Statues and Stories

I’ve hinted more than a few times, but I guess it’s time to let the (still hypothetical) cat out of the bag – we’re planning a big honeymoon adventure. For a few reasons:

  1. I’ve never been to Europe, and Nathan hasn’t been (except to the UK) in a very long time.
  2. You only get one honeymoon, if all goes to plan.
  3. So far we’ve only traveled to Japan, Bali, Hobart and Sydney together – we need to branch out.
  4. We have some other post-wedding plans that will change life as we know it forever, and big trips like this will suddenly get a lot harder, a lot more expensive and a lot less romantic.
  5. The more I travel, the more I feel like I have stepped into so many different lives, and the more I have to write about.
  6. It will be so much fun!

Our vague plan at this stage is completely subject to change, but involves France, Italy and the UK. We’re still not sure how many weeks away from work is feasible for both of us, or what the best itinerary is. But we would love to see Paris, Normandy, Versailles and Alsace, then do a road trip south through various cities and villages, ending up somewhere like Nice. We will probably catch trains a lot in Italy; we want to see Rome, Positano, Pompeii, Pisa, Napoli, Capri, Sorrento and of course Florence. In the UK we have a few people to visit, but I basically have the world’s longest list of literary landmarks and locations to see – gonna get my Jane Austen on, for sure.

And I will listen to The Light in the Piazza the whole time and wear 1950s skirts, a straw hat and little gloves.

Japan with Nathan, Part Six: DisneySea

Last Japan post (finally), I promise! But this is the big one. Doing the whole Disney thing was another thing that I had put off both other times, because I wanted to do it with Nathan. He admitted that he was a bit half-hearted about the whole thing in the lead up, but we were both utterly blown away. It was the most wonderful day ever and I just wish we could have spent more time there. There’s no point in me going too far into the nitty gritty details, because there are blogs all over the internet by hardcore Disney fans who have been to all the parks in the world and have literal strategy guides and multi-day itineraries mapped out, so I’ll leave that stuff to the experts.

Anyway, a few recollections and a million photos: I was amazed at the level of detail. The monorail to get from the train station to the park had little Mickey shaped windows. The Christmas decorations everywhere were all gorgeous, and all the gift shops in different zones were all themed or had specific special items that weren’t available anywhere else in the park. We didn’t see a single piece of litter, and when somebody dropped their popcorn, previously unseen staff members (sorry, “Cast Members”) zoomed seemingly out of nowhere and had it all cleaned up in less than ten seconds. There were surprisingly few children there (maybe 20% or less of the total crowd) and they seemed generally well behaved. And after going to a Disney park in Japan, I’m so glad we didn’t go to the original American one first – everybody was so polite at this one, you didn’t feel like you had to watch your bag at every moment, people waited in orderly lines with no pushing or complaining, everything was just efficient and punctual and pleasant. Somehow, I don’t think that would have been the atmosphere anywhere else in the world.

Anyway, photos!

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^^ We got a few nice photos together, a few by ourselves.

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^^ Nathan loved the Arabian area. Even the food court seemed like a place where Aladdin was going to jump out a window at any moment. This photo of him on the carousel is one of my all time favourites; he is so excited, he looks like a kid who won a prize and just met their hero and got a puppy on their birthday which is also Christmas.

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^^I was winning all the style awards with my fabulous sartorial decisions, as usual. Nathan said I looked like a kid who’d dressed themselves for a school field trip and was sure they had covered all the important bases – “Disney hoodie, check. Miss Bunny hat, check. Socks and ballet flats, check. Emergency popcorn supply, check.”

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^^I loved the fact that the centerpiece of DisneySea is Ariel’s castle. She normally gets overlooked for Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, and as a part-mermaid, how could this not be my favourite? Plus, Thumper really enjoyed his scallop croquette sandwich served in a clamshell bun.

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^^ I was so tired by the end of it all, like falling asleep on my feet. It’s a long day, there’s a heap of walking and waiting in lines, and so much to take in.

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^^ Nathan was pretty tired too.

But it was so wonderful.

My biggest tips for anybody who is thinking of going:

  • Wear trainers. Not even cute sneakers, wear proper sports shoes with cushioning and support and everything. Do not attempt to look stylish or sexy because you will be on your feet non-stop for over 12 hours, and you will be kicking yourself if half of that time is spent either limping around the park or having to sit around on park benches because your feet are so sore.
  • Take a small backpack – if you buy stuff during the day, there are plenty of coin lockers around to store it all in. All the rides have a little pocket on the back of the seat for you to put a small bag in.
  • Get there early and head straight for one of the big rides to get a FastPass straight away. There is a time limit on when you can apply for your next FastPass (like, say, in two hours time), so you want to start early. Some of the rides had queue times of 90+ minutes, so you will definitely want to take advantage of the FastPass system for the bigger rides.
  • There is an app called TDR Wait Time Check that gives estimates on wait times, which helps you decide which rides to head to next. It also gives you information about whether any rides are closed, if certain parades or shows get cancelled, etc. Not always 100% accurate, but it helped.
  • Wear layers.
  • Buy one of the popcorn buckets (they are pricey, but cute!) and get cheap refills all over the park. There are different flavours in different ‘lands’ – my favourite was black pepper, but there was also salted, caramel, chocolate and cappuccino that we saw. It’s also handy having popcorn in a bucket because then you have a snack if you have to wait in line.
  • And of course, you and your sweetheart/mum/BFF/whoever must wear matching hats. It’s practically compulsory.

But overall, it was completely magical and I can’t wait to go back.

I’m not sure what the highlight of this trip was for me, but Disney was up there. I think Nathan loved the trains and the deer the most. But every moment of it was just so much fun, it really was an adventure. And it was so good to experience it all together. We will be back – Nathan’s already planning to go back after 2020, because apparently a Nintendo-themed land is opening at Universal Studios. And I never did manage to get my Harry Potter wand. There were so many other things that we planned but ended up running out of time, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you are only in a country for less than two weeks.

Next time! Because there will definitely be a next time!

Read my other posts about Japan here:
Part One – Getting There
Part Two – Fushimi Inari Shrine
Part Three – Hiroshima
Part Four – Nara
Part Five – A Bunch of Things

Japan with Nathan, Part Five: A Bunch of Things

I bet you’re getting sick of hearing about Japan by now? I’m almost sick of talking about it. No, that’s totally stupid – I feel really grateful that people are interested enough and care enough to keep asking me about it, but it already feels like a lifetime ago. This new year has really energized me and I have so many little (and big) projects on the go right now that it feels odd to keep stepping back in time to something that feels so long ago now.

Anyway, this post is not strictly chronological, but I’m trying to organize all the little random things that happened into just one post as tiny step towards brevity. So here are some of the other things we got up to:

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^^ Nathan fulfilled a lifelong dream and made us catch a train out of Kyoto so he could see the Nintendo HQ and development buildings. No museum, no gift shop, you could not even go in. He was just desperate to make this little pilgrimage so I indulged him. He was so happy to see those plain concrete buildings. I love Nintendo games, but this… I will never get this. Oh well!

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^^ We caught the shinkansen back to Tokyo and spent a lot of time doing what could be best described as ‘urban roaming’. We saw puppies at a pet store in Shibuya and I actually died and was transported back to a time when Posie was that small. And suddenly I missed them so much. Sometimes it can be the most luxurious feeling in the world to wake up without a furry butt in your face or four little pointy paws digging into your back, but other times, it just hits like a train how much you would give to hug their tiny squirming bodies and let them cover you in kisses.

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^^ We took a lot of photos of Christmas trees while we were there, because Japan does Christmas very well. I really wanted to see the illuminations that were dotted all over town, but we never came across any of the really impressive ones. And I had to throw in a #ShamelessRingSelfie, because really, it has been a year of so much trouble and distraction and depression and grief that I never really got to participate in that glowy, giddy period of time where you’re just showing it off any opportunity you get. I still have another eight or so months of being a ‘bride to be’, so expect me to be flashing that thing like crazy!

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^^ We went to Studio Ghibli! No photos inside, so this will have to suffice, but it is really magical. The building itself reminds me of Howl’s castle, we got to sit inside a real plush life-size Cat Bus, and we saw an exclusive short at the mini cinema about a boy who grew a universe from a magic crystal. But the one thing that I wish so dearly is that certain museums and attractions would seriously think about having one childfree day a month or even a quarter for adults only. Not that (some) kids aren’t delightful in small doses – it would just be nice to be able to choose to enjoy things on occasion without running, pushing and screaming.

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^^ We went to the Hilton for dinner. This will be a point of contention for the rest of our relationship, I’m sure! Full story: I really wanted to go to the Conservatory in Melbourne, because I love fancy hotel buffets, but it’s very expensive. Nathan has never wanted to go for that reason. I was determined to go to the Hilton for their buffet because I had somehow figured it out in my head to be cheaper than the Conservatory – it was not. By a long shot. And our days of prodigious eating seem to be past us anyway, so it was kind of a bust. But the food was great and hey, we can at least say we did it.

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^^ Conversely, Nathan had much more fun at a mall food court restaurant called The French Toast Factory. We had, hands down, the best pancakes ever made – thick and fluffy like chiffon cake, with ice cream, whipped cream, maple syrup and cinnamon apples. Massive sugar coma and I couldn’t finish mine, but so worth it. The post-pancake fugue was real though, and so I retreated to the 5th floor of Yodobashi Camera to test drive their massage chairs while Nathan bought (yet more) toys for himself. This particular machine had rollers inside it that massaged your feet while inflating/deflating like a blood pressure cuff to stimulate circulation – I need one of these machines in my life!

We also went to Nippori textile town and I spent all my Christmas money on quilting fabric and patterns for dog Halloween costumes:

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Other things we did included: fighting it out for seats upstairs at Starbucks so we could watch the world’s busiest crosswalk; we went to a games arcade and Nathan had serious second thoughts about marrying me when he saw how horrifically bad I was on the taiko drums; ate a truckload more sushi; convenience store food picnics in bed while watching crazy cartoons in Japanese (Goma chan!); and of course, one or two fights. I think it’s impossible to in such close proximity to somebody every single day with an exhausting itinerary and not lose it at some point. It’s hard in a hotel as well, because you have no option to just leave the room and cool off somewhere away from each other. But mostly, I think we traveled pretty well together. A lot of little stresses were ameliorated simply by the fact that I’d already faced them and knew what to do, but I think next time, we’ll have to schedule in a little more downtime to regroup and rest – any time we didn’t work well together, it was a combination of one or both of us being either overtired or over hungry. We were determined to see as much as we could while we were there, but a holiday should also feel like a holiday at least some of the time… lesson for next time!

Read my other posts about Japan here:
Part One – Getting There
Part Two – Fushimi Inari Shrine
Part Three – Hiroshima
Part Four – Nara
Part Six – DisneySea

Japan with Nathan, Part Four: Nara

I was desperate to go to Nara. A bunch of people I know went there in 2014 and 2015, and I was in total envy over their awesome photos of them posing with deer. But it was something that I really wanted to do with Nathan, so I kept putting it off. We finally went though and it was Nathan’s absolute trip highlight. Nara is about an hour out of Kyoto on a local train, so not too far. It’s always interesting to step outside of big cities into smaller, more regional towns to see a glimpse of what Japan is like beyond a glossy touristy facade.

We took far, far, far too many photos:

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^^ You could buy wafer crackers for the deer from vendors dotted around the park, and there was a feeding frenzy anytime any of them realized you had crackers. I had some in my pockets and this particularly wet and muddy deer came up and rubbed himself all over my previously pristine coat. We also spent way too much time trying to take selfies with the deer – one of my favourite photos is the last one, because it looks like Nathan has just made friends with this random deer and is trying to show him a cool video on youtube or something.

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He just had to do a face swap with the statue!

Best moment of the afternoon came after we bought a roasted sweet potato to snack on. This deer was following me the whole way and was determined to get some. He kept bumping my elbow to try and knock it out of my hands, finally got sick of that tactic and ripped the whole bag out of my hands! See here:



We also got to see the giant Buddha, as you will have seen above. None of these photos do justice to how big it actually was – huge! Some of the signage said that there used to be two wooden pagodas on either side of the temple that were over 100 metres tall.. built hundreds of years ago. I can’t even comprehend how difficult it would have been to build anything that tall without the use of cranes and modern equipment, but they did it all.

After all that, we found a random arcade that had a slightly dingy but so good sushi train. The other two times I went, I barely ate any sushi – I think it was just too intimidating to go into a lot of restaurants as a solo traveller, and if I am by myself, there is nobody I can fob my food off onto if I take a bite and don’t like it. But this time it was all about sushi, and it was amazing. My favourite will always be fatty tuna nigiri and salmon roe gunkanmaki (hope I got that right), but they also had these very lightly seared salmon nigiri with lemon that were totally divine. We ate thiiiiis much:

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So good!

Read my other posts about Japan here:
Part One – Getting There
Part Two – Fushimi Inari Shrine
Part Three – Hiroshima
Part Five – A Bunch of Things
Part Six – DisneySea

Japan with Nathan, Part Three: Hiroshima

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The day after Fushimi Inari, we made the trip to Hiroshima. I think it’s really important to visit sites like these, as a sort of pilgrimage of empathy with people you’ve never met in a time you’ve never seen, to fully connect with the sheer enormity of what happened there. The first time I went, I cried. It was such a dreary day just before Christmas and there was barely anybody there. I wrote about it before, but I saw an old man in a wheelchair with what looked like a burnt-off ear, in front of the cenotaph… and I wondered if he’d been there. On the study tour, I actually met a diplomat who had been three years old in Hiroshima on the day it happened and it was humbling to hear his perspective on it too. This time, I managed to keep my emotions in check, but Nathan was the one who seemed to be completely awestruck and silenced by the whole thing. It was raining again, but we took a lot of photos (some taken by me, some by Nathan):

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^^Waiting for the first lot of trains and looking super impressed. We’d already been on a bus for forty minutes and had a two hour train trip ahead of us. But it would be worth it.

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^^ The Peace Memorial Park. There are so many statues and monuments scattered around amongst the trees that line the banks of the river. It’s sombre but calm and reflective, and until you go to the actual museum, it’s hard to imagine the absolutely cataclysmic scene that occurred right there, where we had spent the afternoon walking.

There are a few exhibits in the museum that I always remember, that always haunt me: a toddler’s half-melted tricycle, deformed fingernails that grew from damaged hands for years after the blast, the pieces of skin that literally just fell off a real person who was there, Sadako’s tiny cellophane cranes, and a tin lunchbox with the charred lunch still inside. I left with so much sadness, anger, guilt, and frustration that countries are still building up arms and threatening to nuke each other every day – knowing full well what the human cost truly is.

Anyway, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. We found a Pokémon centre in Hiroshima and Nathan was overjoyed and bought way too many soft toys. Including a few that were very sweet – a girl and boy Pikachu in raincoats (“it’s just like us!”) and a dog Pokémon called Iwanko, to remind me of Posie and Rupert, so I would have something to hug and cheer me up on the long shinkansen ride home after an emotionally gruelling day. It helped a lot. We also drew pictures of P+R on the iPad all the way back to Kyoto.

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Aside from all that, why is toast so strange in Japan? Whenever we ordered toast for breakfast, anywhere, it could come to us as inch thick slices of barely crisp hot bread – fluffy but cakey in the same way as chiffon cake. Not really toasty at all. And it happened everywhere. Some things we will never understand!

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Read my other posts about Japan here:
Part One – Getting There
Part Two – Fushimi Inari Shrine
Part Four – Nara
Part Five – A Bunch of Things
Part Six – DisneySea

Japan with Nathan, Part Two: Fushimi Inari Shrine

We slept in a little too long the second day in Japan, and Nathan got scolded by the cleaning ladies for running down the hallway in bare feet to go to the toilet – the rules are that you change into slippers when you get there, but you take them off before you enter your tatami room, and if you want to leave your room to go to the bathroom, you need to step back into your slippers to walk all of ten metres, before changing into the designated toilet slippers. At no point must your feet touch the ground in all this transferring!

Another little problem sprang up on this particular morning as well, something that has been literally haunting me ever since. I woke up with intense rib pain. Like a tight band was squeezing my ribs and trying to press them into an unnatural shape. I could barely move, hardly breathe, couldn’t reach or bend or lean or anything. I assumed it was from sleeping on the futon on the floor and tried to carry on the best I could – it seemed to ease after a hot shower, some tea and walking around.

Anyway, we pushed ahead and figured out the Kyoto bus system and successfully navigated our way to the Fushimi Inari shrine. It’s famous for having more than ten thousand bright orange gates that snake all the way up and down a picturesque forest. The shrine itself is also ‘guarded’ by fox statues, everywhere – Nathan loved them all and thought every single one of them looked like Rupert, henceforth calling it the “Rupert Shrine”. Last time I went, it was so cold that there were snowflakes in the air and it was already dark by the time I got halfway. I was determined to make it to the top this time, but pain got in the way. The first half is such a sight though. It was winter while we were there, but there were still blushes here and there of autumn colour – a gorgeous red tree in the middle of a clearing, like something out of Game of Thrones. And some really annoying tourists who spent an inordinate amount of time just standing right in front of it, having a chat and blocking everybody else’s chance of taking a decent photo of it (but whatever).

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It was also our first (and only, really) street food experience. First pick – thick cut bacon grilled on a stick, slathered in Japanese mayo. Grilled corn. Fresh orange juice served inside its own orange with a little straw. Takoyaki for Nathan. Custard pancake things. And I can never say no to a spiral potato on a stick. At one of the many gift shops along the avenue, Nathan bought a huge bag of stinky dried fish to eat (WHY?) and we bought a little soft toy of two foxes (one brown and white, the other plain white) hugging – on our Christmas tree now, of course, along with the little foxes I brought back last time. It looks like P+R hugging, couldn’t leave without buying it!

Read my other posts about Japan here:
Part One – Getting There
Part Three – Hiroshima
Part Four – Nara
Part Five – A Bunch of Things
Part Six – DisneySea

Japan with Nathan, Part One: Getting There

It was literally only a few weeks ago, but Christmas and the New Year have a way of making days feel like months, so I hope I can remember every glorious detail of this trip enough to tell the tale. It was such a great time, and having been there by myself twice, it felt so much more like a romantic adventure this time with Nathan. Anyway, here goes:

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We scored business class tickets! Nathan’s first time too, so I was super excited for him (my third or fourth, I think? However many times, it was long ago). He was dubious about how much nicer it could be, but now he’s absolutely sold. I don’t think he’ll ever want to fly economy anywhere ever again. Our flight ended up delayed, so it was very nice to hang out at the Qantas club drinking G&Ts during that extra time. On board we drank champagne, ate creamy prosciutto potato salad for dinner and buttery toasted banana bread for breakfast. There were a bunch of movies I wanted to watch, but the seats were so comfy, there was just so much room and it was so nice to have a pillow and blanket that we both slept soundly for about seven whole hours – Nathan has never been able to sleep on a longer haul flight before, I’ve never slept so long uninterrupted. Flying rattles me so much, but this was bordering on blissful. It wouldn’t be worth it to fly to, say, Sydney, but next time we go to Japan, I think we should definitely spring for business class. On sale, of course (I am the queen of impulse buying sale fares and planning the details later).

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We landed in Narita in the morning, rested but still tired. Capsule hotels are the most glorious invention on earth and make me wish that we could have nice things like that in Australia – we napped a few hours and took showers before beginning our next big commute via shinkansen: Narita to Shinagawa to Kyoto. Nathan had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen as he watched the absolute efficiency and precision of the trains – how everybody knew exactly what car to get onto and where to wait for that particular entrance, the way the train would line up perfectly with the platform every single time and everybody waited politely for exiting passengers. No pushing or stupidity like you would encounter on V/Line. We must be getting old to find it so exhilarating to see public services that actually work properly (I am looking at you, Myki).

So, we arrived in Kyoto later that day and ended up going on an expensive taxi adventure to find our hotel; actually a ryokan, or traditional inn. I stayed there last time I was there in winter and although it was far out of town and not the fanciest, I thought it would be an experience to stay somewhere with tatami mats and futon beds. The restaurant downstairs was closed and although I’d heard a rumour that there was an amazing six-seat sushi bar next door, we couldn’t find anything, and plus it seemed that pretty much everything in the suburbs closed down as soon as it got dark (which was about 4:30pm). So we went trekking for snacks. About an hour later, of walking in the freezing cold on an uneven footpath, we were back and Nathan had been introduced to the sheer wonder of Japanese convenience stores. It’s always hilarious to me that people who’ve never been always respond with, “Eww, you ate convenience store food? When you could have been eating the best sushi in the world? What is wrong with you?” – but how could they possibly understand how glorious it is to hand over your 1500 or so yen and come home with a giant peach flavoured beer, microwaveable gyoza that is actually good, instant noodles, cakes, those little rice and sesame seed triangles that I could eat all day, hot milk tea, some sort of special edition Häagen Dazs that you could never get in Australia, and a freaking hot dog on a stick with a perfectly portioned pack of ketchup and mustard? And it all tastes good? Nathan was dubious, but now he too understands – we absolutely feasted*.

*We may have almost burnt the ryokan down by mistaking a convection oven for a regular microwave and putting our plastic gyoza containers in there for far too long unsupervised, but all’s good – we all survived!

Read my other posts about Japan here:
Part Two – Fushimi Inari Shrine
Part Three – Hiroshima
Part Four – Nara
Part Five – A Bunch of Things
Part Six – DisneySea

Bali with Mum – Part Four: Homecoming

It seems a little silly to have a post all about coming home, because that’s not really the ‘meat’ of the trip. But it was still exciting. One end of duty free was all Halloween decorations, only for us to be greeted by a giant Christmas tree at the other end. But at the departure gates it was really special – there was a mini pop-up garden with thousands of live orchids, and a little stone pathway so you could walk through this tiny oasis. My feet were killing me and I was exhausted from spending all day at silver smithing and the museum, but it was a little pocket of calm to be among so many beautiful flowers for a little bit.

orchids

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bali ornament

We got home early in the morning, and even though I missed N+P+R, I really wasn’t ready to be home. I would give anything to have even the tiniest plunge pool in our backyard so I could just float every single day. I love swimming so much – I always joke that I am part-mermaid, but a part of me always does feel wrong somehow when it’s been too long between swims.

But the thing that I will take away from the whole trip is that I got to spend it with Mum. It’s kind of rare as an adult to have a vacation with your parents, especially one-on-one. Mum and I got to have a special birthday weekend in Hong Kong when we turned 10 and 40, so this was kind of the sequel – next year, we turn 30 and 60. A trip next year would have clashed with wedding/honeymoon plans, so this year it was! I’m so glad we went and got to spend time together without her having to be Mum to three other people at the same time. And we got to do all sorts of cultural activities that Nathan had no interest in. But it was nicest of all to go on an adventure. There is a huge world out there, and although I have written at length about how amazing traveling solo is, there is also something special about getting to experience it with somebody else.

selfie

Bonus points if it’s your mum!

Bali with Mum – Part Three: Ubud

I’ve been to Bali three times now (feel free to call me a bogan), and although there are some amazing restaurants down south, Ubud is unparalleled in terms of natural beauty, atmosphere and its general ‘paradise’ vibe. Both times, I’ve stayed in a little hotel that is kind of like a homestay – only eight rooms, private terraces, open air bathrooms, gorgeous pool area, family compound at the front. I have a secret dream of (when I’m a fabulously successful writer) just fleeing the Australian winter for 4-6 weeks a year to stay in this hotel and get some writing done. Last time I stayed there, that was all I did – sleep, swim multiple times a day, eat at all the cool restaurants in the street, read and write. Pretty perfect. This time though, we mixed it up and made time for relaxing but also lots of activities and shopping, and of course swimming in the beautiful pool every single day.

terrace

pool view

fruit

But apart from that, we did a cooking class! I did the same class last time, and it’s honestly the best Balinese food I have eaten. It was extremely well organized and although we didn’t get to participate in every aspect of preparation, it was kind of good that way because otherwise it would have taken forever.

ingredients

bali blender

cooking

finished product

We also did silver smithing. Can you believe Mum made these earrings? I made a bird necklace to match the tattoo on my wrist. Next time I think I will try something a little more ambitious – some of the jewelry that other people were making was incredible.

earrings

polishing

bird

npr

We also braved the monkey forest! I was too scared to do this last time. I went to the end of the street and saw tourists getting jumped on by monkeys and was just “nope, nope, nope”. I read horror stories about people having their cameras stolen, getting bitten if they so much as looked at a monkey the wrong way. We almost didn’t do it, but a random guy on the side of the road gave us some very welcome advice. He said: never look the monkeys in the eye, move very slowly and keep your hands by your sides but far away from your pockets, and if they do jump on you, not to make a fuss or scream or anything. We also took off all our jewelry before we entered. I was worried they were going to steal my phone, but they didn’t even approach either of us, which I was insanely grateful for. I’m really glad that we did this – I was too scared on my own.

monkey

monkeys

bridge

greenery

We mainly ate at little restaurants on the same street as the hotel, including this really quirky, bohemian restaurant on the edge of the monkey forest. I loved the murals and the decor, but the food was tops – we had chilled avocado soup and a bunch of different tapas, including some amazing bruschetta and hommus.

beads

mum

We spent the last few hours wandering around the Agung Rai Museum of Art. The grounds were stunning and the collection was really interesting – I loved the exhibition of works by Walter Spies. The pieces were in a magical realism style (which I love in literature) but they really made 1930s Bali look like some sort of strange, magical fairy land. The only thing I could fault is that the museum has no air conditioning, so I was practically melting by the end of it, but luckily there are two cafes for cool drinks.

The only thing that ended up being annoying while we were there was trying to use Uber. There are no real taxi services in Ubud, no Bluebirds, so getting around is a bit dicey. I would recommend to anybody that was fitter or more adventurous to hire a bike or a scooter, but we needed a car and Uber was a bit of a nightmare there. There was no Paypal, cars would drive in random directions after being assigned to you, estimated wait times would shoot straight from 4 minutes to 20 minutes, and I was relying on patchy free restaurant WiFi the whole time to organize these things. Much better to either hire a driver if you are planning on doing a lot of travelling around during the day, or organizing for your hotel to send somebody to pick you up (they will most likely have somebody – it may end up being more than you would/should pay for a taxi, but at least it would be reliable).

 

Bali with Mum – Part Two: On the Road

Halfway through our trip, we moved from Kuta to Ubud and decided to go on a bit of a day tour along the way. The itinerary went like this: Tegenungan waterfall – Ubud art market – Ubud royal palace – Tegalalang rice terraces – Tirtha Empul (the Water Temple) – and finally, our hotel. Last time I was in Ubud, I was so focused on reading and writing and eating and swimming that I never really ventured out to these kinds of places, so it was great to finally see them.

Now for photo overload…

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^^ The Water Temple. In the second photo, you could see the ground beneath the water rippling like little dark volcanoes, spitting out cold water.

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^^ The Rice Terraces.  Our guide offered to let us walk all the way down through the fields, but kind of like my “didn’t get off the boat at the Statue of Liberty” moment, it was starting to rain a bit and it was stiflingly hot, so we just admired from afar.

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^^ Lunch at the famous Ibu Oka. Pork cooked in five (I think) different ways, and a piece of pork skin that was glossy like glass and super crispy. And you can’t not drink out of a coconut when in a tropical country, it’s practically illegal not to.

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^^ When we saw the waterfall, there had been heavy rain on the mountains the night before, which made it brown instead of clear. But still very impressive. And this sign was pretty much the highlight of my trip – don’t worry, we’re always sexy.

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^^ The Imperial Palace was so pretty, but we saw some photos later of interior rooms decked out completely in gold… which we did not see. I’m still not sure if they weren’t open to the public, or only on special occasions, or whether we just totally missed an entrance, but it was still nice.

quilt

^^ Finally, I have to brag about my purchase of the century. This quilt is entirely made of batiks, some are even metallic-printed, and it’s queen sized at least. I cannot even reveal how much I paid for it, because I’m in total conflict over it – it was such a ridiculously good bargain, but I feel tremendous amounts of guilt about the cost of labour that must have gone into it. But even if I paid little for it, I was still supporting their business, which wouldn’t exist unless there were people like me willing to buy them. I actually bought another one, for Nathan – blues and greens on one side, autumnal purples and golds on the other side. They both have a lot of flaws and areas that I will have to repair by hand, and the piecing/stitching is fairly crude, but I love them. And I love that they are so cheap because we have one on the bed and one to snuggle under on the couch, and we don’t have to worry about the dogs jumping all over them – because I will probably end up going back to Bali in the next 18 months about buying at least a million more of these cool quilts. Certain aunts are already putting orders in!