Thursday, 24 February 2011

Heather: Indonesias Number 1 Tourist Attraction.

Borobodur Temple, Java, Indonesia

So, I am in Java, and it rains all the time. Its stupid hot, sweating my life away over here, yet its so tropical it rains. And at night, they have the loudest thunderstorms you've ever heard in your whole life, with monsoon rains. Insane.

So this picture, which I cannot claim to be mine, is of Borobodur Temple - one of the largest in the world. It is around 46km away from Jogyakarta, Java - which I have been based the last 4 days. Its impressive, and Im glad I got to come here, as it was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Indonesia.

But yet I can't help but feel its all a bit empty on my own. After 5 months travelling, you come and go, meet people, hang about and then you leave them. At least I won't be on my own for much longer :)

And I have become the tourist attraction, at the tourist attraction. Not even joking, I think I must have had my picture taken at least 200 times, posing with school girls, teenage boys, old men, families and young children - its crazy! I think that its low season here, so they dont see many tourists. And they are all eager to speak to you - to improve their English and just have a chat, which is good and means Im never lonely for long here!

I have met so many locals - I love it! The Indonesian people are by far the friendliest I have ever met. Everyone smiles at you, talks to you, they rarely want anything of have an agenda, they are just happy and friendly. And its super safe for a young girl travelling alone. People ask why you are alone, and can't believe that you dont have a husband - everyone says just how beautiful you are, just walking down the street. Even when you are in the oldest clothes, sweating away - they think you are beautiful. Good for the ego i guess!

So its been quite an experience here, Bali is different, Kuta is crazy and im not a fan. Its full of western kids getting drunk on motorbikes, with dirty beaches and people trying to sell you stuff. This is not representative of Indonesia. Padangbai - where the boats go to Lombok/Gilli Islands, is much nicer - quiet, calm. Im going to Sanur tomorrow, the quieter version on Kuta and only 30 mins away - dont want to be around the craziness! Not until I have my dancing partner Jess with me - who arrives in Bali on monday - cant wait!

So i'd like to show you some pics, but the comps out here arent great, so you will have to wait for the next installment.

Prambanan, Java, Indonesia

I have also been to Prambanan the other day - the highest hindu temple in the world, another impressive sight. And another place where I was the main tourist attraction! They take school groups of local kids here so that they can talk to tourists and practise their English. I also got a free guided tour from a 17 year old school boy who was on tourism training here, again, practising his tour in English. Its amazing, these kids learn English very well, as they know its their ticket out of there. Many have dreams to work in tourism and to be able to work in America and Australia.

A guy I met who works in Ahola cafe in Padangbai shares these dreams. He offered to take me to the local temple on a motorbike, as I wasn't sure how to get there myself, and technically speaking, tourists cant drive out here without a permit. So I hired the bike and he kindly took me to the temple, got me a sarong to wear (as neccessary) and gave me a tour around the temple. 

After a while, we sat down and just chatted about life and stuff. I learnt that he has applied for a job on a cruise ship to America and has had to save hard for the application, which isn't cheap. He has made it through 2 rounds of interviews out of 1000 applicants - and I really hope he gets it. I am reminded yet again, how many people around the world long to travel, but just dont have the means. People are genuinely surprised when you tell them that you're 'holiday' is 10 months long. Travelling is not a real concept here.

So I am learning lots everyday - and trying new things as well. Instead of eating at the western places, I have been eating in the little warungs on the street, where at night, on Malilioboro, you sit on a rug on the street and eat at a low table - whilst local musicians play guitar to you. This is how I met a few young Indonesian guys, who are street musicians and sat with me for dinner. We discussed many things, including the strange topic of whether vampires are real or not. I thought this was a joke question, but I saw that they weren't sure of this strange vampire idea - i guess all the films and books at the mo dont help either. So I explained that they werent real, just like ghosts. But they believe in ghosts here, many people claim to have seen them.

Oh and I am learning to speak Bahasa Indonesian - very similiar to Bahasa Malaysian, so will keep in handy to remember all of this!

An interesting time has been had in Java. A lot of local interaction, great local street food and interesting but actually quite easy, local bus travel. Who wants to go on a tour bus full of Americans anyways?

So for now, terima kasih and muchos love xxxx

Saturday, 19 February 2011

One from the journal...

( the following extract is taken word for word from my last journal entry)

Jetsetting ( You know you've been flying too much when you know the inflight magazine)

So, I think I've become quite blase about this whole flying malarky. I rock up to the wrong airport terminal, 2.5 hours after checkin in opened. In my defense, I thought I was flying domestic.

So, I was wrong. Luckily, I still had half an hour to play with and the queue wasn't long - after a waddling walk in between terminals and actually sweating my life away.

Red, sweaty and frantically fanning myself with my passport, I get to the check in desk to discover that my bag is now 19.2kg. Ouch! What happened? Need a cull, quick!

Oh and I also needed to prove that I had an onward flight from Bali. Ah. This is something that they either
a) don't make very clear
b) I didn't think about it. I like to think it was both.

Luckily, I did actually have an onward flight booked, just no proof. And also lucky that I changed my plans to make my stay in Oz longer, as I was planning to overstay my visa in Indonesia. Something I dont think they would let me do.

So, with my 19.2kg backpack plus rucksack and a Bolivian Hat, I quickly waddled - once again- to use the internet to email the check in guy my flight details. A $2.50 for 2 mins. Bargin.

And if all of that wasnt enough, the airline had me down as a man. A man?!? How is that possible? Idiots.

So made it through all of that, rushed through security to discover that Cairns International airport is a bit shit. There's one place to eat and like, no seats. So I had $6 worth of chips, sprayed myself in a ton of Diors Pure Poison (my fave) to cover up my sweaty backpacker state, and sat on the floor. Sigh.
So now I'm on the plane to Darwin, to spend 5 hours in the airport before finally getting to Bali. Its taken 3 cyclones, a late departure, 2 missed flights, 2 cancelled flights and approx $1000, but I'm finally leaving. What a journey eh?

Despite all the changes, throwing my money away and initially not enjoying it, I've loved Oz. The family, the friends, the lifestyle. I just wana come back - and once again, im sad to leave another place and always saying goodbye.

But at least this time, its "see you later"  :)


So, Darwin Airport. Smallest transit area ever. I need to kill a few more hours, so have some more handy travelling tips:

- Bring Pot pourri sachets to keep your clothes smelling good in your backpack. ( card perfume sticks from duty free at the airport also work for a bit as well)

- Keep your computer electricals in a seperate bag - saves time when trying to locate the USB, the card reader, other devices etc. And tie them in a know to save even more untangling time!

- I'ts handy to have a plastic knife, fork and spoon. You'd be surprised how hard these are to find when you need them.

- Bring brightly coloured string - handy for tying up zips in the airport (stops people going in stealing/planting drugs on you), tying up excess stuff to your bag, a washing lines in dorm rooms etc etc.

- tape - a lil roll if any kind of tape (preferably duct/electical as its stronger) will come in handy more often than you think.

- scrap paper/post it notes - very useful if you dont have a journal/ guidebook that you dont mind scribbling notes all over.

- whilst travelling, keep washing powder in an empty drinks bottle - much easier to transport.

- do not underestimate the power of waterproof mascara. Wish i'd taken this advice.

- Bring enough of the things you cant get out here and that you need. ie - the world doesnt sell vaseline roll on deos - weird as you cany buy other vaseline far 5 months = 3 roll ons ( for those who are as equally allergic to alcohol as me and cant use other deos).

- dont use your uk phone in oz! unless you want 200 and 300 quid monthly phone bills. Like me. Ouch.

- girls, Oz apparently charges for contraceptives such as the pill (as my friend emily found out, they're not cheap) get it from home, where it is free! (or get the implant - no babies or periods for 3 years - best thing ever! and no mood swings - huzzah!)

- greyhound passes in oz are a con. get cheap flights and spend less time on stupid buses. Jetstar/virgin blue/ tiger airways are good for cheap domestic flights. i've done this and only taken 3 greyhounds. flying is the way to go.

Best Airports so far: Gatwick, Sydney, La Paz, Rurrenabaque (novelty factor), Brisbane.
Worst Airports so far: Hobart, Buenos Aires, Prosperine, Cairns, Darwin, Lima, Byron Bay.

Can you tell im bored yet?

Quotes i like from "Eight Lives Down"

"Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising each time we fall" - Confucius
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go" - TS Eliot
"It is foolish to fear what you cannot avoid" - Publilius Syrus

"I'd rather give my life than be afraid to give it" - Lynda Johnson

ok, so thats an insight to my wonderful journals!

finally made it to Bali and loving it! so thats "How for now!"

muchos love as ever xxxxx

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

And I should just stay in Australia...

Because clearly thats what it wants! I obviously had an AWFUL day yesterday (see previous post), only to wake up today to find out that my flight to Darwin has been cancelled because of another cyclone.

Seriously, more cyclones? I can't take much more. I just want to get to Bali now - it's not fair, I'm stuck in Cairns, on my own, can't afford to do the trips and there's nothing to do in the town centre. Sucks to be me.

Ok, so it could be worse, I know this, I just want to get there - especially as it's gonna take me all day when I do get there anyways. Ugh.

So have moved my flights to the 18th, fingers crossed I can fly then, otherwise I won't have time to see anything before I meet Jess and Joe. And I would've gone stir crazy in Cairns by then. Seriously dull. And stupid hot. You sweat just be breathing. Ugh.

So another complainy one from me. Enjoy your regular cool day, whilst I sweat my life away, trying to escape this country!!

Muchos love xxx

Airport Action and the Worst Day In the World.

So, obviously the day I try to leave Brisbane, the world falls apart and becomes one of the worst days in the world.

I have to say goodbye to everyone - the girls - Jen and Jess who live with Dave, who are some of the best girls I have ever met! Obviously I then had to say goodbye to Dave, which was sad - but its ok as I'll be seeing him in 4 weeks as he's going to travel Thailand with me! How exciting is that?!?

But I was due to have 3 flights today - one from Brisbane - Cairns at 7.30 am, Cairns - Darwin and then Darwin - Bali.
But of course when I get to the airport, the flight is delayed by 2 and a half hours, with no explanations of whats going on and a fake landing time, which was way off mark. I had to fight my way to the front of the plane, and literally run to find someone from the airline who saw I was in such a panic and asked me where I was going. Only to be told that the check in for Darwin had shut 10 minutes ago. AAGGGHHH!!! Could've have made it if they were on time. 

So then, I had to go to the service desk and when they told me I couldn't fly today and that there may be charges for it, I just burst into tears - actual sobs. I was soooo tired from not having a lot of sleep, nervous about leaving to start again in a new country on my own, and emotional from saying goodbye to a few people that I love. So I told her that I was going to miss a wedding- in case that helped. It didn't, but I did get sympathy in my broken down state.

For every few amazing weeks, there's always a killer bad day.

So I pulled myself together and went into Cairns and got a room for the night. Only to find out from my cousin Matt later on, that my Uncle Patrick, who I stayed in Tassie with, has got throat cancer. Talk about making a shit day worse. There's nothing worse than feeling completely useless, alone and so far away from everyone. All my thoughts to Patrick, Matt, Gem and family. xxx

So, that's been my day so far today. Apparently there could be another cyclone tomorrow in Darwin. Good thing I'm flying out of Darwin tomorrow then isn't it? Jesus. Ugh. All of this is basically telling me I just should've stayed eh? You always seem to be right. :)

So anyways - a catch up on the week before. Obviously extended my stay in Brisbane, and ended up doing a lot of shopping and watching Gossip Girl with Jen - as she can't walk at the mo, we needed lil cheer up trips! That and we love to bitch about Gossip Girl.

Me and Dave went to the desert cafe for dinner, which was amazing! Except it makes you feel kinda sick...but in an awesome way.

Saturday afternoon, we had a bbq for Dans 24th bday ( a great age obv!) which was really cool, but a bit surreal, as everyone crowded around on of his friends and started quizzing him. I was like, what's going on? Turns out he was the winner of the 2nd series of the Australian Beauty and the Geek - how surreal is that?!? He's a sweet guy, and he came to the Press Club later with Dan and Jess and naturally, Jess kissed his face ;)

So in the eve, we had a big night out in The West End and The Valley - started off with Jen dressing me in some of her amazing clothes/jewellery/shoes (girls, check out or something similar) - killer heels which my feet are still recovering from, but make you feel a million dollars. Silver and sparkly...beautiful. 

And so the night started with The Getaway Plan, in my  killer heels...kinda hard work but they were really cool! Then we met with Sabina, Megan and Nat for crazy dancing with live music, lots of red it! And at 2am, we said our long drawn out goodbyes, to hit The Press Club in The Valley for club-tastic times! When we saw Jess, she went crazy for us! We were gyrating at the bar, ordering green goblin shots and getting crazy! Lots of dancing, photos, kisses, licks, haha etc. Such a great night!

This night ended with the boys getting pizza, and the girls running across the valley to look at shoes. Thats just how we roll baby!

Naturally Sunday was a hangover day, so we cured this with an epic cooked breakfast on the bbq with Jess in killer cleaning mode - despite nearly dying the night before! Ended the day with dinner at Daves sisters place which was cool.

And finally, valentines day - my last day in Brisbane. Was cool because i dont believe in it - so we had a leaving meal at wagamas which is much more to my taste, with all the gang! A great way to end!

So a great couple of weeks, with a killer day today. But looking forward to the future :)

Muchos love as ever xxxx

Monday, 7 February 2011

Brisbane #2

Hey guys.

Well, as some of you may already now, my plans have changed, yet again! I escaped Cairns just in time to come down to Brisbane, to visit Dave - and haven't quite left yet!

We've done sooo much this week - picnics, national parks, glow worms, swimming, cinema, and the Story Bridge Climb!!

Jess, Me and Dave doing the climb.

Basically, I have been more than spoilt here - having the best time with these guys! Just spent today with Jen - another of Daves housemates - shopping and lunching in Brisbane. Also getting to drive around as she's broken her foot, poor thing. And I LOVE driving!!

And also, go see Black Swan. Best thing you can do. Its haunting, dark, incredible. And Natalie Portman will win the Oscar. And she deserves it.

So, am heading up to Bali next week now - do a bit of Flores, Komodo and Rinca before meeting Jess and Joe in Bali for cocktails and a bit of cheeky English fun!! Can't wait to see some people from home!! Has been so long.

Also got to talk to the family the other day - Jack has grown sooo much. Insane. Sad to be missing out on these little things.

Anyways, so back to Brisbane. Its surviving pretty well considering how badly they were flooded. Queenslanders really do pull themselves together and everyone helps each other out. Theres real community spirit here. Its incredible.

You can also just chat to people and they open up, tell you a story whether you asked to hear it or not. Everyones so honest, friendly - we can learn alot from this in the UK I think. If you spoke to someone in a lift or on the tube, people would think you either:

a) Had some kind of agenda
b) You're mental
c) You're coming onto them
d) You might mug them

Shame really. Think of all those people we could have met.

Just a thought.

So I was really bad and bought some beautiful clothes today with Jen. Bit of retail therapy! But I am sick of everything I own - worn them to death in the last 5 months. Plus I really did need 2 dresses, sandals and 3 headbands for the wedding. Such a girl thing.

So I am now pretty much half way through my trip. Can't believe how much I've done and achieved in this time - actually crazy! Still got 5 more to go though, so as incredible as it's been - maybe the best is yet to come!!

Muchos love as ever xxx

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Cyclone City...

So, as I write this Cyclone Yasi is preparing to hit Queensland at a catagory 5 rating - the worst cyclone in almost 100 years. It can basically flatten houses. Luckily, I managed to get one of the last flights out of Cairns yesterday, and am now being well looked after in Brisbane :) finally, I get to see Brisbane.

The floods have disappeared from here, but the damage is clear - alot of businesses are still closed, and everything that was affected is kinda sad and grey. These guys have been through so much with the major floods and now cyclones...

Everyone is just waiting now. Cairns has been evacuated, as well as the Whitsunday Islands, Magnetic Island and everything inbetween. I'm just worried now about the 5 friends I have holed up in Cairns...just really hope everyone stays safe.

So my plans have changed, yet again, for the time being. I am due to fly up to Cairns on Monday - so hopefully the worst of the damage is done, so I can finally fly up to Indonesia. We'll just have to wait and see what happens!

Despite all this craziness, I am having a lovely time in Brisbane. Being treated like a princess!

And we saw Black Swan last night - for anyone who hasn't already seen it - its incredible. Haunting. Natalie Portman is truely fantastic. The story is dark and twisted, but as its from the director of Requiem for a Dream, you wouldn't expect anything less. And she totally deserves the Oscar. More than Sandra Bullock did. What happened there eh?

So for now, its the waiting game, to see how much damage there will be and how badly it will affect the communities. Fingers crossed. So glad I came to Brisbane.

Regina, Tanja, Eugenia, Emily and Henry - stay safe up there!!!

Muchos love xxxx