Wednesday, January 30, 2013

10 Reasons It's Great to Travel with Friends

I can travel by myself. I travel by myself all the time for work, and last year I went to France alone for two weeks; my first truly solo vacation. There are a lot of great things about solo travel, but here are some really fantastic things about traveling with friends.

(Note: I know I am behind on Bali posts but seeing as how Rhiannon and Brian have just left me, was feeling this post was appropriate)

1. You can stay out late! When I travel by myself, I usually try to be back to my hostel/hotel by dark so I am not wandering around strange places at night. Or at least you can save money by splitting a cab when you make it back to the hotel in the wee hours!

2. You can eat more dessert. More people = more appetizers and desserts to share and sample.

3. Your back is not as likely to get burnt. Friends can suncreen your back for you! I am way too shy to be asking strangers to apply my suncreen for me - although I guess that might be a good way to meet people??

4. After sun care is easier: If your back DOES get burnt, your friends can put aloe on it for you! And in the case of really good friends (or cousins - thanks Rhiannon!), they can assist you with loofah-ing off the peeling skin from said burn.

5. You can drink more beer! As a solo girl traveler I also think its a bad idea to drink too much in unfamiliar places, so having your friends around means you might get to sample a few more local beverages than you would on your own.

6. You have someone to watch your purse. When you already have to use the sketchy squat toilet while trying not to get your pants soaked, it is really great not to also have to worry about where to put your bags.

7. You do things you would never do on your own. I never would have went white water rafting in Bali on my own, but that was Matt's choice activity for his last day here, and it one of the most fun days I had here. Everyone gravitates to different activities, so your friend's might pick something that you would have missed if you were on your own.

8. You get a better sleep. If I'm traveling by myself I might opt for a hostel dorm if it is the cheapest option, but when I'm traveling with other people a shared room is often the same price but nicer accomodations (and I love a good comfy bed). (Sidenote: If you are traveling with me, YOU may not get a better sleep, since the snore beast may keep you awake at night. MY sleep is usually great though).

9. You can do less work. Split the planning, take turns carrying heavy bags. Even just taking turns on navigating city streets is a nice break for me! Its also a plus to have someone else to blame every once in awhile when you get lost yet again.

10. You have someone to tell 'remember when' stories with! Even though your friends that did not travel with you always ask you how your trip was, they get REALLY tired of hearing about 'that time you got lost in Ubud and had to walk an extra hour home' or 'that creepy guy that made you a carrot rose in Turkey' all the time. Traveling with friends means that you always have someone to talk about your travel stories with (and means that you alienate less of your other friends)!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

NOT getting mugged in Ubud

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud is a pretty popular tourist destination. The forest is managed by thepeopleof a nearby village and it costs the equivalent of $2 CAN to go in, and the money goes to the upkeep of the forest and the sacred monkey temple inside. The Monkey Forest website says that there are about 600 resident long tail macaques (hee) that live in the forest. Having heard stories of rabies from monkeys, as well as being somewhat of a wimp, I was a little afraid before going. Rhiannon had visited with Matt previously and had already been mugged by one of the little buggers (jumped on her, unzipped her backpack and then took off with a water bottle). Knowing this, we prepared accordingly by removing hats, sunglasses and any shiny objects from easy access, and headed trepidatiously into the forest.

A first I was actually too afraid to pull out the camera, thinking that it would tempt a pickpocket monkey to attack, however the hordes of adorable (yet potentially rabies infested??) monkeys begging to be photographed soon changed my mind. I also reassured myself that the tourists buying bunches of bananas in order to have the monkeys climb on them for a photo op may draw them away from me.

The forest was a nice and shady retreat from the 30 degree, motorbike filled, streets of Ubud and we hung out there for a couple of hours with only one minor incident in which a teenager monkey decided to hitch a ride on my back while I jumped around squealing for help. Between bugs and monkeys I am finding myself doing more squealing than is acceptably not embarrassing!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Matt's Last Day

My second day in Bali was Matt's last full day here, so we let him pick our activities. He chose white water rafting on the Ayun River. The river runs through Ubud, and a number of companies offer rafting down the class 2 and 3 rapids. We went with Sobek, who provided us with a raft to ourselves, a guide (Stinky), a two hour ride down the river and buffet lunch afterwards for $80. Once we donned our sexy life jackets and helmets, we started down the stairs to the river.I thought that it was going to be a nice little jaunt down the the river, however it was actually 500 very tall and steep steps down the side of the cliff to the river.

We loaded up the raft and Stinky gave us our instructions, telling us when to row, when to grab the rope, and letting us know that when he shouted 'boom boom' we were to basically dive into the bottom of the raft and hold on. He did not give us any indication of when he might yell boom boom.
Off we went down the river, with Stinky pointing out local plants and animals, as well as carvings on the cliffs on the side of the river.

Class 2 and 3 rapids are not very scary, and after the first couple of rapids where we grabbed onto the rope each time, we had it under control. We would row to the sounds of "One, Two, STOP -  ok Stinky!". I think. It could have been something else, but it sure sounded like Stinky. Although the guide did tell us that in Bali stinky means good music, not smelly. So who knows really. We also discovered that boom boom was when we were about to hit the side of the river pretty hard - luckily this only happened a couple times .

Highlights of the trip included:


Bintang Break (Karen, I'm sure you will agree the joy of riverside beers far outweighs the outrageous cost that said beers are sold for on the side of the river)

Scary moment with locals fishing with electricity (?? this was the explanation we got)

Floating down the last leg of the river to our take out point.

After the rafting they served up a buffet lunch of mainly Indonesian dishes, which was a poor introduction for food safety Danni, as all of the dishes were lukewarm and had been sitting out for who knows how long, and she did not eat anything except a green colored coconut suger cake at the end. Everyone else enjoyed the food though and no one got sick. Then we walked up the 150 stairs to the top of the hill (thank god it was not 500, although in 30 degree weather, on the first full day of vacation, and with hawkers walking beside you trying to sell you teak boxes, wooden elephants and sarongs - only one dollar! - it was still too many!).

That night we walked into Ubud (about 20 min) and ate some deep fried crispy duck (bebek guling) at the Dirty Duck Diner (Bebek Bengil). It was pretty expensive for Bali prices, however considering I don't usually like duck, it was pretty delicious. Rhiannon and Brian have already had it twice now, and have requested it once more before we leave Bali, so looks like some more dirty duck is in our future.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Greetings from Bali!

I got to Bali Wed afternoon and was pretty beat after 36 hours of travel, so we had a quiet night in with pizza from Pizza Bagus, which was pretty delicious. Our place of residence is the Desa Sanctuary, which is at the end of the main road leading into Ubud. It is about a 20 min walk before you get to some restaurants and a grocery market.The walk is slightly dangerous for clutzy people like me since the first part of the walk has no sidewalks and the road is super busy with cars, bikes and scooters. It is the rainy season so the road gets pretty muddy at times. Once the sidewalk does start it is pretty poor and also runs directly over the open sewer dtiches. Rhiannon and I are betting over which of us falls in the sewer first. So far my chances are looking pretty good seeing as how I already fell half in the pool and then broke a beer at the pool today, but she did fall down some stairs a couple days before I got here, so you never know.

The complex is really nice, with 5 little huts/houses in a compound with a pool and tons of vegetation. The staff are really nice and helpful, coming immediately to my aid after I broke both a breakfast plate (falling in the pool) and the aforementioned beer today. It has been pretty quiet with some road noise but not too much, and very little notice of the people in the neighboring huts. I had a slight panic attack my first night due to the sheer number of ants in my bed, and due to a lack of mosquito net in the room that Brian and I were in for the first couple nights, had to macguyver myself a sleeping face turban out of a scarf. Now we are in a room with Rhiannon that is equipped with a lovely mosquito net (malaria is not really a risk, but dengue is), as well as Rhiannon's nightly bug spray rounds, so there is less overall insect distress.
That's it for the first day, more to come on adventures thus far!