Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan

You have to come here!

Now I’ll explain why…

My alarm went off at the horrid hour of 6am on Tuesday so that I could leave the beautiful Ubud and head off for the even more beautiful Gili Islands on the western coast of Lombok.

I’ve wanted to go to the Gili’s for years, I didn’t even know of their existence until my hypnotherapist friend told me about them. I was mid hypo session when he mentioned them, we were talking about places I wanted to visit, I was actually having a hypnotherapy session to help me save money, pay of my debt to enable me to save up and go travelling. Guess it worked!! Anyway, my friend, Anthony Hilling, mentioned these tiny islands that he had been to and said they were beautiful. That’s all I needed to start researching and work them into my future plans.

I arranged a ferry from Bali to Gili T through Praety’s Homestay for 250,000 rupiah including collection from my hotel in Ubud, drop off at the very pretty pier and the ferry, all included in that price.

The ferry itself was really nice, small but very comfortable, kitted out with comfy leather seats and plenty of leg room so that you could relax.

Near to Lombok the captain tooted his horn, when I looked out of the window there were loads of dolphins right next to the boat, they then began jumping and spinning out of the sea all at once. I’ve seen Dolphins in the wild a few times before and every time it gets me, they are so magical to watch in their own habitat and so playful.

It’s felt like a good sign to see such sensitive animals like Dolphins here, to me it meant that it must be a healthy place for then to live with plenty of food and safe conditions. Which hopefully meant that other sea life would be doing the same!

We arrived at Gili Trawangan around lunchtime, the ferry just glided up onto the soft sandy shore.

I climbed around then outside of the boat and jumped down onto the sand. Out backpacks were unloaded onto the beach and I set off in search of my hotel.

There are no cars or scooters here, you walk, or you cycle (bike available to hire everywhere for around £1.50 a day) or you hire a horse and cart as a taxi. Again being all pro animal welfare, I would advise against it. The horses are scrawny and overworked, ill tempered probably because they are actually ill!

My hotel, 3 Birdy’s Homestay was in from the beach in a more villagy area. It looked nice! Only, they had double booked my room and they were now full. Great. So I was taken next door to Bukit 2, a small basic homestay run by a man and his wife who live in the tiniest of homes, maybe no bigger than an English garden shed. It makes you realise how much we have in the UK and how much we take for granted. They had one room left, it looked okay with two beds and a very basic bathroom, but it was only 130,000 a night with breakfast so i took it. The room is nice enough but the only thing was that the bathroom stank and was pretty dirty. I always carry a bottle of detol so that immediately got swished about and left to soak in.

The island itself is almost split in half, on the eastern side there are tons of bars, restaurants and shops, ATM’s, even a Billabong store, on the western side it is pretty untouched, just a few decent hotels scattered here and there. Gili T reminds of a bigger version of the Maldives, there’s more to do and see but it still has the stunning views and rich sea life.

Snorkelling around the island isn’t as spectacular as the Maldives or Egypt, the corals are mostly dead or bleached, however the turtles love it and you can easily swim out and it minutes be metres from a magnificent hawksbill or green turtle. You are also likely to see rays whilst out snorkelling but they are a little more shy than turtles so will swiftly glide away.

The diving here is supposed to be great so I went to a dive school that I had researched online called Aquadiction. I wanted to dive with a small, friendly yet professional school rather than going with one of the bigger sausage factory style places. Dives cost $35 a dive, so I signed to for the next morning at 9am.

I arrived at 8:30am to set up my tanks and kit and we jumped aboard the dive boat to set off for out dive site, Shark Point. Just 10 minutes later we were backwards rolling off into the sea and off we went into the blue.

We descended only to about 18m and started to fin, I looked down at my dive computer and when I looked up there was a big turtle right infront of me that had swooped down from the surface, it nearly swam into me it was that close! As we swam on you could see turtles all around all non fussed about us being there invading their world.

Our Divemaster and guide Jo lead us on, the current taking us at a nice pace along the corals. I saw lots of sea creatures that I haven’t seen before on that dive, a sea snake, an octopus, obviously an abundance of turtles and one so massive it must have been the size of a lorry tyre! Out of the blue came a herd of 10 big bumphead parrot fish. Pretty cool to see.

On the next dive at the site Deep Turbo, at around 30m we got to see a stunning white tipped shark, about 6ft long that that swimming along the reef. As we approached it came to a rest on a sandbank, so I also slowly rested on the sand to get a better look. I must have been no more than 4-5m away. After a minute or two the shark sprang to life and swam off, but just around the corner there was a big eagle ray, effortlessly gliding through the water. So wonderful to see! After around 45 minutes we ascended back to the surface and relaxed on the boat.

I stayed an extra 3 days on Gili, the sweater was great, the views beautiful and the whole island had an ease about it. I spent many days just cycling about, exploring the small village, the coconut farm, looking for nice spots etc.

I found a gorgeous hotel in the North West side called Le Pirate, brand new, only open 10 days and only from 325,000 a night. The rooms were all in the style of English seaside beach huts, painted prettily in white and blues, well chosen decor, big doors opening out onto the beach and a cool outdoor bathroom. The bath even had a mini garden and decking surrounding it. Loving their work!

Another place I regularly visited was the Kayu Cafe, packed with lots of healthy salads, smoothies, fresh juices and homemade cakes. Oh and good coffee!

I spent a good amount of time relaxing on Gili, watching the sunset over the volcano on Bali and snorkelling with the turtles, but I then moved onto Nusa Lembongan, about 2 hours away by boat. I bought my ticket from the Scoot office on Gili T, more expensive than buying your tickets on Bali but they did include a few extras. For 500,000 I got my ticket from Gili T to Nusa, then a free ticket to Sanur from Lembongan and a taxi to the airport! Pretty good all in!

IMG_0729

IMG_0724

IMG_0774

IMG_0726

IMG_0718

IMG_0791

Advertisements

Bali by scooter

I’ve spent the last week worrying whether or not to hire a moped/motorbike to see some of the beautiful Bali sights.

I know it’s all out there, it’s not far, I just don’t want to be paying £30 to see a few sights on an organised coach tour (of which there are many) when I can pay 40,000 Rupiah (£2) and have the freedom to explore as I like in my own time and in my own way.

This morning I decided it was now or never and I should just go for it. I have been worrying about a number of realistic issues that I have read or been told about.

Road safety in Bali
The first and most important issue is my own safety. The roads are of a good standard, however the drivers are not. Driving here is pretty tough going, especially in the city areas such as Denpassar and Kuta, even the taxi drivers keep 100% concentration. Collisions with cars or street dogs are pretty much imminent. The lines on the roads don’t really mean anything, nor does the direction of traffic. People drive however they like, cutting other drivers up, driving the wrong way down a one way street, squeezing in and out of gaps and overtaking on the other side of the road. It’s a stressful experience even just as a passenger!

Bali driving licence
Secondly, any foreign driver here needs to have the correct International Drivers Licence along with a local licence that can be obtained after a written exam at a local police station. I only have my good ol’ UK licence, I really should have sorted the paperwork out properly when I was at home for an international licence but I didn’t even consider that I might drive while I’m away. However, after doing my research online/asking around, it turns out that most people haven’t got the right documentation either, it seems even if you do have the right documents, the police are likely to still pick over things and fine you for something/anything if you do get stopped….

Police
Thirdly, the police. They need their lunch money right? Checkpoints appear everywhere and I’m told they target tourists knowing that they won’t have the right paperwork, or if they do, they probably won’t have the language skills or the know-how to argue it. Fines range from 0-250,000 Rupiah and can be negotiated (hence the from ‘0’) depending on how much the officer likes you and how much money they see in your wallet. On that note, always carry two wallets or purses, one with around 100,000 Rupiah in it just incase you do get stopped (add a few cards and coins in there to make it look realistic) and then keep your actual wallet hidden somewhere. That way, if you do get stopped, you can show them your “wallet” and save yourself some money. Smiles help too, getting angry won’t help you, just try and be polite, smile and say you are sorry, and repeat that at every ‘check point’. If you’re unlucky that could happen multiple times in a day!

Travel insurance & driving in Bali
Lastly, insurance. My travel insurance with Outbacker, a specialist backpackers insurer, do not cover any third party motor accident costs and worryingly for me, if you do not have the right licences they will not pay out for medical treatment if you do happen to have an accident. That’s fair in my opinion, but doing my research, I now know that nearly all of the travellers I have met who are scootering about would not be covered if they had an accident. Motor accidents here are the biggest cause of death. I have read awful stories of young travellers having serious motor accidents resulting in emergency surgery, only to find their insurance won’t cover it, leaving family members to get their credit cards out or re-mortgage their homes to cover the costs and get their loved ones better. Serious stuff!

Ignoring all of the above, I hired a motorbike for just 40,000 R (£2, yes two whole pounds for an entire day plus just £1.50 for a FULL TANK of petrol! Bargain!) and started my little expedition….

Navigation
It began from Ubud, winding around and up and down the Bali countryside. Everywhere I looked had something to look at or photograph, from jungle, to rivers, lakes, temples, shrines, rice terraces, wildlife etc. There really aren’t enough words to describe how beautiful this place is! I seem to lose all sense of direction here too, normally I know exactly where I am at all times, but here I have absolutely no idea! The street signs are few and far between and my map seems to have missed many of the towns that I was heading through, so in the end I just checked the compass on my iphone every now and then. I had been riding west for about an hour, looking for the T-junction to the main road to take me to the north of the island, when I realised on checking my compass that I had in fact been riding north the whole time. Massive Doh! I found a street sign pointing west for a town called ‘Bedugal’ which was by luck right next to my first destination! I had somehow the whole time been heading for the right place! Yes!!! I worked out that I must have been in the village of Pelaga, so I headed on down the winding road for about 3km when the road vanished into a very rocky and uneven track. I started to ride down the track then got a bit scared. I was in the middle of no-where, surrounded by jungle, no one around and no clue really of where the track would take me. It seemed to look worse up ahead as it dropped down towards a river. The motorbike rental place also stated that the bikes should not be ridden down jungle paths or tracks…. so off I went (carefully) for about 10km arriving at a remote Balinese village. I’m guessing by the looks I got from the villagers that they don’t get many female westerners on mopeds passing through!

Lake Bratan
My first destination was the well known ‘Pura Ulun Danu Bratan,’ one or the most important temples, simply ‘lake Bratan’ as most guides call it. The lake is famous for it’s eleven tiered shrine, dedicated to the goddess of the lake, located on a small island behind beautiful gardens. The Balinese take part in various ceremonies here to pray for sufficient water for their fields, today was a ceremonial day so I was lucky enough to watch from a distance.

Bali’s Highlands
I spent about an hour here soaking in the atmosphere and decided to head further north to another well know tourist attraction. I rode on my moped for about an hour, constantly riding higher and higher up between the mountains.

The views over the rolling hills became more and more incredible, but the roads too were becoming steeper by the meter so I had to pay close attention to my driving. As I rode I could feel the air cooling even from inside my helmet. I was glad I had set out with a jumper. The roads reminded me of ‘Top Gear’, every 50m was another hair pin bend with warnings of landslides. Along the roadside I would see a viewpoint or lay by with street sellers offering fruit for the monkeys that plagued the surrounding trees and bushes. The area also has many coffee plantations and coffee houses, all tempting me in as I drove for another great latte or cappuccino.

It is hard to explain the views, even the few photos that I did manage to take don’t seem to do it justice, I was constantly thinking ‘wow! Right stop here and get a photo’ and then would ride on and think the same again 30 seconds later.

I was somewhere between 1900-2100 metres up between Mount Catur and Mount Lesong, so high at one point that the view vanished and I entered into the misty clouds between the mountain’s peaks.

Gitgit Waterfall
I drove downwards to my next destination, Gitgit Waterfall, about 10km south of Singaraja on the Northern coast of Bali. I left my moped by the roadside and walked through jungle for about 500m, knowing I was heading in the right direction by the mighty roar of the waterfall ahead. Children were playing in the fresh water pools on rope swings as I arrived, so I walked down the rocky steps and had a paddle to refresh myself after the hours of driving. The water was ice cold and crystal clear, refreshing even just up to my ankles. The waterfall itself was breathtaking, I haven’t ever seen a waterfall before so it was lovely to just sit there and take it all in, the engulfing sounds, the fresh smells, the waterfall’s mists.

After an hour or so relaxing by the pools, I made my way back up the few hundred steps and set off back to Ubud, driving South for about 1 hour. I took a different route on the way back along the main road and ambled back at a relaxed pace. Nearing Ubud, the skies opened and I was soaked through in seconds. All of the other drivers seem to have cleverly packed a poncho, mine was back at the room. By the time I dropped the bike back at the shop I was wet, freezing cold, but smiling. I had had a such a fantastic day out exploring and I hadn’t even been stopped by the police!

I’m now watching the sunset back at my room, wrapped up in a jumper and fleece lined leggings. It is 25 degrees c here still so I really am not sure how I am going to cope when I go home to England where it is currently snowing!! I’m getting an early night tonight as I am planning a day of yoga at the nearby Yoga Barn.

Goodnight!

IMG_0631

IMG_0628

IMG_0629

IMG_0633

IMG_0630

IMG_0634

IMG_0635

IMG_0636

Bali

After a ferry, a coach and a plane ride later, I arrived at Kuala Lumpar airport with an urge to splurge on some duty free. Note I have absolutely no room in my backpack and even left a vast quantity of stuff in Koh Tao. I wasn’t even sure that the Chanel or Mac ladies would want me near them. I looked 100% hippie.

The shopping at KL airport is pretty cool, they have a kind of mall attached to the airport even before you check in, then a selection of duty free type shops as you go through to the other side.

I met a guy on the plane who had he sat in the wrong seat, he hated flying had a terrible hangover but we got chatting and the flight got moving. It’s nice how easy it is to make friends.

The ride was bumpy, worse was that it got to it’s bumpiest just before Surabaya, the destination of the recent Air Asia crash. I was slightly scared but more saddened than anything else at the thought of what the passengers went through and how painful it must be for their families and friends. Such a terrible occurrence. Whilst bumping along through the sky we noticed hundreds of thai style lanterns floating through the nights sky below us which looked so pretty, like little fairy lights across the sky and sea.

The arrivals hall at Denpasar airport was pretty impressive, it was huge and totally empty, so big you could have had a football match In there or even a massive gig. I had to purchase a Visa on entry for £20 ish and then start going through immigration.

We were given arrival cards to complete and I gave my friend one of my spare pens so he could do his, big mistake, in seconds there were about 20 people asking to use ‘the pen’… Erm it’s ‘my pen’ and in the end after 5-10 minutes of trying to get my pens back from the desperate queue, I gave up and left them there.

In the next hall, I was given another form to complete, and yes there were no pens on that counter either. Grrr. Anyway, pen-less, I found a taxi and made my way through the main city to the area of Sanur. My taxi cost me 250,000 Rupiah, I bit off a rip off but I couldn’t be bothered to haggle and I reminded myself that it was just £13.

I arrived at the Big Pineapple Hostel where I had managed to get a room for around £5 a night. The place looked very nice, had a pool, TV and kitchen that are free to use as you like. The place was also so relaxed it was almost weird, but I liked it. There were people relaxing around every corner, one guy by reception was playing his guitar and having a sing-song so himself, so (of course) I interrupted him to find out where the receptionist was. His response was that she had gone home, so I asked where I could find a key and he told me there were no keys. At this point my attention turned to a noisy rat that had just scurried past my foot. I managed to find a wipe board with my name on it pointing to room 1, on entering using the noisiest door handle known to mankind, I met a bunch of very friendly people. I chose a bunk bed and stuffed the important things in a locker, laptop, GHD’s (thank you to Emma and Rachel for sending those out to me. Lifesaver!) kindle, newly purchased Lancôme make up set, and purse. The rest I decided would have to be at risk of vanishing should anyone try to pinch it, but I had a feeling that kind of thing probably never happened at this hostel. It felt very safe and honest. I found Big Pineapple sign with a list of what to dos, not to do’s and a few things to remember. Most of them were the usual kind of dorm rules, no noise after midnight (ha. Doorhandles) no splashing in the pool, but my favourite stated that they have rats, but they can’t do anything about it, so don’t complain. You can’t get more honest that that right?

Sanur
The next morning I decided to explore the nearby area Sanur. There were tons of shops selling everything from surfing gear, to clothing, silver and homemade skin care products. Gelato shops, deli’s restaurants and more. Massages could be had for 60,000 rupiah, around £3. A nice plate of Nasi Goreng (like fried rice with flavour and spices) 40,000 Rupiah. The beach was pretty but kind of overused if you know what I mean. The South of Bali is very densely packed, there’s aren’t any sky risers but there are hotels everywhere, filled with smaller buildings and homes. They have a McDonalds and Pizza Hut in Sanur, get this too, they even ‘Mc-Deliver’ 24/7!

The main thing that struck me, even on the normal streets, were the number of pretty temples, perhaps every 50 metres, maybe more. Everywhere I looked there were beautifully crafted monuments and shrines, even the commercial areas it seemed still kept a wonderful sense of spirituality. My favourite, was a fountain statue that was easy to miss in a quieter part of Sanur, surrounded by lush green plants and just behind, a doorway with the words ‘Hidden Paradise’ inscribed in gold.

The homes too have such fine detail in their architecture. No red bricks here. Everything is made of handcrafted wood, perfectly placed bamboo plants, pillars, fountains etc, and that’s just the entrance to the front doors! It’s a feast for the eyes everywhere you go.

Black sand and surf
I spent the next two days with a lovely bunch of travellers from the dorm, one day we went to Hotel Komune, to the northeast of Sanur where the beaches are black, so in the sunlight the sand shimmers like black glitter. One guy organised a driver for the day, between 7 of us it was 60,000 Rupiyah, so we went to watch the surfers at a spot where they hold some of the big surfing competitions. It was such a lovely day, we sat in the pool watching the surfers do their stuff in the big waves, ate plenty of yummy food and had a few drinks including a very nice locally produced Mango cider.

It worked out so well, at night we lived the cheap life in a basic dorm with no keys, by day we were hanging out in a fab resort and using their facilities enjoying the good life.

Volcano
That night I couldn’t sleep as we had another taxi booked for 2am to take us all to Mount Batur, an active volcano, which we would be climbing to watch the sunrise at 6am. It was hard going, steep and slippery, but when we did finally get to the top the view was wonderful. The morning sun framed 2 mountains opposite us, footed by a shimmering lake.

Surrounding us in all directions were lush, green, rice terraces. The volcano itself last erupted in 2000 and was still hot and smoking. The guide got us to put our hand in a crevice and it was so warm in felt like an oven! From the top you could see where lava had once pooled out and cooled in waves. The volcano had erupted a number of times in the last century, the biggest was in 1926.

On the way down we met tons of monkeys, they have a tendency to chase or attack me so I kept well away, much to the amusement of my group. Some of the monkeys were quite cute though (from a distance), especially watching the mama monkeys with their babies clinging underneath them as they walked. Inevitably the monkeys are only after one thing, food, our guide had saved some cakes from the volcano top breakfast so she immediately became the monkey magnet and I immediately relaxed.

I heard a load of screeching behind me a saw a small monkey whizz by closely followed by a wagging dog, either after cake, or monkey, or both. I could tell he was really enjoying the game so I gave him a pat and told him he was a good boy.

I could see right into the crater of the volcano, smoking away. It was one of those moment of complete exhaustion but one I knew I would never forget. Who else has had breakfast on an active volcano? One to tell the grandchildren.

We returned back to the dorm at 11am, our driver had wanted to show us the hot springs and the coffee plantation, both sounded great but everyone was asleep in the car so we went straight back. I got back, packed my bags and met my next driver (Norman’s tour service Tel: 0361 270 282, he is very nice, speaks fluent English, always on time and had a fair rate) who was taking me to my next location, Ubud, the well know spiritual yoga hub of Bali. Goodbye Sanur, hello Heaven.

Praety homestay
Bliss. Balinese Bliss. Beautiful, wonderful, peaceful, gorgeous Praety Homestay.

My room feels like a palace and the view is rich with colour, texture, culture and nature. The owner, Praety’ bought me lovely Balinese coffee as soon as I climbed up the stairs to my little terrace, and when I asked about when to pay, her reply was “later, later, slowly, slowly”.

I took a moment to lay on my bed with the doors open, listening to the fountain and the wind chimes, just taking a moment of rest after the big climb that morning.

A few hours later I went out to explore and was delighted by what I found. Ubud is a cross between my favourite city in England called Brighton and my new favourite country, Bali. There are dozens of nice shops, markets, healers and yoga spots. The notice boards are littered with yoga and mediation flyers and the home shops are packed with goodies that I want to ship home in a crate. Resisting temptation.

The first road I turned onto, I stumbled into the place, or rather person, I have wanted to visit for years, but never actually thought I would in a million years be able to or find her….The healer, the actual one, from the book and later film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ written by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read that book years ago and it kind of inspired me to come here, so it was a huge delight to find this particular spot without even trying. Ubud is a smallish place but there are so many streets and places to explore. I will go back to visit the healer in the next few days.

I found a yummy restaurant called Warung Lokal where I had a fabulous plate of fresh shrimp and vegetables. Loads of food and very cheap. Next I did some shopping, purchasing a pretty handmade dress for £4, my sister has already ordered that I must buy her one when we were skyping last night. I wondered about for hours, eating gelato, soaking in the happiness that this place was giving me. It’s easy here to just walk about smiling. That evening I tried a Balinese tuna curry from Taman Curry along with a glass of rice wine. Both were nice, although the rice wine was like a rice flavoured piña colada, or sort of. I realised I hadn’t actually slept since Monday morning (it was Tuesday evening) and I felt exhausted. I curled up in my snug little bed surround by a veil of mosquito nets and was out like a light.

This morning a woke up from one of the deepest sleeps of my life and wondered downstairs, Praety was there smiling, offering me breakfast. I couldn’t wait. Part of the reason I booked this place was because of Praety’s legendary pancakes on trip advisor every review on trip advisor mentions them, and oh my god were they good. I let out a moan on my first mouthful. I’m glad I’m staying for a week. So so glad. Not only did I get pancakes, I also received a beautiful stack of fresh fruit, more fruit that I have eaten in weeks alone, served with a cup of steamy hot strong Balinese coffee. Praety wished me an enjoyable breakfast and told me that whilst I am here, I am her family.

I’m writing this whilst still munching on the fruit whilst deciding what to do today. Yoga Barn is on my road so I may head there, I had planned to borrow a scooter from Praety and explore but it is currently raining and I don’t want to get wet.

Sanur street

IMG_0393Perfectly placed Bamboo

IMG_0394
“Hidden Paradise”
IMG_0390My first Nasi Goreng breakfast

IMG_0388Breakfast view from Mt Batur looking over rice fields to other mountains

IMG_0456-0 Praety’s famous banana pancakes, fruit stack and Balinese coffee…mmmm

IMG_0490-0The ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ healer

IMG_0487-0Black sand beach and surf at Hotel Komune.

IMG_0408-0An Alice shop. Crate being arranged

IMG_0488The view from my terrace at Praety’s homestay

IMG_0486-0

The last bits of Thailand

I haven’t written on here in a while and I decided it was time.

Koh Tao
I had been on the island of Koh Tao for nearly 3 months, as nice as it is there, in hindsight the island was just not for me. I had a nice time, I met some nice people (especially my dorm friends!) and the Dive Master course after a load of moaning actually turned out okay.

I have some happy memories of Koh Tao but I don’t really think it is ‘all that’.

Food
The only thai thing about it was the food and the ladyboy cabaret. I need more culture than that. On the subject of food though, my favourite koh Tao eats were:

Janies on sairee main road (great Masaman and Green curry, but be warned, it’s spicy!)

All seasons restaurant, a few doors down from Hippo bar, great authentic thai food, the owner is lovely and gives out free bananas. Look out for their well loved rather plump poodles and ‘lucky’ the kitten.

Sairee Cottage restaurant. Good all rounder, on the beach, nice and chilled out. Love the muesli with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. Good pizzas. Look out for the scabby looking beach dog with a black ridge of fur on his back (see photo), he’s so loving and friendly. Please feed him in my absence!! His owner died and he became a stray, he will whine for pats and attention.

Gym and fitness cafe, great coffee and breakfast after a workout in the gym, fab healthy salads and wraps.

Fizz lounge. Great at everything, from steaks, pasta, salads to thai food. Even their fish pie and cottage pie are good! All the cocktails are made with decent alcohol and the wine is good too. Right on the beach with loads of comfy bean bags to sit on. Nice tempo and volume of music. A firm favourite.

Diving in Koh Tao
In total I did roughly 70 dives around the island, only 5 of those dives were of a good category. Most days the visibility was between 5-10 metres at best although regularly it was under 5m. I saw one turtle, lots of barracuda, a sea snake and a number spotted rays, along with the usual coral and angel fish, clown fish, banner fish and wrasse. Sadly no sharks or whale sharks or anything to get exited about. I’m honesty I probably wouldn’t recommend Koh Tao for diving, everywhere else I have been is better . It’s a nice place for long term living, it’s a nice place to work as an instructor but for Dive Master training I think the west coast or Indonesia would have been better.

I would show you some of the photos and footage of the dives, but annoyingly my new GoPro 4 drowned on dive 3, the case failed and at 5m’s deep, the most expensive toy I have ever purchased was now a goner. Grrr. I have since met 3 other people in the dorm at Sairee Cottage who have also had the same Gopro issues, drownings, all the same reason that the case failed. I personally would not recommend them for diving.

Oh and did I mention I am now qualified as a Divemaster. Woo!

Visa’s
My visa was up so I had to leave the country. I had bought a double entry tourist visa at the Thai Embassy in London for around £50. This would allow 2 x 60 day entries, each once can be extended by 30 days at a immigration office allowing in total up to 6 months. At the end of my first 60 days I journeyed off to the immigration office at Krabi (I was at Railay with friends for Christmas) and the process with pretty simple. I took a ticket, came to the counter when called, handed over my passport and around 1500 baht then had some photos taken. In all it took around 30 mins. At the end of each 60+30 day visa you have to leave the Kingdom then return to activate the next visa, hence when I decided to give Bali a try.

Time to leave
I had a fairly hefty journey to Bali. My ferry was booked for 6am which meant I had to check in at the Lomprayah pier for 5:40am. ouch! I set my alarm for 4:30am but barely slept as I was worrying about oversleeping, so at 4am I got up, careful not to wake my sick room mate, showered, dressed, did the final packing checks (passport, tick, purse, tick, marmite, tick) and began the walk in the dark.

I left at 5am and was pretty anxious about walking alone in the dark for half an hour, but all was fine. It was nice to look up at the stars and see them all properly, without any noise or people around me, it was nice to have a moment alone in the dark, just the stars, my 20kg backpack and the jungle.

I made it to the pier at 5:30am, glad that I had been going to the gym and heaving around heavy diving tanks for the last 2 months and found a quiet, stable spot on the ferry.

For the last 2 months I have suffered with the most terrible seasickness, nothing, not even tablets, green apples, tonic water, fresh ginger, can stop it, you name it, I’ve tried it! Even sitting in the sea by the shore was making queasy, some days just looking at the wobbly horizon would send my stomach into turmoil. The most irritating thing is that I worked on a floating pier for 5 years and never had an issue!

The journey was fine, and overall I was glad to be leaving Koh Tao and on my was to my next destination and start being a tourist again.

The Sairee Cottage beach dog

IMG_0352

IMG_0328 The Sairee cottage dorm

On the matter of role play and uninvited guests….

Everyone kept telling me that the role play sections of the PADI Rescue course were ‘super fun’…. the only two words I heard in that claim were the words ‘role play’ and I instantly spent a week dreading all aspects of the course.

By fluke chance my instructor was sick yesterday (YES!), bagging me another day of freedom. Or sort of. I spent the day instead in the classroom reading the same paragraph of wordy fluff maybe 100 times and still not understand wtf I just read. Not because I’m being a thicko, just because my levels of concentration extend to all of around 0.5 of a second at the moment.  The course is 3 days long, so far I have spent 3 days just trying to read the book and I am only working on chapter 3 of 7. And I didn’t drink yesterday! After painstakingly reaching the marathon end of chapter 1, I pretty much crawled back to my dorm and decided I could either get shitfaced or go to the gym.

You may be surprised to hear I actually chose the later, I decided that being in a miserably depressive mood, a 2 hour gym session of running, punching and hitting things would surely be better than drinking five Chang’s and then having to face the situation that was awaiting me the next day. So being very very good, I worked out, ate a salad, had another stab at studying and then went to be bed early. My mother(s) would be proud.

Luckily one of my other room mates, Nick, was working that next day at 6am and had been working all day, he also was in his PJ’s about the same time and the other guy (who’s name I keep forgetting. Sorry! Note above lack of memory) is always silent when coming in from a night out.

uninvited guests

I awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and in a joyous mood…. Ha! I WISH! What actually happened was that at 2:30am there was a load of banging on the door (locked), after a while #forgottenname guy opened said door and a total wreck entered. Not only did this person enter. He/it staggered in making pretty much as much noise as humanly possible. Then laughing. Then dragging his backpack in, then slamming the door. Who was he and why was he here? Turns out this guy was another Dive Master trainee who has decided without booking in with reception that he was going to stay the night. He didn’t even have a key. This, according to the very strict and clear rules of the hotel is a total no no, incurs a 2000 baht fine and being kicked out. No guests. Simple. Anyway, to disrupt us all further, he then turns on his laptop and starts watching a film without headphones (3am), the light of the Macbook also filling the room. Then started yelling (3:30am), I kind of mix between a ‘no’ and a ‘arghhhh’ continuing into dawn. As loud as he could. After 2 hours of this, the yelling got worse. Unable to sleep, I did what any other reasonable ladylike human being would do… I screamed at him to shut the fuck up which bought me about 5 minutes of peace before he started walking about AGAIN and waking everyone up AGAIN. Thankfully he walked right out the room. So I locked him out. Fucker. Ha! Finally, FINALLY, I got sleep.

I awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and in a joyous mood. I awoke the next morning feeling like shit and in a shitty mood. Urgh… today was D-day! ROLE PLAY DAY! It was worse than torture. Worse than embarrassing. Awkward doesn’t even describe the feeling I get when attempting to act out a make-believe scenario or character, pretending to be something I don’t want to be. Add in that the scene I was ‘acting’ like an ‘Ac-tor’ is one I have last year, back in the real world, had to go through and spent many pills and many months trying to get over and forget. Oh and its all supposed to be ‘Super FUN!’. After hours of pool time with my Director, I mean Instructor telling me to “do it again”, “believe in it”, “say it again”, “LOUDER this time”, I could safely assume that my thespian days were well and truly done with, or at least for the next 24 hours anyway.

over-acting

Feeling less like BayWatch and more like Mr Bean, I googled ‘PADI role play hatred’ and this blog came up… http://helldivers.wordpress.com/ I actually laughed, I wasn’t sure I would ever laugh again. But I did. Particularly the paragraph on ‘4. Acting Skills’. Its nice to know there is another normal person/diver out there who feels that same. 2 more days of this to go.

I'm a PADI rescue diver, can I help you!

Living in paradise

So I have nearly been on the beautiful island for 2 weeks and it feels like I have been here forever. My old life seems like an age ago, a distant weird memory that I kind of laugh at in my head for trying so hard, for so long to cope with it and stay sane. Why did I even want it?

The great thing about being here is that every non thai person is exactly like me, nobody thinks leaving everything is abnormal. You get talking to someone and find out that they too had the well paid job, house, lifestyle and stuff, but they also were miserable, depressed and burnt out.

They all wear the same shorts and t shirts, a pair of fake ray bans, fake havaianas, live in a basic hut and their life revolves around the sea. But they are simply happy.

The first two weeks were a bit odd and it didn’t seem real, so I’ve been doing things to get myself in a new routine.

Koh Tao doesn’t really wake up as an island until about 9 or 10, so if you want breakfast and coffee you have to either go by the 7/11 store, make something at home, or do something to pass the time. There’s a steady flow of runners along the beach in the morning, there’s the gym, yoga at 8am, swim in the sea or you can just sit and wait.

For the next 6 weeks of my life I will be up each day at 6am to be on the boat to dive at 7am. I have 10 dives logged and I need 40 to start my Divemaster course so I’m now cramming dives in as much as possible.

I’ve also shelled out bought my first dive computer, the Oceanic Geo 2, costing me 16500 baht, but I will need it so I can dive safely without the risk of getting ill especially when diving at depth.

It would be really easy to sit here all day and do nothing so I have joined the gym and hunted out the local yoga spots. My first class at shambala yoga was really good and only 300 baht for 2 hours, and there’s also a Muay Thai studio next to the gym which I’m going to have a go at.

All along the beach you will see signs for massage, 1 hour 30 mins costs just 250 baht (£5) or signs to rent a mask and snorkel so paddle about in the sea.

Diving has been a great way to meet new people and pass the time, especially as the captain has a pet squirrel on board which comes out every now and then between dives.

I went for a walk a few days ago and ended up walking all the way to mango bay viewpoint kind of by accident, but it was so worth it. It took about an hour but it was such a great way of seeing the island, jungle terrain and wildlife. It was nice to be alone and explore not really knowing where I was going.

I’m going to walk down to Mae head in a bit to buy my scuba kit, then I have a personal training session booked in at 1:30. I’ll definitely need a beer after.

IMG_9615-0.PNG

IMG_9617-0.JPG

IMG_9570.JPG

IMG_9614-0.PNG

‘Have done’s’ as at 4/12/14

Grand palace, Bangkok
tuk tuk ride
thai street food
thai sleeper train
Ridden a moped
Injured myself on a moped
Sairee beach sunsets
Sky bar Bangkok
Thai strip bar (Nana plaza)
Wreck dive (30m)
Adventure diver course
Nitrox diver course
Lai Krathong festival
Thai lantern from the beach
Dorms
Working from the beach
Yoga
Advanced open water PADI diver
Mango bay viewpoint
Rescue diver course (by the skin of my teeth)
37m dive
Seen a sea snake
Seen a turtle
Climbed a volcano
Tried Balinese rice wine
Black sand beach
Become a Divemaster
Kayaking in Railay
Crazy Railay free climb to the hidden lagoon
Bali