travel tips

Chatuchak Markets, Bangkok

Chatuchak has the biggest variety and the most eclectic range I’ve ever seen. If you’re not a fan of marketplaces, or bustling crowds then best avoid, because this place is about the size of a suburb. Beware of the food, it’s either incredibly expensive and a tourist trap, or insanely cheap and questionable. It’s only open on weekends and it’s quite easy to get to.

You’ll find everything in there. Woodcraft, traditional dress, handicrafts, pets like kittens and ferrets, glassworks, incense, art, tshirts. Everything. I did all of my shopping for family and friends back home whilst there. You can haggle down to a reasonably cheap price too, especially because there are probably several shops that have what you’re after. If you go with someone, make sure you have a mobile or a meeting place outside of the markets, like the entrance to the train station for example, because the markets themselves are an absolute maze, and you probably won’t pass the same stall twice. Also, ensure that any clothing bought from there is washed before use- it’s a marketplace, so no promising cleanliness. That said, you’ll find some real gems. We found a signed band t-shirt dirt cheap, so spend a full day there. Keep hydrated!

 

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Advertisements

TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELERS IN INDONESIA- part 3

  1. PEOPLE will stare at you because you are different, you are a tourist. Don’t make it worse by wearing glamorous flashy clothes; try to blend in with plain boring clothes. Don’t make yourself a target and show off your wealth- pick-pocketing is a real problem.
  2. INSTEAD of paying top dollar for a tourist package bus trip to Borobudur, take the local systems– it’s cheaper and if you’re friendly with the bus driver, you get a local tour guide. It gives the bus route a reason to keep running and it equates to under 80 000 rupiah instead of over 500 000 rupiah. The same goes for hotels. Stay in the outskirts of the city central and get local transport or walk. It is significantly cheaper to stay out of town and the quality of the stay won’t be any worse, in fact it may be better because they want to attract people.
  3. THE COFFEE is very different. Don’t expect Western coffee.
  4. IF YOU’RE NOT AN INDONESIAN CITIZEN expect to be very ripped off at tourist destinations like Borobudur. The price difference is 190 000R v 30 000R for an international v. a citizen for park entry. Try and get student or senior discounts if you can.
  5. TAKE CARE of your identity. Have a money belt with your passport and all your spare cash on your person, under your clothes and never expose it.
  6. PHOTOCOPY your identity, flight itinerary, visa and other important documents. Leave a copy at home with a family member and give a copy to every one of your travellers. This is in case you get separated or your original goes missing.
  7. BRING A SICK BAG on night buses. If not for you, then for your neighbour.
  8. BRING A DIARY because a long trip in a foreign country with a foreign language can be very taxing on your concentration and mental health. Write all your feelings and experiences to have some time to debrief with yourself.
  9. IT’S A GOOD IDEA to do in-country currency exchange. Definitely bring local currency INTO the country, however as a back-up, bring currency to exchange. The rate is astronomically better than the exchange rates at home.
  10. EVEN THOUGH a good indicator for a safe place to eat is the number of locals who frequent it, REMEMBER that the flora and fauna in your stomach are not the same as those in Indonesia.

 

Indonesian-law.jpg

 

Image credit: http://dkvumn.wix.com/foundationyear#!east–indonesia-art-history/croi

Australia on a limited time frame.

The Blue Mountains are certainly worth it- one of my favourite spots in all of Sydney, and I’m a Sydneysider. Shop around for accommodation though… it can get pricey. The Katoomba YHA is actually really good quality accommodation, especially for those on a budget. If you have a car, look further afield than Katoomba (which is tourist central) and look for accommodation around places like Blackheath or Lawson. It’s only a short drive on the main road to all the places to sightsee. Plus, there are other more beautiful (in my opinion!) places to see in the Mountains, other than Echoes Point- for example, Wentworth Falls, Govett’s Leap and Leura is stunning.

I would urge you to look beyond the city and visit the outback as well. Suggestions like Kings Canyon, Uluru and other gorges along the way are great. There are plenty of tour groups that drive you around there, plus there are options to fly directly to Uluru, stay and fly out again. Road trips are great fun (I did one), however they take ages, so don’t do a road trip if you’re on a limited time in Australia and you want to pack as much as you can into your trip. On the plus side, road trips allow you to see more, such as Stanley’s Chasm, Simpson’s Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge, Katherine Gorge. These places are overwhelmingly beautiful.

Even though I don’t have firsthand experience of the top Northern Territory, I would strongly recommend Kakadu and the Kimberleys, firstly because they are under threat of mining and the option to visit this pristine wilderness may not be available in coming decades. As a side note, I tend to associate the Northern Territory with self-guided road trips, so as to direct yourself and not get cheated on by inflated tour guides.

Queensland is stunning. however the humidity and unreliable weather in the summer months (Nov-Feb) can make it a bit hit and miss. Flooding and bushfires in the same state, with jellyfish and bluebottles in the water… my best advice is to see the top north in the winter months. However, it is important to see Cairns, Green Island and the Great Barrier Reef before coral bleaching becomes a thing. Kuranda and other such nature reserves, and the Daintree, are beautiful, but July.

While Sydney is iconic with the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, you can do all that in a day. You can walk from Circular Quay and through the historic Rocks part of Sydney (maybe go on a weekend and see the Rocks markets which are great) then wander on up to the Opera House and then take a stroll through the Botanic Gardens, which have picturesque views of the harbour. You could do all of this in a few hours to be honest. I take the walk on my lunch break.

I really think you should invest time in Melbourne. It’s a beautiful city with free transport in the CBD and excellent food/shopping precincts. From Melbourne, you can get a taste of Ballarat/Bendigo, which are historic and would give you a taste of rural and regional Australia, if you don’t get a chance to head out to Uluru. There’s also access to the Twelve Apostles and the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, which are also an absolute treat.

 

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Gua Maria Puhsarang, East Java

As an international tourist, I really enjoyed this place.

It’s an outdoor Catholic Church based in a cave that boasts the properties of Lourdes- that the natural springs that seep through the rocks have healing properties.
It’s a very holy place, and it’s very peaceful and tranquil. I went closer to the end time, so around dusk, when all the vendors were slowing down and the heat of the day had lessened. This gave the place a very eerie atmosphere, especially as it darkened through the trees and the candles in the cave around the Virgin Mary were lit. The fountains to taste the healing waters were flowing and the people who go there are less like tourists, and more like pilgrims. Apparently once a month there’s a cross-denominational and interfaith mass held, which really demonstrated to me just how this catholic church can unite through a sense of global peace and spirituality.

I loved it.

 

gua maria puhsarang.jpg

Image credit: http://ziarahwisata-rohani.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/gua-maria-pohsarang.html#.Vox_Jvl96Uk

 

 

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELERS IN INDONESIA- part 4

  1. KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR local events and traditional cultural experiences. The Keraton in Yogya holds nightly Wayang Kulit, but we only found out because we flicked on the telly one night and heard about it.
  2. MIND YOUR PRONUNCIATION. What I said: “Wah, dia yang paling genteng”. What I thought I said: “Wah, he’s so handsome!” What I actually said: “Wha, he’s the most roof tiles.”
  3. WATCH THE LOCALS for local handshakes. These generally go according to status. Once you enter a room, you must greet every person in the room ASAP and to people older, you bend, pulling their hand to your forehead. To random acquaintances, handshake then touch your sternum. Some religions may be different in customs.
  4. CROSS THE TRAFFIC with other people in a group or with locals. On a busy main road, they just stick their hand out to point where they’re going and they very slowly walk into the traffic. The traffic will either go around you or slow to a halt.
  5. EAT FISH WITH your fingers. Fiddly bones are small and invisible. Chew and chew overtime just to make sure you haven’t missed any bones.
  6. BEWARE of early transit flights and red eyes. The company is irritable and less than excellent.
  7. IF YOU’RE AUSTRALIAN, register your details at smarttraveler.gov.au. Do your homework on their travel tips.
  8. INDONESIA has an upfront departure tax that gets sprung on you as you check in. 150 000R per person-!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  9. In fact, talk to your travel agent. I believe that the departure tax is included in most airfares these days, however it’s best to double check and ensure you’ve got enough cash on hand if need be.

  10. TRUST YOURSELF with the local language and practice. Jerky analysing of what you’re saying before you say it won’t get you anywhere.
  11. ENJOY YOURSELF.

 

1335854050-labor-day-demonstration-at-hotel-indonesia-circle--jakarta_1183712.jpg

 

Image credit: http://www.demotix.com/news/1183736/labor-day-demonstration-hotel-indonesia-circle-jakarta#media-1183717

TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELERS IN INDONESIA- part 1

  1. ALWAYS listen to the people you are dealing with and confirm the final transaction. Apparently the Soekarno-Hatta airport, Jakarta’s international airport has a similar code to one in France. The check-in guy murmured- “So, two tickets to France then,” and we said “Uh-oh.” Always listen attentively.
  2. DON’T stare at anyone- officials, passengers, passers-by, anyone. A stare becomes a challenge and may result in confrontation.
  3. WEAN yourself onto spicy food until you love it. There is no other option.
  4. GET used to the noise level. If you’re from a Western country, you may be feeling a bit confronted by the overwhelming level of noise- traffic beeps, off-tune ukulele buskers, calls to prayer from the local mesjid, vendors yelling at the top of their lungs
  5. IF you have jet-lag, don’t sleep to your time, switch your body clock to the local time. Eye-masks are a blessing.
  6. JANGAN KUATIR. Don’t worry just because things a run differently here. I was panicking at the sight of Jakarta’s traffic mayhem, but the locals have a system and they stick to it. Don’t get in their way.
  7. AEROGUARD or any other Insect Repellent is crucial. I have a line on mosquito bites just around my ankles, just from where my socks met the bottoms of my trousers. Nyamuk are revolting vultures.
  8. WHERE possible, sleep with air-con. Firstly, it will cool you down from the sticky temperatures and, it will also rid the room of flies and mosquitoes.
  9. BE FRIENDLY to the locals.  Everything; from customs, currency and expectations to places to eat during Ramadan and street etiquette, everything is local knowledge.
  10. SAYING “no” to things is very difficult. When being served unwanted food, you say “nanti” (later) or “kenyang”(I’m full) and they won’t get offended that you don’t like it. Alternatively, you can offer then another option. For example, if you’re weary of the milk and dairy products there and you’re served a cup of milk (the condensed, powdered kind with hot-water, unstirred), then you say, “Wah! Thank you very much! While I like milk, I really really prefer hot tea without milk.” In the end, if you’re a guest, they just want to please you.

 

indonesia-map

 

 

Image credit: http://www.mapsofworld.com/indonesia/

TripAdivsor: Kraton, Yogyakarta

Hire a tuk tuk driver for the day, and ask them to take you around Yogya- if give the locals an income and it takes the stress off you trying to navigate your way around with a map. Plus, if you treat them nicely, they can become a tour guide of sorts and take you to the best lunch warungs and give you private tips about the attractions.

The Kraton is no exception. I walked around the Kraton at my own pace, although there is the option to take a palace tour guide. I just walked around and followed the paths myself, listening in on the tour guides whenever I was near one. I got a lot out of it. The Palace Museum preserves everything really well and is quite educational and informative about the Dutch colonisation. It’s a beautiful palace and the museum aspects; costumes, historic images, sculptures and art, make this place very cultural and worth the visit. I really enjoyed myself there, but then again, I like following my nose around museums.

 

dsc01083.jpg

Tip: take the time to have a wander though the palacetown as well. Within the palace walls live all the people who keep the palace and the local economy running. There you will find authentic food and handicrafts.

Tip: watch the local tv when you’re just messing around in your room. In doing so, I stumbled upon advertising for a nightly traditional shadow puppet event (although check with hotel staff to confirm) at the Kraton. It was spectacular, cultural and traditional, and was an accidental highlight of my trip to the Kraton at night.

 

 

 

 

 

[Image credit: https://katsandpipe.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/yogyakarta-%E2%80%93-water-palace-kraton-prambanan-sun-6-mar/]