Sunday, July 20, 2014

Beautiful Bali

View of Mount Kinabalu in the distance from our dive boat in Kota Kinabalu
(This is a post that Laura wrote up after we visited Bali, but we didn't end up posting it because I went snorkeling with our non-waterproof-camera in my pocket.  After several tries, I was luckily able to recover all of our pictures!)

Album of all bali photos

Laura -- After leaving the jungle, we headed back to Kota Kinabalu for 3 fun days of diving. We'll post more about the diving once we get home and can easily see the videos and photos.

We caught a flight from there to Bali, Indonesia and headed straight to Ubud for about five days. The first place we stayed was right beside the Monkey Forest. So naturally, we spent an afternoon there. The monkeys seemed to particularly enjoy climbing on Jerome. There were all sizes and personalities and we spent several hours watching them.  Here's a couple of them:

More monkey videos in my YouTube playlist.

The next day we took a cooking class at Paon Bali. It began with a market visit where we learned about and tasted the different fruits from the area, such as mangosteens (our favorite) and salak. Then we were put to work - slicing, dicing, and grinding ingredients. Puspa the head chef led us in cooking nine traditional dishes! If you're curious, here's an online copy of the recipes. At the end we got to eat our spoils, and it was a very tasty feast!

Market selling the ingredients to prepare the traditional balinese offerings that are put out every day.

Mangosteens - our delicious!  Our favorite 'exotic' fruit.

Salak (aka snake fruit).  Kind of dry and apple-y

Laura, crushing the ingredients to make the basic yellow sauce
Jerome, crushing peanuts to make peanut sauce

Our finished meal
The following day we continued expanding our knowledge, by taking a Batik making class. We arrived at 10am, and didn't finish until 6! We started off by drawing our design on paper. Coming up with the ideas of what to draw was quite a challenge itself. Once we were happy, we transferred it onto an 18" by 36" piece of cotton, also in pencil. Then came the tricky part. You use a special little device that holds wax and lets you draw on the fabric. There's quite a knack to it. If you have too much wax or tip it up too much it leaves a big drip on your picture . If you have too little, it won't write. And if you tip it down too much, it drips boiling wax on your hand! Needless to saw we each had a few drips, but overall did pretty well. Next we used metal stamps in hot wax to make geometric patterns along the border. Once the whole piece was outlined in wax, it was time to paint in the dye. It is a bit like a colouring book picture, except where the wax is now will be left white at the end.

Tracing the outline with wax

Laura adding a border to her batik

Laura's batik - Finished with the wax and ready to color

Jerome's batik - finished with the wax and ready to color

Choosing colours was interesting. There were about 15 colours to choose from, but they didn't all paint on with the colour they'd be in the end. So the pictures looked weird. For example the green dye paints on a dark purple, and then in the chemical setting process turns green. And the reds painted on very faint, but deepened with sun and water exposure. There was a colour wheel to use to figure out what the colours should end up like.

It took a long time but we eventually covered the whole cloth. They had to dry and then were ready for the magic. It was so neat putting them in the setting bath and seeing all the colours change! A few rinses in hot and cold water, and we were done! A very fun and productive day.

Laura's completed batik 
Jerome's batik before setting

Jerome's batik after setting -- note the color changes!
The next day, we were scheduled to go diving, and were up and ready to go by 6:30, only to find out it was canceled. We went back to sleep intending on only sleeping for an hour or so, but didn't wake up until the afternoon. So we explored the main street. Very interesting as every shop, house, car, moped has a small offering on it to the spirits. It was also only a few days before Galungan day - a biannual holiday to give thanks to the gods. So everyone was busy making decorations and more complicated offerings for that along the road. After dinner we attended a traditional Kecak and fire dance which was quite impressive. A large circle of men perform a rhythmic chant while dancers act out the story of the Ramayana.

Our last day in Ubud was a bit of a splurge. We'd found this hotel, the Royal Kamuela Villa, with these beautiful villas and decided to stay for one night. We had a private pool, a king sized bed, a bathroom the size of the bedroom. It included afternoon tea, bedtime chocolates and a welcome foot massage. It was heavenly!

That night we also decided to go fancy for dinner and tried Locavore, which had really great food!

Best dish was this bloody mary sorbet with tomato consomme.  Warm soup, cold bloody mary sorbet, super flavorful.

Slow braised oxtail / pan-fried gnocchis / green asparagus & sorrel veloute / egg plant puree / wood sorrel leaves
That wrapped up our time in Ubud, and we reluctantly tore ourselves out of our pool and headed to Amed - on the east coast of Bali. We did a quick stop at a water temple on the way.

In Amed we stayed in a very cute, very efficiently run guesthouse called Geria Geri Shanti. It was also a dive shop, and we spent 5 days there, completing 12 dives, including our first night dives which was very interesting.  Other highlights included diving with huge Manta rays and seeing our first Pygmy seahorses!

There's a lot more pictures in our album!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Facts and FAQs About Our Trip: South East Asia Edition!

We're home! We made it back home after the most amazing three month adventure! We are quite sad that it is over as we really enjoyed all the places we got to explore. We're very grateful to have had such a wonderful opportunity to travel the world again! We've started sorting through our pictures and will have some more posts of places we went, once we get settled back in at work again. But first, a short facts and faq post about our trip! If there's any questions you have that we didn't answer, feel free to comment or email us and we'll be happy to. Thanks for coming along for the ride with us! 

Where did we visit?
We visited 7 countries: Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Maldives, Cambodia and Hong Kong. 

We stayed in 22 places: Legazpi, Donsol, Banaue, Batad, Coron, El Nido, Sabang, Kota Kinabalu, Mt Kinabalu, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Ubud, Amed, Labuan Bajo, Kanawa Island, Yogyakarta, Singapore, Male, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, Hong Kong.

What was your favourite place?
For our favourite place, we both really liked the Philippines. We were there for a month and saw everything from whale sharks to rice terraces to ship wrecks under the ocean. It was beautiful everywhere and the people were so happy and extremely nice. It was great, we'd highly recommend it as a place to visit sometime, and it has something for everyone!

We both agree that our favourite activity was the scuba diving. We took to it like ducks to water! We ended up doing quite alot, but I think we'd have been happy to do even more if we could have! We dove in 5 of the 7 countries we visited, and I think we both enjoyed the Maldives the most (it was strictly a diving visit), and Coron in the Philippines second best which was the first place we dove and where we got to see all the wrecks.

How long were we gone? 
We left Sunday March 30th, and returned home Thursday July 3rd. For a total of 96 days!

Where did we stay?
In total we had 95 nights:
69 nights in hotels or guesthouses
nights on boats
nights on island camps with Tao
nights in unheated dorms on Mt Kinabalu
nights in an AirBnb room
nights in a hut on Kanawa Island - 1 with cockroaches
nights in a shared hut in the jungle of Borneo
nights in a freezing cold bus
nights on planes crossing the Pacific Ocean
night in a traditional Ifugao hut in the Philippines

10 nights were spent sleeping outside with only a roof and a mosquito net
25 nights were spent with no air conditioning

How many currencies did we use? 
We used 8 currencies during our trip. Philippine Peso, Malaysian Ringgit, Indonesian Rupiah, Singapore Dollar, Maldivian Ruffiyaa, Cambodian Riel and US dollars were used in Cambodia also. The most fun one was the Indonesian Rupiah which has an exchange rate of about 10 000 to 1, so you get to carry millions with you!

Some other fun facts:

18 - Number of flights we took
8 - Unesco World Heritage Sites we visited
3 - Days stranded in Labjuan Bajo by the eruption of the Sangiang Api in Indonesia

35 - Number of days we spent at least an hour swimming in an ocean
69 - Number of Dives we did
61 hours - Number of hours we spent underwater scuba diving
10 - Shipwrecks we dove in and around
3 - Bodies of water we dove in - South China Sea, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Thailand

20 - Number of different islands we visited
8 hours -  How long we were stranded on a deserted island

32lbs - How much weight we lost in total on the trip!
21 lbs - How much heavier our bags got by the end of the trip

7 - Types of sharks we dove with!
4 - Number of Komodo Dragons we saw
2 - Number of whale sharks we got to swim with

17.5 hours - Time spent actually climbing and descending Mt. Kinabalu
8454 ft - How high we climbed at Mt. Kinabalu

3 - Number of holes in one Laura got at Angkor Wat Mini Putt! (Jerome won overall though)
14 - Number of paper and audiobooks we finished
115 - Cryptograms Laura solved on the trip