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Initially Indonesia wasn’t on my summer travel plan. But while looking for the cheapest way to explore Australia and surroundings, I found out I could use Indonesia as a sort of base. My ticket from the US was round trip Dallas to Jakarta. Then I got several one way tickets to the other countries I visited.
Jakarta: The first stop on my 10 week summer travel. I arrived past midnight. It was 1am when I arrived at the hostel, after the check in process, I went to bed. I woke 7 hours later for breakfast. I decided I needed a nap so I took one. I didn’t wake up until 7pm! I had dinner and went back to bed. I pretty much slept the tiredness that comes with 21 hours of traveling and changing time zones.
Day 2: I got picked up at 8am by a guide from Jakarta Holiday. There was another person on the tour as well. We explored several places in Jakarta including the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia, the oldest building in Jakarta, oldest café and the MONA monument. We stopped for lunch where we had street food and ice cream from the oldest ice-cream parlor in Jakarta.
In the evening, I met up with a friend from East Timor at Grand Indonesia – a mega mall in Jakarta for dinner.
Day 3: I flew out to Sydney, Australia with AirAsia. Sydney is only a 6 hours flight from Bali but because I was in Jakarta so I had to fly to Bali first then connect to Sydney. The one way ticket was cheap. AirAsia is a low cost airline like Spirit Airline or Ryan Air.
I returned to Indonesia 6 weeks later but to Bali this time around. I flew in from Dili, East Timor – just a two hour flight.
In Bali, I didn’t do all the things you are suppose to do. I didn’t ride an elephant, I didn’t go to the volcano, and I didn’t do ANY yoga. I had two goals for Bali – Sekumpul Waterfalls and Spa. Sekumpul waterfalls is a combination of 7 falls in the forest. And spa because I wanted to pamper myself.
Day 1 and 2, I just explore the main street/city center. Lots of temples to see, lots of things to buy. I probably over-ate my first two days 🙂 lol. I also bought 6 item of clothing (the two dresses in pics on this post are from Bali).
Day 3, I rented a car with driver service. We went to Singaraja – almost two hours from Ubud. The plan was to see two waterfalls (Sekumpul & Gitgit), and maybe a palace. At least, that was what I thought I agreed to pay for along with a English speaking guide. The tour company sent the guide to pick me up, we proceeded to Singaraja, Gitgit Waterfalls was the first stop. Beautiful, lot of steps to climb on your way up. You actually don’t need a guide here, the trails to the waterfalls are marked and easy to navigate.
After this, I assumed we were heading to Sekumpul but the guide/driver acted like he didn’t know what I was talking about. I insisted, then he asked someone. They spoke in the local language which I don’t understand. He came back and told me Sekumpul was 3 hours away. That didn’t sound right. I was SUPER pissed. I let it go, I would never recommend them.
We left to the Lake Temple. Massive load of tourists. There, 6 different people asked to take pictures with me. They asked nicely and I said yes. I always wonder what they do with the pictures anyway. After the lake temple, we started making our way back to Ubud. Long ride back. In Ubud, we stopped at an agrotourism place where I was educated on different types of tea and coffee. They showed us Luwak coffee, special because the animal swallows the seed, poops it out then they clean and process it. I didn’t try it. I don’t drink Coffee.
I searched for another tour operator to take me to Sekumpul. I found one and made arrangement for the next day. I also called a spa place to book an appointment. The reviews on TripAdvisor was great.
Day four in Ubud, Bali – I made the trip to Sekumpul. After the 1.5 hour drive from Ubud, you arrive at Sekempul. There you have the option of taking a motorcycle taxi or walking the whole trail. You can also select to have a guide. I paid for the guide and motorcycle taxi – the cost for that was 130,000IDR (or USD$10). I’m glad I went with that option. The motorcycle ride was about 15 minutes long then you start walking down. You cross a bridge then walk in the pool from the falls to get to the actual waterfalls. The first part, you get to see 4 waterfalls.
Then you walk to back and take a turning to where the other falls are located. The walk back was painful. LOTS of steps to climb and uphill walking. I stopped several times to catch my breath. Also I didn’t wear the right shoes, I had on a fashionable sandals that I had to take off because it was apparent I would fall. Yup, I walked in the water barefooted, way better than falling with my slippery sandals.
When we got to where the motorcycle was parked, I tried some local pancakes from the women selling. I am not adventurous with food so this was a big deal for me. The pancakes actually tasted great, green in color and served with coconut and honey – delicious!
I went to the spa later in the evening. I booked a package that included massage and pedicure. To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the service. Oh well, I paid equivalent of USD$20 for a 2hour 15 minute service so no big deal.
Day 5, I got to sleep in a bit. My flight was at 2pm so I left Ubud around 11am. On getting to the airport, flight was delayed for 2 hours. It didn’t bother me because I had a long layover in Kuala Lumpur on my way to Sri Lanka.
5 Things About Indonesia
- Although Jakarta is not your regular tourist destination, don’t sleep on it. Explore for a day or two before setting out to other destinations in the country.
- Choose your location in Bali wisely. Do you want the beach or are you more keen on cultural? Those types of questions will help you decide where to stay in Bali. I love cultural stuffs so I choose Ubud – the cultural capital of Bali.
- You don’t have to book anything in advance. There are tour operator galore when you arrive and you can compare prices. If you are traveling in a group or with someone else, it might be cheaper to rent a car service that comes with a driver.
- Everyone and their mama has an hostel, homestay, or bed & breakfast. You don’t have to share rooms in an hostel here. Homestay or the small B&B has reasonable priced private rooms with bathroom en-suite, free wifi and free breakfast. I paid USD$15/night for a private room with bathroom en-suite, free wifi & breakfast and it was walking distance to Ubud center. I booked it via Airbnb, check it out here.
- The energy in Bali is dope. The ambiance is amazing. You can be yourself here. Dress anyhow you want. No judgement passed. That was what I loved most about Ubud. The part I didn’t like is everyone will hustle you to buy something from them, take a tour with them, use their taxi service. Sometimes, it gets too much.
To be honest, I only knew about Timor Leste (East Timor) in 2011 when a girl from there enrolled in the graduate program I was pursuing. It’s been on my travel list since then. Timor Leste is a new sovereign country, gained its freedom in 1999. It was a Portuguese colony from the 16th century up until 1975. Indonesia occupied the country from 1975 until 1999. The UN took over until 2002 when Timor Leste became an independent country.
It wasn’t a peaceful occupation, there was an active conflict between the Indonesian military and the Timor separationists. The official languages in Timor Leste today are Portuguese and Tetum, with Indonesian and English regarded as working languages. So it is not surprising that many Timor Leste citizens grow up speaking 3-4 languages (English, Portuguese, Tetum and Indonesian). The friend I visited speaks all four plus French. Isn’t that awesome! You can read a brief history on Timor Leste on BBC country profile.
Back to my trip, I flew into Dili (the capital) from Darwin, Australia. I didn’t have anything planned for this trip, I was just going to go with the flow. I arrived late in the afternoon, my friend Gabi aka Gabster picked me up from the airport. We later had dinner with two of her friends. We went to a Korean restaurant. Good food and great conversation. One of her friends was opening up a café and invited me to come and chat with her employees so they can practice their English.
Day two in Dili, I went to the Resistance Museum. Very informative and sad at the same time, the museum covers the struggle for independence during the Indonesian occupation of Timor Leste. It show a replica of underground hiding cell for the members of the separationist movement who were hunted by the Indonesian military. It tells the story of struggle, minor victories, death, grief and much more. Highly recommended. It reminded me of the Genocide Museum in Kigali, Rwanda.
I asked one of the museum staff to call a taxi for me because my phone was acting up. I tried to give her some money to buy more airtime since I used up some of hers (phones are similar to prepaid phone where you have to top up on data plan and airtime minutes) but she refused to accept, saying she just helped me. By the way, that’s one type of love I received from people in Timor Leste.
I took the taxi to the café that Gabster’s friend was opening up. I pretty much spent the rest of the day there. They were cooking lunch when I arrived, they explained how they made it and had lots of questions for me. Later we role played how they were going to serve customers and taking orders. At the end of the day, my admiration for entrepreneurs was re-ignited.
The following day I took the boat to Atauro – another Island in Timor Leste. The sea was very rough, we all got drained in water and the journey took three hours (instead of 1.5 hour). It was scary but we made it. We arrived at Barry’s Eco Lodge. I was pretty nervous because I didn’t know what to expect from the Eco Lodge. Surprisingly, it was basic but clean and welcoming. Electricity is limited so they rely on solar energy which powers the fan and light in your room. Each room comes with a hammock J.
I loved it so much there that I extended my stay by another day. While in Atauro, I visited Adara aka the Mermaid’s town. Adara is on the other side of Beloi (where I was lodging in Atauro). To get there, you can either take a 45mins speedboat for USD$80 or utilize a car ride and walk 2 hours. We took the second option, three of us, all teachers (from Melbourne, Australia; LA, USA & South Texas, USA). The jeep dropped us off where the road stopped, we then had to walk downhill for 1.5 hours. Not bad, except for a part you had to practically crawl down. After that, it’s a 30 minute walk on the beach.
We got to Adara, beautiful! I chilled in the hammock. We had lunch at Mario’s and headed back to Beloi around 1.15pm. By then, it was super hot. The 30 minute walk on the beach was painful. Equally painful was most of the walk uphill, I hated the part you had to climb the rocks. The last 25 minutes was good, pretty much just walking on a flat surface with a bit of shade. I took a shower then a nap in the hammock when we got back.
Adara is nicknamed The Mermaid’s Town because of the women divers that live there. The local women all dive and spear fish. They dive without oxygen tank, just eye googles. Check out a video on the women divers of Adara here.
Other things I did while in Atauro was visiting Boneca and Empresa Di’ak. Both organizations work with local women and in community development. At Boneca, women make dolls, purses, laptop bag, shirts and so on. With Empresa Di’ak, they sell pottery product made by local women, they also process seaweed, raise ducks and plant garden.
David Palazon made a movie featuring Boneca, pretty funny. You can watch it here. I returned to Dili on Saturday afternoon with the public ferry. Saturday is the market day in Atauro so I got to check that out before leaving.
On Sunday, I went to Cristo Rei (Christ the King), the climb up wasn’t so bad. According to Wikipedia, the stairs are up to 500. I didn’t count them, I was too busy trying to catch my breath. The view is amazing so it’s all worth it. Glad we went in the evening when the sun was setting. During the day would have been too hot. On my last night, I watched the sun set with Gabster –my friend at a beach side restaurant.
Timor Leste is more than Dili and Atauro, there are other amazing part of the country I didn’t get to see. But that’s okay, I will be back. This visit was just a glimpse into this hidden paradise.
5 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Timor Leste
- The currency in Timor Leste is the US Dollars however US issued coins are not accepted.
- Most people speak four languages – Tetum, Portuguese, English and Indonesian
- It’s a fairly new country, their founding fathers are alive.
- Tourism infrastructure is so limited which makes traveling in Timor Leste not cheap.
- Citizens of Timor Leste are fanatic of the Portugal Soccer team, they go real crazy over Portugal. Watch the reaction when Portugal won the match with France on July 11th, 2016 here. Their cheers won me up that Monday morning.
Commonly confused as a country in Africa (because of Guinea I guess), Papau New Guinea (PNG) is actually in the South Pacific (Oceania continent). It’s less than 2 hours flight from Cairns, Australia. This is not a tourist destination; the majority of folks don’t vacation here. This is probably a result of PNG not enjoying a good reputation plus there is barely any tourist infrastructure in place. This makes hotels pretty expensive since they cater to business travelers. PNG is rich in petroleum.
Why did I decide to vacation here? Good question. As a child, I watched something that featured PNG and Solomon Island, since then, I’ve been obsessed with the two countries. When the opportunity came around to visit, I decided to act on it. I felt like since I was traveling in the Pacific, I might as well fulfil a childhood dream. I couldn’t add Solomon Island on this trip because the flight were ridiculously expensive for me. Still on my list though #Goals.
Anyways, I flew into Port Moresby (aka POM or Mosby) a day later than planned due to delayed then cancelled flight.
Day 1: I got picked up via a driver my Airbnb host sent. It was early afternoon and super HOT & humid. I loved the view from my bedroom. I called a taxi (host left number for one) to go to the supermarket. Similar to most developing countries, the big supermarket is located in the mall. I did some grocery shopping – simple stuff like bread, butter, water and yogurt (I don’t cook on vacations).
I also negotiated with the taxi for the next day. I wanted to explore without dealing with public transport.
Day 2: Dedicated to exploring Mosby, I left the house around 11.30am. We visited the Nature’s park where they had exhibit of different species in the Kangaroo family. They also have a cultural section and exhibit of birds. The walking trail is pleasant. Proceeded to the Parliament house, the building is has interesting angle to it. I could not capture the beauty with my phone camera sadly.
The museum was the next stop. The museum is officially closed (no funding L) but they will show you around if you show up there. The museum has great varieties of the various ethnicities of PNG. The museum richness is similar to that of Auckland’s museum in terms of south pacific culture.
We went by the national university where some students were killed during a protest against the prime minister two weeks before my visit. My driver took me to a local roadside restaurant to try some local food. It seems that the food is heavy of cassava.
The Mosby tour ended at a small craft market in Boroko area of Mosby. Boroko is an historic neighborhood in Mosby. I got some earrings.
Day 3: I decided I needed to sleep in. I was ready to explore by early afternoon. I was excited because we were going to see Rouna Waterfalls. It is located outside the city. We drove for about an hour, the roads gets curvy once you leave the city. The ride is actually beautiful. We finally get to the waterfalls to discover it is closed off to visitors L. I could only admire it from a distance. I went back to Mosby not too pleased. Went to the Ela beach area, the only beach in Mosby.
Day 4: My flight was in the early afternoon so I had time to sleep in.
Should you visit Papau New Guinea? I will say yes. You however need to plan well.
5 Things You Should know about Papau New Guinea Before You Visit
- Hotels are ridiculously expensive in Port Moresby so you might want to consider Airbnb.
- It makes so much sense to arrange your taxi with your hotel or Airbnb host beforehand.
- PNG is not your typical tourist destination hence the need to plan very careful before you visit.
- Port Moresby is just like any capital city, not much to see in terms of tourist sites. Those beautiful beaches are not in Port Moresby but on other parts of the island that might require you to fly into.
- Use a tour guide. Tourist infrastructure is limited thus making tour guide your best option.
I had no expectations for this trip. It ended up being a pleasant surprise. I visited only two cities in the North Island. The South Island is suppose to be amazing. I didn’t go because I had just one week in New Zealand.
The New Zealand customs is super strick about what you bring into the country. Don’t think of lying on the customs forms, it’s not worth it. I saw them throughly search people’s luggage and take stuffs to examine.
I arrived late evening and took the Skybus (airport shuttle) to the Airbnb place I would be staying. I was dropped off right in front of the apartment. The apartment was comfortable and super clean. My host is amazing.
Day 2: I had prebooked a 24 hours pass Hop On Hop Off bus. I got to the pick up point around 12noon. I got off at the Mt. Eden and Skytower stop. Mt. Eden has an amazing view of Auckland and offcourse the skytower provides a 360 degree view of the city.
The Hop On Hop Off is very limited during the winter. They operate from 10am to 3pm and run only on hourly basis. You wouldn’t get to see more than 4 places if you start at 10am, making the 24 hours pass not worth it.
I explored Queens Street, lots of name brand stores, restaurants, parks, ice cream/pastry places. Simply so much to see and do.
Day 3: I was suppose to go on a tour with Grayline tour but they had some operational issues so they put me on a tour with Bush and Beach. The tour started in the morning with Auckland City Highlights – we stopped at Mt. Victoria – great view of the city, winter gardens at the Auckland Museum. The café has a lovely ambience.
In the Afternoon, we drove 30 minutes out of Auckland to Waitakere Ranges. We stopped at a bakery for quick lunch. We all got some type of pie (chicken, veggie, beef or fish) because they tour guides recommended it. I had the fish pie and it so good.
We proceeded to the rain forest where we had a great walking tour through the rainforest and saw a waterfall. It was an eventful day overall.
Day 4: I had a 1pm bus to Rotorua so I slept in. It was only a 15 minutes walk from my Airbnb to the bus station but I was too lazy to walk with my luggage so I got uber for NZ$6. The bus (Manabus) was so cheap, they are similar to Mega bus or Bolt bus in the US. There’s also wifi on the bus.
We arrived in Rotorua at 5.30pm, I walked to my hostel – a 20 minutes walk. The hostel – Crash Palace was great. I had a private room J. The toilet and bathroom was extremely clean J. I choose a great hostel J. I had dinner and just chilled. Rotorua was way colder than Auckland. I was okay staying indoors.
Day 5: I slept in. Explored Rotorua a bit and went to Te Puia. I had book the day and night pass here. I arrived very early because I didn’t read the time on the confirmation email L. Te Puia is a Maori cultural centre. The guides are all Maori or of Maori descent. The guided tour started at 4.30pm. We were shown a traditional house, we saw eruption from the geyser and sat on heated stairs. We learned some aspects of the Maori culture and traditions.
At 5.30pm, we were handed over to the guide for the night pass. After checking out the gift shop, we were shown were the dinner was being prepared. They used an underground oven just like in Fiji. We were given a welcoming ceremony (very similar to that in Fiji & Samoa). The ceremony offcourse ended with an Haka performance. The whole cultural performance was insightful and beautiful. I loved it. You can watch the part of the cultural performance here.
The tour ended with Maori story telling outdoor on natural heated stairs with a cup of hot chocolate. The stairs are naturally heated, some with steam gusting out of it. Not sure of the scientific explanation. We were dropped off to our respective accommodation around 8.45pm.
Day 6: My bus back to Auckland was at 11.55am but we didn’t leave until 12.30pm. Arrived in Auckland around 4.30pm and took an uber to my Airbnb. I used a different Airbnb this time around because it was closer to the airport. Big mistake. The Skybus (airport shuttle) doesn’t go to that area. I would have been better off staying in the city center like my first Airbnb. Oh well. Too late now.
Didn’t too anything after I arrived at the Airbnb because it was far away from the city center and I would have to take a taxi or uber.
Day 7: I slept in and decided to check out the Auckland Museum. Glad I did. They had great exhitibition on Maori culture, Polynesian arts among others. I also purchased the cultural performance. Amazing. You can watch a part of the cultural performance here and the Haka here.
After the museum, I walked 20 minutes to the city center. I was craving Mexican food and I remember seeing one by the Skytower. I went there. The tacos were decent. I later got an uber back to my Airbnb. I packed since my flight was at 6.45am.
Day 8: Throughout the night, I got emails and text from the airline. The flight was delayed to 8.20am so I didn’t go to the airport until 6.45am. When I got there, I was told I wouldn’t make my connecting flight so they rebook me on the 6.45am flight for the next day. They also gave me a breakfast vocher, hotel and food vocher for the hotel.
I took the shuttle to Hotel Grande and I took a long nap. I decided to simply chill and do nothing for the day. Relaxing is an understatement.
Day 9: Made it to the airport. Flight went smoothly without delays.
P.S, Kiwi is a nickname for people from New Zealand. The national bird is also a Kiwi – a flightless bird in danger of extinction. I saw one in Te Puia, Rotorua, we were not allowed to take pictures of it.
New Zealnad: 5 Things
- Definitely, if you have time in New Zealand, I’ve heard it is worth checking out the South Islands and other places in North island.
- Although renting a car will give you greater flexibility, you can take the bus. Manabus or Naked Bus have prices as low as $1 if purchased well in advance.
- Learn about the Maori culture. The Auckland museum and Te Puia in Rotorua are some of the places you can go to. Keep in mind that Rotorua has many options to learn about the Maori culture.
- Don’t miss out on Asian food. Varieties of Asian restaurants to choose from. You wouldn’t regret it.
- If you are around when the All Blacks are playing, do not miss it. Kiwis are super proud of their Rudgy team. Even if they are not playing, watch a live rudgy game if you can.
This was another trip that was difficult to plan. There wasn’t much information online. I wanted to stay in the capital – Apia and explore the island from there. However, the review for hotels in my price range were awful and I couldn’t afford the higher priced hotels.
So I settled for a place two hours away from Apia – the capital. The place – Taufua Beach Fales has an amazing reputation and the beaches in the area are great. When I booked this beach fale, I knew I was opening up my mind to try something new and get out of my comfort zone.
Day One: Arrived around 4pm, got a sim card at the airport and went with the airport pick up person sent by the beach fale. We started on the long ride to Taufua. The road were great for the most part. We arrived at the fale just in time for dinner. All meals are provided by the fale at a set time, family style.
I met lot of people at the dinner table from various countries. There was an Argentian young couple doing one year holiday-working visa program in New Zealand. They pick fruits for a few months then travel for a few months. They did one year in Australia before going to New Zealand. Met another couple – guy from USA (Florida) and girl from the Uk. Also doing the same thing but not picking fruits. I drew some inspiration from their stories and stored up a few ideas for future references.
The staffs at Taufau are super amazing!
Jade (I met her in Fiji) messages me about a Rudgy game the next day. I told her sure, everyone at my beach fale was going. She said she would try and get tickets.
Day Two: Met a group of people from New Zealand at breakfast. They asked for my plans for the day, I told them I would be going to town and maybe see the ganme if my friend Jade is able to get ticket. They said they were going to town as well for the game. They offered me a ride since I didn’t rent a car and I was going to take a taxi to town. How nice of them, they saved me USD$58 :).
Around 11am, we head out to town. On own way, we stopped to see the Papapapitan Waterfalls and the Bahia Temple. We also stopped for lunch at a cool rusti place.
We get to the stadium around 2.45pm. We split ways without exchanging contact hahaha (silly). I met up with Jade and we proceeded to our seat. The game started promptly at 3pm with the national athem of the two countries – Samoa and Rep. of Georgia. This was going to be my first Rudgy game and I had no (still don’t) clue about the rules of the game. Still it was exciting. The game ended up in a draw. I decided to go to dinner with Jade since I couldn’t get in touch with the folks I came to town with.
We went to a Chinese place, the food was so much!! I later got a taxi back to my fale. Saturday night at my fale is ‘FiaFia Night’ – which simply means a cultural performance. They peformed cultural dances including the fire dance which was tres impressive! The men performing were shirtless and built. The women in the audience paid 100% attention :). The show ended with a Haka performance. Great way to end the night. You can watch the video on FiaFia Night here and the Fire dance here on my YouTube page .
Day Three: On Friday, I had contacted Polynesia Xplorer for a possible tour on the island (Upolu) I was in. I had assumed the beach fale would have their own organized tour but I was told since most guest at the fale rented a vechicle, there was no need for organizimg a tour. Well on Sat, I confirmed with Beatrice from Polynesian Xplorer for a tour today (Sunday).
She came for me after breakfast. We clicked and it felt like we had known each other for a long time. We started of at Sopoaga Waterfalls where she showed me how they break open coconut and squeeze out the milk with a sponge. After that we went to To Sua Trench (a volcanic eruption I believe). It was beautiful, pictures can not do it justice. To get to the water, you will have to go down this really steep stairs. I was beyond nervous but Beatrice convinced me and encourgaged me all the way down.
The tour proceeded to another watefall –Togitogiga Waterfalls- where you could swim. The tour ended at Fao Fao Beach Fale where we had a late lunch . The tour wasn’t exactly cheap for a solo traveller but it was all worth it.
Day Four: I decided to explore the other island in Samoa called Savaii island. To get there, I had to take an early morning (6am) taxi to town (Apia) then a hour ferry. When I arrived at Savaii, I went straight to Tourist Office which is just a 5 mins walk from the ferry whart. I wanted to get an idea of taxi prices for places I would like to visit. They gave me a price range and I got a taxi to take me to three location and back to the whart for 200 Samoan Talas (USD$78). By the way, you will be hustled by several taxi drivers. Ignore them and walk to the tourist office.
We went to the Lava Field first – it took us about an hour to get there. It used to be a village, there was an eruption and lava slowly took over the village. Most people were able to get out alive. Now, you can walk around and see the damage the lava caused. We went to the Blowholes afterwards, on the other side of town so almost an hour to get there as well. You still had to walk 1 mile or so from the beach car park. I don’t really know the scientific explanation for blowholes, you can read it here. There is a big eruption of water from several holes in the rocks – that’s what the blowholes looked like. Fascinating!
Last we went to a waterfalls, Afu Aau Waterfalls. Also a good walking distance from the car park. You can swim there, the water is pretty cold. After that, I wanted to get lunch before going to the whart. The ferry left 30 minutes late. It took us longer to get to Upolu Island, about 2 hours because the ferry was the slow one. I got back to the Taufau Beach Fale around 7.30pm.
Day Five: The same folks from New Zealand offered me a ride to the airport in Apia because they were going sightseeing in town. We left around 11am. The flight to New Zealand was overbooked and they needed volunteers to give up their seat. I was tempted to take up that offer since they were going to pay for the hotel and give a NZ$500 voucher. I didn’t volunteer L because I was already not spending much time in New Zealand and I didn’t want to shorten my stay any further.
Four Things You Need To Know About Samoa
- Rent a car, it will save you taxi fares especially if you are staying at one of the beach fales away from Apia.
- Most people don’t speak English here (unlike Fiji) so there will be a language barrier.
- Make sure to attend a FiaFia night. You will be impressed.
- Get a sim card and internet data on it. Most hotels or fales will not have wifi
P.S., Talofa means hello in the Samoan language.
I knew I would love Fiji and I was right. While planning my accommodation, I was initially going to stay with a couchsurfer because I felt Fiji might be one of those countries where you need someone from there to show you around in order to have a great time. However as my trip got closer, I didn’t feel like staying with anyone and I was skeptical of the hostels I saw on hostelworld. My thinking was that an hostel can’t be good in Fiji because Fiji is luxurious. Boy, was I wrong.
Anyways my initial plan was to stay at a resort for 2 nights, go on a overnight tour and return to the resort for my last night. I also wanted to explore the Nadi area without navigating public transport, so I searched for an affordable tour online. I found one via TripAdvisor – ToursByLocals, I contacted Ryan and we agreed on a price. I also asked him to pick me up from the airport since his airport transfer rate was cheaper than the resort rate. By the way, I would recommend Ryan of ToursByLocal. As always, agreed on price and what is included in the package beforehand. This prevents misunderstanding.
Day 1: I got picked up from the airport. The distance from the airport in Nadi is not far from Denarau – where the resort is located. Denarau Island is reclaimed land and houses several resorts like Sofitel, Hilton, Best western and so on. A few residential houses are also in Denarau. Since my flight got in pretty late, I went to bed shortly after arriving at my resort.
Day 2: I woke up to amazing view. Breakfast was great. My city tour with Ryan started around 11am. We went to a local village, then the Hindu Temple. The temple is colorful and beautiful. After that, we proceeded to the local market where I got to try Kava for the first time. Kava is a traditional ceremonial drink in Fiji made from root of a herbal plant. It has no sweet taste and your tongue feels numbs afterwards. There is also a process to the Kava ceremony. It is rude to decline the first kava drink given to you by your host. When given to you, you clap once and say ‘Bula’ (warm greetings), you drink it then clap three times and say Vinaka (thank you). You can watch the video of the man preparing the Kava drink here.
After the local market, we went to a botanical garden surrounded by a mountain that looks like a two sleeping giants hence the name of the garden – The Garden of the Sleeping Giant. The garden is beautiful and have a walking trail. If you are not into gardens, you can skip it. The last site for the day was the Mud pool and hot springs. Here, your inner child comes out. You rub mud on your body, let it dry and get into a slightly muddy water to rinse off. You then go into three other pools (hot spring) to rinse off. I opted for a 30mins massage afterwards – it was good. Don’t compared the hot springs to that of Guatemala. You wouldn’t be impressed if you do.
Before returning to the resort, I had a delicious dinner at a local restaurant – Tu’s Place. Most delicious food I ate in Fiji.
Day 3: I was suppose to go on an overnight trip with pick up at 6.45am. Somehow I managed to miss the pick up. I called 10mins after the pick up time but they couldn’t come back. Oh well. I managed to get on a similar tour but not overnight for the following day. I decided to move to one of the hostels (saving money). I choose Bamboo House – the online review was great and locals said it was a better choice for hostel. The view at Bamboo is great. They have a restaurant, swimming pool, tour desk and bar on site. I stayed in a female dorm with bathroom en-suite. I paid USD$15/night. They do have private room available. I think the price is USD$30/night. Affordable!!.
I just chilled at the beach. The hostel is right on the beach.
Day 4: I was picked up at 6.45am for the tour. The tour starts in Namosi near the Navau river which is about 2 hours away from Nadi. We picked up people from various resorts on our way there. Once there, we boarded a boat to the first stop of the tour. The boat ride was about 45 minutes, we finally got to the waterfalls – stunning!. After the waterfalls, we got on a bamboo rafting for a few minutes before continuing the tour to a village at the Namosi highlands.
At the village, we were shown where our lunch was being prepared – underground oven called a lovo! We were led into the village’s community center where a welcoming ceremony was performed. You can watch the ceremony here. After that, we had lunch – tasty! The women of the village have a great varieties of arts & craft. I got some earrings.
Eventful day it was. We made the long ride back to Nadi. At the hostel, I joined some local guys and folks staying at the hostel for Kava and music.
Day 5: Oh, on day 3, I met Jade. She was staying at the hostel and we found out we were both going to Samoa on the same day. I rode with Jade in the afternoon to the airport. The check in line was pretty long.
5 Things I Learned from Fiji:
- I know most picture we see of Fiji smells LUXURY!!!! It doesn’t have to be. There are other types of accommodation such as mid-range and budget resort an hour or so away from Nadi/Denarau, Airbnb and Hostels.
- Renting a car will give you better flexibility to see the country.
- You don’t have to book your tours in advance. Actually, it’s better and might be cheaper not to. Your resort, hotel, Airbnb and hostel all have a travel/tour desk where you have varieties to pick from or create your own. The prices are mostly better than online ones.
- Try the Kava. It wouldn’t kill you.
- You don’t need a lover, spouse, significant other to enjoy Fiji. You can enjoy it as a solo traveler :).
P.s, Bula is a greeting in the Fijian language.
Australia has been a dream destination for me for several years now so last summer, I started planning my epic trip. I knew it wouldn’t be cheap like a budget travel to say South America but I was determined to make it as budget friendly as possible. Planning this trip was overwhelming for me because I got several feedback from people that have visited on what to do.
So in the end, you have to stay true to yourself and figure out what you actually enjoy doing or what activities you don’t mind trying. I planned what cities I was going to visit based on interest and ticket prices. I knew I wasn’t spending ‘enough’ time in some places, my philosophy in traveling is ‘You don’t have to visit all ‘MUST SEEs’ in one trip,’ you can always come back to said country.
Anyways, enjoy my itinerary in Australia.
Sydney: I arrived on June 1st from Jakarta, Indonesia. I had an incredibly horrible immigration experience at the Sydney airport. I was questioned for 2 hours, I answered the same questions AGAIN & AGAIN! They demanded to see my bank account details so I was given a computer to log into my online banking account. He demanded my phone password, went away with my phone, photocopied my driver’s license. I was later collected my the customs officer who seem like a genuinely good person. He asked me if I wanted to know why I was being questioned,I said yes. He said it was suspicious for a solo female traveler to travel like I do. SMH!!! Enough with the immigration experience.
I got to my hostel at around 12.30pm. I planned on relaxing my first day in Sydney but my morning experience pissed me off so I decided to explore. I went to the city center to join a Free Walking Tour. The tour was great, we hit all the major sights around the CBD area. The tour ended at Circula Quay where you could see the Sydney bridge and Opera House.
Day 2: I went on a tour to the Blue Mountains with Sightseeing Tours Australia. With this tour, we went to the Scenic world where you can ride world’s steepest scenic railway (that was fun by the way). We stopped at a beautiful small town – Leura – for lunch. We stopped at several other places as well including a waterfall. The tour guide tried very hard to take us to places where we could spot Kangaroos. We were lucky, we saw a few. Check out the video here or click the link at the end of the blog post. Note, the video is not the best but you can still get excited.
Day 3: I had intended on taking the ferry to Manly for the day, however, it rained non-stop. I stayed in bed most of the day, only getting up for lunch and dinner. Good day in bed it was :).
Day 4: Still raining all day. The local news reported the city was having historic flooding. In an attempt not to stay in bed like the previous day, I tried going to the city centre to catch up with another free walking tour. That didn’t happen y’all, I wasn’t feeling the combination of rain + cold so I decided to go to a nearby Café – Café Hernandez.
Day 5: Departed Sydney for warmer climate (Fiji)
I returned to Australia at the end of June (the 25th). I arrived to this pleasant town called Cairns. Weather was on point :). Immigration experience was a breeze :). I stayed in cool hostel here in Cairns – JJ Backpackers. It’s a small town, I was able to explore the whole downtown area the same day I arrived.
Day 2: I went on a day tour to the Taberlands (mountains) with the Wallaby tour. The tour was amazing mostly because we got to see two waterfalls :). With the tour, we visited the oldest tree in Australia (500 years) and a Volcanic Crater Lake formed by a volcanic eruption. There is also an amazing trail around the lake, beautiful 45 mins walk around the lake. Next we went to Millaa Millaa Waterfalls, Dinners Falls where we saw a tree kangaroo. Apparently they are very difficult to spot so we were extremely lucky to have seen one. How splendid!
Day 3: Slept in. Walked along the main street. Departed Cairns for Melbourne in the late evening
I arrived very late at night, had to wait 45mins for my shuttle to arrive. Got to my hostel a little after midnight. My hostel has a great name by the way – The Nunnery. On getting to my three bed-dorm room, I noticed I was the only girl, the other two were males. Heart skipped a bit (I lie, a lot). They were sleeping so maybe no problem. Went to bed.
Day 2: Asked the ‘Nuns’ to change my room because I wasn’t comfortable with my current. They were great about it, changed me to an all female dorm. I went to the downtown area to explore. Federation square and the Yarra river caught my attention. I later went to dinner with an American girl from my room.
Day 3: Slept in :). I booked a walking tour with Melbourne by Foot – so at noon, I strolled to the meet up point. The tour was great – 3 hours. He showed and schooled us on the history behind the city, we stopped at historic buildings, arcades, laneways, art alleys and the river. The laneways are beautiful – small alleys lined with cafes, bars and restaurants.
I made it to the Eureka Skytower in time to watch the sunset – simply beautiful. The Skydesk is the tallest building in Melbourne. On the 88th floor, you get a 360 view of the city. Don’t miss it. While enjoying the view, I met a sister from Zimbabwe. She didn’t believe I was Nigerian because my name – Kunbi – is a Zimbabwean name. She was visiting with her family from the Uk where they currently leave. We exchanged contact info but I most likely will not keep in touch because she is a world venture person. I call them the Jehovah Witness of Travel.
Day 4: I left for my Great Ocean Road tour at 6.45am with Bunyip tours. Tres early! Sadly, the weather sucked really bad this day. The great ocean road is a curvy road with coastal view – beautiful on a great weather day but misty on rainy days. I slept for the first hour of the ride :). We stopped at a bird place where colorful local bird are plentiful. I admired them from the café in front of the tree. Too cold and raining to be playing with birds. Afterwards we went to a lighthouse where we had lunch. The lighthouse wasn’t really a tall one so climbing the stairs was not stressful. However, once you get to the top, it was VERY windy. Great view though.
We stopped at the 12 apostles. Thankfully, it stopped raining. I opted for the helicopher scenic flight based on recommendation from my friend Colleen. You can read her post here. I was nervous because me and height aren’t great friends. The pilot was super professional and eased my fears. That was my highlight for the day.
We went to Locd Ard George next, it’s 5 minutes drive from the 12 apostles. I was only able to see two out of the three lookout before it started raining HARD. We left and decided not to go to the last stop on the tour because the rain was impossible. We got back to Melbourne around 7.15pm after a 2.5hour drive.
I went straight to bed.
Day 5: Slept in. Decided to join the 2.30pm Free Walking Tour. Glad I did. It was very different from the walking tour I did two days before. Different perspective, different places. I felt I had a better overview of Melbourne after participating on the two walking tours. It was on this tour I was made aware of the different ethnic communities for example, we went to Chinatown and the guide told us there was little Africa, little Italy and so on. I would have loved to visit those neighborhood.
Late evening, I went to Brunswick Street in the Frizroy area – the street is lined up with restaurants and bars. Great nightlife spot. I met up with an old friend and his girlfriend. See, the beautiful part of traveling is meeting up with folks you met while traveling. I met this friend in Panama in December 2009. Amazing, right?
Day 6: Departed Melbourne at 8am which meant early morning :(.
Arrived in Darwin at 12 noon and got to my Airbnb an hour later. It felt glad to be in a private room in a real house. Getting tired of hostels. Walked around. Darwin is a small town. Oh, did I forget, the weather is amazing. A break from the cold Melbourne.
I attempted to book a tour but their website was giving me an error message. Decided that was a sign to just chill in Darwin. No activities.
Day 2: Slept in. Went to the laundry mat to do my laundry. Went to the Waterfront area, read and people watched. Had dinner at a Mexican place – decent.
Day 3: last day in Darwin and Australia. Mixed feelings. Flight is late in the afternoon so I had the morning to visit the waterfront area.
There are several things to do in Darwin such as the croc cove, duckexploring, hop on hop off, walking tour and so on. I choose to do nothing but eat, eat and eat. I still enjoyed my stay.
Overall, glad I made this trip to Australia.
7 Tips for your Trip to Australia
- Melbourne is definitely my favorite city. I love the vibe and I hope to get an opportunity to live in Melbourne in the future. I’ll be working on that.
- Australia is not cheap so you have to plan accordingly. If you are traveling in groups, maybe renting a car will save you some money. I hate driving so renting a car on vacation is never an option for me.
- Taxis from the airport is not cheap in most cities. Use the airport shuttle, they drop you off at your destination.
- The Hop on Hop off bus might be a great way to explore the visit.
- Solo traveler? Don’t be afraid to join organized tours.
- Australia is BLESSED with numerous Asian restaurants. What type of Asian food are you craving? Oz got it all. They taste better than those in the USA or Caribbean.
- Visit an Aboriginal cultural center or go on organized cultural tour to Aboriginal place.
- Air fares
Airline tickets – Plan your journey in advance and avail the discounts that you may find on different websites. Though these sites charge you $5 service fee but it is worth it as these websites combine different flight segments from different airlines to give you a great deal.
Round trip tickets – try looking for return tickets as usually one-way tickets are more expensive. Its kind a weird but if you don’t feel like don’t use the return ticket.
Plan your meal – Eat before you go out as one never knows where he or she will be. This is beneficial for two reasons, one for your wallet second for your stomach as u might not find economical restaurants which tastes great.
Cook for yourself – many people think that cooking for oneself is a hectic job, but in my opinion in the process of travel one should at least try to cook for themselves as this is economical, hygienic and quite a experience to judge what kind of cook you can do.
Eat more in lunch then in dinner – fancy lunches are inexpensive then fancy dinners. If you take big breakfast and lunch followed by light dinner, it’s okay, this is also healthier.
- Car rentals
Car rental coverage – Some insurance companies and credit card merchants have rental coverage deals in order to take advantage of those who rent a car. One has to just for a rental car via credit card that might cover you. You can also check RideShareApps for Lyft driver promotions for September 2015 – Get your bonus now.
Size matters – try to get smallest car as possible as, in a case where bigger car is not required, as the little car rent is cheap but also you save on paying for extra on gas that a bigger car needs.
Driving is not bad – Want to take a 1 hour flight? I think driving would be preferable and convenient as, one can save his energy, which is drained when travelling via flight due to the luggage boarding then walking towards the terminals and then those congested seats to be shared with a fellow passenger. You can even take you bag where ever you want with easily while you drive.
Watch that currency – If one does not consider of where he wants to go then just consider the exchange rate when you travel. This sometimes makes the biggest difference.
Currency local websites – As the currency rates change rapidly, try using the local website to book your currency, this will be cheaper.
Duty free shops – Duty free shops are the best, many airports have these shops. One might not get a good deal from these shops but saving tax is itself an achievement and buying becomes a little less expensive.
Tax refunds – Tax refunds are basically, money which you could claim back from the airport. As one make purchases during his stay in the country he pays the local taxes which could be claimed back at the airport by filling some forms and showing proofs. Little taxes might not bring you much but bigger taxes for huge purchases could save you some extra before leaving the country. Few countries provide these facilities for example U.K.
Summary: This article explains tips how to stay in your budget
- How one could save money through booking advance air tickets
- How currency exchange rates save you some amount
- Duty free shops are the best place to make tax free purchases
- How one could claim tax before leaving the country.
**Guest Post by Daniel**
******Guest Blog Post: This post is written by Dan Mitroi******
You’re thinking about getting treatment abroad. You heard about it on your TV, on the internet, from your friends, relatives or acquaintances. Medical tourism is a highly debated topic nowadays and you can find information available everywhere. But how do you know which are the steps to be followed, how does this journey take place and which are the things to keep in mind?
Deciding to go for medical treatment abroad is a big decision for anyone. It involves the patient’s health, money, time and other types of resources. It’s important to know key aspects about the journey you are thinking to make.
First, the international patient starts a detailed research online. A lot of hospitals, medical hubs, clinics, a lot of treatment options, plenty of doctors and many testimonials from other people. Prices are also ranging depending on the destination and the treatment offered. Numerous packages that include accommodation, transportation and other facilities. Which one is the best for you? – you may be asking.
First things first: as a responsible adult, the medical tourist want to be safe during the entire trip. Wants to have plenty of options to choose from. Wants to receive advice from people with experience in this field. And that’s why the patient starts searching for a medical tourism company that offers the services needed by anyone planning this kind of journey. Companies like PlacidWay are able to help people choose among renowned hospitals, treatment options and doctors. They offer packages that include all the facilities that will make this trip facile and comfortable. Of course, the packages can be customized for each and every patient.
After choosing a trustworthy medical tourism company, the patient knows that there is someone there to help during the entire process. After analyzing multiple destinations, clinics, doctors, treatment options, packages and prices, together with the medical tourism consultants, the patient is able to pick the option that best fits his needs. The package that gathers everything, from transportation, accommodation, medical care, consultations, tests to after care and some days extra to visit the new place he’s never been before.
The big day has come. The patient steps into the plane, starting the real part of the journey to a healthier life and to knowing a new, exciting place. The plane is leaving and shortly, the patient arrives at the destination. The transportation to the hotel or hospital is waiting. After checking in, the medical tourist goes for his first evaluation and first lab tests. After the results, he’s ready to go. The procedure or the treatment will start the next day. The patient meets the doctor and the staff, asks questions, and makes sure everything will happen according to the plan.
After undergoing the treatment or the procedure, the patient spends some time at the after-care and, at the end enjoys some extra days visiting a new, exciting place. Healthier, happier and more accomplished.
After getting the doctor’s last recommendations, the patient is ready for departure. He steps in the plane, waiting to get home and talk about this experience he is happy about. The medical tourist lands home. He keeps in touch both with the medical tourism company and the doctor from the hospital abroad, for further updates and recommendations.
The entire time, the international patient keeps in touch with the medical tourism company. The role or organizations like PlacidWay is to assist the patient before, during and after the journey and make sure everything is fine.
Jamaica is gorgeous man! I have been dreaming of visiting Jamaica for a long time now but I was waiting for the ‘right time’. Last month, I visited Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston for a week. I wish I had more time because one week wasn’t enough to enjoy this beautiful country. My first stop was Montego Bay, I stayed in a budget hotel on the Hip strip. MoBay was cool, especially if you stay on the Hip Strip because everything you need is close by. I met a few locals two hours after checking into my hotel and they showed me around town and to the best nightlife ever!
Next day, I left to Priory (15-20minutes from Ocho Rios). I stayed in a lovely guesthouse that sits on a hill overlooking Priory. The owners are pretty chilled and if you are a Ganja smoker, you would love this guesthouse because it is readily provided for you. I stayed one night before leaving to Ocho Rios to meet up with a couchsurfer.
I specially loved Ochi because it is close to all the things I wanted to do and see. I had to stay at Reggae hostel on Main Street because my couchsurfer wasn’t able to host me. I visited 9 Miles – birth and resting place of Bob Marley; a waterfall; attended a beach party and went on the hill to view the city of Ochi :). I wanted to see the Dolphins but was way too broke for that. Just like in Mobay, I met random locals who showed me around. After two nights, I left to Kingston. I knew I was going to love Kingston and I was right.
Since I was there for a conference on New Pan-Africanism, the conference paid for our lodging. We stayed at Jamaica Pegasus hotel (right in front of the Emancipation Park that I didn’t get a chance to see). The conference was held at one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve seen thus far – The University of West Indies, Mona Campus. I was very impressed with the conference and glad that my paper was well received. At first, I was intimidated because I was the youngest paper presenter, all of the presenters had many more years of experience/expertise than I do and I was one of the few without a PhD degree. In the end, I got positive feedback J . Due to the busy nature of the conference, I only got to see the Bob Marley’s museum and Devon’s House. The museum was inspiring and I learnt new things about Bob Marley – for one, that there was an assassination attempt on his life which left a bullet struck in his arm and he didn’t drink alcohol. Devon’ House sold the creamiest ice-cream I’ve tasted to date. I met up with two inspiring Couchsufers. I only wished I had more time to hang out with them.
Five things you should know about Jamaica:
- Charming people: of all the 30 countries I have visited, Jamaican have the most charming people. Yes, the men are truly sexy too!!! They have something that Cuban men need to learn from – charm. The accent is so sexy too. The people (male & female) are friendly.
- Beautiful scenery: combination of beautiful Caribbean beaches and lots of green area. You can’t go wrong, there’s activities for everybody
- Rental car: renting a car will allow you enjoy your stay more. Taxis are not cheap!
- Blue Mountain Coffee: are you a coffee drinker? If yes, then you might want to head to Jamaica for the coffee. The Blue Mountain coffee is said to be the best in the world.
- Resort galore: if you are a resort type of person, then Jamaican is definitely your spot. There is a galore of resort for all price range and lifestyle
There’s more to Jamaica than Ganja and violence/crimes. You should go visit man! You wouldn’t regret it………..
p.s, Wah Gwaan means what’s going on or what’s up
One Love 🙂