Redeemed in Rio

Redeemed in Rio

In Brazil. Rio to be precise.

After returning from Zanzibar in January we had decided a matter of days after that we couldn’t possibly hack another year of employer sanctioned holidays and instead we were going to put into motion the plans that we’d had for awhile: Project Escape.

But enacting Project Escape in all of it’s wonderous and freeing glory would mean lining up a number of things: Firstly, we would need to choose where we wanted to go for the 6 months away (not too difficult considering we both have a list of places that we want to travel to as long as our arm!), then, we would need to figure out who was going to look after the cats (again, not too much of a challenge provided our lodger didn’t have any overly ambitious plans about travelling anywhere whilst we were away). Of course we would need to also rent out our house (to a couple preferably, and ones who were happy to mind our cats whilst we were gone).

Then there was the more long-term and serious considerations, such as us being able to financially support ourselves whilst we were travelling, aswell as when we returned because yes, I was going to be leaving work, permanently, to join Josh building the business. So we needed to be sure sure that this was going to work! And I had also decided to learn to drive, giving myself a couple of months to do so before we left in preperation for our long-term plans of relocating to the South of France. Leaving work for me was a pretty big deal, not only because I had been there for 12 years and though it was quite a mundane role with no chance of career progression nonetheless I was happy and content there. Alas, contentment wasn’t going to give me the lifestyle that I had always dreamed of, Josh was getting itchy feet since he had already relieved himself from the pressures of full-time employment and quite frankly, I was ready for the next chapter in my life.

So we put the house up for rent, I left work, passed my driving test (2 days before we flew out no less!) and now here we were in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil at the start of our 6 month extravaganza.

Rio, A Riot Of Colour

Of course like many people I already had my expectations about Rio before I’d even gone there. My friend Marisa had gone there a few years back and sung the praises of the beauty of the people there (the men especially!). She told me how warm the people living in the favela’s had been but though I could tell she had been enamored by the place, to be honest Rio had never been on my bucket list but the attractiveness of a country’s population was never going to be a serious consideration for my travels and I had no intention of venturing into the favela’s.

What I understood from what I’d seen on TV and read about Rio, it was a very colourful city, with a passionate people who loved football, samba and there was a very sharp divide between the rich and the very poor (who mostly tended to be black and lived in the favela’s), but could it live up to my expectations?

Josh and I had only stopped by Rio because we had found some amazing flights from Norwegian Air and we were planning on being in Brazil for 3 months before going onto Colombia for a further 3 months then around the Caribbean on a cruise from Miami. We figured (much like going to Japan and not passing through Tokyo), that forgoing Rio completely would be a bit of a shame. Sure, we didn’t have much interest in city breaks but since we had 3 months to play with we thought that we might aswell take advantage of this opportunity. We had booked a hotel right on Copacabana beach, the iconic 4 km beach linking the busy city of Rio to the other famous beach, Ipanema. If we were only going to be here for 4 days then we decided that we were going to do all of the typically touristy things that you’d expect in a location such as this!

Our hotel in Rio wasn’t great. It was dated and was in need of a good repaint (and preferably a renovation since it looked like it hadn’t been touched since the 80’s), but it was no cheap digs – it commanded a reasonably high price due to it’s location in the centre, overlooking Copacabana beach.

And we didn’t have time to waste. We really wanted to make the most of our time as it seemed unlikely that we would be returning. On the night we arrived, after dropping our bags in our hotel room we went out to a local pizzeria. We had arrived late and didn’t have time to be walking around looking for food places so we asked for a recommendation from one of the hotels receptionists and walked the few blocks there. Even though it was around 8:30 pm it was still very warm outside, around 26 degrees which we both enjoyed immensely after having a long and particularly depressing stint in the UK battling intermittent rain, grey skies and the relentlessness of an unpredictable and contentious Brexit.

Just to feel the warm air on my skin (and so far no scurrying cockroaches were to be seen), was a pleasure indeed. The Pizzeria was full and though we had brought our language translator with us we had left it back at the hotel so we figured we would have to try and communicate in broken Spanish or Spanglish as it might be called. It turned out that the Portuguese language was actually very similar to Spanish and most people were able to speak and understand both, but despite it’s reputation as a tourist mecca, in comparison to many other places I had frequented, most of the people we had encountered were Brazilian or from neighboring Spanish speaking countries. Oh and of course there were Americans, but nobody from further afield really. Since Josh’s skin hadn’t yet had the opportunity to acclimatize to the country we were in, he was still very much a “gringo” in their eyes, and thus people immediately either tried to speak to us in Spanish or English as they knew that we weren’t from there.

The pizzeria wasn’t like your normal pizzeria, instead of ordering what you wanted from a menu like you do in most restaurants, the waiters brought a a variety of different slices of pizza around and you simply took what you wanted. Of course you could also order from the menu but it seemed like most of the people just chose from whatever was brought around. I found it slightly odd but it seemed that was the norm here. The pizza’s were huge and neither myself nor Josh could finish ours as unlike pizza’s back in the UK they were very generous with their pepperoni slices. The pizza was nothing to get excited about but it hit the spot and it allowed us to go back and get an early night after the 11 hour flight from the UK: We were bushed!

There were lots of things to do in Rio but rather then get overwhelmed we had made a list of our must-see’s whilst we were in the city and we planned to tick them off one by one. We’re not really big on “tourist traps” which is probably the reason why we avoid places that have lots of them but we also knew that some places really did live up to the hype and Copacabana beach was one of them.

Rio was a lot like the US in a lot of ways: it had the same grid system, people obsessed with fitness and looking good, a lively nightlife and it took it’s inspiration from American culture. But Copacabana beach had something that Miami did not: it had vibrancy.

From the sellers pushing their carts full of fresh fruit, ice cubes, coconut water and pashmina’s and shouting out to people as they went by, to the children building sandcastles and doing cartwheels in the surf, to the tanned and bronzed Brazilians letting you know that they are always very much #beachbodyready, to the group of laughing friends lounging underneath their colourful umbrella’s drinking an ice cold beer or a Caipirinha, to the fancy footwork from the Ronaldo and Pele footballer wannabe’s, to the beat of the samba drum from the musicians on the beach, this wasn’t a place for quiet contemplation or boredom: it was place of colour, passion, creativity and sound.

Always #beachbodyready

And the people were just as colourful as their state of dress. People of all skin tones, shapes, hair textures and ethnicities, all were represented here and thus I felt immediately at ease. Nobody was looking at me. Why would they? – I was just like everyone else, and since the Brazilians are descendants of the Portuguese Josh was too (or would be once his tan started to take effect!). Of course the people were as beautiful as everyone said that they were, but I also found them to be very natural, I loved seeing my skinfolk looking so at ease with their skin with their natural hair, and their curves wearing it as they could with pride. They looked resplendent in the sunshine.

And of course you cannot come to Brazil without having a Caipirinha, so I had decided that for the rest of my time in Brazil I was going to try and have at least one Caipirinha a day #acaipirinhaaday. My first Caipirinha I had whilst I was sitting outside a beach bar overlooking Copacabana beach people watching and it was particularly delicious because unlike in England where they are made using vodka, it came with a very generous amount of Cachaca, the traditional Brazilian distilled spirit. Tres bon!

A #caipririnhaaday

The beach was packed but thankfully it was a very long stretch of beach so you could always find somewhere to sunbathe in relative peace. I say relative because it was immensely noisy, there was always some commotion on the beach whether that be people blasting out music, parents shouting to their children, a gym session, lifeguards blowing their whistles to remind people that it was still very much a red flag beach and they shouldn’t go so far out, beach sellers selling everything from handmade trinkets, to ice cold drinks, hot food and of course drugs (on the low low), but even though the people here seemed happy and laid back there was still the very real danger of our belongings being nicked from right in front of us and with this many people occupying the beach it was easy to see how. Thankfully we hadn’t travelled far to get to the beach (our hotel was literally across the road), so we didn’t have too much with us, and we had intentionally bought our beach towels which had a secret compartment where you could store your phones and wallets etc. Judging by the information we had been given by our Brazilian friends and from the staff at our hotel, we should be vigilant at all times and not flash our valuables around. I wasn’t one for wearing lots of jewellery anyway but this did mean that we needed to be much more purposeful about what we walked around with and in particular where we went especially late at night.

The beach was wide and the sand was soft and powdery but the waves here were no joke. I soon realised that there was to be no striding sexily into the sea like a Brazilian supermodel, infact the current was so powerful that when I eventually did make it into the sea the force of the waves knocked me over straightaway which embarrassed me no end. It was hard to stand up, let alone play around in the sea like everyone else seemed to be able to do with ease as I felt the pull of the current dragging me down into it’s watery depths.

Fresh Coconut Anyone?

Despite the dire warnings about crime in the city, I felt pretty safe. When the locals did try to engage us in conversation (usually because they were selling something), a quick No Gracias usually sent them on their way. This would be unheard of on some Caribbean, African and European beaches. So I didn’t feel concerned at all, but then I guess we were still in a relatively “sanitized” part of Rio. What I did notice though was the presence of the law enforcement, aka Po Po. They were stationed on almost every corner everywhere from the airport to Copacabana beach, they would just be standing or sitting there inside their cars with their police lights flashing as if to warn any would be criminals of their presence. For a tourist to Brazil, who had probably heard every scare story going about the favela drug wars fuelled by poverty in the city, to see a hench looking Brazilian cop with his romper stompers looking like he had just returned from Afghanistan was a somewhat disconcerting sight, alas if that it was kept the crime to a minimum then that was all right by me. I had every intention of surviving this trip until the very end. And infact I’d love to return and say to all of those naysayers (including those who had expressed concern when we told them that we were planning on going to South America), that I travelled there for 6 months and didn’t have one bad experience. We’ll see!

The promenade that ran down the side of the beach and alongside the hotels was decorated with a distinctive black and white wavy pattern that I found out is called the Portugese wave. Despite it’s distinctive design however there was also a powerfully distinct smell of urine that accompanied it. It would seem as though the rough sleepers in the city (of which there looked like quite a few but less then there is in London these days in my opinion), used this area to err…relieve themselves, and the smell was very distasteful, particularly when you got a blast of wind come off the sea to carry it along and shoot up your nose. Nawsty.

After Bali I never thought that I would experience having to put my toilet (spoils) into the accompanying bin. And after doing that a couple of times and wondering why the toilet wasn’t flushing I had to acknowledge the inevitable: That shit won’t flush. Afterall Brazil was still a second world country, they didn’t have advanced plumbing like we have in the West.

That evening we went to Churrascaria Palace, a steakhouse with a Brazilian twist. There we dined on meats of all types brought to our table by friendly waiters. It was tasty but the waiters only brought round the meats, all the rest we had to get from the buffet table and as you know I am not a buffet fan.

The following day we had booked an excursion around Rio. For travellers like us, who thought it was nearly always best to discover a place on your own, get lost, and find your way again, this was definitely a departure from the norm, but we only had 3 full days to explore Rio and we wanted to see as much of it as we could. So, starting at 08:50 am we had booked a 8 hour long excursion which would take in the sights of the city and see some of the most important and iconic Rio landmarks, including the famous statue of Christ for the Redeemer, which for a proud atheist such as me is quite an irony but one doesn’t have to respect the doctrine to respect the craftsmanship. Infact it seemed to be incumbent upon me to acknowledge the fact that human beings are capable of the greatest (and the worst) things, and with inspiration are capable of doing anything they put their minds, hearts and hands to. This includes creating a 98 ft high concrete and soapstone sculpture weighing 325 metric tonnes up the 2,300 ft mountain in Tijuca Forest.

The tour would also take us to the Rio’s largest football stadium, to the place where the samba parade started, to the “colourful steps” and Sugar Loaf mountain, aswell as lunch at a local restaurant. Had I of designed the tour myself there were probably only 2 things I would have included that were missed out and that would be watching some Capoeira and a tour to see some of the cities graffiti. Infact I would have missed off visiting the Cathedral (it was soon becoming depressingly clear that these Brazilians took their “faith” very seriously), and chosen to go and watch some Capoeira and see some graffiti art instead, afterall that is far more creative and distinctive to Brazil then another obscenely priced building built with the sweat of others to further tiresome religious ends.

We started off with a coach that took us through some of the most vibrant and creative city sights I had ever seen. Forget Rome, this was the real deal: a culmination of the efforts of the residents, who with their powerful art told the story of their pleasures and pain. It was colourful, it was beautiful, it was raw. And the faces staring back at me painted on the walls looked a lot like mine but they started back at me with expressions of the struggle and the fight to be seen. I never realised such emotion could come through via pictures painted onto a decaying walls but it was. And this art was everywhere. I honestly could have spent the entire day just travelling through the city looking at the various graffiti alas we had places to go and things to see.

I didn’t realise that so much time would be spent travelling between the tour stops but as I came to find out Rio was a huge city, it would be impossible to see all of it in such a short period of time. Our first stop was at Maracana football stadium, the largest football stadium in Rio. We didn’t actually go inside (for that you needed a ticket and since Brazilians were football mad that meant the queue to get in was very long). For me personally, going to a football stadium didn’t hold much appeal and I didn’t feel particularly inspired by what I saw but my little brother is football mad so I knew that he would be impressed just knowing that I had had the opportunity to be in such a place so I took this picture for him:

Maracana Football Stadium

Afterwards we drove onto Sambodromo, another stadium but this time something more to my tastes: The Samba Stadium! Yes, this was the place where the world famous Rio Carnival started and in true Rio style, they made a big deal of their carnival, dedicating a whole stadium to the event. From here you could watch the carnival dancers in their colourful regalia as they done everything in their talented power to impress the judges. Because Rio Carnival unlike carnivals elsewhere in the world, was a competition. It was a competition of dance, music, song and most importantly, dress. I have always been impressed by the sensuality, grace and strength of samba dance and of course the women when wearing their get up were so beautiful nobody could match them. It’s why the Brazilian woman is revered worldwide as being the most desirable. As mixed as you could get, they were an effortless combination of Portuguese, African, Native Indian and in many cases Japanese as Brazil I found out actually had the largest concentration of Japanese people outside of Japan. Intriguing!

Outside of Carnival time, the date of which changed every year, at the Sambodromo you could learn more about this fascinating Brazilian tradition, aswell as buy some memorabilia including discounted carnival outfits, music, speak and take pictures with an actual Samba dancer (who had legs like a stallion), and of course get yourself a Caiprinha for the road ūüėČ

Carnival time at the Sambodromo 

Next we stopped by a Cathedral which for the most part was interesting with beautiful stained glass windows but of course the fact that it was a Catholic Church to me was only indication of religions insidious pyramid scheme in this region, brought over by the colonising Portuguese who had been heavily influenced by Rome. It was that way all over the world, how telling that the religion of the day was spread by conquest only for people to adopt it truly convinced that they had found the true path to heaven.

Escadaria Selaron

I’d actually never heard of this place before but I did remember seeing it in many music videos not realising that it was filmed here in Brazil. Escadaria Selaron was the colourful tiled steps of the Santa Teresa neighborhood. Santa Teresa, considered one of the arty neighborhood’s in Rio, not only had the beautiful multi-coloured tiled steps but also lots of amazing graffiti art. The stairs were absolutely crammed full of people, mostly tourists, baying to take pictures for their Instagram, and as I was being a shameful tourist myself, I took one for mine too ūüôā

The beautiful tiles in the Santa Teresa neighbourhood

Amazing graffiti art near the Sscadaria Selaron

Rio I was finding, was a place of contradictions.¬† Obsessed with social standing, beauty and health, they had also refused to sanitise their more edgy side, their struggles, the crime and their past which was still visible in living painted glory of the city walls. It was also very green here. Much more so then I’d expected. Part of the reason why I forgo large cities is because they often ignores the nuance in favour of a dramatised version of what the country and people are about. Here I felt that it was very authentic, and rather then just a concrete jungle it still had a lot of the kind of nature that in my eyes is what Brazil is really all about. The hills, the trees, the lakes, the plants, the mountains..somehow nature managed to co-exist amongst what was still quite Americanised in it’s approach to city building. It reminded me a lot of both New York and Miami, but was far more interesting and authentic to me then both of them: Take heed Americano’s.

Sitting on the steps

After the colourful steps we went onto see Christ the Reedemer at Corcovado, the sight that everyone immediately thinks of when you talk of Rio. After a long coach ride and a lengthy climb to the top of the mountain in the intense heat we finally reached the statue of Jesus. Of course the surrounding area was packed full of tourists there to take pictures and some where even there to pray (but not many). This was definitely a tourist attraction and one worth ticking off our Rio bucket list. We gazed upon Christ in all of his stony glory in front of us with his arms outstretched over Rio as if blessing it with his presence, but I knew the reality was that he was designed, engineered, sculpted and transported for the purpose of impressing the world with his significance, so all I could do was marvel at the determination and skill of the human beings who created him.

Redeemed

These Brazilians do love a buffet. That much was becoming clear after our buffet like pizzeria experience the night we arrived, the Churrascia last night and the local restaurants most of whom did one buffet offering or another. So naturally it was to another buffet that our very nice and extremely fluent tour guide took us to. I was reluctantly coming to the realisation that not only did they love a buffet, not only did they love beef in all of it’s many forms, but they also didn’t really eat all that much. Their portions were pretty small by England standards which was surprising since I thought they liked to be like Americans and we all know that Americans have huge portions!

The food at this buffet was okay, but nothing special. They had things like salads, french fries (which they seemed to love), vegetables, rice, pasta (another favourite) and beef which you could have cut especially for you at the grill. My friend Sasha who herself was Brazilian had actually warned me of their aversion to spices and I had found that hard to believe because of the diversity of the people who lived here, but it was true: Brazilians didn’t do spice, not even pepper! I had imagined that their food would be extremely flavoursome with lots of fruits, vegetables and spices but it was not to be. They were perfectly content with rice, beans, french fries and beef seasoned simply with just salt. And preferably buffet style. In short: Their food was bland.

The realisation that Brazil with all of it’s creativity and diversity, a region that surely must grow it’s own amazing fruits and veg and is surrounded by all of the other Spanish speaking countries including Peru which is supposed to have some of the best cuisine in the world (yet to be confirmed by me), then how on earth could it not have delicious food in abundance?

I simply could not go on eating beef everyday. I would find it far too boring and I like to enjoy my food thank you very much.

Sugar Loaf Mountain

Sugar Loaf Mountain was the world heritage site in Brazil shaped like a loaf – a peak jutting out of the Atlantic Ocean. To get to the top of it we had to take 2 cable cars which was pretty scary for alot of people in this region but not for Josh and I who were used to taking cable cars to get to the top of the ski runs.

The panoramic sights of the city, ocean, mountains and beaches below was a sight to below. Seeing the sprawling city from here, with the setting sun casting glimmering down on the white boats in the harbour below, an atmospheric mist floating magically by, houses perched on the top of clifftops, soaring birds spreading their wings, the sound of silence, was truly one of the most breathtakingly beautiful sights that I’ve ever seen. I don’t know where it felt like but it certainly didn’t feel like Rio, it was far too beautiful for that. Or was it? Perhaps this was the contrast that made Rio such a unique and positively alluring place.

The loaf made of sugar 

Josh and I on top of the world!

The Girl From Ipanema

Well of course I went to Ipanema Beach, how could I not?

Just the thought of being able to take a picture on this iconic beach was enough to make a special trip to visit. We spent the whole day there drinking Caipririnha’s and people watching. People watching on Ipanema beach was even better then in Copacabana beach which seemed alot more casual. Here people were here to impress, and being beach body ready as they were, impressing wasn’t too hard to do. We had a great day.

Another #caipirinhaaday ūüôā

On our last evening in Rio we went to a local underground Bossa Nova club called Beco Das Garrafas for an event in their Little Club. Being a Bossa Nova fan as I am I was delighted to find out that here in Rio we could listen to live Bossa Nova and Jazz for the price of a glass of Prosecco. Now that’s my idea of a night out! In this small, dark club we would find a Bossa Nova band (with an amazing blind piano player) playing nearly all of the songs that I had recently discovered on a Youtube Bossa Nova playlist. They played really well and the singing was great too. I was in seventh heaven.

Rio, I underestimated you. I thought you were just about glamorous people with plastic surgery walking about trying to pretend to be American. I didn’t realise that you were this vibrant, colourful, characterful, friendly, warm, laid back. I didn’t know you had one of the most beautiful birds eye views of a city I’d ever seen, nor that your Capririnha’s tasted like THAT. I didn’t know that you were so artistic, your music so catchy. I didn’t know too, that you rained (sometimes), that your city was so huge, that you had such a problem with petty crime so as to make it the norm, and I really didn’t know that your food was so bland. But that’s okay, 4 out of 5 is okay. Especially for a city. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime?

Next stop: Florianopolis, Brazil!

CON Air (Zanzibar, Tanzania)

CON Air (Zanzibar, Tanzania)

We boarded the plane at Paris, Charles De Gaulle, ready for our 8 hour flight to Zanzibar via Nairobi, Kenya. It was to be my first time in East Africa, and Josh’s first time in Africa so¬†naturally we were both excited and a little apprehensive too as we didn’t know quite what to expect.

Getting to this exotic destination off the beaten tourist track was a bit of an ordeal: our commute was over 15 hours in total, and required changing planes 3 times, then it would be another hour and a half journey by road once we arrived in Zanzibar.

Once we had settled into our seats, we immediately commenced our usual routine of choosing the film/s we wanted to watch for the duration of the flight. We settled on Logan as my brothers had assured me it was a really good film and then I decided that should I feel awake enough afterwards then I would watch Wonder Woman.¬†Again. ūüôā

Despite the dauntingly long journey ahead now we were ready, or as ready as we were gonna be!

No sooner had I put my travel socks on, spritzed my face with Liz Earle facial toner and applied my moisturiser in preparation of the journey ahead, did we suddenly hear the back door of the plane fly open and then a woman towards the back of the plane, about 4 rows behind us, began screeching at the top of her lungs:

“Nooooooo, Noooooo!”

“Leave me alone, I do not want to go, I don‚Äôt want to goooo!”

“Je ne veux pas y retourner! Je ne veux pas y retourner!”

“No, I will not go, leave me alone, LEAVE. ME. ALONE!!”

I whipped my head around to see what on earth the commotion was all about and with growing horror I saw this large African woman being physically restrained by two men at the back of the plane. At first Josh and I just assumed that they were perhaps friends of hers and an argument had broken out between them, but as it became more physical and she became more vocal, it soon became clear that she was infact fighting them!

The 2 slight Kenyan men who were accompanying her were trying to force her into a seat at the back of the plane. She was resisting them with all her might and her protestations were getting increasingly louder. I could only look on in shock. By now the entire back of the plane had turned around in their seats to see what was going on.

Why was this woman being restrained? What had she done? Why were the staff just standing there doing and saying nothing? Why is the woman being so hysterical? I wondered to myself.

And most importantly, What ON EARTH is she doing on my flight?!

All of these questions were whirring round and round in my head as I tried to process what it was I was seeing.

The woman’s cries became increasingly more urgent and she began to beg for help from passengers nearby who looked confused and uncomfortable: Nobody knew what to do.

She begged passengers to help her in French and English:

“Please help me” she screamed.

“Help me please. PLEASE” she pleaded.

I really wanted to help her but I didn’t know how I could. Or even if I should. The men started to get rougher with her as she fought them with an intensity and ferocity that left me speechless: This woman was FIGHTING FOR HER LIFE.

I didn’t know whether she was being illegally deported (meaning, these men were not police officers and were infact taking her against her will), if she was a criminal or whether she was being deported from Paris back to her country of origin. I had absolutely no idea what was going on because whilst this commotion was in full sway and the plane remained grounded delaying our take-off as a result, the staff made NO ATTEMPT WHATSOEVER to explain what was going on to anyone. They never tried to intervene nor to acknowledge the commotion in any way.

Josh and I looked at each other with growing disbelief as we saw these men trying to handcuff this woman to the middle aisle seat at the back of the plane and she wasn’t having a bar of it! Her screams went up an octave.

The sound of this woman’s wails, screams and laments reverberated in my heart as I recognised the unmistakable sounds of genuine human anguish, pain and acute terror.

As I looked around me I could see some people staring blankly forward as if if they merely glimpsed this woman being manhandled they wouldn’t be able to remain calm. They simply REFUSED to look at her. Tears prickled at the corner of my eyes as I saw that this woman was fighting with everything that she had. Whatever the reason that she was being detained was, it was humiliating and painful to see another human being¬†being¬†treated in this way. And I did not see why I should have to be subjected to it!

Multiple times passengers, angry because no information had been given as to what was going on or how long it would be before we took off, demanded that the woman be removed from the aircraft. But this fell on deaf ears: The air crew simply ignored them.

“They will kill me!” she screeched out to anyone who would listen to her plight.

“No, I don‚Äôt want to die. PLEASE, I don‚Äôt want to die! Je ne veux pas y retourner! Je ne veux pas y retourner!”

My eyes widened in horror upon hearing these words. Die? I thought. Did I just hear DIE?? Just what the bloody hell is going on here? Who IS this woman? I wanted to know. I didn’t sign up to be party to these kinds of shenanigans!

The plane had now been grounded for well over 30 minutes with no announcement from the pilot as to why we were being delayed and no apology from the staff about the noise. I was horrified. I really couldn’t believe what it was I was seeing and hearing. I had NEVER been on a delayed flight where the pilot didn’t give frequent information as to the reason for the delay and an approximate estimation as to how long the delay would be for. This, in my experience, was unheard of.

“Noooooo” she wailed.¬†“Nooooooo!”

I looked over at the staff in disbelief that they could continue pretending as if they couldn’t see or hear the commotion that was happening in front of their very eyes.

My sense of unease increased rapidly as I saw this woman struggling with all her might to resist the chains that they were trying to bind her hands with. My anxiety and sense of helplessness was becoming more and more acute as the time went on. It had become clear by now that these were plain clothed policemen so it seemed this woman was going to be handcuffed to her seat and brought along for the ride whether I liked it or not. Well I DID NOT LIKE.  I was utterly furious and felt powerless to do anything to stop it.

When the woman began to flail her arms around wildly, making it dangerous not just to her immediate passengers, but also to herself, things really began to take a serious turn. All the while she was screaming at them to leave her alone and that she was going to be killed in her country. Babies on the plane started crying in unison.

An hour later and we were STILL stationery, waiting for this woman to be removed from the aircraft. As far as I was concerned, she was a liability. And quite frankly, I was starting to feel traumatised watching this woman being manhandled by these men. I didn’t want her on my flight, end of story. I didn’t pay for this shit. Neither did I agree to share my flight to Zanzibar with a deportee.

The airlines arrangements with the authority’s to deport someone on their commercial flight had nothing to do with me as a paying customer as far as I was concerned and I would never willingly agree to be a participant in the removal of someone, particularly when said person was unwilling to be removed and was being extremely vocal about it!

It’s not as if she was like a normal paying customer, she was essentially being REMOVED from the country, and that is something very different.

After an hour or so of this things really began to escalate when I heard the back door open and saw 2 French policemen enter. I knew that they were police immediately because they were hench, wearing police uniform and had a ruggedness about them that looked as if they were used to dealing with VERY SERIOUS situations (such as terrorists and the like)

I looked on in shock and horror as these militant looking policemen along with the by contrast very¬†gentle looking Kenyan policemen proceeded to try to get this woman under control but she was stronger than any of them could ever have anticipated and she wasn’t going down without a FIGHT!

After another 10 minutes of struggle, which not only had them heavily perspiring but the woman too, FINALLY they got her strapped to her chair. Soon thereafter we heard her panting heavily and we could SMELL her body odour from where we were sitting: She smelt of defeat, pain and broken dreams.

The woman now brought her screaming up to blood curdling loud levels and I was really struggling to hold in my tears. The sound of her deep sorrowful sobs were hurting my heart. I found the whole thing utterly inhumane and deeply disturbing. I couldn’t believe that THIS was the start of my holidays. Was this to be the sign of things to come??

Now handcuffed to the seat, she promptly began smashing her head with full force against the seat in front of her. The woman in front of her whose seat she was banging her head against and who was visibly getting more distressed, immediately burst into tears, as did children halfway down the plane. It was absolute mayhem.

How they could allow this delay to occur when it was completely within their control was beyond my comprehension. How they could sit there pretending that nothing was going on when a woman was literally begging for her life really was beyond my understanding. Why they felt it was acceptable to allow this woman to continue this level of disruption that was causing passengers including children to cry and people to demand that they remove her immediately when we know that they divert planes for MUCH less was beyond belief. And why they never went around apologising profusely to every passenger who was being affected by this horrendous episode and tried to put them at ease for what already is for some people quite a disturbing thing (flying) whilst this unacceptable drama played out was to my mind, UTTERLY UNACCEPTABLE.

Eventually, after they had moved the crying passenger sitting in front of her, I summoned one of the air hostesses who had been trying in earnest to pretend that she didn’t see what going on wasn’t going on, and I asked her directly “What IS going on?!”

And she told me (though I noted that she never bothered to apologise), that the woman was being deported. Simple as that. No further details. No apologies. And STILL no announcement by the pilot!

My nerves were frayed and I didn’t know whether this woman would start an even bigger commotion whilst we were in the air so I couldn’t relax. And fundamentally, I did not agree with them bringing their “prisoner” onto MY flight that I paid¬†my hard-earned money to be on!

Now they brought out the big guns and the woman’s wails became repeated daggers to my heart. I turned around to see them produce a head strap Рyes, you heard me correctly a HEAD STRAP, which they then proceeded to attempt to put onto her head to stop her from harming herself!

WFT is going on here??

These delusional people were so insistent that she was going to travel with us that they were actually prepared to put a head strap on the poor woman!

Well, she really began screaming now and it was unbearable. Again, people asked repeatedly for her to be removed from the plane, but they were patently ignored. I decided that I just couldn’t look anymore. Realising that they were determined to keep her on the plane Josh and I asked to be moved to another seat but were ignored. It was agonising to hear her let alone see her.

Concerned passengers began filming it on their phones but the French policemen (who for the first time seemed to suddenly realise that passengers were indeed present and watching everything that was going on!) went around DELETING footage from people’s phones telling them that they couldn’t film it.

Deleting footage you know! BUT WHY? You ask.

Why couldn’t they film it if what they was doing was perfectly okay and above-board? Who knows?

After almost an hour and a half of this I decided to be smart and at least try and get some audio of the commotion for future evidence. Because if this airline thought that I was just going to let them get away with this with no recompense then they were SADLY mistaken. As far as I was concerned allowing this woman to remain on the plane was putting EVERYONE on the flight at risk.

Eventually I managed to record audio of when she was much calmer then the hour or so before, but it is still damning evidence that proves how much disruption this woman was causing to passengers and I knew without a doubt that grounded or not, anyone else causing a disruption like this would have been removed without a moment’s hesitation.

Suddenly I felt the engine starting up (I couldn’t hear it of course because the woman was still screaming at the top of her lungs), but I could feel it beneath me. But to my absolute horror the safety announcement started playing DESPITE the fact that this woman was still wildin’ out.

I couldn’t hear a bloody thing! She was so loud that I couldn’t hear it and neither would I have been able to concentrate on it even if miraculously she had stopped screaming because I was still traumatised by the whole experience.

Once the engine had started up and the French policemen had helped to strap her head and hands to the seat they promptly left via the back of the aircraft. I recorded the audio of our ascent and the safety announcement whilst the woman was making her presence felt. It all felt quite surreal, like a nightmare. And STILL I was yet to hear the pilot make any kind of announcement regarding the commotion.

Whilst we were still in the air I could hear the woman crying, though it was gradually getting lesser and lesser, but then all of a sudden I heard nothing and I looked behind me to see the woman with a blanket thrown over her head, and I suddenly knew that she had been sedated.

It didn’t make me feel any less uneasy or anxious to know that she had been sedated for I knew that she could wake up any moment during the 8 hour flight and kick off again. But more importantly, everything in my body told me that this was wrong. This woman was being treated like an animal –¬†she had essentially been tranquilized like one!

Perhaps they thought that she was? After all, they used to display African bodies as animals in their Parisian zoos¬†in the not so distant past. That would have explained the lack of a need for them to apologise to people as to why they thought it was appropriate to bring her along. VILE. In the woman’s exertions she was sweating profusely, the stale, pungent, sweaty smell of her body odour wafted down to us every so often to remind us that here was a body being disguised as if it wasn’t even there. My heart hurt with the inhumanity and injustice of it all. And still I could do nothing.

Despite my concerns, the woman never woke up for the remainder of the flight: She remained heavily sedated and hidden from view.

During the flight my fury reached PEAK LEVEL when after had experienced a little bit of turbulence (a natural phenomenon that is to be expected), the pilot had the audacity to suddenly CROP UP on the microphone to APOLOGISE for the 20 minute turbulence that we would have to endure. Yet he made absolutely no mention whatsoever of the utter chaos caused by the passenger/prisoner that had delayed our flight for over an hour.

He didn’t attempt to explain or better yet to apologise about putting a plane load of passengers through something that was 100% percent within their control to diffuse! Unbelievable.

I was even more knackered than I would have usually have been after such a long flight. I was now MENTALLY exhausted too. I couldn’t erase the visions playing over in my mind of a woman being wrestled into submission.

We arrived in Nairobi to be greeted with intense humidity and extreme disorganisation. Though our bags went directly on to Zanzibar (and I was praying that they would arrive in one piece), we still had to check in at Nairobi Airport for the onward flight to our final destination and the staff at Air Kenya were pretty shambolic I have to say. Such a basic thing such as checking in 2 passengers really should not have caused such confusion.

I mean, it wasn’t like I was asking for them to provide something that hadn’t already been booked and paid¬†for, or asked them for a product that they didn’t sell: They sold flights and I had paid for one. Surely not rocket science.

So, not a great start.¬†What also wasn’t a great start was the level of professionalism which was severely lacking. BUT, they got us there in one piece, so I was thankful of that at least.

Zanzibar Airport

If I thought that Kenya Airways staff was bad, then I was soon to be left in utter awe of the Zanzibar Airports systems, which were utterly non-existent.

Travel from the UK to Zanzibar required a visa. This hadn’t even occurred to us when we decided we were going to travel there so to find that we needed a visa to enter the country last minute came as a bit of a shock. Luckily, there were 2 ways to obtain one: Either apply for one in advance by getting it from the embassy or get one upon arrival (for a fee of course). When we were travelling to Indonesia and Thailand we had to get visa’s for both countries and it was a reasonably complicated (or at the very least time-consuming) enterprise. But that was kind of understandable since we were intending on being in both places for longer than a month, but in Zanzibar we were only going to be there for 10 days, alas it didn’t matter to them how long we intended on staying in their country for they wanted their visa money ($50 to be precise), and they wanted it now!

Zanzibar airport was small and in disrepair. The staff weren’t very impressed to see all of these (mostly European) tourists trundling through their airport and they didn’t pretend to be. In short: They weren’t very friendly. But such is the case working in an airport where you see thousands of faces on their way to begin their holidays and you are stuck stamping passports in the heat with no chance of escape. I get it. But at the same time, if you are a third world country, and people are making the effort to come to visit it, experience your culture and as a result prop up your tourist economy, it would be nice to at least acknowledge that with a smile. Or maybe just not a scowl. Alas maybe that’s not very realistic *sigh*.

We’d read online that we would be required to queue up once we got to the airport in order to get our visa forms processed but there was no signage to make it clear where we should go to get one. Thankfully it seemed that we were travelling with people who had been there before and knew where they were going so we followed them to a hall with tables that looked like they had lots of white forms on them. But upon closer inspection we could see that this table with its abundance of papers which were literally spilling over everywhere had lots of different forms.

The heat was oppressive and it was literally impossible to know which one of these forms we needed to fill out as there were about 7 different ones there and they all said “visa” on them. And to make matters worse there were no pens and no staff to help with any questions. We were hot and bothered and absolutely knackered after travelling for 15 hours plus the hour and a half of drama we had to endure at the start and I simply did not have the brain matter nor the energy to work out which badly written form I needed to fill out.

After eventually choosing 2 forms and starting to fill both of them out with pens that Josh had in his bag, a French lady suddenly took pity on us and shoved 2 completely different forms in our hands for us to fill out instead!

The forms were a joke, wanting to know everything there was possible to know about us and our stay. I couldn’t remember the Indonesian and Thai visa’s being this complicated and some parts of the form was written in Swahili and there was nobody there to translate. Ridiculous.

Finally, after wasting unnecessary time filling out the wrong forms we went to go and queue at security as we assumed we’d need to hand our completed forms in to them but no, we were told by a security guard (only after we asked, because of course there was no signage or offer of assistance), that we needed to go into another queue first and hand them in there.

Once we got to the front of that queue all the sour looking woman did was put her hand out for the forms (which she didn’t bother to check), and put her hand out again for the collateral.¬† We then took ourselves back into the security queue where we waited for an outrageous amount of time (as these security guards didn’t seem as though they knew what they were doing), before we FINALLY got through. By this time we were the VERY LAST people on our flight to go through.

We had arranged our transfers through our hotel and as a result of the CON Air situation plus the farcical of Zanzibar airport we were delayed coming out but thankfully our driver was there waiting. We tried to explain to him the diabolical visa form situation but his English wasn’t very good so he didn’t really understand us. I decided that I would shut up for now as my body was rapidly starting to shut down.

It was now around 3:00 am in the morning and almost pitch black outside.

Instinctively I worried about the cockroaches and mosquitoes that would undoubtedly be lurking with dastardly intentions to crawl, flutter, creep, slither, sting and bite me. It was NOT a very nice prospect. Unfortunately though, I couldn’t spray any insect repellent to deter them because it was locked away in my suitcase and it was far too late to be fiddling about with locks. So I just hoped that these creatures of the night would leave me be, at least for a couple of hours.

The air was heavy with humidity giving me a sense of how warm it would be the following day and I began to get excited with the prospect of waking up the next day in Zanzibar, ready to explore.

The journey started off well enough with a relatively smooth ride and from what I could see, quite an uneventful landscape, but I knew that we were at least an hour and a half away from the coast so I wasn’t really expecting to see anything spectacular until we got closer to our hotel. A couple of times on the journey due to my extreme mental and physical exhaustion I began to nod off but I soon woke up with a start gasping in shock when the car careened straight into a ditch!

My intention wasn’t to have survived the last 15 plus hours of travelling from London to Paris to Kenya to Zanzibar only to die in a ditch in the middle of nowhere, alas almost as soon as we went down on the ditch we jolted back up again only to go back down again in a spectacularly violent fashion. The roads were full of HUGE ditches, potholes and mounds of rubble, so many infact that it was impossible for the driver to avoid them so he didn’t bother trying.

The roads were in a state of disrepair that would have been laughable if they weren’t so awful. I almost went flying forward, cracked my head against the side of the car and lurched onto Josh’s lap such was the force of the jolts. And this guy had a 4 wheel drive! The roads were shockingly bad.

Alas, we survived the journey, but by now I was so exhausted that I could barely walk. All I wanted to do was sleep. Like forever. I couldn’t care less what the hotel looked like at this point. I just wanted it to have a big, clean, mosquito free bed. That was at my top priority. Thankfully, the hotel (from what I could see at this late hour), looked pretty nice.

Though our commute had been indescribably bad, and I was still traumatised from the episode on the plane, I started to feel my body slowing down and switching to a lower gear and by the time we walked through the beautiful tended gardens, felt the heat caressing our skin, listening to the bewitching sounds of the crashing waves just steps away I sensed that perhaps we were going to be okay here afterall.

From the little that I could see of the place it was tropical with lots of green foliage, huge coconut and palm trees and beautifully designed with authentic African interiors and also, scrupulously clean. And for a woman like me who isn’t afraid to say that I simply CANNOT DEAL with creatures that was a huge relief.

We chose to come to Zanzibar because it was a little off the beaten track, wasn’t an obvious holiday destination therefore was unlikely to be overrun with children or beer louts, it had the weather, it had the culture, and being¬†situated in East Africa on the Indian Ocean, had some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

I was intrigued with this place they called the “spice island”, and after researching its history I learned more about its unfortunate participation in the slave trade by Arabs of Africans, about its world renowned spices which it used to trade with the rest of the world, the abundant nature and endangered species like green turtles and red colobus monkeys, not to mention its spectacular sunsets,¬†beautiful unspoilt beaches, it’s unique Arabic, Indian, European and African influences and being the place where Freddie Mercury was born.

I also learnt that Zanzibar was 98% Muslim (which probably meant that the other 2% was Christian, since it was highly unlikely that any atheist would dare to attempt to survive here), and as an atheist myself, and a reasonably outspoken one at that, I was a little worried that my views on religion and god would be exposed thus putting my very life at risk!

I suddenly had visions of me languishing in misery in a cramped Zanzibari jail, a tiny window providing a small slither of light, measly food rations and scrawny rodents scurrying across my bony mosquito bitten feet. No, I did not wish to be arrested in Zanzibar thank you very much. I realised that I’d just have to keep my views on the mental slavery of the masses to myself!

It being a Muslim country also meant another important thing: I would have to dress conservatively. That meant that in 30 degree heat I would need to walk around in full length clothing in public spaces – making sure my shoulders and knees were covered. This was a little bit of a problem for me as this was supposed to be a beach holiday, I didn’t actually HAVE any clothing that was suitable to such a climate that was that modest (as I rather liked getting a tan!).

Which basically meant that I now had to go out and buy some new clothes, and I did not relish the thought of purchasing clothing that I wasn’t likely to wear again. Thankfully after some research I managed to find a few suitable and reasonably priced things on EBay and Amazon.

The Z Hotel

The Z Hotel, where we would be staying for the next 10 days, was an award-winning boutique hotel located on Nungwi beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Zanzibar. With only around 50 rooms, the hotel was English owned and English run, and had been designed by world-renowned French interior designer Philippe Starke, who incidentally also designed the eye droppingly beautiful Delano Hotel in Miami that Josh and I love so much. He is a most accomplished and brilliant designer.

I was initially a little surprised to discover that he had designed the Z as I didn’t think that it would be his style afterall it was in Africa not Europe, but the flow, attention to detail, feel and cultural sensitivity of place was distinctive.

It was colourful,¬†with lots of wood, traditional African prints and playful references to the safari throughout, such as quirky monkey light features and animal sculptures hidden throughout the grounds. The infinity pool was in the perfect location for people watching and watching the sunset was the amazing from the rooftop cocktail bar. The hotel was situated in a prime location on the beach as it was a little set back and received much less of the “attention” from the locals trying to sell their wares then many of the other hotels in the area.

Our room when we got to it, was small but beautifully designed with African print wallpaper, decorative wooden furniture and a luxurious wooden four poster bed with an ingenious mosquito net that covered the top and pooled onto the floor to provide extra protection. I’d never seen one like it before and I could easily see how it could work to provide protection from mosquitos and other crawling and flying insects. Since I have recently found out that I have skeeter syndrome (an allergy to mosquito saliva), I REALLY didn’t want to take any risks!

Thankfully, the room was spotlessly clean and I could see no indication whatsoever of any creatures lurking about with intentions of crawling on, flying to, or sucking me which was a relief.

And then there was the view…

Room with a view

Our balcony which was very spacious with 2 beautiful (and super comfortable) wicker chairs perfectly placed to gaze out to sea, had a prime position overlooking the beach where we could people watch, listen to the sound of the waves and see whether our favourite beach beds were free. I could only imagine how wonderful it would be the following day when the sun was out.

Naturally, I do like a well-designed and well-appointed room but the most important thing overall for me will always be cleanliness and a lack of creepy crawlies and this room had top marks for both. It was a little on the small side but it was perfectly positioned to hear, smell and see the sea and watch the beautiful sunsets so I was very happy!

The bed however, left alot to be desired. That very first night we slept on it we realised that after the bed in our apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand, this was the second hardest bed that Josh and I had ever slept in. It was ROCK SOLID. I woke up the next day aching from head to toe.

The Z Hotel Library

Tropical Gardens at the Z

Breakfast at the Z was a slightly disappointing affair. Not being a fan of buffet (for breakfast or otherwise) I just hoped that the quality of the food would make up for it, but the selection of food available to eat didn’t leave me with any enthusiasm as it was pretty unimaginative: fresh omelettes (which was generally pretty good though it would have been nice having a little more of a variety with the fillings), cereals, croissants, toast, waffles, pancakes, and fruit. There was also a traditional Swahili option which required eating with your hands, and I really wanted to try it as everything else was western, as were the guests that were frequenting the hotel, but the eating with my hands business I decided would have to wait until I had the courage to embark on such an adventure. Perhaps at the end of my stay!

The staff were all locals and they seemed very friendly and well trained. I liked the baby faced boy who made the omelettes in particular because he reminded me a little of my brother. However his omelettes weren’t as good as the older woman who done them on Thursdays and Fridays and she seasoned them properly and added a generous amount of cheese!

Nungwi Belly

After a day or two of languishing on this paradise of an island, we both started to feel a little bit out of sorts. For me, it wasn’t an intense need to go to the toilet or anything but occasionally when I did have the urge to go I had diarrhoea. For Josh, it was a little more sudden and he not only had the diarrhoea but a sensitive stomach too and as a result felt pretty drained. As a result of it not being that serious (I had really bad food poisoning in Ghana and Ian had it in Egypt so we both knew how bad it could be), we weren’t holed up in our room or anything but it did mean that we needed to make sometimes frequent and sudden trips to the toilet!

The Z Hotel had a beautiful layout with the garden rooms situated around the pool which was hidden by trees and foliage that felt very private, with 2 restaurants, a rooftop bar, a library and a computer room (which it seemed nobody really knew was there apart from us), a spa, an excursion booking office and a boutique shop. We even saw a few cheeky monkeys roaming about! So cool.

There was a variety of beds around the pool from which you could lounge, sleep, relax, read, laze, people watch, you name it, there was a bed for it, and of course, should you want to people watch in complete privacy, then there was always our lovely sea view balcony from which to do it from.

We met the manager Julie who was an English woman originally from Swansea (such a peculiar contrast!), and she recommended a few restaurants to us to visit whilst we were there, aswell as told us about how it was she came to be in Zanzibar. She was very friendly and told us that she had been there for 8 years. Put it this way: she didn’t look like she was in any rush to go home!

When we looked at the programme in our room we found out about all of the activities we could do in Zanzibar aswell as about the ridiculous pot holed road situation that was so bad that it probably meant that drivers were having to change their tires every 2 months!

Never a dull day

Beach Bliss

Let’s be perfectly honest: we came to Zanzibar for the beach.

The last time I had been to a really great beach was a year ago when we were in Koh Phangan, Thailand. We don’t do many beach holidays as on their own they can be a little boring and European beaches don’t count because though they can be quite nice, they are usually rocky, the water is cold and they do not have soft white sands and turquoise blue water. However they also don’t have deadly box jelly fish like south-east Asia does so perhaps there is a trade-off there, lol.

Alas, there were no box jelly fish here, no fish at all really from what I could see but I knew that Zanzibar had¬†a lot of coral reefs. The beach was picture postcard perfect and unbelievably clean, the sand was soft and white with a powdery texture, with no seaweed or nastiness in general, shallow until very far out (so perfect for children though thankfully there weren’t any there!), and the water was as warm as a bath with an aqua blue hue that simply didn’t look real. Coupled with the fact that the beach was devoid of “Brits Abroad” it was almost perfect.

There wasn’t many Brits but there sure was a large influx of German nationals, aswell as Italians and Russians. Infact everywhere I went apart from the locals who spoke Swahili, all I could hear was Italian, German and Russian (which seemed to be a VERY peculiar combination). But Italians were by far in the majority, and apparently they even had their own hotel! I didn’t know what the obsession with Zanzibar was for Italians but aside from Italy, I’d never seen as many of them anywhere else in the world until I arrived there.

African Paradise

Nungwi Beach

After breakfast our daily routine was pretty much to go back to our room to get changed into our beachwear, then traipse down to the beach at a leisurely pace where we would look for some nice sun beds (ideally 2 in the sun and 1 4 poster bed in the shade), we would then spend the rest of the afternoon alternating between the pool, the bed, the shade and the sea. It was a glorious routine that never got boring, and for a bonus we would go back to our room for an afternoon nap, before waking up and going in search of food: Simple pleasures.

We went to dinner at a local Indian restaurant which was accessible via the back of our hotel via some walkways. You could also get there via the beach but the tide was forever changing and sometimes it would be all the way in so you couldn’t walk on the beach at all. The restaurant was big and overlooked the beach, and along with serving food also had entertainment: African singers with a band and dancers. Initially we didn’t want to sit too close to the band because we didn’t know whether they would be any good and we were starving hungry, but when they performed their traditional African music, with the drums, beautiful harmonies and catchy beat, we really enjoyed it. Occasionally (and I assume for the benefit of the mostly European tourists), they attempted to perform popular western songs too like R Kelly and Beyonc√© which I did not like at all.

Listen: if people are going to travel all the way to Africa and expect not to experience Africa then that’s up to them, don’t cater is what I say.

I don’t mean don’t cater at all, as it’s nice to have a bit of variety (particularly when it comes to cuisine), but most people can’t sing like Beyonc√© so what makes them think that someone from the bush in Africa will be able to complete the task satisfactorily? I don’t think so somehow.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with African music and culture and I for one went there to experience it. Eating Indian food in Africa you may think is weird, but this island shares a history with Indians as it does Europeans and Arabs too, but it is also important to showcase the uniquely African food and music too.

Despite this, both the food and the entertainment was really good, both Josh and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A¬†particular song came on and I couldn’t help but to get up and film. I felt the urge to dance too but it wasn’t that kind of place. The tune was so catchy and they had Zanzibari dancers showcasing their unique wining skills. Such fun!

Thus far I hadn’t been bitten once by a mosquito. This I really couldn’t believe. Of all the things that had concerned me about travelling to Africa, the presence of creepy crawlies and ones of giganticus¬†maximus proportions no less, was freaking me out and in my mind was just a guarantee. It did not occur to me that I wouldn’t have to overcome my fears on a regular basis to deal with the abundance of spiders, giant ants, cockroaches, gecko’s and other unidentified crawling beasts for the duration of my stay here. But as the time went on, I was AMAZED to find that not only didn’t I not even see one cockroach, spider or mosquito, I never got bitten either. Not even once!

Considering I have been eaten alive in almost every hot country I’ve been to (Thailand and Croatia being the worst), I was very surprised that here in Mother Africa, the Mother Ship, the Motherland and beginning of life of our species I didn’t encounter the very biggest, the very ugliest and the very deadliest that Mother Nature had to offer.

Rather than staying in our hotel which we don’t really like to do and have really only ever done that once at Swept Away in Jamaica (which we loved far too much to leave), we decided to go to a different place every day for lunch.

Our “Nungwi bellies” were still in full sway causing us not to stray too far from base control, but it wasn’t enough to stop us from enjoying swimming in the glorious sea which was doing wonders for my skin with it’s high salt content. Along with the warmth of the sun which was consistently in the early to mid-30’s and an ice cold cocktail, I really couldn’t complain.

Josh and I walked down the beach to find a restaurant serving better (and cheaper) food then our own. It was needless to say packed to the rafters with Russians and Italians which was starting to become a bit predictable, but we had a lovely Greek Salad and Spaghetti Bolognese there.

Beach Boys

The “beach boys” as we liked to call them, were a little bit annoying. They would make a beeline for anyone who was clearly not from Zanzibar or who was coming out of one of the hotels, and they would keep on trying to persuade you to purchase one of their¬†water sports packages or cheaply made wares.

What made it feel quite intense at times was the fact that there was so many of them, and once they had learned which hotel you were staying in they would have you marked and would basically hound you until you relented. But to be fair to them, at least they weren’t just guys begging people on the beach, they genuinely had something to sell. Problem was: the things they had to sell I didn’t wish to buy!

Josh, getting tired of being harassed to purchase their brick-a-brac,¬†had resorted to just telling them straight up that he didn’t like what they were selling, lol.

We did want to do some excursions, such as maybe going on a traditional Dhow boat sunset cruise, to Stone Island or snorkelling, but we weren’t all that keen on purchasing these excursions from random boys on the beach. Each time we left the comfort of our hotel to venture down to the sea for an afternoon of sea frolicking, we could see these beach boys out of the corner of our eyes making a beeline for us. Unfortunately for us, we were at probably the most noticeable guests due to our respective hues and insistence on venturing beyond the confines of our hotel, so we were definitely a target. They also seemed to think that we had been there for ages, they kept saying to us:

“Wow, you’re still here!”

Well yes, we are. We’re on our holidays!

By this time we had learnt to say a few greetings in Swahili.¬†Karibu¬†meant¬†“Welcome” and Hakuna Matata (which before arriving here I honestly assumed was just a part of The Lion King and not an actual phrase, lol), meant “No worries”. And we could also say “Thank you very much”:¬†Asante Sana¬†and slowly: Pole Pole (though we didn’t have much need of that word as we were already moving as slowly as we physically could!)

All of these phrases helped us a little to get to know the locals (who could speak very good English aswell as some German, Italian and Russian too for obvious reasons), and it meant that we would accidentally find ourselves getting into long, detailed conversations with the beach boys about a boat cruise that we never had any intention of booking whilst we were trying to make our way to the sea. Nevertheless, the Zanzibari beach boys were never aggressive (unlike in Turkey, and from what I’ve heard, Morocco, India and Egypt too).

The beach was long and wide, with huge rock formations framing the beach, with tall coconut and palm trees swaying gently in the breeze.¬† What I loved about the beach aside from seeing flawless black skinned Maasai warriors strolling on it casually with their long sticks by their sides in their beaded handmade body adornments and distinctive red clothing, was the fact that it was forever changing. The tide was forever changing. Sometimes it was all the way in, and you could just about walk through without getting completely drenched, and other days it was all the way out and you could seemingly walk right out to sea but the water would only be knee-deep. I loved the unpredictability. And I don’t know what it was about the sound of the sea, but it was so hypnotic and calming, that despite the excruciatingly hard bed we were sleeping on, I felt more relaxed then I remembered being in a long time. I was really starting to understand why this place was known as mysterious.¬†It definitely had a magical allure.

 The Maasai Market

We walked down to the furthest ends of the beach and along the way a tall Maasai warrior with short twisted hair and beaded jewellery approached us. He had the slim, elegant looking physique that all of the Maasai had, with skin as dark and silky as the darkest cocoa. He made casual conversation with us asking us how we were finding Zanzibar, where we were from, whether we had done any excursions yet (we hadn’t), and whether we supported any football teams (they are football MAD in Zanzibar, and English football in particular). He was unlike the beach boys in that his approach was more conversational than anything else. He wasn’t simply trying to sell his wares, but of course he did have to make a living. Baring in mind the Maasai are from a long and proud tradition of being African nomads and fearless hunters it was a real privilege to get the opportunity to speak to him and even more so to see them in this very unique and beautiful environment.

Alot of the Maasai now work as security guards for the hotels around the island, which in some respects was a far cry from their ancient history and customs but it provided them with a way to make a living and also retain their culture. The Maasai told me about the beautiful beaded jewellery he was wearing, a bracelet of which said the name “Alex” (which I doubted very much was his actual name), and he said that he was a seller in the Maasai Market, a few minutes‚Äô walk away a turning off of the beach.

Josh and I told him that we weren’t really in the market for shopping that day mostly due to the intense heat which was beating down on us relentlessly, but then I figured that this opportunity, offered to us by this very friendly Maasai¬†warrior, was perhaps the only chance that we might have to do something like this and we had planned on getting a few gifts towards the end of our holiday anyway. So we followed him down a rocky dirt track road. I didn’t see many other tourists there. By this time my skin was so hot you could fry an egg on it and both Josh and I were sweating profusely. This man on the other hand didn’t seem to sweat at all!

The heat was extremely oppressive, turning what was supposed to be a nice trip to meet the local Maasai people into quite a bit of an ordeal. It was obvious that he was keen on us coming to his stall so that we could buy from it, but in a way I couldn’t blame him. Around us were lots of stall sellers, both men and women in traditional dress selling everything from handmade bracelets and earrings to bowls, ornaments and bags and in order to get people to visit it they had to bring them to it.

When we got to his stall I asked him if he had made the things that were on display and he pointed to the colourful beaded jewellery, such as the ones he was wearing, saying that he had made it all himself. The women at the stalls, who were busy sitting cross legged on the dusty floor making a variety of different things, also had children with them, and I couldn’t help but to wonder whether they were making enough money to sustain their families, but despite the fact that alot of the stall sellers were pretty much selling the same things I knew that if I had the money I would have given it to them gladly, because even though these people were clearly making a¬†modest living, relying mainly on tourism to pay their bills, and feed and clothe their families, they retained a distinctive pride and sense of self that I really admired.

These weren’t people with their hands out waiting on charity or begging on the street, these were a people trying to adjust to their new modern reality, trying to make an honest living, yet holding fast to their customs and traditions. I bought a few things from “Adam’s” stall, namely some beaded bracelets for my Mum, sister and I and I told him that we may come back again another time, but it was becoming far too hot to concentrate so after 15 minutes or so we said our goodbyes and left the Maasai market.

A Touch of Magic

Sleeping on the¬†bed of rock was not a very pleasant experience. Everyday I¬†woke up with aching bones and a bad back. I didn’t suffer from back problems so it was acutely obvious to me that this definitely wasn’t something that my body could get used to long term but despite this, I still felt amazingly relaxed and chilled since arriving here. It might perhaps have been the appearance of the sun, perhaps it was the comforting, lulling, hypnotic sound of the sea, the birds, the musical and gentle sounding Swahili language, perhaps it was the feeling of safety and extreme comfort that this place evoked, who knew, all I knew was that my body had moved into a very low gear of almost sloth like proportions, and I wasn’t sure that it had ever reached this level of deep relaxation before.

On the horizon we could see Mnemba Island, a small and incredibly beautiful island accessible by boat from Zanzibar, with deep, soft white sands and shallow crystal clear waters with coral reefs that was perfect for snorkelling which we planned to do at some point during our stay. The beach was big enough to never feel overcrowded or busy, and people tended to keep themselves to themselves, so we were able to easily find places to sunbathe where we felt as though we had the beach all to ourselves.

I had personally never experienced sand this warm, white, soft and luscious before and Josh agreed that the beach here was very similar to the more popular Seychelles (another of the Indian Ocean islands) that he had been to, but since this one was a part of Tanzania, and therefore Africa it had a little more authenticity, was bigger and offered a little more then just sunbathing to it’s visiting tourists. Though I must admit we did do ALOT of sunbathing, lol.

Blue & White

Me strolling along the idyllic and picturesque Nungwi Beach

The sun was having it’s effect on my skin and I was loving it, as was Josh who had been complaining about the level of pastiness he was exuding back in the UK (it had been back in September when we last saw the sun in Provence¬†afterall).

The sea was absolutely glorious. There was hardly any seaweed at all, the sand underneath my feet was silky soft, I couldn’t see any questionable things in the water, it was clean, clear and very salty (the perfect remedy for bad skin). Josh and I were blissfully happy when we were frolicking about in the sea, and from where I was laying, I couldn’t see how it could possibly get much better then this.

One day I saw 2 sharks swimming near the shoreline, just as a girl was doing a hand stand in the sea. I wondered briefly whether they would bite her to smithereens but they didn’t seem particularly bothered about her at all. They were quite small and I doubted very much that they were dangerous so after seeing them that day I forgot about them.

Profiling and extreme vanity was taking place at an ever-increasing level by the Italian and Russian tourists, in particular the women, who were prancing about trying to get the perfect Kodak moment of them in the surf to show to their social media contacts. It looked pretty pathetic to me.

One woman in particular was on the beach whilst we were having dinner at a restaurant having picture after picture after picture after picture of herself taken by her boyfriend and she didn’t seem to care in the slightest that the entire restaurant was looking down at her on the beach flicking and tossing her hair about in the wind, rolling about in the surf and raising up on her tip toes desperately to try to make her legs look longer and more shapely.

But it was when I saw grannies posing for pictures with their visible cellulite, protruding belly’s and varicose veins when I was REALLY shocked. What on earth is this profiling nonsense all about??

Sunset Rooftop

Everyday our hotel had half priced cocktails on their rooftop bar, and everyday I would get my favourite drink, a rum based cocktail with lemon and pineapple aptly named “Reef”

The rooftop was mine and Josh’s favourite part of the hotel. It was so relaxing sitting there after a hard day of sunbathing. The only thing that I could fault them with was the music they played. Sometimes there would be chilled house beats but other times they would play pop music (no thanks) and one evening we went there and there was an acoustic musician, a young local boy who was performing popular music.

Listen, I didn’t travel all the way to Zanzibar to listen to pop music, and cheesy pop music nonetheless, sung by a boy with a voice as soft as snow (NOT a good thing). It was dull beyond belief. What they should have had in keeping with the style of the hotel was to have a local performer performing local music, which to me surely was superior to hearing all of this cheesetastic nonsense.

“Ashante Shana”

One of the pool boy waiters at our hotel insisted on trying to confuse us.

One of the very first words we learnt when arriving in Zanzibar was how to say thank you: Asante and thank you very much: Asante Sana, and we had been saying them both religiously for a good couple of days now.

However this pool boy in particular INSISTED on trying to correct us everytime that we said thank you by highlighting the word ASHANTE (as in Ashanti the singer? Josh cheekily asked me) SHANA. So basically he was putting 2 h’s in there that did not exist. Even if you were to write the word down his pronunciation of thank you very much in Swahili doesn’t exist so I had no idea what this guy was playing at and I wasn’t going to allow him to trick me by saying the wrong words when I knew that we had it right the first time!

In the end I asked one of his colleagues and they confirmed that I was indeed saying it correctly. However when he came over later to serve drinks the couple lying on the bed next to us I overheard him correct them again telling them that thank you very much was pronounced ASHANTE SHANA. All I could do was shake my head in dismay. How can it be that the man can’t even speak his own language?? Goodness gracious!

Sunset was the most popular time of day because it was the time when the locals came down to the beach: children came straight after finishing school and adults after work, to socialise, play sports and relax. The beach boys were much more relaxed too, preferring to mingle with the locals instead of hustling them to purchase their wares. Sundown was the perfect time to go to the beach because it was much less hot, the sea was still calm, the sky was lit up in beautiful shades of red, pink and amber, people were in a good mood, after having a thoroughly relaxing day lounging on the beach, drinks in hand, experiencing life in all of it’s beauty and simplicity on Zanzibar island. What’s not to like?

From our perfect viewing post on the rooftop, Josh and I were able to see the beach gradually coming to life – local children playing football on the beach, adults building bonfires and talking with the tourists, banging on bongo drums, swimming in the sea, people exercising on the beach, walking, running and children practising their somersaults, their laughter ringing out with purity and joy.

The Maasai, with their elegant red robes fluttering in the breeze, strode forward with purpose, looking magnificent against the stunning natural backdrop: the kings of this land.

I wished I had taken a picture of them but my picture taking skills are limited (I have to make a concerted effort to remember to take them when I’m travelling), and I knew that it was considered rude to take pictures of the locals without asking first.

Still, these beautiful sights wasn’t something that I was likely to be forgetting anytime soon.

Sunset on the beach

CON Air

I knew that this airline had probably hoped that they wouldn’t be hearing from anyone on that fateful flight, but they were sadly mistaken. There was no way in hell that I was going to allow them to get away with treating us in the way that they did, especially considering the extreme unprofessionalism of the staff on that flight. The day after we arrived in Zanzibar we went to the computer room to write a lengthy complaint first to Expedia, who we had booked it with (who promptly offered us a ¬£50 voucher), and then a 5,000 letter of complaint to the airline directly. I tried to upload my audio too, but we could only upload video files (which smartly, the police officers on board had made sure that nobody could do by deleting their files!)

I was relieved that since arriving, apart from having occasional spouts of Nungwi belly, we hadn’t had any other dramas in Zanzibar, and after that despicable experience on the plane I really don’t think that I could have taken much more. I was super relaxed, but I still hadn’t forgotten what had happened, and I was determined that it would get dealt with, or else I had said to myself that I would be prepared to release the audio, on social media, to the media, to the ombudsman, whatever was necessary to call out such an atrocity. I had also done some research on other deportations on a¬†commercial line, which wasn’t very common but apparently did happen and I found something quite horrific.

Due to the level of stress that was involved with detaining a passenger in this very public and humiliating way, there were reports that deportees had actually DIED on these flights. I felt awful knowing that there was a possibility that this woman could have possibly be one of them. Afterall, I never saw her again.

I never intended on being one of those tourists who “stayed on the complex” but after our transfer from the airport, Josh wasn’t keen on the idea of doing any journey on those roads again apart from when it was time to go home. Stone Town was Zanzibar’s UNESCO heritage site, a place of historical and artistic importance due to it being the centre of Zanzibar’s spice (and slave) trade and as such I felt it was important to visit there.

With Arabic and European influences from their history of colonisation by the Portuguese, Omani‚Äôs and British, the architecture reflected this unique melting pot of cultural influences. But Stone Town was back near the airport, at least an hour and a half‚Äôs drive away, so I did understand the reasons why Josh wasn’t keen to go back there again. The whole journey from England to Zanzibar had been traumatic for us, and neither of us were keen to experience those horrendous roads again anytime soon.

Considering this part of Zanzibar was a popular tourist location, it did seem very hard to believe that the authority’s would have been happy to leave it in such a terrible state, alas, perhaps it was just one of those places where people would be prepared to travel to because of it’s difficulties rather then in spite of them.

Tasty Tasty!

The manager had recommended a French restaurant to us that was nearby. She said that it done incredible food and on her days off she would always dine there. So far we had found no reason not to trust her word so we booked a table at Le Macis for later on that evening. I had checked the reviews on TripAdvisor for this restaurant and had been reliably informed that this was the best restaurant on the island.

When we arrived we were eventually shown to a secluded table beside a tree in a garden. The restaurant had a very rustic feel to it but I was left comforted with the knowledge that everyone that was dining there seemed to look very happy with themselves.

The menu, despite us assuming that it would be French, was infact not French at all but a mixed menu, with some local sounding dishes and some European, but it was definitely not French, the restaurant merely had a French chef. But I was still encouraged with the knowledge that it had received many glowing reviews. Josh and I soon realised however, that we were more then a little overdressed.

I was finding it a little difficult balancing this modesty wear lark, along with beachwear and appropriate going out clothes, and even though this was considered to be a fancy restaurant, it was fancy Zanzibar style not fine dining restaurant style.

Alas, I thoroughly enjoyed the food РI had a fish main course with potato dauphinoise and for dessert I had a cinnamon crème brulee which was delicious (if a little on the small side).

We infact very much enjoyed the food and wine so much that we booked to go back again!

The Spa

The spa in our hotel was very small being just a room that offered beauty treatments, so we decided to go to the spa at the hotel we’d had lunch at a few times instead. When we walked in there the women at the reception desk greeted us as if they were surprised to have guests: not a good start.

Alas, they were offering a couples spa experience for $100 which seemed pretty reasonable to us. The spa could have been better, for instance they had someone still cleaning out the pool when we arrived there for our private pampering session, the steam room had seen better days, it hadn’t been heated up in anticipation of our arrival and the spa therapist didn’t come to collect us from the steam room when our time was up (we were only supposed to be in there for 20 minutes), but we thought we’d give them a bly.

The important thing for me was the deep tissue massage, which hasn’t really been up to par for me anywhere else other then Thailand and Jamaica, but thankfully, the masseuse really put some welly into it and I felt suitably floaty and sleepy once she had finished.

The place was certainly in desperate need of a renovation but it did still have African charm, and the oil that they used on my skin was DIVINE. I was kicking myself afterwards that I didn’t purchase one to take home with me.

The aptly named Kilimanjaro Water

Nungwi Town

I was determined to experience as much of the Zanzibari people and their culture that I could. Due to mine and Josh’s Nungwi belly, which was mostly okay but was definitely still lurking in my system, we were being very careful with what we ate and the thought of trying the traditional Swahili breakfast didn’t fill me with much excitement but I did want to go and see the local area so the following day we took a stroll down to the village to see who we could meet and what we could perhaps buy as presents.

The first thing that struck me was the ditches in the road which I knew would be there (as we had travelled through), but even seeing the cars on the road going down into a ditch was scary business, as the car would jolt and wobble about precariously looking like it might completely topple over! They were dirt roads, and plumes of dust would swirl about and whoosh into our faces as we walked making it hard to see where we were going.  Instantly, my carefully cultivated tan was being threatened with fumes and dust.

Knowing that we were going to be venturing into the local area where the locals would undoubtedly not take kindly to seeing westerners traipsing about in inappropriate wares (which for them meant someone having their shoulders and knees out on display), both Josh and I made sure to dress accordingly as we did not wish to offend. However even though we saw signs requesting that people respect the local customs and dress modestly, we still saw that the few westerners that had made it away from the alluring beach, were brazenly wearing immodest clothing with seemingly no awareness.

We were not very impressed. I mean how difficult is it for people to respect the laws of the land? They really are not asking for much.

I looked around to see a very stark contrast from the white sands and blue seas of the beach. Here was a very real poverty, a dusty land with hardly any greenery, with ditches in the roads, dilapidated buildings and lots of hump back cows roaming freely. Also there were children following each other obediently in groups, with their entire heads and bodies covered. I was dismayed to see that religion had yet again had taken a strangle hold of young children.  Child indoctrination was alive and well here. How many more must be brainwashed into submission? I wondered.

We heard the unmistakable sounds of a school as we passed by. I wondered what these children were being taught. And if they had any potential at all here? Were the little girls being taught to be submissive and go home to their husbands and be a good wife? Was that the supposed pinnacle of their self-worth? – The thought that these beautiful little girls, with a world full of possibilities was being denied to them socially and financially was upsetting.

I daydreamed about setting up my own school here, in this beautiful, mysterious part of the world, where I would teach children critical thinking skills, understanding and appreciating nature and science and the values of empathy, justice, equality and kindness: Humanism, in a nut shell. No need for magical masters. Surely THAT is what those children should be learning, but somehow I didn’t think that’s what they were.

There were shack like stalls with metal roofs on either side of the dusty road and inside them were people selling almost identical things to what we saw in the Maasai market but out of politeness we went into their shops to look at what they had for sale. The people seemed very happy when we went into their shop, even if we didn’t buy anything, and were it not so dusty and hot we would have went into every shop there, but we did get to go in the majority of them, talked to the people, greeting them in their own language and we even bought a few things so it was definitely a trip worth making.

Beautiful African Artwork

Raw Fish

Now I do like raw fish (well, sushi), but I do NOT like being tricked into eating raw fish, particularly when my belly is feeling a little sensitive, and when I ordered the cooked variety.

We decided to go to one of the seafood restaurants that the hotel manager had recommended. Since she’d done such a stellar job of recommending the (French) restaurant to us, we thought that it was a good idea. Zanzibar had lots of fisherman so I was really looking forward to sampling some fresh seafood.

The restaurant was located on the beach and had a very romantic setting with small tables with white tablecloths spaced wide enough a part so that you could have a private conversation. I was feeling really hungry but not as hungry as Josh who had had Nungwi belly pretty badly early on in the day so had opted to not eat any lunch in order to prepare his belly for dinner.

There was a couple sitting next to us. Clearly a young looking local girl with a much older foreigner who was trying in earnest to impress her. I shouldn’t have been able to hear their conversation but due to his high level of desire to get his leg over that night I could hear every bloody word. By the end of it I knew where he lived, that he had a daughter, how old she was, where she lived, what happened to his relationship with her mother, that he wanted (more children), what he did for work, what he did last week, and so on and so fourth. And despite my very best efforts in drowning him out (even though Josh and I were having our own private conversation), I could not. He just would not stop yapping on!

There were lanterns on each table which looked really pretty but in practice they weren’t giving out much light at all.¬† When our food arrived (we had both chosen bbq’d fish dishes), we were a dismayed to find that the bbq part (which we had assumed would be the marinade for the fish), came in a separate container which we were then expected to pour onto our fish to give it flavour. What on earth is that all about?

And to make matters even worse, the sauce just tasted of tomato ketchup and chilli, there was no indication that it was bbq flavour. Rubbish.

Neither of us could actually see what it was we were eating but I could taste it, and from what I could taste it so I knew that the fish wasn’t fresh. Ironically enough our waiter had said to us once he seated us that this was the best restaurant, which we thought was an odd thing to say at the time, but we figured that perhaps we were going to experience something so amazing that it was worth mentioning.

And afterall, it was supposed to be a seafood restaurant, which is their speciality.

But no, my fish was most certainly one that had been languishing in the depths of the freezer only to be bunged on the grill for 2 seconds before being served and Josh, as it soon turned out, had been eating raw fish. Yes, his fish had not been cooked properly and after commenting on the texture to me which he said was “weird” he then used his phone to look at it in more detail (because we couldn’t see a thing) only to find that the fish was completely raw in places. We were horrified and sent dishes promptly back to the kitchen. Talk about “best restaurant” how about “food poisoning?!

Josh was rightly worried that his Nungwi belly as a result of eating fish that hadn’t been cooked properly would get worse, so we both ordered a simple pasta dish of spaghetti with pesto, garlic, and sundried tomatoes as a replacement.

Our favourite lunch spot

Salty Seadog

The second dish was even worse then the first. I didn’t think that was even possible but it was. The pasta was bloody AWFUL. Salty, with a very strong, almost briny flavour that really¬†turned my stomach. It tasted like they had put about 10 tablespoons of salt in it, plus the juice of a ton of¬†mussels, garlic and garlic butter. After just 1 mouthful I couldn’t continue.

Josh didn’t like his either but he hadn’t eaten since breakfast and so was starving.

When the waiter came back to ask us if we were enjoying the food I told him flatly no, I was not. Josh managed to take a few more mouthfuls and again we sent the food back to the kitchen. We left soon after.

Josh was still hungry so we stopped by at a local Italian restaurant to get some pizza. My appetite was gone but I decided that I did have space for Tiramisu. The pizza was decidedly average.

I still had not been bitten by a mosquito. As we were dining out every night, and spending the majority of our time outside during the day even when the mozzies were due to be out in full force I assumed that we would but neither Josh nor I got bitten. Neither did I even see any creatures. Sure, we had the occasional wandering ant in our bathroom, but they were normal sized ones not the super-sized jungle ones that I had envisaged.

But other than this, no creatures, no crickets, no spiders (aside from the gigantic ones we saw who had made a web home in a tree), no cockroaches, no spiders, no bats and certainly no tokays. All of which we had seen IN ABUNDANCE when we were travelling in Asia. This came as a big surprise to me because I was expecting to see all sorts of creatures, alas I saw none and our hotel was always scrupulously clean.

It felt safe.

We met no person during the 10 days who we felt threatened by in any way and even the beach boys, who were trying their best to get us to purchase one of their water activities were increasingly annoying, but completely harmless. You could walk the entire length of the beach at night and not be worried about anybody threatening you. Nobody was rude, sure some people were a little on the miserable side (though not as miserable as the staff in the airport), and people seemed to really appreciate the fact that we tried to speak the language. Also, we still hadn’t encountered many Brits there, it didn’t seem as though Zanzibar was a popular destination for them and that was pretty cool though it was a little hard going having to listen to stern sounding German conversations so frequently.

The food needed improvement. The hotel had a lovely feel and design, was well run, clean and in a good location but they need to sort out their food offerings. I do not know where I got my Nungwi belly from but clearly it wasn’t from eating fruit. It could possibly have been something as simple as food preparation since you can’t drink water from the tap there and they may have been preparing the food in unfiltered water.

Also, pizza is not African cuisine, and though it’s good to still offer it in a tourist destination such as this, I do not think that it should be the only type of food on offer. They need to serve the local cuisine or better yet serve fresh (with an emphasis on fresh and cooked) seafood. They have tons of it right on their doorstep afterall!

Beautiful sunsets, stunning wide beaches, calm, blue seas perfect for swimming (and taking pictures in judging by the Russians), lots of activities, and of course the opportunity to do safari in the mainland Tanzania.

We booked a snorkelling trip for the day before we left but that morning there was a horrendous storm and it remained windy and stormy allday so we cancelled it.¬† Later on that morning I actually had a bout of Nungwi belly¬†and I decided that tumultuous seas would have done me in so we were quite relieved that we couldn’t go in the end.

The airline did try to call us whilst we were still in Zanzibar and we told them to call us back when we had returned to the UK. We compiled a list of things that we wanted to highlight to try to prevent them from attempting to scam us by trying to assuage us with a measly apology and now we await their call.

After the atrocity of CON Air, an apology wasn’t going to wash with us, sorry.

Josh and I before we were poisoned with raw fish!

 

 

Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

Week 1 in Koh Samui, Thailand

IMG_0889

We arrived in Koh Samui, Thailand with a great sigh of relief.

Our long transfer between Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport left us with literally minutes to spare before our plane took off and we were convinced that we would miss our flight.

We had no idea when we booked our flights to Koh Samui via Bangkok that the transfer between it’s airports would be so long and during the what felt like almost 2 hour transfer we grew increasingly more and more relieved that we hadn’t chosen Bangkok as one of our travel destinations because from what we could see Bangkok looked utterly horrendous.

Bangkok was a city that was both noisy, busy, dirty and absolutely HUGE. Not at all what we were looking for.

2 years ago Josh and I had visited the Thai island of Koh Samui and had fallen in love with the tropical paradise that seemed to offer alot more then just stunning beaches. A true taste of Thailand, it was a great spot from which to visit the many other neighbouring islands, see ancient Buddhist temples, sample the world famous Thai cuisine, meet with endangered animals,¬†languish on palm fringed beaches, and experience the centuries old wellness traditions that see Thailand as having¬†some of the best spa’s in the world. Indeed, Koh Samui appeared to have it all.

We have never been the slightest bit interested in visiting Bangkok because it sounded as if it was the seedy part of Thailand. We wanted to experience a much more natural environment and see a more traditional way of life so we had chosen Koh Samui as our first stop in Thailand where we would be staying for a month and then we were off to Chiang Mai, the magical, spiritual place in the mountains.

After our experience with miserable¬†Lena The Cleaner at Uncle Tom’s Rotten Cabin in Bali, I was a little concerned about what we might encounter when we arrived at our new villa in Thailand. In Canggu, we had been staying at a brand new luxury hotel, and being only the second people to ever stay there it was ultra, ultra clean with no creepy crawlies whatsoever. And now that I had firsthand experienced of people essentially LYING about the quality of their establishments on Airbnb I had cause for concern because I knew that I would not be able to deal with any frowsiness or nastiness therefore I was praying that the description and pictures that had been posted online were accurate.

Our 3 bedroom private villa was located in Mae Nam, in the middle of Santiburi Golf Course – Samui’s largest Golf Club. From what we could see of the pictures the villa looked not just huge (it was over 4 thousand square feet!) but lovely too, with lots of beautiful and original features, it’s very own infinity pool, balconies from the bedrooms overlooking the surrounding forest and mountains, a sala (a traditional Thai open pavilion where you can sit and be protected from the sun and rain), tropical gardens and an out-house, where the master bedroom was located with it’s own luxurious outdoor bathroom.

When we had found it we were immediately seduced by the spaciousness, and how clean and immaculate it looked. Also my sister was going to be coming to Thailand to stay with us for just under 2 weeks (yay!) so we knew that we had to get somewhere reasonably big and this villa comfortably housed 6 people so we had plenty of space!

We were picked up from the airport by the villa manager called Tor (yeah I know, lol) who seemed lovely and very professional (not at all like miserable Lena the Cleaner!)

I knew that we were staying in a private residence that was essentially on the grounds of a golf course but this still did not prepare me for the long drive through the forest to get to our villa.

When we turned off of the main road onto the windy road that was to be our refuge for the next month I began to get excited. What an entrance! With gigantic coconut trees lining the path on both sides and the sunshine streaming through the trees it was all very wild and dramatic. Round and round the windy road we went, with the forest getting denser and denser as we went. We passed a few small houses on the way, but the more we drove the less habitation we saw and then I could have sworn that I saw an animal amongst the trees – it looked to me like a bull or something. What kind of location is this? I’m being taken to I began to wonder.

Minutes later and we were still driving through this jungle of a place and I began to get concerned as it dawned on me that Josh and I would have to do this journey everyday! And since Josh was so into this scooter business at the moment then we would have to do this journey everyday on a scooter in the dead of night as this place had sporadic lighting.

Almost 6 minutes later and we arrived at our villa and by then we were so deep into the forest that I couldn’t for the life of me remember the way back!

Our villa thankfully, came as a pleasant surprise. Located down the end of a quiet, residential tree lined street, it had an immediate feel of calm and exclusivity about it. Despite being so deep into the forest, there were clearly many other foreigners who had bought land here and had built their own villa’s in this very remote and peaceful location. You really were surrounded on all sides here by thousands and thousands of Coconut trees that seemed to go on for miles and miles. All you could see where Coconut trees, and apart from the roads that meandered to the various houses scattered among it there were no other roads, therefore no road noise.

And despite the lack of a sea view, it had a magnificent view of the surrounding hills and mist covered mountains that was spellbinding. I needn’t have worried about frowsiness thankfully because the villa was immaculate. Clearly belonging to an older European couple, the villa was crammed full of oriental art and statues, plus it had books for days! The owners had left us a manual, which was both comprehensive and funny, giving us lots of information about the house and the surrounding area.¬† They said that they lived there for 3 months of the year and we could tell because the place felt very homely though the decor was perhaps a tad dated.

When we arrived we also met the cleaners who had done an amazing job of cleaning the villa and had left us with fresh flowers in almost every room and a bowl full of fresh fruit and a fridge full of drinks to welcome us. And we did feel very welcome.

We took a stroll around the villa and were pleased to find the 2 double bedrooms in the main house immaculately clean with towell decorations and flowers on the beds, plus they both had en suites and balconies with stunning views of the mountains. I was sure my sister was going to be very pleased with either!

The large kitchen was open plan and lead out to the tropical gardens on one side and a generously appointed infinity pool on the other. Seating too was abundant, with a dining table in the kitchen, comfortable sofa’s in the front room, another dining table outside by the pool, cushioned chairs in the sala, chairs on the balcony outside our room, sunbeds beside the pool and chairs in all of the bedrooms. We were literally spoilt for choice when it came to where we chose to luxuriate ourselves!

Our master bedroom was particularly lovely. It had floor to ceiling windows on all sides and though slightly overlooked on one side due to it partially facing a neighbours poolside it was protected by foliage, yet still felt wonderfully private and luxurious. It was HUGE, with a dark wood four poster bed and carefully chosen pieces of art signifying it’s grandeur. But of course for me being the bath lover that I am, and certainly my main reason for me wanting this villa in particular, was the bathroom.

Double doors lead us into a marble floored bathroom which was spacious with his and hers sinks, a seperate shower and a glass partition that lead outside to a stunning outdoor bathtub with a surrounding wall, pebbled flooring and a view of the tall coconut trees swaying in the breeze.

Conjuring up an evening outside in the bathtub by candlelight with the scent of orchids and frangipani’s growing freely in our gardens I felt at ease.

Yes, I considered. I think we will be happy here.

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Our 3 bedroom villa with seperate master suite and infinity pool 

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Double doors leading into our elegant bathroom

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The Master Suite

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An outdoor bathtub (yay!)

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Pool Access, just like at Sense, but here, we have it all to ourselves!

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Balcony view from our villa 

Skeeter Syndrome 

The next morning I awoke to an intense throbbing and itchy pain on my buttocks, my thighs and my legs. The mosquitoes had DESTROYED ME. Realising that when the cleaners were here preparing for our arrival they must have left the doors and windows wide open, the mosquitoes probably sensing new blood (i.e me because they never seem to go after Josh!) had basically ravaged me and when I awoke to see how many times this abominable mosquitos (or indeed mosquitoes) had bitten me I was left in shock. They had literally bitten me about 20 times!!

After Josh checked me over properly he found that it was even worse then we had initially thought Рsome of my bites had swollen up and were hot to the touch Рparticularly the one on my thigh. I have had this reaction before to mosquitoe bites Рit appears that I am allergic to them. I had felt really hot in the night, partly it was because it was hot (our ceiling fan was not working and we had turned the AC off), and partly it was because I was uncomfortable in this new place. It always takes me at least a few days to acclimatise particularly when staying in a place so WILD.

Since we had encountered so many abominable creatures in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (such as bats, snails, gecko’s and spiders), and caterpillars and even cockroaches in Pumpkin Village, I was on edge at what might lurching in the darkness. Also, I had heard strange noises in the middle of the night. It sounded like it might be a gecko. For this reason I had probably been sweating like woah, and therefore the mosquitoes had probably gone into into a feeding frenzy (since they are attracted to body heat).

The pain and discomfort on my legs and buttocks, despite me using bite soothing cream did not appear to be improving and instead some of the bites began to become inflamed and I struggled to sleep because of the discomfort. These buzzards had eaten me alive and now I had to sleep on my back to try and get some reprieve.

What is the bloody point of mosquitoes anyway?! I ask you.

¬†Josh done some further research online and he encountered a symptom of mosquitoe bites called Skeeter Syndrome which he immediately diagnosed me with. Skeeter Syndrome is a severe reaction to the saliva from a mosquitoe which produces an enlarged swelling of the infected area (check), that itches, is painful and is hot to the touch (check, check, check). That’s it! Doctor Josh, lol, prescribed me some antihistamine tablets and hydrocortisone cream to bring down the swelling, plus we got some salt to add to a bath to reduce the swelling also which we picked up from Boots the Chemist would you believe?! Yes, there is a Boots here and they have a Tesco’s too which is where we’ve been doing all of our shopping. It’s great! lol

Bathtub Betty

Now that I have been diagnosed with an allergy to mosquitoes we need to be especially careful about me getting bitten. In our villa we have patio doors with internal mesh sliding doors that you can use when you want a bit of fresh air with no creatures (always then!) and once we had decided to sample our luxurious bathtub we made sure to buy lemongrass scented candles (since we couldn’t find any citronella), and have our bath in the early evening before the mosquitoes emerged to try and find their human dinner. The bathtub was big and comfy, and having the gentle breeze kissing your skin, with the sounds of nature whilst you sit in a steaming hot bath with a rose scented bath bomb is second to none.¬† The bath was lovely but I still think they should have put mesh over the top as creatures can still fly on it and that is not the most relaxing of experiences. At Pumpkin Village we also had an outdoor bathroom with mesh covering and that seemed to work well (mind you they had an infestation of caterpillars!)

*sigh* this wildness really is a challenge!

Fishermans Village

Fishermans Village is a popular, pedestrianised area in Koh Samui, a short drive away from our villa in Mae Nam, with a collection of some of the best restaurants and boutique retail shops on the island. It’s location alongside Bophut beach, featuring free nightly fire dancing entertainment and it’s famous Friday “night market” where locals sold their arts and crafts and street food, made it one of the most popular places for tourists on the whole island. When we had visited 2 years ago, we liked it so much that we visited it a few times and it was always busy and vibrant. Plus, because alot of the sellers were locals you could pick up some really unique handmade gifts for cheap. There was a particular restaurant that we had discovered whilst there which done really good food so we decided that we’d go back there for dinner.

Barracuda was a restaurant in the middle of Fishermans Village offering deliciously fresh seafood and since Josh and I are trying to stay away from meat, the abundance of fresh fish on their menu suited us just fine. When we visited again we were delighted to find that the food was just as fresh and the menu just as original as we’d found it 2 years ago.

Josh’s Birthday¬†

It was Josh’s birthday the following day and I had booked a spa day for the both of us and then a wine tasting experience and dinner at The Dining Room, a restaurant in Lamai that we had discovered in Thailand in our previous trip and had fallen in love with.

If you’re wondering whether we have spent all our times in luxury spa’s then you wouldn’t be completely wrong as this would be our 8th spa treatment since being in SE Asia. Not bad at all!

Anantara, the giant of a hotel brand that had stunning resorts all over Asia, was somewhere that I knew would be right up Josh’s and my street. It was both mysterious¬† and exotic, decorated in a luxurious and unique asian inspired style and heavily influenced by nature so displayed by their use of local wood, distinctive lily ponds and coconut tree lined resorts in far away locales. This is where I had chosen to take Josh for his birthday, during which he would experience almost 3 hours of their spa treatment aptly named the “Gulf of Siam”. Comprising a shower, foot bath, royal thai massage, foot reflexology and an Anantara signature facial after which he was then served a light snack, sounded perfect and I was sure that this, combined with the unique location of the spa amongst a tranquil paradise like tropical gardens, with lily ponds, water fountains, coconut and palm trees, and secret passageways would make for an exceptional experience of pure luxury and abundant relaxation. And I was right. We were taken to a large private walled suite within the gardens where we were pampered to within an inch of our lives.

I had chosen their “Journey of Siam” spa package which was just over 2 hours long and featured a floral foot ritual, herbal thai steam, shower, coconut body scrub, another shower and then a royal thai massage and refreshment and I was utterly knackered by the end of it. Each treatment was equally relaxing and equally luxurious, and the showers amongst the gardens made me feel like I was in the Herbal Essences/Timotei advert again!

They used a blend of wonderfully scented natural ingredients that just soaked right into my skin. I could FEEL the quality. My therapist seemed to know every trick in the Thai book of massages. And in my experience they are the best at it. Afterwards I felt as though I was floating in the air and I was so content and literally falling asleep that at one point I think I may have even dribbled! lol.

Josh on the other hand was literally on the verge of a coma when he returned from his 3 hour pamperation. He even LOOKED different. His body and feet had been massaged to within an inch of their achy lives and his face had been transformed into a shiny new (and perhaps younger) version of his self. I hadn’t told him beforehand what they would be doing to him but all the while he said that he was just thinking to himself: How long can this possibly go on for? lol.

I will admit that it did feel like a deliciously long time but I guess you get what you pay for!

Whilst we were there, we took the opportunity to enquire about Anantara’s Vacation Club – essentially a timeshare for staying in their luxury resorts worldwide. Since we were now convinced about the Anantara brand based on the standard and style of their hotels and the locations of their resorts (they were based througout Asia though they also had a few locations in Africa, and the Middle East also), we took them up on their offer to attend a presentation to promote their various “packages”. Really, we were already half convinced that they were going to come with a request for an extortionate amount of money to opt in that we had no intention of paying but we thought we would hear them out anyway and besides, they were offering free vouchers (worth quite alot of money) to use in their spa’s, select excursions and various high end restaurants on the island whether we did or did not sign up so it was a no brainer!

It was a wonderful experience at Anantara but unfortunately it didn’t leave us much time to go home and change before we had to leave for our dinner reservation and it didn’t look like we would make the wine tasting.

On the way to dinner we remembered seeing a sign for a “Shortcut to Lamai” which was where the hotel/restaurant was located. As I was keen to make the wine tasting that was happening an hour before dinner I agreed that we should definitely take the shortcut which was off of the main road. But little did we know what this shortcut consisted of.

Not more then 5 minutes in we start creeping up a steep incline, it was almost as if we were climbing a mountain it was so steep. I didn’t sign up for this! I scream at Josh and we just about make it over one incline and down a sharp hill that we can’t even see over the dashboard and up another extremely steep mountainous like terrain. I felt like I was in the krypton factor or something – some kind of bloody assault course or a ride in Alton Towers.¬†When we looked ahead all we could see was sharp turns and steep drops on both sides of the road. It was by this time getting darker and darker and we had extremely poor visibility due to the insistence of the Thai authorities of not providing lighting in these kinds of remote areas. It was utterly petrifying. A part of me, a big part, was utterly convinced that we were going to fall to our deaths either because of our gears giving up the ghost and rolling backwards to our deaths or by falling over the side of these narrow and extremely sharp mountain ranges. And since we were not driving a 4 x 4 this was a very possible outcome. It was tense. Thankfully we arrived there in one piece but it was not without a calm and skilled level of driving by Josh.

When we got to the restaurant and told them about our journey the waiter basically told us that it was far too dangerous to drive that way at night, alas there was absolutely NO SIGNAGE to tell us this before we embarked on the perilous journey, or even to inform us of the steep inclines of the road (i.e mountain!).

We decided we would not be going back that way no matter how long it took us how to get home. We were very keen to stay alive.

Dinner was wonderful. And as special as we remembered. The Dining Room is the restaurant of a boutique hotel on Lamai beach called Rocky’s Boutique Resort, which in my opinion is a rubbish name that certainly does not convey the unique position it has on the beach that is both romantic and glamorous at the same time. Thousands of red lanterns hang from the surrounding trees and chairs are set up with huge cushions with tables and twinkling lights on the precipice of a rock face where you can hear and see the waves of the Andaman Sea gently lapping against the shore. Food is a mixture of French and Thai inspired modern cuisine which is delicious and the service is both professional and friendly at the same time. Since we had been there before two years ago I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be as magical as before but it was the perfect place to spend Josh’s birthday. We sat there reminiscing whilst reflecting on our time in SE Asia so far and how much we were looking forward to the future.

We spent Christmas Eve at Fishermans Village where we watched fire dancers on the beach from a brand new restaurant/beach bar called Coco Tams, which was playing simply AMAZING house music and serving great pizza’s (pizza’s that rivalled Spaccanopoli in Ubud even!). The fire dancers perform nightly on the Bophut beach, and it’s completely free to all. Spinning sticks engulfed in flames, blowing flames sky high and creating a fireworks like display of sparkles with unbelievable care and skill was awe inspiring. And being it was Christmas Eve it felt even more special.

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An abundance of nature and tranquility at Anantara Bophut

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The scene is set at Rocky’s Boutique Resort¬†

BAP HIM!

That night when we returned home from dinner we found our resident gecko (who doesn’t deserve a name because I didn’t like him), scurrying around our bathroom like a madman. Clearly the gecko was utterly petrified of us and wished to find a place to hide from us and I can well appreciate this, but the fact remains that I’m bloody scared of him too and I do not want to see a small brown lizardy thing scurrying about my bedroom quarters, oozing white tipped brown poo from his scaly bum, and discarding his crusty scaled tail (as they do) as he goes! I’m not into it!

I understand his strategy: He wishes to seek shelter in our abode whilst trapping small insects in the easiest way possible. And he’s completely harmless to humans – he doesn’t bite, scratch, pounce, anything. Perhaps he’s even safer then many other types of household pets such as dogs and cats who can be vicious or carry diseases but the difference is I choose for them to be in my abode. I didn’t choose him. He snuck himself in and scared the bajeezers out of me when I was trying to brush my teeth, then again when I was going to the toilet in the middle of the night, when I was trying to sleep but was rudely awoken by his distinctive clicking sound, or when I grabbed for the towell that he was hiding under after having a shower.

I do not like this element of surprise and I do not like the idea of him pooing his white tipped poo onto my head in the middle of the night. I want him gone! I tell Josh. Josh suggests that he trap him in the bathroom with a box and a broom and gently try to brush him into it, but this gecko doesn’t want to be swept. He wants to live in our abode but that will never do!

The gecko quickly scurries away and hides underneath the sink and after 10 minutes of clearing the whole bathroom and trying to coax him out of his hidey hole Josh eventually decides to give up this particular strategy. Instead, he suggest, I’ll wait for him to appear again and then I’ll BAP HIM!

Nooo! I say to him. I do not want you to BAP HIM! That’s evil! I want him to remain alive but I want him out of our abode. You’re going to have to find a way to get him out without hurting him. I feel sorry for him since we have closed every available entrance (for other creatures such as mosquitoes who might have been getting any ideas about setting up home here) and thus an exit (for him). He can’t get out even if he wanted to.

Josh says to me again that since the gecko is too fast it will be impossible to get him without BAPPING HIM so he plans to go ahead with his plan but he promises to just BAP HIM to stun him not to hurt him. Reluctantly I agree.

Since then we haven’t seen nor heard hide nor hair from the gecko. He must understand what BAP HIM means, lol.

 The Weather in Samui

Unfortunately we haven’t had fantastic weather since we’ve been here. It hasn’t rained but it has been overcast which hasn’t really made us feel inspired to go to the beach and I feel as though my tan is fading which will never do!

Nonetheless, we have been swimming in our private saltwater infinity pool at our villa and it has been wonderful. And we visited Cheong Mon beach, considered to be one of the best beaches in Samui for the firsttime too. We didn’t think it was all that when we saw it but perhaps that was partly because it didn’t seem to be that big, there was lots of children and it was overcast that day. Chaweng is the most popular beach in Samui because it’s huge, there are lots of beach bars and restaurants etc posted on it and it has some of the cleanest, clearest water and white sand. But because of this it also attracts hoardes of tourists, including lots of Brits but unfortunately, they are not looking the best.

In comparison to Bali, where everyone was healthy, tanned and lovely, the people who come to Thailand look decidedly bloated, and suspiciously red raw like a lobster. Perhaps they are spending far too much time in the sun, eating far too many pies and drinking far too many beers *sigh*.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day we spent at the beach as in the afternoon the clouds decided to clear and we experienced brilliant sunshine for a couple of hours. The beach wasn’t as busy as I remembered it being thankfully, and it was refreshingly devoid of hardly any mention of it being Christmas Day which suited us just fine. The Thai people do not celebrate Christmas so why should they make an exception for Westerners. Do we make exceptions for their religious/important holidays? No, of course not. So I very much enjoyed spending a day without having the commercialism of Christmas being rammed down my throat, the cheesiness of the songs and the tackiness of the decorations. I was very happy! We had a leisurely lunch at The Library, another Thai establishment well known for it’s original, contemporary designed hotel and more specifically it’s red coloured swimming pool which did look very inviting I must say. The food was delicious – we both had vegetarian green thai curry and it was fresh and very very tasty.

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Chaweng Beach

Zazen

The decision to spend our Christmas Dinner at Zazen (minus the actual Christmas menu like all good Thai hotels on Christmas Day) was in part because Zazen had been my original choice of where to take Josh for his birthday dinner before deciding on The Dining Room as it was special to both of us.  Zazen, along with The Dining Room, were both considered to be two of the most romantic restaurants in Koh Samui, and perhaps coincidentally they both featured the colour red prominently in their establishments.

Like Rocky’s, Zazen was also a hotel, spa and restaurant, and perhaps similarly to Anantara, they were all about creating an otherwordly type of experience by combining unique architecture, with natural materials, an exquisite and ultra luxurious Asian inspired decor, landscaped tropical gardens and an impressive entrance. And as it was Christmas Day, even though they were far too high end to be cheesy with out and out Christmas decorations, they still used the combination of twinkly lights to full effect by draping almost every tree in them in the leisurely and extremely long walk up to the main reception through the beautiful natural gardens.

By the time we made it to the restaurant both Josh and I were already sold. The place was simply magical.

But they had more for us. We went for a 6 course seafood menu, and each and every dish they brought us was beyond our expectations. The food, and in particular the prawns which were hands down the best prawns I have ever had in my entire life! was certainly prepared by the hands of a master chef. The prawns were the juiciest, the freshest and the moistest and most flavourful I have had. I don’t know how long they had been marinating in the sauce but goodness me!

The decoration too, was tasteful but simply festive and Josh and I had the pleasure of being sat next to a huge red hued Christmas tree which made it feel very festive indeed. Such an absolutely stunning, stunning place! I was so impressed with the service, the food and the restaurant and hotel itself that I have decided that when my sister arrives we’re going back!

When we returned home from dinner we made sure to Skype both of our families to with them a Merry Christmas. Funnily enough they have seen/heard more from us since we’ve been away!

This Christmas in Thailand has been so special, so very relaxing and stress free that the only thing that has been missing has been our families. If they had been here then I believe we would have easily reached perfection (and we didn’t even exchange gifts!)

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Magical Zazen

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STori x

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!

pexels-photo

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