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Godzilla’s Recluse: Okinawa Part 2

 

It was a little bit cloudy when we left Naha to head off to the nearby Island of  Tokashiki. Tokashiki is a part of the Kerama Islands and can be reached by a ferry from the Tomari port in Naha. Make sure to get a  ticket reservation from the Marine Liner Tokashiki or the Ferry Tokashiki early before  heading off to the Island to save yourself some trouble.  Both have English support staff so making the reservation through phone should be fairly easy.

The Kerama’s and Beyond

After arriving at Tokashiki, I can’t help but imagine that it’s probably where Godzilla decided to find solace and recluse. The island’s vegetation was so lush and otherworldly and the landscape felt like the set of a Dinosaur movie that I couldn’t help myself from imagining things.

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Godzilla fruit??

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Those are not pineapples

On our second day on the Island, the skies cleared up and we finally got a chance to go around and explore Tokashiki.

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Eureka! The Kerama blues!

Despite my wild theory about Godzilla’s recluse in the Island it’s actually turtles who has been the permanent dwellers of the Kerama Islands. A common pastime here is to snorkel and search for or if you get lucky swim with the turtles on a perfectly sunny day!

IMG_1411There are a lot of places  where you can rent snorkelling gear for the whole day for around  2000 yen at the main beaches. There are also so many vending machines around the island where you can grab a drink if you get thirsty. I was seriously  amazed to see several vending machines  around! 🙂

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Aharen and Tokashiku are the two main beaches that you can visit in the Island. Aharen is a little bit more developed than Tokashiku. Head out here if you wanna be around people or if you’re feeling a little paranoid about the remoteness of the Island 😉

IMG_0945If you don’t mind  the seclusion and if you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous. Definitely head towards Tokashiku. The beach is a lot quieter than Aharen. I liked this beach better  because it was so secluded that the beach felt like my  own.

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The island was mostly quiet during our stay. We spent the rest of our days snorkelling, hiking lazing around the beach  and gazing through the beautiful blues of the Keramas.  The island has a calm and strange feel to it and  I couldn’t help but daydream about  Godzilla and his recluse in this part of Japan.  My imagination was quite convinced that it was out there somewhere.

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waking up to the blues

With the Island’s pristine landscape, exotic charm and seclusion. It’s really not hard to imagine that something strange and mythic lives there. Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it’s a laid back and dovish one. I mean, with all the beauty around it, well how can it not be? 🙂

The Subtropics of Japan: Okinawa Part 1

One spring afternoon, I was bored out of my wits and I was itching to get out of Tokyo and go somewhere  without the hordes of people in a business suit hurrying their way to work. So I pulled out my map of Japan, closed my eyes and decided to go wherever my finger points at.  After a few mispoints, (my first point landed  in the Pacific Ocean, the second  attempt landed in North Korea) I figured that my  lazing around wouldn’t get me anywhere. I eventually ended up doing some proper reading and finally decided to experience the sub-tropics of Japan and visit Okinawa.

Okinawa is at the tip of Japan and a plane ride away from Tokyo. Getting there is surprisingly  cheap.  We went during the golden week(high season) and we got our ticket for 7000 yen round trip (around 70 dollars).

Our first stop was in Naha, the main hub of Okinawa and the gateway to the nearby islands of Aka-Jima, Zamami and tokashiki. We decided to stay here for a day and explore  for a little bit before heading off to our sub-tropic escapade.

Takeshita Dori might be the place to go to when in Naha. It’s the main area in the city that has a long strip of restaurants and  souvenir shops.  The place has a quirky tropical vibe and there’s sooo many interesting things to see in every corner.

The Shisa Guardians

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These are the mythical friendly guardians of Okinawa.  They are half dog and half lion.  Myth has it that these guardians  are supposed to protect people from misfortune and wicked elements.  The one with the mouth closed is supposed to keep the good luck in  and the one with the mouth open is supposed to scare and keep the wicked elements out.

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They have shisa’s in every color and sizes!

Bittergourd City and other oddities

Bittergourd is a delicacy in Okinawa. Must be why they have the longest life expectancy there. They have bittergourd everything!

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Lee’s bittergourd love affair

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Trying to cheer up an okinawan guy!

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There was so much to see in the city of Naha and I’m pretty sure we didn’t even scratch the surface. If you wanna know a bit about the Okinawan history and experience it’s culture,  don’t skip Naha and pay the island’s gateways a visit. Stay for a day or two and soak in the city. It’ll give you so much perspective of what the Island is about and might make you appreciate the city’s’ quirkyness and oddities.

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Haiku and Spring Fever

Spring Fever is well on its way here in Tokyo. From the cherry blossom bathbombs, to the cherry blossom latte at Starbucks it is literally  everywhere. A few days ago to help me  get into the spirit of the upcoming season as if the explosion of cherry blossom products all over tokyo was not enough, I went to a used bookstore to look for a spring themed book to read and luckily saw a book of Japanese Haikus about spring that has been translated in English. I never really understood Japanese Haikus when I was learning them back in school, I thought they were weird and doesn’t really make sense. After reading the book though, I realized that Haikus are actually weirder. I still can’t decide if they are deep or senseless. Nonetheless I think they’re interesting and true to its meaning very unusual.  The Japanese  really are an unusual  lot.Who would have thought that they can make art in   5-7 syllable words and 3 lines.  Their thought process sometimes makes me think.

Anyway here’s a few Japanese Haikus that I picked out from the book.  Some of them are quite romantic which is  surprising because as far as I know Japanese are not  usually romantic.  I guess all the pink of the Sakura season brings out the romance in them or it may just be hay fever who knows.

Have fun reading! Hope you appreciate these Spring Haikus as much as I did. Spring is coming!

  • Snow-obscured heights,
    mist-shrouded slopes:
    this spring evening.
    Ilio Sōgi (1421-1502)

 

  • While you decline to cry,
    high on the mountainside
    a single stalk of plumegrass wilts.
    Ō no Yasumaro (circa 711),

 

  • Standing beneath cherry blossoms
    who can be strangers?
    Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827),

 

  • The temple bells grow silent
    but the blossoms provide their incense

    A perfect evening!
    Matsuo Basho,

 

  • Spring has come:
    the nameless hill
    lies shrouded in mist
    Matsuo Basho,

 

  • Among the graffiti
    one illuminated name:
    Yours.
    Matsuo Basho,

 

  • Ah butterfly,
    what dreams do you ply
    with your beautiful wings?
    Kaga no Chiyo (1703-1775),

 

  • “Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
  • Spring comes, and the
  • grass grows, by itself.” 
  • Matsuo Basho,

Orlando Florida beyond the Disney Route

Hooray! Hurricane Mathew has passed and its seems like Florida, Orlando in particular survived this epic hurricane. With everything that’s been happening in Florida for the past few months, I can’t help but think about the sunshine state and all the amazing places I’ve visited when I was still living there. Here’s a list of places that are worth looking into when you’re visiting Orlando and you’d like a quick trip beyond the city’s disney route.

Cocoa Beach

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Sunrise at Cocoa Beach

Cocoa  Beach at Port Canaveral is a popular place to go to for surfing and paddle boarding aside from New Smyrna and Melbourne  near Orlando. We come here almost every week when we were living in Orlando because it’s just  an hour drive away. There’s a lot of surf shacks in the area where you can rent surfboards and paddle boards. It’s also a great place to go to watch and take photos of the sunrise because the sun rises there right in front of the pier.  There’s  an awesome crab shack  called  Ms. Apples Crab Shack  at Meritt Island which you might want to drop by  when you’re at  Cocoa Beach. They have the sweetest fresh crabs, shrimps and clams that are way better than the ones from red lobster and it’s cheap too. To anyone visiting Cocoa Beach do yourselves a favor and drop by this crabshack, their crabs are so fresh they’re really really good! You can buy the packed seafood meals there and you can heat them in the shacks` microwave or pick your own crabs from their tank  and ask them to cook them for you for a small fee.

 

 

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Cocoa Beach Pier

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Cocoa Beach Pier

 

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center is also just outside of Orlando. It’s a cool place to spend the day in and learn about outer space and the universe! Try to schedule your visit when there’s a rocket launch. Watching a rocket launch is one of the coolest experience that you can have while visiting Florida. Check their website for the schedule.

http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com

 

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Kennedy Space Center

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The Atlantis, Kennedy Space Center

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Kennedy Space Center

Saint Petersburg

St. Petersburg is in the Gulf Coast of Florida and a part of Tampa Bay. St. Pete is a bit far from Orlando, almost 2 hours by car but definitely worth a visit. St. Pete is a big contrast from Orlando. The city has a very artsy and  bohemian vibe.It has a lot of art museums to visit. Not one to be missed is the Salvador Dali Museum which houses all of Mr. Dali’s amazing surreal artworks. (www.thedali.org).This is an amazing museum that  everyone should visit when in St. Petersburg or Orlando.

The city’s thriving boho and art community holds an event almost every week! They have festivals for art, music, food, wellness, yoga, spirituality and even mysticism! Try to visit from Friday to Sunday. Check out their website for more info about the city’s upcoming events.

http://www.events.st.pete.org

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Outside the Dali Museum

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The Dali Museum

 

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Souvenir Shop at the Dali Museum, they have a  regular frame size recreation of all the paintings of Mr. Salvador Dali

Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach is in the Atlantic Coast of Florida. It’s an hour away drive from Orlando. Daytona is almost like Cocoa Beach but bigger.Just like Cocoa beach you can also surf, camp and stroll around the beach there. I love Cocoa Beach but I think Daytona has a better beach than Cocoa.The beach is a favorite spot for springbreakers and can get really crowded in the spring and in the summer. The place gets a bit quiet in the autumn but it`s still worth a visit.

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Daytona Beach

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Daytona Beach

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Daytona Beach

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Autumn Sunset at the Pier, Daytona Beach

St. Augustine

St. Augustine is almost a  two hour drive from Orlando Florida. It is the oldest state in America and is worth visiting in any season. The town was first visited by the spanish so spanish architecture is seen all over town. The town has so much history. It is very pretty and quaint. There are a lot of Bed and Breakfast Inns facing the seaside in the area for people who are planning to stay the night. One of the cool things to do in St. Augustine is to go on a hunted tour in the autumn  when the town in creepily engulfed by thick fog or watch the town light up in December with the town’s amazing Christmas lights display.

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St. Augustine Florida

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Christmas lights display in St. Augustine

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St. Augustine at night

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St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos Fortress

I’m going to post a more detailed write up about these awesome places soon. I was suppose put Miami on the list but it’s just a little too far from Orlando, I’ll write about our experience there too on a different post. Happy travelling!

Chasing the Sun at Bantayan Island

Bantayan Island is a small island in the coast of Cebu. We discovered the island by accident two Decembers ago on our way to the more popular Island of Malapascua. Our quick detour in the Island turned out longer than planned because none of the boats would travel to Malapascua due to the heavy rains. Travelling to Cebu or anywhere in the Visayas region in the Philippines in general during the “ber” months can be quite challenging.We unfortunately learned this the hard way.  The monsoon season lingers in the islands of Visayas  from September until the first week of January which means occasional  heavy rains in your trip if you go out there without checking the weather forecast.

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Gloomy Morning in Bantayan Island.

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1st t day in Bantayan Island,

Despite the change of plans and  weather mishap, we still managed to enjoy our stay in Bantayan Island. The island is very laid back and quiet most of the time. Not a lot of tourist ventures out there and It’s normal to see its pristine white sand  beaches empty with just a few tourist walking and lounging around.

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Enjoying the White Sand, Bantayan Island

The Island is a good place to go to if you want a little peace and quiet. It’s still undeveloped unlike most of the big touristy Islands of Visayas. Time there passes slowly. Biking around the island and visiting underground caves, walking at the beach, swimming,reading a book or just staring at the night sky are just some the things you can do to pass the time.I normally don’t like travelling anywhere where I can’t surf or do anything active but the unhurried life in the island is something that I surprisingly enjoyed in my stay there.

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Bantayan Island, Cebu City Philippines

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Bantayan Island, Underground Cave pool!

 

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Cave Pool Swimming, Bantayan Island, Philippines

I like seeing a new landscape under the light of a full moon. It’s actually one of the reasons why I travel when there is one. It just makes the place looks surreal.  Biking around  under the full moon  is one of the most memorable experience I had in Bantayan. It made up for most of the rainy mornings we spent there.

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Biking Under the Fullmoon

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Fullmoon in Bantayan Island, Philippines

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Full Moon, Bantayan Island Philippines

The sun finally came out on our last 2 days in Bantayan  and we were lucky enough to see it in its full tropical beach glory. The Island on a sunny day is picture perfect with it’s wide, blinding  white sand beach and turquoise waters.  There’s also not a lot of tourist in the beach so it feels like the Island is your own!

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White Sand, and perfect turquoise waters!, Bantayan Island Philippines

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Blues after the Storm

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Bantayan Island, Philippines

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Bantayan Island, Philippines

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Bantayan Island.

Bantayan is perfect if you want to relax, slow down and not do anything. We left the Island feeling thankful that we accidentally got stuck there to see its beauty. It’s too bad though that we didn’t get to see its sunset but hopefully we will on a different time. I’m sure watching the sunset there in the summer would be awesome. 🙂

Siargao Island; Notes

Here’s some of my notes about Siargao Island. You can read my other write up about  the Island and some of the photos I took from Siargao in  my previous post. –>>Siargao Island, Philippines My Tropical paradise

Accomodation

Patrick’s on the Beach

We stayed there during our first night in Siargao; didn’t enjoy it that much though. They don’t clean the rooms even when you request them to. The food is expensive if by chance you are able to order and the location is not good at all. It is a tricycle ride away from cloud nine, if you think that’s not bad, well just imagine riding a tricycle back and forth every time you  finish a surf session, it’ll cost you maybe 200 (5 bucks) pesos alone on the commute per day. There are no other restaurants nearby too. They have a beach at the back  but it’s not swimmable. Personally , I wouldn’t stay there again.

Point 303 Cloud Nine

We stayed here on our second day. The location is perfect because it’s just in front of cloud nine. It’s a backpacker hostel so don’t expect much from its amenities. It’s comfortable though and they have friendly and helpful staff. They serve good  food there too. It’s accessible to everywhere in Cloud Nine. There are surf shacks and eateries nearby to go to.   For 15 bucks (PHP 650)  a night it’s a good  place to stay in if you are on a very tight budget and want to be near cloud nine.

Ocean 101

If I wasn’t on a budget I’d definitely stay there. It’s right in  front of Cloud nine too. The resort is very pretty and has good amenities. Their service is closest to what a functional 3 star resort should be. Their rooms inside are spacious. The rate there is 55 bucks a night. (Php2500).

Surfing

As I mentioned in my previous post, almost everyone in Siargao knows how to surf. If you’re looking to learn how to surf, don’t get them from the rogue locals who are offering surf instructions  in cloud nine. Better get your lessons or surf buddy from the surf shacks nearby. They give better lessons and are more professional in handling business. You can rent surfboards for 6 bucks (Php) 600 for the whole day if in case you didn’t bring one. Surf lesson is 4 bucks (Php 300)  an hour.They can give you a good deal  if you’re renting their boards for more than an hour.

Rentals

A good way to pass a lazy afternoon in Siargao is to go around the Island by a motorbike and discover deserted beaches.   You can rent one for the whole day for 11 bucks (Php 500). Don’t forget to grab a map.

Parties

If there’s anything surfers know how to do aside from surfing, it’s drinking and partying. Siargao has parties to go to if the nights gets too quiet for you in the Island especially on the weekends. Ask your host hostel or hotel for the location, they know where it is. They can even arrange a ride for you to get there.

 

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Siargao Island, Sunset Surfing

So there goes some of my notes about Siargao that might be helpful to travelers who’s planning to visit. It’s an  awesome Island in the Philippines not to be missed.  I had an amazing time when I was there. Let me know if you had an awesome time there too!

Siargao Island, Philippines My Tropical paradise

Siargao is a small island in the Philippines in the coast of Mindanao. It’s a surfers haven and the perfect picture of a tropical paradise with its warm turquoise water, endless waves and a garden of palm trees to get lost in. I’ve gone through almost all of the major Islands in the Philippines and Siargao for me is the best amongst all of them. It has everything my little heart could ever want when in the tropics. I don’t even mind that it takes me two plane rides to get there.

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Board Walk to Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine is the main surf spot in Siargao. The waves there will literally get you as high as a kite. Almost every local in Siargao knows how to surf, don’t be surprised if you see surfers as young as 9 shredding in the line up they’re that good. Every year, quicksilver holds a surf competition there during September to October.

 

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Siargao Island, Cloud Nine

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The paddle going to the line up, Siargao Island

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Shortcut to the line up, a 10 feet jump from the Boardwalk, Siargao Island

 

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Dawn Patrollers, Cloud Nine Siargao Island

 

 

There are other things to do in Siargao other than surfing. You can either rent a motorbike or a tricycle and go around and explore the island. A good place to visit is magpupungko tide pools which is just 30 minutes away from Cloud nine.  It’s a beautiful place to cool off and go cliff jumping after a busy morning of surfing.

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We rented this tricycle for 6 bucks  to take us to Magpupungko tide pools

 

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Magpupungko Tide Pools, Siargao Island

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It’s way prettier in person, Magpupungko Tide Pools, Siargao Island, Philippines

After that  You can also go island hopping and snorkelling or search for other surf spots in the  many islands near Siargao. Nights in Siargao gets pretty interesting too in the weekends. There are secret parties to go to let loose and drink your weight in.  We accidentally found out about this after being invited by some locals at the line up.

 

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where to? stray dog??

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Siargao Island, Philippines

 

 

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Siargao Island, Philippines

 

Siargao is a beautiful Island that I will never get tired of going to. It’s one of the places in the Philippines that really makes me feel lucky to be an islander. I remember telling my sister how lucky we were to be surfing in an island as beautiful as Siargao. The island is amazing and still has that organic island vibe. Quiet, simple and still uncommercialized. If I ever became a millionaire this is where I would build my house and spend the rest of my days in. Anyone looking for some waves  will absolutely love Siargao. Its chilled out island vibe will definitely make you want to stay there longer than planned.

 

 

 

 

 

Tips and Notes about Indonesia

Indonesia is an amazing country, it’s one of my favorite countries that I visited to date. I had a lot of fun in the two weeks that I spent there despite our mishaps. Here’s some of my notes about Indo. It’s not a definitive guide about the country  obviously but just random notes that might be helpful to others who is planning to visit Indonesia too.

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Useful Info

  • Indonesia is largely a Muslim country. Ramadan or Eid Al Fitr is a national holiday observed all over Indonesia. Make sure to have enough cash when visiting around this time because prices of all transportation hikes up and almost all banks and most establishments are close in observance of the holiday.Ramadan is celebrated around June-July

 

  • Indonesians don’s speak a lot of English outside of Bali which can get a little bit frustrating sometimes, they’re also still a bit conservative and it is common to see people wearing hijabs and kufi and small prayer nooks in local establishments.
  • Central Bali is 30 minutes away from Denspasar Airport, this is where the strip of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak is. Its a major tourist spot and there’s a lot of hotels there to stay in. It’s also where the parties are. You can get there by riding a bluebird taxi from the airport. I specifically mentioned blue bird because it’s a trusted taxi service in Bali.
  • Yogyakarta is 12 hours away from Bali by Bus and an Hour by plane.

Accomodation

Yogyakarta

We stayed at the Manohara Hotel when we visited Borobudur.  It’s a good hotel to stay in when visiting Borobudur because it’s the only hotel that’s in the same ground as the temple. You don’t have to pay for entrance fee too if you are checked in with them and you can go in and out of Borobudur anytime. The hotel doesn’t have much to offer other than that.

Bali

There are plenty of hotels to stay at in Bali. We were able to stay and check out Terrace Hotel at Legian which is actually in the middle of Kuta and will give you easy access to roam around Seminyak and Legian. It wasn’t bad it was 20 bucks a night. It’s a 10 minute walk from the main beach, but it was ok because we were barely at the hotel and hanged around the beach anyway. We also stayed at Pop Hotel which is a small backpacker hotel. Its not so bad if you’re on a budget, its one of the more popular budget hotels in Bali so don’t expect much from it, you get what you paid for.

Food

  • Food is cheap in Indo you can eat well for as low as 4 bucks.
  • Bintang is like their national beer there.
  • I recommend to anyone visiting Bali to try the grilled corn cobs sold on the street. It’s amazingly good with butter and spices that perfectly captures the taste of Indonesia. Its’ a great snack after a surf session.
  • Shrimp crackers is a local side dish! They even serve it as a side dish for breakfast.

Random Notes and Observations

  • It is not uncommon to see posters of wanted terrorist posted at bus stations and other public places.
  • Men smoke everywhere, I mean everywhere!
  • Lemon grass scent is everywhere, from the airport to the food.  I think a good souvenir to get from Indonesia is a good lemon grass soap or candle or oil that you can keep and smell whenever you feel nostalgic about your trip in Indonesia.
  • Surfing is King in Indo. You can start your right of passage in Indo surfing in Bali and then out of Bali for a better surf spot to avoid the crowd. Almost every town in Indonesia has one.
  • Drug trafficking is one of the major issues in Indonesia. Tourist gets  a bit paranoid about this, because serious jailtime awaits those who try to smuggle in drugs in the country. Also there  have been a lot of cases in Indonesia where tourists unknowingly becomes a drug mule. It’s not uncommon to see luggage wrapping stations( 10 bucks per luggage)  at the airport for extra precaution for tourist leaving the country.