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BAY OF NAPLES, ITALY

From Naples, to colorful Procida Island, and a castle on Ischia Island.

sunny 22 °C

My next stop in Italy was Naples. I arrived via train from Venice. I just used Naples as a jumping off point though to see some of the islands in the Bay of Naples. There's not too much to see here, so I only spent part of a morning exploring the castle located across the street from the ferry terminal.
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This was my very first castle!! Castel Nuovo was completed in 1282.
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This is the entrance, a 2-storey Renaissance triumphal arch called Torre della Guardia.
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Detail under the arched entrance.
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It costs 5E to enter ... or you can walk under the arch and into the hallway up to the interior and look around (so long as you stay behind the guard rail) for free. This is the view of the interior from the guard rail.
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After checking out the castle, I then headed to the ferry terminal to get a ticket to Procida Island (15E). When I got there I had just missed the 8:35am ferry by 5min! The next one wasn't until 12:30pm! Bah! So I would recommend getting your ticket first, then go checkout the castle while you wait. As I waited for my ferry, I noticed that ferries to Capri were departing every 30min! Boat loads of people headed to the same tiny little island! No thanks! It would be so crowded there! I was sick of crowds at this point, so I'm glad I decided to visit the 2 lesser known/visited islands of Procida & Ischia instead. I like quiet, peaceful, not crowded places. But if you like people and partying, then head to Capri.

The ferry to Procida was about 30min. The ferry arrives in Marina Grande - you'll be disappointed, at least I was, cuz its a bit run down and needs a paint job. But its the village on the other side of the island that is the one in all the postcards. But Marina Grande has more restaurants and shopping.
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From the marina I took a short taxi ride to my hotel - Le Grand Bleu Apartment. Normally I don't bother taking photos of my accomodations unless its extra nice. This was one of those places. It completely surprised me!
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I was expecting it to be crap, as I was looking for cheap, not for luxury. I had paid $104 for a hotel room the size of a jail cell in Venice. This one was even less, only $74, so I wasn't expecting much. But I got a full apartment! It had a bedroom with a queen size bed, a kitchen, living room, dining area, computer and desk, bathroom with bidet, a private patio/terrace, and free wifi!
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My outdoor eating area.
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And there was a rooftop terrace with 360 degree views, with sun loungers, and an outdoor kitchen area for communal use :)
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The island is very small, only 4sqkm, so I walked everywhere. Christine, the friendly owner of the hotel, provided me with a map of the island, and off I went. The streets are VERY narrow and all cobblestone. They are only wide enough for one car to go through. If another car is coming in the opposite direction, they either have to back up, or wait until the other car is fully out, lol!
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There's no sidewalks, so when a vehicle comes I quite literally had to press myself against the building! The vehicles are tiny though, like Smart Car size, and Mini Coopers, and a lot of Vespas and motorbikes.

I found my way to that colorful village that first drew me to this island. It is called Marina Coricella. There are various ways to get here, so just ask your hotel which way is easiest/closest for you. large_IMG_8522-001.jpg
There was a big flight of stairs from the lookout point down to the actual village. That is Terra Murata in the background.
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The village reminded me of Santorini the way the homes were built on a cliff on top of eachother ... with a lot more color though!
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To get to the best lookout point you will either have to go back up to the first lookout point and continue on down the same road (at the intersection head right), or from the village ask a local for directions through the homes. I opted to walk through the homes via all the stairways. They are steep and narrow, theres tunnels too. Not for the claustropbic that's for sure!
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I couldn't resist taking photos of all the colorful doors, handles, peeling paint, etc along the way. Such a photogenic place!
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Keeping walking and you will eventually get to this perfect lookout point! Just look at that view!
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At the lookout point there are also a few canons overlooking the bay.
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I wandered the twisting cobblestone streets and came across yet another lookout point. This one was over the Bay of Naples. That is Mt Vesuvius in the background (located on the right of the photos).
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I headed back down to the village for lunch at one of the cafes along the water.
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I had spaghetti carbonara and freshly squeezed lemonade :)
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There were many hungry kitties crowding around my table waiting for something to drop, lol!
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This cutie placed himself right at my foot and kept meowing until I gave him something. How could I resist that face?!
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On my 2nd day here I headed to the nearest beach ... Spiaggia di Chiaia. You will have to descend 182 steps (there is no other way) ... be prepared to climb 182 steps back up again! Wow, what a workout!
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Spiaggia di Chiaia is a black sand beach. You can see the colorful Marina Coricella in the distance. I was here in late October so it was too chilly to actually hangout at the beach, and all the little food huts were closed for the season. But I enjoyed the sunrise anyways :)
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I made my way across the island, back to the other marina. I just loved wandering the streets here :) It wasn't crowded or touristy at all. I only saw a handful of tourists at the main lookout point, and that was all. That was partly due to the time of year I was here, but also due to the fact that everyone else was in Capri, lol!
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This side of the island has a courtyard, and the big, yellow Santa Maria della Pieta cathedral.
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All ferries heading back to Naples or to Ischia Island depart from Marina Grande. There is a terminal in which you can buy tickets off to the side from where the ferry drops you off. A ferry between Procida & Ischia costs 8E. However I accidentally booked a ticket to the wrong port ... there is more than one on Ischia. I just booked the one that was departing the soonest. If you are wanting to be near the castle that is the main draw of this island, then be sure to book a ticket to Ischia Porto. I booked a ticket to Casamicciola Terme ... a $35 taxi ride away from where I needed to be!

I stayed at Hotel Ulisse ... checkout the view from my room! You can even see the castle in the background!
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It was located only a 3min walk to a Spiaggia dei Pescatori (beach with views of the castle), 10min walk to the castle that I came to see, had 2 pools, free breakfast & free wifi ... all for $63 :)
To get to the castle you can either walk along the beach, or through the town. I did both, I took the beach route there, and the town route back.
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There were many beachfront restaurants & bars. But just a head's up, they all close from 3-7pm!! Around 430pm I was so hungry because I had accidentally skipped lunch cuz I was too busy sightseeing. Everything was closed - restaurants, shops, markets, etc. I asked a local if it was a holiday. He said in Italy the work day is 9am-3pm, then everything closes 3pm-7pm, and re-opens at 7pm. Whereas in North America our workdays are 9-5pm. Closing restaurants from 3-7pm though?! Thats prime 'eat supper and watch the sunset over the castle' time! I was not impressed.
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The name of this awesome castle is Castello Aragonese. It is actually a castle, cathedral, convent, and crypt! The first fortress was built in 474BC! However the rest of the structures were built throughout the 1400s.
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It is built on rock island and connected to the mainland by a causeway.
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A view of the town from the castle's causeway.
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It cost 10E to go inside the castle. This is the entrance tunnel (below) that leads to an elevator that has been added on. The elevator whisks you to the top for awesome views over the island.
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I took a lot of photos of the inside of the castle cuz when I was researching this place prior to arriving, whenever I googled it, only photos of the exterior came up. I had no idea what to expect of it. But I wasn't disappointed! I had a blast exploring this place! There was even a restaurant built at the top.
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The following photos are all of the inside.
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Ancient toilets. Back then going to the washroom was a public thing - no privacy at all!
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The crypt where the family members who used to live in this castle, still had painting on the walls!
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Living quarters
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A church inside the castle.
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Wine cellar
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Olive press
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Some of you would probably only spend 30min here, but I was here for hours! I really enjoyed wandering around the old castle, imagining how people would have live 100s of years ago! There's so many tunnels and rooms to explore :) Afterwards I headed back to my hotel by wandering through the town (and stopping for some Nutella gelato!).
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I relaxed by the pool, and then ended the day with a sunset from my balcony :)
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Posted by ChantelleS 20:30 Archived in Italy Tagged boat village island castle bay europe naples colorful ischia procida Comments (0)

VENICE, ITALY

Wandering Venice's alleys and crossing its many bridges, riding ferries, trying every gelato flavor I could, and gazing down at Basilica San Marco from atop the Campanile.

overcast 17 °C

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Italy!! Beautiful, beautiful Italy! This was my first time to Europe and it didn't disappoint. One of the easiest countries I've ever traveled in. I landed in Rome, found the Trenitalia kiosk in the airport, purchased my one-way ticket to Venice for $127CAD (make sure you know which terminal in Venice you want to arrive in - there is more than one. Stazione Santa Lucia is the terminal that brings you right to the Grand Canal), then hopped on the train from the airport to Rome's main terminal, and transferred to my train to Venice. Sounds complicated, but it was actually quite easy. Jet lag knocked me out for the 3.5hr ride. But when I arrived in Venice and walked out of the train station, BAM, I was right on the Grand Canal! You will see a ferry terminal in front of you. This is where you buy ferry passes. There are no buses, no cars, not even bikes cuz theres too many stairs and bridges everywhere. Ferries are like buses here - they ply the Grand Canal in both directions, all day long, stopping at various points along the way.

Below is a photo of the ferry terminal near San Marco.
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I purchased a 1 day pass (24hrs from the time you validate your pass) for 20E (euros). Single rides cost 7E each, so if you plan on doing any sightseeing, it is worth it to get a pass. There were also 3 day and 5 day passes available. The best way to get to know the area is to hop on a ferry and stay on it for a full circuit, about 1hr, around the whole Grand Canal. Use it as a cheap sightseeing cruise, but also pay attention to where it stops and what there is to see at each stop.

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I had booked a little hotel in the San Marco area. So I took the ferry there, and then walked to my hotel. If you are expecting streets in a grid-like fashion with well marked street signs, think again! Thankfully Venezians are friendly and helpful. Not all speak English, so have the name of your hotel & address written down. If your hotel is located right on a canal, it is possible to hire a very expensive water taxi to take right to your hotel.

The beautiful Doge's Palace in the San Marco area overlooking the Grand Canal
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I spent my first day wandering around the San Marco area, seeing the Doge's Palace, Basilica San Marco, Piazza San Marco, and the Campanile (bell tower).
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This is the view from atop the Campanile, overlooking the Piazza San Marco. It costs 8E for the elevator ride to the top, and you can stay up there for as long as you want. I unfortunately had a foggy day :(
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The huge bell! Being in the piazza when it is rung is awesome!
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View over Venice and the domes of the basilica.
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The Campanile
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Basilica San Marco was sadly covered in scaffolding, plus the fog, so I didn't get any photos of it that I like.
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Once a day the tide comes in and floods the piazza. These walkways are set out for people to walk on without getting wet shoes. But they are crowded and slow going.
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Then I wandered the maze of alleys, canals, and bridges. I tried using a map but its pointless. Just wander. You're never really lost cuz theres always someone to ask, and you will eventually come out at some point on the Grand Canal ( from there just hop a ferry to where you want to go). Venice is made up of 117 islands all connected by bridges! It is such a pretty, picturesque place, with bridges, canals, old doors & windows, cathedrals, and boats around every corner.

All the alleys/streets are this narrow, except a few of the more main alleys, but not by much!
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The canals can be quite crowded, not at all like movies make it seem!
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Overpriced street-side cafes can be found everywhere.
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Delicious gelato can also be found everywhere, and only 1.50E for a small :)
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This one is carmello e amaretto, yum yum yum!
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I stumbled upon the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo.
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I couldn't resist taking a photo of this cutie :)
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The water comes right to the doors. Locals park their boats along side their homes.
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Its such a different way of life here without proper streets and cars/buses. Everything is done by boat! Below are photos of a garbage boat, and a delivery boat. I also saw a boat ambulance!
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Souvenir stands were mostly found in the San Marco area, and Rialto area ... the 2 most touristy areas.
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Then I took a ferry over to the Rialto Bridge. What a gong show! I had to fight for a spot on the bridge to get a photo. Worst place ever, so over-rated.
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View from atop the Rialto Bridge - not even worth it. Even the canal is crowded here!
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Gondeliers awaiting customers. You'll never see a local taking one of these, as they are insanely overpriced and basically for tourists only. Approx $150 for 30min!!!
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Although overpriced, they are very photogenic, as they are Venice's icon :)
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SO MANY PEOPLE! Get up and out the door well before 9am. 9am is when tour groups start arriving in hordes and overtaking the place. Prior to 9am you'll have the place to yourself.
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This is Piazza San Marco at 7am ... peaceful compared to 2hrs later.
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The basilica in the early morning
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The Bridge of Sighs was within walking distance from my hotel ... and the lookout point was ... you guessed it ... always crowded with people taking turns posing in front of it, or trying to capture a photo of a gondola passing beneath it.
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On my 2nd day in Venice I walked over to the Ponte dell'Accademia (the wooden bridge) for this iconic view over the Grand Canal and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
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I took one more circuit of the Grand Canal before getting off at the train station and heading to Naples.
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That's all for Venice! Although crowded and overpriced, I absolutely loved it! No matter what time of year you go there will always be tourists. Why? Cuz its Venice, that's why!

Posted by ChantelleS 19:00 Archived in Italy Tagged venice boat italy bridge canal roman europe Comments (0)

FLORES & KOMODO NATIONAL PARK - INDONESIA

This place is a dream come true! Literally ... it looks like paradise (beacuse it is), and I got to see Komodo Dragons in the wild!!!

sunny 40 °C

After a bunch of rainy days in Jakarta I flew all the way over to the island of Flores. I knew I would love this place even before the plane landed. The views from my tiny airplane window upon landing were spectacular!!! It flew over volcanoes and 100s of vibrant green islands surrounded by a ring of turqoise water!

The airport in Labuan Bajo is tiny. And by tiny, I mean they off-load your bags and leave them on the tarmac for you to pick up, lol! I didn't have any luggage to wait for, cuz I travel with only a carry-on size backpack, so I headed straight to where the taxis were waiting. The exit doors to get out of the airport were locked though ... but not to keep me in ... to keep all the taxi touts out! You should have seen them, it was hystercal! They were all pressed up against the windows, like children trying to peek into a toy store, lol! Their faces were smooshed up against the glass and everything. A guard unlocked the doors for me and I was instantly bombarded by every single taxi driver trying to get my business. You can definitely tell its low season and they are hard up for some business. I chose a driver and told him to take me to a beachfront resort. He took me to La Prima. One of the best parts about traveling in low season is the good deals. This fancy resort that was beachfront, had a big infinity pool with a swim up bar, massage parlor & spa, free breakfast & wifi, etc, was $120 a night in high season, but only $51 in low season :)

This was the fabulous view from my balcony!
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Turns out my taxi driver's brother runs houseboating tours to Komodo National Park, so as soon as I mentioned I was interested, he called up his brother who arrived in under 5min to give me his business shpiel before I even had a chance to bring my backpack up to my room! Once again I got a steal of a deal cuz of low season!! This has got to be the best deal of 'em all! I booked a 2 day/ 1 night houseboating tour to Rinca Island & Komodo Island for only $75!!! Regular $300 in high season (accordingly to my Lonely Planet guide)! I was smiling for the rest of the day :) After I gave him a deposit, I dropped my bag off in my room and headed to the pool/beach.
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So this next story I'm about to tell has never happened to me anywhere else in the world, but its happened over & over again every island I've visited in Indonesia ... random locals will approach me wanting their photo taken with me, or will be taking selfies but making sure that I'm in the background, or hide in a bush to take my photo! Some just walk right up to me while I'm tanning poolside and take my photo without asking! Its so annoying, I hate it! Has this happened to anyone else?! Do I look like someone famous (I dont think I do), or is just cuz I'm tall, white, and have blond hair??? Whatever the reason, it got real annoying, real quick. Now I 100% always ask a local if I can take their photo rather than trying to be sneaky about it, cuz now I know how it feels having someone invade your privacy. This is what African wildlife must feel like when a jeep full of tourists shows up and starts clicking away, lol!

My first amazing Indonesian sunset :D
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The next day I checked out of my hotel, but left the majority of my stuff there in storage (just took enough with me for my 2 day adventure), and promised I'd be back for it. My taxi driver's brother was supposed to pick me up at 6:30am to take me to the marina to join the other people on my houseboating tour. After 15min of waiting I was beginning to think I'd been scammed. But finally, around the 20min late mark, he showed up. I joined 5 other Canadians for the adventure of a lifetime :)

This was my home for 2 days & 1 night. The open part in the front was our sitting area by day with all our luggage piled in the middle, and our sleeping area by night. Thank goodness for perfect weather, cuz I wouldnt wanna sleep out in the open if it was raining! It was not the fancy yacht I was expecting, more of a beater putzing along, lol! But the scenery & company made up for it :) The captain & crew got bunkbeds; we slept in the open on the floor (more photos to come of our sleeping arrangements a little later). There was a toilet (squatty potty version), but no shower.
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Sailing away from Labuan Bajo.
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Our first stop was Rinca Island. It wasnt too far away, under 2hrs, but I cant remember exactly how long it took. I was too mezmorized by the scenery to pay attention to the time. Everything was so wonderfully green!
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Upon arriving at Rinca Island we were assigned a ranger / guide. This we found out, is not included in the price we already paid. Plus there was a fee to bring a camera. I cant remember how much the extras fees were since this trip took place 9mths ago, but it wasnt outageous or anything. Theres 4 people to a guide, so you split the cost between 4ppl, and you each pay your own camera fee.
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Right off the bat we spotted this Komodo Dragon snoozing in the shade near the ranger station!
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Before the 2hr hike began, we were given a quick safety briefing and a stick to ward off any dragons lurking in the tall grass. I'm pretty sure a twig isnt gonna save my life. We were told that twice in recent years Komodo Dragons had walked into the ranger station and cornered the ranger working in there! There is only one door, and so no way to escape. One bite from a Komodo will kill you! Not from venom, but from so much bacteria. Its a long, slow death. After being told that, me & my stick were on high alert!!

The first hour of the hike was more of a walk than an actual hike. We were taken to a Komodo nest to see where they lay their eggs in holes they have dug in the ground.

We spotted this baby Komodo peeking his head up above the grass, and another one lumbering down the very path we were walking on!
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The 2nd hour turned into an actual hike ... through a furnace! The first half was in the forest, which provided shade from the 45C heat (although its still about 37C in the shade)!! The second half was out in the open, no trees for any cover at all, and straight up a hill to a lookout point. It was honestly like being in a furnace. If you've been to Mexico or the Caribbean and think you know what hot weather is ... think again! Travel to the equator, and then you'll know what real heat is like! You know how during Canadian winters the cold & wind can freeze your skin in seconds ... thats how the heat is here! You burn in 2.0 seconds. And by burn I mean it feels like your skin is on fire! So wear a hat and preferable light linen pants/shirt unless you like sunburns :) And dont forget to pack sunscreen & water!

Hiking out in the open
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This was the lookout point we were rewarded with.
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Back at the dock we noticed 100s of teeny tiny Fiddler Crabs! The whole thing was no bigger than my thumbnail!!
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Back on board we were served a tastey lunch. The captain was also our chef, and if you could have seen the kitchen he was working in, you'd be amazed by the meals he put out!
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While we ate we sailed towards Pink Beach, which was our next stop for some snorkeling and relaxing on a beautiful beach.
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Pink Beach ... the sand has a slight pink hue to it due to the red coral offshore.
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Some locals chillin' on their boat anchored at Pink Beach
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One of said locals offered to lead me down a trail, and up a small hill to this lookout point over the beach.
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So guess what I did? I mooned the captain. By accident of course! After swimming we all needed to change into dry clothes. There's not alot of privacy on the boat, so everyone would try to find a corner and change with a sarong wrapped around themselves for privacy. So I did the same ... changed from wet bikini to dry underwear. Then I came out of my corner with my sarong still wrapped around me, to let someone else use that corner. As I was struggling to keep the sarong up, but pull on some shorts at the same time, I decided to just drop the sarong. Panties are no different than a bikini bottom ... unless your wearing a thong! OMG! I totally forgot what kind of underwear I had on, LOL! My back was to a wall, or so I thought, so no big deal, right? Wrong! The 'wall' had a window for the captain to look out while he drove the boat. And guess who happened to be looking out the window when I dropped my sarong? Yup, Mr Captain got a good view of me ars, lol!

After a few hours here, we sailed over to Flying Fox Bay where we anchored for the evening. We watched the sunset by climbing onto the roof of the captains bunk.
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We were told 100s of Flying Foxes (giant fruit bats) would fly across the bay at sunset ... there were 10. One at a time. Not the spectacle we were waiting for, lol! There were also a few of these birds fishing/diving into the water around our boat.
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Sunset from our boat
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So our sleeping arrangements ... not ideal. Near bed time we were told to drag all our luggage out on to the bow of the boat cuz we'd be sleeping on the floor! The captain dragged out 6 flat mattresses for us to sleep on. But only 2 sheets and 2 blankets (and 6 smelly pillows)!!! Luckily the 2 sheets were large enough to cover all 6 little mattresses. But the blankets were to fit 3 people per blanket! Um, what? I dont know any of these people, I dont want to snuggle with 2 strangers under my blanket! Thankfully it was 27C at night with no chilly wind, so I didnt even need the balnket. I just used my sarong to cover my legs a bit. Again, so thankful for perfect weather, lol! Here is a crappy iPhone photo of our 'spooning train'! Thats me on the end in the pink shirt.
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I actually slept really good considering. Sleeping under a clear sky speckled with stars in Indonesia ... awesome!! But bring earplugs, unless you enjoy listening to 5 other people breathing & snoring.

DAY 2
The next morning we were woken up by the rising sun, around 5:45am, grooooooan.
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We cleared out the mattresses & bedding, and brought our bags & benches back in while the captain made us banana pancakes for breakfast. Then we sailed to Komodo Island, only 10min away.
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Once again we were assigned a guide/ ranger, and had to pay extra fees for him (you cannot go hiking without a guide so you have no choice but to pay the fee) and for a camera. There were a few different hikes to choose from. We ended up splitting our group up into 2. Myself & the French couple did the easy 1.5hr hike, and the other 3 did the more strenuous 2hr hike.

My hike started along the beach where we waved hello to a few local ladies walking past from nearby Komodo Village.
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We saw 7 Komodos total today :) Two babies (which look alot like Monitor Lizards in Africa and are the same size too), 2 fully grown ones in the forest, and the rest were by the ranger station.
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In addition to the dragons, we also saw Roosa Deer (I'm sure I've spelt that wrong), and one cockatoo. This one was missing an antler??
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Costa apple growing on a tree
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After taking photos of the villagers, komodos by the ranger station, and deer, we headed into the forest. Our first stop was atop Fregata Hill for a great view over the area.
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I love the mountains here, they have a Jurassic feel to them ... quite fitting since the Komodos look like little dinosaurs :)
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After a short break at the lookout point, we headed back into the forest where we eventually came across 2 big Komodo Dragons! A little orange butterfly landed on the dragons nose!!! Brave!
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Anyone who was brave enough could stand behind a Komodo and the ranger would take your photo with it. Yes please! Thats me in the middle.
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All of the trails on Komodo Island were made entirely of broken coral & seashells!
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Guys working on the trails
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Filling bags with broken coral
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Our hike ended at the beach where we started. We had about 20min to wait for the other group to finish their hike. In the meantime I made friends with this little guy.
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The beach & pier in front of the ranger station
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Our next stop was Manta Point for some snorkeling with Manta Rays! (I didnt take any photos, no underwater camera). There were about 30 or so of them gliding effortlessly through the water.
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After about 40min here, we made one last stop at one of the many little islands for more snorkeling / swimming / tanning. This is my boat anchored at the beach.
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Paradise ...
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Two-tone blue water :)
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Thats it, thats all! By far my fave part of my whole month long trip, and definitely one of my Top 5 travel experiences ever!!! Then we sailed back to Labuan Bajo and said our goodbyes. I spent an additional 3 days back at La Prima Hotel relaxing poolside by day, and enjoying the incredible sunsets by night.
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One evening a storm rolled in. I watched it come for miles before it finally reached me. My balcony was covered so I was able to watch the storm and not get wet :)
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Well thats got to be my longest post ever! Hope you enjoyed all the photos & stories :)

Posted by ChantelleS 20:10 Archived in Indonesia Tagged landscapes beaches boats islands water boat ocean wildlife beach indonesia volcano cruise blue island sand coastline dock bay pool tropical lizard asia komodo Comments (0)

KUCHING, BORNEO - MALAYSIA

Kuching's waterfront, life along the Sarawak River, Semenggoh & Matang Wildlife Center

semi-overcast 37 °C

After a week of traveling all around Bali, Indonesia I flew to Borneo. Where the heck is Borneo you ask? Its right above Indonesia. Its that big island on the map. Its made up of 3 countries. Mostly Indonesia, part Malaysia, and a wee bit Brunei. I visited the Malaysian part. I flew into Kuching, in the northwest part of Borneo and stayed there for 5 days.
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I stayed at the Harbor View Hotel, I forgot to take a photo of it, but it was really nice, I promise, lol! This was the view from my room. It was $43 CAD a night. They served breakfast in the morning, but it was not included and cost about $10 CAD. They also offered my favorite amenity ... free wifi :)
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My hotel was across the street from Kuching's waterfront. Its a long boardwalk that runs the length of the Sarawak River.
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Main street along the river with many shops.
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I spent alot of time walking along the waterfront. The place really came alive at night with vendors selling all kinds of food & souvenirs, street preformers & musicians. There were also great views of the giant golden temple across the river ... which is actually not a temple, but the government buildings! Fancy!
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I also noticed many Chinese temples everywhere! One right in front of my hotel.
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Chinese gazebo & lanterns along the waterfront.
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One of my favorite things to do was to watch the boats on the Sarawak River. You could pay for a ride along the river, or for a ride across to the other side. I passed though. Its the same view from land looking across as it is from a boat.
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Walking through the city I came across my very first mosque :) They are beautiful!
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I booked roundtrip transportation & admission to Semenggoh through the front desk of my hotel for only 50 Ringgit ($17 CAD), which is a steal of a deal considering my Lonely Planet guide said it would be 45 Rinngit just for the transportation one way! So the very next day thats where I went!
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My main reason for traveling to Borneo was to see wild orangutans! They only live wild & free in 2 places left in this world which is quite sad ... Borneo, and in Sumatra, Indonesia. Upon arriving at Semenggoh there is a small visitor's center with info on the orangs, and washrooms, but no snacks. No food is allowed in the area. You are given a guide who leads you through the rainforest to 2 different viewing areas. Wooden platforms have been built in the rainforest, and ropes attached to the platforms for the orangs to play on. The platforms are then piled high with bananas, coconuts & pineapple. And then we wait. And wait & wait. And then wait some more. Just to clarify, the orangutans in the following photos are 100% WILD, so they dont care how far you've traveled, or how much $ you've paid, or how long you have to stand there waiting ... they are wild, and free to do what they want. So they only show up if they feel like it.

Although it took awhile, staring up at the treetops, looking for any tell-tale sign of an orangutan, was exhilarating! My first glimpse of ginger fur leaping treetop to treetop made my heart skip a beat! This is why I love to travel! THAT feeling! Some women say men make their heart skip a beat ... for me its big hairy ginger apes, LOL!!
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Look at hose muscles!
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I ended up visiting Semenggoh twice ... this day, and again on my last day. On my second visit NO orangutans showed up :( But on this day ... 4 showed up! I didnt realized in the moment how lucky I was to see that many, until I visited again and didnt see any, and also spoke to others who had gone 4 different times and hadnt gotten to see any at all!
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Only 1 male showed up at the first platform. We watched him for awhile, and then the guide led us farther into the forest where the 2nd viewing area was. There were 3 orangs at this one! A mom with a baby clinging to her (!!!!!!!!) and another youngster a little older :) AMAZING!!
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This young one was a show off, lol! He'd swing across the ropes and then just hang there upside-down eating a coconut, watching us. He even knew how to smack the coconut against a tree hard enough to crack it open and then drink the milk out! Clever little guy :)
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Stuffing his face fulls of bananas :)
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Also at Semenggoh I saw this blue eyed lizard just chillin' on a tree!
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There was this 'highway' of ants (or possibly termites ... I dont actually know what a termite looks like) making their way along the path and up a tree!
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After a few wonderful hours watching these beautiful creatures, they disappeared back into the rainforest to do whatever it is the wild orangutans do :)

I then headed over the Matang Wildlife Center. I had read that it was a rehabilitation center for wounded & orphaned animals, but it looked basically like a zoo. But there was a vet clinic area where gibbons & macaques were being tended to.
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Although most animals were in cages, there were a few in open-air 'pits' with platforms that humans could then look down into the pit at the animals. The orangutans could 100% get out if they tried! The walls of the pit were only about 12ft high or so. If an orang can leap vast distances between treetops, then they could definitely jump over this wall. Maybe they dont realize freedom is on the other side??
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This guy looks quite bored in his jungle gym.
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Matang is located literally in the middle of nowhere! The views of the rainforest on the drive out (I just took a taxi) were stunning! So that being said, while walking the trails around the center, I was still completely in the rainforest where any wild animals could attack!
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I was by myself, no other visitors were at the center while I was there ... so every little sound made me jumpy! A leaf fell & landed on my shoulder and I nearly screamed, lol! After seeing this sign below, I was even more nervous! There was also another sign (which I forgot to take a pic of) that showed photos of orangutan attack victims!! The inflicted wounds were quite gruesome!
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I kept looking over my shoulder every few minutes to be sure a Clouded Leopard wasnt hunting me, lol! In the end, the only wild animals I encountered were this lizard and dragonfly, lol!!
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There was also a pit with a Malayan Sun Bear.
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I didnt take photos of all the animals, because some of the cages had just way too many bars to get decent photos. But here are some that I was able to get nice pictures of.
Buffy Fish Owl
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I dont remember this bird's name, but he looked like a grumpy old man, lol!
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Crocodile
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False Gharial Crocodile ... they are known for their long, slender snouts and razor sharp teeth!
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Although most of the animals were in cages, it was still awesome to see so many Asian species I'd never seen before! We definitely dont have these animals in Canada! There was a Clouded Leopard, Gibbons (the call of a gibbon is the coolest sound in the world!), hornbills, bintorangs (aka Asian Bear Cat), and Sambar Deer.

Well thats it for Kuching. Stay tuned for upcoming posts on hiking in Bako National Park, and a day at Damai Beach :)

Posted by ChantelleS 12:24 Archived in Malaysia Tagged rainforest water boat wildlife temple monkey malaysia borneo crocodile tropical orangutan Comments (0)

LAKE BRATAN, BALI - INDONESIA

Lakeside hotels with volcano views, temples on the lake, a waterfall, and many crazy creatures for me to hold!

sunny 25 °C

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Today started awesome, and ended of with a pervert. Allow me to start from the beginning ...
I woke up in Jatiluwih and took a taxi for 200,000 Rupiah (about $16) to Lake Bratan. It was a 1hr scenic drive through mountains/volcanoes, rice fields and villages. I checked in to a hotel called Ashram for one night, located on the side of a hill overlooking Lake Bratan, its temple, and volcano on the other side of the lake.

View of my hotel on the hill
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My little bungalow
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It was a fairly basic hotel for 200,000 Rupiah. It had hot water & free breakfast (although not a big selection), but no a/c. But it turns out I didnt need it. It gets chilly at night up in the mountains. I actually had to throw on linen pants, an extra shirt, and use the extra blanket off the 2nd bed to keep warm! Definitely wasnt expecting that at the equator! Normally Indonesia is like a oven, and I'm constantly covered in sweat, but today I didnt sweat at all while exploring. It was nice actually.

View from my room
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My favorite thing about this hotel was the gardens. Actually I dont think it was a garden, Bali is just covered in tropical flowers wherever you go!
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After walking around the garden for awhile, I headed to the temple on the lake. I could see it clearly from the hotel's vantage point on the hill overlooking the lake, so I didnt need directions, I just walked over there. It was only about a 10min walk along the lake to get there.

The temple's name is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. Admission was 30,000 Rupiah ($2.50 Canadian). These were the entrance gates.
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The grounds were quite large, but not at all what I was expecting. There were giant plastic dragons, frogs, eagles, etc everywhere. It looked like a child's playground. I dont understand why these tacky, plastic things were everywhere, but if you can look past that, it was actually really beautiful.
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Steps tiled in tiny stone mosaics.
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There were colorful boats to rent lined up alongside the temple (and also tacky plastic swan paddle boats)
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Stupa
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And finally, the part of the temple that was on the lake.
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As I was heading back to the main gate to leave, I noticed an area with a bunch of animals. Real animals, not plastic ones. For $8 I could hold as many animals as I wanted, for as long as I wanted, and take as many photos as I wanted. Deal! First up was a Giant Fruit Bat! And by giant, I mean GIANT! I didnt know bats could get this big! LOOK AT IT! Once you agree to hold it, they dont give you any time to freak out or change your mind. They just tell you to put your hand a certain way, and suddenly BAM, your holding a giant bat!!
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He's even kinda cute. He has the face of a small dog.
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Then I held some absolutely adorable baby owls!!
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Then I held a Hornbill! I dont know what kind of hornbill it was because the guys didnt speak enough English to know its name. All I know is it was WAY bigger than the ones I saw in Africa! They covered my arm with something so the its claws wouldnt dig into me. This guy made me a little nervous, not gonna lie. Look at that footlong beak!! I was scared he'd stab my eyeballs out with it! But he didnt. Turns out he's not as scary as he looks ... he liked belly rubs, lol!
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The yellow bulge under his chin felt like a balloon.
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I was told to put my hand in its beak. I'm not sure why I did it, perhaps cuz the guy went first showing me it didnt hurt. It didnt hurt at all, just a little pinch.
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After spending about 1.5hrs at the temple and with the animals, I walked across the street to a restaurant for lunch (I cant remember the name of it). I was expecting it to be super expensive, considering it was located right across the street from a tourist attraction, was 3 stories high with lakeviews, and offered free wifi ... but it wasnt. For $3.35 I had crispy teryaki chicken, a huge pile of sticky rice, and a salad. Food here is SO cheap! I also had an iced hazelnut mocha for another $3. It was so tastey I ordered a 2nd one! Much better than anything at Starbucks ;)

So, next comes the pervert. I walked around negotiating rates for a ride to Gitgit Waterfall. I ended up choosing a guy (the wrong guy as it turns out) who offered to drive me there, wait for me, and then drive me back, for 140,000 Rupiah (about $11). As soon as we hit the road he was trying to hold my hand, or put his arm around me. I just removed his hand & shrugged his arm off of me and turnt away from him to look out the window and ignore him. He stopped the vehicle and I thought he was gonna leave me in the middle of nowhere cuz i rejected him. But instead he was stopping so I could take photos of a viewpoint over the lake.
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Then we got back in and continued on our way. Once again he started trying to hold my hand, and I kept pushing it away saying 'no' as firmly as I could. But he spoke 4 words of english, and apparently NO wasnt one of them. And of course I dont speak a word of Indonesian. Again I just turnt away to look out the window. He tapped me on the shoulder, so I looked, and with his hands he was making an absurd jerking off motion!!! Ugh! What does it take for this loser to take a hint?! I would've just made him stop and let me out, but we were literally in the middle of nowhere and there wasnt much traffic. I didnt want to end up stranded somewhere. So I did the only thing I could think of that would be universal in every language ... I gave him the finger. And he finally understood!! But he wasnt impressed. He then proceeded to drive with road rage along the twisty turny mountain roads at high speeds! Now I was scared for me life, as he was only using one hand to make these turn, while he smoked a cigarette with the other. Finally we arrived in a small town. I got out and slammed the door. I assumed he was going to either take off and leave me there, or actually wait for me while I walked down to the waterfall. But instead he led me all the way to the falls. But he was walking so fast he was practically running, I could barely keep up! I wanted to take a leisurely walk to the waterfall, enjoy the scenery, and take photos along the way. But wouldnt have any of it. Every few minutes he'd turn around and see that I was waaaay behind, and wave frantically for me to hurry up. It was a 20min fast paced walk amongst many, many souvenir vendors.
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When we finally arrived at Gitgit Waterfall, the cool mist from the falls was very welcome after that sweaty high speed race through the jungle. I gave him my camera to take a photo of me ... and then he was ready to leave. Really? I didnt just drive 30min dealing with your bullsh!t the whole way, race down to the waterfall, take one photo ... and then leave?!
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He was honestly SO mad at me, although he's the one that was the perv. After about 7min at the waterfall we raced back up to the parking lot, got in the vehicle, and drove like a crazy person all the way back to Lake Bratan in silence. What a waste of time that was, sigh. And then, get this, he DARED to ask for a tip!!! I flipped him the bird again and slammed the door! Good riddance. So like I said in the beginning, the morning was amazing, the afternoon not so much. Unfortunately I dont think theres anyway to avoid pervs. As a single woman traveling solo, you never know what you going to get when you get into a cab. I ended my day by purchasing some fresh strawberries from a street vendor and heading back to my room. Northern Bali is known for its strawberries, so make sure you try them, they were tasty. Well thats it for Lake Bratan, I left the next day. That guy ruined it for me. Jerk. My next post I will be in southern Bali :)

Posted by ChantelleS 14:03 Archived in Indonesia Tagged boat bali wildlife indonesia temple lake waterfall animal asia båt owl Comments (0)

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