breathe in love.
breathe out fear.
breathe in love.
breathe out fear.
we’re a nation
of instant gratification
of LOLs and YOLOs and OMGs.
Chaser of dreams
and daydream believer
Mock me if you may
but I’ll forever stay true to me
(for truth is all we have)
and all that matters is that we. be.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”
Choice. Both a blessing and a curse. Privileged to have choice. Privileged to be able to make choices. Taunted by thoughts of the road not taken. Haunted by thoughts of you.
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.
For some poetry is the place to be
from the prism we have found ourselves in
the unrelentless blurring
of the lines
between reality and the alternate world(s)
A world that is scourged with
but what we often fail to see
as we fall aimlessly is the beauty
the beauty of this earth, this home, this being
The unspeakable woes
The unstoppable boughs
Of the branches of our being
of our being
Watch it sprout
Our human need of being.
I’ve been inspired, rewired
jumpstarted into this journey of
flowing creative juices,
drenched in the unending bombardment
of words- sweet, sweet words-
The glass no longer half empty,
the gas tank once void
has rerouted into the GPS direction
Out of control
down this dark canvas
against the depths of despair
Lurk behind the closing door
no rhyme or reason
can justify their
For they are the prism
Stuck behind the kaleidoscope of their own colourless thoughts
They refuse to open
To allow invitation
into the land of freedom of expression
for they keep schtum
Afraid to run
To free- dom
Fear to be anything but ‘normal’
Relay the hate with speech
The future generations’ realisation
is needed to not be
oppressed and overturned with overtones of
For all the things that they could be
that they should be
That they would- have- been.
I am in a stage in my life where I feel it is time to move on from living in South East Asia; six years in Thailand- although AMAZING- is, potentially, done for me.
Saying that, as I sit and type and stare out into the blues and greens of the sea in Gili Trawangan, I second guess myself.
And why wouldn’t I? I mean look at it…
Living in Thailand means I have so much more disposable income than I had when working in Ireland or the UK…which means I get to come somewhere like here for my half- term break.
I’m a teacher, in case you haven’t worked that one out yet. I travel almost every half term, as I said the disposable income I have allows for this.
Since December 2015, I have travelled to: Sri Lanka for Christmas; India for New Year and my friend’s Indian wedding; Malaysia for a PD course; New Zealand for April half- term; America for the summer (Seattle, San Juan Islands, San Francisco, Yosemite, Las Vegas baby! San Diego and Los Angeles) and now I’m in Bali…and my parents wonder why I don’t have any savings?
I have plans, plans, plans for every holiday from now until the middle of next year: home to Ireland and maybe Myanmar for December and January; Tanzania for a service project with school in February; Australia in April and I have many, many ideas for my summer holidays…
…unless I move that is.
Move to where though? I have the American dream. I love it there and feel so at home in many parts of it. I think the country is so diverse and beautiful in many different ways. Sure I won’t be fitting in nine countries within a year but a lot of me could opt out of this for a place to settle, to drop my bags and call home (next to my wonderful home Ireland that is.)
Then there is the allure of applying all over the world to see what becomes of it…becomes of me.
I am definitely happy, yet something in me knows it’s time to move on. The question that remains is where…
And that, my friend, is the beauty of life.
To the world it’s known as Bangkok, to Thais as Krung Thep, to fans of “The Hangover” it will always be the City of Squalor…and to me? My current home. Personally I think Bangkok gets far too much bad press, from tourists and media alike. Hence why today I am singing the praises of this individual city: B to the K K.
Too often tourists think of Bangkok as just Khao San Road (although I do love an odd night out there!) They irritate me with their accusations of “Why do you live in Bangkok?” and “I hated Bangkok when I was there, would hate to live there!” This “when” being a maximum of three days. So haters listen up, here are the reasons why I LOVE living in Bangkok.
You can get anything you want, whenever you want (and I don’t mean the sleazy things!) Food glorious food!!! I always miss home food, and often yearn for it but the want is eased by the huge choice of food here: Italian, Indian, British, Korean, American, Greek, Lebanese, Japanese, my Irish grub (although not comparable to my mammy’s!) and so on and so forth.
And what better way to wash food down than with a few beverages? There is a ladies night every night of the week in Bangkok, with free flow booze. Being a ‘lady’ I love this. Whether it be the classy dining of W Hotel of a Saturday night (where we once ended up or the chilled after work tipple in The Witch’s Tavern of a Wednesday (which also has free pizza I might add!) there is something for everyone. Even being broke in Bangkok can be a pleasure.
Keeping with the nightlife vibe, there’s a wide choice of bars, clubs, karaoke and rooftop bars, from dingy but popular places such as Wong’s to classy establishments such as Octave Rooftop Lounge and Bar in the Marriot to choose from. But BEWARE, 49 floors up and above the city is a scary- albeit beautiful- place.
And if I haven’t fattened myself up too much from food and booze there’s these much loved shops: Topshop, Forever XXI, Nike, Australia’s Cotton On and markets, markets, markets.
And if I can’t fit into that sexy red number? More choice of sports and activities than one could ever imagine! Soccer, Gaelic football, basketball, netball (which I thought was volleyball!), yoga, Pilates, aerobics, Thai Muay Thai, karate, jujitsu, volleyball, badminton and so on and so forth. Oh and there’s always my condo, kitted out with pool and gym to use at my convenience.
I hear you ask…but what if I’m not the sporty type? What do I do then? Fear not fellows for there is an infinite number of Meet Up groups to join, from photography to language to books to travel to everything you can think of! Well, within reason…ish.
And back to food (because there’s enough to fill a million blogs!) I must not forget to mention the quirky restaurants: the robot restaurant where it does exactly what it says on the tin…robots as waiters; Cabbages and Condoms where Santa Claus is definitely only fit for an adult Christmas; dining with rabbits and all sorts! As I said, “quirky”.
Not to forgot my favourite…Thai style: beautiful temples, food stalls, boat taxis, motorbike taxis, festivals, and the ever challenging footpath challenge (survive it without breaking a toe!)
Then there’s always the escape within the city with hundreds of luxury hotels at reasonable prices…I’ve done it and it’s worth it!
But if after all this excitement you really need to get out of the big bad city? There’s always the accessible island escape of Koh Samed or the riverside town of Kanchanaburi to keep you content.
Remember one thing: Bangkok doesn’t have the longest name in the world for no reason, there must be something to it…check it out if you don’t believe me!