were lead around the complex by our guide who would periodically twist quotes from aforementionned American war movies. When he showed us the war traps made out of sharpened bamboos and recycled american artillery, he shouted "Good morning America". I am a total pacifist but I like to get insights into realities because as with this tour, it just reinforced my sentiments about war.

Not to say I wasn't impressed. I must say looking at the tunnels, and the weapons, and traps I was taken aback by the sheer ingeniusness and resourcefulness of the Vietnamese.

We even got to eat boiled Taro root – a staple of the time and also scuttle through the tunnels.

The Americans we were with seemed to love the tour, though they said that it was kind of strange to be villified so much but at the same time they had come on the trip to get the other side of the story. They chuckled that there are a lot of Americans who still believe America won the Viet Nam war.

Next stop Cao Dai Temple

http://www.religionfacts.com/a-z-religion-index/cao_dai.htm

"Cao Dai (a.k.a. Dao Cao Dai or Caodaism) is a syncretist Vietnamese religious movement with a strongly nationalist political character. Cao Dai draws upon ethical precepts from Confucianism, occult practices from Taoism, theories of karma and rebirth from Buddhism, and a hierarchical organization (including a pope) from Roman Catholicism. Its pantheon of saints includes such diverse figures as the Buddha, Confucius, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo, and Sun Yat-sen.

Cao Dai beliefs about the afterlife are derived from Buddhism. Those who have gathered too much bad karma during their lifetime will be reincarnated in negative circumstances, which may include rebirth on a darker, colder planet than this one. Good karma leads to rebirth to a better life on earth."

As we approached the temple we figured it was going to be dark and dreary as the stormy pissy weather outside; but as we stepped into the building, like a divine event, natural light bounced off the amazingly brightly coloured kitsch walls, ceiling and pillars. Julian commented the effect was from "Highly polished floors".
Check out the pictures.

It was a very uplifting experience. Again we had turned up when all the tour groups had gone, so we had the whole place to ourselves. A couple of elderly keepers with sparkly eyes and charismatic smiles showed us where to stand to get the best photos. They seemed so content. I totally believe that trully spiritual people have x-ray soul vision and can see right into your true being and I totally felt that.

The next day, we flew from Ho Chi Minh to Danang and then had lunch in Hoi An – the absolutely delicious Mermaid Restaurant. It was raining cats and dogs. Still we decided to make the most of it, I bought a rather fetching condom coloured poncho and my hubby decided he didn't need any rain covering so got completely drenched. We spent a couple of hours walking around this quaint village with many traditional Vietnamese buildings. We also walked around a market next to the river. It was like a mudbath – and I nearly lost a flipflop. Fascinating all the same.

Then onto a tourist bus to Hue – spent the first hour driving to every hotel in town and tour agency twice to try and fill up the bus.Very irritating. The bus itself was ok. Once we got to Hue, all the local passengers got off and a few touts came onto the bus to try and sell the tourists hotel nights. We were actually quite near to our already booked hotel, so we tried to get off the bus with the locals. There was some argy bargy about letting us off and they wanted to make us stay on the bus to the other side of the town. I didn't mean to, but had a right go at the driver until he openned the doors. I really was not going to wait on the bus to be touted for the next god knows how long to be further away from our hotel and then get a taxi back. It was late and we were wet, tired and hungry.

Anyway, we walked in the torrential rain up the Le Loy the main road overlooking the Perfume river and found our hotel. It was a 6mth old Mercure, totally brand new, empty with a very good price. They gave us a great room with a balcony overlooking the river. Finally we could have a hot bath and chill out.

The next day, the rain had ceded a little and we headed over across the river to the Citadel or Imperial Palace. Hue was the political, cultural and religious capital of unified Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 when the Nguyen Emperors ruled the country and a lot of important sites.

Surrounded by a wall and a moat, the Citadel can be entered via one of 10 gates. The citadel contains the Nine Holy Cannons that used to defend the palace, the Imperial Enclosure where the Emperor carried out his official business, the Palace of Supreme Harmony and the Hall of the Mandarins. It was also home to the Purple Forbidden Palace which was reserved for use by the Emperor himself; this was almost entirely destroyed during the Vietnam War, however.

Next and last stop Hanoi for 2 nights.

Again we booked a Mercure based on our experience of the one before. This one was a hell of a lot inferior for more money. That's big cities for you I guess. We had heard early on in the week Hanoi had been flooded but it seemed ok when we got there.

The first night, we ate at a Japanese called ''Ky Y". It was one of the best I have ever been to. Rather ceremonious in a fun way. The waitress even grated the wasabi infront of us. Everything was slightly french, dishes infused with garlic and in fact we ordered garlic tempura. Just the perfect cuisine for my palate. We had 2 waitresses look after us the whole time making sure we had enough green tea etc Also noticed the shelves of bottles of booze with clients names on. Now that is what I call a personal touch. And all this for £20 a head.

We were planning to get a driver to take us to Halong Bay (6 hrs round trip) but with the potential storms we decided to stay in Hanoi and follow a lonely planet walking tour through the city. We probably needed a couple of days to just hang out before our trip to KL and the rainforest.

We followed the tour in the lonely planet. An old Aussie couple looked a bit lost and the guy said "Follow them they have the same book" and they did ! Our walk took us to the lake, the bridge and the communist monuments.

We walked past steamy street cafes with low seated locals drinking and eating peanuts. There were whole streets with just one theme such as 'Celebration'. The most memorable were the meat streets, where there were snails piled up high ready for the boil and frogs splayed on top of eachother with a woman slicing them with a huge bloody axe just enough to stop them from jumping but not enough to kill them.

We ended our last night in Viet Nam, with a trip to the lake. There were hoards of local families lining the banks chatting and relaxing and eating icecream. As we walked up to an jazz bar - Ibox, we had to dodge traffic on the bikes as they mounted the pavement to bipass standstill traffic. Definately deserved some cocktails after that (-:

I think I could live in Hanoi, it is a very vibrant city with wide streets, parks, bars, cafes, street stalls, monuments and super friendly, helpful people and even more traffic than any other city I had been to.

Posted by Bushra 17:11 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

5 hours in Jakarta

sunny 38 °C
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We had a brief encounter with Jakarta. Probably one of the busiest cities I have ever experienced .........intensified further by the heat.

We got the cab to take us to the old town. It had a canal system similar to Amsterdam, which seemed to be fermenting in the heat. Because this area of Jarkata is prone to floods, it was not that developed. The grandness of the colonial buildings were draped in authentic shabby chic and disrepair. A lot seemed derelict with the odd furniture still in them. This was in stark contrast to the din of deathwish traffic hurtling past.

We got the cab to drop us at Batavia Square. The square seemed to be surrounded by roads with a million lines of traffic interweaving each other. On one end of the square there were a row of bicycles and hats clearly for the entertainment of Dutch tourists. More on the history of Indonesia http://asiarecipe.com/indohiseurope.html. We walked past, a bunch of trendy grungy local youths not disimlar in style to ones in Amsterdam menacingly grouped together.

We decided to try out Cafe Batavia for dim sum breakfast.

Very few times, have I been to bar which was themed but not cheesy. At 10am, we were their first customers so it was empty.......yet as we sat down, I felt emersed in a soulful 1930s zingy but serence atmosphere. Jazz drifted through the room above clinking of waiters organising their glassware behind the bar. And then and there my husband (who like many British men would rather stick pins his eyes than dance) stood up and took my hand and started to dance.

I loved everything about this swanky bar/restaurant (check the photos). The colours, the proportions, the lights, the pictures on the walls – even the food accessorised with the styling. It was delicious as well.

Back in the oppressive heat, we decided to try and spend our last fleeting moments in Indonesia checking out the landmark monument and museum. The architecture around this square was very modern with wide pavements and glossy corporate highrises.

The museum itself was interesting enough with diaoramas reflecting Indonesia through the ages but our real objective was to go up the tower. With no queue at the ticket office we figured with 2 hours left we would have loads of time. We only saw the huge queue to the lifts of the tower once we were back outside. We must have waited for over an hour and only half of the queue had decreased. Aagggh. With the chocka traffic we had no choice but to abort the mission and run for a taxi to the airport.

Absolutely loved Indonesia and plan to go back.

Posted by Bushra 06:05 Archived in Indonesia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Mall rats in Yogjakarta

sunny 38 °C
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Mt Bromo – minibus to Probolingo – proper bus from Probolingo (hottest slowest bus ever) – Surabaya – flight to Yogjakarta.

After our mammoth road journeys and little sleep and Julian's jet lag, we decided to treat ourselves and stay a lovely old grand colonial hotel in Surabaya called Hotel Majapahit. Some say that it is Indonesian finest colonial hotel. http://www.hotel-majapahit.com/home
"Located in the heart of Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city and a fabled trading port since the 15th century, the Majapahit has gone by a variety of names over its long history.
1910: built as Oranje Hotel (named after Dutch Royal family) by Lucas Martin Sarkies of the famous Amernian family whose collection of grand hotels included the Raffles in Singapore, the Strand in Rangoon and Eastern and Oriental in Penang.
1936: Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, attended the opening of a new addition to the front of the hotel. Beside forming the lobby, it also contained a cake and ice cream shop "Hoen Kwee", as well as another the Dutch stationery shop "Van Drop""

I figured, I would lie low, enjoy the hotel and relax before our 6am flight the next morning. Our room had a verandah which overlooked a peaceful courtyard of gardens and our room was opposite the hotel presidential suite. "The largest in the whole of Asia," chirped reception. It was currently occupied by the Swiss President – for a conference in town.

Surabaya itself was a bustling finance district. Not really a tourist spot but interesting all the same for its authenticity.

http://asiaforvisitors.com/indonesia/java/east/surabaya/history.html
"Surabaya is believed to have been founded some time towards the end of the thirteenth century. The name is a combination of the words for "shark" and "crocodile", and comes from a legendary battle between the two to establish which was the strongest animal. Statues and depictions of the battle litter the city.

The founding of the city roughly coincides with the expulsion of Mongul-Chinese invaders and the rise of the Hindu Majapahit empire, which ruled the area for around 200 years. After the fall of Majapahit, Surabaya became a sultanate in its own right and spent the next 200 years fighting off the Islamic Mataram, Madura and the Dutch.

The city ultimately fell to Mataram early in the seventeenth century in one of the most bloody battles in Java's history. Mataram weakened over the next 100 years and was ultimately subsumed by the Dutch East Indies Company. The Dutch turned Surabaya into a major trading port and even then based most its navy there.

The city was captured by the Japanese during World War II. Indonesian nationalists forced out the Japanese in 1944. However, the Dutch and their western allies returned in 1945 and tried to re-exert their control over the city. It was the raising of the Dutch flag over what is now the Hotel Majapahit in 1945 that sparked off a series of events that led to the "Battle of Surabaya" and ultimately Indonesian independence on 17 August 1949. The battle itself was preceded by a series of what today would be called terrorist events that culminated in a car bombing that killed the British Brigadier General Mallaby at the Jembatan Merah, or Red Bridge as it's known in English. Today, the decidedly un-photogenic Red Bridge is a standard stop on tours of the city."

Meanwhile Julian decided to go for an evening walk around this busy provincial city. (Check the pics). He brought me back some streetfood – fried fish with chilli sauce wrapped in brown paper. It was absolutely delicious, I ate every part of it even the head and chewed all the bones (that's the Bangladeshi in me !). Julian had gone to The House of Sampoerna cigarette factory cafe as recommended by the Lonely Planet and had eaten a beef noodle dish. He said it wasn't great and the boiled egg with it really didn't taste right but he ate it all the same. We were both absolutely whacked and were asleep by midnight.

At around 2am, I was awakened by the sound of Julian vomiting violently in the bathroom. It was a long night. The alarm was set for 4.30am.

Luckily I was full of energy, so I bundled Julian into a cab and then had to physically drag him around the airport like a dead body as he seemed to have developed narcolepsy to get us through check in and to the gate - poor thing. Actually very very nearly missed the flight!

In Yogyakarta, we had decided to book a very very easy but souless hotel for 2nights – the 4 star Novotel. It's just what we needed. Julian was bedridden with tiredness and sickness. We have become lightweights with our old age. I sat with him for some of the time, but decided to get him some sustinance so ventured out.

Right next door was a shopping mall and a supermarket with lots of interesting items such as Nori Seaweed flavoured crisps and Wasabi Mayonnaise. It was very westernised with Wendy's burgers and a cafe similar to Starbucks. There was a huge arcade on the top floor, a variety of clothes shops on the other floors and a Matahari (department store). Everyone was so friendly.

I also found a spa and one of the customers waiting for her facial, helped translate the options.We also spoke about the World Cup – a popular topic of conversation. We laughed about the Octopus changing the fate of the teams (-:

I managed to while a way a few hours mall ratting before I headed back to look after my poor husband.

He was much better the next day.

We decided not to get a tour to Borobodor incase Julian puked all over the other tourists and instead got a cab there and back with waiting time (4hours) which was only $40.

Borobodur was spectacular. We had seen it second hand on so many 'Things to see before you die' type books and TV programs.

http://asiaforvisitors.com/indonesia/java/central/yogya/borobodur/index.html
"This pyramid-like structure is built on and around a natural hill. Construction was started sometime around the beginning of the 8th century. In plan, it resembles a tantric mandala with six square terraces supporting three circular ones. Its been called a three dimensional rendering of the Buddhist conception of the cosmos. The square terraces are covered with carved relief's that can be read as an "instruction manual" for attaining enlightenment.

The lowest terrace depicted scenes of the distractions of everyday life. These supposedly carnal scenes were later covered by stone, although some believe this was just a move to shore up the structure when it started to subside. Higher platforms depict scenes from the Buddha's life in rich detail.

The upper round terraces support 72 stone latticework stupas housing Buddha images. The heads of most are sadly missing. From the top, you have a view of the nearby mountains as well as mount Merapi in the distance."

The atmosphere was unbelievable. Photos just don't do it justice at all.

The reliefs were so interesting and beautiful. They held such narrative some with sea creatures, others with angels, some with animals and a lot with trees and folliage.

After this, we decided to check out the other main sites around town – the Kraton : the sultan's palace in the center of Yogya. It's sort of a city within the city. At its center are the sultan's quarters, which are open to the public for guided tours. The bulk of the palace is actually a museum displaying portraits of the previous sultans, family trees and gifts from foreign dignitaries. We also went to see the Water Palace which was pretty cool. The only little downside was that it was so bloody hot. Us British always complain about the weather.

Back at the hotel and after a rest, we headed to the mall. Dr Fish (foot therapy) – an ancient medicinal treatment. I loved it from the first moment the little critters started to nibble our feet. For me it was a bit like sucking on a lemon which I love to do – absolutely overstimulatingly delicious and excrutiating at the same time. Likewise Julian was simultaneosly whimpering and laughing. We contemplated how many carnivorous seacreatures such as piranas it would take to tear off all your flesh.

Posted by Bushra 04:14 Archived in Indonesia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Mount Bromo - the more the merrier

15 °C
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All flights were full to Surabaya (the nearest airport to Mt Bromo) so we organised a bus all the way there. We had been informed by the book and the travel agent that the trip would take 7 hrs. A slight understatement ....

We sat right at the front of the minibus with the driver so that we could see what was going on. I must say it was a little scary. The driving was crazy overtaking at every possible opportunity however dangerous. We definately saw our lives flash before our eyes as we frequently faced oncoming trucks.

There were 11 of us on the bus.
- 1 dutch girl (very excited about the football), 2 swiss girls, 2 indonesian young men and an american guy, his indonesian wife and their very cheerful 2yr daughter and her uncle.

The scenery of paddy fields on one side and the coast one the other was amazing. We also managed to get some sleep with some chitter chatter from time to time. All in all, time passed quickly for the first 6 hours.

Until there was a burst tyre.

We pulled up to a half renovated petrol station. It was blisteringly hot and we all huddled together at the corner of station under some trees near a budha. The driver's jack was not strong enough, so he persisted with trying to fashion together a more powerful one using bricks and stones. It would have been comical if we weren't the ones waiting.

My husband was getting increasingly aggitated, by this lack of progress, and after about 45minutes, he went over there and started directing and helping the driver and soon enough the tyre was changed and we were on our way. Altogether we had lost 1.5 hours and it was clear that with the distance we were travelling, we would be doubling our original duration.

The minibus then bombed it to the ferry from Bali to Java.

A rather industrial looking trawler type ferry. Before we set off, boys were swimming around the ferry beckoning us to throw them some coins. They would rolly polly into the water to catch the glistening coins.

The ferry ride was pleasant enough. The entertainment consisted of 2 guys at the front with ear splittingly loud microphones, selling random items such as a pack of books, rubik cubes, a really cool back massager (which looked a cross between a nik nak at ikea all rubbery and hard plastic and primary coloured, 2 balls at the end of curved bits of plastic with a back scratcher at the end, so you would flagellate yourself with the contraption) .

We changed our watches because we gain an hour in Java.

We had another stop around 6pm to eat and for the driver to pick up some commission. We were all knackered by this stage and thought we had only 3 hours to go but we had another 6 hours.

On the bus, we were a motley crew with one thing in common. Not one of us had sorted out accommodation. We all reaffirmed each other's laissez-faire attitude. There are always rooms right ?

Our driver laboriously approached every hotel in turn to ask about availability. I turned to Julian and said, even if there is a room, the family with the kid should get it, and then the 3 girls, then us and then the travelling guys, so we were pretty low down the pecking order. By now it was after midnight and had been travelling since 8am we were the last minibus up there. All the rooms had gone. We were all absolutely dog tired but in good spirits and relaxed and all laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation.

As we approached the mountain it the temperature dropped rapidly. Driving around, we saw many local guides sleeping around the square with just a blanket. At least we had the minibus to sleep in and we would have to get up at 3am to take the trip up the mountain to see the sunrise anyway.

A lot of the houses were empty. Our driver asked a cafe full of weary guides if there was a house for rent. And there was – woohoo ! It had 2 small bedrooms and then there were beds and mattresses strewn across the other 2 rooms of the house. And one adequate bathroom with freezing water. There was elation and relief in the minibus.

The Swiss girls were thrilled, one of them said that she had never previously rented a room as she had always lived with her parents. One of the Indonesians said – this is great it is like we are one big family. The enthusiasm was contagious but it was near on 1am and were delirious with tiredness. It was appropriately priced too and we paid around £6 each.

We took one of the beds, it was rock hard, freezing but quiet and pitch black. We lay there shivering fully clothes under a fleece blanket with a big yellow teddy bear print, knackered and excited about seeing the mountain.

A local guide in a red battered antique Toyota 4WD landcruiser (that's when Toyota used to make cars that lasted forever) turned up at 3.30am (actually they did knock on our door at 2.30am – which was painful) to drive us up the mountain.

Our guide was clearly an experienced driver, as we hurtled past hikers, off roaded past other 4WDs to the mountain. As we approached the mountain, he started to slow down because of traffic congestion ! We looked up the hair bin bends to the viewing point. It was lit up with hundreds of 4WDs and motorbikes. May be we should have started at 2.30am ! We revved up the whole way on the clutch breaking point, stopping and starting. It took nearly 2 hours before the 4WD could park. There were 100s already parked up.

We hiked up the last section of the mountain trying not to get run over by motorbikes with tourists who couldn't be arsed to walk the last 100 metres. It was chaos. At the top of the mountain, we walked passed a strip of brightly lit stalls – cafes and tourist niknak shops.

When we reached the viewing point, initially we were dismayed because it was so crowded and we had made such a bloomin effort to get there. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to see Mount Bromo while the sun rose.

It felt a bit like a concert. Tonnes of atmosphere, good spirts and anticipation but lots of heads in the way.

We politely pushed our way to the front near to the metal safety fence. A couple of Indian guys standing on the bars of the fence crawled onto the other side. A rather precarious place to stand, with only some bushes on the ledge which preventing them from falling.

We took our chance and stood on the fence sideways, holding onto the bar with one hand and cameras with the other hand. As the first light trickled through, there were cheers and woops. The sunrise was stunning. Totally uplifting.

Posted by Bushra 01:04 Archived in Indonesia Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Bali - away from the beach....Utterly Ubud

all seasons in one day 35 °C
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Over the years the reputation of Bali has gone from paradise exotic surf to an overdeveloped overcrowded hippy costa del. I was not sure what to expect.

I was meeting my husband Julian there. He had flown in from London via Kuala Lumpar on Air Asia. Because of the flight times, he had arrived after a 9 hour flight in KL 10 hours before his flight to Bali. Because of the no frills nature of Air Asia (ie no entertainment), there were no young children on board the flight so Julian managed to get some sleep. All of the nearest hotels in KL were booked and the airport was 70km from KL , he made a judgement call and decided to kill the 12 hours at the airport. It nearly killed him. In hindsight he would have organised a hotel.

Everybody was kicked out of KL airport at midnight. So then all waiting passengers had to make themselves comfortable out on the pavement until 2.30am when the world cup match started. This definately cheered him up : he got to watch Germany get kicked out of the world cup by the eventual winners Spain. Once he got to Bali, again he had about 6 hours to kill before I turned up, but this time he wandered around the local town and took some photos.

I had been relaxing and spoiled by friends in Singapore and hadn't seen my hubby for 5 days. I was really excited to see him but a bit worried about how he was after 2 days of no sleep. I dabbed a bit of make up on and brushed my hair on the plane as it landed, thinking now the real travelling begins. Something like a lack of time or sleep, does not usually stop my husband doing a million things at once and dragging me a long too.

Bali airport had an outrageously slow moving immigration queue so the anticipation of seeing Julian was killing me. And then as I rushed past goods to declare, I saw him as handsome as ever, bouquet in hand and a big smile.

We opted for staying in Ubud, north of the Denpasar. Because of the traffic it took over 2 hours to get to our reasonably remote hotel nestled in lush paddy fields away from the coast. The only bad thing to say about this little gem : Junjungan Ubud Hotel and Spa was that it was about 20minutes drive away from the main centre of Ubud but there was a free shuttle from the hotel. It was number 24 on Tripadvisor and we only picked it because 1 to 23 were all full.

But we were glad, because Junjungan was a gorgeous hotel and they upgraded us to the best room in the hotel for the price of superior. The whole of the hotel was a water feature with water dripping out of walls into a feature streams running through the building. In the room, there was a huge a huge four poster bed with dual aspect balconies. One side overlooked the pool and water features and the other side overlooked paddy fields. The room was dark and cool which was lovely and atmospheric.

Note to self, our hotel rate was in USD so to bring US dollars from the UK as the rates in town and the hotel were extortionate and further compounded by the rate exchanged from Sterling to Rubia and then to USD. And then a card machine would charge a few % as well.

Ubud is compact with a main street called Monkey Forest Street. We didn't actually go to the Monkey Sanctuary, having seen so many monkeys in the wild on other trips. There were many other sites to check out.

Like any other developing country (is that the politically correct word these days ??) there were broken roads, open manholes and lots of construction going on. However the place seemed really relaxed yet very lively overflowing with tourists with some beautiful buildings.

We walked past a world famous pig suckling roast place : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFmB9JsVCEM. Lots of photo opportunities.A very scenic town with lots to see and tonnes of shops to buy that sarong dress or 7-lls to pick up hand disinfectant. It was a very friendly and well equipped town. The taxi driver proudly informed us that Julia Roberts had a spent a month in Ubud filming : "Eat Pray Love".

Always on the lookout for exotic places to take kids (when we finally get around to having some). I mean the thought of not travelling as a consquence of children.. well it's enough to put you off ! Anyway, I noticed many westerners with little children so Ubud, Bali is definately on the list.

We visited Ubud Palace and then a quick pedi + mani for $6. And then back to the hotel for a delicious 2hour scrub massage. Outside the scorching heat turned into torrential rain. Meanwhile Julian borrowed a bicycle from the hotel and went to explore the countryside. Beautiful scenary. Check the photos.

A lovely end to a couple of gorgeous nights in Ubud. We actually didn't make it to the beach.

Posted by Bushra 00:59 Archived in Indonesia Tagged food Comments (0)

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