A Travellerspoint blog

The best of Sri Lanka in 5 days!

Negombo, Pinnawala, Sigiriya, Kandy, Dambulla, Nuwara Eliya and Adam's Peak!

sunny 30 °C

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After a late night flight from Bali to Singapore, a day in the airport of sleeping on the floor and one more flight we made it to Sri Lanka late last Monday night. We were greeted by Cam (who happened to be the one to see us off at the beginning of our trip in Niagara Falls ) and all of a sudden it felt like we were never gone. We took a tuk-tuk to his Dads place and had a few catch up drinks before going to bed.

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Cam's step-mom Phyllis also had a friend from Canada (Shauna) visiting at the same time and she had a whole week of activities planned out for all us starting at 6:30 am the next day! It was really nice to sit back and let someone else make the plans for the week, we had an excellent driver hired named Buddika to take us to all the sights and all accomodations were already planned out, it was a great holiday from our holiday!

Our first day we headed out to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Pinnawala has the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. I think there was 82 elephants there in total spanning 3 generations. The orphanage was established to help abandoned or wounded young elephants back to health, sometimes orphans get separated from their herds due to developmental projects or get stuck in pits or ravines trying to get to water in the dry seasons. They have also started a succesful bredding program there as well so there are lots of babies too :) Here was our first glimpse of the beautiful creatures crossing the road to head down to the river for bath time!

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The herd goes down to the river twice a day to drink and be bathed, it was so cool watching them stop traffic passing through town! We followed them down to the river and just watched in awe for an hour or two, Phyllis knew of a secret spot where we could get close enough to feed them, then we headed to another area of the orphange to meet the two newest members of the herd Nigala and Waruna ! By the time we were done watching the babies play around in the water the rest of the herd were back in the area where they stay for most of the day. What a fantastic experience it was! The only time I've ever seen an elephant was one at Estevan Circus haha! Jordan and I are already getting excited to see them again in Thailand ! We took a million photos but heres a few of the best!

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After we were done at the orphange we hopped back in the van and headed out to Sigiriya, our driver Buddika is born and raised in Sri Lanka and made many unexpected stops for things to see that we would have never noticed otherwise here is a picture of Jordan buying some local cigarettes, tobacco wrapped in a tobacco leaf ! Were not sure why but the locals seemed to think it was quite funny whenever one of us would light one up, Im assuming its because they think they are crap and only tourists smoke them but oh well we all enjoyed them haha.

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That was the first of many Buddist Temples that we came across. It was right beside our little hotel out in the bush.

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Another great find by our driver, although about halfway through our 5 o'clock cocktail hour we lost power and it took them until almost 11 pm before it was back on again. So we made the best of it and had a candle lit dinner at the restaurant, which was pretty impressive for them not having any power.

The next day we set out to climb Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress surrounded by gardens and reservoirs. It is believed that Sigiriya was inhabited during prehistoric times, and was used as a shelter for monks in the 5th century BC. It is also known for its ancient paintings or frescos that are on the walls at the very top inside of caves and it is one of the eight Unesco World Heritage sites in the country. The 1202 steps to the top were just a warm up for what was to come later in the week ...

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This next picture was only about 3/4 of the way up to give you an idea of how high we climbed ...

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But it was all worth it when we got to the top! What a view! We spent about an hour on top recovering and taking in the scenery before heading down and continuing on our way...

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As we were heading to our next stop the Dambulla Cave Temple, we found a traditional Batik shop where they make handmade sarongs, wall murals and all kinds of other textiles, we got a full lesson on how they are all made and the process is quite interesting, one piece can take as much as up to two or three weeks to finish because every color is added using wax one at at time and it needs to dry and be cleaned in between each color.

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We made it to the Dambulla Cave Temple in the afternoon and explored its 5 caves full of statues of Buddha and ancient paintings. Sri Lankans from prehistoric times lived in these caves before Buddhism and there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in the area. Your not allowed to wear your shoes into the Buddhist Temple so they make you "check" your shoes for a small fee, about 200 feet before you reach the temple. Ok so your shoes are off and it's about 35 degrees outside and the sun has been shinning on the black tile all day. Ooh, ahh ohh ahh hot, hot, hot and your in the caves with burnt tootsies. The ceilings and walls are painted completely in each cave and it reminded me of some the tombs in The Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

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After the temple we were back on the road to Nuwara Eliya and along the way we stopped at a Spice Garden, which we all thought was going to be spices grown locally for cooking but it turned out to be more of a herbal medicine garden. Attached to the garden was the college of Herbal Medicine and the tour guides were students working towards their Doctrine of Medicine. Our tour guide had been taking Medicine for 7 years and had one to go and took us all through the gardens showing us all the traditional herbs used to cure almost anything! After we were done that anyone that wanted to have a 'mini-treatment' for free could do so, Jordan and I opted out but Shauna Cam and Phyllis all got massages before the Doctor came in and did a pulse reading on all of us, and letting us know what our bodies were telling us. He was definitely dead on with a few things so we all made a pact to work on the things he told us to and to try to be healthier and happier in the future.

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We made it to our really nice bed and breakfast that night had a great meal and a few cocktails and were up the next day heading to the Sacred Tooth Temple in Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. There is a showing twice a day of the casing that holds the tooth but the only time anyone ever gets to see it is if there has been a severe drought in the country. Agriculture is so important to the people here and it is said that during a drought, when the tooth is exposed rain will fall from the skies and save the people.

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The next day we spent shopping in Nuwara Eliya , they have a lot of textile factories here and you can buy really cheap Columbia or North face gear directly from the factories, they are just usually missing the tags or a zipper or something. After shopping we had a a quick lunch and were back on the road heading to Dalhouse, our starting off point for climbing Adam's Peak. The scenery on the way there was unbelievable, mountains covered in tropical trees and tea plantations, and what a rodeo! The roads are solid switchbacks and bumpy as hell so we had to stop along the way for a few breaks to let our stomachs settle, but every time we did the views were amazing.

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That last picture is pepper laid out to dry on the side of the road. So after 4 hours of intense driving (well, for Buddika anyways) we finally got our first glimpse of the mountain that we would be climbing in no less than 8 hours and my guts just about fell out of the bottom of my stomach haha! I couldn't believe how big it was. I immediately thought 'I need to start stretching'. haha

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We made it to our 'prosaic' hotel (which we found out quickly meant boring or dull) and started mentally preparing for our climb. Our plan was to grab a good supper and go straight to bed as we needed to be up and running at 1:30 am in order to make it to the top for the epic sunrise. The trek was 7 kms straight up with 5200 steps to the top. It was expected that we would take about 3 hours to get to the top and about the same on the way down, which is known to be the hardest part. As we were having supper we started to take note of how many local buses were filing in to the small town, there must have been easily a hundred buses packed with locals partying and celebrating the long weekend because of poya day (full moon). We wondered when they were all leaving to go to the top, how many people were going to be on this hill and how it would affect our climb, we found out soon enough.

1:30am came quickly or 2:00 if you were Cam haha, and we started off on our journey in the middle of the night. The first 45 minutes or so wasn't too bad a steady incline but not too steep with small steps, at this point I'm thinking 'hmph this isn't bad, what was I so worried about?' We watched locals climb along side us in bare feet and women carrying toddlers up with them, the stamina and the drive it must take these people to get to the top (once every year I might add) was inspiring. Well after that initial acsent, it turned into a gruelling feat of climbing uneven step after step after step straight up for the next hour and a half, at this point I was thinking this was a test of physical endurance and we were doing okay, until we got about three quarters of the way up and boom! Complete gridlock. At first the break was very welcomed as I had sweat dripping from every inch of my body and I felt my legs could hardly hold up my own body weight anymore, but that break turned out to last about two hours! I went from sweating to freezing half way up a mountain at 4 am and the enlightenment of the whole experience was starting to dwindle, quickly. Jordan had made it much further than us initially so when we were standing in the gridlock with the top step within arms reach (or so we thought) and he had turned around because we hadn't moved in two hours, we convinced him to get back in our line and tough it out once more and make it to the top. We didn't climb 4800 steps just to turn around before sunrise and head back down! Well we should have listened to him. We stood for at least another hour without moving, jammed packed on those steps like sardines. I'm sure you can imagine how people would quickly loose patience and my tolerance of body contact was at its absolute max. People starting shoving elbows and literally prying our arms apart to get one more person ahead, god forbid you leave an inch of space between you and the next person because all you had to do was blink and a whole family of Sri Lankans had budged thier way into it. At one point I actually yelled in an old mans face (which is not like me at all) and said "NO! THERE S NO ROOM FOR YOU!" he found a way to push himself past me anyways.... we seen some tourists coming back down on the otherside and asked how much longer to the top and their best estimate was another 3 hours. At this point the sun has already come up in less than ideal conditions, some had a good view I was too short and was stuck behind a tree and missed the whole thing, we were exhausted and so frustrated that we were ready to start knocking locals out literally . Clearly it was ruining the whole experience and like Phyllis said " part of being intelligent individuals, is knowing when to cut your losses and give up" so thats exactly what we did. As all the people that were trying to push and shove their way past us were smiling that we were climbing out of line, we were feeling better already being on the downside instead of the up, although for at least another hour the way down was packed as well but it quickly fell apart after that and we took our shaky jello legs one painful step at time down 7 more kms to the bottom. So it turns out Adams Peak on Poya day weekend is not a test of physical endurance like one would think but much more so a test of patience and tolerance. I think we made out fairly well, no one got into any fights and we all made it to the bottom in one piece (barely). The experience is one we will never forget and even though we didn't get to see the sun rise from the top, the view of where we were when it did come out, was like being on another planet, and that was definetly worth it :)

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Heres a picture of our Dream Team! Phyllis Shauna Cam Jordan and I . The people you travel with always make the experience and this one was definitely one for the books! Thanks again Phyllis and Bruce for all of your hospitality, hopefully see all three of you out in BC soon!!

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Posted by apolloandathena 19:32 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Unwinding in Ubud

The last of our time in Indonesia

sunny 34 °C

Hi everyone! First of all I want to say thank you to everyone who is still reading the blog after our 3 1/2 week hiatus before writing again. It truly is hard to find the time and a fast enough connection to complete these entries, so thanks for being patient with us we appreciate all of you who follow. So backtracking to about two weeks ago we enjoyed our last few days on that little gem of an island Gilli Trawangan, by relaxing on the beach taking bike rides and on our last day there, we went out on a snorkelling trip with our Slovenian friends that stopped at 4 or 5 different locations around all three of the Gilli Islands. We saw beautiful blue coral, sea turtles and a Japanese ship wreck which was really cool, but I couldn't stop thinking about that scene in The Little Mermaid where Ariel and Flounder are exploring that shipwreck and a giant shark comes out and tries to eat them haha but we made it out safe and sound :)

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After saying goodbye to all of our friends we hopped on the fast boat and headed back to central Bali to a village called Ubud. It is known as the cultural centre of Bali and to us seemed like one giant village but in fact it is 14 villages each run by their own village committee. The whole area has endless shops full of arts and crafts, woodcarvings and stonework. We checked into a homestay and our room was like our own little temple amongst the rest of the family living there. We had breakfast and coffee delivered to our balcony every morning all for about $15 CAD a night.

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Heres a few photos of the statues that are exclusive to Bali and some of the woodcarvings I mentioned earlier. Ubud is also known for their rice fields and terraces which cover almost every spare inch of land in the entire area. We went to a few really nice restaurants as we were starting to get a little tired of eating street food and our expensive dishes were setting us back about $6 CAD per dish! All of the nice restaurants have incredible views of the surrounding valleys and terraces, the pictures of course don't do it justice but I'm sure if we had views like this in Canada they would be charging at least $200 a plate.

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How about that scooter? Not afraid to load those little things up! haha
One of the highlights of our trip to Ubud was taking in a traditional Balinese dance called Kecak. It is a trance like ritual where a male choir chants the soundtrack to a depiction of a battle between a Prince that is saved by a monkey, and an evil King. The owner of our homestay was one of the men in the chorus and he said afterwards they dance up to 6 times a week! It was haunting and exciting and we loved every minute of it! It was really interesting to see the Balinese masks that you see in all the stores put to use in a dance. The women dancers are so beautiful and move so gracefully its hard to take your eyes off of them, and the little girls that danced reminded me of butterflies with the way they fluttered across the stage. Again the pictures wont do it justice but we have lots of great video to show everyone when we get home too.

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Before we left Ubud another thing we wanted to do was check out a coffee plantation, Indonesia produces some of the worlds best coffee and we heard that these trips were the highlight of many other peoples time in Ubud. So we rented a scooter and headed out to a plantation about 15 kms north of Ubud. We were both surprised that there was much more to the plantation than just coffee, we seen all kinds of plants, cocoa trees (which are the big green pods), ginseng plants, cloves, pineapple plants, lemongrass, lime trees, cinnamon trees, banana plants, snake skin fruit trees almosst anything you could imagine, and many kinds of spices. I would love to be able to grow the variety of plants they can here!

But the above all those things the most interesting thing to see at these plantations is how the famous 'Luwak Coffee' is made. The Luwak is an animal that kind of looks like a cat and is exclusive to Indonesia. The Luwak eats the red coffee berries (below) for the fleshy casing that surrounds the coffee beans and yup you guessed it, craps out turds full of coffee beans! These turds are then collected, cleaned, roasted and grinded to make arguably one of the best tasting coffees in the world! It retails in New York City for around $500 CAD per cup! Producers of the coffee claim that the process improves the taste of the coffee because the Luwak will only select the best berries to eat, and that the digestive process also improves the taste of the final product. So of course at the end of our plantation tour we had to try it! It was a good strong coffee that finished really nice. Would I pay $500 for one cup? Definitely not, but we did pick some up before we left and its currently on its way to Canada for all you other brave coffee drinkers that would like to share it with us! At the end of the tour the owners set out a whole row of samples to try, we had Ginseng coffee, Strawberry coffee, ginger tea and many others all in all it was a fantastic experience!

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We spent our last evening in Bali at another beautiful restaurant overlooking a gorgeous sunset and rice field before heading back to the airport to fly to Singapore so we could catch our flight to Sri Lanka to spend the week with our friend Cam from home. The next post will be a fantastic one you won't want to miss, I should be able to get it done today as we are spending another day in the Singapore airport waiting for our flight to Thailand tonight :)

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Posted by apolloandathena 22:42 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Last days in Malaysia/Beginning of Indonesia!

Cameron Highlands, Batu Caves, Bali and Gili Trawangan

sunny 33 °C

Ok I'll get right to it.

CAMERON HIGHLANDS

The Cameron Highlands or Tanah Rata are located about in the middle of Malaysia. They are famous for their tea plantations, strawberries and cool weather. It reminded me of Jasper, Alberta with one main street on which most the businesses are on, mountains shrouded in cloud off in the distance and a slower pace. Malaysia to me is the "land of the giant house plants" and this is even truer in the Highlands, which can see up to 3 growing seasons a year. We stayed very cheaply in a decent hotel for $8 dollars Canadian per night. Breakfast was Roti Canai (I think that's what it's called) which is Naan Bread dipped in various curries and other sauces. Every morning for 5 days we ate at the same place and I order the same thing (Roti Canai) and everyday it was somehow different. Every morning for 5 days Jannelle, who is a little more adventurous tried ordering something different and no matter what she ordered first they would never have it, making her take a second choice. Moral of the story is that language barrier's can be a real pain in the neck, so take it easy on that new Canadian next time you order Chinese food.

We decided to go trekking on some of the 10 or so famous Cameron Highlands "walks." These not so clearly marked trails quickly turned into jungle safari trail blazing. I really wish we had a machete with us for our pleasant hike down the side of a mountain covered in jungle. After an hour maybe two, of slippery slopes, narrowing trails and climbing over fallen trees we found ourselves at the end of Trail 9 which was the back slope of a farmers field approximately 10 kms south of Tanah Rata. At this point I'm (excuse my French) pissed off thinking what if Jannelle twisted her ankle or something how would I get her out of the jungle. I decided to cool down by sitting and taking a water and smoke break beside the brownest river I've ever seen. Twenty minutes later we continued are "walk" to a little town along the highway thinking it would be wiser to walk up the highway then back though the jungle. Jannelle managed to walk a blister onto heel so she was whining pretty hard by the time we got back to the highway which lead to this conversation. "Should we get a taxi or something?" asked Jannelle to which I replied "what do you think we're rich or something?" "Well maybe we can hitchhike." Jannelle suggested. "We can try, hold out your thumb" I replied. "No you" said Jannelle, so I did and 30 seconds later we were on our way back to Tanah Rata. Five minutes later we were back in town, safe and sound. Thank you random generous Malaysian.

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Look at the size of that millipede!

We laid low for awhile in the Cameron Highlands and made travel plans for the next couple of months booking flights for Indonesia, Thailand and Canada.

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BATU CAVES

We made our way back to Kuala Lumpur for a few more days of shopping and dim sum. We also flew from KL to Bali so we had to catch a plane.
There was this great Hindu festival called Thaipusam taking place at the Batu Caves which is short train ride from the center of KL. We went and checked it out the afternoon before the really busy night parades started. It was estimated that around two million people would come and pay homage to Parvati who gave Murugan a spear so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. Both man and women carry jugs of milk upon there heads and climb 272 stairs to make an offering. Also respective Hindu temples travel as a gang beating drums and wearing (for lack of a better word and they wear them on there shoulders) giant head dresses decorated in peacock feathers and pictures. Our pictures will have to tell a thousand words cause I'm at a loss to summarize this spectacle.

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Once you reach the top of the 272nd step you are in one of the biggest caves I've ever seen. There were rooster's up there and monkeys too. They kinda regroup inside the cave and walk up another 20 or so steps that lead them to the temple in the cave. Again I'll let the photos fill in the blanks for me.

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I'm glad we went during the low time as it was crowded enough already for us and was getting busier by the hour.

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BALI

We arrived in Bali around 11:30 at night and cleared customs shortly after midnight. I can finally say that I have been in the Southern Hemisphere!
If you ever wondered where these statues come from:

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They can only be found in Bali!

Bali is it's own little unique paradise found somewhere in the middle of Indonesia's seventeen odd thousand islands. It is one of the top surfer spots in the whole world and every surfboard company has a big store somewhere here. Bali is also know as the island of gods because of the hundreds of temple's that dot the very bright green hillsides. The smell of incense fills the street as most people also have a little shrine at the entrance of their gates where they make offerings, say prayers and perform rituals. In fact most people make offerings in front of their stores and hotels as well. You are constantly stepping over these little bamboo plates filled with flower petals and rice, everywhere you go. To us this place feels like a whole other world. Everyone seems to live in these small to medium sized brick complexes that are essentially Zen gardens. I really wish my garden looked like these places.

We took a short ride in a taxi from the airport to Kuta Bali which is kinda the party place on the island. We got dropped off a little ways from the street on which we planned to stay and had to walk the rest of the way. The clubs were bumping and the music coming from them overfilled the streets with bass. Jannelle and I agreed that it was close to the craziest 300 meters of street that we have walked so far on this trip. We finally pulled into a quiet place down an alley and decided to ask for a room. It's was getting close too 2:00 in the morning at this point so when we walked up to reception and found it unattended we started saying "hello" and looking behind the desk. We eventually woke up the night guy who was sleeping on a foam mattress in the middle of the dark lobby. He showed us the room on the second floor and we checked in.

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We payed 19 dollars Canadian for a large double room with a nice clean pool in the courtyard. Over the next couple of days we starting making new friends down by the pool and ended up going on a group scooter ride with our new buddies. There was a French man, two Slovenia's, a Dutch girl, a Dutch guy and us two Canadians. If you intend on renting a scooter in the Kuta area you better have game face on and your thumb on the horn because it's pandemonium.

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The last photo is Absolute Vodka bottles filled with gasoline...so that's technically a gas station.

We all decided to ride to a temple on the southwestern tip of the island that is apparently quite famous. The views were stunning and the temple was, well not that great in my opinion. The most interesting part was arriving at the temple where we we're greeted by the "Monkeys." Dirty little thieves might be a more just description. We had barely gotten the scooters parked and our helmets off before the "monkey gang" started to roll us in the parking lot. Ok so picture this -the French guy gets off his scooter and a monkey jumps on his seat and starts urinating on the seat and down the side of his scooter. While I'm watching this happen, I'm busily trying to zip up my pockets and hide anything shiny or loose on me. This had to have been a diversion as I had backed under a tree and didn't see the monkey hiding above me. I felt a little tickle on my shoulder then felt my sunglasses being pulled off the top of my head and watched in horror as a monkey quickly scrambled off with my $120 dollar Oakley's. I gave chase after that little s**t but he was quick as lightning and it was futile as he was already 20 feet up a tree nibbling on my shades. Then I heard some yelling back at the scooters so I turned around to see one of the Solvenia's trying to shew off a monkey that had already taken a bite out of the seat of his scooter and was working on another. This all happened in about a minute and I wish I could have seen it from across the parking lot. While at the temple Jannelle and I watched a monkey steal a flip-flop right off a girls foot as she was walking....I'm not kidding!

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I eventually got back my sunglasses after the gate people radioed the monkey police (guys with bags of peanuts) who tossed a bag up to the monkey in the tree which occupied his paws thus dropping my shades. Us guys all carried around sticks for the rest of the tour of the temple.

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I eventually made up with one of the gang and we played around a little...

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After the temple we decided to go and checkout some of Bali's beautiful beaches. I think we are here at the wrong time or something as the beaches and water were anything but spectacular. It was cool though, zipping around on the scooter looking for the perfect beach and seeing some of Bali's coastline.

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To get to Pedang Beach you have to walk down these steps threw a small fissure in the rock.

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I really like the statues around the this island because they are so intense!

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We stayed at the same place for a couple of days and got to know our new friends better then decided to make our way to a small island to the East of Bali called Gili Trawangan.

Gili Trawangan

We caught a bus first thing in the morning so we could catch a boat out to Gili Trawangan.

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We seen a pod of dolphins on the way over but they were too elusive to capture on film that morning.

There are three very small islands between Bali and Lombok but closer to Lombok. Gili Air, Gili Meno and the largest of the small is Gili Trawangan.
Now having been disappointed by Bali's beaches, Gili Trawangan made up for it tenfold. Water so clear and blue it boggle's the mind.

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We checked into a traditional little hut and went for a walk to go buy some snorkeling gear.

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Picture the nicest aquarium with the most colorful tropical fish you've ever seen, now that almost comes close to the fish we seen snorkeling no more than 30 feet off the beach. I can't exaggerate enough the color of the fish we seen and just how clear the water was. We saw Sea Turtle's and neon Squid, little Clown fish (Finding Nemo) we seen fish so bright, well I'm at a loss for words. The best part was you just had put on a snorkel and a mask (you can rent then for $5 dollars) and walk 30 feet to the beach and Wham-O underwater sea world! Please Google "Gili Trawangan scuba diving" and it will give you some idea of just what I mean.

This was such a neat little island there are no cars or motorbike's on it. The taxi's are horse drawn and people use peddle bikes if your in a hurry to get somewhere. You can peddle completely around it in about an hour or less. It is a little touristy on one side for about a kilometer but that about it, the rest is pretty a much tropical island paradise.

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Things are a little pricey there for instance.

Can of Coke $1.03
Large bottle of beer (642ml) $3.11
The double bed hut with breakfast $15.58
A good plate of Nacho's $4.36 Large plate $7.79

All price's in Canadian dollars and current as of last week.

We did sign up for our PADI certification and did go on one dive to 10 meters for 50 minutes. I ended up having lots of problems equalizing the pressure in my left ear and even now a week later my ear is still bugging me. Dylan would know what I mean as we have bad ears in our family.
I didn't care too much for our diving instructor as he was pulling me down and adding weights to my belt as I was hyperventilating underwater trying to swim to the top. Jannelle really enjoyed diving and was keen to continue but since I wasn't she opted out with me. We'll see though how I feel once we get to Thialand cause the more the experience settled in for me the more I wanted to try again.

Well anyways we are back on Bali now in Ubud getting ready to meet up with our friend Cam in Sri Lanka. Hope the weather isn't too bad for all our family and friends at home!

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Posted by apolloandathena 17:17 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Malaysia!

Kuala Lumpur>Perlis>Pantai Cenang Beach

sunny 40 °C

Well we made it to SE Asia and we love it already :D We took a long sleepless flight from Istanbul to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital city 10 days ago. We got into KL at about 8 am but we crossed 6 time zones so to us it still felt like 2 am. We tried our best to stay awake through the day but only made it to about 3 in the afternoon and it took us a full 6 days before we actually slept through the night again! Man did I ever underestimate jet lag! So our first few days in KL we walked around like zombies but still enjoyed our time there. We stayed in the heart of Chinatown and it was just as crazy, busy, smelly and exciting as I hoped it would be :D We were only catching sleep here and there through the day so we were out and about more at night the first few days, and ate some great street food ( theres an AMAZING mix of Indian, Chinese and Malay food here) and on the second night we headed to the famous Petronas towers!
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They are pretty impressive! Downtown KL is beautiful lots of trees and tropical plants mixed in with modern towering skyscrapers and its a super clean city. Right in front of the towers is a huge park with a fountain show that goes off every hour or so and at night is all light up with tons of people just sitting around the park taking in the views. The next day we we made an attempt to go to another huge public park not too far from Chinatown but made the mistake of not really scoping out where the entrance was - it was so big that we thought well we'll just run into it , we did but we weren't really picturing the park to be like a rainforest right in the middle of the city , you can't just enter wherever you want haha so we actually just ended up walking the entire perimeter of it and by the time we got near the entrance we both had blisters on our feet and it was closed haha. It was still a really nice walk regardless but we might have to try again when we head back there in a few days :) I just have one picture and one of a mosque that was also in the park just as the sun was starting to go down.

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On our way back to Chinatown we walked by the Sultan Abdul Samad building which houses the Ministry of Commucations and Culture of Malaysia, it also puts on a pretty cool light show at night as it completely changes colors from red, purple, green, yellow and blue every couple seconds.

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Once we started to get back on track we went for green tea and Dim Sum in the mornings. For those of you that don't know what Dim Sum is -its pretty much Jordan and I's favorite type of meal. It's all different kinds of Chinese dishes, fish dumplings, pork dumplings , sweet and sour pork buns, coconut balls, deep fried shrimp, egg rolls etc that is served on carts and you just pick and choose what you want when they come around. We found a great place and hit it at least 3 or 4 times before we left :) Mmm its making me hungry just thinking about it. We spent the rest of our time in KL shopping in Chinatown, and just walking around taking in all the sights. We made it back to the towers on our last day and spent almost the whole day in the park there. I also found a place in the Central Market that had a Fish Foot Spa! They are quite common here and are super cheap I paid $1.64 for 15 min. It's a tank full of Doctor fish that you put your feet into and they swarm around and eat all the dead skin off your feet! Jordan didn't want to do it because he had a big open blister on the back of his foot ( I don't blame him ) so I toughed it out first! It doesn't hurt at all but it tickles SO bad ! It's extremely hard to keep still by the time my 15 minutes was up I was just starting to relax and enjoy it :)

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After 5 days in the hot and humid city we were ready to hit a beach so we took a night bus from KL to Perlis a town on the northern coast of Malaysia right on the Thailand border and took a ferry to Lankawi Island there we rented a scooter and loaded it up with all of our bags like the locals do haha and headed 25kms down the road to Pantai Cenang beach.

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Lankawi is a very small island and we easily covered all of its highways in our 6 days here. The whole island is duty free which makes some things like beer extremely cheap! The cheap beers were .46 cents each and premium beer like Hogaarden and Coronas were .61 cents. So we pretty much spent all,of our days here the same, morning coffee at McDonalds (it's the only place we can find that serves real coffee and not Nescafé, and they have free refills!) a couple of hours on the beach because that's pretty much all you can handle its SO bloody hot +43 some days, a scooter ride in the afternoon to see as much as we could and an evening of cheap beers!! You jealous yet? Haha! The food on the main strip is actually expensive for Malaysia but we found a few markets that are open only once a week and some food stalls far out by the airport that are crowded with locals to find some great cheap food! Tonight for example we bought a big dish of spicy noodles, two peanut pancakes, two pieces of BBQ'd chicken, two samosas one chicken burger and a drink ( what? We were hungry ok? Haha ) all for $3.45 ! Now you see also why we eat so much! I can't believe how much of a difference there is between eating at the restaurants and eating in local areas from food stalls! And plus its 10x better food !
We encountered some great sights on our scooter road trips including locals carrying infants on scooters -crazy! A couple beautiful sunsets a black sand beach, and some wild monkeys doing some pretty interesting things haha. The scooter was a great investment it was easily the best way to see the island and eating no where near where we were staying pretty much paid for the scooter itself :) Tomorrow we are heading back to mainland and heading to the Cameron Highlands (we think) - a mountainous region covered in tea plantations for a few days before heading back to KL to fly over to the Borneo side of Malaysia. Here's a few pics of Langkawi! Enjoy
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Please feel free to enter your own caption below for the following picture ! Hahaha

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Posted by apolloandathena 04:26 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Turkey Part II

Selcuk and more Istanbul and our last days in Europe :)

semi-overcast 15 °C

Hi everyone! I wanted to get this last post done before we left for Asia, before we start to get behind on posts :) One of my New Years resolutions is to try to post more often so I don't have to put so many pictures on one post!
Anyways I don't remember exactly where Jordan left off but after about 10 days in Istanbul we headed to a small town about 500 kms south called Selcuk. There is a famous ruins site there called Ephesus that we wanted to see and a few other things to check out in that area. We thought about heading across the country to see a few other places, but ended up spending almost all of the remainder of our time in Turkey in this wonderful little town. It was really nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul and our hotel was so great we just didn't want to leave! So we relaxed there, went for daily walks and took in the more laid back lifestyle of the Turks. :)
Here are a few pictures of where we called home for 2 weeks.

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We relaxed for a few days and got our bearings on this town and then decided to head to Ephesus, it was only about 3 kms away and it was a really nice walk there.

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Ephesus was once an Ancient Greek city, and with a population of about 250,000 in the 1st Century BC it was one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world. The city was famous for the Temple of Artemis (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world ) and was also home to one of the seven churches of Asia cited in the Book of Revelations, and it is believed that the Gospel of John was written here. We noticed quickly that there is alot of Christian history around this area. For example there is a temple just outside of Selcuk called St. Marys house where its believed that St. John brought Mary to rest for the last few days of her life, and there was also the ruins of St. John's Bascillica literally right beside our hotel where he was buried himself. Theres a large ampitheatre in Ephesus that is still mostly in tact and also part of a massive library, the ruins site itself is massive and it was amazing walking through it and trying to imagine what a grand empire this really was over 2000 years ago! Most of the city, about 80-90% was detroyed in 614 AD from a massive earthquake. We took tons of photos again here are just a few (the first few pitures are of the ampitheatre)

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The Public Latrines haha can you imagine that today?? Everyone just hanging out in the bathroom doin their business together, visiting.. weird, and this was just one corner it was an entire room full of cans!

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Here are some photos of the Terrace houses which are also in the process of being recontructed, still to this day they are excavating pieces and putting together giant puzzles with their findings. (you can see them laid out on the tables) This was basically like an apartment for the rich. The rooms all belonged to different families and the paintings you see on the walls and the tiles on the floors are all original. Pretty amazing.

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Heres Jordan and the stone carving of the Goddess Nike

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and heres a few pictures of the Library of Celcus I mentioned earlier

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We were there for at least 4 hours and could have easily stayed for another 4 and not seen it all this place was massive! Too bad even at this time its full of tourists but hey were one of 'em I guess, and besides imagine how bad it would be in the summertime!

At this point it was almost Christmas (which it didn't feel like at all here) and we spent the next little while getting to know the staff of our hotel, Gurcel or "Boss" as we called him, Ramazan the chef :) Duri and Wolfboy haha and the wonderful cleaning lady whos name we never did get. I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful these people treated us! We spent many nights sharing meals, drinks and stories together and many mornings together over cups of coffee and tea. This is one of the best things about staying in one place longer than 3 or 4 days, because you actually get a chance to really get to know people and to experience more of the non touristy lifestyle. They instantly treated us like family and we will NEVER forget our stay here :) Boss even got us christmas presents and cooked us a chicken dinner :

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Me and Boss

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We also spent New Year's Eve at the hotel with a few other guests and a friend of Boss's named Dervis whos sense of humour and hospitality we will also never forget! Generally in Turkey and I guess Greece too, drinking and snacking go hand in hand. The spreads that they put out for us were fantastic! Local fruit and olives, nuts bread and all kinds of other things! Here's a few pics of NYE

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Got a great shot of the last 2012 moon rising over the hills from our balcony :)

The other thing we really wanted to do while we were in Turkey was check out Pamukkale (pronounced pah-moo-call-ee) . A few of you have probably already seen pics on facebook, but it is a huge hill of Calcium Terrace formations. Pamukkale means cotton castle in Turkish and is a natural site in southwestern Turkey, about a 3 hour bus ride from Selcuk. The city contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. The hill is about 9000m long and 600 ft high it can be seen from about 20 kms away. It was spectacular! Its truly amazing how much natural beauty exisits in this world!

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After a few more days we were packing our bags and heading back to Istanbul. This time we decided to stay on the Asia side (Turkey is the only country in the world divided over two continents Europe and Asia) as we had spent our first 10 days here on the Europe side in the Old City. This side is definitely different from the other, the streets are lined with big brand name stores like many other cities in Europe and you can hear music blasting from clubs everywhere you turn, it has a much less authentic Turkish feel to it. I didn't really get many pics of this side besides some of our walk across the bridge back to the other side haha ( we decided to walk all the way back to the other side one day because we liked it that much more ) Not very often one can say they walked from Europe to Asia and back again in the same day :) Heres a great shot of another Mosque on the coast and the craziness that the underground walkways provide!

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Also this is what the whole bridge both sides consist of: hundreds of fishermen, rods bait and all theirs catches!
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Well all in all Turkey has got to be up there again with one of our favorite countries. I know I know, I say that about every country but your bound to be a little partial to anywhere you spend this amount of time! In total we've been in Turkey for 4 weeks, by far the longest we've spent anywhere and we truly enjoyed every day here! Tomorrow is the beginning of a whole new adventure! We have a 10 1/2 hour flight into Kuala Lumpur, Malaysias capital city! First thing on our list, Dim Sum for breakfast!! :) Im drooling just thinking about it!!
Talk to you all soon!!

Posted by apolloandathena 07:25 Archived in Turkey Comments (3)

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