Just a day in Bali Paradise…

Just a day in Bali Paradise…

I checked out of the swanky Sanur hotel and I heard a voice shout my name. It was Made (pronounced Mah-day). He was sitting in the lobby and stubbed out his cigarette and smiled at me. Something about his smile was so comforting. He was the kind of character that within minutes of his company I felt like I had known him my whole life, very familiar with kind eyes. He dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans but still had an air of being presentable. He appeared to be in his 40s but I later learned he is only in his early 30s – perhaps life had trodden him down a little. I had met him prior to today as he is the Nephew of an old Balinese friend and he offered reliable transport. Today was different; today Made’s eyes were full of concern. It turned out his Father had a stroke and he needed to get him to the hospital urgently. I asked him why he didn’t cancel picking me up as I would have been happy to get a taxi. He looked stunned and quickly responded, “Nooo!” I also asked him why his father could not get an ambulance. Made told me that ambulances are not sent for ‘trivial’ things like strokes! Being an ambulance clinician myself in England, this really stunned me. A stroke is serious and is treated as a time critical incident in England, yet here in this Balinese paradise, over-swarmed by western tourists to the point that you could be in Sydney, an ambulance was saved for something more serious!! This highlighted even more how the healthcare service in England is abused by so many!! But also, how in the developing world, the idea of turning down paid work to take your urgently sick parent to hospital is impossible. My heart broke a little for Made.

I arrived back to the cosy hotel in Kuta that I have stayed in many times before over the past 7 years. The local shop owners recognise me. One in particular, a young lady called Putu always recognised me, even when I return pasty and white some years later. “Lou!” She shouts as I walk past her shop. Putu was always smiling, come rain or shine. She invited me into the back of her shop where a small child was screaming on a small dirty mattress. I joined Putu on the mattress and she explained to me that Olivia (her daughter; one of four!) was upset because their family friend had left to return to Australia. Putu went on to tell me how blessed and happy she was. I looked around the small cramped room that she lived in with a small mattress to share with four small children and I felt a pang of guilt. Putu was grateful and happy to have her shop and a roof over their heads. I couldn’t help but retrace the thoughts I have had over the past 2 years and all the difficulties I have faced which one would consider ‘first world problems’ and yet here was Putu who had next to nothing but she was so happy and always smiling. It really put things into perspective for me.

Soon after, I left Putu’s shop feeling a little dazed and strolled through the humid heat around the buzzing lanes of Kuta. I found a tailor shop filled with hard working local men working on sewing machines. I am a keen sewist and asked if I could watch them for a while. Within no time they had me working on a machine, for fun of course. However, the thick humid heat swelled in the room with a small dusty fan which may as well have not been there. Whilst I struggled to concentrate and work in that heat with sweat pouring from my entire body, the employees mostly had their shirts off and a cigarette hanging loosely from their lips, casually working away, cutting fabric, ironing, overlocking. I admired them so much. Naturally being a western white woman, lots of tourists walked past and giggled at the sight of me working in this shop filled with Indonesian men, but I didn’t mind. I actually got a glimpse of an insight into what life is like working in poverty-stricken Asia and I noticed that they don’t take ‘days off’, they will work 80 hours a week without a complaint if it pays the bills. This again gave me perspective on my life. Yes, my job is challenging, but I DO have days off and down time to put my feet up. I doubt very many do in Indonesia and similar countries. I stayed in the shop for several hours and found a new sympathy for the local businesses “harassing” tourists for business. Seeing things from the other side softened my heart.

I had been reading a book about he Bali bombings (The Paradise Guesthouse, Ellen Sussman – highly recommended) and felt an overpowering need to visit the memorial site. The book had made the incident feel so real to me, all those who lost their lives. I was pulled to the location of the bombings and stood for a while, staring at the plaque listing the full names of all those who lost their lives on that tragic day. For some reason, I couldn’t walk away until I had read the full names of all 202 people who passed away and tried to imagine a little something about their lives, be it local Indonesians or Portuguese solo travellers.

The rain started beating down, harsher than a power shower and I slinked off into the shelter of a local pub for a beer. What a day it had been! A real eye opener. It’s days like these that keep my desire to travel burning forever.

I later found out that Made’s father was treated for his stroke and is on the road to recovery, much to my happiness and relief!

Cuddle Your Globe

Jan 2017

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New York City in a Nutshell

New York City in a Nutshell

One of the first thing that surprises me about New York is the size of it. Coming from London which is over 1,500 km2 and homes just over 8.5 million people, New York City is a measly (in comparison) 789 km2 and houses more residents at around 8.7 million. That’s 11,000 people per km2. Not accounting for the hoardes of tourists that flock to the city on the daily…!! You can actually rarely see the sky due to the vast amount of skyscrapers.

  
On arrival to the New York airports, prepare for severe interrogation from immigration. My officer actually asked me for the reason I broke up with an ex boyfriend I had travelled to New York with some five years previously. The only response I could give was, ‘he wasn’t a great egg..’

Whatever time of day or night it is, if you are near Times Square, daylight cannot be detected. At 10pm the skies are brighter than a summers afternoon.

You can’t smoke anywhere in the city! All bars and restaurants have made their outside areas (and within 25 ft) totally non smoking. You are not permitted to smoke in the parks. So if you’re a smoker, try to find a stoop or quiet sidewalk. This is not a bad thing!

The subway is gross. It’s cheaper than Londons equivalent – The Underground (which it actually copied the idea from), but you can tell. It’s quick and convenient, though.

Getting a taxi has become increasingly difficult during the summer months. One day, on fifth avenue in a desperate rush, I was actually reduced to tears and was bargaining with a New Yorker who was trying to get home so I could make it 15 blocks to an important meeting. If you can get the subway, do it!

If you’re in the world’s shittiest mood,  or ecstatically delirious, New York City just works. There is no inbetween.

How to Get an Extra Holiday for FREE and Avoid Long Layovers on Connecting Flights and What Exactly a ‘Transit’ or ‘Stopover’ Means.

How to Get an Extra Holiday for FREE and Avoid Long Layovers on Connecting Flights and What Exactly a ‘Transit’ or ‘Stopover’ Means.

Some people will know a little about this. I know that many others know nothing at all, I hope this post helps all of you in some way in your future travels.

When you are travelling super duper long haul, there is only a maximum amount of distance one flight can take you due to fuel restrictions etc, so it’s very common to take a connecting flight to your destination. Sometimes these flights have 2 or more ‘transits’. A transit is basically when you remain airside at an airport in any given destination, without clearing immigration, awaiting boarding your connecting onward flight. This means you have booked the entirety of your journey on one ticket and any checked luggage will be sent through to your final destination for you, and you just need to change aircraft.

More often than not, flights with one or more transits are much cheaper than flying direct, so this is a great way to save some coins if time is on your side.

So, you may often find amazingly cheap flights that involve a connection time at an airport of over ten hours. This is often because of busy dates and limited availability on the flights with good connection times. Take note;

  • This can be excruciatingly dull and you can easily spend what you saved on the flight cost actually inside the airport.
  • Officially a ‘transit’ is only a transit if your connection is under 8 hours. This means you may require a transit visa for 8 hours and 10 minutes, incurring more fees.
  • Anything over 24 hours will certainly require a visa, if required in your stopover destination.

So basically, if you are only considering doing a long transit to save a few pennies, I would say it’s not worth it.

BUT… There is a much better solution. 

  • Be flexible with your dates. Moving your outbound date by just one day could shorten your total journey time by many hours and free up availability in your perfect connecting flight.
  • Abuse the situation and swap your awful long transit to a stopover!!

What is a stopover, you ask?

A stopover is a planned break in your journey. For example, say you book a flight from London- Sydney, with a transit in Dubai. Your luggage will be checked from London to Sydney and in Dubai, you change planes. What you CAN do is actually book a flight to Dubai, stay for a few days and then fly onwards to Sydney. This means you will collect your hold bags at Dubai, clear immigration, leave the airport and return to check in again for your Dubai – Sydney flight. * Please note that all ticket rules vary and whilst many airlines offer this free of charge, some will charge a small fee and there will likely be a small airport tax increase. 

So, if you are flying through Dubai anyway, make the most and tick that country off your list.

Emirates via Dubai is just an example but this can work on almost ANY flight ticket with a transit.

Happy free holiday hunting!

Look Up More…

Look Up More…

I realised recently that most of us look within our line of vision to appreciate the beauty of a town or landscape. It occurred to me that this is cutting out maybe 60% of the actual view on offer and if we ‘look up’ more, there is so much more to be seen. It’s like you are seeing beneath the facade of what that particular location wants you to see and can appreciate the reality of this space.

I have taken some photos of a different perspective of towns and places and I feel that by seeing these, I have really seen the place.

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Homes and flats above the shops in the city centre, Hanoi, Vietnam.
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A stunningly unusual tree in Kerala, India.
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Flats and homes above businesses in central London, England.
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Beautiful art work for sale in Ubud, Bali.
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The white blob on the top balcony is actually a cat balancing on the edge, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
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The detail in the upstairs / terrace of this old house, Malta.
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The actual insane beauty of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain.
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Rooftops and flowers taken in beautiful Bali, Indonesia.