Bali beyond the beaches

Bali beyond the beaches.

We are going to Bali next week and although this is my seventh time I’ve been there I’m looking forward to discovering somewhere new. We are going to the island of Nusa Lembongan, which is a half-hour boat trip away from Sanur. There is so much more to Bali than Seminyak or Legian (which I’ve never actually been to). A couple of years ago I wrote an article for Voyeur Magazine (Virgin airlines inflight mag) about exactly that. Here’s the story…

With over two million tourists every year it’s not surprising that Bali that gets a lot of press, although recently it seems to be mostly about pushy touts and drunken yobbos. But travel away from the main towns and tacky souvenir shops and you’ll not only discover the authentic Bali, you’ll wonder where all those touts and tourists are.

The road out of Ubud is one big shopping strip selling huge stone carvings, woodcarvings, mosaics, brightly coloured paintings, ceramics, clothes and every other tourist trinket you could possibly think of – or, in some cases, hadn’t thought of. I was on a brand-new scooter that I’d hired in Ubud and heading north on a three-day jaunt through the mountains and volcanoes, and around the northern lakes, including Lake Batur and Lake Bratan. If you’re not game enough to jump on a scooter (although this isn’t Kuta and the traffic isn’t nowhere near as chaotic or scary), you can hire a car, or even hire a car and driver if you want to sit back, relax and take it all in. Read more

100,000 rupiah

My wife is a millionaire!

We are about to jet off to Bali for my wife’s birthday and my sister gave her a 1.2 million rupiah in cash as a birthday present. It would be nice if the rupiah was one rupiah to the dollar, but sadly it’s 10,000 to the dollar. Still, Beth is not complaining – that’s $120. I do love getting hold of foreign currency in my hand. And particularly when you arrive in a new country and change your money to be given a pile of often brightly coloured notes. I spend a long time looking at all the different notes and coins and I’ve collected quite a few over the years (check out some of my collection here). And I particularly love currencies with wacky names.  In Mongolia they have a Tögrög, while in Malaysia they have a ringgit. Read more

tripadvisor logo

I contracted a venereal disease at this hotel.

That is just one of the great quotes from a review on Trip Advisor. The bad reviews on Trip Advisor can be really bad. Like scare-everybody-away bad. I admit that I use Trip Advisor quite a bit when I travel and have stayed in some fantastic accommodation and eaten in some amazing restaurants because of the advice and comments. Yes, it’s nice to just wander around aimlessly sometimes to find that ‘hidden gem’, but there is a very good chance that the hidden gem is ranked No.4 for that town or city on Trip Advisor anyway. And they can still be hidden gems, by the way, even if they are on Trip Advisor. On my last trip to the Philippines I went to the No.1 ranked restaurant in Taglibaren City and beside enjoying my best meal in the Philippines it was truly a hidden gem because no tourists really stay in Taglibaren City anyway. Nearly all of the reviews were from locals. Read more

drunk-santa

A Christmas tipple.

It’s that time of year when most people (well, most Australians at least) give the bottle a bit of a nudge. Admittedly, I give it a good go at Christmas parties, but at least I stick to beer and wine. On my last trip to Vietnam I got quite tipsy on rice wine and in the morning I had stomach cramps to go along with my hangover-cum-monstrous-headache. My stomach cramps may have had something to do with the fact that we (about twenty of us) were all drinking the sickly sweet rice wine from a large wooden bucket. Out of shared straws. While dancing around it. It was up there with the worst alcoholic drink I’ve ever had. Then again, if you want to fire up your Christmas party it gets you drunk very quickly. And, if you want some other novelty drinks for your Christmas party here are my Top 5 worst alcoholic drinks of all time: Read more

Scooter accident waiting to happen

Five ways to poo your pants.

I have been scared a few times in my travels (restaurant bills in Europe scare the hell out of me for a start), but thankfully nothing too bad has happened to me. Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t die or break any bones or end up in jail, but I have had a few almost-poo-your-pants moments. Here are my Top 5 Scariest Encounters (in no particularly scary order):

Gun to the head – Trans Mongolian train, Russia
The train was trundling along through the middle of Siberia when I was confronted by two scarily drunk Russians on my way back from the dining car. One asked a me a question in Russian and when I said that I didn’t understand he began shouting at me and grabbed my arm so I couldn’t get away. Then he reached into his jacket and brought out a gun. A gun? It took my brain a second to register that he was holding a real-life handgun. As he was bringing the gun up to my head his friend screamed out ‘NYEY! NYET! and grabbed his arm. The gun fell to the floor. They both dived to the ground and a struggle for the gun ensued. It took me another few seconds for my brain to figure out that it was probably a good idea to get the hell out of there. Read more

air tickets

Travels in my Shoebox – Boarding passes

I have a cupboard full of shoeboxes. But they’re not filled with shoes. They are filled with mementos from my travels. Inside are maps, coasters, matches, restaurant and hotel receipts, napkins, badges, stickers and… well, all kinds of crap. I’m so organised (or have a good dose of OCD) that I even have allocated separate boxes for certain items including beer coasters, bank notes and boarding passes. There’s all kinds of interesting bit and pieces in my boxes, so I’ve decided to do a semi-regular blogisode on the contents of my travelling shoeboxes. And I’m starting with my boarding passes. Yes, it may be a little sad, but I collect my boarding passes and I have a rather impressive collection even if I do say so myself. I won’t show them all (the Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Sydney isn’t that exciting), but these are either interesting airlines or have interesting stories that accompanied that flight… Read more

world's best hotel

World’s Best Hotel (minus the stained sheets).

A survey released this week by travel website Travel+Leisure ranked Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana as the world’s best hotel in 2014. The survey ranks the tops 500 places to stay across the globe, and was compiled based on the opinions of the website’s ‘experts’ and thousands of readers. The winner was the Triple Creek Ranch in Darby where a bed for the night will set you back US$1,400 – and that’s their ‘basic’ room. Second place went to the Nayara Springs in La Fortuna, Costa Rica (US$845 a night) and in the third spot was the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace in Budapest (US$750 a night). Australia gone a guernsey with the Southern Ocean Lodge in Kangaroo Island (US$1,300 – $2,700 a night) coming in 4th, and the Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island (up to US$3,247 a night) rounded out the top five.

Yes, but do they get the true experience of travelling. You can’t have truly experienced Costa Rica unless you’ve slept in a bed covered with giants ants or got the real taste of India without stained sheets that smell like vindaloo. So, I’ve decided to make my own list. This is my Top 5 World’s Worst Hotels: Read more

vegemite and ox penis

Vegemite and Ox Penis.

I stumbled upon a website that listed the most disgusting foods in the world (by country) and amongst the camel’s feet, tiger’s testicles, pork uterus, ox penis, cow urine and maggot-cheese was Vegemite. Come on. Vegemite is not disgusting. Yes, it doesn’t look the most appetising, but it fair dinkum tastes good on ya toast in the morning. Also under the ‘Australia’ list were witchety grubs and beetroot! The ‘American’ list of disgusting foods was just as strange (as in strange that they made the list). On that list was Spam (okay, fair enough there), iceberg lettuce and peanut butter.

I’ve eaten some pretty disgusting foods in my travels, so here’s my list of the 10 most disgusting foods I’ve eaten (and of course I have to show you pics of all the grossness in all it’s glory): Read more

Cambodia beach

The Best Beaches in the World.

My daughter Jasmine and I recently went to Cambodia and one of our highlights was taking a snorkelling trip to a (virtually) untouched island where we swam in clear warm waters and…well, that’s what we did all day. It wouldn’t quite make my Top Ten list of the best beaches that I’ve been to, but it was certainly up there. There are so many other wonderful beaches in the world that I’m yet to go to, but in my travels so far here are (in no particular order) my favourite beaches:

Alofi, Wallis and Futuna
I had the entire island to myself for two days (besides a few wild pigs). I slept on the beach and lived on Sao biscuits and tins of tuna. Heaven. Read more

Cycling in Kep

My best (and worst) bike rides.

On our recent Dad and Daughter Adventure to Cambodia we went on a bike ride around the coast near the small village of Kep. We had such a lovely time – even if we had to stop quite a few times because locals wanted to take a photo of my daughter (they loved her long blonde hair and blue eyes). We skirted the coast along a virtually deserted road, stopping to watch crab fishermen haul in their catch and even lazed on a beach for a bit. I do try get on a bicycle as much as I can when I travel. It is a great way to get a feel for a city or just a pleasant way to amble through the countryside. I haven’t done any serious bicycle journeys (and I would like to one day), but these are my top 10 bike rides from my travels: Read more