Finally finished writing about Vietnam… only took 2 months…

I can’t believe I’ve been in Vietnam for 3 weeks already, it seriously feels like I just got here. I feel like all of this is just one long dream. We have been moving around a bit, just staying in a place for a few days then venturing on. It’s such a large country I wish I had more time to see everything! We arrived in Mui Ne which is a beach town in Southern Vietnam and were actually quite disappointed! I guess it will be difficult to find any beach that can compare with the beaches in Indo but this one was pretty sad… they’ve covered a lot of the beach with concrete and the sandy spots are all in front of hotels that make you pay to sit on the beach. We really weren’t feeling this place so we booked a bus ticket out of there and spent a few hours on the beach before getting massages and mani pedis.

The next day we headed to Dalat which is a southern city in the mountains. Dalat had a large French population from the time of the colonies and it is so apparent by looking at the architecture. It felt like a place in Europe more than Asia. The weather was also really cool and rainy so it didn’t seem like Asia at all. We booked a tour on motorbikes and headed out into the mountains for the day to a couple cool spots. My ankle had just finally healed enough to walk around easily so I was so happy to get out and move around again! We visited two Buddhist temples and it was really neat to look at the art and know exactly what everything was. I’m so grateful I took Buddhist art history and history of Southeast Asia before coming on this trip because it has made me appreciate things more. Unfortunately it rained so much here that we needed to leave quickly because we would just be wasting time sitting waiting for the rain to stop each day and not seeing anything.

After Dalat we went back to the beach… I really find it hard to be away from the beach for more than a few days! Nha Trang was a pretty fun town with much nicer beaches than Mui Ne and a beautiful view of a few islands. Unfortunately we got rain everyday here as well but it would stop after a few hours. Keri and I had a really good time here going out at night then spending the days on the beach. Our first night we met the bar manager of The Sailing Club which is like the nice nightclub/bar on the beach. He totally hooked us up with drinks all night and offered us free dinner and drinks the next night if we distributed fliers for the big full moon party that night. Of course we took him up on the offer and probably distributed about ten fliers and partied pretty hard that night 🙂 The Vietnamese are pretty crazy partiers… the bars tend to be about 75% Vietnamese and they definitely work it on the dancefloor. Many of the young girls here appear to be prostitutes and a lot of times they will be with much older Western men and it is really sad to see. I can’t forget this one girl I saw… she looked about 14 years old and she was sitting with a man who was probably in his sixties. She just looked so miserable and sad silently next to him having dinner and then they walked to his hotel. I kept looking at her and made eye contact a few times. I felt so bad for her I just wanted to give her money to walk away from him. It is really difficult to see how much prostitution there is here. The city of Nha Trang is also well known for having a lot of thefts so I almost never carried my camera on me and therefore I don’t have many pictures of it. The night of the full moon party the guy I met in Bali, Daniel came and met us in Nha Trang. He has about ten days in Vietnam so we have all been traveling together and having a really good time.

We left Nha Trang after about 5 days and got on a 12 hour overnight bus to Hoi An. It was a pretty intense bus ride… It is so incredibly hot here and they kept shutting off the air conditioning so I would wake up all the time just so fucking hot then they would put the AC on so cold. It was like having a fever just hot and cold all night long. Hoi An is famous for the tailor shops here so we went out to look at clothing and got a little carried away shopping. The clothes they make here are unbelievable. You can have anything you want custom made to fit you and pick out exactly what fabric, buttons, style, whatever. Keri and I each had a few coats made and I’m so excited to wear them when I get home! A custom made blazer costs as little as 25 dollars for something that would be 100+ back home. So the majority of the days we were in Hoi An we spent going to different tailors and having things made and altered. Daniel rented a motorbike so we went to the beach one day and stopped at a spot along the river. It was so so beautiful! The water is ridiculously warm, I think its even warmer than Hawaii. We also went out to a place called Marble Mountain a little ways out of the city. It was kinda hectic because somehow we lost Keri and couldn’t find her until it was dark.

The longest bus ride EVER… after spending so much time in the south of Vietnam we realized we needed to get up north asap to get to see everything we wanted to. So we took a bus from Hoi An to Halong Bay which took 24 hours! Surprisingly it wasn’t that bad, Daniel and I talked the whole time so it was a good experience for me. I actually never got bored! But we had to stop in Hanoi and get to a travel agent at like 6am which was awful because we were all barely awake and we get into a taxi that is blasting techno music. He drives us about 5 minutes then tells us our fare is 475 dong, which is like $25. So we are standing in the road arguing with him at 6 in the morning and finally we give him about half that and just leave. Sometimes things in Vietnam are just really difficult, like ordering breakfast can be an ordeal because they really don’t speak English well and Vietnamese is so complicated!

So by the time we got to Halong Bay Daniel only had a couple days left in Vietnam before he had to be back to Australia. We were all having dinner one night and Daniel and Keri were talking about how nice Australia is and then they both were telling me that I definitely need to go someday… after a couple of beers I decided I was going to go to Australia when Keri went home. So I booked a one way flight to Australia while we were in Halong Bay 🙂 I really love the freedom I have traveling, it’s nice not having any real plan because it allows me to be spontaneous and do things like go to another continent! So we booked a hotel in Halong Bay and it was pretty incredible. Daniel and I had a HUGE room on one of the top floors with giant windows overlooking Halong Bay. The room was big enough for like 5 people, there were 3 large beds and we pushed 2 of them together and had a giant bed. The room cost 15 dollars per night! And it was actually really nice! We wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner so we asked a taxi driver to take us into town to a restaurant… he dropped us off at this seafood restaurant and I was so freaked out. When we walked in there were octopuses being scooped from an aquarium into a bowl and one of them climbed out of the bowl and was moving across the floor. I was really upset seeing that so I made us leave the restaurant. We went to a place next door where everyone was sitting outside on the street on plastic chairs and there were only locals eating there. I thought this would probably be some good Vietnamese street food but they didn’t speak English and the menu was only in Vietnamese so we weren’t too sure what we were getting… They brought out this big camping stove with a pot of boiling water and some veggies. Then they bring out a shitload of live seafood. I was so upset by it I actually felt like crying. I couldn’t eat the seafood after seeing it alive and moving in front of me. I think that was definitely the strangest meal we had in Vietnam.

The following day we went on a cheap boat tour of Halong Bay. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The water is this emerald green color and there are thousands of tall limestone islands all over the bay. It is so beautiful, by far the nicest place I saw in Vietnam. Keri and I booked a 3 day boat trip of the bay for the following day after Daniel left. I was so glad I was going to Australia because otherwise I would’ve been so sad saying bye to him in Vietnam. Every traveler we had met in Vietnam had told us that we had to do the Halong Bay tour with Hanoi backpackers. It was a little bit more expensive but we would be with all westerners (many of the other tours are full of Asian tourists) and we got to camp on a private island. So we met up with the group going on the tour and immediately knew we would have a good time. Everyone was super friendly and definitely down to have fun. The first day we all went swimming for a few hours in the bay then went kayaking to a cave. Keri and I thought we would be fine kayaking just us girls but everyone else was paired up guy/girl. So we were pretty far behind everyone! It was probably the most work my arms have gotten this whole trip. It was kinda embarassing how slow we were actually! So on the way back we definitely paired up with some guys so we weren’t holding up the group (team USA, always last). The night… this definitely was a group who liked to party. We started playing drinking games and it was the craziest game I’ve ever played. I was actually scared of this game! There were rules like, A to B, someone picks two people randomly with their eyes closed (so they have no idea who A and B are) then makes a rule as to what A will do to B. The craziest thing I saw was A had to take off another guys underwear with their teeth and pass them by mouth to B. A and B were both guys… I seriously couldn’t believe some of the things that were happening! There was another rule where guys and girls had to trade clothes so by the end of the night the girls were wearing guys clothing and vice versa. The next morning we arrived at the island we were camping on. It was a nice small little beach and there were about ten of us that had it to ourselves. You had the option of going rock climbing, waterskiing or tubing out on the water but Keri and I just relaxed and swam in the water. The night time was crazy again but we all had so much fun together. Around midnight I decided to go skinny dipping in the bay. I went in alone at first but within a few minutes everyone joined. There is this special algae in the water that glows in the dark when you swim. It was absolutely amazing to swim with it. You move your arms around and the water around you lights up. It was probably one of the most special experiences in my life. After spending three amazing days together our group really bonded. We went back to Hanoi together and spent the next few days going out shopping, eating, drinking, and getting massages. It was so much fun having a big group of us.

For our last trip in Vietnam Keri and I went to Sapa which is high in the mountains, very close to China. We took an eight hour overnight train there, the train was a pretty interesting experience actually. Definitely not like the trains back home! Arriving in Sapa was incredible, the mountains are carved into rice terraces and there are waterfalls everywhere. The Hmong tribe lives in Sapa and you see them everywhere. We went trekking through their villages for 2 days. They are the cutest, smallest people I have ever seen. They wear these beautiful handmade outfits with elaborate jewelry and hairstyles. The women get married and have children very young so you see many girls about 16 years old carrying babies on their backs. Our guide when we were trekking was only 21 and already had 3 children. They are very persistent sellers and make some really nice hand woven things so I ended up getting a couple purses and pillowcases… Luckily Keri took my things back to California for me so I don’t need to carry them around with me everywhere. Sapa was also very different because the weather was so cold. I actually had to rent a jacket while I was there because I don’t have any warm clothes and it was really cold there!

So that concludes Vietnam, it was a really interesting country. I feel like it was quite difficult at times, the language barrier is extreme! The people are either really friendly or really difficult. I had a hard time being there because I felt guilty being an American in their country. I think Vietnam has struggled a lot in their history and it shows in some of the people there. They can be really pushy and most of the time you are being harassed to buy things or getting ripped off. My very last day in Vietnam I was alone and I just wanted to get a massage, I walked around for nearly an hour trying to find a decent priced massage (I only had a little money and didn’t want to take out any more from the atm). I wanted a massage to relax and never found one so I ended up even more stressed just walking around getting lost in Hanoi. Walking around alone was kinda scary because some of the people actually grab you and touch you when they try to sell you things. It can be really frustrating. At this point I was feeling just so tired in Asia, it was perfect timing to go to Australia for a little break. I really needed to get away and go someplace where people speak English and you can walk down the street without worrying about having your bag stolen or someone trying to sell you something!

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Malaysia and Vietnam

Keri and I arrived in Malaysia around 8am after hardly sleeping at all. I was so excited when I saw Starbucks! I haven’t had a real coffee in 2 months! Indo coffee is really thick and grainy, kinda like a french press with the grounds still in it. We put our luggage in storage lockers and went on the bus into the city. Everything in Malaysia was expensive! I’m glad we didn’t try to stay there overnight. We went and checked out the city and saw the twin towers and all the skyscrapers downtown. Kuala Lumpur is a very nice place, and a really clean city with beautiful trees and modern buildings. We only had a few hours to spend in the city before we had to head back to the airport to go to Vietnam. Keri and I were checking in to our flight and the woman tells Keri that her flight isn’t until the following day! I couldn’t believe that we had booked her ticket for the wrong day! There was nothing we could do about it because it was too late to change the ticket and buying a new one would have cost $300 so I had to leave Keri in the airport and go to Vietnam by myself. I felt so awful leaving her there to spend the night alone in the airport and have to wait almost 30 hours for her flight 😦 My flight ended up delayed and I realized I wasn’t going to get to Vietnam until about 11pm so I booked a cheap place to stay online so that I wouldn’t have to spend time looking for a place by myself late at night.
 I got to the hotel and was so shocked because I had air conditioning, hot water, tv and wifi all in the room! That was the first time I’ve had any of those things in sooo long! The air conditioning was a life saver because it is SO hot and humid here. The next day it rained quite a bit and I just walked around the streets of Ho Chi Minh and checked out the amazing shopping! This 20 year old Vietnamese boy was chatting me up in a restaurant for awhile and he offered to show me around the city on a motorbike so I went out with him for a few hours and saw the different districts of the city. I actually HATED it! The traffic in HCM is so fucking crazy I thought I was going to die… never again will I get on a motorbike in a big city like that. This kid was kinda driving me crazy because he had like the biggest crush on me and it made me feel so awkward I couldn’t wait to get away from him! I picked up Keri from the airport that night and was so happy to be reunited 🙂
The last 4 days we spent in Ho Chi Minh city just exploring the city on our own and doing some sightseeing. We went to the Chu Chi tunnels which were used during the war by the communist army. It was a super touristy tour of course but still so interesting to be there. It felt really strange standing in the jungle where 40 years ago Americans were there to kill Vietnamese and now I’m here… I feel so strongly against wars and I felt really sad being there. They have a lot of the weapons on display and they showed the traps they had laid out in the jungle to capture and kill Americans and it kinda made me feel sick looking at them. We were able to go inside the tunnels and I thought I would be fine but I felt like I was going to have a panic attack as soon as I got in there! It was so dark and small, I can’t believe that people actually lived underground for years in these tunnels.  Afterwards we went to the War Remnants museum in downtown Ho Chi Minh and I got teary eyed just being there. The Vietnamese people have struggled so much in their fight for independence. There has been so much bloodshed and hardships in the last few hundred years. I read a book about the treatment of rubber plantation workers and how the French colonizers basically used them as slaves and tortured and killed them. On our drive I saw the rubber plantations and it made me think of the book I read and I’m just amazed at how hard life has been for the Vietnamese. Other travelers have complained that they are the most pushy sellers out of all the other SE Asian countries and I have seen that too but I feel so sorry for them. They are incredibly poor and there are so many war victims here. My first day I met an old man who was showing me his wounds from being shot in the war. Then everywhere you go there are the victims of agent orange with missing limbs and mental handicaps. I didn’t realize that children are still being born with birth defects here. It is one of the saddest things I have ever seen in my life. I think the Vietnamese have some of the most beautiful, soft, sad faces. I find myself staring at them, men and women, young and old. They are stunning to look at. I can’t even begin to imagine the things they have seen in their lives. Just walking outside of my hotel I’ve seen and old couple sitting together on the side of the street eating soup and they are just skin and bones. Probably about 70 years old and I know that they must have some incredible stories to tell. I was wondering if I would find anyone who would discriminate against American travelers or possibly be unkind to us but that hasn’t happened yet. I think the people don’t hold a grudge against Americans anymore, or maybe just the new generations of Americans.
I’m very excited to be here and have a oppurtunity to learn more about Vietnam and see parts of the country. Right now I am on a bus going to Mui Ne, a beach town in southern Vietnam. We have been driving through farmland and it is so lush and green here. I’m definitely looking froward to being back at the beach since I haven’t seen the ocean in almost a week! That’s the longest I’ve been away from the ocean in 2 1/2 months. I am really liking this country a lot and especially the food! I got so tired of Indonesian food, although now that I’m away it sounds pretty fucking good… but the food here is amazing. I love the influence of the French on the cuisine. Fresh french baguettes with butter, jam and eggs for breakfast 🙂 And I’m in love with the Pho- noodle soups. So good! Everything I’ve eaten here has been fantastic. And the coffee is so delicious, I get an iced coffee and a smoothie with almost every meal. The prices here are much better than Indonesia as well. Beers are 50 cents! Hahaha. Well we are arriving in Mui Ne so I will have to write more later 🙂
xoxo
Marina

End of Indonesia…

So my last month in Indonesia was perfect… I didn’t write anything because I didn’t do a lot of traveling. After Java Rachel and I flew back to Bali and went straight to Bingin beach. This was my favorite spot in Bali for sure. We were so tired from being on the move so much so we just wanted somewhere beautiful by the beach to chill out. This was definitely the place. Bingin is this perfect little beach that you get to by motorbike on a dirt road and climb down 162 steep steps. It’s almost only surfers that stay there. There’s about ten different places to stay right on the beach. They’re all really small bamboo bungalow type rooms and each place has a restaurant as well. There were actually some really nice places to eat on the beach. Rooms were soooo cheap. Cheapest place I stayed in Indonesia actually. At you are literally on the beach so you can just walk down the steps and your in the sand. Bingin is located on the west side of the Bukit peninsula in between Padang Padang and Dreamland. I loved it because it was such a clean beach and there were no big resorts or crazy touristy places. Rachel and I planned to stay for a week but we never left. We spent hours on the beach every single day just swimming and relaxing or reading books. I could have stayed there for months. The people we met there were so amazing and that definitely contributed to us wanting to stay. There was a great group of guys from the UK and also from South America. We went on some day trips around the island checking out some temples and other places but we would come back to Bingin at night. We also did some nights out in Kuta where we got a room for just one night and left all of our stuff in Bingin to just go out and party for a night. Kuta is so fucking crazy I can’t handle it for more than one night. So for the last 2 1/2 weeks that Rachel was here we just stayed there and had a really fun time. We did mushrooms twice in Bingin and both times were amazing. I think that Bingin is the perfect place to do them, its dark and quiet and not a lot of people around. We just laid on the beach listening to The XX and looking at the stars.
 I was so fucking sad to say goodbye to Rachel… I cried in Kuta the day she left. We had such a great experience together I never wanted her to go! We spent a month and a half together and I never got tired of her company. We laughed so much on this trip together! I felt like I didn’t have enough time with her even though we were with each other 24/7 for 45 days. I think we both experienced so much together that no one else can understand and it made us even closer friends. I remember sitting on the boat going to Flores and she and I were kinda miserable and I just said to her, “this is something we will never forget, when we are 60 years old we will be like, remember that one time we were on the boat in Sumbawa…” I don’t think anyone would even believe the things we did together. I’m so happy I got to share this incredible experience with her. Sista friends for life 🙂
After Rachel left I had some time alone which was nice, I had met so many good people in Bingin so I just stayed there and chilled with  them waiting for Keri to get to Bali. Will and I picked up Keri from the airport and as soon as she got off the plane we got beers and stayed up late just catching up on life. It has been almost 3 years since I’ve spent any time with Keri so we had a lot to catch up on! I was so excited to bring her to see Bingin, that place is so special (have I said that enough?) I knew she would be like where the fuck are you taking me! It’s about an hour away from the airport and you drive through some farmland and a dirt road before the steps. Of course she loved it there 🙂 We checked out all the beaches and did a night out in Kuta with the boys. It was so crazy to be partying together in Bali! Last time I partied with this girl was 3 years ago in Vegas and now we are together in Indonesia! I kept talking to her about where I had been and I especially talked about Lombok a lot. We were having beers at Diegos place on the beach and we met a mother and son who were from California. I was telling all of them about Lombok and we were a bit drunk and made plans to go the day after next. I thought maybe it was just drunk talk but the next day we all met up and were still totally down  so I called up my friends at Lombok Unique travel agency and we booked the boat to Lombok the next day. That night we all went out together to Uluwatu to listen to reggae music. I ran into a guy I had met about 3 weeks earlier and we were chatting all night and he was going to Lombok the following day as well so all of us were going to meet up. I sprained my ankle that day and it had been hurting pretty bad but I thought it was ok until I tried walking on the beach and realized I couldn’t put any weight on it at all and had to be carried piggyback down the beach. I woke up the next day in so much pain and we were leaving Bingin that night to go to Lombok so I just laid in bed the whole day taking painkillers and watching movies. It was so lame! I had Fabio carry me up the stairs that night because there was no way I could have made it up them. I seriously can’t believe I made it out of there that day… thankfully I was with nice people who helped me out! I will always love Bingin… I miss that place a lot and think about it every day. I really hope that next time I see it it hasn’t changed too much. I want it to stay the same and not turn into a Kuta beach or something really touristy like the rest of Bali. I fell in love with that place and I have to go back there someday.
We arrived in Lombok around noon and got to the Hey Hey Homestay where I had met these guys from South Africa on my trip there a month and a half prior. I was stoked they had open rooms so we got to stay really cheap right in front of the beach and in a central location in town. It was soooo good to be back there. I love how different Lombok is from Bali. There are far less tourists in Lombok and the locals are so friendly compared to Bali. So many of them remembered me from my earlier trip and everyone would come up to us and say hi. We went to the most beautiful beach our first day there. It’s just crystal clear blue water with pure white sand and only about 5 people on the entire beach. There’s a little warung where we ordered fresh fruit smoothies and Nasi goreng for so cheap. I love how every night in Kuta Lombok there is live music somewhere and everyone goes to the same place so you see the same people out each night. We met up with Daniel, the guy I had met in Bali and all of us went out for dinner and drinks each night we were there. We went back to Mawi beach where Rachel and I had gone before. Such a beautiful drive down the worst road in Indonesia… I am so glad I got to go back to Lombok again. They are building an international airport in Lombok and it will be finished by the end of the year. I worry this means that Lombok will change a lot in the years to come. I think it’s possible that Lombok will be the new Bali. All around Kuta Lombok land is for sale and it looks like the locals are eager to sell their land off and make money but I think this will lead to lots of development in the area and Lombok will change. I want to go back here someday soon and I really hope it stays same same.
Our last day in Indonesia we had to take the ferry back to Bali and then get to Kuta to stay one night before flying out the next morning. It was pretty shitty that the last day I had there was mostly spent traveling. I met up with friends again that night and ended up staying up until 1:30am drinking Bintang which wasn’t the best idea because I had to wake up at 3:15am to go to the airport but it was an amazing final night in Indonesia and was totally worth it. That morning we left with our backpacks on walking through Kuta and people were still up partying in the streets. I wanted to cry when we took off… I can’t believe how much I love that place. I could live there I loved it so much. And not just Bali, the other islands were amazing as well. I think I was also lucky I had such great company while traveling. The people definitely made it great. I have to come back one day. I would love to spend six months in Indonesia and I really want to see Sumatra and Borneo next time. I feel so lucky to have had 2 months there and I hope that I get to do it again someday!
xoxo
Marina

Only in INDO!

I keep thinking about funny/strange things that have happened while traveling in Indonesia… I wanted to write about some of the things that Rachel and I talk about all the time and laugh our asses off!

There was this guy who ran the homestay we were at in Gili Air, he called himself “Melon” with like a Spanish accent. This guy was in LOVE with Rachel, I swear he hated me. He was the one who put mushrooms in our drinks. This guy would pop up everywhere we went, its a small island but seriously he would show up everywhere. He lied about everything, I noticed a lot of the locals lie. They claim that they are pro surfers or own some big resort or some other far fetched story.

Mira… my driver in Kuta Lombok. He was like 8 inches shorter than me. I don’t know why but everytime I think of him I start laughing hysterically. Poor guy, his friends were making fun of him saying, “Mira has a girls name!” He spoke almost no English and he drove me on his motorbike for about an hour and half that day so he taught me some words in Indonesian. Then we realized he worked security at our hotel so everytime we saw him we would yell “Hi Mira!” and his buddies at work were probably like, “why the fuck do these girls like Mira so much?” Now we will say “Think of Mira!” when we are taking pictures because we instantly smile.

The toilets… most places have a western style toilet but usually just an ass sprayer and no toilet paper. Bringing toilet paper with you in your purse is a must. Its so strange though, some of the really nice places only have squatters and the shitty places will have nice toilets. The squatters crack me up. They def take some getting used too. Places like the ferrys or buses only have squatters and they probably only have one or two for like 200 people to use for 6 hours. After about 2 hours you don’t want to go near the squatters. I have definitely learned to use them early then cut your drinking down so you can hold it long enough…

Showers. Our first room had a regular shower with a bathtub and hot water. Pretty normal. Then we get to Padang Padang and there’s just a showerhead with cold water right next to the toilet. We were laughing so hard showering in the open bathroom. But now that is just the standard. You never have a real shower, its always just a showerhead next to the toilet. Most places are cold water so having hot water is a total luxury. In the Gilis the showers were salt water. The place we are staying in Bali has a pretty shitty shower, we were here a month ago and I remember looking at the bathrooms thinking I could never handle showering here but now its totally normal and I don’t even find it weird anymore. I’m going to think its so strange getting home and having a regular shower!

Only in Indo, Only in OOOSA. On one of our first days here we were talking to this Argentinian guy who had been traveling in Indonesia for a few months. He was telling us all about these places and things that happened and he kept saying, “Fucking Indo man” or “Only in Indo” and we totally picked up these phrases and say them all the time now. Then he kept talking about this place “Ooosa” we thought it was a city or something but it wasn’t really making sense what he was saying so we asked where ooosa was and he looked confused like, “ooosa? You know, where you are from? U-S-A?” OMG we laughed so hard… Ooosa is USA.

Kitty! “Hello Kittyyyyy” this old man in Lombok who sells cigarettes at the bars. I sprained my ankle and he was really concerned about it so he started massaging my ankle in the middle of the bar. It felt really good and I think it helped so the next day he showed up at the Hey Hey Homestay to give me a massage again. He gave the best massage ever! But I woke up the next morning and my entire calf was SO bruised. I seriously thought I had a disease or something! I was totally spotted with bruises.

Fabio. My friend Nick is the best guy ever. On his first night in Bali he was making a fire on the beach and the wood was damp so he was having a really hard time getting it to start. He was working on it for like 45 minutes and he got so sweaty he was fanning himself off and I took the best picture of him. His hair was blowing in the wind and he just reminded me of Fabio so much so Rachel and I started calling him that and it totally stuck. Fabio is so wonderful, the day after I sprained my ankle he went to the pharmacy for me and got me meds and a bandage. I had to leave that night to go to Lombok and he carried me all the way up the 162 steps of Bingin. Those steps are gnarly! He was so nice for doing that I seriously owe him big time.

“The horse and cart are coming for you!” One night we did mushrooms on the beach around sunset in Bingin. My friend Will is so funny and this family was walking down the beach and will is like,”should I just be really weird and start yelling at these people saying something like, ‘the horse and cart are coming for you! Watch out its gonna get you!'” Rachel and I laughed so freaking hard at the things he would say. We were out in Kuta together one night and Will woke us up in the morning still drunk from the night before. We had breakfast and Will was just standing outside in his boxers talking about the horse and cart with all the people looking at him like he was crazy. It was such a funny day!

Pasta. Is lame. Enough said.

Bahasa. I actually got fairly good at speaking Bahasa Indonesia’s language. By the end of my time in Indo I could talk to the locals and tell them funny things about Keri or someone I was with and they would just laugh and Keri would be like, “What are you telling them?!” Of course I knew the bad words and very important phrases like, 2 large Bintang please, which is Dua basur bintang tolong. Terima kasih is thank you, tolong please and also help if you yell it like TOLONG! Nama saya marina is my name is marina. Saya chinta camu is I love you. Chantik is beautiful, tedak is no, pepe/cuntol/susu juanita is all bad words, and my favorite phrase is mimpy manis-sweet dreams. It was my favorite thing to say to people, in the morning I would tell people that and they would just look at me like I was crazy.

Later, tomorrow. The people in Indonesia are so laid back about everything. It can easily take and hour and a half to get scrambled eggs on the beach. I realized that when you ask for something you most likely will get a response like “later” or “tomorrow”. Rachel was sick and Melon told her he had medicine for her so she asked if he would get it and his response was always “later” which is pretty typical. My place in Bingin I had to ask for new sheets about 8 time and each time Mama would tell me “later”. Now we always say “later, tomorrow” when we talk about something that needs to be done. I’ll be saying to Keri, “oh I need to get online and pay bills but I’ll do it later, tomorrow”`

Lombok Unique! My favorite travel agency… In total I think I spent nearly 24 hours waiting in this place. It’s located right in the middle of shithole Mataram, Lombok. Rachel and I had to wait there quite a few times and we ended up making friends with everyone who worked there. They actually bought us breakfast and lunch one day and let us use their computers all day long while we waited. One of the guys Ragil… loved Rachel and brought her to the village to meet his entire family and he asked her to marry him! I have a few of them on facebook and they write me messages all the time like, “marina I miss you!” It’s really funny actually. When I went back to Lombok the second time I booked my ticket through them and went back to their office (where I had sworn I would never spend another minute of my life) and it was actually pretty funny to see them again.

Ubud, Bali and Jogjakarta, Java

I absolutely loved Ubud! So many beautiful sights and great shopping… I could’ve spent so much money in that town! We stayed in a little homestay right in the center of town so we could walk wherever we wanted to go. The first day there we went to the monkey forest around sunset. It was like Uluwatu temple, you pay a small entrance fee and see a ton of monkeys and tourists. The monkeys here were freakin’ crazy though. One grabbed my bracelets and I sat down and another one ran up to me and tried to get in my purse! I read that the town of Ubud has changed a lot since the book “Eat, Pray, Love” was written. It is pretty upscale with lots of designer shops and expensive hotels and restaurants. I really liked it but I couldn’t stay for too long because eating out was really expensive here. I miss cooking! Rachel and I keep talking about the foods we miss and I wish we had a kitchen so we could cook some food. I miss Mexican food a lot… Anyways, there are many temples and things to see around Ubud so we were really busy the 4 days we were there. We took a bemo (bus) to a gorgeous temple called Gunung Hawi, in Tampaksiriring about 20 minutes from Ubud. The area is so lush and green with waterfalls, streams and ponds all over the place. This was the best temple I’ve seen so far. There were statues carved into the rock walls with rice paddies all over the place. On the way back from the temple we stopped at Goa Gunung, also called the elephant temple. There is a small cave that supposedly was used by Buddhist monks a long time ago. I took some great pictures of both temples. We were exhausted after doing so much walking that day, the temples have so many steep stairs to climb. The following day we went to see the rice terraces that Ubud is famous for. They were absolutely beautiful but I was kind of disappointed because I was expecting to see a lot more. There are shops and houses all over the place so maybe this used to be different? I don’t know but we saw the whole thing in under ten minutes. We didn’t want to waste a day so we had our driver take us to see the volcano and the large crater lake. Also kinda disappointing… it was beautiful but you can only view it from a road and I would’ve liked to actually go to the lake and see it up close. We stopped at one more temple along the way back and watched people bathe in the natural springs of the temple. I think Ubud was the “temple tour” of our trip because everyday we went to different temples.

We had to get up at 345am to drive from Ubud to Denpasar to catch a flight to Java. The airlines are so strange here… they don’t check anything. Seriously they didn’t even check Rachels passport. Her name was misspelled on  the ticket but it didn’t matter because they don’t even care to see your ID. It was a one hour flight to Java and the time is one hour behind so we left at 6am and arrived at 6am. I was so scared when we arrived in Jogjakarta because it is a big dirty city and we have 5 days here so I was really worried we were going to hate it. It reminds me of the bad parts of LA. My guidebook had a recommendation of a homestay that they said was really popular so I tried booking ahead 2 different times but they were full so we just thought we would try showing up and see what happened. We got there around 7am and got the only room available, I was so happy because this place is amazing! I think its my favorite place we have stayed in so far. The owner is an artist so the whole place is painted different colors with artwork everywhere. There is a common area with games, books, magazines and free coffee and tea all day long. There’s so much to do and see in Jogjakarta, the main reason I wanted to come here was to see Borobodur so we booked that right away. We explored the city a bit on our first day and once again I was so happy and surprised at how friendly everyone is here. Our waiter asked us if we would like to see the sunset at the beach that night so he and his friend took us to the beach in Java on their motorbikes. The beach is FAR from where we are staying and trips there by bus cost a lot of money so I was so excited to get a free trip 😉  The beach reminded me a lot of California except that everyone was Muslim… Yesterday we went to Borobodur! I was soooo excited for this as I have learned about it in my Buddhist art history class. It was so amazing to see, I could’ve spent hours there looking at the carvings. I can’t even imagine how much time was put into creating Borobodur, it is HUGE. There are several different levels and you walk around each one counter-clockwise then go up another level and do the same. There are 1000’s of relief carvings depicting images of the buddhas previous lives. Once you reach the top there are 72 stupas each containing a buddha that you can see through the lattices on the stupas. We were there for sunset so there was gorgeous lighting around the entire temple. It was an incredible experience, I almost felt like it was a dream. I keep seeing such amazing places and I always think I must be dreaming. I have seen so much in the last month it amazes me. We have been to 10 islands in Indonesia already, each one is so different. “Same same but different” is a thing the locals say a lot and I think it really sums up the islands in Indonesia. Today we relaxed all day, definitely need to relax more… We are always on the move! Tomorrow is another day of visiting temples and we will watch a Javanese “ballet” at Prambanan temple. I am extremely happy with this trip and I never expected I would see so much of Indonesia, I absolutely love it. There have been ups and downs but overall everything has been so wonderful. If only I wasn’t covered in bug bites from head to toe…

xoxo

Marina

Getting the hell out of Flores and back to paradise

Transportation in Indonesia is absolute chaos. I’ve learned you have to be very patient… sometimes you have to sit and wait for hours. But then it gets fucking crazy. All of the sudden 100 people screaming in Indonesian swarm around you and start picking up your bags and shuffling people around and you have no idea what to do or where to go. Somehow it always works out and you end up on the right bus or boat, but I’m always amazed how it happens. Flores was just like that… We had to call 24 hours in advance to make sure we would have a bus waiting for us in Sumbawa after we got off the ferry… just making a phone call is an ordeal. Anyways, we are expecting to get on the ferry at 8am and then another traveler comes and tells us the ferry would be arriving at 3pm instead. So Rachel and I checked out of our crappy hotel in the morning to go down to the harbor and hang out while we wait for the ferry. While we are waiting someone else comes and tells us that the ferry won’t be getting in until 7pm. Fuck. We are stuck in Labuan Bajo… my least favorite place I’ve been so far. So we decide to just make ourselves comfortable and wait around for another few hours. We actually gave ourselves manicures and pedicures in a restaurant while streaming “48 hours Mystery” on my computer hahaha. Suddenly someone tells us that the ferry is here and we must leave NOW or we will miss it. So we run to the harbor and of course it is fucking chaos. Then they tell us that the ferry isn’t going to leave that day anymore… so now we are stuck one more day in Labuan Bajo after wasting an entire day waiting around. I was so fucking happy to get on the ferry the next morning and get the hell out of Flores! After and 8 hour ferry ride we get off in Sumbawa to more chaos and madness. Some guy grabs our bags and starts yelling at us to get on this bus that is already completely full… people standing, sitting in the aisles, piling up on top of the bus… I was pretty pissed. It’s a 20 hour bus ride across Sumbawa! We get on and have to sit on either side of the driver! Sumbawa is beautiful but very rural so we are bumping around pretty much in the drivers lap as he speeds across the bumpy dirt roads. After about 2 hours we pull up to a large bus depot and then once again everyone is screaming at us and throwing our luggage around pointing in like 20 directions telling us where to go. I was so relieved to get on a different bus that actually had seats for us to sit in! We were exhausted at this point so I put in earplugs and passed out, but our driver would stop like every 20 minutes to let his friends on the bus and they would all scream at each other in Indonesian and wake me up. Seriously I was so confused… I think around 3am they let people on the bus trying to sell us grilled corn. At one point I opened my eyes and thought the bus was on fire because it was full of dust and dirt, our driver left his window open and all the dust came on the bus. Everyone was coughing and covered in dirt. Then the toilet overflowed… and the smell also woke me up. I will never complain about a bus ride in California ever again! Finally we get on the ferry that takes you from Sumbawa to Lombok and the bus gets on the ferry too so we were able to fall asleep for a little bit. Then… they let a little kid on the bus with a fucking tambourine… this was about 4am and we had been up traveling for 24 hours. I wanted to kill them… Finally we get to Mataram, Lombok, not one of my favorite cities but I was SO happy to get there! We get to the travel agency around 9am only to find out the next boat to go to the Gilis doesn’t leave until 5pm so we have to wait some more. Luckily the people there were super friendly and bought us breakfast and lunch so we hung out with them and listened to music and messed around on the computers while waiting. So after 30+ hours of traveling we FINALLY got to the Gilis!

There are three Gili islands, Gili Air, Meno and Trawangan. Each one is different, so we went to Gili Air first because it is the most quiet and calm island. No cars or motorbikes are allowed on the Gilis which makes it sooo nice. You can walk around Gili Air in an hour and a half. It is absolute paradise, crystal clear water, beautiful coral reefs and palm trees everywhere. We stayed in the cutest little bungalow right on the beach and relaxed all day. Somehow after all the traveling we had been doing we ended up going out drinking our first night there. The was a little bar next to our bungalow so we decided to check it out. The guy who ran the homestay we were staying at also worked at the bar and he really liked us so he kept giving us free drinks. There are no police on the Gilis so it was the first place in Indonesia we saw people smoking weed in public. We definitely had to partake in that… After a couple of drinks we were dancing and having a great time but I was surprised how intoxicated I felt, and I didn’t really feel drunk… I realized the drinks we had been drinking had some magic mushrooms in them! Haha Rachel and I had a great night and it will definitely be a night I won’t forget! The next day we went snorkeling and relaxed on the beach all day. We met a few locals who own a bar on the beach so we went there for sunset then stayed and sang songs on the beach with them playing the guitar. The stars here are so bright and beautiful, I just laid in on my back staring at them singing “Imagine”, it was a perfect night.

The next day we went to Gili Trawangan, “the party island” because it was Friday night and we wanted to have some fun! I liked Gili Air more, but Gili T has its own charm. There was about 10x more people there and lots more restaurants and bars. We partied at Rudy’s bar on Friday night and got home pretty late so the next day we were hurting a bit… Seriously I don’t think there is a better place to recover from a hangover. We laid on the beach drinking fresh fruit smoothies overlooking one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Later in the afternoon we went to this little place that has bungalows where you can watch movies on the beach. We rented Bruno and ate gelato and popcorn, so freaking cool! Of course we met more locals who took us to watch the sunset. The view from Gili T is gorgeous because the sun sets over the ocean and you can see the volcano on Bali right next to it. One of the locals we met is a professional photographer so we got up early the next morning to do a little photoshoot on the beach for him. Unfortunately we were super tired and I wasn’t very happy with the pictures but it was still fun! After all the buses, ferries, and boats we had been on we decided we were NOT taking another 6 hour ferry back to Bali so we booked a fast boat and got there in an hour instead. As soon as we got off the boat we went straight to Ubud where we are now. Ubud is fantastic! I really like it here but I will have to write more about it later…

xoxo

Marina

Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo, Rinca and Flores, Indonesia

After spending a week in Kuta, Lombok we left to get on a boat to sail to Flores. I feel like I get bored if I stay in one spot for too long. Kuta is a small town so after about two days everyone knows you.I t was funny because we would walk down the streets and the locals would yell “Hi Marina! Hi Rachel!” It’s definitely the kind of place where everyone knows who you are, where you’re from, where you’re staying… Poor Rachel got really sick with a fever and didn’t get out of bed for an entire day. She slept almost 24 hours straight. Nora, the German girl we met on the bus, went out with me while Rachel was stuck in bed. We had a great time with the South Africans we met and spent several days hanging out with them. They have bought property in Lombok and are building a sustainable farm and a cafe/bar. The even bought their own beach! We went with them to check out the construction going on at the farm. The whole setup is really beautiful, everything is bamboo structures with great views of the farm and the ocean. I really enjoyed Kuta because it was such a mellow town and I felt very comfortable there. We had some rainy days where we just chilled in the hammock and drank some bintangs.

But after about 5 days I was definitely ready to move along so we booked a ticked with a travel agency for a 4 day boat tour. It cost us about $180 but everything was included. Rachel was barely over her sickness so I was really worried that it might be difficult… Nora had done a similar tour a few years ago and said it was one of the best experiences of her life but she also warned us that it was definitely going to be an adventure… Well, it really was an adventure! The first day we were transferred from car, to bus, to car, to bus, and finally after about 9 hours we arrived on the harbor. The boat was exactly how Nora had described it so we weren’t surprised that the toilet was pretty bad, no shower, no water to wash your hands, and only tiny little mats on the floor with one large upper deck for all of us to sleep on. As soon as we got on board all the other passengers started freaking out about the conditions… like, what did they expect a fucking yacht? The other travelers were all couples from Europe: 2 from France, 2 from Germany, 4 from Czech Republic, 2 from Spain and one couple was from Australia. I was hoping that we would all socialize and have a good time but everyone really stayed to themselves and it felt really segregated. Rachel and I just laughed as they sat looking miserable and pissed off about the most trivial things. Since we had gotten a late start the first day we didn’t get off the boat until the following morning. We arrived in Sumbawa and walked through the jungle to a waterfall where we swam around and spent some time. The boat stayed close to shore the entire trip so we saw the whole northern coastline of Sumbawa. We stopped at several tiny islands for snorkeling along the way. By late afternoon the wind picked up and the waves were HUGE! It was a full moon so you had a great view of the water and you could see the boat just rocking back and forth so hard. Once the rain started we were all huddled in the center of the deck getting rained on and splashed by waves, it actually got very scary. I had taken dramamine and had acupuncture wristbands that help with sea sickness so I was ok but very uncomfortable. Even Rachel who never gets sea-sick thought she was going to throw up. A couple of people on the boat did get sick. That night we traveled nonstop for 15 hours throughout the night so it was really difficult to sleep over the sound of the engine and the rocking of the boat. The next morning I was so relieved to wake up to sunshine and a calm ocean. We went to komodo island and hiked for a few hours to see the dragons. Komodo island is part of a huge Indonesian national park so it is very clean and only one small village is on the island. We saw quite a few dragons but most of them were babies. Komodos are cannibals so the baby dragons climb the trees to avoid being eaten! The female dragons are incubating their eggs during this time of year so we only saw males and babies. The island was so dry and hilly, it actually reminded me of California in the summertime. After that we went to some fantastic snorkeling spots and saw so many beautiful coral reefs and tropical fish. We stayed the night docked at one of the many tiny islands (Indonesia has over 3,000 islands). This was our last night on the boat and it was the first time people actually started talking to one another. We drank Bintangs and played cards then ended up dancing on the deck under the full moon. The last day of the boat trip we went to Rinca island which is also part of the national park and there we saw tons of dragons. Way more than Komodo. We did a pretty serious hike through the jungle and hills where we saw wild water buffalo and many dragons. I loved seeing this place because I have seen it many times before on nature documentaries. I remember seeing one where one dragon was able to kill a water buffalo which was crazy because the buffalos are HUGE! It was really incredible to be in such a remote place and I am so grateful for the experience. After the hike we got back on the boat and went to the most incredible little island. It was so small you could walk around the whole thing in about 10 minutes. We were the only ones there and the water was crystal clear turquoise with a reef surrounding it. After the day of hiking and swimming and not showering for 4 days we were so excited to get off the boat and get onto dry land! Then we arrived in Labuan Bajo-Flores…

I was really looking forward to Flores because I have heard stories about how beautiful this island is… well Labuan Bajo is probably the worst city we have been to yet. We were so hot, tired, dirty and carrying all our bags through the dirt streets looking for hotels and everyone we looked as was filthy and overpriced. There is no reliable transportation so someone offered to drive us to a hotel and we got in, he drove us about 800ft then told us we owed him 100,000 rupiah (the price for a night in a hotel room) Then we had to argue with him saying that he was fucking crazy for asking that much money and finally after bargaining we paid him 30,000 which is still a ridiculous price to pay for that drive. We looked at several different hotels, NOBODY speaks any English here and everyone tried to rip us off and charge us way too much money. It was the first time Rachel and I got really pissed off and fed up with the people in Indonesia. We finally got a room, still had to overpay, and the power goes in and out every five minutes and you are lucky if the water is on when you want to use it. The locals were unfriendly, harass you when you walk down the street and the town is disgusting. There is trash everywhere, the beaches are so disgusting. There is trash floating in the water and littering the beach. They also burn their trash every morning so the town smells of burning plastic and smoke. We both decided we wanted to get out of here asap. So we booked a ticket to get back to the gili islands: 7 hour ferry to Sumbawa, 20 hour bus ride across Sumbawa, then another ferry to Lombok, 5 hour bus ride to the harbor, then another boat to get to the gili islands. I have not been looking forward to this much bus/boat/ferry travel but I need to get out of this town to go somewhere quiet and relaxing. So we were supposed to get on the ferry at 7 am this morning, only to find out that the ferry is late and won’t be leaving until 5pm tonight. Which means we will get to Sumbawa around 1am and we were promised there will be a bus waiting for us but the transportation in Indonesia is very unreliable so I am skeptical and a bit worried… Hopefully it will go as planned and there will be a bus! So now Rachel and I are just waiting in a cafe for 6 more hours until we can board the ferry. I am looking forward to being in the Gilis so much…

All my love,

Marina xoxo

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