Wow! August started out with some thrills. As we left El Nido and headed back to Puerto Princesa, Philippines we found ourselves in a bit of a car accident. The winding road between the two cities was slippery due to a burst of rain. Our van driver was quite good but happened to hit a curve in just the wrong spot. Our van spun around on the road landing in the steep ditch rear end first.
There were 8 of us in the van, and no one was hurt inside or outside the vehicle, thanks to our driver. He was able to prevent the van from rolling over and from landing in the ditch head first. Weirdly, within minutes a local bus filled with riders was able to pull us out, and we were on our way. It all happened so quickly and without incident, it was almost like it didn’t occur at all.
As some of you may recall we were sick throughout July and our illnesses stayed with us through about half of August. I think three flights in 2 days didn’t help our congestion issues, but I am happy to say we have both been feeling better in the last two weeks. We took the entire month off of scuba diving, but we did get in plenty of swimming, snorkeling, and motorbike riding.
From the Philippines, we stopped in Singapore for a few hours. Those few hours easily proved to us we need to go back asap. We were only able to see the Gardens by the Bay and a couple of temples, but what we saw we liked. That humidity was killer, though.
After Singapore, we headed to Indonesia for a 36-day stay. During the month we visited the islands of Bali and Borneo. We spent most of our time on Bali traveling the central region and the east coast. As much as we liked Bali, we also felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of visitors. I imagine back in the day and maybe during offseason Bali more closely matches its reputation for a tropical paradise, but during busy season bring your patience and expect to see hordes of tourists almost everywhere.
We were able to find a few locations to escape the people traffic. In the mountains we found Munduk and on the eastern shores, we found Amed. Both were quite charming and much quieter than Ubud and towns located in the south.
Munduk is a great central island location for mountain hiking and meeting locals. Amed lays on the east coast at the foot of Mount Agung. The backdrops are stunning, and the black sand beaches are a constant reminder of the stratovolcanos presence. Both locations were relaxed and less packed during our visit, but we expect both places only to increase in popularity.
The beaches of Bali are spectacular in many ways. They have white, black or pink sand beaches some with incredible snorkeling just meters from the shore. In Tulamben, we snorkeled over the USAT Liberty shipwreck located maybe 50 meters off shore. Parts of the wreck were quite visible. If you plan on visiting this location, go as early in the morning as possible. The area gets packed with snorkelers and divers and is crazy crowded by 9:00/10:00 am.
Our highlight of the month was our Tanjung Puting National Park 3-day/2-night riverboat experience. Located on the Indonesia side of Borneo the park protects orangutans, proboscis monkeys, gibbons, macaques, clouded leopards, sun bears, wild boars, porcupines, samba deer, crocodiles, snakes, spiders, lizards and lots of species of birds. We were lucky enough to see quite a few primates, boars and birds but did not see any leopards, bears, porcupine or deer.
Orangutans are a critically endangered species and the idea that these gorgeous animals may not be around much longer hit us hard. Sitting at home or wherever learning about endangered species creates a certain kind of image and feeling but seeing the animals struggle to live in their shrinking environment brings the urgency to save these animals to a different level.
Please take the time to Google how you can help protect and save orangutans in the wild. Your contribution may be as easy as cutting out a few products containing palm oil. Every little bit helps.
Philippines: Puerto Princesa, Manila
Indonesia: Kuta, Ubud, Munduk, Amed, Candi Dasa, Panang, Seminyak, Tanjung Puting National Park, Pangkalan Bun
While on Palawan we stayed at Balay Tuko Garden Inn in Puerto Princesa, and the owners and employees were fantastic. These guys even made an entire BBQ feast for us on our last night to say goodbye and thank us for staying with them. They even picked up a little birthday cake for Matt’s birthday. Thank you, Balay Tuko!
Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is much better in person. We were a bit reluctant to see the gardens because we thought it would be boring. Boy, we were so wrong! The gardens are beautiful and fascinating. Looking forward to returning and next time we will go at night when all the trees are lit up.
We got to eat Mexican food! We didn’t make it back to the taco stand in Puerto Princesa, but we did make it to Taco Casa in Ubud – twice! Matt had chicken quesadillas with chips and salsa, and I had chicken, beef and shrimp tacos –Both times!
Setia Darma House of Masks & Puppets Museum was beautiful. Ok, I know for some it doesn’t sound exciting, but this place was worth the ride. First, the ride from Ubud to the museum is beautiful, and the museum grounds are lovely. The buildings house over 7,000 traditional Indonesian masks and puppets. Entrance is free, but a donation of 35,000 rupiahs (less than $3 USD) is requested.
When in Ubud the best thing to do is rent a scooter and get out of Ubud. The hills and rice terraces surrounding Ubud are gorgeous. I understand some of you may not be keen on motorcycles, but I am telling you it’s the best way to see the countryside. And while you are at it get a little lost. We did, and we met this lovely young lady who ended up showing us around a bit. Such a great time.
Borneo riverboat and jungle trek in Tanjung Puting National Park was one of our most favorite adventures to date. We booked our boat with Orangutan Applause, and our entire experience was top notch. There was a bit of a language gap with our guide, but he and the rest of the boat crew all worked together to answer our questions and provide us with information.
The journey is called a Three-day / two-night cruise, but it’s more of a ½ day, one full day and one morning type deal. We opted to sleep on our boat, which was awesome! A mosquito net, full mattress, and everything was all set up on the deck under the stars. On land, we stopped and walked four times to see animals including one night hike, which I wasn’t sure Matt would make it to the end. Our guide and our ranger heard Matt did not like spiders and snakes and did their best to scare him throughout the walk. In the end, it was Matt’s anticipation that scared him the most.
The orangutan viewing locations are designed around feeding stations manned by local rangers. As a visitor, you are pretty much guaranteed to see at least one primate at all the feeding stations. We were lucky enough to see three different orangutans and several proboscis monkeys, macaque monkeys and one little crocodile on the river’s edge.
As much as we enjoyed our Borneo jungle experience we are not 100% convinced the feeding station viewings are the most ethical way to see these amazing animals. Points can be made on both sides of the argument and will be writing more on this soon. If you have been or a have a researched opinion on the matter, please let us know your thoughts!
The Not So Great
I know we came out unharmed in our little donut spin in Palawan, but it still scared us a bit.
It took us well over a month to get rid of our feeling like crap. Not sure we are both at 100%, but we are both feeling much better.
While in Ubud, Indonesia one of the absolutely must do activities is attending a traditional dance show. We chose to see an extremely popular Ubud Kecak fire dance. The dance was phenomenal, and we would recommend everyone who visits to see it. However, if there is even a chance of rain pick a different day! Usually, the dance is performed at night, outdoors in a spacious area of a temple. The night of our performance was raining, and the spectators and all the singer/dancers were crammed into an itty bitty, teeny tiny covered stage space. People were so grumpy and hostile as more bodies kept squeezing in and sitting on each other’s feet and in puddles of water. It was a good thing the dance was so good because by about 10 minutes in you could feel the tension leave the cramped space and give in to the entertainment.
Petulu, the Heron Heaven Village, is a pretty well-known area where thousands of heron birds roost every night. Every morning and every evening you can view the birds flying in or out from the tiny village. The area is beautiful and well worth the drive on a good weather day. We went on what we thought was a great evening, and arrived about 30 minutes early to find a good seat on the balcony of the community center. We waited and waited and waited for the gangs of birds to fly in only to see trickles of birds here and there. After about 90 minutes of waiting a drizzle of rain started and foiled our plans to see any more birds.
In Padang, Indonesia we decided to visit the famous Blue Lagoon Beach. The beach was gorgeous, and we had arrived early enough to be the only visitors on it. The beach is pretty small and surrounded by rock cliffs on three sides. The morning we went the waves were deceivingly nasty. They didn’t look bad, but once we were on the water edge, we were beaten down hard by several waves. One wave hit us so hard I knocked into Matt, and we both hit the rocks hard. Then the follow-up wave scraped us up against the ground and then pulled us back down scraping the skin off as we went.
Our stay in Indonesia was over the 30-day free visa stay, so we had to extend our visa. What should be a two trip process has taken us four visits and as the end of the month, we still don’t have our extended visa or passports. As we found out the hard way, the process can take upwards of 7-10 days if you are correctly prepared. We found it difficult to find up to date accurate information online. We will soon be writing a post on the proper way to apply for an extended visa and what to expect.
A friend’s daughter passed away from DIPG cancer. Within two weeks of showing any signs of illness and discovering the diagnosis she died. For the rest of our trip, Matt and I will be releasing four yellow flowers at each of the beaches we visit. 4 for her age, yellow because it was her favorite color and beaches because her family so often vacationed at a beach.
The Oops!, WTF?, LOLs – Lessons learned, head scratchers & hilarities
Oops! Let’s not do that again lessons
Not being prepared for the sacred holy baths of Pura Titra Empul. I am not sure why it never dawned on us to bring our swimming suits or extra clothing to the temple. The bathing area of the temple is said to dispel holy waters, which are used in a purification ritual by Hindus. We learned to bring the extra gear – just in case.
As we were trying to enter the water to snorkel above the USAT Liberty in Tulamben Matt lost his ring. It slipped right off his finger into the hardcore waves at the shoreline. He looked for a few minutes then gave up because the waves were too hard, and we needed to get past them before we got hurt. After we had been done snorkeling almost 2 hours later, he stopped back over to look one more time. Subsequently, after about 10 minutes of looking, he found his ring. Incredible luck. We learned we should take our rings off when swimming.
I am not a good swimmer and don’t like to swim unless I have scuba gear on. But the waves and currents at some of the beaches around Bali convinced me always to get flippers when I am snorkeling.
While we were in Borneo, we wanted to see more than just the park. So we booked an extra three nights in Pangkalan Bun to explore. Well, we quickly found out there isn’t much to see or do around the area. We should have done a bit more general research before we booked the extra days.
WTF? Did that just happen?
Three days and nights in El Nido and the morning we left was the only time we saw the sun. The area was still beautiful under dark skies, so we can only imagine how amazing it is with the sun.
Let’s call it what it is – STUPID TOURISTS. On our orangutan viewing, there are signs everywhere stating SILENCE PLEASE and NO SMOKING. But yet, an idiot was lighting up his cigarette in the middle of the jungle next to the orangutan feeding station. One of the guides quickly asked him to put it out and not to litter.
Also, a family of 4 whose daughter decided to start screaming and yelling at her mom as the orangutans just started entering the feeding area. Instead, both the mother and father ignored their daughter and left her to scream and scare away some orangutans and irk an entire group of viewers. I get kids can be moody, but then take your child and remove him/her from the area. In our opinion, both situations should have never happened if common sense and courtesy had just been practiced.
Candi Dasa, Indonesia was so confusing to us. The town is advertised as a beach town, but all their waterfront has buildings built right on top of the beach. They have covered their lovely beaches in buildings. It was such a shame because the area is lovely, and we would have liked to stay longer; why build over your best asset?!
LOLs our laugh out loud hilarious moments
Matt didn’t get his Mexican food fix in Palawan, but he sure did get Mexican food (twice) in Bali. If you find yourself in Bali and want a good meal head over to the Taco Casa. So good!
Getting double pummeled by waves at the Blue Lagoon. It had to have been hilarious to watch us get hit by the two waves. The first hit me then I hit Matt, and we both went down hard. As we tried to get up, the second wave hit us again. As much as it hurt, it had to have been funny to watch. When we looked up, we did see two couples grinning in our direction.
While on our riverboat in Borneo the nights were quiet and calm. To pass the time our guide broke out his 80’s ballad rock, and quickly we were all singing along to Celine Dion and Bryan Adams love songs.
Also, on our Borneo trip, we took a night trek into the jungle to find all the creatures that come out at night. Being that most are spiders, Matt wasn’t super excited. Our ranger and our guide knew Matt didn’t like snakes or spiders, so they teased him with sightings of scary things throughout the walk. From then on he was known as Mr. Labah Labah (spider in Indonesian) by all the guides and boat crews.
- Our Travelationship in Review: July 2016
- Our triple dive in El Nido with Palawan Divers
- Victoria Falls: Zambia or Zimbabwe?
- Scuba Time with Dive Puerto Princesa Dive Center
- Albom Adventures, Street Art of Asia as Photographed by Top Travel Bloggers
- Travel the Globe 4 Less, 10 Awesome Things to do in the Philippines with Little Time
Our Ears and Eyes
Still reading “Out of Africa” by Karen Blixen but haven’t finished it – Still, have not finished it.
I listened to a ton of podcasts this month. I’ve especially been listening to “Things You Should Know”.
We are starting the month in Indonesia. The first few days we will spend on the tiny island of Gili Meno before heading to Flores and Komodo Island. We hope to spend a day hiking in Komodo National Park to see dragons and to see the incredible views from the island hills.
What we are most excited about and have been waiting months for is our trip to Papua New Guinea! We will be attending the Goroka Show in Goroka, PNG. It’s a cultural sing sing competition between several of the tribes in and around PNG. We first learned of the PNG cultural shows from a friend while we were in Ethiopia. Ever since seeing her photos and listening to her incredible stories we have been waiting for mid-September to arrive.
After the Goroka Show, we will visit Matt’s 6th and my 5th continent – Australia. We will be spending the end of September house and pet sitting for two weeks in Cairns.
We are looking for can’t miss places in Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and all over New Zealand and Tasmania. Let us know if you have tips!!
Have any suggestions on where we should go next? Let us know in the comments!