Week’s 3 and 4 in Koh Samui, Thailand

Week’s 3 and 4 in Koh Samui, Thailand

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The night before my sister arrived in Thailand we were still hunting for the giant lizard that was on the loose in our villa.

We still had not found the tookay who had seemingly set up permanent residence in my sisters bedroom, and even though we could clearly hear it scratching about and running up and down the ceiling late at night, his long talons clinging, scaly tail swooshing about as he went, we simply could not locate him for love nor money and so in the end we had to call in the assistance of our villa manager Khun Tor.

When Khun Tor arrived we explained to her that Josh had sighted a tookay in my sisters bedroom more then a week ago, and we could hear it clearly every night around the same time seemingly running across the ceiling but despite our efforts, we still hadn’t managed to find him. Khun Tor went onto tell us that there had never been a tookay in the house before (as if we somehow had invite him in!), a tookay in the home was considered to be good luck by the Thai people (no thanks!), but she said that she would look for him herself.

I knew that there was no way that she was going to find him as as we had clearly stated in our text to her, we had already supposedly confined him in the bedroom but we had checked it multiple times only to find he wasn’t there and the cleaners had looked for him too and hadn’t found him, plus we had recently discovered a hole the size of a letterbox in the overhanging coving in the ceiling which he could probably fit through.

It appeared that the stupid builders had thought it a good idea when they built the villa to leave a hole in the ceiling where the ceiling light’s wiring went and it was big enough to allow tookays and gecko’s alike a perfect place to hide. This also made sense as it sounded to me as if this beast was running up and down within the ceiling as if he were trapped there or something. No, this was a job for the professionals, and by that I mean lizard removal men! Alas Khun Tor didn’t listen. She was determined to locate him herself.

She got a ladder and took it upstairs into the bedroom to attempt to peer through the hole in the ceiling to see if she could see him, to no avail. 10 minutes later she comes downstairs. It appears as though she had no idea that there were large holes in the ceiling and says that she will call someone out to come and have a look. In our short time here in Thailand, Khun Tor has impressed us with her ability to fix almost any situation with speed and ease. She seems to know everyone in Thailand and we have had a succession of cleaners, tookay hunters, pool men, gardeners, electricians, scooter rental and car rental reps at our door within a matter of minutes after alerting her to an issue. Undoubtedly she is a very busy woman, but she seems to enjoy her job and is very good at it. Though she doesn’t seem to ever respond to text messages, her command of English is very good, far better then most of the service people she deals with.

Minutes later a very small man arrives, along with one of our cleaners (the one who couldn’t find the tookay the last time), and an adorable baby girl in a pink Hello Kitty outfit who she holds on her hip. Standing next to Josh, who is 6’2, this little man looks ridiculous. What on earth will he be able to do? Yet it is him who is able to stand on the top of the ladder and almost climb right into the hole because he is so small. Plus being a local I’m sure that he has come into contact with these little critters before!

STori, Mother of Dragons, Guardian of the villa

Thankfully, whilst we were waiting for the professionals to arrive Khun Tor actually heard the tookay for herself which made me very happy as I realised that by now I was probably starting to sound as if I was going mad! Yet despite the little man, despite Josh, despite the cleaners, and despite Khun Tor, nobody could locate this bloody tookay!

By this time, with the arrival of my sister getting closer and closer I told Josh that under no circumstances could we remain in this villa if this thing was not found. Was I prepared to move again? you ask. Yes, I most definitely was. Even though we were really enjoying staying in the villa and were very comfortable there I was simply not prepared to share my home with a dragon.

So these people best find it!

Josh and I had already decided that unless they physically saw and removed this beast we would have to sleep in the main house and give up our own bedroom in the small house to my sister. They returned defeated but then seconds later another group of people, this time around 4 guys that looked like actual professionals, dressed to the nines in protective clothing, gloves and a top jaw rope – those ropes with a hoop on the end that they use to catch CROCODILES, arrived. These guys meant business! And since we knew we were dealing with a crafty fellow this is exactly what was required – professionals. The very fact that they came with this piece of equipment to deal with a tookay meant the thing I had heard about them were true: they were potentially dangerous.

Unfortunately, even though they searched the inside and outside of the house thoroughly they still did not find it. But as they were leaving and Josh and I were waving goodbye to them on the porch, with Khun Tor in her usual position talking frantically on her mobile phone, I spotted a tookay crawling gingerly on the outside of our roof as if to attempt to evade capture.  At first it did not occur to me that it could possibly be the same tookay that we had been hunting for almost 2 weeks because that one, I was convinced, was trapped in the house.

Or was it?

I pointed the tookay out to Khun Tor who looked as if she couldn’t believe her eyes upon sighting him and she yelled to the guys who were literally just about to leave that she had seen a tookay! They came back, extended this top jaw rope towards the tookay who looked very displeased to see them and then abruptly, with lightning light speed they threw the loop over his head and yanked him down and into an awaiting sack which they promptly closed and sealed firmly. But this thing wasn’t going to let them get away that easily. Oh no. He proceeded to squeal a murderous squeal before riggling violently and hissing loudly at them. This was no household pet – this was A BEAST.

It didn’t occur to me to think that this tookay, who had mysteriously appeared was infact the same tookay that we had supposedly trapped in my sisters bedroom, because they said that they hadn’t found it when they had looked and as far as I could see there wasn’t a way out, but undoubtedly, it did seem to be a big coincidence. They took the tookay away and then we said goodbye to Khun Tor.

For the next couple of hours we listened out to see if we could hear the “remaining tookay” but we didn’t hear a thing. It was really odd as usually this would be the tookay’s prime roaming time and at the time I just could not explain how it would have been able to get out of the house if it had been trapped in that room so we decided that to be on the safe side we would sleep in the main house for the next 2 nights so that we could assess the situation. This meant that when my sister arrived the next day she could sleep in the small house for the first night so that we could ensure that it was safe for her to move in.

I was a little on edge that night as although we were not sleeping in the room it had been spotted but in the twin bedroom next door, I still didn’t know whether this thing had managed to escape or not. Also, as it was twin beds that we had pushed together I kept on slipping into the cracks, but other than that I can honestly say that it was the most restful sleep that we had both had since arriving at the villa, partly because the bedroom seemed far less frowsy (or musty) then the other bedroom in the small house (perhaps this was because of the abundance of curtains that the owners seemed intent on using in it), it was far less dusty, and there were less places for gecko’s and other questionable creatures to lurch. And the bed’s were far more comfortable than our own!

The following day we got up bright and early so that we could go and pick up my sister from the airport. Since arriving in South East Asia almost 2 and a half months ago, I had had the pleasure of seeing my Aunty Jac in Bali, who had come over for a holiday with my Uncle and now, I was getting to see my sister, who we had invited over to spend some time with us in Thailand. Being a huge family person, and blessed with a close and loving family, it was important to me to maintain those family connections whilst I was away living my dreams, so to have them along with me on my travels at various points was a blessing indeed. I knew that my sister had been suffering from exhaustion back in the UK, both physically and mentally, and was desperate to get away from the doom and gloom of winter in England and get some much needed sun, and I knew that coming to the exotic natural beauty of Thailand would be just the remedy!

When we arrived at the airport we found her flight had been delayed. She had been travelling nonstop for 13 hours, with a stop over in Malaysia so I knew that she would be absolutely bushed when she arrived. I was relieved when she arrived safely and I was very happy to see her but unfortunately we had no suitable food in the house for her to eat since she is diary and gluten intolerant so I suggested that we drop her off at home first so that she could sleep whilst me and Josh went to Tesco’s to pick up some bits. Alas she said that she would rather come along so off we went to do some shopping with my sleepy sister in tow!

When we arrived back at our villa we told my sister about the current tookay situation and advised her to sleep in our bedroom for her first night there. She loved the villa, both how private it was, how well designed, comfortable and spacious it was and said that she would be happy for us to spend lots of time there just chilling out but I had other plans for her!

She had less then 2 weeks with us in Samui and I wanted her to get the very most out of it and what it had to offer. Being that it was now mine and Josh’s second time in Thailand, and in Samui specifically, we knew that we had a pretty good understanding of the very best places to go and the best things to do and I wanted her to go back having experienced a good portion of it, but of course I realised that she was tired so after a leisurely dinner, where we chilled out and chatted about what was going on back home, she retired to bed.

Tomorrow, I promised her, the fun would begin!

Fisherman’s Village Night Market

I had made a list of all of the things that I felt she should experience in her time in Samui, trying to make sure they were as varied as possible and that morning over breakfast, we went through them to identify which ones she really wanted to do and which ones we would do if we had time to and then I set about identifying which ones were weather dependant or needed booking and made the relevant reservations but the first one was really easy, as it was only a short drive away, free, and was where we went most nights for dinner: Fishermans Village.

Every Friday night Fisherman’s Village in Bophut had their legendary nightmarket and tonight was the night.

Nightmarkets were a big part of the Thai experience, and everywhere in Thailand, from Bangkok to Phuket to Samui, were capitalising on their growing popularity. It was something that seemed to be unique to Thailand, and I had certainly not experienced the sheer scale, variety and originality of this anywhere else in the world. And in Koh Samui, the Fisherman’s Village nightmarket, was the best one of them all.

Transformed into a pedestrianised street, stall sellers selling anything from dried crickets to fake handbags, handmade soaps to Bob Marley t-shirts were sold on the Fisherman’s Walk and surrounding roads by the locals. The variety of items on offer, even if they were not to my taste, or not particularly of a good quality, were still mesmerising to see in such unbelievable abundance. And the vibrancy of the streets lit up with live music, restaurants and spa’s all heaving with customers and seeing people from all over the world, who came to touch, smell, look and haggle with the local sellers over the various items for sale was quite intoxicating. Even if you weren’t there to buy, or had no interest in trying the questionable foods being sold on the food stalls (like us), it was still something worth experiencing, and admittedly the market had a little something for everyone to draw you in. My sister was completely mesmerised by all of the things on offer, and being a slight shopaholic, lol, she set about haggling with the Thai people with ease!

The Thai people are very relaxed about most things in life, and selling fake goods such as designer purses, bags and jewellery was among them. At this market you could buy all manner of designer goods, some which came from the very same manufacturers that made the “designer” goods, on brazen display, infact there were even retail shops in Samui selling fake goods such as these and they seemed to be doing very well indeed!

When we were in Samui last I picked myself up a bag and Josh got himself a watch (which is now no longer working I hasten to say). Alas, it was so cheap that he could afford to buy more then 10 of the watches for the price it would cost him to buy 1 that is why they were doing such good business here.

After escaping the lures of the nightmarket we experienced a bit of Thai hospitality at a lovely Thai restaurant called Krua we had been to before which overlooked the beach.

The tookay that we were convinced had infiltrated the villa and was hiding in my sister’s room never made another appearance, therefore it became clear to us that the one that they had removed was the same one we had heard. The following day I went into my sisters room to double check that there was nothing lurching there and almost immediately I spotted a gecko scurrying across the wall. This gecko was a slightly larger gecko, bigger then the ones that frequent our bedroom but it was a gecko nonetheless.

Could this be the “tookay” that Josh said that he saw? – it certainly made sense.

  1. The tookay they removed from the property had clearly been the same one that we had been hearing on the roof running, scratching and searching for prey as since that night we hadn’t heard a dicky bird.
  2. We never actually found the tookay that Josh reported seeing despite confining it to a bedroom, where it was too big to hide and a literal army of people searching for it. 
  3. This was a gecko that perhaps upon initial sight could have been perceived to be a tookay when infact I could clearly see that it was a gecko.  

I pointed it out to Josh and my sister and Josh got rid of the unwanted by using his favourite weapon: Dettol.

Of course I’d like to say that this gecko murder wasn’t neccessary. That I would be able to coexist with the beast shitting all over our house, scaring the bejeezers out of me everytime I opened a drawer or went to the toilet or chirping above my head whilst I was in the middle of a deep sleep, but that just isn’t true. This gecko business was starting to become unbearable. And since they did not want to take their cue that the outdoors is where they should reside and NOT my house, we had no choice but to take action. Did I feel good about giving Josh the go ahead to eradicate this critter from my life? No, I didn’t, infact I felt very sad about it as I know that it was essentially a small and defenceless creature but that doesn’t mean that I must be forced to live with it. I want it to live and I want it to thrive but NOT IN MY BATHROOM. Alas, it had to go.

On a positive note however: now that we had finally identified what the unbearable noise was that we had been hearing, seen the professionals remove the tookay from the property and dealt with the roaming gecko, my sister could now move into her room with no stress, and we could move back into ours.

Lamai and Muay Thai

We had stayed in Lamai in our previous time in Samui and though it wasn’t as quiet as Mae Nam it was still pretty lowkey in comparison to Chaweng, asides from the nights when it had it’s own nightmarket and it’s Saturday night event: Muay Thai Fighting.

The beauty of being in Thailand of course was not just it’s beaches and stunning landscapes, but it’s buddhist temples, amazing food and of course: Muay Thai. In Samui, as I’m sure all over Thailand, they were big on Muay Thai, and you could see the big fights in a huge local arena almost every week here, however I knew that they had a tradition of selling tickets to tourists at “tourists prices” and I didn’t particularly fancy sitting there watching 12 other minor fights whilst waiting for the big one to begin therefore when we found out about a Muay Thai fight that you could go and see for free, in the middle of popping into a local restaurant for a Pad Thai or perusing the local stalls for various unnecessary goods, we were sold.

The last time we saw Muay Thai fighting here it had been between young children (who seemed to be somewhere between 8 and 10 years of age) and girls, interspersed between ladyboy’s dancing in between the fights but this time, though there was a fight between young boys again (one of whom was far too cute to be fighting I thought), there was also a fight between older boys (teenagers really), young men and girls. Of course the fighting between the girls was the most enjoyable. For some reason the butch and ugly looking one seemed to believe that she was a winner as she had a very aggressive style of Muay Thai and had seemingly a large portion of the audience rooting for her, but I was rooting for the other one, who to me though less aggressive and explosive, had a more unique fighting style which if used right would certainly be the victor.

At the end of the rounds the butch looking girl started yelping and jumping up and down as if she had won but I don’t know why she thought that as the other girl clearly had the edge on her. You lost love! 

With the combination of the tasty Thai food, the variety and excitement of the nightmarkets and the Muay Thai fighting, free for all on the streets, my sister was certainly hitting the ground running with her authentic Thai experience and she was loving every minute of it.

Beach Republic

Beach Republic was one of the few beach clubs in Koh Samui, and in my opinion, the best one. It was located on a seemingly private stretch of beach and had a really cool, laid back, chilled out vibe about it. We happened to stumble upon it when we were in Thailand before and had liked it so much that we went back a further 2 times so now that we could verify both it’s quality and consistency, we decided to take my sister there. Beach Republic was great firstly because of it’s location. On a picturesque stretch of beach in Lamai, it was both private and peaceful and had an eye catching colour scheme of red which was splashed liberally throughout it’s sunbeds, beach sala’s and lanterns that were dotted all over the resort. Aswell as being a beach club, it was also a spa and a hotel, but it was so laid back there that each time we had gone there despite them telling us that the beach sala’s were reserved for hotel guests only they had allowed us to use them, and the sala’s had a great invention: they had a button on them which allowed you to call a waiter over without even having to move your head or raise your hand: Genius!

We arrived at Beach Republic in time for their Sunday Brunch, which they had every Sunday. For the cost of your ticket you could get a free cocktail and an unlimited supply of their very delicious and abundant beachside brunch. Their brunch options were so vast that it would simply be impossible to try all of what they had but I remembered in fondness how despite the fact that they were putting on essentially a buffet (which I personally am not a fan of), the food was always fresh and delicious. In the main course section you could have sushi, fresh salmon, a Sunday Roast (which was pretty good actually and had all the trimmings), various types of meats, pasta’s, salads, Thai food, fish, vegetarian dishes, rice, noodles, and there was another section where you could get fresh lobster, steaks and prawns cooked for you there and then. The Pad Thai was also cooked fresh with your choice of ingredients aswell as the pasta dishes.

Desserts, which included cheesecake, brownies, carrot cake, fresh fruit, cheese board, pana cotta, chocolate mousse and icecream were kept cool in a temperature controlled room. And the best thing of all was that there was a crepe van there too – a van where a man made fresh crepes from scratch with your choice of fillings and sauces. I chose a caramel, coconut and banana one and it was very tasty indeed. My favourite dessert combination was having a fresh caramel, coconut and banana crepe with a scoop of vanilla bean icecream on it. Deeelicious! For my main course I had vegetables in oyster sauce with egg fried rice and a mojito and I was very happy. I really didn’t need anything else.

After having lunch in the restaurant we were shown to a lounge area with big sofa’s and cushions that we could stretch out on and enjoy the stunning views of the Andaman sea lapping gently against the shore. We had completely unobstructed views but could see other islands on the horizon and with the combination of the chilled out music that was provided by the very talented resident musician who we remembered hearing play the last time, we were completely blissed out. The sea was calm, the sun was shining and it was very refreshing having a leisurely swim in the sea whilst the music was playing in the background. The musician played acoustic guitar (but acoustic guitar that was devoid of the usual cheesiness associated with acoustic guitarists), and once he finished playing the resident DJ started playing (who coincidentally, along with the resort manager was from the UK), and he was excellent. He played a combination of soul, funk and house music and played tune after tune after tune. He certainly kept the chilled out vibe going. And then we had another surprise: A saxophonist came on and played along with him for the rest of the afternoon and he was great! It was such a lovely, unusual surprise but the saxophonist was clearly very good at improvising and was able to play along with every single song even when it was booty shaking house. I loved it.

Since the beach sala was unavailable when we arrived we had been keeping our eyes open for when it was so that we could move onto it as soon as it became available and so when we saw one was empty we retreated there where we continued enjoying the good musical vibes. My sister was enjoying herself so much that she spent an extended amount of time in the sea dancing to the music and then took herself off to have a Thai massage on the beach for an hour and a half. I was glad that finally she had completely left the UK behind, with all of it’s stresses and strains and was absorbing herself fully in the moment. It was a great day. And of course I got to press the service bell which filled me with a totally unneccessary kind of joy.

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A chilled out Sunday afternoon at Beach Republic

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Beach Sala’s. Ring the bell for service!

Greenlight Cafe

The following day we took my sister down to a healthy cafe we had encountered on the island – one of a very few I’m afraid to say! Unlike Bali, which is very much a health conscious island, perhaps because of the abundance of health conscious Aussies on the island I’m not sure, Koh Samui has an abundance of fine dining results with exceptional cuisine but they aren’t so up on the allergy thing, which means that for someone like my sister who tragically is both gluten and diary intolerant, there are not many places she can go where she will have a full menu to choose from.

But Greenlight Cafe offered peace and tranquility, located down a quiet part of Fisherman’s Village, and health conscious food, a combination of vegetarian, gluten, organic and allergy considered menu and the staff there was very friendly. We both chose the gluten free pancakes as though I am not allergy ridden, I liked the sound of the pancakes that came with fruit and honey and was felt like having something sweet to eat. Josh chose a healthy salad and a fresh shake, which was named “Heaven on Earth” a bold statement indeed, but when he tasted it I could immediately tell that something heavenly had occurred as he refused to share any of it! It contained almond milk, almond butter, dates, cinnamon and cacao and when I did manage to get to sample it I really could not believe how heavenly it tasted either. It was so good it was bad. Surely this cannot be good for you! I thought.

Our pancakes, as expected were very good, but the portion size was ridiculous. As soon as I saw the 2 pancakes, which were big and fluffy and had an abundance of fruit between and on top of them, I knew that I was going to have trouble eating them, especially since they were not buttermilk ones, which tend to be a little less dense and heavy. By the time I had eaten one I was really starting to struggle and so was my sister. The last thing I wanted to do was offend these people by sending it back because it was very good but portion control was clearly not happening here as Josh’s salad was huge also. Josh managed to finish his salad but my sister and I got about 3 quarters of the way through our pancakes before we had to give up.

Chaweng Beach

The weather was glorious so we decided to take ourselves down to Chaweng Beach, the best beach on the island, for a leisurely beach day. Samui had many beaches to explore but Chaweng is the finest one of them all. It is well developed with lots of resorts and restaurants on the beach but is big enough to take them all without it becoming overcrowded or too commercialised. You could still find a lovely stretch of beach without anybody on it, plus the sand was a soft, powdery white and the sea an aquamarine blue, with almost no seaweed or floating rubbish whatsoever. I’m not a fan of swimming in dirty sea water but thankfully the sea here was crystal clear, clean and warm. It was so glorious that it was extremely difficult getting out of it and my sister certainly did not want to leave at all!

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Chaweng Beach and their £5 an hour massages 

Dinner was at a Thai restaurant in Chaweng called Red Snapper. Chaweng High street with it’s vibrant nightclub, retails shops and massage spa’s a plenty was not renowned for it’s food but Red Snapper, a Thai seafood restaurant, served some very delicious and fresh seafood including the best starter I’d had since we had arrived here: scallops and prawns on a vegetable pie with a creamy, spicy sauce. It was really really good!

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Scallop and prawn starter at Red Snapper 

The Anantara vouchers we had managed to scam so elegantly, we had decided to use in one of the most expensive restaurants, infact perhaps the most expensive and certainly the most highly rated on the island: Tree Tops. Essentially a small collection of private treehouses with their own butlers serving an extortionately priced Mediterranean menu from it’s perch above the trees and overlooking the beach and tropical gardens of the Anantara Hotel, Tree Tops was described as being the most unique dining experience Samui had to offer.

When I had come across the restaurant before and looked at the price to dine there my jaw had literally dropped. I simply could not believe that Thailand were trying to ask for more money then many of the best European restaurants, even despite the fact that it was supposed to be a once in a lifetime experience, but when I established that it was another William Heineke establishment as Tree Tops was actually a part of the Anantara Resort brand and was located on the grounds of their Chaweng branch, coincedentally which is where we went to get our second round of vouchers, I wasn’t surprised anymore as William is on a scam!

The price to dine there was so high that even our vouchers (worth just under £250 in total), was not going to cut it.

I made our reservation for a couple of days before we left the island and I sincerely hoped that they blew me away with their offerings because I had not been frequenting shoddy establishments and I knew what quality such monies should give me!!

Dr Frog’s

Dr Frog’s, despite the name, was not a French establishment serving up frogs legs, but an Italian restaurant in Lamai.

It was one of the most popular restaurants on the island for it’s food, which was fresh, good quality, authentic Italian, and it’s scenery, which had a backdrop of staggering beauty with uninterrupted views overlooking Lamai beach and the sea beyond.

Dr Frog’s also happened to be somewhere that we could use some of our vouchers at and after our disappointing experience with Happy Elephant I really wanted to use them somewhere worthy. We arrived around 17:00 just before the sun went down and we did indeed have wonderful views. My sister in particular was very impressed with how beautiful the island was in this light and we got to see a lovely sunset as we were having our cocktails. I remembered the head chef, who seemed to make a point of going over to each and every table (there were only a few occupied), and making small talk with them. He was an Italian man, and despite the many years he had clearly been working and living in Samui he still had an impressively strong accent. This gave me hope regarding the food as the appearance of him to me solidified my assumption that we were going to get some authentic and hearty Italian food. 

But instead of him going back into the kitchen to begin rolling my spinach and ricotta pasta parcels he just stood around looking bored as if he had nothing to do. But he did have something to do: My pasta! Now I was worried. Had this man fallen out of love with cooking now? Did this mean that he was getting a Thai chef to cook his authentic Italian menu? Was I going to get inferior food??

Unfortunately, yes. When our food arrived (we had all ordered various pasta dishes as we thought that they would be cooked the best), it was a disappointing experience. Josh could even have sworn that they had given him a reheated lasagne! Unacceptable!

The head chef didn’t even bother to go into the kitchen during the period that our food was being cooked to check on the quality or presentation of it. He didn’t seem even remotely bothered and instead kept on walking around with his hands behind his back, belly protruding forward whilst a Thai chef tried in earnest to follow his Italian Grandmothers recipe!! This will never do I thought: Get back in the kitchen!!

Alas, the man refused to go into the kitchen. And thus the food was average. Perhaps average was a little strong- it was still tasty, but it was without a doubt far better the last time we had been there and that was a damn shame.

Firedancers on the beach

The following day we had dinner at Coco Tam’s, the beach bar and pizzeria on Bophut beach. It’s a great place to chill out because of it’s strategically placed position on the beachfront with a view of the firedancers who performed on the beach nightly. So far we had seen them perform around 4 times already, but they changed up their routine so that it was new each time and it was always great fun and a spectacular show.

The pizzeria was a new feature of Coco Tam’s and seemed to be doing very good business. It was packed each time we went there and on a few occasions when we had wanted to eat there we couldn’t because they had no available tables and they had only been open for a couple of weeks. The pizza there was unbelievably good – my favourite is Margherita, always has been even before I stopped eating meat, and this one was unbelievably tasty. The base was fresh and perfectly cooked, the tomato sauce on the pizza was juicy and the cheese was both buttery and salty. So good!

After dinner we moved to the beanbags on the beach to watch the firedancers do their thang. They had a few new routines, some that didn’t go so well but overall it was an awe inspiring thing to watch and completely free! If this was in London they would have charged alot of money for people to see it yet here we were on the beach watching firedancers for free.

Big Buddha and the climb of death

Now that we had ticked off a few things off our list we wanted my sister to experience the more cultural side of Thailand. One of those things was going to see the Big Buddha statue and visiting Numuang Waterfalls, one of Samui’s most impressive natural waterfalls. Both of these things we had seen before, but though we told my sister that we had personally found the Big Buddha statue underwhelming, my sister still wanted to see it, which we completely understood if someone hadn’t seen something like that before, so we planned a trip to visit them both on the same day.

When we arrived at the site where the Big Buddha statue was located we were left underwhelmed again as similarly to at Tanah Lot, though perhaps not quite as desperate, there were sellers of various cheap and nasty wares posted up around the site ready and waiting for the tourists who had come to visit what was supposedly a sacred site. I was struggling to understand the correlation between the monks, who were there dishing out blessings to individuals who paid them for it, and who insisted on visitors covered up their arms and legs up before making the climb up the stairs to see the big gold Buddha and not adorning themselves with items depicting Buddha because it was offensive, and the many retail stores that surrounded the site selling cheap knick knacks to unsuspecting tourists.

Again I wondered about the validity of their claim that it was sacred when they allowed such unsacredness to occur in front of their very eyes. But perhaps they didn’t have a choice in such matters, who knows. All I knew was that once we got to the top of the staircase that lead us to the buddha all 3 of us were left underwhelmed yet again. We could see that he had had a fresh paint job that much was certain, but I could see still the unmistakable sign that he had been painted and thus the mystery remained completely nonexistent. I could see that this buddha had upkeep, I could see that he was within a supposedly sacred sight that didn’t feel very sacred at all and overall, I felt as though it would have been much more believable if he was actually a gold buddha, not just a painted gold one. Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with this tourist attraction and my sister wasn’t particularly impressed either. We left the miserable place and started making our way to Numuang Waterfalls which was on the other side of the island.

We arrived quite late to the waterfalls as the drive was much longer then we anticipated but as soon as we got there we had the pleasure of witnessing a herd of majestic elephants on their walks around the grounds. The last time we had been here we had witnessed elephants chained up in cages and it broke my heart. I love elephants and seeing them outside of their natural habitat, being ridden by humans or being chained up and prevented from living their natural, wise, immensely humbling and awe inspiring life was a painful thing to see. I remember looking into the elephants eyes and seeing a knowing there and elephants have and will remain one of my favourite animals, along with monkeys, because of the depth of understanding and emotion that you can seemingly read in their eyes. They are beautiful animals.

On this site, along with the waterfalls, they also had an area where you could do quad biking, zip lining, elephant trekking and the latest attraction: “taking a picture with tigers” which I was also not very impressed about. I wondered how on earth it was possible to take a picture with a tiger unless it were not operating within it’s normal characteristics and I had heard stories of tigers being injected by people in order to stop them from being their natural tiger selves which was just terrible. No, I did not wish to see a paralysed tiger thank you very much!

The waterfalls were located at the top a very steep hill which I remembered Josh and I had walked the last time we were here but nobody else seemed to bother because they had a contingency of 4×4 jeeps ready and waiting to take people there.

This time we decided the smart thing to do considering it was getting late and take the jeep there rather than walk. So my sister and I jumped onto the roof and away we went up through the surrounding jungle where our heads almost touched the top of trees to the beginning of the hike up to the waterfalls. When we got off we were greeted with an almost vertical climb to visit 2 of the magnificent waterfalls. Josh and I had done this hike before so we weren’t at all concerned about how strenuous the climb might be and  began making our way to the first point of the hike.

Strangely, there was now a rickety looking make shift wooden bridge crossing, that had been put up over the rocks that before we had just climbed over. I wondered what had happened that they felt they had to erect a wooden bridge? Had someone had a terrible accident here? That was entirely plausible since it was quite a treacherous climb, and was certainly not suitable for alot of people since it required climbing up steep inclines, crossing streams and balancing on rocks. But what was most disconcerting was the fact that according to the sign posted up at the start of the bridge, we should only go over it one by one!!

Why was that I wondered? And, was it one by one Asian style or one by one Westerner style? – because we have all seen the size and weight of alot of Westerners and in some cases they are worth approximately 3 Asian people on average. This was concerning. None of us were overweight but would this rickety bridge hold our weight? – we decided to take no chances and crossed it one by one with the stream rushing violently by underneath our feet. Thankfully we made it across it one piece and now we began the real climb, up the side of the waterfall to get to the next level which was hidden out of sight. Once we got there we allowed ourselves to marvel at the natural beauty and power of this water display, which cascaded over rocks with wanton abandon with a stream of sunlight from above illuminating it and tropical, dense woodland on either side. We sat on the rocks for awhile taking in our surroundings. There were a few others there too – a group of French people, who were sat on the rocks taking pictures. But apart from that it appeared that we were late to the party as we had arrived at the waterfalls just before the park was closing so we decided that it would be best to press on.

The last time Josh and I had climbed this waterfall we had done it from the other side of it, which provided a much more user friendly experience, though it had still been strenuous. But Josh, for reasons unbeknown to me, decided that he knew that way to the top of the waterfall and thus me and my sister should follow behind him. There was absolutely no signage posted up to tell us which way to go – not with text, not even with an arrow so we trusted him with the directions implicitly, but when we started climbing up essentially what was a vertical rock face which required my hands and legs to get into positions that just did not seem physically possible, I knew that something was wrong.

Did Josh know where he was taking us??

Something inside of me told me that something was not right. Partly it was because Josh isn’t the best person for directions in this relationship: I am, and partly because I know that he is a little bit fond of getting himself and therefore me into dangerous situations. But he was insistent that this was the way, even when the foot holds became smaller and smaller and further more inconspicuous and even when my eyes could see no end to this evil climb. I was especially terrified for my sister, knowing that if any one of us did have a fall (and right now I could see that it was very possible if not inevitable because this trail was not meant for random tourists), then we would be in some serious shit because we couldn’t even describe where we were.

To top things off, as if they couldn’t get any worse, was the fact that it was rapidly getting darker and being that we were in the middle of borderline jungle, we had already started hearing sounds such as none of us had ever heard in our lives and apart from us, there wasn’t anybody else around.

What kind of sound was that? A silverback gorilla perhaps??

After an especially hairy part in the climb, which required us to grab onto nonexistent rocks buried within the soil in order to hoist ourselves up, my sister had finally had enough. She said she couldn’t go further and I agreed. We seemed to be going deeper and deeper into the jungle and we didn’t even know if there was another crossing. We could just be climbing further and further then how would we get back down??

Alas, when I told Josh I did not think it wise to go any further because I knew for a fact that he was just “chancing it” and didn’t actually know whether there was a way down that way at all, he seemed positively gleeful. He was actually enjoying this! Josh was taking pleasure from our pain!

Rage and Fear

The emotions were rage and fear. My rage and my sisters fear. My fury was growing as Josh, grinning from ear to ear, tried in earnest to convince us to keep going. But my sister could not go any further and I did not want to go further because I knew that he didn’t know where the bloody hell he was taking us!! Sweat was streaming down my face at this point and my thighs were literally shaking they were being put under such pressure. I did not want to scramble further into the darkening jungle just to satisfy his boyish danger fantasies and I did not want to be responsible for anyone of us having an accident which to be completely honest, would not have been me but probably him or my sister because I was far too enraged to fall!

The biggest concern of all was that if we went any further we wouldn’t be able to get back down and that wasn’t something that I was prepared to chance especially since I couldn’t see anybody else attempting this climb but us.

Thankfully, Josh agreed to go on ahead to have a peek up the waterfall for himself to see if indeed I was right and there was no reasonable way up and finally he agreed that we should divert our journey and go across the waterfall instead, via the way of the protruding rocks which the stream was rushing over. Below that was a vertical drop but trust me when I say this was the best way down.  

One by one, we gingerly made our way over the rocks, which required a lot of skill, patience and confidence – and since there was some algae on the rocks we took our shoes off to avoid slipping.

All in all it was a horrendous experience and despite Josh’s enjoyment of the scenario I can assure you that there was nothing funny about it!!

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Big Buddha 

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Numuang Waterfalls

The following day, after the trauma of the waterfall experience my sister and I decided that we were very much in need of a spa treatment so we booked one at a resort that was nearby and we took ourselves off to Chaweng where we had a walk through the main road, which had an abundance of retail shops and markets, where both Josh and my sister were seduced into buying watches (fakes of course but very good ones!), and after that we started discussing having a spa treatment at one of the many spa’s on the high street. Another thing Thailand is renowned for, asides from their amazing cuisine, Muay Thai and famous nightmarkets are their spa’s, which they have literally hundreds of from bargain basement to ultra luxury.

You can get one in someone’s home, at your hotel, on the beach, and in many many spa’s on the road of varying quality but though Chaweng wasn’t somewhere that I would choose to walk the street looking for one necessarily (because it was a tad bit tacky), It DID have lots of spa’s and I saw nearly all of them occupied with Westerners getting a rub down before or after their night out so I chose the most luxurious and cleanest looking one that I could find and all 3 of us booked ourselves in to have an hour and a half worth of treatments. Such a thing would be unheard of in London as it was approaching 12:00 am midnight at Dusit Spa, which was when they closed. Alas the Thai people are extremely hardworking and are always accommodating so of course asking for 3 massages at 12:00 am midnight was no trouble for them at all!

We were whisked inside and almost 2 hours later – 2:00 am in the morning, we emerged refreshed and feeling limbo. My sister and I had gone for a spa package and had had both a facial and a massage and in comparison to all of my experiences in UK spa’s, the treatments here are far superior and need I say FAR FAR cheaper!!

It seems completely criminal to me that when you go to a spa in the UK, even some of the best ones simply cannot give you a proper massage. It’s almost as if you are being tickled such is the pressure they give you. It’s rubbish! And another thing is that masseuses seem to pass onto you what they themselves are feeling so for instance if they are feeling tired then they will give you a “tired massage” and if they are feeling lazy then you will get a “lazy massage”, but here in Thailand, the quality of the treatments is pretty consistent, so you feel like you always get your moneys worth, even if you’ve only spent £5 for an hours massage on the beach!

Unbelievable. Needless to say, we very much enjoyed our midnight massage and we certainly did need it after our horrendous experience at the waterfall the day before!

The following day we had booked ourselves in for a long and luxurious massage at a more pricey establishment the Peace Tropical Spa in Bophut and then we were going to a meal at one of my favourite restaurants, the wonderful Zazen.

As expected, our massage at the Peace Tropical Resort, despite the torrential tropical rain, was divine. Better then I expected and infact the best I’d had since arriving in Koh Samui. The woman who gave me the Thai massage was expert at kneading out the knots in my back and calves until they had dissipated and I was eternally grateful. I was finding that as the day went on my body, and my thighs in particular, were aching more and more, which was directly related to the strenuous and stressful hike we had done at the waterfalls. In some respects I was glad, as with all of this fine dining, occasional meat eating and minimal exercise I was feeling a little guilty for how lazy I was being, but I knew that the exercise that I done yesterday was worth about 10 sessions in the gym because my body was telling me so!

Zazen

I was so glad when I found Zazen. When Josh and I went a couple of weeks ago we had loved it so much that we vowed to return and I thought what better time to do it then when my sister was here and on their traditional Thai dancing night which they had every Thursday and Sunday.

My sister, as expected was completely blown away by their elegant but dramatic decoration and the anticipation they had created with the long coconut tree lined entrance that was sparkling with hanging fairylights on the trees.

The magical entrance required a meander through their tropical gardens which were maze-like with their complexity with huge secret doors scattered throughout. Had we not been here before I’m sure we would have lost the way alas we managed to find our way to the restaurant where we were taken to our table to enjoy the show. In all fairness, the traditional dancing seemed pretty poor in comparison to what I had experienced in Bali, and there was a male dancer who was wearing very heavy makeup, including foundation and lipstick who was a little off putting but as far as the decor, ambience and food went: Top marks. My sister absolutely loved it and even enquired about their room rates! Lol. Needless to say, they were pricey.

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Crepes Suzette at Zazen

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The magical ambience of Zazen

The Jungle Club

According to the weather forecast, tomorrows weather was going to be good so I had booked a table at The Jungle Club, a restaurant/resort located high up in the mountains with magnificent views that overlooked the whole of Koh Samui, but as my sister was leaving in a couple of days she wanted to get one last trip to the beach so we decided to go that day and then go to the beach tomorrow.

The Jungle Club, I’d had no knowledge of when I had been here previously, so it came as a great delight and surprise to me to find that such a place existed here. Located up a very steep mountain, with completely unobstructed views, was a place that had some of the best views I’d ever seen, but seemed completely secret. It was as if only a handful of people knew about this place, but I was so glad I was one of them when I saw how beautiful and tranquil it was. From this height you could see the beach, the sea and the mountains, and because it was so high, there was absolutely no noise, not from neighbours, traffic or even nature. It was almost as if we were so high up that we were above nature. I could have slept there it was so peaceful.

I wasn’t sure that the food would be anything to write home about but I was elated to find, when they brought me my raspberry, coconut and pineapple juice and then my lunch: Chicken Massaman, that everything was fresh and delicious!!

I haven’t had a massaman since being in Thailand as it’s usually made with beef but I’m telling you this one was the best I’ve had. The chicken was on the bone so it retained all of the flavour and the sauce was a rich, creamy and spicy luxuriant curry that I will remember fondly for a very long time afterwards. Delicious!

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The staggering views from The Jungle Club

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Perve Town

It is most unfortunate to say but there is a distinctly perve quality to Thailand.

I’m sure it is FAR worse in places like Phuket and Bangkok but still, the persistence of sleazy behaviour, cheap women and gold diggers persist and I feel as though it has definitely increased since we were last here. Perhaps these women decided to move to Samui from Bangkok, as more Western men were holidaying here, who knows. All I know is it’s something that you don’t get used to as more and more women seem to be standing on the street corners outside “spa’s” or “massage parlours” wearing next to nothing and even though you don’t quite understand what they’re doing there, their body language is warning women not to approach. Infact, they don’t seem particularly bothered with their own Thai men either: the only thing they seem to want is Western men, and no doubt Western bank accounts, and they flaunt their sexuality openly to get them and of course the men lap it up.

This means that sex is being openly sold everywhere, whether discreetly or otherwise and almost every Western man has a Thai girl in tow, often much much younger then him. The disparity in both culture, age and language is very blatant and I feel that both the women and the men are taking advantage of each other. It doesn’t seem to be a relationship of equals in most cases and it is a sad (and a little sickening I have to say) thing to see. This kind of sleaziness is spoiling Thailand and no doubt vexing the humble local men.

We went to Chaweng beach again but it wasn’t anything like it was the last time we went when the sun was shining and we had beautiful cloudless skies. In reality I really wasn’t feeling it as I don’t see the point in going to the beach when the sea is choppy and it’s not hot alas it was my sisters final day at the beach and she wanted to make the most of it and make the most of it she did! She had a great time splashing about and flirting with the men folk 😉

Afterwards, we thought it would be criminal if we didn’t get a massage on the beach to end our time there so we went to the first 3 masseuses we could find and each got a massage. Unfortunately, after my massage at the Peace Resort, I knew that my masseuse didn’t stand a chance in impressing me, but since it was so cheap I allowed her, however what I did not appreciate, was the strong smell of Vick’s Vapour Rub that was seemingly enthused throughout the bedding and pillow that I was lying on. I was almost choking on the bloody thing. I asked for a Coconut Oil massage NOT a Vick’s Vapour Rub massage! I wasn’t too impressed with her capabilities and method either. 

William’s on a scam

This William guy (William Heinecke), the owner of the Anantara brand, the man with 40 vehicles, and multiple businesses, so we were told by his employee’s, is on a scam. You already know about the ridiculously priced Vacation Club scam that we were so unimpressed with that we decided to sting them twice for. You already know about the Tree Tops restaurant, which is far and beyond what any restaurant should be charging in Thailand, irrespective of whether or not they have a unique location. But what you don’t know is about William’s many franchises. William has franchises of various persuasions. He doesn’t just stick to what he does well: hotels and resorts, he also has retail franchises too, such as GAP and Burger King.

There is no coffee culture to speak of in Koh Samui, perhaps because it’s more of a holiday island, but the one coffee place we had managed to find was called The Coffee Club, an Australian coffee brand which has been franchised in Thailand by none other than greedy William. When we ventured in there to get some coffee’s we were horrified to find that we were being charged over £9 for a coffee and a hot chocolate. 9 freakin pounds! What a liberty! But it did not stop there as William also wanted your passport details in return for internet access! And he only allowed you a measly 45 minutes to use it too!

Gusto

The owners of Gusto are an Italian man and his wife based in Fisherman’s Village who served up delicious, authentic Italian fare beachside. Since I wasn’t eating meat I was surprised and delighted to find an abundance of Italian restaurants on Samui serving up wonderful pizza’s and pasta dishes that I could have to replace the meat dishes there was on seemingly every other menu. And in comparison to Dr Frog’s, which was a pretty disappointing experience overall, Gusto’s was great. The owners were very warm and friendly and had managed to decorate their restaurant in such a way that it really transported you straight to Italy. Since my sister is wheat intolerant it is difficult finding Italian restaurants in particular who cater for her allergy but thankfully Gusto was only too happy to oblige and we had a wonderful meal there where she was finally able to indulge in some gluten free pasta that actually tasted good!

Lulu’s

Unbelievably, we had been without a washing machine in each of our accommodations.

In our first one in Ubud, Bali, we had been staying in a villa where there was no washing machine, and in our second place, another villa – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, he had no washing machine and neither did the following 2 hotels where we had to pay for them to do our laundry and now in our 3 bedroom villa, the largest place we’ve stayed in yet, that sleeps up to 6 people, it too, has no washing machine either! How do they justify not having a washing machine in a villa for 6 people that is big enough to accommodate one? I was so desperate to have ultra clean clothes that I had literally been dreaming of putting on a wash as soon as I moved into the villa but no.

I had been hand washing my smalls and saving my dirty clothes up to take them down to the local laundrette (of which there were many on the high street). The shops on Mae Nam high street are really more like shacks, and it is really hard to decipher what it is they are actually selling in them as they all look pretty much the same so when I saw a big sign that said “Lulu’s Laundry” I told Josh to park up. This was where I would take my laundry. When I walked into the shack like shop I was immediately taken aback by how small and cramped it was in there. There were piles of clean, ironed clothes in plastic bags to my left and to my right was an old, small and lonely looking washing machine.

I was greeted warmly by a middle aged woman carrying more piles of clothes towards me from a room down the hall. It seemed as though this “shop” might actually be this woman’s home. Lulu was very friendly and I took to her immediately. There was something in her genuine nature that reminded me of my late Aunty Cynth.

When I went to pick up my clothes from Lulu the following day at first I couldn’t see her. It appeared as though she wasn’t in the shop. We had agreed a time for me to collect my washing however so I decided to wait but after a few minutes of waiting around and nobody arriving I started to think that maybe she was in her house somewhere. I began by calling her name a few times and then started slowly walking down the passageway, all the while calling out to her as I went, before I heard the sound of a Television. Soon I came to a room and there she was, fast asleep on a bed with the covers pulled over her. I called her name gently a few times and then she roused from what was obviously a very deep sleep. I felt awful. This woman had clearly been up all night and all day washing and ironing other people’s clothes and she was knackered!

What kind of an existence is this? That she should have to live in the same place as where she works because she’s too poor for anything else? And when I heard the price she was charging for my 2 bags full of dirty clothes I couldn’t believe my ears. It was CRIMINALLY CHEAP. Something like £2.50! She was getting paid far too less. After paying her and taking my clothes I vowed to return with more clothes for her to wash and tip her generously.

Unfortunately, the clothes that she had ironed so earnestly, were not completely clean and there were still stains left on clothes that I was hoping she would have got out but after meeting her, and seeing what she was using to clean the clothes I wasn’t bothered about the clothes anymore, I just felt bad for her. The woman needs a new washing machine!

The next time we went to Lulu’s I was with my sister and she was also shocked to see the conditions this woman was living and working in but Lulu lit up when she saw me and seemed touched when I tipped her double and she even gave me a hug so hopefully I brightened her day if even just a little bit.

It was my sister’s last day in Koh Samui tomorrow and I was determined that I was going to make her last dinner a memorable one. So far, in her short time with us here she had experienced multiple massages in various settings, seen breathtaking views at The Jungle Club, chilled out and listened to some great tunes at Beach Republic’s Sunday Brunch, indulged in some retail therapy in Fisherman’s Village nightmarket, been hiking up Numuang Waterfalls, was entertained by Thai dancers, firedancers on the beach and Muay Thai Fighting, was wined and dined at the finest establishments Samui has to offer Zazen and spent days of sun soaked indulgence on beautiful white sand beaches. So I felt she had a full experience of what Samui had to offer and tonight, I was taking her to Saffron, a traditional Thai restaurant located in the hillside of the Banyan Tree’s five star resort.

Saffron

What better entrance to Saffron’s hillside location overlooking their private bay, then by golf buggy? Josh and I had experience of being transported to a restaurant via golf cart a few times whilst in Thailand and it was always a nice experience. In the main because you know that since it requires a golf buggy to get to it, you are almost certainly going to be rewarded with wonderful views when you get there. And the journey to Saffron was as exciting as it was long, as the buggy went up steeper and steeper up the hill through mysterious, coconut tree lined inclines until finally we arrived at the restaurant.

We were greeted warmly by staff wearing authentic Thai uniform and taken to our table which did indeed have the wonderful views that were promised. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that along with the menu, which was a completely Thai menu (some of the restaurant menu’s are mixed with a few select Western dishes), the restaurant had been decorated with a distinctly Asian style and they were playing traditional Thai music. The food, when it came, was also very impressive – perfectly cooked and wonderfully flavoursome.

We all agreed that Saffron had been our favourite dining experience yet. To finish the evening off we were transported back to the bottom of the hill by golf buggy. What a night!

My sister almost missed her flight as we were having a leisurely lunch at The Coffee Club when we looked at the time and realised that she should have been at the airport around 20 minutes ago and she still hadn’t packed! Time had gone by so fast whilst she was here it seemed very cruel indeed that she should have to leave so soon. Thankfully, she did make her flight in time though and then we went home to start our own evacuation procedure as we were leaving the island of Samui to go to our next destination in Chiang Mai in just a couple of days time.

We returned home to no internet so we had to go back to greedy William’s coffee shop to use the measly 45 minutes he gave to check us into our flights, communicate with our next host regarding our arrival time, plan our route to Tree Tops, which we were going to tomorrow,  and our trip to to the pier as we were going to Koh Phangan the day after, book our taxi to the airport and inform Khun Tor about our lack of wifi situation at the villa. All in 45 minutes. To say it was stressful was an understatement but we done it.

Tree Tops

Tonight was supposed to be the night to end all nights. Tree Tops was the restaurant on the island that everyone was talking about. It had won awards, was in all of the best publications touted as being one of the most unique dining experiences on the island and was charging a ridiculously extortionate price to dine there. Tree Tops, as with most of the places that Josh and I had frequented, was basically a honeymoon destination, as it was far too fancy and far too expensive for the average couple, alas we knew that we would not be going to Tree Tops either if we didn’t have the vouchers so generously given to us by Anantara. The situation with William and his greedy ways, had backfired on him terribly as chancers like us was going to use his gift voucher offer to pay for our entire meal at the Tree Tops as we were determined not to give him a penny!

I was expecting big things from this place. Of course I was. They were charging European prices and I had already been to some of the best restaurants on the island who were charging far less and were comparable to some of the best restaurants in Europe. We had the anticipation of waiting for this day to arrive for a couple of weeks now and had timed it perfectly to coincide with good weather and one of our last meals on the island.

When we arrived at the Anantara in Chaweng, which was where the Tree Tops restaurant was located, we were taken to their “sky bar”, an elevated bar area that overlooked their immaculate grounds below. There we had a cocktail and a sparkling wine, before being shown to our table, located with our own private treehouse that was accessible by a wooden candlelit staircase. We were informed by our private butler that because we had booked in advance the best table in the restaurant had been reserved for us. The view from our spacious treehouse which was above the trees and jutted out over the tropical gardens below, had a perfectly serene view of the beach, sea and mountains and the treehouse itself had been decorated very tastefully with comfortable wooden high backed chairs and gold lanterns. Undoubtedly, it was lovely but was I blown away? No, I’m afraid to say I was not. 

We decided to dine from their “candlelight degustation” menu which was their 5 course meal that came with an accompanying 5 course wine option and cost almost 4,000 baht per person, which is the equivalent to about £100 per person. We knew then that we were going to have to pay William for the privilege as our gift vouchers only totalled £180 and the meal alone was costing more. Nonetheless, we looked forward to the arrival of our food as I had specifically eaten less in order to accommodate it!

Firstly they gave us a shot each, but I still had some of my sparkling wine left so when the first wine and course arrived I started to get a little concerned because rather than giving me a little taster they had given me a full large glass of wine. However I was impressed, more with the wine I have to say, which was a Sauvignon Blanc which went with the salmon perfectly.

By the time the second course had arrived I had already been to the toilet once, which required a pretty treacherous walk in my high heels up and down steep wooden stairs with a low balcony from our treehouse. I figured that if I didn’t go to the toilet and flush out these alcoholic toxins there was a real danger of me getting very tipsy indeed. With the arrival of the second and third course I was getting more and more intoxicated. The food portions were minimal, and though cooked well, they were not sufficient both in portion size and quality to stave off the effects of the alcohol which were taking hold of me. However, despite the fact that I am not a big alcohol drinker, I like to think that I’m reasonable knowledgeable when it comes to good quality wine and these wine pairings were excellent.

For the first time perhaps, I was enjoying the wine more then the food, hence why I was draining each and every large glass they brought me and then wobbling to the toilet afterwards to drain my rapidly expanding bladder. I was now getting drunk. This I knew because the intensity of my toilet needs and my inability to walk straight had me genuinely concerned that I was going to fall from this bloody treetop to my impending death. When the fourth course arrived I was officially drunk. My head was spinning, I was barely in control of my speech and I had tried to call my brother, my mum and my sister to warble nonsense to them down the phone, thankfully to no avail. The call did not connect.

The fifth and final course I enjoyed immensely because it was a wonderful chocolate, peanut and vanilla construction that had been presented perfectly with an accompanying wine to take me over the final edge. I was now DRUNK BEYOND BELIEF.

Thankfully, even though Josh had had the same menu as me and therefore the same wine, he was driving so he didn’t drink all of the wine they gave him but in my drunken stupor, after I had been to the toilet for the seventh time since arriving, and Josh was hit with another £70 in restaurant bill even after the £180 vouchers we gave them, I finally understood what had happened: Bloody William.

This man was determined to make as money as possible, needless to say at the expense of the hard working Thai people he employed since most of his establishments were located within Thailand, and from us, a couple seeking luxurious experiences in exotic locales at reasonable cost. But this was not reasonable. The thing I treasure about being sober, is my ability to think clearly and despite my drunken status, I was still aware of the nonsense I was talking, how I was walking etc, I just didn’t or couldn’t care to do any better. But even in my drunken state, I was aware that though the food was good, and the surroundings elegant, this was not my best dining experience in Thailand.

That award had to be given to Saffron. Or even Zazen. And they both were charging FAR FAR less. But their strategy here you see, was to ply people with alcohol so that they were unaware of this fact, and it might have worked perhaps if people were a little weaker of mind, but I knew that the wine, granted, was wonderful, it went with the food well and the food was good also, but it was not exceptional, and it was Mediterranean cuisine afterall, which let’s face it, cannot compete with Thai food when it’s done well.

I was drunk because they plied me with alcohol when I arrived – a sparkling wine, a shot and then a further 5 large glasses of wine within 3 hours but the food in its portion size was not equivalent to the amount of drink they gave me. Infact, I could have eaten more.

William was greedy but he could not fool me. Despite the fact that we had paid £70 extra which we were definitely not expecting, it was still a small price to pay for the experience, which was hilarious and I will remember for a long time afterwards.

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Tree Tops

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The view from our “treehouse”

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A chocolate extravaganza!

Koh Phangan

The one thing we had yet to do whilst being in Samui was visit one of the surrounding islands. Samui was a fantastic jumping off point as Thailand had other very beautiful islands within close reach with their own lovely beaches and sights and as yet we hadn’t seen any of them so we had booked a trip to Koh Phangan, one of the closer islands, located a mere 20 minutes ferry ride away, and the site of Thailand’s famous Full Moon party, a FULL ON party that thousands of revellers from the world over attended wearing day glo and all manner of tacky wares. Taking the ferry to Koh Phangan required us waking up around 6:00 am in the morning to catch the ferry at 7:30 am from the pier but not only was I feeling completely destroyed from the drunken night before but we had also both had a restless night due to yet another freakin tookay who seemed determined to scratch his way into our abode from the rooftop. It was unbelievably loud and got louder and louder until eventually we had to change rooms (again).

I’m telling you this tookay and gecko business was becoming the bane of my life!!

We were not interested in partying, what we were interested in was their beach, one of the best in Thailand we had been informed, so when we arrived at Koh Phangan pier we booked a taxi to take us straight there.

30 minutes later and we arrived at the beach. Naan Thong Beach, almost entirely deserted by the time we got there at 8:00 am in the morning! was a lovely beach, but I didn’t see how it was better than Chaweng. Despite it being completely devoid of the commercialism that Chaweng was notorious for, with no large hotels or beach clubs in sight, I didn’t see how it could be better then Chaweng when the sea in Chaweng was bluer and the sand whiter. But as the day grew on and the sun grew stronger, casting it’s gaze on the bay, I finally I began to see the magical and unique beauty of this place.

Untouched, unspoilt, and beautifully natural with shallow, transparent coloured waters,  surrounded by mountains on both sides with a view of the misty horizon and rocks protruding from the sea, with hammocks swaying lazily between coconut trees, quiet and tranquil, finally: I understood. In Naan Thong I had found a paradise and by the end of our time there, after I had spent a hugely enjoyable time splashing in the waves, sunbathing on the rocks and burying my feet deep in it’s soft, powdery white sands, I understood: This was my true sanctum.

Tomorrow we move onto to our fourth and final destination in our travels: Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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True Sanctum in Koh Phangan 

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Bali: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the downright FUGLY

Bali: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the downright FUGLY

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Joy Berries Kombucha at La Brisa 

After two glorious months in Bali, “The Land of the God’s”, we have finally reached the end of our time here.

Tomorrow, we travel onwards to Thailand “The Land of Smiles, where we will be spending another two months in Koh Samui and Chiang Mai.

So, what can I tell you about Bali?..

Well, I can tell you that it is a land of contradictions and immense natural beauty and I can also tell you that we have both enjoyed our time in Bali so much that if our families weren’t so far away we could happily live here.

Bali has recently been named by Tripadvisor as, and I quote “The best destination on earth” and now that we have been here for awhile we understand why.

Since we have lived in essentially 4 different areas in Bali, including Ubud, North Kuta/Seminyak, Legian and Canggu, I feel that we are both reasonably knowledgeable about what to expect in each of these places.

Ubud is Bali’s Spiritual Centre. A magical place with an abundance of ancient temples and ancient Balinese traditions. It is a place of staggering natural beauty – a land full of magic where you can see the most beautiful rice fields, rainforests and rolling green hills. Though it wasn’t the easiest to live there, the sense of peace and tranquillity I experienced there I will always remember fondly. People go there to experience it’s beauty of course, but also for it’s more laidback way of life – the pace is much slower there then in the other places we visited. It is also well renown for it’s yoga and wellbeing culture, which I could attest to after stumbling upon places such as Karsa Spa and Clear Cafe.

North Kuta/Seminyak where we lived for 3 terrifying nights in Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin was a horrendous experience all in all. To cross the road to get into Seminyak Village you were essentially gambling with your life as seemingly the whole of Seminyak was on a motorbike or scooter and with no foreseeable traffic lights or road safety period, it was truly an everyman for himself type of situation, including you if you were on foot. Timing and bravery was imperative just to survive.

Though Seminyak wasn’t a bad choice of areas to stay because it was close to lots of fancy restaurants, coffee and retail shops, it was perhaps a little too busy for us and unfortunately our accommodation there left alot to be desired. Uncle Toms Cabin was a bloody shambles. To think that he had succeeded in tricking us into booking his miserable establishment via Airbnb still vexes me. I knew as soon as the cab started meandering down a dark and narrow alleyway that something was amiss. And when we clapped eyes on the bedraggled Lena the Cleaner who didn’t so much as smile at us upon our arrival I knew that we had made a grave mistake. I will also remember the dead eyed expression on her face and her monotone answer when I enquired after information about the villa. She said: “No information”

What do you mean “No information” you abominable woman?! – we booked this villa on Airbnb and it was not cheap, yet you don’t seem to know fuck all about it and have had the audacity to try and lock us out of one of our own bedrooms!

What a bloody cheek.

This slovenly looking woman didn’t even know the WIFI password for goodness sake. Plus the pool was dirty with questionable looking things languishing on the bottom. Pray tell how she can be described as a cleaner or a villa manager?! What a joke.

I felt uncomfortable the entire time I was in that place. Dirty and uncomfortable. We literally had a family of gecko’s living in our villa. Now I have nothing against gecko’s per say but they are supposed to be seen and not heard yet these ghetto gecko’s were literally fighting for territory on our ceiling!

What on earth is going on?!

Initially the notion of having an outdoor kitchen and living area sounded great! We imagined that we would sit there in the afternoon having a leisurely lunch cooked by ourselves in our kitchen and then a dip in our pool buck nekkid. Oh yes. We were very much looking forward to the ultimate sense of privacy we would feel in our very own private garden and pool. But OH NO. I was scared in that bloody place! I honestly didn’t know what I was going to see next! In the 3 short days that we were there I had seen every conceivable creature one could imagine. I know that we were inundated with those bloody caterpillars in Ubud and they were really annoying but that is something you would kind of expect living near a jungle in the middle of the countryside but this villa was in a busy city!

Why on earth are there giant snails in the garden? a worm in the pool? a spider in the bathroom? a bat on the floor? a gecko on the ceiling? rabid dogs in the alley? cockroaches on the roadside?

I’M NOT INTO IT I TELL YOU!!

After our experience at Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin I do not recommend outdoor kitchens at all. They look nice in the pictures but in theory unless you are happy with creatures crawling around in your cornflakes then it’s not a good look. In our villa we had to keep the 4 doors in it closed so as to not invite creatures i.e mosquitoes into our bedrooms. It was not a user friendly experience at all.

According to the pictures online the villa looked brand spanking new, clean, stylish and modern. So what the bloody hell had happened?!

Josh reminded me of our first foray into town from Uncle Toms Cabin just last night  – he asked me if I remembered seeing a lump of dog poo on a patch of artificial grass on our way there. Now if that isn’t a sign that we needed to get the hell out of there then I don’t know what is!

Legian was the worst of all. When we arrived at our hotel The Akmani we initially thought that we had done bloody well. We hadn’t been happy with Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin and finally, through sheer determination and a little strategy we had found a way out of our contract to stay there for a month and move to a new place, but when we arrived at our new hotel it soon became abundantly clear that we were in the wrong area: AGAIN. Despite doing my research before we had come to Bali and identifying either Seminyak or Canggu as being the best areas to stay in we had somehow been tricked into booking this Legian nastiness.

In Legian, there only seemed to be one type of person there: Loud, drunken Australian’s. I simply could not identity any other type of person asides from the Indonesian’s themselves who compared to the ones we had experienced in Ubud, also left alot to be desired. In Legian, the streets were even busier then in Seminyak with an overwhelming amount of motorbikes, cars, taxi’s and scooters crowding the roads and lots and lots of market stalls selling cheap tatt to drunken barefooted Australians crowding the pavements. There was also suddenly lots of beggars which we never saw at all in Ubud.

I reached my lowest ebb the same night we arrived when we went for a meal at Mama’s German, which had been recommended to us by staff at our hotel, but which was literally one of the most foul restaurants I had had the misfortune to dine in. Coupled with the abominable German man in there with his German sausage and far too young Indonesian girlfriend and the American man who looked like he had just escaped from Iraq, also with an Indonesian girlfriend who he never spoke a word to, and the fact that almost everyone in the restaurant was smoking a cigarette with their dinner (yes, that is okay here), I simply could not deal. Needless to say the food matched the decor and the clientele: Horrendo.

Had we of left it just a little bit longer, had we of decided to give the Akmani, and Legian as a whole more of a chance, we would have found ourselves up shit’s creek without a paddle. In short: we would have been stuck in Legian. This is because we had booked the hotel on Booking.com, who had a policy of allowing you to cancel only up to midnight on the day you arrived to incur only a minimal charge and thank goodness we had had the sense to look into those terms when we arrived in order to make the decision on the same day that we were moving. Again.

Moving to Canggu was a no brainer. We had been looking at staying there initially but eventually had become tempted by this villa in North Kuta/Seminyak that turned out to be a nightmare. Since being in Canggu I haven’t seen not one cockroach. Compare this with just 4 nights of staying in Legian/Kuta where I saw on average around 7 cockroaches looking like they were very much at home there and you will understand what I mean when I use the word FILTH. Canggu reminds both Josh and I of Ubud here, and has confirmed what we already knew: we don’t like busy cities. We don’t particularly enjoy it when there are lots of people around, or when it’s too noisy and for us cleanliness is of paramount importance. We have had that here. And what we have also had is an abundance of healthy eateries, even more so then in Ubud infact. Because Canggu is the place for healthy bodies and minds. There are lots of Yoga studio’s here and a huge surfer lifestyle.

Infact if you don’t surf (like me), then you are in the minority. It is far more chilled here too, unlike in Legian and Kuta which I assume has lots of cheesy nightclubs. The music playing in the restaurants, cafes and coffee shops in Canggu has been nothing short of amazing.  The play better music here then in any other public place in any country that I’ve been to. And that includes London. How could this possibly be? you ask. Well I really haven’t got a clue but it is a fact. I know it because I’ve shazamed music more times here then anywhere else!

Finn’s Beachclub we visited a few days ago and we had the best of times. In part this is because it’s a really cool place to go during the day, partly because of the food (I had some crepes there and they were delicious!) and partly it’s because of the music that this particular DJ was playing there. Shazam was simply unable to return any matches for my searches.

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Delicious, fresh coconut!

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Another magical sunset at Finns

A country of wonderful contradictions

Stay away from Legian and Kuta unless you like frowsiness, traffic, dirt, beggars, cigarettes, fry ups, cockroaches, or drunken Australians and Europeans on the prowl for young Indonesian girls.

Seminyak remains a good choice if you want to stay in a fancy hotel close to the beach where you can still be in walking distance to all of the great Seminyak establishments such as Sisterfields and La Favela or do some retail shopping. They also have lots of amazing interior design shops there.

Canggu is for people who want a more laid back, quieter stay in Bali that’s close to the beach but in the middle of picturesque countryside. Though it is quite developed in some areas with fancy coffee shops and healthy food restaurants etc, it is still essentially a residential area that is mainly inhabited by Indonesians. We could easily live here and be happy.

Ubud is a remote area in the centre of Indonesia, famed for it’s tourism due to it’s infamous landscapes that it has in abundance but for us it ended up being a little too remote. It does however have a special kind of magic and is a perfect holiday destination for nature lovers. And thus of course, we will be back!

Burns Victim

I have been a victim of being burnt by a boiling hot kettle.

Living with a black woman, Josh has had to endure his fare share of afro haircare duties and trials and tribulations that at the time must have seemed completely alien to him, lol.  He has (albeit extremely reluctantly and with moaning and complaining throughout) helped me to remove my micro braids, my faux locs, and just recently, I asked him to help to dip my freshly twisted hair into a kettle of boiling water (which is a technique braid and locs hairdressers use to create waves or curls) as I couldn’t quite reach the back. Now before you (Mum!) tell me how dangerous this is, I was wearing a towell at the time, and we have done it before, but on this occasion I was sitting in an awkward position on the edge of the bath and as he was dipping the ends he started telling me that the towell wasn’t on properly so naturally I began to adjust it and as I done so he accidentally poured the boiling water down my back!

I let out a loud yelp!

He felt really bad about it afterwards and I used his guilt to good effect as I played patient and he played doctor for the rest of the day. Thankfully it didn’t burn my skin, it just irritated my mosquito bite is all, which is probably a good thing!

METIS

The restaurant we went to before our party was a fine dining French restaurant in Petitenget, which incidentally wasn’t too far away from our beloved Som Chai. Petitenget was renowned as having a “restaurant strip” with some of the best restaurants in Bali (including Som Chai, Merah Putih and METIS amongst others) within walking distance of one another. I had identified METIS as being somewhere that I wanted to go to because it wasn’t just a fine dining restaurant but a fine art gallery too!

The setting, understandably considering it was an art gallery also, was suitably refined, with lots of statues for you to peruse on your way into the restaurant and the gallery had many many beautiful pieces of art, including a particularly stunning collection of paintings featuring beautiful African women and children. Alot of what they had there was vintage and clearly extremely expensive. Obviously I’m no art collector but I could see that what they had there was rare and beautiful. The food was good, Josh thought it was just okay, but it was the setting was what it was really about. Clearly the owner wanted to showcase this wares and what better way to do it then to combine the two.

The gardens that the restaurant was built around was magnificent. While we waited for Josh’s souffle to be cooked we meandered around the gardens which was essentially a huge Japanese garden with a difference. It was beautiful and very well done! In it there were various water features, statues, flowers, trees and ponds. You couldn’t possibly be bored in this garden of wonders.

La Brisa Rave Up!

La Brisa had a party to celebrate the opening of their new expanding beachclub which I didn’t quite understand as trust me this place didn’t need to be expanded AT ALL. I don’t know how many people you could get into this place, but it surely had to be thousands! Looking at it from the beach it looked deceivingly small, but once you entered it it was like a neverending maze of a place, with multiple levels, a huge swimming pool, an area for hundreds of bean bags, hideouts, lounge areas, dining areas, and if you were really smart, sleeping areas! It was still our favourite place of all in Canggu so when they invited Josh and us to their upcoming party that was happening 2 days before we left Bali of course we said we’d go. As it was, we had been there, to Sisterfields and to Peloton enough times that the staff remembered us in each place. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing!

When we got to La Brisa it had just started to rain but that didn’t stop the people from arriving in their droves for the best party on the island! What I loved most about La Brisa was it’s mystery – it had so much magic to offer and most people didn’t even know it existed! But I had seen posters advertising this party as far as Seminyak so I knew that the place would be jumping. And it was. The DJ was playing some bangers, and for the first time since arriving in this sleepy part of the countryside I was about to really get down and it felt GOOD. By the end of it both Josh and I were sweating hard as La Brisa had the benefit of a good sound system and great house DJ playing.

When we got too hot we were able to go directly from the club onto the beach and watch the waves crash against the shore. It was a luxury I had never experienced in London and knew that I never would.

The Motorcycle Accident 

On our way back home following a great evening at METIS for dinner and then onto the party at La Brisa, we had a motorcycle accident and I injured my foot. This time, it was because Josh had misjudged the space between our scooter and the literally thousands of others that were parked on the beach, and when he went to drive through a very tight space at speed between the parked scooters he accidentally scraped my foot against one of the parked vehicles causing me to yelp loudly! again.

Josh has asked me not to report these abuses as he feels too awful and embarrassed by them but what good is the story to leave such scenarios out? lol. My foot is fine anyway, I just scraped it a little but the irony was not lost on either of us as we have literally had a scooter everyday for a whole 2 months driving it here, there and everywhere and we have never had an accident of any kind despite being in many hairy moments on the road! Josh is a very safe driver normally yet 2 days before we leave Bali we have an accident in the bloody car park! Typical.

 Unique Indonesia

At Clear Cafe, they have a restaurant and a spa.

At METIS, they have a fine dining restaurant and a fine art gallery.

At Deus Ex Machina, they have a motorbike shop, a cafe, a barbershop, a surfboard shop and a tattoo shop.

At Dandelion (which coincedentally had the friendlist staff I have encountered anywhere!), they have a restaurant and pet rabbits.

THIS is essentially what makes Bali unique – the ability to blend so many different concepts so effortlessly. For some reason all of the randomness works here, even better then that – it’s what makes Bali so special.

The choices at breakfast at Sense hotel haven’t been great. On our first morning here we went for the popular choice of sourdough bread with avocado and poached eggs though suspiciously it came with hollandaise sauce. When it arrived I was sickened to find that I couldn’t even SEE the poached eggs nor the avocado as it had been drenched in this hollandaise sauce and when I tasted it was FAR too buttery and salty and so completely drowned out the delicate flavour of the eggs and avocado. After two mouthfuls and literally feeling sick, I couldn’t continue. After that experience I didn’t order it again but there were other choices on the menu such as the continental breakfast option which consisted of toast (which was really bread as it was practically white in pallor), and dry croissants and fruit. It was clear that the pastries had been bought in bulk and had not been made freshly on the premises. How disappointing.

Another option was their American breakfast, which came with eggs,  sausage, bacon, tomato, toast (aka white bread), croissants, fruit, juice, tea or coffee and cheese. Or you could have what they liked to call a “Healthy Breakfast” which was just a small glass of Granola. Since I had tasted their American breakfast and found it wanting I went for their Granola Parfait instead, but because the portion was so tiny and there was no fruit following I asked for a croissant aswell (despite it being dry as a bone) but was told that no, I couldn’t have a croissant because I had “coconut flakes” in my granola, as if that was somehow comparable to having 3 full plates of food!!

Needless to say every morning I walked away from the breakfast table STARVING HUNGRY.

VROOM VROOM

Unfortunately, being in Bali for so long has made me yearn for the most dangerous of pastimes: Motorbike ownership. This is solely down to the sheer amount of BAD ASS MOTORBIKES I have seen whilst here, and more specifically about one particular instance when I saw a girl with two massive tattoo’s, one on each thigh whilst she was a top of her HUGE FAT WHEELED MOTORBIKE. She looked immensely cool and dare I say sexy as fuck! Now I’m not a lesbian but tis true – the girl was sexy! And I could tell that she didn’t know it and probably didn’t even care which was the best thing about it. She was just going about her business, but unfortunately, now I want one too, lol.

Now before you start to lecture me about the dangers of owning a motorbike: I am FULLY aware of them trust me. And currently I don’t even own a driving licence with which to pursue my motorbike dream BUT it has been on my mind ever since and should the situation present itself i.e when I am NOT LIVING IN LONDON, then there is a strong possibility of me getting one. I have even seen the type of motorbike I want!

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This one will do!

But, what’s wrong with a scooter I hear you ask? – No thanks. Scooters are lame. Sorry, obviously there’s nothing wrong with a scooter but it cannot be compared to a motorbike which looks HECTIC and sounds just as good! Also, I love the fact that a Motorbike is basically considered to be a vehicle for men. Well, I like them too! Especially the custom bikes like the ones by Deus Ex Machina and the Vintage Motorbikes. They are so cool!

Anyway for now I can’t drive so don’t worry yourself (Mum), lol. Josh has said that he is not keen on me getting one in London as it’s too dangerous and I’m inclined to agree with him there. But if/when we move to the South of France then it’s all on!!

There has been absolutely no indication of crime here. Josh has accidentally left his phone in the front of the scooter on too many times to mention and on all occasions it has either been returned to him by the staff of whichever cafe or restaurant we have gone into or he has gone back outside to get it and it has still been there. Apart from the danger on the roads because of the overwhelming amount of motorbikes and scooters, and the potential for a volcanic eruption, cyclone or earthquake (all which we have experienced since we’ve been here, lol), I have felt no danger posed by the people. This is rare in my experience. I have felt far more unsafe walking through Rome during the daytime then I would ever feel at night in Indonesia. This is despite them being far more poor economically then alot of countries, which lets face it is the main reason why people commit crimes in the firstplace.

Why is that? you wonder. Well, it’s a cultural thing. I don’t think they believe in doing harm to other beings, which is a concept that is severely lacking in many other countries despite what they claim.  They may not have much materially but they are far more rich in other ways which bring them a true sense of happiness and contentment. I know which I prefer!

These bloody dogs are so annoying. Why can’t these people sort out this dog situation? – they are taking over for goodness sake! Everywhere we go there are dogs on the roadside. Now because we are hardly on foot, and before you say we are lazy then please be aware that nobody else is on foot either! we don’t have the “special experience” of having to deal with these mutts directly but they do bark at you suddenly from the sides of the road, they do sit there scratching themselves raw, they do waltz into the road as if they own it causing you to have to swerve suddenly so as to avoid hitting them, they are on the streets all hours of night hanging about in dog gangs and some I assume do have rabies.

Also in some questionable restaurants (such as one called Monsieur Spoon for instance) which served nasty food and had a nasty waiter with zits on his face who felt no way to rub a stray dogs head in the middle of serving food in the restaurant!, dogs are allowed to just walk right on in! Nawsty.

Places of note:

Clear Cafe – a unique, vegetarian cafe with an onsite spa and beautiful decor. Ubud’s best kept secret!

Karsa Spa – heavenly spa treatments set in the middle of rice paddies, lily ponds and tropical gardens. Paradise discovered!

The Hanging Gardens of Bali – the world’s first 7 star boutique hotel and thus extortionately priced but worth it for the astounding views of the jungles it is set within with some really great spa treatments.

Jungle Fish – a really cool beach club, without the beach or the sea! Worth it just for the unique setting.

The Sayan House – a combination of Latin and Japanese food that works surprisingly well. Nestled in a dramatic position perched on the edge of a cliff face.

Peloton – a vegan cafe with a difference. Simply delicious food, great service and an original, healthy menu.

Sisterfields– Consistent food, great menu and the best burger I’ve ever had! (well worth giving up my vegetarianism temporarily for!)

La Mexicana – The perfect place to go when your really hungry as they do great, authentic Mexican food with HUGE portions.

La Brisa – what can I say about La Brisa? – well, it remained both mine and Josh’s favourite place in Canggu of all. Unique and absolutely stunning decor with an amazing attention to detail. Comfortable. Versatile! – so many seating areas to choose from we didn’t even touch the surface of what they had to offer there. Great service, definitely overstaffed rather then understaffed. A great place to watch surfers in the morning and to watch the sunset in the afternoon. The food was fresh and delicious – the seafood served is caught that same morning and you can really taste the difference. We particularly enjoyed the black cod croquettes! SO GOOD!

Finns –  though a really cool place in general, makes the list because the food (in particular their crepes with cinnamon, orange and lemon marmalade sauce) was to die for! And because of the DJ, who was playing a ridiculously high level of tuneage with an impressive degree of consistency.

Som Chai – Best meal we had in Indonesia. And in such beautiful and seductive surroundings. This restaurant could be anywhere in the world and receive rave reviews no doubt about it!

Btw, this is not an exhaustive list, just some of our favourites. There are infact many, many excellent places to be unearthed in Indonesia and I’m sure, many more to come!

The Good

The people – Friendly, respectful, open, happy, curious. Definitely the cool cats of Asia!

The place – Untouched in many places. Beautiful landscapes with the greenest grass you’ve ever seen, stunning sunsets and idyllic beaches (some idyllic beaches, though not Legian obviously!)

The Culture – Unique, interesting, sweetly scented and colourful!

Kombucha – a natural, non alcoholic fermented sparkling tea we discovered for the first time here. We particularly enjoyed the Joy Berries variety.

The Bad

Broken down dogs all about the place. Why on earth don’t they sort this bloody dog scenario out?! It’s nawsty. I saw one doo doo on the beach the other day with wanton abandon. What kind of thing is this?!

The traffic in Bali is INSANE. If you’re not lucky you could get yourself into some serious trouble as these people drive like loons. Indonesians start riding scooters from the tender age of 8 and everyone and their grandma (including their grandma and even their great grandma) is on one. They carry animals on there, farming equipment, luggage, sleeping children, newborns, trees, even entire families (I have seen up to 4 people on one scooter before) so these people aren’t here for games with this scooter and motorcycle business.

The Ugly and The Downright Fugly

Tanah Lot was ugly, disappointing and pretty pointless.

Our food at Sense was pretty shoddy but now that we are representatives of the hotel as we have been plastered all over their bloody website and promotional materials I feel it is my duty to give them a breakdown of where they are going wrong and urge them to fix it forthwith so as to not associate me or Josh with such questionable goings ons!

The chef at the restaurant needs to start again. Since it has become abundantly clear that he has never eaten western food in his life he needs to try some first and then perhaps go to cooking school to learn how to cook it. I would suggest that for now he sticks to cooking Indonesian food (though to be fair he’s no good at that either!)

Also, the clientele in Canggu are generally pretty health conscious so offering them a menu that is predominantly meat based is not a good idea. And for us, it was a challenge ordering from it as it seemed we could only have either Margherita Pizza, Chips or Pasta. Not the most original of offerings.

Legian is fugly beyond belief. No self-respecting person who like cleanliness, comfort and peace and quiet would wish to venture there. It is a place for dodgy individuals on the prowl for the cheapest beer they can find and nothing more. They are not interested in having a “cultural experience” or infact any kind of experience that doesn’t involve alcohol. In addition, though perhaps unsurprisingly the place is crawling with cockroaches. STAY AWAY or be it on your head!

In conclusion:

We have been happy here and travelling has brought us even closer together. We have had our fair share of trials and tribulations and alot of laughs but essentially travelling has confirmed that we are both looking for the same thing: To experience life. For the very first time for both of us, we have felt as though finally we are actually living, not just existing, and we like it and want to continue! Commuting to work day in and day out, spending most of my days with annoying individuals, living in a dreary grey country that’s soulless and only obsessed with making money and fleeting success, essentially living a mundane existence, is not for us. Should we somehow manage to find a way a way to make it happen where we can travel more often then this is how we would love to spend our time.

We finished watching Greenleaf finally and we are now onto Season 3 of Narco’s.

On our last night in Bali we had a choice of watching Narco’s or having a candlelit bath, and after much ponderation we finally decided to do both at the same time and it was wonderful!

Farmers, Craftsman, Surfers alike. For two months I lived among them and it was beautiful.

I will miss Bali but like Arnie said:

I’LL BE BACK!!!

(stay tuned for my upcoming Thai Adventures!)

STori x

 

 

The Island of the God’s – Week 3

The Island of the God’s – Week 3

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Unbelievably, we’ve been in Bali for 3 weeks already!

We have one more week here in Ubud before we move to our new home in Seminyak.

Time is fast running out, so after some consideration we have made the decision to forgo our visit to the Gilli islands in favour of doing some other things in Ubud before we leave to maximise our time here, but we haven’t done too badly if I do say so myself! 3 weeks has given us a real taste of what Bali has to offer and we continue to find new and exciting things on a daily basis.

The creatures that reside here are a continual terror – from the militant flies that come out every breakfast without fail to terrorise us for our pancakes and fresh honey, to the caterpillars who surely are too hideous to be turning into any form of butterfly, to the rabid stray dogs who amble down the road with their flea bitten selves. These dogs are not hungry in the slightest – they are well fed, eating the literally thousands of offerings to the Gods that the Indonesian people leave littered on the roadside.

I respect their religious traditions but I really do wonder what on earth they think is going to happen if they leave flowers, plants and food parcels on the pavements. Of course the dogs are going to eat them – not the Gods, the dogs. I have seen bigger dragonfly’s and cicada’s that I have ever seen in my life here, not to mention frogs, cockroaches (so far thankfully only 2), centipedes, mosquitoes, gecko’s, spiders (lots of jumping ones, lots!), rats, beetles and ants (huge ones). This abundance of life is fascinating when they are not trying to board me. The spider I can take so long as it doesn’t jump on me. The caterpillar is fine so long as it doesn’t crawl on me. The fly acceptable so long as it doesn’t buzz near me. Unfortunately, thus far I haven’t been so lucky.

This abundance of nature means that I come in contact with them on a regular basis. Thankfully the bristly contraption that the owner of our villa put on the bottom of our door works well but that doesn’t stop the beasts from entering when our room is cleaned each day.

Since we have been living here we have seen probably only 2 other individuals in the “Village” and even that has only been for a very short period of time. It would appear we are here all alone – at breakfast we see no one else, in the pool not a soul and we have never seen anyone else when we return from one of our allday trips in the evening.

We haven’t heard anyone, we haven’t seen anyone. In theory this should be a good thing, and in many ways it is but it does mean that we have the entire team of staff doting over us and they are already overstaffed here in my humble opinion.

Does it really take 4 people to make our breakfast? –  afterall we have the same breakfast everyday: Pancakes, omelette, bali coffee, honey, yoghurt and fresh fruit. Does it really require 4 people to make it? For 2 people? Alas, it remains as quiet and private in these villas as when we first arrived and since the gardens are continually maintained, just as beautiful.

We are clocking up some serious miles on this scooter of ours. Everywhere we go we go via bike – infact I haven’t stepped foot in a taxi, a car or an Uber since arriving here apart from that day when Aunty Jac came up to visit.

Karsa Spa

We have our treatments today at the spa that we happened upon on our travels to Campuhan Ridge Walk and I cannot bloody wait! It means that not only do I get 2 hours of extreme pamperation but I also get the pleasure of walking through those beautiful green fields yet again. The beauty of this walk is well renowned – and the fact that it is literally walking distance from the middle of Ubud town is a bonus.

Even today there are lots of tourists here taking pictures of the surrounding hills and jungle as it isn’t difficult to take amazing pictures here, infact its almost a guarantee.

When we arrive at the spa we are immediately given a refreshing cup of traditional Balinese tea before being taken down to our treatment room that is located down a secret passageway within the tropical gardens. On the way we pass lily ponds, exotic, sweetly fragrant flowers, vast green fields, plants, trees, stone sculptures and water fountains. It is a garden of plentiful and natural abundance. We arrive at a huge wooden door that is buried within ivy. Upon opening the secret walled garden room we are greeted again with our very own water fountain, fresh flowers, plants and the sounds of roosters and cicada’s in the background. A huge sunken tub decorated with flowers lays at the bottom of two inviting treatment beds ready for us.

I have gone for the most expensive treatment that they offer: a 2 hour massage, body scrub and flower bath. I thought it would be stupid not to considering all of the treatments here are obscenely cheap, and seeing how beautiful this private space is where we will be having our treatments makes me realise just how much good value we are getting.

The massage is wonderful. I am feeling thoroughly relaxed and at peace when she begins exfoliating my body with a beautiful smelling homemade body scrub, and after she is finished doing that I lay back whilst she slathers on a thick and creamy body lotion no doubt for the purpose of letting it sink deep into my tissue layers before she leaves me to indulge in my 30 minute long flower bath in the middle of this tropical oasis.

In it they have put literally hundreds of pink and lilac rose petals and frangipani and  left a pot of fresh ginger tea to sip whilst I luxuriate. My bath smells glorious and my skin is drinking up all of the extra attention with pleasure.

Afterwards Josh and I go back to reception where we are offered yet more tea (which is hot and delicious) before paying up and leaving. I noticed that they also had some handmade beauty products for sale such as soap, body lotion and essential oils so of course I couldn’t leave without purchasing some. In the end I got myself some bottles of Jasmine and Lotus Essential Oils, which I have literally never had the pleasure to smell until now. Since we have an oil burner in our villa I have been using the oils to provide an extra burst of exotic-ness to our exotic surroundings.

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The entrance to Karsa Spa 

I survived an Earthquake

No, I’m not joking, I really did. I was in a deep, dreamless sleep when I heard (and felt) a rumble, the building shook and I awoke immediately to ponder whether it was the impending volcano Agung erupting or an earthquake but after considering how much the building shook and knowing that Indonesia has earthquakes on a regular basis I immediately realised that we’d had an earthquake. Josh was fast asleep at the time so of course I woke him. His response when I asked him whether he realised that we’d just had an earthquake was comical – he said he had probably just moved in the bed!

And then he just rolled over and went back asleep when all I could think about was our survival and how I could ensure it. I reasoned that if we were buried alive within the soil that would at least be better than being buried underneath concrete – the benefit of living in the countryside and not in the middle of the city I guess. I imagined that if I heard that noise again I would jump up, get our dressing gowns to cover our naked bodies and collect a couple of bottles of water to sustain us whilst we waited to be rescued in the undergrowth. But of course it didn’t come to that or else I wouldn’t be writing right now! lol

Hanging Gardens of Bali

As I had established, these people were a little up their asses but I suppose it was for good reason. They had managed to secure one of Indonesia’s finest and most famous architects Popo Danes to build one of the world’s most beautiful spa hotels here in Bali. Tripadvisor quoted it as having “the world’s most beautiful swimming pool”. High praise indeed.

When I first saw Hanging Gardens I knew that somehow, someway I needed to get there. To experience it’s most beautiful swimming pool yes, but also because it was located in one of the most unique and inaccessible locations you could think of – right in the middle of a dense jungle. Unlike Pumpkin Village, which was located in a rural area that had jungle surrounding it, Hanging Gardens, like it’s namesake, was at the highest point, in the middle of the jungle so that when viewed from above it looked as if it was somehow suspended in the sky with miles and miles of dense jungle surrounding it.

This place was designed by Popo Danes to have maximum effect and be at one, and in complete harmony with the jungle it was within. This combination of ultimate luxury and nature was something that I decided that I just had to experience. But again, like alot of my other selected destinations, this was definitely one for the Honeymooners. The cost of the spa treatments alone told you that, not to mention the exclusivity of the location. But I didn’t care – I was prepared to pay for this once in a lifetime experience in the middle of the Balinese jungle so I emailed to enquire about us getting a couples spa day before receiving an email back from the Hanging Gardens booking team subtly trying to “suggest” we go for the most expensive packages they had on offer.

After a few attempts by them of “suggesting” their exorbitantly priced treatments we stuck to our guns, booked the treatments we wanted to have and then told them we would be coming and we wanted to use the swimming pool too!

Hanging Gardens was a 7 star establishment, which for Bali was probably one of the only of it’s kind. I well understood it’s uniqueness, but at the end of the day treatments of any kind in a country as poor as this can never be equal to the price of treatments in my native UK. It is completely obscene to suggest otherwise, and of course I know they are advertising these “romance packages” mainly to honeymooners but that should not exclude other luxury seekers such as ourselves, from participating in their exorbitantly priced offerings. Somebody at Hanging Gardens is milking it, and I’m almost certain it’s not an Indonesian.

These days, we were getting about exclusively by our scooter. It was a far cry from the days of Uber, taxi’s and other means of travel, but it meant that we turned up at this 7 star spa hotel in our bike clothes which was probably another thing they were not used to seeing in this ultra secretive location. Alas, we don’t do what is expected, we do what feels right.

As I anticipated the place was impressive from the off. The foyer, vast and airy with the typical open sides that I had come to expect from traditional Balinese architecture, was furnished with elegant dark wooden furniture and unique statement pieces of artwork and impressive floral displays. We were offered cold towell’s and a refreshing cold drink as we awaited the entrance of our spa therapist. The foyer provided one of the most picturesque views of the surroundings from its birds eye perch at the top of this magnificent structure with an almost vertical drop below. To get down you had to take a cable car, which meandered through the trees at a deliberately slow speed to give you a real feel for the lush jungle environment you were entering. It felt magical.

Upon arriving at the spa a couple of floors down we were greeted again by a team of beautifully dressed therapists with immaculate makeup but initially there didn’t appear to be anyone else apart from staff at the hotel. Of course we couldn’t be the only ones at this hotel we mused, but with these prices I’m sure we will only be one of a few!

After speaking to our therapist she confirmed that it was indeed mostly honeymooners at this hotel, that and very rich individuals who could afford to drop a few grand whenever it took their fancy. Also she told us, they had the privilege of seeing wild monkeys swinging in the surrounding trees. This was the benefit of the location they had. What an awe inspiring thing it must be to be that close to monkeys in their natural habitat going about their business! I thought.

After yet another cold towell and refreshing drink she and her colleague take Josh and I to a private room with a direct open view of the jungle where we will be having our treatments. The room is huge and beautifully appointed but it is no Karsa Spa. The experience of being outside, with the sights and sounds of nature, in the midst of beautiful tropical gardens and lily ponds, with the warm breeze kissing my skin, the smell of fresh flowers filling my nose and the sound of a waterfall falling gently in the background is second to none. If I had felt like I was in a Timotei ad in my bathroom before, visiting Karsa Spa had made me feel even more Timotei/Herbal Essences inspired. It was simply wonderful.

Now this was a luxury of it’s own – the room was huge and it had a seperate bathroom with luxurious toiletries and another big stone bath with an interesting pebble feature trimming the rim plus one of the most well made and comfortable dressing gowns I’d ever put on, but it was still no Karsa Spa. It was too designed. And though I loved the sweet touch of having it partially open to the jungle, it still wasn’t the same as being in it. And don’t forget I was paying more then quadruple the price for less time and less treatment. Saying that though, the massage was fabulous. My masseuse clearly knew what she was doing and when she found a knot in my back (as I was astounded to find existed!), she worked it out completely until it was no more. Before our treatments Josh and I also had a foot bath each before our therapists got us to lay on our respective beds whilst they placed a warming towell on our backs and instructed us to do breathing techniques before they started our massages. The fact that I had so many knots in my back meant that the other massages I had received had not removed them at all – just disguised them. So perhaps you do get what you pay for!

After my massage, I was invited to get into my bath that had been specially drawn for me.

What do Frangipani, Milk, Honey, Ginger and Vanilla all have in common?

They were all in my bath. At Hanging Gardens I had chosen to have a Milk, Honey and Vanilla bath. Like Cleopatra who used to bathe herself in milk everyday to keep her skin soft and silky, I decided to do the same! My chosen Essential Oil to have my massage was Frangipani, which was a sweetly scented flower that was abundant in Bali that reminded me a little of Ylang Ylang in it’s odour profile. And they served me fresh Ginger tea. The smells that was being conjured up in my bath that day was most worthy of a new perfume creation! Perhaps it could be called Bali Bath. Whaddya think? 🙂

After our treatments (and of course Josh invited himself into my luxurious bath too!) we went back upstairs via cable car to experience the “world’s most beautiful swimming pool” that we kept on hearing about. Black tiled, with a circular shape that jutted far out into the jungle, this infinity pool was multi tiered with a waterfall that cascades dramatically over the side into the even larger pool below. Dramatic it is, and very very picture worthy. The whole pool area is surrounded by jungle and in the distance there is a temple, so far in the distance that a mist partially covers it. I’m sure this is the very reason why they chose this location to build Hanging Gardens, because it does feel almost unreal in it’s contradiction to it’s surroundings, but yet in harmony with it.

We sample the delights of the pool, which to our surprise actually has a reasonable amount of people in and around it. It is refreshing to be in but there are strategically placed platforms in the pool which you can hardly see because the tiles are so dark, which makes it hard to swim. We soon realise that this pool is for posing in. The platforms are for posing on. That is all.

We have a light lunch at Hanging Gardens before the weather starts to change from being reasonably overcast to very overcast and so we decide to leave as we have a long drive back. The benefit of travelling by bike is that you always get the wind so I was delighted when I could smell wafts of Ginger, Vanilla, Frangipani, Milk and Honey all the way home.

Since we were pretty much the only ones staying at Pumpkin Village we only had jacuzzi access twice a week. I had no idea how they heated up but it clearly was a bit of a struggle for them hence why they only made it available a few times a week but tonight was jacuzzi night so when we got back home we got changed into our swim wear so that we could take full advantage of it!

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Hanging Gardens of Bali 

Canggu Adventures 

We drove down to Canggu to visit Aunty Jac and Uncle Dennis today. After they had come up to visit us last week we agreed to return the favour and it would also be good for us to get a feel for where we’d be going next since the next stop in our travels was Seminyak which was close to where they were staying. We left out early as we knew that we’d have to leave earlier then we would normally have liked because of the distance and the fact that it got dark early. It took us a little longer then we thought it would to get there as the tire on our bike was actually a little flat and we had to find somewhere to pump it up but eventually we got there.

The drive down turned from being really green and rural with not much people to more people, lots of traffic, petrol fumes and concrete. Since we’d been in Ubud for almost a month the contrast was quite dramatic but then the concrete suddenly opened up to green rice fields, surf shops, artisan coffee shops and Indonesian warungs (local restaurants). The mixture of old and new was strange to see but somehow it really worked! This was undoubtedly where the “cool” people resided, and it was going to be our next stop! Lots and lots of boutique restaurants, hotels, shops, spa’s you name it, they had it here – infact they perhaps had too much – my eyes didn’t know where to look there was so much cool shit to look at!

Rabid dogs were here too but there seemed to be less of them. When we arrived at Aunty Jac’s hotel The Haven Suites we were greeted by an enormous, uber stylish hotel right on the beachfront that boasted a huge swimming pool and cool greenery effects hanging at strategically placed spots around the hotel. With lots of one of a kind local wood furnishings they had effectively brought the things that make Indonesia beautiful – it’s nature, within a formal hotel setting. Their suite, which directly overlooked the pool and beach, was very generously appointed, with a stunning bathroom with a latticed wood mirror feature, a statement bath and beautiful black and white tiled floors. On their balcony, there were 2 very inviting, wooden rocking chairs that were perfect for reading a book on whilst watching the sunset. It was a lovely hotel but then I wouldn’t have expected anything less!

After changing into something more comfortable we went down to the beach via a rather precarious rope and wooden plank river crossing and directly onto the beach. After being in Ubud the feeling of sand in my feet and the salty smell of sea air was very refreshing. Also, despite Canggu being overrun with Australian’s (who see Bali in general as their local holiday destination the lucky buzzards!), the beach was almost empty. Unbelievably, the Aussies consider the exotic delights of Bali (being only 3 hours away from them if they are from Perth), with it’s rich culture, delicious food, fair weather and welcoming , tolerant temperament of it’s peoples to be their playground!

Bali was like their equivalent of Spain! What an absolute blessing. Now I personally cannot stand the Costa Del Sols’, Tenerife’s, Lanzarote’s, Benidorm’s and Mallorca’s of this world. I avoid such destinations like the plague and the individuals that choose to frequent them. Such places are devoid of any culture whatsoever as it has been rinsed out to capacity by the culture hating Brits that only want to speak English, drink beers, wear football t-shirts in the midday sun, and eat pie and chips. They are not interested in the local culture in anyway and infest the places they frequent with their bland food, lobster bodies and limited perspective on the world and the part they play within it. But this was different – Indonesia was a country rich in natural beauty, food and culture – one of the richest I had ever experienced infact. Of course the Aussies would wish to leave their blisteringly hot and barren land to come to this paradise. The people were friendly and welcoming, the weather fair, with beautiful beaches, an abundance of nature and a rich culture that the people were very proud of. It was a no brainer. If I were Australian I’d be moving here too!

The sand just kept getting hotter and hotter and the soles of my feet were beginning to feel hotter then a furnace so I looked to the sea to see whether I could cool myself down in it. I had brought my stinger suit along as I had been reliably informed that the deadly box jellyfish were in these waters but looking at the currents I soon realised that there was no point in me wearing it because the sea was ROUGH. This sea was not for swimming in. It was a surfer’s paradise, not a swimmers one. A glance up at the flags on the beach verify’s what I already know: Red flags. I can’t even see any swimmers brave enough to swim in this but I can see plenty of surfers. The conditions are perfect for surfing here. I kind of already knew this but seeing it confirms it. The current is so strong that even standing in the surf could get you knocked over.

Intense it maybe but that doesn’t stop Josh from having a go though even he has to admit that it is not possible to swim in it – just dive and dunk. No thanks.

Aunty Jac takes us for lunch at a restaurant on the beach called La Laguna.  South American in design, with eccentric, vintage, almost pirate like influences, it sounds weird but it was very original with bags of character. A sprawling restaurant overlooking a lagoon it has an impressive collection of artifacts and antiques, darkened areas, mis matched furniture and ambient lighting. The drinks seemed to be pretty good too.

Aunty Jac ordered a bright magenta coloured cocktail called Purple Night that had Dragonfruit in it that once they got right (i.e added more alcohol) was delicious, and I had a delicious tropical drink with rum that was served in a Coconut. The best thing about the drink apart from it being served in a Coconut with a Bamboo straw was the extremely generous amount of alcohol in it and the size – it was huge!

My lunch however was slightly disappointing. All I ordered was some sourdough bread with avocado, sundried tomatoes, poached egg and feta, which in theory should have tasted fresh and flavoursome, but these people went and put about a ton of salt in the avocado. If there is already feta in the recipe then the avocado hardly needs to be salted aswell. A rookie mistake. It was so salty that I actually couldn’t eat it and Aunty Jac reported the same issue with her meal too. Afterwards we went to Finn’s Beachclub, a popular beach club with a great view of the sea and the surfer’s that frequented it.

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Lunch at La Laguna 

Rather then burn the soles of our feet like last time, I put on the sand shoes that Aunty Jac had had the good sense to bring with her. We passed a few dogs on the way too – some came scarily close to me no doubt trying to whiff me out. It wasn’t clear at first whether these were strays or not but I didn’t want to wait around to find out – their fear sensors were up and a few more seconds with me would have told them without much prompting that I was indeed scared shitless. After some time sunbathing on the beach and then trying not to get knocked over in the surf we retreated to the safety and comfort of their hotel, where we went for a swim in their gigantic pool and I sampled one of their star drinks: Black Mango which was a non alcoholic smoothie, a mixture of Mango and Blackcurrant. Delicious!

But now it was time to leave as it was getting dark and we still had the long ride back to Ubud. My Aunt and Uncle were going to be leaving Bali the following day but they had liked it so much they said they were planning on coming back again next year!

These creatures are doing me in – in some ways I have become accustomed to their presence but in others, I really cannot stand it. I am being inundated with beasts left and right and it’s driving me crazy! It’s easy to say that I should just ignore them but it’s damn near impossible. This is the catch with living in a place such as this. It’s the creatures – there’s so many of them! I really do not think I can deal with it on a longterm basis. Just today I have killed about 15 flying ants that found their way into our room. And as for the caterpillars – well you know, they are numerous! And I have finally found out where else they are entering from – our sunken bath tubs plug hole! I saw two of them emerging from there with my very own eyes. So much for a luxury bath!

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Josh and I on Canggu Beach 

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Dinner at Folk Pool & Gardens 

Bridges

We went out for the day and almost got caught in the rain. So far we have managed to avoid it and today was an exception, but it did mean that we had to stay in the restaurant we were working in for longer then usual whilst we waited for the rain to stop. Afterwards we decided to go and get something to eat for dinner since we didn’t want to go back to our villa only to have to come out again. We had had a big lunch so we weren’t feeling very hungry but we decided to go and eat anyway. I remembered seeing Bridges restaurant on a restaurant guide online and it came highly recommended for the food.

I hadn’t gone into too much detail when I had read about it so I had no idea what type of restaurant it was or what kind of food they served but the food was supposedly good so when I saw it on our travels I suggested we go there. At the time I was wearing a very short pair of shorts that was borderline batty rider so it was with great dismay when I realised that it was a fine dining establishment and it was too late to cancel so down we followed the elegantly dressed lady down a circular stairway into a beautifully lit room with formally dressed tables with white tablecloths placed strategically around a beautiful view of the jungle and “Bridge” like it’s namesake. I felt seriously underdressed. Here were people clearly out for their romantic meal and there I was with my bum cheeks hanging out of door sitting there with Josh wearing an Adidas vest and we’d been out allday so we hadn’t even had a shower. It wasn’t a good look alas the servers didn’t  bat an eyelid at what we were wearing. Had we have been in London there was no way we would have even got in! The food, as expected was really good. Definitely somewhere I would be happy to go again.

It started raining heavily as soon as we got home so we took the advantage of going for a nighttime swim in or pool the rain. The water was warm and the rain just got heavier and heavier. It was utterly delightful!

Monkey Forest

Since we have been in such close proximity to Monkey Forest and have even seen a few monkeys spill out onto the road as we are driving by I don’t personally see the point in paying to go and see them in their habitat but Josh wanted to go and see them so once the weather is sufficiently cloudy enough we make the trip there to see them. We go inside and realise at once that for the monkeys this is monkey paradise – they are essentially free – not locked up in chains, or having to do stupid tricks for the pleasures of duncebreed humans. They have a vast forest of natural habitat that is perfect and safe for them to live and play and they have a continued stream of food. They are never going to go hungry here and the people that come to visit them are told to restrict their boundaries. They are safe here. At Monkey Forest they have approximately 678 macaque monkeys though from what I can tell there’s probably quite a few more then that. There are monkeys of all ages here – lots of cute babies ones too.

They are delightful to watch and the babies are completely adorable. There is one baby monkey in particular that I decide that i’m ready to take home – he’s a small brown one with a tuft of hair similar to a mohawk, and he’s currently trying to rip into the small green banana he has with his teeny little hands. He keeps looking around incase a bigger monkey appears and tries to steal his find, but he is determined to get the fleshy part of this banana and keeps going with intense concentration to break it open, until finally he gives up. It makes me happy, to see monkeys, one of my very favourite animals, along with elephants not just surviving but thriving in their own natural environment without human beings interferring with them or worse: trying to eat them! They look comfortable here, are clearly used to seeing humans, playful, well fed and healthy. Welldone Monkey Forest. As we walk on we see a monkey jump onto a girls backpack (one of them even done it to Josh no doubt looking for water bottles which they love), and as she set about trying to get this clever little monkey off her back he was concentrating on trying to remove the water bottle (which was far bigger then him in size and weight!) out of the pouch on the side of her rucksack. First, he tried to use his teeth to unscrew the lid on the water bottle, all the while a large crowd of people giggling their heads off is gathering. Then when he can’t quite manage to do that he proceeds to try and pull the bottle out of the pouch so that it will smash on the floor. Seconds later he has managed to do just that and drenches the poor woman with her own water in the process! These monkeys are utterly fascinating. Highly intelligent, determined, agile and gentle (you can see how gentle they are and how much they understand just by looking into their eyes), what a blessing it is to be related to such an incredible animal!

We haven’t managed to go to Yoga Barn yet, and another place that has been recommended to us: Komune, a beach club. I’m not sure whether we will get to do either of these things now as Komune in particular is weather dependant and both today and yesterday it has been raining. The weather forecast doesn’t look much better for the coming week either unfortunately and Komune is a long drive down to the coast.  We have a Balinese Dinner Dance booked at Kepitu restaurant on Friday which I’m really excited about. Another thing we have been meaning to do is see some traditional Balinese dancers and this way we can combine the two.

They keep on playing the same tunes at breakfast – traditional Indonesian music that is repetitive and heavily features the xylophone. It’s not that I don’t want to hear their local music, I do but must they continue to rinse the same simpleton tunes time and again? – It is a struggle I tell you.

Apologies for this being so long – I had alot to get out!

Smell you later!

STori X

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Karsa Spa 

Bali Diaries: Week 2

Bali Diaries: Week 2

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I seriously cannot believe that 2 weeks have gone already!

We are feeling much more settled here now. We have been using the scooter to get about (which is an absolute steal at only £3 a day!) and it’s been a blessing in disguise as our villa is in quite a remote location and Ubud town isn’t really accessible by foot so we have to drive in which takes around 20 minutes each way. Food has been a bit of an issue in the evenings due to the distance from our villa to the best restaurants and it has been challenging to find good restaurants that deliver this far alas I still wouldn’t change the location for the peace and quiet it provides.

The weather has been scorching everyday, though sometimes overcast and we have had the occasional rain but the humidity is intense. I am very much enjoying my tan! It has been gradual to arrive but it’s here now and I’m loving it.

There’s a Mouse in Ma Kitchen What am I Gonna Do?!

We received an email a few days ago notifying us of a terrifying development back at home regarding our cats Frankie and Sansa. Apparently, less then a week and a half after we left our house to go travelling, Frankie and Sansa caught not 1 but 2 mice! When we were emailed by our temporary lodgers to inform us of this I almost had a bloody heart attack. In the 4 years that I have lived there I have never encountered any mice, Frankie & Sansa have never caught any mice and there has been absolutely no evidence of them being present in the house so I seriously cannot believe what I am hearing.

The only occasion I have ever seen a mouse was a few months ago when I was in the attic and I saw one lone mouse who had the audacity to squeak at me as I was trying to locate some candle making ingredients. I was stunned to see it there, and even more stunned and horrified at it’s casual greeting. Did that mean that this horrendous creature was living in my attic? I most certainly hoped not!

After that day we fortified the attic with potent mice and rat killer (just incase) and I placed both Frankie and Sansa in there on a regular basis so that they could locate the mice if indeed there were any but they never found anything therefore I was convinced that that meant that the coast was clear and the mouse I did see was long gone. In all the 12 years that Josh has lived there he has NEVER seen any mice or evidence of mice so why the bloody hell are these people telling me that we have a mouse infestation literally days after we have left?!

I couldn’t help but to be suspicious as to the state that my house was being lived in for such a despicable thing to occur all of a sudden. I’m sorry but I had to wonder. Josh tried to assure me that at some point in time all houses had an infestation of mice but I’m struggling with that level of simplicity. DAYS after we have left and after an extremely extensive clean and clear out by Josh and I whereby we saw and heard NADA all of a sudden we have a mouse infestation in our house when 2 complete strangers and a social recluse who probably eats in his room on a regular bases are conveniently left in charge?!

What kind of thing is this I’m hearing?!! I CAN NOT DEAL I tell you.

The very THOUGHT of returning home to a house infested with mice makes my skin crawl. I very much doubted Frankie and Sansa had even seen a mouse before now! Of course I am proud that they were living up to their reputation that British Shorthairs have of being one of the best hunters of all the cat breeds, but precious cats should not have to be collecting mice in my house like it’s going out of fashion! We have instructed the lodgers to call out Rentokil or whomever else can rid us of this problem.

I want them GONE!!!!!!!

The Creepy’s Keep on Crawling

We’ve had the caterpillar prevention installed on our villa door and it seems to be working pretty well but even that is not foolproof. As I mentioned before our bathroom, though utterly beautiful with it’s luxurious stone sunken bath tub and outdoor rain shower complete with plant installation and white pebbled floor, is partially outside so these nasty caterpillars still find a way in. Either they are coming in from the ceiling (but it does have a mesh covering so I doubt it), are living within the soil that our plants are planted in (very possible), entering via the plug hole (unlikely), or are one of the determined ones who somehow manage to squeeze their horrible caterpillar bodies past the bristly blocker put on the bottom of our door.

Either way on the odd occasion we see them (though mainly in the bathroom), and that’s simply not good enough. If I was certain that they would just stay in the bathroom and crawl around in the soil minding their own business then that would be okay but it’s when they come out of the bathroom and crawl onto our bed that’s a problem as I have seen on 2 seperate occasions. Now that I cannot have. But what can I do about it in the middle of the night? I cannot see them, nor can I stop them in their endeavours but I tell you if I feel one of these crispy, multi legged creatures on my naked skin in the middle of the night I am very likely to scream the place down and nobody wants that!!

I love being in the middle of nature. I’ve never been anywhere quite like this before – it is so natural, and so wild, that you cannot help but feel a strong connection to it. It’s undoubtedly a more simple way of living, a healthier, spiritual, more ethical way of living that makes you feel at ease. All of the troubles that come as standard when you live in a city as busy and go getting as London just seem to melt away into insignificance.

For instance, I can’t tell you last time since being here that I’ve even thought about Brexit, Theresa May or Tramp Trump. It just doesn’t factor into my lifestyle here. The only thing I worry about these days is whether or not the giant cicada is going to land on that huge palmed tree trunk or on my naked lap? Will that caterpillar remain in the bathtub going round and round in circles or will it make it’s ugly way over to our queen sized bed and take up residence there? Does that rundown dog that looks like a hyena and is itching itself to within an inch of it’s life have rabies? will it attempt to bite me as we fly past on our scooter and if so, precisely how much time does it take to get to a hospital? That big lumpy brown frog rib rib ribbeting over there with it’s huge bubble throat, can it see that that’s our threshold and does he know that he should go around the side instead of towards it? Bats, Rats, Dragonflies, Flies, Cockroaches, Spiders, Centipedes and other questionable looking insects, will you keep away from us for the duration of our stay?? And does the pizzeria Spacanapoli deliver to our villa? Is our jacuzzi open for business today? – These are the types of serious questions I ponder day to day in this place. Granted they are different questions then I would ponder in London Town but no less important to me right now.

I am not loving these Bali Dogs but at least they aren’t as menacing as the ones in Thailand. They generally keep themselves to themselves and in comparison to the Thai dogs they look pretty knackered if I’m honest. If push came to shove I think I would be able to outrun them. Let’s hope that I never have to try!

Despite me wearing 30% DEET insect repellant every day without fail these miserable mosquitoes are biting me up anywhere and everywhere they can! My knee has actually swollen up I’ve been bitten there so many times not to mention everywhere else they have managed to sink their bloody thirsty fangs. I’m in pain!

One of the local nail shops overcharged me for shellac. What a bloody cheek! The only reason why I went there in the firstplace was because I stupidly bought these stick on nails from Superdrugs and they were falling off after only 2 days. I had never worn stick on nails before but my sister said she had tried them and they lasted for around 2 weeks and I thought it would be the same for me alas after only a mere 24 hours they were coming off. Pathetic. So I went to the closest nail shop that I could find in Ubud and they took the remaining 4 that I had on off and gave me shellac. I am never going to bother with the fake nail nonsense again. I really liked the design on them but in the end it wasn’t worth the hassel. Everything is so cheap in Bali that when the nail therapist told me it would cost me 430,000 Indonesian Rupiah I didn’t bat an eyelid. I still haven’t quite worked out how to convert their currency to GBP without the use of a calculator and at the time I assumed it would be as cheap as everything else was there, plus I just really needed to get it done but this fool charged me £29!!! Since when was it £29 to get your nails done in Ubud when you could feed 4 people with drinks for that price? Petrol for our scooter was £3 so where is this woman going with £29? – I can get my nails done in shellac for £15 in London! Josh suggested we go in there again some other time and ask them the price again to see whether the woman was trying to scam. Or perhaps that’s just her “Westener price”. Either way she won’t be getting another penny out of me!!

Familial Joy

Aunty Jac and Uncle Dennis came up from Canggu today and we had the best day ever!

Josh and I had decided to surprise them with a lunch at our favourite vegetarian restaurant Clear Cafe, complete with a treat to a Royal Balinese Massage for the two of them before we ate lunch and then later we planned to take them to dinner at Cascades, a restaurant that was part of the Viceroy hotel brand, with one of the most romantic views in the world. Our lunch at Clear Cafe was both special and ultra relaxed as on top of having one of the most original idea’s for a restaurant in the form on their on site spa, and eclectic, ambient atmosphere, the staff were also super relaxed, and you could basically stay in the restaurant for the entire day without being bothered if you wished too as Josh and I had done on numerous occasions. My Aunt and Uncle loved it there, the massages aswell as the food and I was so happy to have been able to take them there. They had actually hired a driver for the day so it was really convenient to get to the restaurant and then back to Pumpkin Village for a mid afternoon swim and a relax before getting ready for dinner at Cascades.

Cascades had been on my radar once I had read an article about how beautiful it was and I had seen the pictures to confirm. I wasn’t that interested in the food, though as it was an award winning restaurant I was sure that I wouldn’t be disappointed but it was the views I was interested in..

Walking into Cascades was like walking on to a set. I had specifically chosen an early dinner time as I was determined to get the best possible view of the surrounding landscape and have the opportunity to see the sun go down. I had asked for the best seat in the restaurant and that is exactly what I got. I had to remind myself that we weren’t in Game of Thrones as I walked through the gigantic foyer with marble floors down the triple width stone staircase, past the elegantly dressed bowing waiters, opulent fountains and statues and a perfectly manicured lawn complete with an infinity pool and flower displays such as you’ve never seen.

In front of us was a view that was both dramatic and eye wateringly beautiful with a panorama that overlooked the “Valley of the Kings”. I don’t say Valley of the Kings for effect, though I know it sounds very Game of Thrones like, however in this instance it is probably Game of Thrones that has taken inspiration from here as that is the actual name of the valley and the view is of impeccable splendour, grandeur and more than a hint of magic. Coming from below was a chant like singing that simply didn’t seem real but it just added to the atmosphere.

A huge thatched dining room, with long white bellowing drapery and stepping stones led to a table with a perfect view of the green valley below. This was our table for the evening and when we arrived we were the only ones in the entire restaurant. Needless to say it was a very lovely dinner.

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Me and Aunty Jac outside Clear Cafe 

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Lounging by the pool at our villa with Josh, Aunty Jac and Uncle Dennis 

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Dinner at Cascades 

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Tonight Matthew, I’m Dining in the Sky

I was so happy to have the rare pleasure of seeing my Aunty Jac in Bali. It felt really quite surreal and very special. We have told them that if the weather remains as good as it has been then we will return the favour and make a trip up to Canggu to visit them.

I can already see that I’ve lost weight since being here. Of course I wasn’t trying to lose weight but it has happened naturally probably because of the combination of me swimming everyday, and eating healthily. I’m sticking with this vegetarian thing and it’s doing me the world of good. Both Josh and I feel as though we look and feel healthier as a result of it though I’m sure being uber relaxed in a paradise setting doesn’t hurt much either 😉

We visited Campuhan Ridge Walk today, an area of outstanding beauty just minutes away from Ubud town centre, and whilst we were there we came across not just miles and miles of perfect rice paddies and lush jungle on our walk, but at the very end a treat in the form of a restaurant and spa called Karsa Spa. I think it was blessing that we even made it there because the walk through the rice paddies (which was suggested to us by one of the waiters in a restaurant we had visited the other night funnily enough) was more tiring then I thought it would be and we had forgotten to bring water with us so when I couldn’t see this cafe that was advertised on the posters after we had made it to the other side and could spot a stray dog or two I was more than willing to give up. Especially since we still had to walk it all the way back before nightfall. But after seeing lots of other tourists going by, clearly determined to make it to this elusive place we decided to carry on and oh what a wonder did we behold!!!

These Indonesians really have something special here. Such an abundance of the most beautiful sights I ever did see. Had I of known about this place I would have definitely suggested that we go there with Aunty Jac alas, at least we were here now.

This cafe had a prized position of the unobstructed view of miles and miles of perfect rice paddie fields, and was surrounded by a botanical garden complete with lily ponds,  and exotic plants and flowers. It was so perfect it was almost as if it wasn’t real.

The hue of the sunset was a mixture of lavender, amber and pink and was utterly stunning from the top deck of the cafe (also which demanded bare feet). We only stopped there for a much needed drink but after seeing the beauty of the grounds we felt we had no choice but to do some exploration and after meandering around the gardens which had been designed to be almost maze like we happened upon a spa. In this setting, with this sunset?? OH YES.

We booked ourselves in for treatments a couple of days later.

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The Grounds of Karsa Spa

We have 2 weeks left here which feels me with a slight panic for there are still lots of things I want to do before I leave but thankfully if the weather remains good (there has been some rain today), then I think we may just be able to fit them all in.

1 is Hanging Gardens of Bali which is another spa hotel extraordinaire (yes, I do love me some pamperation). The place is tremendously beautiful and romantic – set in the forest and is 7 star so I can’t blame them too much for being a little up their arses but irrespective of how special the place is they should keep in mind that they shouldn’t be charging UK prices in Indonesia. It’s obscene. Anyway, I’m going!

2 is Gilli Islands.  A collection of islands that don’t allow any form of transport on them (Trawangan, Air and Meno), close to Bali with gorgeous beaches (there are no beaches in Ubud), and lots of fancy restaurants, cafes retail shops and hotels.

3 The Yoga Barn – the world’s famous yoga barn where all of the serious yogi’s go. I have never done yoga before but I have deliberately waited especially to come here to learn as there is no better setting and afterall, yoga is all about atmosphere.

4 – Swept Away Restaurant – a restaurant that has intimate tables placed besides a rushing river. You can’t get anymore dramatic then that!

Josh and I have also started videoing some of our antics and we will be releasing them for viewing very soon. We’re calling them #balicam so watch out for them!

Since we have been here we have Skyped my Nan and Grandad, Josh’s parent’s and brother, my sister and my Mum so we haven’t been doing too badly with the contact so far! I have worn my new Birkenstocks religiously since being here and they are so comfortable that I refuse to take them off! Sadly, Josh’s Birkenstocks that he has had for around 10 years and has always praised for their comfort and quality broke the other day so he had to get another pair of sandals whilst we were out. They look slightly like Birkenstocks but they are an Indonesian brand so we’ll have to see how they work out!

I have realised that the Indonesians are very conservative people – conservative in the way they dress and the way they are and so despite the searing heat I have felt a little underdressed walking around in little shorts so I decided to buy some Balinese style trousers – long, white, floaty trousers with discreet slits at the sides to keep you cool. I really like them but more then that I feel much more at ease with the way I’m dressed now afterall, despite the fact that shorts are the norm when in a hot country I wouldn’t want to offend anyone by showing too much skin.

Rest assured I am bloody loving it here. We both feel relaxed and happy and don’t see why on earth we should have to return to the UK at all!! Alas we still have another 2 weeks here before we’re onto our next stop: Seminyak.

We can’t complain too much I guess!

Smell you later!

STori x

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Campuhan Ridge Walk