Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Goodbye Asia, Hello Australia

It's official. Australia makes 20 countries and 5 continents in the last 3 years for me.

Not to mention the tens of different cities, landscapes, faces, and memories. It’s hard to fathom actually. One day I was sitting in ETX dreaming of traveling and now here I am.

Actually, it’s been over a year now since I moved out of Texas.

Pretty crazy.

I’m currently back in Bali trying to sort out my visa. It’s funny because I wasn’t super excited about coming back since I’d only been in Australia for a week. Leaving felt more like a chore. In reality though I know anybody would kill to go spend a week or two hanging out in Bali with nothing to do except relax. I’m too travel-spoiled.

It’s actually been nice to have a little time by myself though. I’ve been with friends the past few weeks and I’d forgotten how much I like traveling alone. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had so much fun with my friends the last few weeks. But sometimes it’s nice to be alone as well.

To catch up on the last few weeks, I’ll start with my last few days in Vietnam, which I spent in Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon.

To be completely honest I didn’t do much here. I was a little burned out at this point. Once I got to HCM I met back up with my friends. We had a good dinner at a rooftop bar and then met up with everyone else and went out that night.

We had a little too much fun. As in a lot too much fun.

Not sure where we got the body paint pen from but I sure do like the martini, pizza, and dinosaur on me.

So then we spent the whole next day at the pool because we were ridiculously hungover. I have no regrets.

The next day, my last in Vietnam, I went to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which are about two hours outside of the city.

The tunnels are remainders from the Vietnamese war, or the American War as they call it in Vietnam. I actually skipped the War Museum because I heard it was really rough for Americans. And again I was hungover and decided I needed to just chill for a few days.

The tunnels were pretty cool. Incredibly small. We were able to walk through them and only about 5% of our group actually made it to the end… It was really, really tiny. Even smaller than the silver mines I visited in the Czech Republic. It was also horrific to see how the war was actually fought, with all the secret tactics like trap doors with spikes at the bottom and fake ant piles to hide smoke when they were cooking.

The experience definitely brought a new perspective to the war for me.

After that, I headed to Cambodia! On another bus of course.

This bus was actually funny because they just had giant (as in twin sized) beds. The driver was showing me to my seat and sure enough there is already another person in my bed. That’s when we realized we were supposed to share the whole ride. We had a good, awkward laugh. Luckily my bunk mate was a young guy from Canada who was really nice. We also lucked out because our bus was only a third full, so I was able to hop into a different bed and we all had our own for the night. It was honestly some of the best sleep I’ve gotten actually.

Funnily enough, me and my bunk mate were actually staying at the same hostel in Phnom Penh so we caught a tuk-tuk together. And then a few days later, we were randomly at the same hostel again in Siem Reap. Backpacking is funny.

Phnom Penh was nice. My first day there I just wandered around the city a little and chilled by the pool. It was blazing hot. Like really, really hot. I expected Phnom Penh to be really dirty and crowded but it was actually really nice and I quite liked the town. There was also a Krispy Kreme down the street and a vegetarian restaurant that was really good so I have no complaints.

Just a typical motorbike-load in Cambodia. It was crazy how much they would load up.

My first night was also really fun. My hostel had a big party in the upstairs bar with a beer pong tournament. My bunk mate – his name was actually Etai – and I actually played together. And we won!! It was awesome. We actually won the redemption shot and then sank the three sudden death cups right away. So we won a beer tower and some pretty hefty bragging rights.

BEER PONG CHAMPS. That's my bus-mate, Etai.

After that the party continued at another bar down the street.

Crazy though, both nights I was there different girls had their bags stolen on their way home from the bars. They both had long shoulder straps on the bag and a guy on a motorbike drove by and cut the strap and just kept driving. One of the many reasons I don’t take anything out most nights.

The next day was a little rough. I was slightly hungover, really sick (I’d been sick for about a week at this point already), and it was really, really hot again, but we pushed through.

Me and two other people spent the day at the S21 Prison Museum and the Killing Fields. Both were incredibly moving. It’s so crazy to me how such horrific events have taken place so recently and no one really talks about it. We all know about the Holocaust, yet people seem to forget all about the genocides in Cambodia even though they were much more recent. I have no idea why we don’t learn about it in school.

The museum especially was horrible, knowing the terror that so many people must have felt there before they were killed. It was awful.

The Killing Fields are actually quite strange feeling because they’re rather peaceful. Birds are chirping and you can hear the breeze through the trees and the grass, the same trees that they used to smash thousands of babies heads against and the same grass that today is still covered in bones.

A few of the prison cells.

The prison used to be a school, which I find even more disturbing.

Like I said, horrific. Traveling isn’t all butterflies and rainbows. It may not be fun to go to sites like these, but I think it’s really important and part of it all to really learn about and appreciate the area you’re traveling through. I know I’ve learned a ton of history in the past few years.

From Phnom Penh, I took a bus to Siem Reap! Again, another night bus. The only reason this one sucked was because we got there super early. Like 4am early, and I couldn’t check into my hostel till 2pm. I tried to just pay for an extra night, but they were already full. So I ended up sleeping in the rooftop bar on a bench for a few hours, all the while being ridiculously sick still.

Siem Reap was actually awesome, mainly because of the hostel I stayed at, Funky Flashpackers. It’s definitely one of my favorite hostels I’ve stayed in. Everyday was just a massive pool party with a DJ and tons of beers and pool volleyball and water guns. It was really fun. They also had really good food (Mexican!) too.

The town of Siem Reap wasn’t too impressive. It was pretty small and dirty in my opinion but they did have some good restaurants. Pub Street was a lot of fun though! It’s basically just a strip of bars that everyone ends up at late at night.

I’m ashamed to say I ate very little Cambodian food while I was there. To be honest it really just isn’t anything special. The curries are a sad imitation of Thai curries, and the noodles are a pathetic try at Vietnamese noodles. So instead I indulged in the cheap western food they had.

At this point I was really sick. I seriously didn’t have a voice for like three days. I didn’t feel all that bad. I just couldn’t talk and couldn’t stop coughing.

I still made it to Angkor Wat for the sunset though, which wasn’t easy. I had to wake up at like 3am which made for a long, hot day.

The temples were amazing though, definitely one of the highlights of my SEA trip. Angkor Wat was a huge item on my bucket list and something I’ve always dreamed of seeing.

There are actually a lot of temples that make up one giant complex. After Angkor Wat, we went to the Bayon Temple, which is made up of thousands of faces. It was really neat.

My favorite was the fourth and final temple we went to that was filled with giant, massive, twisting, white, beautiful trees! It was incredible.

The whole time you’re wandering around the temples, it’s so easy to imagine what it was like a thousand years ago. It would have been incredible to see. Their way of life is intriguing.

After Siem Reap, I headed back to Bangkok on my LAST night bus! I didn’t do much in Bangkok except eat all of the Thai food I could find. I ate massaman curry, pad thai twice, mango sticky rice, coconut ice cream, and papaya salad. It was a great 18 hours.

The next day was a really long travel day to Bali. I actually ended up catching a shuttle to the airport at 7am with a couple from England who were on the same flight, so I was with them till about 6pm that night when we finally got to Bali. They were really cool.

When I got to Bali, I got to meet up with Evi!! My coworker from Phuket. It was so nice to see a familiar face again. We also had Jamie join us, a friend I had made back in Phnom Penh. The three of us had a really good time together.

We started in Ubud, which was amazing. The city is really cute, with streamer-like decorations hanging over the streets everywhere. Ubud is also well-known for its vegan and vegetarian restaurants which I was thrilled about.

The first day we went to the Sacred Monkey Forest! There were hundreds of monkeys…

Then we wandered around town and saw some temples and some rice fields.

The next day we hired a driver for the whole day and started at the Tegalalang (try saying that fast five times) Rice terraces which were beautiful.

We then went to a couple of nice temples.

After that we went to a coffee plantation which was super fun! In Asia, there’s a special type of coffee that’s really popular. Basically, a mongoose (called a Luwak in Indonesia) eats the ripe coffee beans that have fallen to the ground. They then poop out the beans, which then go through a long process of cooking, etc. to make some really good coffee. I was skeptical at first, but after trying the coffee, I can honestly attest to the process. It was really, really good coffee. I’d drink it everyday if I could!

Luwaks! AKA Mongooses.

The red bean is a ripe coffee bean.

Helping to roast the beans. 

In addition to trying the Luwak coffee, we also got to try like ten other types of both coffee and tea that they make there as well as different chocolates. I was basically in heaven.

To finish the day, we went swimming in a really cool waterfall.

The next day we woke up super early, like 1:45am early, to climb Mt. Batur. Since we didn’t go to bed until like 11, we basically just had a nap. It honestly wasn’t too bad though and we all felt alright.

The hike itself was a lot of fun, albeit crowded. It took about an two hours to get to the top. You obviously start hiking in the middle of the night so you have to use a head torch or flashlight. I luckily had my handy-dandy head torch which helped a lot.
It’s neat to see all the lights winding allllllllll the way up the mountain. It’s neat but also kind of daunting because you see just how steep it is.

The sky was also amazing while we were climbing. We had a perfect view of the entire milky way with all of the colors surrounding an incredible amount of stars. Of all the night skies I’ve seen around the world, I honestly think this was one of the most amazing and breath taking.

Once we got to the top, it was really cold, but luckily we had brought extra layers for this very reason. It’s crazy because you’re drenched in sweat one second, and then as soon as you stop at the top, you’re freezing!

We watched a great sunrise though while we had breakfast and snacked on Tim Tams. It was a great experience.

After hiking – AKA sliding – down for about an hour and a half, we finally made it all the way down. Later that after noon we headed to Canggu for some beach days.

In Canggu we actually went surfing, which was a lot of fun! I even won a beer from both Jamie and Evi for being the first to get up (on my second try I might add). It was a lot of hard work and after about two hours, I couldn’t pick up my arms. It was still tons of fun though and I went again the next day.

I really like Canggu overall. It’s a really chill, hipster-esque, surf town. I might actually go back there in a few days.

While I was in Canggu, I was also able to meet up with Justin, one of my friends from Madagascar, so that was a lot of fun. It’s crazy how many friends I have all over the world! I love it.

After Canggu, we flew to Lombak! Lombak was actually amazingly beautiful. Not a lot of tourists go there so it’s really authentic. It took us about four or five hours to drive across the island to where we were going to start our hike and the entire drive was gorgeous.

Once we got to Senaru, a small village at the base of Mount Rinjani, we hiked to some waterfalls. We got there kind of late so we basically ran all the way to falls and back which was crazy.

The next morning, we started our hike! Or should I say climb… Because that’s a more accurate description. We basically went 2000m (6500ft) straight up and spent the night at 2600m (8900ft). It was really, really cold at the top, and even though we brought extra layers, we weren’t nearly as prepared as the serious climbers. Most people had proper boots, trekking poles, jackets, etc. And there I was in my vans with a hoodie and a canvas backpack. It was a good sight I’m sure.
I should also mention that when I was surfing in Canggu, I stepped on what appears to have been a sea urchin which then became stuck in my foot. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it ended up getting horribly infected on our hike. By the time I got to the bottom of the mountain, my foot was ridiculously painful and swollen. It was horrendous and made the hike a thousand times more difficult.

Anyways, the hike up took about seven hours. The first five and a half hours were in the forest, climbing up tree roots, etc. After that, we broke out of the tree line and basically hiked straight up a field and then rock climbed the last 200m. It was tough.

The 'before' picture. Read on for the 'after'.

Lunch break! After this is started pouring rain for about 45 minutes which made the hike up all that much better...

POS III! Getting closer. 

You can't see it, but the rim is wayyyy up there covered by the fog.

It was honestly probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done actually… One of the hardest but also the most rewarding things for sure. The view at the top was absolutely amazing.

When we first got there (around 2pm even though it felt like 7pm), the crater was covered by clouds. But lucky for us they dispersed not long after that.

This is me when we finally got to the top. I was extremely happy (and dirty).

All the tents were pitched along a ridge, with one side facing the crater rim, and the other the mountains going down. You could also see the Gili islands from the top as well!

My Vans, or 'Plimsolls' as Jamie calls them, were/are filthy. I'm not sure if they'll ever be the same.

We had a great sunset that we watched as we shivered and took pictures.

I should also mention how crazy awesome the porters are. They haul probably around fifty pounds or more on their backs all the way up the mountain every day. The spread the weight into to wooden baskets attatched to a bamboo stick that rests on their shoulders. They do the climb ridiculously fast and get this – IN FLIP FLOPS. It’s insane.  We were all utterly amazed.

Our guide was also really great. All of our meals were amazing and he made us hot tea whenever we wanted, which I was super grateful for.

At night, all three of us huddled in our tent and played Head’s Up before we crashed at like 8pm.

It was a long night sleeping in a tiny tent on the rough ground but I slept surprisingly well considering, minus the foot pain. Most likely because I was just plain exhausted, both mentally and physically.

In the morning, we were up bright and early to watch the sunrise, which was epic!

After that we had a quick breakfast and set off for our trek back down the mountain. If my foot wouldn’t have been hurt, the hike down would have been way easier than going up. Unfortunately for me, it was about a thousand times worse. Every step was horrendous and I didn’t really enjoy the way down.

The 'after' picture.

Finally though, we made it. We went down to Sengiggi for the night. As soon as five o’ clock rolled around and the clinic opened, I headed to have my foot checked out.

The ‘clinic’ in Sengiggi was a small room with a cot in it and a lady that may or may not have been an actual doctor.

So basically, she injected some numbing medicine into my foot, which was ridiculously painful, then cut the sea urchin piece out. It was not fun. Not fun at all. Then I was limping around the remainder of my time in Indonesia. Poor Evi had to constantly wait on me.

From Sengiggi, we went to Gili Air for a day. Gili Air is known as a more tame and relaxing island of the three Gili’s, which is exactly what we needed after our hike. We relaxed by the beach, rode bikes around the island, and watched another beautiful sunset. Then in the evening we had massages, which was the best and worst thing ever. It felt great, but my legs were so sore that the massage lady kept laughing at me as I grimaced the whole time. I’ll definitely miss being able to get a one-hour full body massage for less than $10. SEA has spoiled me.

The next day we went over to GIli Trawangan, which is now one of my favorite islands. It was a beautiful, lively little island.

We spent a day snorkeling around all three islands, another day at the beach, and pretty much all of our nights out in town. It’s quite busy at night, with tons of bars and live music and drink specials. Lots of fun. I’ll definitely find myself back in Gili T again.  

Enjoying my coconut on the beach.

I also have to throw this out there that I had some of the best pizza in my entire life in Gili T. It was amazing and every bit as good as the pizza I had in Italy.

The food in Indonesia is pretty good really. Lots of Mui Goreng and Nasi Goreng for me, which is basically fried rice and fried noodle. A lot different from the fried noodle in Vietnam though. I like it better.

'Gado Gado' which is basically different vegtables and some tofu covered in peanut sauce. Yum.

After saying a sad goodbye to my friends in Indonesia, I headed to Australia!

I was only there a week but I already like Australia a lot. It was really, really weird though to be back in a Western country. Everything felt weird. I mean, I saw a dish washer for the first time in TEN MONTHS. Normal grocery stores feel weird. Everything is just weird because it’s so normal but it’s not!

Australia is also a lot like what I pictured it would look like. It’s really pretty! I also saw a ton of wallaby’s already!

It was also really nice getting to see Sam and Paloma, two of my other friends from Madagascar. I had a blast catching up with them and can’t wait to get back.

Sam's dog, Molly.

Sam's pretty cows.

Sunset view from Sam's house.


Surprise! This brings me to my next big news. I’m actually going to be staying in Australia! I’m here in Bali right now to finish my visa application requirements and wait for it to process. Then I’ll be able to live and work in Australia for a year which is really exciting.

I’m really, really happy to not have to go back to the US just yet. I’m having way too much fun and really just taking advantage of all that life has to offer at the moment. I have no idea how this next year will go or what’s in store. I don’t even know for sure if I’ll stay an entire year, but that’s just part of the adventure!

For now, I’m just going to try and enjoy the last of my travels here in Bali before my adventure comes to an end. Well I guess it’s not exactly ending, just taking a new twist and turn. Soon I’ll have a job again and life will settle down a bit.

It’s strange actually looking back at the past couple of months. It’s gone by incredibly fast and yet it seems like I’ve been traveling forever…

I have no words to describe how amazing this experience has been. The best way I can describe it is to say that it’s been colorful. There’s a thousand images, faces, landscapes, hostel rooms, sunsets, etc. that flash into my mind thinking about the last few months.

Not many people get to see or do as much in their lifetime as I have in the past month even. My days didn’t revolve around a job or school or anything other than just living and having fun and experiencing the world. It’s been the most amazing feeling, absolutely liberating. I feel alive and awake and like I can literally do anything. I truly wish everyone got to experience this.

It’s also quite addicting, hence Australia.

I can only hope that the next year of my life will be as good as this last year, which I’m confident it will be.


  1. I am so excited for you! You are experiencing amazing things and I love hearing and seeing it through your posts! Praying God continues to bless you on your journey 😍Renee'

  2. Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoy reading my posts! :)


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