Tag Archives: Island

Langkawi Island, Malaysia – Impressions

Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah, as it’s officially known, is Malaysia’s answer to Bali, albeit a much quieter version. Tourists come to the island because of the amazing beaches and the lack of crowds, giving it a more secluded feel than nearby Penang.

wpid-malaysia-langkawi-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

Langkawi, meaning Island of the Reddish-Brown Eagle, was originally believed to be cursed. A beautiful young woman named Mahsuri was accused of adultery and executed on the island. With her dying breath she brought down a curse of bad luck for seven generations. Her tomb is a popular tourist location, although a village has been built around it and fees charged to enter.

wpid-dscf5960-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

Palau Langkawi is slightly larger than Penang Island and like its southern sister, the best way to get around it is via scooter. Yay! While more expensive to hire than in Penang they’re still cheap at only NZ$12 per day. A tank of gas will cost just over NZ$2 and will get close to two laps around the entire island.

Beaches
Surrounded with beaches of white sand, Langkawi is definitely a picturesque paradise. Most people stay in the touristy Cenang area, with Pantai Cenang perhaps the beach most similar to Kuta Beach in Bali.

wpid-dscf5975-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

And within walking distance is another popular beach, Pantai Tangah.

wpid-dscf5963-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

If you have transport, there are more beaches within reach. Only 30 minutes north is the empty Pantai Kok.

wpid-dscf5908-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

And another 30 minutes through the mountains to the northern side of the island there’s such beauties as Pantai Tanjung Rhu, right near Scarborough Fish n Chips, the best on the island.

wpid-dscf5948-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

Waterfalls
Scattered around the island are several waterfalls. While they aren’t spectacularly tall or wide, they’re enjoyed by locals and visitors alike as swimming spots. On our scooters, we stopped by at 7 Wells waterfall…

wpid-dscf5938-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

… and Durian Perangai Falls.

wpid-dscf5953-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

Oriental Village

Located at the northern end of Pantai Kok, the oriental village is an open air complex surrounding a small lake. It’s an entertainment zone with many different things to do. For the kids, there’s the water balls, round or tubular…

wpid-dscf5915-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

The village, while not very oriental looking, has elephant rides, eagle viewing, tiger watching and snake cuddling…

wpid-dscf5923-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

It’s also home to the Skycab, the cable car that takes people to the top of nearby mountains…

wpid-dscf5914-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

The panoramic views over most of the island are spectacular. While the ascent can be a little breathtaking, the journey is worth it for the views alone.

wpid-dscf5934-2014-12-12-17-00.jpg

Overall, Langkawi is a perfect place to take a break away from the world. With only 65,000 residents, it’s a very peaceful place with a handful of tourist options and many beaches to relax at.

Next we head north for the craziness of Christmas and New Years in Thailand.

The Trail Wanderers

Advertisements

Bali, Indonesia – Adventures

When you have three weeks in Bali you can’t just languish around the pool or at the beach the entire time. Actually, I guess you probably could, but I can’t. There’s just too many other things to see around the island…

Mt Batur

In Bali’s highlands there are several volcanos. Mt Batur is the most active, having erupted 20 times in the last 200 years.

wpid-dscf4918-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

It’s a fairly small volcano that lies in the caldera of a once more mighty volcano, one that stood over twice Mt Batur’s current height. And on the south-eastern side of the caldera is Danau Batur, the largest crater lake in Bali.

wpid-dscf4916-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Coffee Tour

Indonesia is the fourth largest producer of coffee in the world and Bali’s highlands has its share of plantations. During the tour we discovered the many tastes of Bali’s coffees and teas, all of which were delicious, although some were overly sweet.

wpid-dscf4914-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Indonesia has a most unusual coffee called Kopi Luwak. It’s the most expensive coffee in the world because the beans are fed to the Asian Palm Civet, collected from its droppings, cleaned and roasted. Enzymes in the animal’s gut react with the beans to give them a rich and smooth flavour.

wpid-dscf4911-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

There are growing concerns about the ‘farming’ of Kopi Luwak as the animals are held in battery cages and forced to eat the beans. The two animals at the plantation weren’t so cramped in their larger cages although seemed quite disinterested in our being there.

Highland Cycle Tour

A gentle way to see the highlands of Bali is via a bicycle tour. A large group of us ventured out one morning on a tour which started in the highlands and worked its way down quiet roads. This provided plentiful views of rural Bali including many rice paddies.

wpid-dscf4943-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

We were introduced to many of the local traditions as we rode through several villages and past many small temples, including this temple to the Destroyer, surrounded by palm trees.

wpid-dscf4939-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Midget Fun Boxing

Beyond all Bali’s standard evening entertainments of fine dining, drinking, beach-side bands and dancing there’s Midget Fun Boxing. While this might seem like a strange and violent form of entertainment, it’s actually quite fun. Reminiscent of the classic days of WWF wrestling, it’s more of a comedy fare with the midgets wearing gloves that cover more than half of their arms. Midway through a bout the competitors stop to dance to whatever music comes on, head banging to AC/DC or bopping to other types of music. But should one opponent take his attention from the other he gets belted. With a low centre of gravity the midgets are easily knocked over and then it’s a free for all. Here, after knocking his opponent over, this boxer jumped on top and pretended to hump him.

wpid-img_1879-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Between bouts female midgets dance around on stage with some of the younger members of the audience. Cheeky boxers would stuff a boxing glove down their oversized shorts and chase the dancing-girls. Overall it was a fun night with much hilarity. No midgets were hurt in the process, although that can’t be said for this audience member during post event photos.

wpid-img_1923-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Manta Ray Safari

On a hot and humid island in the tropics there’s usually plenty to do out on the water. I took the opportunity to go out by boat and snorkel with Manta Rays. Four metres from wingtip to wingtip these placid creatures fly through water without a care. Unperturbed by us being there they would come up close to have a good look before swimming on.

wpid-p1000289-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Bali also has some very diverse coral reefs, with 500 species of coral recorded around the one island. This is more than the entire Caribbean Sea. We snorkelled around the reefs in the warm waters for much of the day.

wpid-p1000309-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Next, we hired some scooters and checked out some temples, but that for another day…

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Bali, Indonesia – Impressions

After seven months working and biding my time in England, I’m back on the road again! This time doing the rounds of Asia.

While you’re never truly alone when travelling, this time I’m being accompanied by my brother for the first 6 months.

To get us started we’re heading to Bali for three weeks to attend a family reunion and to get to know the popular Indonesian tourist mecca.

Indonesia

Paradise in Indonesia

With just over 4 million people, Bali began to gain popularity as a tourist destination in the 1960’s when it was ‘discovered’ by a small group of Australian surfers. Only 3 hours flight from Perth, Bali’s popularity erupted and tourists swept into the island. This influx of foreign money greatly lifted the standard of living on the island.

DSCF4939

During the early 2000s two religious-based terror attacks in tourist areas set the industry back. But in the years that followed the island’s reputation bounced back. Australians make up a large portion of the foreign tourists on the island often giving the impression that there are more Aussies than Balinese. China has the second highest tourist count here.

A Day at the Beach

There are several main tourist areas in Bali, one is Kuta on the south-western coast surrounded by the townships of Legian and Seminyak. With beaches of golden sand, a day at the beach in Bali means hiring deck chairs and relaxing in the heat under a sun umbrella.

wpid-dscf5214-2014-10-22-14-22.jpg

With the deck chairs tended by beach bars there’s easy access to drinks, food, the warm ocean and plentiful bronzed bodies ripe for people watching. But be warned, while you’re relaxing if you should pay even the slightest attention to hawkers on the beach, they’ll appear in swarms trying to selling sunglasses, watches, sarongs, toys, hats, clothes or wanting to massage, paint nails, groom, plait hair and the like. Learn to ignore them and they’ll move on to the next target leaving you to relax in relative peace.

wpid-dscf5186-2014-10-22-14-22.jpg

As the sun sets, deck chairs are replaced with bean bags and the bars begin serving all manner of dinner and cocktails. The hawkers are still active, trying to sell glowing or sparkling light toys, while mosquitos come out dine.

Massages

Walking around the bustling tourist areas there are plentiful spas and massage houses offering all kinds beauty therapies and massages. With the prices averaging between 60,000 and 100,000 rupiah per hour (AU$6 – 10) getting one every 2nd day is easy. And yes, that was AU$6 – 10! Because of the sheer number of massage houses and fierce competition, groups of young women try to coax wandering tourists into the spas with calls of ‘massards’ and the waving of price lists.

wpid-dscf5203-2014-10-22-14-22.jpg

While I’m sure ‘Happy Endings’ can be found if that’s your thing, sticking to reputable outlets and the service will be professional.

Dental Work
Bali has many specialist dental surgeries at a fraction of the price of Australia or New Zealand, so it’s not uncommon to come here for a holiday and get some work done. The dentists are highly qualified and provide top quality services. Thankfully I needed nothing more that a checkup and clean.

Fine Dining
Bali has many restaurants offering all manner of food. This is probably the downside of holidaying on this Indonesian paradise, too much choice. While most restaurants serve traditional local foods such as Nasi Goreng, most serve Western foods too. There are restaurants that specialise in French, Italian, Spanish, Russian and American foods, not to mention Thai, Malaysian, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese. I particularly enjoyed the Japanese Jazz restaurant for both the food and the live band.

wpid-dscf5212-2014-10-22-14-22.jpg

Prices are close to Australian prices and can add up if eating out every night. However, it’s not difficult to locate local eateries with plentiful great food at cheap prices.

wpid-img_1978-2014-10-22-14-22.jpg

A popular restaurant, Warung Murah, literally meaning ‘Cheap Restaurant’ in the Kuta area provides excellent food at a good price. If you go over the top and get a large plate, you could pay somewhere close to AU$6 for your meal. Be warned! There are also plentiful local street venders carrying their hot food around on the back of their scooters.

Drinking
Indonesia has an international quality beer named Bintang which is very popular among tourists, especially when served in the Bintang Tower.

wpid-10698560_10205325302638507_6144956122416888335_n-2014-10-22-14-22.jpg

Balinese wine, in many tourist’s opinions however, isn’t up to international standards and with foreign wines being expensive, most stick with the beer. There are plentiful spirits, but only drink the known labelled brands, as the cheaper local brands may include an ethanol blend that has been known to cause death when consumed.

Next, I take a look at some of my adventures on the island paradise of Bali.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Mapping My Journey So Far

Sixteen months on the road is a long time. During that time I covered quite a distance and did many things. While I’ve been ‘resting’ in the United Kingdom, I’ve put together a step by step rundown of my trip including maps.

South East Australia

wpid-seaustralia-2014-05-8-14-57.jpg

In a van called the Pointy Brick I…

Antarctica, Chile and Argentina

wpid-southernsouthamerica-2014-05-8-14-57.jpg

From Brisbane, I flew to Auckland and spent 3 weeks with family before flying to South America where I…

Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador

wpid-northernsouthamerica-2014-05-8-14-57.jpg

From Buenos Aires I…

Colombia, Central America and Mexico

wpid-centralamerica-2014-05-8-14-57.jpg

From Ecuador I…

The Full Map. May take some time to load.

wpid-ajtravelmap3-2014-05-8-14-57.jpg

The World Wanderer

Looking Back, Central America

While it took ten months to work my way up the massive continent of South America, three months seemed only a short time to explore the Central America sub-continent even though it’s barely larger than Colombia. But since I was in the neighbourhood…

wpid-04838a73ba16566078c9dbd7f4f662c1-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Panama

San Blas Islands

With no straightforward bus route from Colombia to Panama, I chose a five-day cruise through the San Blas Islands, finishing in Panama City. The San Blas Islands are a glorious chain of islands in the Caribbean Sea, but make sure you do your research as the cruises aren’t always up to standard.

wpid-dscf3016-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Panama City

After so long in South America Panama City feels a little like home with its massive skyscrapers, malls, cinemas and fast food chains. When travelling long-term you lose the sense of time and on arrival in Panama days before Christmas I forget that it was prime holiday season for the locals. With most of the holiday destinations booked solid and long lines to get on any buses, I decided to spend the holidays hanging around the city. While there I visited the colonial old quarter of Casco Viejo, the canal and the ruins of Panama Viejo.

wpid-dscf3062-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Being in Panama City feels like being in the United States. There are so many Americans and I rarely needed to use my spanish skills as most people spoke english.

wpid-p1000006-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Bocas del Toro

After the holiday break I headed west to Bocas del Toro, an archipelago on the border of Costa Rica. In the surf/party town I took the opportunity to spend a day on a catamaran snorkelling around the reefs and another sitting in a hammock at the hostel.

wpid-p1000110-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Boquete

Then taking a chicken bus, I spent three days in the cooler climes of the mountain town of Boquete. While there I climbed the tallest mountain in the country – Volcán Barú. The views were wonderful from the top, but starting the 26km hike at midnight is difficult. So to recover I spent time in some natural hot springs just outside of town.

wpid-img_1631-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Costa Rica

San José

Costa Rica has a reputation for being the most expensive country in Central America. From the capital, San José, I took a tour to the top of a volcano before boating along a river to see monkeys, a sloth, caimans, crocodiles and many different types of birds. It was during this tour that Iguana was served for lunch.

wpid-dscf3195-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Liberia

Next I headed north to the city of Liberia from where I visited the beach town of Playa del Coco and a set of waterfalls.

wpid-img_1661-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur

My first stop in Nicaragua was the surf town of San Juan del Sur. A beautiful place to spend a couple of days with bars and beach-front restaurants aplenty. The town even has a statue of Christ atop a hill at the end of the beach.

wpid-dscf3226-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Isla Ometepe

No trip to Nicaragua is complete without catching the ferry across Lake Nicaragua to Ometepe Island with its pair of volcanos. Cruising around the volcanos on a scooter is a lot of fun, visiting beaches, cafés and thermal pools. Both volcanos are climbable and a group of us scaled the largest of the two.

wpid-img_1677-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Granada

Next, I was on a bus to the touristic city of Granada at the northern end of the lake for some amazing food and a visit to yet another volcano, this one spewing smoke from the crater within its crater.

wpid-dscf3308-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

León

Then a quick stop off on the city of Léon to go hurtling down the side of an active volcano on a volcano board.

wpid-dscf3378-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Honduras and El Salvador

With limited time, I set foot only briefly in both countries, mainly at customs on the borders. San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador seemed nice though for the thirty minutes we stopped there for lunch.

Guatemala

Antigua

Most travellers in Central America rave about Guatemala.  I arrived into Antigua to find another touristic city at the base of another volcano. Unlike other parts of Central America, Antigua has a lot of colonial architecture, although after numerous earthquakes over the centuries, many are in ruins.

wpid-dscf3448-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

San Pedro la Laguna

I enjoyed a couple of days in San Pedro la Laguna on Lago Antitla with its thin streets, crazy Tuk Tuk drivers, great small restaurants and amazing lake views.

wpid-dscf3471-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Flores and Tikal

Then after a brief visit back in Antigua, I caught a bus to the north of the country to the island of Flores on Lago de Petén Itzá.

wpid-dscf3654-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Flores is a tourist destination and gateway to the great Maya ruins of Tikal, where I spent several hours exploring.

wpid-dscf3560-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Belize

Caye Caulker

Then on the one year anniversary of my time in Latin America I arrived in Belize, an english speaking country. Staying on the party island of Caye Caulker, I spent some time in the pristine waters snorkelling with Nurse sharks and Eagle Rays, some larger than I am.

wpid-dscf3752-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Mexico

While Mexico is actually in North America I included the southern portions as part of my Central American adventure. From Caye Caulker, I caught a ferry to Chetumal in Mexico and stopped for the night before heading on.

Palenque and Yaxchilán

After an eight-hour bus ride I arrived at the city of Palenque to continue The Maya Ruins Trail I began at Tikal. My first stop was the peaceful ruins of Yaxchilán and its connected site of Bonampak on the Guatemalan Border.

wpid-dscf3863-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Next it was to the Palenque ruins only twenty minutes out of the city.

wpid-dscf3977-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Merida and Uxmal

Four hours north in the Yucatán is Merida, a large and popular touristic city and the nearby ruins of Uxmal and one of its satellite cities, Kabah.

wpid-dscf4011-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Valladolid and Chichén Itzá

Then it was across to the city of Valladolid to see Mexico’s most visited archaeological site, Chichén Itzá, seen by more people every year than Peru’s Macchu Pichu.

wpid-dscf4176-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Tulum

Then it was back to the Caribbean Coastline to the town of Tulum and the Maya fortress of the same name.

wpid-dscf4233-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Cancún and Playa del Carmen

The final distinction in my thirteen month trip through Latin America, Cancún, where I did little more than prepare for my exit from Latin America, but managed a quick visit to the beaches at Playa del Carmen.

wpid-dscf4270-2014-03-25-19-32.jpg

Next, is a well deserved rest from travelling for six months to save and plan a year through Asia.

Adios America Latina,

The World Wanderer.

Cancún and Playa del Carmen, Mexico – Impressions

The ultra touristy Cancún at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula is the final destination of my three-month whirlwind tour of Central America and southern Mexico.

wpid-487303-mp0404twoweeks-2014-03-19-23-30.jpg

Cancun’s main tourist area is Isla Cancún and was created in the mid 1970s by the Mexican government. The island is actually part of the second largest barrier reef in the world, stretching 1000km from the tip of the peninsula along the entire length of Belize to Honduras. Cancún is renown for being one of Mexico’s two most famous resort cities, the other being Acapulco on the Pacific Coast.

wpid-800px-cancun001-2014-03-19-23-30.jpg

As Cancún was my final destination, I didn’t spend a lot of time exploring the city, instead preparing for my imminent departure. But I did take a day out to travel an hour along the coast to the popular tourist beach, Playa del Carmen.

wpid-dscf4270-2014-03-19-23-30.jpg

It’s easy to see why the beach town is so popular, the golden sandy beaches and clear blue waters are beautiful. And while the beachfront restaurants and resorts are numerous, they’re not as all-encompassing as those in Tulum, and hour further south.

wpid-dscf4267-2014-03-19-23-30.jpg

It’s been a long adventure through Latin America these past thirteen months but I’m ready for a well-earned rest. While the constant traveling has been both amazing and stressful at the same time, I’ll miss the diverse cultures and the beautiful places I’ve visited, not to mention the challenges of constant change that travel evokes. I do look forward to six months of stability before beginning my next set of travels.

For those few who’ve been following my travels, I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts and photos as much as I’ve enjoyed providing them.

Until my next trip,

The World Wanderer.

Caye Caulker, Belize – Impressions

Belize is a small country on the edge of the Yucatan peninsula. Unlike the countries that surround it, where they speak spanish, Belize’s primary language is english. After a year in spanish speaking countries where I couldn’t fully understand the everyday conversations around me, on arriving in an english speaking country it was a little overwhelming. It was like suddenly being able to read the thoughts of everyone around you.

As I’m nearing the end of my Latin American journey, I’ve chosen to spend only three days in Belize and all of that time on the island of Caye Caulker. Thirty kilometres from Belize City by water taxi, Caye Caulker was made popular by hippies travelling through the area in the 1970s. Since then the tourism industry along the coast has blossomed.

wpid-cayecaulker-2014-02-24-15-07.jpg

On first impressions, arriving in Caye Caulker feels like arriving in Jamaica. There’s a strong reggae groove, plenty of locals with dreadlocks wearing rastafarian style clothing and that familiar accent: ‘yeh mon,’ and ‘want some gunga mon.’

One end of the eight kilometre long island is criss-crossed with white sand roads while the other is still claimed by mangroves. There is an estimated 40 hotels, hostels and boarding houses on the island, with fresh fish on the menu of the many waterfront restaurants.

wpid-dscf3709-2014-02-24-15-07.jpg

One of the more popular activities in the region is diving with divers hoping to swim in the infamous Great Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole 300 metres across and 124 metres deep.

wpid-great-blue-hole-belize-13625-2014-02-24-15-07.jpg

But as I don’t dive, I chose to snorkel along the Great Barrier Reef and in Shark Alley. So, booking a tour, I set out with a group of fellow snorkelers for a day in the sun on a boat. And what a day it was… We began in Hol Chan marine reserve where the fish knew our arrival meant feeding time. Schools of large fish swum around the boat as our guide took us on a swim around the reef, spying a lone barracuda, sea turtles and even managing to lure a Moray Eel out from its hole in the rocks.

wpid-p1000167-2014-02-24-15-07.jpg

Along shark alley the Nurse sharks came looking for food. There were probably a dozen of them, some more than three metres long. We were able to ‘pet’ one of them although their scales felt hard to the touch. Then came the Eagle Rays, allowing us to write our names upon their back.

A german girl in a bikini, I mean, a friendly three metre Nurse shark swimming past.

wpid-p1000207-2014-02-24-15-07.jpg

Back on the island, there are several ways to get around. Most people hire cycles and ride around the unsealed, potholed sandy roads but I chose to hire a golf cart, the only powered land vehicle on the island.

wpid-dscf3762-2014-02-24-15-07.jpg

With my ‘wheels’, I toured the quieter end of the island where there were only a few secluded homes and hotels among the plentiful mangroves.

wpid-dscf3752-2014-02-24-15-07.jpg

Overall, Caye Caulker is a great place to spend a few days if you like water activities, seafood, partying or just hanging around with well-tanned beach clad people.

wpid-dscf3733-2014-02-24-15-07.jpg

Next I head into Mexico, my final Latin American country as I follow the trail of the Mayan Ruins.

The World Wanderer