our love makes my heart grow lungs
like I never knew it needed to
our love makes my heart grow lungs
like I never knew it needed to
I didn’t think a town could top the picturesque beauty of San Pedro on Lake Atitlán, and then I reached Antigua. Antigua is equally as beautiful as San Pedro but in a very different way. Picture this: the same backdrop of monstrous volcanoes, colorful one story houses of various shapes and sizes, towering antique churches on every corner, quaint cobbled streets…need I go on?
It was quite a bumpy ride from San Pedro but luckily I conked out with the help of a motion sickness pill then BAM! I was woken up in Antigua. I love a bus journey through unknown lands, you meet the most interesting people from all walks of life don’t you? There was Eduardo from Guatemala City who is opening up a hostel in San Pedro; a friendly American girl who is on an action packed adventure through Central America for two months; a Hungarian come Swede who helped build a school out of recycled materials; a Russian come German who seems to have travelled almost everywhere; a sleepy Italian woman and me, a Londoner come Bangkokian forever Irish cailín trying to find the balance between figuring out what she wants from life versus having an absolutely immense time being present IN life.
Talking about ‘interesting people’, I met the most amazing souls in San Pedro. For me, San Pedro started off a little monotonous. Life was Spanish class in the morning, homework in a café, a marathon siesta, meals with my homestay family, some Netflix and sleep, and I’m to blame for the monotony. Luckily I snapped out of it and managed to find a good group of friends to hang out with and explore a little more of what the area had to offer: lake jumping in San Marcos, Friday night pub quizzes at Hostel Fe, late night (11pm!) dancing and beers in Sublime and –mostly- we spent time in a quiet little restaurant called Pinocchio’s where a litre of beer was only 10 Q- that’s about 1 UK pound- and where the service always came with a smile in the form of a teenager called Arnesto who patiently helped us with our Spanish. It was great to meet likeminded souls of various ages, nationalities and backgrounds…all on a different and unique journey. I love to cross paths with people when I travel- either for a short time or more. I learn something from each person I meet, and something more about myself too.
Talking about learning I completed three weeks of Spanish and got myself a certificate! Afterwards, my cyber security come photographer hermano (brother) and I went exploring in the local market and he encouraged me to use my Spanish, somehow I forgot everything! I thought that maybe I should return my certificate! Thankfully I redeemed myself today by successfully asking for directions (about 15 times!) and having a conversation with a waiter- the three weeks of study has definitely been worth it and I can’t wait to speak more Spanish- me gusta hablar español.
That’s all from me for now- I have more churches to pray in, more colourful houses to swoon at, and more español to speak! But before I go here’s a little something for my time in San Pedro and for those I met along the way:
And me? I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for. Because it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment… It lasts forever.
The Beach (2000)
Bali has captured my heart and soul. I have been in Bali three times in the last year, most recently for about a month. It is easy to get lost here, and never leave (believe me, I’m meant to be travelling the East Coast of Australia right now!) Why do I love Bali so much? Within the same day you can hike a volcano for sunrise, snorkel with turtles, surf to your heart’s content, get lost in the rice paddies and dance all night long on the beach, all while munching on some delicious chicken sate! I’ve decided to put together this blog about Bali’s best bits and add some photos from my travels to help you understand my obsession.
To me, Canngu has a lot of offer: green, green rice fields, vast beaches with waves for surfing, delicious food- particularly the vegetarian food- a lot of nightlife, so many chilled cafes, lots of yoga studios, cute boutique shops and much more. It is easy to see why many expats base themselves here.
My favourite beach definitely is Berawa Beach. There are great waves here and there is a huge stretch of beach. Many cafes and chilled bars line the beach and it has beautiful sunsets. Most of my evenings were spent here holding a puppy while drinking a Bintang and taking in a stunning sunset.
The following are a list of bars to party in: Old Man’s by Batu Bolong beach for some Bintang and dancing; Pretty Poison for live music, live tattooing and a skate park; Deus for some great bands; Gimme Shelter for some live music with locals; Sand Bar for some late night partying (it alternates between Batu Bolong Beach and Echo Beach.) You are guaranteed many a late night of partying here.
As I said, there are multiple restaurants and cafes to choose from. Believe me, I’ve eaten in most of them! Here are some of my favourites for brunch: Veda; Koi; Canteen; Roti Canai; Cafe Organic and Little Flinders Cafe.
For dinner: La Baracca for pizza mmmm; seafood by Echo beach at sunset- choose the local owned restaurants for better quality and a cheaper price, and Ithaka– try the gado gado, believe me, it’s worth it.
I stayed in Pande Homestay which was a short walk to the many cafes and shops of Batu Bolong. The family are very friendly and helpful and the rooms are basic but cheap. On my second visit, I stayed in FRii Hotel which was nice but slightly overpriced in my opinion- it was in a great location though and had two nice pools.
So, Canggu, great to travel in and VERY livable…although a definite possibility of cabin fever if you don’t get out of it now and then. Luckily, I explored a lot of Bali.
I spent an amazing weekend in Amed! Picture this: tropical fish of ALL colours only meters from a black stone beach with a clear blue sky and blazing sun; towering volcanoes in the background of an deep orange and navy picture perfect sunset followed by sparkling stars all around. In Amed, I went snorkelling, got up for sunrise and ate delicious food at sunset, oh, and drank Bintang.
There are many dive schools here too if you want to dive but the snorkelling was so good that I didn’t feel the need to dive.
Uluwatu: a surfer’s paradise, a beach lover’s dream, a party goer’s Mecca…enough said.
Seminyak is very modern: lots of shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and villas- it is one of the more expensive places in Bali but it is good if all you want to do is stay in beautiful accommodation, stroll around shops in the day and party into the night. I recommend La Favela for a good night out- don’t be intimidated by the police with the machine guns outside!
My friend recommended Nusa Lembongan to me and boy am I glad that she did. Located about thirty minutes on a ferry from Sanur, Lembongan is very easy to get to. We used Scoot and were picked up from our villa in Seminyak in a private car, got the ferry across and were dropped off at our accommodation on the island- you can do it cheaper but it was worth it for the convenience.
We spent a brilliant and busy couple of days exploring the island: we visited the stunning blue lagoon, the breathtaking Devil’s Tear and did a memorable *snorkelling trip where we swam with fish of all colours and HUGE Manta Rays!
*Ask for Sudi!
Ubud, Ubud, Ubud. I am always drawn back to Ubud and if you have been (or will be persuaded to go after reading this blog!) then you will understand why. Ubud has culture and beauty in the forms of many temples and dance shows, delicious food from a multitude of restaurant, authentic homestays, green, green, GREEN rice fields and undulating rice terraces that stretch as far as the eye can see (even further sometimes!) In Ubud, there are a range of yoga classes and yoga residentials to choose from; we took part in yoga and meditation classes in Ubud Yoga House which is located in the middle of the rice fields and has very experienced and friendly teachers.
On another trip I ventured outside of the center of Ubud, which many people do. The day started exploring the rice fields and ponds full of lillies surrounding this restaurant:
We then travelled onwards by motorbike to one of my favourite places in Bali, and definitely one of my favourite places in the world…
This is Gunung Kawi Temple. This breathtaking temple is a must see in Bali. The story goes that Gajah Mada- a very strong and loyal warrior- carved this temple using only his nail for the first Balinese king, King Udayana. I think the picture captures this but if it doesn’t then note it was overwhelming. I had the same thought that I had as I looked into the bubbling crater of Mount Bromo: I felt so small and insignificant in comparison to its magnitude, but in an awe inspiring and mindful way- it made me understand EVERYTHING so much more; I didn’t need to wonder or question or even think, I was exactly where I was meant to be: in the present.
Afterwards we went to Tirta Empul, a Hindu Balinese water temple. Bring a change of clothes if you want to take part in the blessings here- I didn’t take part as I want to understand the traditions and beliefs of Hinduism before taking part. Even if you don’t want to take part, the temple is definitely still worth a visit- it is popular with both locals and tourists.
We also stopped off at the famous Tellalang rice terraces which are beautiful but I had already visited another of my FAVOURITE places in Bali (and possibly the world!) which is Jatiluwih so Tellalang paled in comparison.
Because I spent a lot of time in Canggu I did several day trips to explore more of Bali from there. Here are the places we visited:
More of West Bali:
Oh yeah, and I ended up at a Balinese wedding!
The motorbike ride to these places was breathtaking in itself- the views of strawberry terraces, the rows and rows of rice fields, the mist falling over the highest points of the hills, the miles of deserted beaches and crashing waves- truly breathtaking.
The Gili Islands- Not Bali But Close Enough
A natural trip to take while in Bali is to the Gili Islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Located about 1.5 hours from Sanur by ferry are these small islands with white sand and clear waters. There are no cars or motorbikes on these islands so you can walk or get a bicycle around them. I went to Gili Trawangan or the ‘party island’ out of the three. It’s true that there are multiple parties here every night of the week but the island itself also has a lot to offer for the day time: snorkelling, diving, boat trips, cycling, swings, beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets and so on. We took a day trip to Lombok- a diverse island of jungle and mountains and coconut trees and white beaches. For nightlife you need to ask a local where the party is at for that particular night as it moves every night. Popular places are: Sama Sama, Evolution Bar, Jiggy’s and Rudy’s Pub.
And, oh, the sunsets:
Getting Around Bali
There are many options to get around Bali- a private driver or taxi, shared minivan or motorbike- which makes Bali accessible for all types of travellers and holiday makers. Whatever route you take be sure to take it ALL IN: the culture, the views, the people, the animals, the surf, the food…the MAGIC! No doubt I’ll be back to explore more of this diverse island very soon.
I am on a journey of self discovery, a journey to ‘find myself’ so to speak. And what have I discovered? Well, to put it in a way that a contemporary audience would understand:
Nothing. I know less about myself now than I did at 17- and that’s saying something. At 30 I thought I’d have it all together, not necessarily a house, kids and the husband to match, but at least that I could describe myself- really describe myself- in three words.
Yup, still drawing a blank.
So, as I sit here with my raw vegan mud cake and my matcha latte why not surmise what’s on my mind?
I am in Canggu in Bali right now. After being the ‘always had a goal’ gal I decided to quit my great job working internationally in Bangkok and become a backpacker without any plans. Yup, oldest backpacker in the world. I’m still convinced that it is BAGpacker because all you do it pack and repack your bags! And don’t get me started on the packing process because I can’t even find my underwear never mind myself!
I thought about going for an inspirational post: discuss my yoga and meditation, share the lessons from the healer I saw yesterday, reminisce about the calm I feel looking out over a cliff top…but this is not how it is flowing for me right now so I thought I’d attempt ‘funny’, feel free to criticise me if I fail miserably.
The truth is I’ve had an opportunity to do yoga a million times a day and I’ve done it about five; I attempted to be a vegetarian but the chicken sate got me every time; I aimed to start every day with a morning jog and it has happened one and a half times (how does the half even happen?); I saw a healer and my restless legs got me irritated; I gave up coffee only to become addicted to matcha lattes; I planned to blog every day and this is my first post in six weeks…find yourself FAIL.
I have found myself (oh the irony!) wanting to scream because I don’t know who I am or what I want. Isn’t time away from everyone and everything supposed to bring clarity? Isn’t throwing off the shackles of a routine meant to bring a calm alertness to my mind? Isn’t all this chatter in my mind meant to ease with the soft blow of the wind through my sea swept hair?
I love an inspirational quote, ask any of my friends, my Instagram feed is full of them, I drive my friends crazy on Facebook with yet another daily dose of inspiration. I can also talk the talk, giving good advice and words of wisdom (or so I’ve been told.) My problem? Not following through with my own words. I am my biggest critic and I often compare myself to my past self- teenage Claire who knew it all and genuinely didn’t care what people thought. Am I not supposed to be lost at 17 and found at 30?
And there lies the problem…
The constant wondering, the constant thinking, and the constant questioning. I need to just shut up. The truth is I don’t need to have a 5 year plan, heck I don’t even have a 5 week plan! I don’t need to have any of the answers because as I desperately search for them life is slowly passing me by, breath by breath. I need to remember: I am not looking for something, I am experiencing everything.
So, there you are. I’m a metaphorical mess who needs to chill the chatter in my head by just doing things I enjoy and not wondering ‘where next?’ or ‘what next?’ or ‘who next?’ Because, my friends, the beauty of life is that we never know what is around the corner…so there is absolutely no point in looking.