Sunday, June 17, 2018

#11 Taiwan's Nightlife & Music Scene

On my third night in Taiwan we went to XCUBE, a former favorite club.

#11 Music Scene & the Nightlife; inexpensive, safe and absolutely wild

In my first couple of years in Taiwan, this could have been a top three addiction of mine. Easily. Due to the tropical weather, the season is seemingly always ON for a beach event, BBQ, food festival, park activities, and more. Not only are there continuous year round outdoor options, the clubs in Taiwan resemble the types of clubs you would find in Las Vegas, or in large cities in the USA. Smoke, lasers, dancing girls, incredible DJs, accessible VIP lounges, bottle service, etc. 
First night at a Taiwan club, the theme happened to be Playboy. 
The photo quality from the professional photographers hired for the club is exceptionally better. 

The best part, for young 20-some things that aren’t making much money yet, nearly every weekend you could find a club with a low cover fee and unlimited drinks. Yeah, you read that right, unlimited alcoholic drinks. And yes, you can already assume it is often the foreigners who use and abuse this iconic privilege. Not only are they allowing us to get absolutely plastered and dance our hearts out to a set list that could often be charged top dollar for, there is basically no crime, no robbery, no theft, while you’re out on the town. (However, no place is perfect.) You can check your coat and your bag (for free) if you’d like, but often you can just leave it at a table or booth and don’t need to worry about anyone snagging it. 
A picture is worth a thousand words. ^^
Met two of the greatest Taiwanese friends while dancing at the club! 
10/10/13 Taiwan's birthday.
Another great shot captured and edited by the club. 

Rock Star Themed Party as the S P I C E  G I R L S  6/15/14
Captivating lights and music videos play throughout the DJ's set lists.

Another fun tradition in Taiwan, (and many other places in SE Asia) is KTV or Karaoke Television. You can pre-book a room for X amount of hours, BYOB, and if you've got a big enough group you can get a VIP room with your own restroom, singing booth, and projector screens. KTV guarantees for one of the best times to be had. We usually did this 1-2 times per year with as many teachers who could make it. Other times, one might be asked by a random friendly family to join in their KTV room, or one could even go on a whim with a group a friends and strangers at 5 in the morning when they just don't want to say goodbye to a good night. 

N O C H E     L A T I N OMy favorite city in Taiwan is Kaohsiung. I like that it is noticeable that the ocean is nearby due to the harbors. I also like that the roads are much wider.  In my favorite city, sits my favorite club, Brickyard, (at least during the time I was regular clubber ^^). I liked that it was underground. I also really enjoyed the closeness of the stage / performers to the dance floor, and that they regularly played sets of Latin music. ^^ 

Halloween and making girl friends in the bathroom.
Two more late night favorites of mine. ^^
Quite a few big headliners have come to Taiwan as well, although sad to say, many have canceled at the last minute. Some with no reason (T.Pain, then Pitbull) and others due to unfortunate events (Ed Sheeran). We’ve also had Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande and Coldplay (the Taiwanese went NUTS).

The summer before I arrived, Lady Gaga had performed in Wenxin Park, this outdoor public amphitheater. 
C O L O R       P L A Y  
Sept. 2013 -  The best last minute decision I was forced into making. 
C O L O R     P L A Y 
The music festivals seem to grow in abundance and attendance every year. Yet the biggest event to happen as far as music and night life would be in the first week of April every year over the double holiday of Children’s Day and Tomb Sweeping Day. Always a four day weekend, sometimes five, Taiwanese and foreigners of (literally) all ages flee to the beaches of Kenting for three days of DJs, pool parties, beaches, volleyball, football (soccer), food, and more foreigners! It’s the only yearly event where I’ve met people who actually come to Taiwan for the event.

DJ FAMOUS     / /      KENTING

Beach Parties
Pool Parties
After Parties 
Overall, the Taiwanese are night owls. It’s pretty regular to have a late dinner, a midnight movie, and a three am night. Mornings aren’t so rushed either. Our school day begins at 9 am, many shops aren’t even open until 10. I partially wonder if it’s the fact we are a half day ahead of the Western world, as far as time zone, that leads to the lenient times, or the more likely reason, they've just kept a good tradition (like taking short naps mid-day). Nonetheless, in a city of nearly 3 million, if you’re up at 7 am the streets are quiet. Waking up 5 or 6 am it looks like a ghost town, and you’ll be making your own breakfast. It’s a great time to snag a bus out of town and get a head start on traveling with significantly less people.

- K

"No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep."

Sunday, June 10, 2018

#12 The Style of the Taiwanese

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting, indoor and outdoor
My TAIWANESE addiction #12 The Style (and the skincare) of the Taiwanese. 

"Style is a reflection of your attitude and your personality."

The word ‘style’ can mean many different things, even to one person. In a literal sense we often think of style as fashion, clothing, accessories, but also just as importantly, how one carries themselves. To me, having style also refers to the manners and poise of a person.

In Taiwan, the variation of clothing worn is immense and extremely diverse.  What I love about the choice of style in clothing here is the freedom in it. Any fun, cute, unique, odd, interesting, colorful, obtuse, radiant, little thing you could imagine could be worn here and no one seems to mind.  They are not offended by it, they are not eye-googling over it, and as a former teacher (Michael) once said, there’s no ‘slut shamming’ in Taiwan. A 60 year old woman can wear short shorts and four inch heels through the night market and no one bats an eye. 

Apparel for Taiwanese can be simple and classic or wild and youthful. The young women typically show off their legs, long slender legs everywhere. But the upper half of their bodies remain fairly well covered. Midriff is acceptable, but due to their bodies types this doesn't present as a problem. I appreciate that the Taiwanese dress for comfort and true to themselves. Most students have a uniform and if you want to wear some fake bling on the city bus, grams- do your thang. 
Get your glam on, granma!

The Taiwanese enjoy cute things also (an understatement). If the clothing has a cute cat, rabbit, monkey, or bear to go along, it’s worn and adored by people of all ages. Stickers, pillows, cups, stationary, bags, earrings, and an endless amount of gifts- just slap on Cony & Bear, MyMelody, Hello Kitty, or a Power Puff Girl and you've got a hit. This isn't just the Taiwanese, Asians in Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong as well, seem to lose their marbles for Disney characters and memorabilia. More so than Westerners it seems as of late. If you heard and wondered why Mulan will be the next real-life Disney Princess movie to be made... There's your answer. 
Owls and Bunnies ^^
In the winter, it's all about the layers.
 And the hats.
Days in the pool require a swim cap, it'll usually match your suit too. 
Image may contain: people standing

A woman heading into work wearing tennis wedges
 (silver with the bling on top) and a short flare skirt.
There is no way this would be acceptable in a workplace in USA. 
 I've also noticed many women who've comfortably chosen to express a “butchy” or “tomboy” look, at any age-it's very common, that me even mentioning it now seems odd. Just the same, young guys are not turning necks if they want to wear something ‘less’ or ‘feminine.’ Having said that, to begin describing what I've seen in Taiwanese men and woman being accepted and thriving as their own 'gender identity' would venture into a whole other post. In summary, Taiwan is above the times as far as the large scale acceptance of people being true to who they are. (Also the first country in Asia to embrace same sex marriage.)   The young men and woman here have impeccable style. Often staying well groomed, sharp, and not to mention perfect skin.
While there is a huge promotion to fake contact lenses and lashes,
what they do really well is their market in skincare.
Night Markets provide for inexpensive fashion and even more unique looks. 
Shoe boutiques usually out pour with top club hits. Shoes can start from just $5USD.
Obsession with socks in Taiwan
should not be taken lightly.
Maybe it helps that the Taiwanese are much less aggressive- or maybe it's their seemingly pore-less skin – but they are truly beautiful people.

Spending the last five years in a culture where a majority of the people feel free to express themselves without judgement-to just be, has made a huge (positive) impact on my own outlook and style.
The brutal honesty of shirts in Taiwan.
Or a random bar order printed on the back of a jean jacket.
Cause Why Not?
You're guaranteed to find some inspiration. 
One of my absolute favorite cuties at work. ^^
Sabrina was my co-op teacher my first year, (and since then has also risen to an admin.).
Her adorable style and manner is a perfect example of why style in Taiwan made this #top12 list.
Dogs can be stylish too. ^^
This photo was taken from a foreigner who also enjoys Taiwan's cuteness. 
Dogs deserve fancy haircuts,
and sometimes pushed in strollers.

A few other things to mention;
-Taiwanese never go out with wet hair. 
-Protecting your skin from the sun can often seem more important than brushing your teeth. 
- You'll always find more independent boutiques and shops versus chain shopping centers, whether in the night market or department stores. (I love this since it means the outfit I'm buying is usually not going to be made in large quantities.) *Also supporting locals ^^ 

What would you name your boutique?

I could have easily put skincare in a post itself with how much I have learned, how often I use it, and just how prevalent it is in this country.  One of the biggest perks is that it is affordable to the average person. Every weekend at department stores you can learn something new or participate in some skin treatment if you like.  When you enter a department store, or a shop, they are full of people at counters having discussions. Back in the USA, these areas were either ignored, avoided, too expensive, or frankly, the people were just rude. Not only will the clerks patiently spend their time to answer your questions, you learn the proper routines to take care of your skin daily without feeling ignorant to what it takes to do it on your own. This is essential. 
Tutus, rainbow tights, & high tops. 
As for me personally, the range I've been able to express with, and encouraged to try, has led me to bloom in confidence of my own personal style. I am not claiming to be the Next Top Model by any means, but I can assure you I'm no longer afraid experiment, mismatch, or wear a piece that may look like it time traveled to my closet.  

Whatever style entails, the Taiwanese have got it.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Endless Beauty in Bali

In a wonderful surprise I was upgraded to business class on my direct flight to the incredible Indonesian island of Bali. On my way to my seat, I grabbed a newspaper with an even bigger surprise on the front page; North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in were meeting for the first time in over a decade and exchanging footprints over 'their' borders.
Once at my spacious, fully-reclining seat with unlimited champagne, better food, and newly released movies, I was unexpectedly living the high-life. You can bet I arrived to Bali in an impressively good mood.  However, traveling is never picture perfect, and there was plenty of time to lose my high-life buzz while waiting in line for nearly two hours to get through immigration.
Coming out of the airport to look for my driver (who had left already). We eventually found each other after video chatting.
She was standing in between a building and a wall, in a spot fit for one, I was walking up and down this array of names. ^^
Rightly so, my booked driver had left the airport thinking I was a no show, but luckily she wasn't more than 30 minutes away. Tip #1: Don't buy internet (wifi) at the airport, buy locally on the streets for a much better price.
This photo was taken on one of the last days of the trip at Tanah Lot.

At the airport you can see huge structures they've not moved even when building the airport. The sky was bright blue and green was everywhere to be seen. Large white and gold horse sculptures were nearby and a few round abouts featured impressively large sculptures of Rama (a major Hindu deity) with his bow and arrows and many warrior-like monkeys.

The drive from the airport in Denpasar to Ubud took just over a hour and a half. We were driving through my first sunset in Bali, even with just a glimpse from the car window, I could tell it was a beautiful sunset. The sky turned from blues to pinks, teals to purples to golden oranges. And the moon was ENORMOUS! I was arriving just days before the full moon, but being so close to the equator puts you at an undeniable perfect spot to peer at the moon.

T H E    P A L M S

Image result for religion in indonesiaI had a great chat with my lady driver. We talked about her family, and how it is common to have small families with one child. She told me a little bit about Hinduism, as 80% of Bali is Hindu. She mentioned another 10% are Muslim which is the majority of the rest of Indonesia. We talked about the rainy season, although I cant be sure what is true or not as each person I asked throughout my time gave me a different time frame. And then, of course, she requested to be my driver for any and all tours I wanted to do around the island. I really enjoyed her company so I did plan to use her for my first full day. But the prices were much more than using a driver app service called GRAB which I was luckily recommended to use before arriving, so I told her no for the remainder of my time in Ubud. Tip #2: Use Grab and don't let them trick you by adding in their own 0's.

By the time I arrived at Tukad Mas Bungalows it was dark out. They put me in a room overlooking the pool but said I'd be switching the next day. It was a well hidden, beautiful place to stay, with locals working and there to help any time needed. I was happy when one of them said he could take my up the road to a more popular area for restaurants and shopping.

I shared a table on the first level floor at Clear Cafe. A popular spot for its 'clean' healthy food with ingredients from local Balinese farmers. I tried a traditional Bali dish, Nasi Campur with seafood. Nasi means rice, campur means 'a mix.' I couldn't believe the flavors all on one plate. While at the table I read about an Oasis with Clear Cafe. An opportunity to invest in land right there in Bali. 100 plots, already 88 sold at that time...

By the time I finished up dinner it was just after 9 and much of the area was quite. I was pleasantly surprised that Ubud was not a party area. I'd expected with it's recent popularity from "Eat Pray Love" for it to be lively. It was nice to see it kept it's peacefulness. At least for a small island with over 4 million people on it.

Sunday, April 29th was my first full day in Bali. As a brief reminder, I had broken my arm exactly one month before, and I had only gotten the cast off two days before going to Bali. Because of this, the activities I was able to do, and should only do, changed a bit. Mostly anything in the ocean was out, and hiking up Mt. Batur, or any other sunrise hikes, was out.
I had some delicious banana pancakes with Balianese coffee
offered by the guesthouse before switching rooms. 

My first stop for the day was at a Kopi Luwak Coffee Plantation. Also known as 'cat poop coffee.' It is the most expensive coffee in the world (!) for it's unusual methods. 

Above on the left is ground up coffee beans after they've been digested and exited the palm civet cat, known in Bali as the luwak (right). 

Since I was flying solo in Bali I had my own tour guide who brought me 14 different teas and coffees to try, for free! I also tried the luwak coffee. When in Bali. 

Around the plantation you could begin to see the rice fields, but the biggest attraction was the Bali Swings. I thought the price seemed a bit ridiculous, so I used my arm as an easy excuse to not be bothered to swing. It worked, I was only asked half a dozen times. ^^ 
Instead I crawled into the few 'bird's nests' that were also a popular photo opt.

It was here I began to notice just how many couples,
fresh off the love boat couples, were everywhere in Bali.
Next my driver (the one from the airport pickup) took me to Tegallalong Rice Fields. 
Probably the biggest attraction in Ubud area next to Monkey Forest. 

The richest shades of green layered into the land were the background to an endless street of coffee shops, artwork, and market peddlers and vendors. 

I had to be careful again walking through the often steep, and sometimes muddy fields, but the views were breathtaking so I made a maze out of my own chosen path and before leaving the area had a late lunch at a gorgeous corner spot at the edge of Tegallalong. 

B A L I     L O V E 

The shot I wanted?
  T E G A L L A L A N G 
I wanted to stop  e v e r y w h e r e  along the way.
& I did. Too much souveniring for my first day outing. ^^

 G O A     G A J A H 
Last stop was Goa Gajah or Elephnat Cave, which was minutes from my home-stay. Goa Gajah is a Hindu temple built in the eleventh century B.C. This cave was used as a meditation place. The mouth of the cave was carved by hand and is called a bhoma. This bhoma is said to represent the Hindu Earth God, Bhumi. 
  i spy, with my little eye, something white..Water fountain of Six Hindu Angels.
"In front of the cave, there is an ancient shower statue in a holy pool which until 1954 had been covered by dirt. At 1954 this place was excavated and six “Widyadhari” or female angels statues were found; three on the northern part and three on the southern part. These angels statues are placed on the “Padma” or lotus base. Lotus in Hinduism is a symbol of the universe. The six Wiyadhari statues shed water into the pool as the symbol of fertility."
S T O N Y 

The Buddhist temples in the area were estimated to have been built in the eight century B.C. The Hindu temples around tenth century B.C. 

T U K A D     M A S 

Back for a rest and dinner at my home-stay. 

Just before 7:30 I walked down the road to Arma Rai Museum of Art and Resort to watch their weekly Legong Dances. Before the performance, a group of older men came out and began to play instruments; bells, gongs, flutes, drums and wooden xylophones. The men were full of smiles which made the whole thing more fun to watch. The sounds were beautiful, and just one night before the full moon, the evening was set for the performers.
The headdresses and traditional dress for the men and the woman were beyond exquisite. So colorful, bright, and golden. They moved in such unique ways, even under the weight of their outfits. Their eyes and facial expressions seemed to be a large part of the dance's interpretation. 
Legong Dances were originally royal court performances only seen within palace walls. The dance is done by young girls, possibly even originally young boys. The dance is still considered Bali's most classical performance and has been well-preserved throughout the generations.
There are somewhere over a dozen different stories to be told through the Legong dances. The one I watched was a story about King Lasem's intention to marry Princess Rangkersari, but the princess refused. Her brother defeats the King in battle, and the princess is reunited with her lover.  I'm not sure what the creature above is supposed to represent, but this beast with long nails, wild eyes, and long hair is featured in paintings and sculptures all over Bali. 

Monday, April 30
I woke up to banana pancakes and Bali coffee again. I could have eaten it every morning. 

I took my first Grab bike (scooter) to Campuhan Ridge Walk. It was an extremely sunny day, but it was nice to get out the constant flow of traffic and into some fresh air. I didn't bring enough water to complete the trail, so I headed back to the Ubud Art Market in central Ubud afterwards.

"If you wish to enter the temple you must be dressed properly in respect for the Balinese Hindu religion." 

I could easily spend days walking around the streets of the Ubud Art Market. I wasn't to thrilled about the constant shouting out for you to buy something, but it is all easily manageable once you're used to the pestering that is typical of outdoor day and night markets. Since I had already purchased dresses and paintings, I was pulling the reigns back on purchases. But the walk alone was exceptional.

I walked to Earth Cafe; "One peaceful world through nutrition." In the area were dozens of nutrition, vegan friendly, recyclable, Earth lovin' shops, restaurants, you name it. 
I also came across a large group of foreigners, at first glance many would them call 'hippies' or 'hipsters,' singing a beautiful song, almost as if in church together.

S E B A T U , T E G A L A L A N G 
After a late lunch I waited for a friend of a friend, Endra, who picked me up on her scooter and drove me to her family's designated temple, Sebatu, Tegalalang. It was quite a drive up to the temple. Endra let me borrow a sarong, and the 'belt' to tie around my waist which is required of all people entering a temple in Bali.
Once a year Endra and her family come here to take a holy bath and pray. This was the first time she was doing it without her family and bringing a guest with her. At the entrance she, among many others before her, left offerings consisting of flowers, candy, and also incense.

We began taking the enormous steps down to the holy bath. She would share with me what I needed to do and I followed the actions while saying my own prayers in my head and pushing out any negativity left in my mind. This was such a unique experience, I kept my mind flowing with positive thoughts and dreams. 

Once at the bottom, we joined others, young and old in the water. We prayed, bathed, prayed again, kneeled, and finished the ceremony after changing out of our wet clothes. 

The bath consisted of submerging yourself in the three different 'waterfalls' for the allocated time you wished. Facing forward, and then back. 

Maybe it was the build up, or the coolness of the rushing water, but it truly felt powerful. Endra and I had wished to stay longer, but there were many people as it was the day of the full moon.
The holy bath is on the left. On the right is where the ceremony and final prayers take place.
In the evening, I had the most amazing meal for dinner at Hongalia, also within walking distance from my home-stay.  It was a Chinese restaurant serving homemade curry noodles and delicious smoothies. Along with the couples, and I was also beginning to notice a trend of pregnant (foreign) woman in Ubud.

P U R A      B E S A K I H    T E M P L E  
May 1, International Workers' Day, or Labor Day, for most countries in the world, landed on a Tuesday this year. Because of this holiday, it was an extra busy day. I arranged for a Grab Car to take me up to Besakih Temple, the mother temple of Bali. A nearly two hour drive, the Grab price was 280rp round trip, tourist price 500rp. Not to mention I got to meet a friendly local! My driver joined me at the temple since he had not been in 10 years.

Again, a sarong was needed and we explored and hiked up the steep stairs you find everywhere in Bali. There were lots of leftover donations from the days previous full moon celebrations. 

The temple sits in the slopes of Mt. Agung (the recently active volcano). As we spent nearly two hours there, we caught Mt. Agung peering through the clouds.
"The first recorded mention of its existence is from an inscription that dates from 1007 A.D. Since the Gelgel dynasty of the fifteenth century it has been regarded as a central, holy temple for the entire island."
Stairway to the largest Hindu temple in Bali. 
In a Bali state of mind.  
Back in Ubud by mid afternoon, I took a Grab bike to Monkey Forest which completely lived up to it's hype. Before even walking inside, monkeys lined the entry way. 

A strict rule to not feed them is enforced with good reason. 

There were mothers and babies, young males wrestling around, older males fighting for territory of trees (or females I couldn't be sure). 

Fights and screeches for coconuts or water bottles stolen from tourists. 

Of course random monkey lovin' and pickin' each other's fleas was also in the mix. 

Just before I was leaving, one little rascal grabbed my arm and climbed up it. I wasn't sure if that was allowed but somehow I maneuvered him off of me without any damage or confrontation.

My favorite shot at Monkey Forest.
Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil..........Yeah, whatever. 
Here is that creature from the traditional dances again, from this painting he's not a welcome visitor. 

On Monkey Forest Road I found some enchiladas and iced lattes to cool down with. Then I ventured into a few of the shops
I had read about along the way before hearing some live music and deciding it was time to have my first Bali beer. Behind a small restaurant called No Mas, was a hidden gem of a place, Folks Pool and Garden. With a swim up bar, day beds, and even a poolside cinema, this place was a perfect example of the hidden treasures that can be found right under your nose nearly everywhere in Bali. 

I met a couple from South Africa fairly quickly. It was my third full day in Bali solo, and I was looking to socialize. Some chats and some drinks later another friend of theirs (Italian) joined us. Once we were all fit to eat, we took a short ride down to Ubud Burger, where we devoured our meals at one of the few places you can find beef. The night ended with me trying to keep my composure on the back of a motorcycle (again- broken arm was fresh) and then enjoying the full moon from the gorgeous balcony completely alone. ^^

I also decided that night to check out of Ubud a day early and head to the islands. I wasn't getting any sunsets or ocean views from Ubud, as wonderful as it was.

N U S A    L E M B O N G A N 
Wednesday morning, May 2, I grabbed a Grab and made it to Sanur, a seaside town, also a docking station for those wishing to go to Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan, or Nusa Penida.

A last minute booking of $14USD got me and O-M-G ocean view place to stay for the night on Nusa Lembongan. I checked in by noon, settled, arranged some things, and then got right to the beach. Mt. Aguang was also visible from my room's deck.

I got a ride down to Dream Beach where Dream Beach Huts and restaurant was beautifully located. I had my first fresh coconut of the trip and grilled tuna.

The tide was high, but I still managed to walk along the beach and dip into the water before continuing on. 

I walked next door to Devil's Tear, which has a unique shape, and when the ocean's high waves come rushing in, they leave behind a trail of mist and rainbows every few minutes. 

This was the first time I was surrounded by tourists. I was told that something like 500 Chinese tourists were also visiting this island today. Yay.

I carefully continued over the sharp edged rocks to the natural infinity pools also popular on Lembongan. 
Two older Chinese women rushed up (as fast as they could over the rocks) to ask for a photo with me and told me how beautiful I was.  I asked if they could take one of me solo afterwards, and then a full on photo shoot on the rocks began. ^^ 
A couple hours before sunset, I dreamt up and found the perfect spot-for-one at Sandy Bay Beach Club.
Couldn't be happier to soak up the sun and a couple of Moscow Mules in poolside peace.
 I asked around for a good spot to watch the sunset and was offered to be shown a place on Nusa Ceningan, The Sands. We crossed over the 'yellow bridge' which connects the two small islands and made it before nearly anyone else was there. 
Yet again, another hidden gem with incredible beauty just waiting to be enjoyed. The water between the islands rises and falls every evening. Against the clay colored sand and pools of water left behind, the sunsets vibrant colors were multiplied.

 I'd take a photo of a sunset with blues, oranges, and yellows, then in another ten minutes that same sunset would be shades of pinks and purples, deeper blues, until finally the sun was down and the stars came out of hiding. If you've ever seen the night sky from a remote island in the middle of the ocean, you know how breathtaking it is. And it was.
 Unfortunately, my incredible night of iced drinks led to a bad hangover. Whether it was ice cubes from local water, or just an unfortunate hangover, I was not feeling well when I boarded the tuk-tuk to the next island in the morning. Tip #3 Don't use tap water! Not as ice, not even for brushing your teeth. 
May 3, I boarded a lug boat with 44 others (plus luggage) to meet up with a bigger fast boat out in the sea. Just on that ride alone, I couldn't believe how clear the water was. Clear to such a deep depth. Teals as far as your eyes could see. Again Volcano Mt. Agung was within sight.
Related image

I arrived on Gili Trawangan (Gili T) around 2 o'clock. Much further from Bali than the triple Nusa islands, the Gili islands; Trawangan, Meno and Gili Air are dotted off the northeastern corner of Lombok, Indonesia.

Gili T is known as the 'party island' and where, at this time of year, many Australians come up to "party, party, party." However, I was staying on the opposite side of the parties. I had forked a little extra out to stay at a resort on this island, Ombak Sunset, and was planning to enjoy every ounce of luxury that came with it.

G I L I     T R A W A N G A N 

To get anywhere on the Gili islands your choice is bicycle or horse and cart. I got in and set off to Ombak. I spent the next several hours at the pool. Soaking up as much sun left in the day, as well as eating a few things off the menu. Just before sunset, I found a spot on the beach to watch another amazing Bali sunset. I think the guarantee of a perfect rainbow-like sunset every night is one of the reasons this place is so dang magical.

May the fourth. 
Friday, May 4
Started out with an exceptional buffet breakfast, a morning at the pool, and then a brief walk along the beach. 

After 1 o'clock I took another horse-cart ride up the main road to the boat docking area. Once there I spent an hour or so walking through the shops. (For anyone concerned with safety + solo female travelling in Bali - the islands were the only place I was ever asked if I was alone by a handful of suggestive men. Throughout the rest of Bali I felt very safe and I was not bother at all...besides for taxis, bikes, and regular market vendors. Haha. ^^)  

I had a decent Indian meal and enjoyed the picture perfect views of Gili T, deciding then that I would have to come back one day. My assigned boat was a 3 o'clock fast boat back to Bali (Padang Bay). The boat was eventually so late, they put us on a smaller boat to switch at another dock, where we finally took off around 5 o'clock getting to mainland around 7 o'clock. Another two hours in van to North Kuta and then finally getting a Grab to my new home-stay in North Kuta- Seminyak, arriving after 10 o'clock. A day well wasted on travel.
"Get a free coffee when you collect a bucket of rubbish off of the beach."
My charming steed. 

For once, I didn't have my days planned once I got to Seminyak / Kuta area. For my first day I turned to the net for some recommended hot spots. I first went to Motel Mexicola, but unfortunately, they were closed for the day as it was Cinco De Mayo and they were preparing for one of the biggest parties happening that evening.

Luckily, The Sea Circus was just around the corner. An adorable spot with a delicious brunch menu and even more scrumptious smoothies. I got my one and only massage of the trip shortly after and then headed back to my villa for some time by the pool.

There are only about six villas for the entire place, yet I still met two young girls from the UK and later in the evening we decided to get dinner at 707 Beach Berm and catch the tail end of the sunset. As much as I wanted to return to Motel Mexicola for the Cinco De Mayo Reggaeton Party, the gals were not feeling the crowd, nor any of us feeling the price in drinks. So instead after dinner and a mango margarita at Cabina Bali, we headed to Sea Vu Play for delicious but difficult to drink 'wasted watermelons' and a Mezze Feast consisting of hummus, baba ghanoush, zaalouk, tatziki, mohomara, marinated bell pepper, olive, and house made pita bread.

In another happy coincidence, as the girls wanted to leave, the couple I met in Ubud showed up with some friends. I stuck around for another round and some dancing. Again, drinks with ice led to tortuous hangovers, so any further alcohol beverages on the trip would have to be a Bintang.

They called it Paradise Pancakes.

Sunday, May 6

Running down the checklist of most Instagrammable places in Bali, I had brunch at KYND Community, a plant based cafe.  After that I spent then entire mid-day soaking up the sun at the villa's pool. I was loving my Bali tan.

T A N A H    L O T    T E M P L E 

Just before sunset I went to Tanah Lot Temple. The walk inside was lined with artwork, clothing, and all sorts of hand made pieces. There was quite a crowd at this site as well. 

At this temple, on the rocks in the sea, you could be blessed with holy water and receive the pieces of rice across your forehead, similar to my holy bath I took on the full moon in Sebatu.

It was far too crowded for me near the temple so I wondered off towards the path running along the edge of the island. The sunset was beautiful, and just as it was down, thousands of bats came soaring out of the caves beneath us.

Monday, May 7

On my last full day in Bali, I had lunch at La Laguna. This place was incredible! A "gypsy chic tapas bar and restaurant" just north of Seminyak in Canggu. The location was right on the beach and after a wonderful meal, latte, and smoothie, ^^ I walked along the beach, watched the surf lessons, and finally came upon Finn's Beach Club.

Somehow, going solo into Bali, I just knew that my last night would be the night I wouldn't want to let go of. And just as I predicted, it was. I stuck with the beer this time, and since I arrived just after the lunch hour, I kept my umbrella up through the high sun. 
L A S T      S U N S E T       I N      B A L I .

As you'd hope for, spending the day at a beach club anywhere tropical means being flourished with good looking people. Even my day bed was placed between two gorgeous couples. I'd been in Bali mode for over a week now. I was in heaven. 

I began dipping in the pool closer to sunset. From there, the rest of the evening consisted of chatting up a gorgeous brown skinned man, too many dunk's in a pool full of untaken bathroom breaks, and running away from an embarrassing chant of "U-S-A" coming from a group of guys not even American (I was the only American in the vicinity.) To top off the night, we feasted on quite possibly the best pizza in all of Asia and of course, hit the outdoor dance floor.

As I left Bali on the 8th of May, I was truly, madly, deeply so sad. I even shed a tear in my final Grab ride to the airport. What a beautiful country, and what an experience I had had. This was now my third country I had traveled to completely on my own for over a weeks time. I'm so grateful to have had ten full days to explore Bali. For me, the places I travel to, and myself personally on the journey, only get better the longer I spend somewhere. This is one of the biggest reasons I will be leaving Taiwan at the end of summer 2018 to fulfill a dream I have dreamed while living abroad. 
Bali is the last Southeast Asian country I will be visiting for the foreseeable future. However, it is definitely one place I hope to return to.   Thanks for reading! - K