The Daily Explorer

November 6, 2008

From Sandpaper to Silk

Nepal: November 2008

Mozzie Byte, Editor - The Daily Explorermozzie-byte-profile-44pt.jpg

MOZZIE BYTE (Editor): Welcome back to all our Daily Explorer readers and greetings to those of you who are joining us for the first time. To our regulars, many thanks for reading our online publication – we have had over 4,500 visits to our site since we went live with our new format in February this year.

Before you hear about what Ray has been up to since he left Australia, you may want to take a look at our last issue. In the second of a two-part feature, Ray explored the Northern Territory, visiting Alice Springs and the spectacular MacDonnell ranges before taking the famous Ghan train to Katherine. He then headed for the fast growing city of Darwin to complete his journey and depart for Bali. If you missed it, you can read it now at: From Adelaide to Darwin (Part Two)

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Above: The beautiful Katherine Gorge (left) and the famous Adelaide to Darwin Ghan train (right). You can read all about the final part of Ray’s recent visit to the central and northern regions of Australia, in From Adelaide to Darwin (Part Two)

Preparations are underway for Ray’s first visit to Nepal and the opportunity to gain access to the awe inspiring Himalayan mountains. On his way to Kathmandu (which will be featured in our next issue) he spent a week in Bali, meeting up with Nikki to explore the beautiful Indonesian island and begin their research for their entry into Nepal. In this issue, you can find out more about their week in Bali and their whirlwind, two day stop over in Singapore prior to their arrival in Kathmandu. We aim to maintain our high standards of journalism and presentation at The Daily Explorer, so please send us your feedback and help us improve future issues. You can use the comments box online, or email ‘Mozzie’ or any of our correspondents at thedailyexplorer@gmail.com

The last time Ray saw Nikki was in early August, in Chiang Mai (northern Thailand). “Just before I went to Australia, the two of us visited the Elephant Nature Park and were really moved by what we saw there” recalled Ray. “We have shared many of my best travel experiences in the last three years and I am really pleased we are going to be trekking together in the Himalayas” Ray told me. “But first, we are going to relax for a week in Bali, taking some time to catch up and begin formulating our plans for the next few weeks” he added. “We are meeting here because Nikki has just been participating in a challenging yoga workshop on the island – she is really dedicated to improving her practise and I would love to hear more about it” said our curious traveller.

Above: Nikki (right) and her Yoga teacher Anna (left) learning together during their recent workshop in Ubud – “Nikki’s yoga practise is very important to her and her dedication is admirable” said Ray

Below: After the workshop, a very relaxed Nikki exudes health and vitality as she awaits Ray’s arrival in Bali

indonesia-bali-map

Above: Map showing Indonesia. With over 18,000 counted islands, it is by far the largest and most varied archipelago on Earth. It spans almost 2 million square kilometres between Asia and Australia. Bali is circled. If you look down in the bottom right hand corner, you can see Ray’s departure point in Australia (Darwin), which is a two and half hour flight from Denpasar. And in the top left corner, you will see Singapore, which Ray and Nikki also visit on the way to Kathmandu

Below: Bali in detail. Ubud (circled, centre) was the base for Ray and Nikki’s week on the island, whilst Lovina (top, left) and Amed (right) were amongst the places they stayed in as they travelled around

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Was this Ray’s first visit to Bali? “Er yeah, but no, but yeah” was his confused reply so I asked him to explain. “Well Mozzie, I have actually been once before, when I was in (what I now refer to as) my ‘old life’. I was married, living in London and running a business and I came here with my (now ex) wife for a break. I did not really have the appetite for or appreciation of travel that I have now, which resulted in me spending virtually the whole trip inside the hotel resort, which was only a few minutes drive from the airport” he recalled. “It’s a bit embarrasing to admit now, but I really had very little interest in understanding the country or the people back then, so in that sense, this is my first real visit to the island” he explained.

Although Nikki had arranged to come and meet him at the airport, flight delays resulted in a last minute change of plan for Ray. “Anyone who travels a lot will tell you that turning up in a new and strange place in the early hours with no one to meet you can be a bit daunting” said Ray. “My flight was due to arrive at around 8pm and Nikki had booked a driver to collect me, but the flight from Darwin was delayed and I did not make it until gone midnight. We were able to communicate by phone and rapidly changed our plans – Nikki waited in Ubud whilst I negotiated with a taxi driver to take me there (some 45 minutes by car). I was just praying that he would be able to find our tiny guest house, knowing I did not have a clue where we would be going in the pitch black night” he recalled. “It all worked out fine – another example of just ‘going with the flow’ and trusting the universe which is helping me realise that there really is very little need to be stressed by such events” said our experienced traveller.

Above: Ray did not get his first real look at the Balinese style architecture of his guest house until the morning after his arrival – “When I opened my eyes, I was really impressed with the place that Nikki found. It is a great example of the Balinese preference for ‘open’ architecture” explained Ray. “Many of the buildings have open roofed bathroom’s and terraces – as you can see from this picture of Nikki taking her morning shower. It gives you the sense that you are really close to nature, even when you are inside which is a really calming, centred feeling” he told me

Below: Nikki’s yoga teacher Anna invited her and Ray to stay as her guest for a couple of days in a secluded private house she rented to host the yoga workshop – “The house actually belongs to an English chap who Anna and Nikki met in Chiang Mai. It was surrounded by beautiful, tropical fauna and totally integrated with the nature all around it. It was also an example of the type of house you can rent if you are thinking of living here for part of the year” said Ray

Above: Inside the house, the Balinese style is instantly recognisable with loads of dark timber and huge, wide open spaces without windows so that you feel like you are part of the nature surrounding you – “This sofa was my bed for two or three nights” Ray told me. “It was one of the most comfortable sleeps I have had, nodding off to the sound of the forest and the cool breeze blowing through the humid night air. I wish I had kept a log of how many different beds I have slept in over the last three years – it must be a few hundred at least” remarked our global nomad

Below: The master bedroom, Bali style, complete with ‘fully protected’ four poster bed – “There were not that many mosquitoes around” said Ray, “but if you are not used to it, even one is one too many!”

Bali is a lush, colourful and magical place and our traveller was making amends for his lack of exploration during his previous visit to the island, determined to engage all of his senses and get a full experience of the place in a few, short days. “Walking around, rather than being driven on a tour, is always one of the best ways to get the feel of a place and the half hour walk from the house we were staying in to the centre of Ubud was the height of pleasure in itself” recalled Ray. “The Bali houses, the trees, the wonderful spirit of the people and of course, the sunshine, all conspire to create a really relaxed and vibrant experience” he told me.

Above: Ray walks with Anna and Nikki as they leave their secluded house and head for central Ubud – “The last time I came to Bali, I stayed in a five star beach resort in Nusa Dua, in the far south” said Ray. “Thinking back to that, and contrasting it with this experience, I may as well have been in a completely different country as the real Bali bears no resemblance from the heavily ‘manufactured’ beach resort experience that most package holiday makers receive. I am very pleased that I know the difference and delighted to have a second opportunity to see what this island is really like” said our traveller

Below: Ubud is a symphony of colour, fragrances, beautiful architecture and amazing culture – “Walking down any street is a visual treat” observed Ray. We witnessed the customs and routines of the people here (left), which are so different to what we are used to in our home country. And the place is full of mystery – it seems like there is something fascinating hidden behind every fascia and doorway (right)”

Above: Balinese families on their way to temple – “Of all the things that I experience as I travel, meeting the local people, finding out about how they live and hopefully, becoming friends with one or two is the most rewarding part of the whole thing” said Ray. “These people are very warm, loving and kind and you can really feel it when they engage you” he told me

Below: Nikki’s yoga teacher Anna (far right) had been to Bali before and created a friendship with Wayan (centre) and his family – “Anna introduced Nikki and me to Wayan, his wife and delightful children” recalled Ray. He works as an artist, rents out a house on his land to tourists and visitors, is building another house nearby and drives a taxi in between!” Ray told me. “But you never detect any hint of self pity or resentment – he is always very warm, very patient and willing to help – I learnt a thing or two about how to relate to others from being around him” added Ray

Above: Ray and Anna Suvorova at The Casa Luna restaurant, a favourite with visitors to Ubud – “She is a great yoga teacher and a very inspiring woman” said Ray. “From the Ukraine, I met Anna at The Spa in Ko Samui (Thailand) when I did my first fast and de-tox there. She is very generous with me and Nikki and has a light that shines very bright indeed on humanity” observed our appreciative traveller

Below: Having had a taste of the life in Ubud, our intrepid explorers rented a Jeep so they could go and explore the rest of the island – “I would highly recommend this to other travellers coming here” said Ray. “In Ubud, it is possible to rent a really good Jeep for around six pounds a day, plus a few pounds for fuel. They go a long way on one tank of petrol – we managed to get all the way round the island and back” he told me

For those readers that are interested, here is a little bit of information about Bali. The island lies 3.2 kilometres east of Java, and is approximately 8 degrees south of the equator. East to west, the island is approximately 153 kilometres (95 miles) wide and approximately 112 kilometres (69 miles) north to south. The highest point is Mount Agung at 3,142 metres (10,308 feet) high, an active volcano that last erupted in March 1963. Mountains cover the centre to the eastern side, with Mount Agung the easternmost peak. Mount Batur (1,717 metres) is also still active; an eruption 30,000 years ago was one of the largest known volcanic events on Earth.

In the south the land descends to form an alluvial plain, watered by shallow, north-south flowing rivers, drier in the dry season and overflowing during periods of heavy rain. The longest of these rivers, Sungai Ayung, is also the longest on the island (approximately 75 kilometres). The principal cities are the northern port of Singaraja, the former colonial capital of Bali, and the present provincial capital and largest city, Denpasar, near the southern coast. The town of Ubud (north of Denpasar), with its art market, museums and galleries, is arguably the cultural centre of Bali.

“We decided to head north from Ubud (see map above) to the northern coastal town of Lovina, which was an uphill journey most of the way” Ray told me. “There were times when our little Jeep struggled a bit on the hills, and once or twice when it failed to start, but it worked out OK and we did not have any serious problems. And we made lots of spontaneous stops on the way if we saw something that took our interest” added our traveller.

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Above and below: Lake Buyan was one place where Ray and Nikki stopped to hang out with some of the local people for a while – “It was a beautiful spot, high up on a ridge overlooking the lake. The people we saw there looked so friendly, we just had to stop. They hardly spoke any English but with a lot of gestures and smiles, we were able to communicate – after all, we’re all human!” said Ray

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Above: Nikki made friends instantly with this Balinese woman – “Nikki has such a great way with people; she always makes total strangers feel completely at ease within seconds” observed Ray

Below: The further north our two travellers went, the more interesting the terrain became – “We stopped at this spot to take a view across the rice terraces in this lush, green valley” said Ray

Reaching the northern coastal town of Lovina, Ray and Nikki sorted out a room for the night and swiftly headed for the beach to catch the sunset. “It was a really beautiful evening” said Ray. “The vista was full of rich colours and the seawater was so warm, it was like a bath” recalled our explorer. “The locals really appreciate the ocean and many head for the water at the end of the day. We came across a group of lively young kids who seemed really happy to see us and were delighted that we were taking pictures so they could see their own images on the camera” added Ray. “Ray knows that I am a bit of an addict when it comes to sunsets” said Nikki. “I never get tired of them – must be the romantic in me” she laughed.

Above and below: The stunning and unforgettable sunset on Lovina Beach, northern Bali

Leaving Lovina, our two travellers continued on their journey following the coast road east to the up and coming, as yet undiscovered hideaway resort area in Amed. “We got a great tip off from someone we met in Ubud, who has been to coming to Bali for the past ten years or so and knew everything that was worth knowing about the place, which is why we decided to head for Amed” explained Ray. “She had been very explicit in her recommendation about where we should stay – a small family run place called ‘Wawa Wewe II’ and had planned to be there to meet us on our arrival. When we arrived, it was just as she described – private, quiet, relaxed and with a super little infinity pool – luxury at around £25 per night!” added Ray.

Above: Ray and Nikki managed to get the ‘Ocean View’ room, overlooking the sea directly from their little terrace area. “Having spent a few weeks travelling through the outback in Australia, and with a challenging trek in the Himalayas looming, I was glad that we were having some down time” said Ray, “and this was definitely the place to do it” he added

Below: Ray in the infinity pool – “I have always loved being able to sit in the water and look out to the ocean” he told me. “They have really created a little piece of heaven here” said Ray

Above: “It won’t be like this when we are in the Himalayas” says Ray to Nikki. “I know – here, have a piece of this lovely melon” she replies

Below: The Amed area, on the eastern tip of Bali, with Mount Agung (at 3,142 metres) in the background – an active volcano which is the highest point on the island

As they were returning to Ubud to drop their Jeep off, I caught up with Nikki and Ray to find out how their exploration of Bali had gone. “Well Mozzie, we have had a marvellous few days” said Nikki. “We are both completely rested and ready for the big adventure in Nepal in a few days time” she added. Were there any problems on the trip? “No, not really” replied Ray. “For one brief moment, we had a bit of a scare when we asked a local chap for directions and he pointed to our rear tyre with a strange look on his face. I jumped out and sure enough, the rear tyre was looking fairly flat. So we drove very carefully for a couple of miles until we could find someone with an airpump who could help us” said Ray. “Once we got the tyre properly inflated, we were back on the road and made it to Ubud with no further problems”.

And how does Bali compare with the Australian outback? “I suppose you could say it is like comparing sandpaper with silk” said Ray. “The Aussie culture is very male (energetically) and the terrain is very arid and rough. Whereas the Balinese culture is much softer and more feminine and the environment is green and lush” he observed.

Above: Ray has a few anxious moments as he stands and watches a local chap help him with the flat tyre on their rented Jeep. Fortunately, there was no serious problem and they got back to Ubud without any further hassle

Above: With a few hours to say goodbye to their friends in Ubud, Ray and Nikki first find Darren, who co-incidentally was also heading to Singapore – “Until we meet again…..” says Ray

Below: And a final supper at the very stylish and popular Cafe Wayan with Anna Suvorova, before heading off to the airport

For both Ray and Nikki, their visit to Singapore was their first. “I have been through the airport loads of times, but that doesn’t really count ” said Ray. “We were arriving in the middle of the night into the city, so wanted to be sure we knew where we were staying on our arrival. In the past, we have been quite happy to just turn up and find something, but in the darkness and with no knowledge of the city, we were not willing to take the chance this time” he explained. “So, with the help of our best friend (the Internet), we found a budget hotel in an area of the city known as ‘Little India’, which was a blessing as we thought it might give us a little taster of what India might be like” he told me.

Above: Ray and Nikki arrive in ‘Little India’, in the heart of Singapore – “We quickly discovered that the Indian community were celebrating the religious festival of Deepavali, which is a very significant event for Hindu’s” said Ray

Below: Built in 1843, the fascinating Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India, which is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess, Kali is the largest Hindu temple in Singapore – “It seems a bit out of place in such a clean, modern city like this one” observed Ray

Above: A close up look (left) at the roof of the entrance to the temple reveals the intricacy in the detail on the figures – “Our friend Darren had been there ahead of us and sent me this picture (right) giving an even better view of the detail” said Ray

Below: The modern face of Singapore – “Most people, including me, expect to see tall buildings and clean streets as you would in any developed city” said Ray. Nikki (right) in the Fullerton area, takes it all in

Knowing they were only going to be in Singapore for a couple of days, I asked our travellers what their first impressions were. “Well Mozzie, some of the things I have seen match with what I have heard” said Ray. “For example, it is truly multi-cultural. We are staying in Little India and there are similar areas for the Chinese and Japanese, as well as an Arab quarter. The diversity is quite spectacular and gives this otherwise bland, modern city quite a bit of a character, as well as an unbelievable choice of different foods” said Ray. “Another thing I was told before coming here was this a place full of rules, and I would have to say that so far, it seems to be true. No food or drink allowed on the underground, no spitting on the pavement and even no chewing of gum are examples. But it does seem to result in a clean and pleasant environment so maybe it’s a good thing” he told me.

Above: Ray sent us this picture just in case any of our readers are interested in taking up belly dancing – “For a small fee, I will happily reveal the secret location of this store to anyone who needs to know where it is” laughed Ray

Below: Ray spotted this store in one of the many trendy shopping malls in the city – “It appears that the Salvation Army have come up with some pretty interesting marketing strategies in order to boost their fundraising efforts here” said Ray. “In conjunction with this lingerie store, they are offering up to forty dollars trade in for any unwanted bra’s – well I suppose they need all the support they can get” laughed our nomadic traveller

Above: The heart of the Arab quarter, known as Kampong Glam – at the end of the street is the magnificent Sultan Mosque

Below: Probably the most photographed object in the whole city – the Merlion statue in Merlion Park, Marina Bay – “I had seen pictures of it myself before I came and just had to go there” said Ray

Above: The people of Singapore enjoy a pristine environment, with clean and modern facilities, thanks to their strict rules about what you can and cannot do in public – “The metro system is a great example” said Ray. “When you buy a ticket, it is not printed on paper or card which can be thrown away and creates litter. Instead, you have to pay a deposit which is only refunded if you hand the plastic ticket back that you have used for your journey, and the refund value is equivalent to over 40% of the fare – it is a very clever use of enforcement” he observed

Below: Check out our latest Caption competition – this scene was captured in the Chinatown area of the city. Ray and Nikki came up with one of their own: “When I said that I had a lovely bunch of coconuts, I didn’t expect you to eat them all”. If you think you can improve on their effort, send us an email with your caption to thedailyexplorer@gmail.com. The winner will be announced in a forthcoming issue

Above: The Parliament building, central Singapore – “This place has developed in leaps and bounds since the old colonial days” observed Ray. “The Raffles Hotel and the Singapore Sling seem like a distant throwback to an era long gone” added our traveller

Below: When you are a traveller, timing is everything, but even Ray would not have expected to have caught the top of the table, Chelsea v Liverpool soccer thriller, live on television in Singapore airport as he waited for his flight to Nepal – “Well, it was only the first half actually, but I saw Chelsea concede the goal which ended their four and a half year unbeaten home run, so I am glad to have been spared a tense, miserable second half” said our football fan

Editors Note: Ray is now in Nepal, making final preparations for his first ever trek in the Himalayan mountains – we understand that he and Nikki are undertaking the Anna Purna circuit to begin with, which is a seventeen day hike that will have them ascend to around 5,400 metres at the highest point. I called Ray to find out how he is feeling about it – “I am very excited” he told me. “Nikki and I have done our planning as best we can and we have hired a great guide and a porter who will be with us the whole way. We have acquired all the gear we need in Kathmandu and except for one or two small details, are ready to go. When we finish, we will take a decision as to whether or not to make a similar journey to Everest Base Camp, which would be another 12-15 day trek” said our intrepid explorer. “On the 12th November, it will be three years exactly since I left the UK and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the anniversary of my nomadic life than by doing this” he added.

We will be bringing you all of the news and pictures from Nepal in our next issue. Just to let you know, the Internet facilities in Nepal are poor by comparison with other countries and we have experienced quite a few problems getting pictures and information from Ray across the Internet. So please be patient – the next issue may not appear on-line for a few weeks. As always, we will keep you posted!

MOZZIE BYTE

Above: The city of Kathmandu, Nepal with the Himalayan mountains visible in the distant background. We will be covering Ray and Nikki’s trekking adventures in our next issue, which we hope to publish on-line in a few weeks

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5 Comments »

  1. Hi guys. Thought I’d take a look at your Bali photos and read about your travels. Ubud is a pretty cool place and it’s fun to go driving around. Did you drive through the lava at Kintamani volcano and swim in the hot springs? Now that’s fun! Good luck on your trek to the mountains, hope you’ve got the legs for it! I had a two week boat trip to the Mentawai Islands in September surfing through the island chain which is west of Sumatra. It was awesome; scored some epic waves and lived like kings on the boat. Indonesia is an amazing place as you well know! Anyway, take care, enjoy yourself and live well. Love Nigel

    Comment by Nigel Wickens — November 9, 2008 @ 12:22 am

  2. Loved this blog! Especially all the images of Bali! I can’t wait to visit this magical island… I’m sure I have met Darren on Samui… he looks so familiar! I hope you both have a fabulous time in Kathmandu… what a contrast to Bali! Full on monsoon here… and cool believe it or not… Great to chat with you Ray… Kisses Cream Cheese! XXX

    Comment by Susie Cream — November 9, 2008 @ 8:04 am

  3. Another lovely look into your life as it is now… thanks for the time it takes to update us and the stories which always make me smile, especially the one about the chap who keeps turing up, how unlikely and also typical of your serendipitous life. The photos are gorgeous as ever, made even more radiant by the presence of Nikki in your latest stories. Thinking of you every day in the Himalayas… fingers crossed you are both safe and loving it. Charlie xxxxx

    Comment by Charlie — November 17, 2008 @ 8:50 pm

  4. Thanks for reminding me of beautiful Bali. Had a memorable breakfast at the top of Mount Batur; eggs were hardboiled in the volcanic sand, which we then sand-shoed down to get to the bottom! The diving was great too -just watch out for the Dragons near Komodo- I took a four day boat tour to Rinca and Komodo Islands to see the nearest living relatives of the dinosaurs, from Bali to Flores. Its an amazing, unique, part of this world. What are you going to do when you cease traveling? Love, Howard

    Comment by howard — December 3, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

  5. Thanks for sharing your experiences… keep on writing – don’t stop!

    Comment by marculyseas — January 2, 2009 @ 5:06 am


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