proboscis-monkey-borneo

Monkeys and scorpions and snakes. Oh my.

It’s Part Two of our Dad and Daughter Great adventure in Borneo and, after our first few days that were jam-packed with adventurous pursuits, we spent some time with a whole bunch of cute, weird and scary critters and creepy crawlies. We met them all in Sepilok, which is five hours by bus from Kota Kinabalu. Our main reason for visiting Sepilok was to see the orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, but in our three days there we got to meet a whole menagerie of creatures: Read more

sapi-island-borneo

Thrills and spills in Borneo.

Borneo had always been on my hit list of places to visit – and mostly, I have to admit, because the name itself has an exotic ring to it. There are other places, too (such as Zanzibar and Timbuktu), that have been on my hit list simply because their names conjure up something mystical and exotic. Borneo, however, lived up to its name. Read more

#holidayclicheagram

#holidayclicheagram

I’m about to jet off to Borneo for another Dad and Daughter Great Adventure. Last year we went to Cambodia and on each day of our trip I posted a Holiday Clicheagram on Instagram. We’ve all seen these shots before on our friend’s feed – or you’ve taken them yourself! Hey, I’m just as guilty of dragging out the cliché holiday snap. So, I’ve decided to continue my #holidayclicheagram series for this trip. I was going to say that I will you surprise you with my shots…but you will have probably seen them all before anyway. Follow me on Instagram (@bthacker) to get the latest pics! And just to remind you, these are my delightfully clichéd clicheagrams from last year… Read more

street-food-vietnam

The best street food on the street.

Street food is certainly big in Australia right now. Every night there is a small army of food trucks touting any kind of street snack you can imagine, and ‘street food’ or ‘hawker food’ restaurants are popping up everywhere. Only a short stroll from where I live there has been a string of ‘street food’ restaurants that have opened up recently, including Radio Mexico, Hanoi Hannah, Si Senor Art Taqueria, Saigon Street Eats and Uncle. Melbourne now even has a big International Street Food Festival. But, long before we in Australia jumped on the street food wagon it has been an integral part of the street life of cities and towns around the world for hundreds of years. Read more

abbey-road-legs

Album cover tourism.

A couple of blogs ago I talked about searching out movie locations while travelling. In a similar theme, have you ever searched out the location of an album cover? I’ve spotted some purely by accident (Pink Floyd’s Battersea Power station and the inflatable pig from ‘Animals’ is one – except the floating pig wasn’t there), but I have also gone out of my way to find the exact spot where an album cover was shot. Probably the most famous (and most photographed – to the chagrin of locals trying to drive down the road) is the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road. It was only my first week in London as a backpacker and four of us were playing Aussie rules footy in Hyde Park when I suggested that we had the perfect number of band members to recreate the Abbey Road Album Cover shot. Read more

Vietnam local feast

Dining with locals.

‘What was your best meal?’ That’s the first question I ask friends when they have returned from a trip – whether it’s a three month backpacking trip to Africa or a week holiday in Queensland. Trying (and savouring) different foods is such a big part of travelling for me, so I love to hear about other people’s culinary adventures. Recently I asked that question to a friend and they told me that their food highlight was a meal at a local’s house. ‘It was better than any restaurant meal we had,’ he said. ‘And better wine!’ I must say that on quite few trips of mine I have eaten with locals (and not at a restaurant) and had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Not only is it truly authentic local food, it is often lovingly prepared. But, you don’t have to know a local to eat a local meal. There are a number of websites where you can ‘book’ a table at a local’s house. EatWith and WithLocals are much like Aribnb by connecting people who have an interest in cooking to people who are looking to eat out and eat local food. Dinner guests pay a fee similar to what you would pay if you went out to a restaurant. I’ve been lucky enough on many occasions to experience local food (and local hospitality). Here are some of my favourites over the years: Read more

eat-pray-love-Ubud

The hills are alive with Eat, Pray, Love.

‘EPL,’ our Balinese waiter whispered to us with a wink. He nodded in the direction of a woman in her mid 30s sitting at a table by herself with a cocktail reading a book. Our waiter was referring to Eat, Pray, Love, the mega-best-selling book and subsequent film starring Julia Roberts. The book had already fuelled a boom in Eat, Pray, Love tourism in Ubud, Bali, but the film had sent it skyrocketing. There is even a big bunch of tour operators and travel companies that offer up ‘the EPL experience’, which has given rise to a new customer for Balinese tour operators: spiritual seekers. Or, just hoping to meet and fall in love with a handsome and charming foreigner. Read more

Starbuck$ Ubud

Bloody Starbucks.

That’s what I said when I spotted a Starbucks in Ubud. ‘Are tourists that desperate for a shitty chain coffee?’ I asked my wife as we strolled past the giant Starbucks right in the heart of central Ubud. I knew that they were coming to town because a local had mentioned their imminent arrival the last time I visited and they weren’t happy about it. And here it was in all of it’s faux Balinese glory. They were trying to ‘pretend’ that they were all culturally sensitive and had this fakey-temple thing going on with a giant Balinese Starbuck’s gong at the entrance. I really can’t understand why people on a one week holiday can’t last a few days without having a Hazelnut Vanilla Double Frappe Macchiato. I searched the Ubud Starbucks on Trip Advisor and there were comments like: ‘It’s really expensive; but it’s such a nice luxury,’ and ‘I was SOOO excited to find a Starbucks in Ubud!’ If you have read any of my books you will know how much I hate those big horrible ‘restaurant’ chains that set themselves up right in the heart of historical towns and cities.

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Airbnb vs Resort

AIRBNB VS Resort.

On my recent family trip to Bali we split the trip in half both in the destination and the type of accommodation we stayed in. On Nusa Lemobongan we stayed in a villa in a resort, which was booked through bookings.com, while in Ubud we stayed in a private villa, which was booked through Airbnb. So, which one was better? I’ll let you decide. Below are comparisons from the initial booking to the arrival and the accommodation itself. Read more

brian-thacker-wildlife-encounter-blog

A wild wildlife encounter.

On my recent trip to Nusa Lembongan (a small island off the south-east coast of Bali) I went on a snorkelling trip to Manta Point on the southern side of neighbouring island Nusa Penida. As the name might suggest Manta Point is a favourite hangout for Manta Rays. Or most of the time it is at least – our skipper told us (me and a Brazilian couple who I chartered the boat with) that he couldn’t guarantee we’d see any. And he was right. The only rays we saw were of the sun variety. But, our skipper wasn’t about to give up. We chugged around to another cove where the water was so rough that metre-high swells were smashing into the shear limestone cliffs. As soon as we arrived our skipper screamed, ‘Manta!’ and told us to quickly jump into the water. I dived in and immediately found myself smack in the middle between two huge creatures the size of small cars. One of their massive rippling wings brushed past me and I’m not ashamed to say that I almost wet my swimming trunks. I then floated, bobbing about on the surface of the sea while getting beaten around by the swell, while the mantas gracefully swam around us. At one point the larger of the two came straight at me with it’s mouth open – which looked as if it could swallow me whole – then glided directly underneath me. Read more