Life is an Adventure.

Email sent 14th April 06.

The last email I sent was from Hat Yai in Thailand just before Adam and me were embarking on our train journey through Malaysia and on to Singapore. The train journey was great! It was fantastic getting the train the whole way across Malaysia, a country we hadn’t expected to see so it was a bonus even if just from a train window!

We arrived in Singapore and were completely bewildered by the technology! I know it sounds crazy but we had been so used to living without automated this, and electronic that, that it was quite a shock! Just using the MRT (metro) was hard work, it took quite a while to buy a ticket and then we just stood staring at the gate trying to work out where to put the ticket for ages! Being out of the western world for a couple of months has obviously had quite a big effect on us! We have also noticed how slowly we walk! We wouldn’t survive a minute back in London at the pace we go about things!

Anyway Singapore was great! We only had 2 days but we made the most of it wandering through the city and enjoying a great meal on the streets of China Town! It was such a sophisticated city with an abundance of technology that worked really well. We were very aware of the strict laws and avoided chewing gum on the streets and the urge to spit?! It was strange not being able to smoke in the city! It was a shock to see the No Smoking signs followed by 'Punishable by Law'!! We had to have a sneaky smoke on the fire exit of our hostel like kids in the school toilets!! We stayed in a great hostel, just like a big house share! Really homely!
From Singapore we flew to Depansar, Bali. (Indonesia). We arrived and so did the rain! We knew it was rainy season but wow does it rain in Bali! Tropical storms galore! We wandered around the ghost town that is now Bali thanks to the October 2005 bombings and were quite overcome by the damage that has been done to the community. We visited the memorial for the July 2002 bombings, which was very moving, flowers still arrive daily. Despite the damage that has been done to the community the Balinese still manage to have beaming smiles on their faces as you walk by. Unfortunately the lack of other tourists meant that the spotlight was on us, 'Please come to look in my shop', 'Madam please let me plait your hair', 'Transport sir! I'll take you anywhere you want!'. It certainly took some getting used to again, I had forgotten the desperation with which some people want/need your money since India.

We traveled throughout Bali and Lombok seeing as much as possible in the short space of time available to us. The highlight of Bali for Adam and I was a place called Ubud. It is renowned for being the cultural centre of Bali and it was wonderful. We stayed in a home stay with a Balinese couple and their 3 beautiful daughters, they really looked after us. We spent a day learning about rice! (Geeks!). It was really interesting! We got right in to the muddy fields to see the locals at work!

We were eager to see Mount Batur and so took a trip to the central Mountain region. Unfortunately as we climbed higher and higher the weather got progressively worse! By the time we reached the top we couldn’t even see our own hand in front of our face! Not even the silhouette of the volcano! We were really disappointed.

The highlight of Lombok was 3 little islands called the Gili Isles. The journey there was a complete nightmare! We had been warned all about Bangsal Harbour, it is notorious for hawkers and scamsters trying to get you on the wrong boat and then taking all your money etc!! Naturally I wasn't looking forward to getting there. On the way the bus company that we had booked our bus and boat ticket there with stopped at their office to say a few final words about Bangsal! The manager reiterated all the horror stories we had already heard but said not to worry! His bus driver would ensure we got on the correct boat, all we had to do was stay with the driver upon arrival at the harbor! No problem! Feeling thoroughly reassured that all was going to go smoothly we headed towards the harbor. We arrived and they pounced like wild animals, scratching at the windows and wrenching the door open! We all jumped out in to a raging storm and proceeded to fight to get our own backpack off of the roof of the bus before it disappeared! I had just managed to get my pack on my back when I turned round to look for our 'guardian bus driver' only to see him waving as he drove off! He had left us! The weather was terrible and I was convinced they couldn’t set sail in the storm, but first we had the gamble of which boat to get on! They were all shouting at us to get on their own boats! One American guy was having the hard sell given to him regarding a mosquito coil. Upon insistently refusing that he would not buy it (it was being sold for 5 times its worth) he was told 'I hope you die of Dengue Fever!!'. (An appropriate comment during the current epidemic!). Finally it seemed we were all being shepherded on to one boat... we waded out to the little fishing boat and gracefully threw ourselves over the sides hoping that our backpacks would not pull us back in to the sea!

On board and off we went! I know that it is quite common to say 'I was so scared!' or 'I felt fear!' but forget all those other minor situations... I WAS REALLY SCARED!! But I mean real fear. I actually feared for our lives, I didn’t think we were going to make the crossing. The boat was being thrown up at 180-degree angles and the water was coming in to the boat fast. At one point the bamboo roof blew off and we all had to lean in to the sea to hoist it back up. People were crying and being sick. It was awful! I was so glad to see the island as we approached it! Nicely the boat driver again didn’t feel the need to actually pull in to shore and so we just had to throw ourselves along with backpacks overboard and in to the sea and then wade to shore! A pleasant experience! As the hawkers ran to greet us and offer us everything from their socks to their grandmother they were not expecting the response they got! I was in no mood to be messed with and just sort of screamed to clear a path and marched off on to the island! Funny enough for the first time they didn’t follow us!!!!

Anyway never mind the horrific journey there... Gili Air. The most amazing island. It was actually paradise, all those images that you think of when someone says paradise or desert island. It took one hour to walk around the outside, no cars, no banks, no rushing about, just pure relaxation! 

The people were so chilled out! We spent our days snorkeling offshore, reading and walking. It was perfect! We even swam with sea turtles!!! They move so gracefully against the current! I tried to follow one but ended up thrashing about like a cat in water whilst the turtle elegantly swam away! (Laughing at me I'm sure!). The people of Gili Air believed that if you obtain your money through unsavory dealings your food will taste bad and you will live unhappily. They may not earn much but they earn it honestly and so their food tasted great and they lived happy lives. For people with so little this really was an amazing attitude to have.

And so our time in Bali and Lombok was finished. Next stop Fiji! 

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