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A Quick Moment in Phuket and Time for Reflection

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As I landed in Phuket I felt a sense of deep relief as I knew rest and refuge for my soul was just around the corner. I am so thankful for everything I’ve been able to experience thus far however, I am ready to slow down. I am looking forward to waking up and having time to journal about devotionals and readings on a daily basis, having time to just be and listen to what God is trying to tell me and where He is leading me next. I’m only spending two days in Phuket and then off to a new location for an entire month. I so need this.

As I sit on the beach in Phuket, I realize it’s not so much that feel like I’ve had any epiphanies about myself over the last two months, it’s more that I’ve just had confirmation about things I already knew. One being, I enjoy traveling slow. Traveling to new locations every few days is exhausting and, yes, I get to say that I’ve been to this specific place but the places I feel a connection to are the places I was able to spend time in, create relationships usually beyond one conversation, and not have my mind filled with a to do list before I leave because my time is so short. Also, I love not being worried about getting the great Instagram worthy photos. Those are great and I absolutely love it when I get one but to be honest many of pictures you see on Instagram do look that beautiful from the angle they were taken; what you don’t see are the dozens of people standing in line waiting for you to hurry up and take the picture of yourself over the ledge. These locations are usually the most touristy and cost a lot of money to get to because you have to buy a tour with dozens of other people to get there. Which brings me to my next received confirmation. I’m not that into guided tours. Especially if it’s in large groups. I do love guided tour groups revolved around things I just wouldn’t be able to by myself like taking a boat to swim with giant manta rays or riding an elephant, but if it’s something I can do on my own or with a friend or two I’d rather go that route.

I’ve been so busy these last couple months I haven’t had a clear mind to really just be with God without the busyness soon distracting me. I’m continually hoping and praying one of the reasons for this journey is to provide clarity on where my life is going next. I left a job I wasn’t in love with, sold everything, and said farewell to so many loved ones not just to travel the world, but to also find what I can add to it. I have asked God for a revelation about this time and time again. Time and time again He provides the next stepping stone of what He wants me to do next, but never the whole picture. There are moments when I hear nothing but silence and feel nothing but inaction on God’s part and I can be brought to utter frustration. It reminds me of Habakkuk. Not that I am surrounded by a world I feel is falling apart due to evil, although I’m not saying this isn’t happening; it’s just not my point right now, but that I have had extended dialog with God about various areas of my life and many times I see inaction and wonder why. My testament to walking by faith and not by sight is being built mightily. What I love about Habakkuk is although he had moments of complete frustration and not understanding God’s inaction or timing he didn’t run from God as Jonah did. He poured his frustration into prayer, over and over again. I will choose to continue in this way.

As I lay on the beach in Phuket, I look back and can see all the things in my life I grew tired of and knew it was time for me to move on, but I also see all the good I was able to pour into some of these heavy tasks. I am thankful God used me and worked through me in these moments and lie in anticipation of what He will have for me next. As impatient as I get for the story or my life to hurry up and unfold I remember that the purpose of my life isn’t for me or my story at all. This is all God’s story and Him revealing who He is to the world, and I get to be a small piece of the puzzle.

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Thailand’s Islands Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Ang Thong National Park, and Making Decisions Based on Unsettling Feelings

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A piece of my heart was left in Chiang Mai. That is one place I just feel drawn to go back to, further build relationships, and explore more of.  As hard as it was to travel on, I was ready for some more island life. My entire life I’ve lived coastal, and if there’s one thing this trip has confirmed is I get some sort of peace being near the ocean. When looking out at its vastness I tend to daydream of all my wants and desires. Then, like a horse drawn to water, my mind gravitates and rests in thoughts of the depths of God’s love for me, His mighty sovereignty He has proven over my life, and the endless array possibilities that are far beyond what I can see, all held in the palm of His hands. The opportunities He has opened doors to so far are beyond what I ever imagined my life to be; I just had to be courageous enough to continue to walk forward. He has done and continues to do the rest. I ponder all these things for hours when looking out at the ocean. The best part of going to Koh Samui, aside from being at the beach again, was we could actually take a plane there. A friend of mine met me in Chiang Mai for a bit and we decided to travel these islands together.

Getting around on these islands is easiest if you rent and know how to drive a scooter. These islands are big and a scooter rents for about $6 US dollars a day. That’s less than one taxi ride. Our hotel was literally on the beach and also at the end of the Fisherman’s wharf that housed the fun night markets. The location couldn’t have been better. We steered away from the wild nightlife areas, wanted to be on the beach, and the semi-peaceful, semi-lively fisherman’s wharf was the perfect in between. Along the wharf’s alley like streets where many restaurants, clothing and craft shops, and every kind of variety shop you could imagine. Getting out on the scooter and venturing to other sides of the island and other beaches is a must. Hiking to and swimming in the waterfall pools was also a favorite moment.

The natural beauty of the islands east of Thailand’s mainland is astonishing, however, like many beautiful places around the world they have now make a huge amount of their money based on tourism. This means, more pollution in touristy areas, expensive guided tours that you feel like you are in a cattle drive, and locals treating you like, well, a tourist. They want to make money and the easiest way to achieve that is selling you things. Ask questions about the tours they want to sell you. How many people are on the boat? How much of the island do I actually get to see? A lot of these tours will let you go to a specific location but not allow you on the rest of the island. They will also limit your time in each area. The guided tours are okay as long as you are clear and accepting of what you are getting and where you are going. One example of this was when we went on a boat to visit a specific island. They explained that they did not want us sitting on towels or laying towels on the beach because the beaches are losing sand. So, to stop this there were dozens upon dozens of beach lounge chairs to sit in. Once you were sitting in a beach chair they then told you it wasn’t free and the cost to sit amounted to about $10 US dollars for one hour. These islands are beautiful; just be knowledgeable on what to expect where you are going. My favorite moment in all the boating amongst the island was the Ang Thong National park. It is absolutely breath-taking, and kayaking around its waters and an island is worth every penny for the life time experience. I was a bit under the weather for part of this trip so my friend helped me with some photos when I just needed to lie on the beach.

Traveling is one of those life experiences that has you constantly out of your comfort zone and your “normal”, and in a state of heightened sensitivity to what is happening around you, well hopefully. Especially when you are traveling in third world countries. I have strong guttural instincts that so far in life, have not steered me wrong. I usually know right away if someone is being dishonest, trying to take advantage or me or the situation, or something is just off. So, when I get them, I listen. I can get pretty bold when in these situations and won’t hesitate to ask more questions as needed, be very slow to answer or make decisions, often standing in silence thinking and processing all the while letting others sit in their discomfort of their own insincere motives. My friend wanted to go to a specific island that just didn’t sit well with me. I had nothing to base this feeling of just not wanting to go on. I told her I was probably just going to stay on Koh Samui and not go to Koh Tao to stay. I went back and forth in my head several times because as a friend, I of course wanted to do fun things with her and not have her travel alone when unnecessary, but something was just telling me this wasn’t this place for me to go. Literally two days before my friend leaving for Koh Tao I get a message from a friend in Hawaii with an article attached. She said “make sure you don’t go here”. The article was about several backpackers ending up missing and later found dead while staying on this island.  It is not for me to speculate what happened or make any decisions for anyone else’s future travels, however, for me this confirmed this just wasn’t a place I wanted to stay. I probably would’ve been fine however I am careful with the environments I enter into. The only reason I bring this up is to encourage fellow travelers to listen when something doesn’t feel right for you.

Next stop Phuket!

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Chiang Mai, Thailand – A Bustling City Nestled Amongst the Mountains Holding True to Its Roots

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Northern Thailand, with its lush greenery and multiple rivers flowing through, has seemingly kept so much of itself untouched and untamed. Just below these mountain tops lies a bustling city alive with markets, activities, and so many delicious cafes and authentic restaurants it’s difficult to choose which one to go to. My time in Chiang Mai and the northern region of Thailand was memorable and I left still knowing there was so much more to experience and explore.

Through advice from a friend who lives in southern Thailand I decided to stay in the Old City part of Chiang Mai. This area is rich in history and is still surrounded by the old moats and crumbling city wall ruins. These moats and walls were built, I believe in the 1200s, to keep out neighboring countries prone to invade, primarily Burma. Now, it lends itself to keeping people like me from getting too lost while wandering the many small streets lined with shops and vendors. While staying in this area everything I needed and more was within a 5 minute walk and laundry could be dropped off right across the street. The walls are built in a square to surround the city in about a mile or two radius, I could be wrong on the distance. This area of Thailand has as many temples as Bali does, but these temples are Buddhist as opposed to Hindu and the structure and artistic design is very different and unique.

Every afternoon the locals would bring their produce, meats, and cooked foods into the city to sell fresh on a daily basis. Many of the shops would have a multitude of things you could get from that one small shop. Often times I could buy a meal, rent a scooter if I chose, and buy some groceries all in the same tiny shop; maybe even get my laundry done or buy a tour. At night, there were plenty of things to do and over all I felt safe walking the inner city streets of Chiang Mai by myself. Everyone I met had a helpful and friendly demeanor and there was always a tuk-tuk at the corner ready to give you a ride if you were done walking for the evening. The streets are filled with tuk-tuks, little motorized carriages, and I took many. It’s an inexpensive and fun way to get around and see the rest of the city outside the Old City walls. Every Sunday evening there is a big night market that includes everything all the other markets hold, clothes, crafts, foods, etc, but adds music, performances and is just on a much bigger more crowded scale. Be ready to be around a whole lot of people if you decide to go. Also seeing an authentic Muy-thai boxing event is a worth it event.

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By far the most memorable experience I had in Thailand was visiting, learning to care for, and riding bare-back, the elephants. The Asian elephant has been used in Thailand for hundreds and hundreds of years as a way for transportation, farming, and fighting in war. You will see elephant figurines and paintings mostly due to the fact that the elephant is recognized by many here as highly intelligent, strong, hard-working, loyal, and a huge help and asset to the survival of Thailand for centuries. For many here elephants are to be appreciated and respected. With that said I feel it is just as important to be aware that due to many factors, tourism being a big one, elephants are now often mistreated and abused. There are many elephant tours and sanctuaries claiming that they are good to or saving the elephants when in fact they are not and if educated even a little you will be able to tell before giving your money to a group. I never had a desire to learn about elephants or create an awareness about their treatment until I met one and she gave me a hug. My heart melted. It was then I realized they create strong bonds and have heartfelt emotions. Elephants feel love, joy, grief, compassion, trauma, stress, and in times of stress they give each other hugs. She must have known I was having an emotional morning because while the other elephants were doing occasional naughty things she was so gentle with me and seemed so patient even when I was stumbling to do things correctly for her. I am convinced she was just an emotionally intuitive creature, as most women are.

There were only three of us who did a little research and chose this smaller elephant camp. There were only four elephants on this large property that included a river flowing through it on the bottom portion of this giant land that stretched as far as my eyes could see with mountains in the background. Each elephant had its own keeper, a mahout. The mahout for the elephant I cared for had a special relationship with his elephant, it was obvious. They were friends and it showed. I was able to feed giant sugarcane stalks to my elephant to build a good vibe, then we just kind of hung out while she smelled me and we just got used to each other. Then I mustered up enough bravery to climb up onto her neck. She lifted her leg to give me a boost. Yes, it is a trained thing to do but I took forever and she waited with no impatience. I learned the motions to slowly guide her and we trekked for about half an hour down to the river. She then got down on one knee so I could get off without completely injuring myself. She gave me a good ride and took me through these scenic lands, so in appreciation I gave her a bath in the river. Sure, she can bath herself but who doesn’t like getting a sponge bath and someone else cleaning behind their ears. Bathing her took a while. She is huge and I did both sides, haha. We then hung out in the river and I was rinsing off and finishing up. Apparently, she was so appreciative she wanted to give me a bath too. She took water into her trunk and sprayed me. More than once. It is possible she knew I needed a good laugh as well. After all the fun she helped me get back on her neck and we were one our way back up to the top for lunch. We then had to say our goodbyes.

A couple things to know about elephants if you are looking into having an experience with one. They sleep a lot, not for long periods of time but shorts naps many, many times throughout the day. If you are going to an elephant camp and the camp allows for more than two short 30 minute rides per day than the elephant probably is not getting enough sleep or the kind of sleep they need. They work in spurts and a true sanctuary allows a short time with people once maybe twice per day and the rest the elephant will sleep and exercise on its own. If it is used for farming they will also work in spurts and eat and sleep in spurts. Another thing to know is the baskets on their back hurt. Having a human or two on their strong muscle-filled necks is equivalent to wearing a necklace, but those rigid giant baskets with seats used for riding tours are not good for their backs and actually hurt. I saw many camps who had these on the elephants giving ride after ride for hours on end. It was heartbreaking to see. Also it is good to pay attention to the relationship between the mahout and the elephant. If a mahout has more than one elephant, often it is not a good sign. If the mahout walks around with a big metal thing that looks like a hook that is probably how the elephant was trained and it likely was trained in an abusive manor.

Another must see in this northern region is the famous white temple. Guided tours aren’t my favorite thing to do but this temple is a ways north near the border of Thailand and while up there seeing the “golden triangle” is another accomplishment and something just kind of cool to say you did. The Golden Triangle is the border location where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet via intersecting calm rivers. There is a small island in the center of this border that is unowned by any country, I don’t advise getting out of a boat and stepping foot on this patch of land. It is known to be the place that criminal activity can happen and no law enforcement can enforce and accountability for anything that happens there. The Golden Triangle is also one of the world’s largest and the center for drug trafficking. Largely in part due to the amount of opium that can grow here. This tiny area produces 25% of the entire world’s opium, usually then made into heroin. A guided river tour is advised and I wouldn’t take it upon yourself to wonder off alone. I briefly stepped foot in Laos but it was through the guided tour.

All of this and I feel it is all only the tip of the iceberg to all the wonders northern Thailand holds. There is much more to be educated about, see, and experience in this enchanted part of the world.

Solo Traveling through Ubud and the Wondrous Sights up to Bangli

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As I stepped away from the beach culture that a large portion of Bali is and into the cooler mountainous landscape richly seeped in Balinese culture, tradition, Hindu temples, and shrines, I had many conflicting emotions. This increased as I made a local friend who I could ask candid questions too, not offend him, and he would reply openly and honestly. Most of my discord stemmed from the fact that with every fiber of my being, to my core, I am deeply in love with Jesus. I have done nothing to deserve what He has done for me, I could aim to do nothing more for Him, and still He would love me unconditionally. I would still be His daughter and like a Father He would still have His arms reaching for me to help me up when I fall. This kind of love takes my breath away and  humbles me to the extent that it brings me to my knees with eyes brimming with tears. My relationship with my God is every day, very intimate, and impenetrable. When chaos swirls around me He is who I go to. I block everyone else out, so I can hear specifically from Him and the outside noise is muted. I crave for every person I come in contact with to have this. This is what sustains me when all else fails. With this said, I walk with open eyes still able to admire so much of the tradition, dedication, and amount of faith these people walk with day after day, year after year, generation after generation. I look at those qualities with admiration and can clearly see some things I am lacking in.

Ubud has so many holy temples and shrines; the craftsmanship is breath-taking. I took a trip to the Water Purification temple and witnessed locals coming in to a place believed to have fresh water that comes up from a spring that purifies and cleanses them of anything unholy and any wrong-doing. They bring offerings to their God in faith it will be pleasing and bring good things for their life and the life of their families. The commitment to give offerings on a daily basis, though smaller daily, is another quality of commitment that stuck in my mind. The emotion I saw as men, women, and children stood under the spouts to be cleansed by this water was convicting. Another moment of me reflecting if I am in each moment with God aware and feeling the emotions that come with it or has some of my relationship become routine and monotonous and I need to be more emotionally there. My relationship with God is like any relationship in that it needs to be fed and attention and care need to be given. One of the many questions I asked my newly made friend surrounded the cost of these rituals and he openly explained that with all of the offerings and ceremonies held he spends quite a bit of his money each year and so does each family. He explained that he like many families in Bali lives in a small house with his extended family and they live in poverty.

Another sight that should not be missed are the rice fields in Tegallalang and the lake among the mountains in Bangli. Go for the pictures you can take alone. The views in these areas you just won’t find anwhere else. There is a hike you can do to the top of the mountain but it starts at 2 am so I was out for that one. My trip to Ubud was a time for me to enjoy and regroup after bouncing from location to location so quickly. While is this region you can also visit and see a Luwak, a tiny animal, that makes apparently the most expensive coffee in the world. I tried it; it wasn’t my favorite but it was worth the experience. Apparently this animal poops out the coffee beans and the enzymes in the animal do something to the beans. They are then traditionally roasted in a pan over fire.

Lastly, Ubud is filled with some great shopping. Yes you have to dig a little and not all of it is good quality but some of it is and at a much cheaper price than sold elsewhere. I stayed in a nice boutique hotel that was a 15 minute walk to the main downtown like shopping area, and 10 minutes in the other direction was the monkey forest. Let me not forget to tell you there are monkeys everywhere. These one are not mean like the ones in Uluwatu and they are playful. And when I say they are everywhere they really are… hanging on telephone wires, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, crossing the streets with the people. It will put a smile on your face that these more non-aggressive monkeys mingle with people on a daily basis.

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A Trip to Gili Trawangan and Nusa Lembongan

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After our unexpected camping trip in Amed my friend and I were so excited to take a fast boat to Gili Trawangan and enjoy a more tropical paradise escape in accommodations that included air conditioning and hot showers. The Gili islands are known to have clear turquoise waters and great snorkeling. Many from around the world come to these islands on holiday to swim and, what I soon found out in Gili Trawangan, party. I did not know the latter of the two until we arrived. The Gili islands are tiny islands located off the coast of Lombok. Lombok is a predominantly Muslim country so it was a bit of a surprise to me to find out that drugs on the Gili islands are legal. As I’m sure you’ve put two and two together now, many people on holiday choose these tropical islands for that reason.

We took an island taxi, which is a horse and carriage to our stay in a quaint little cottage style bed and breakfast. It was very cute and private with great flora around it and a pool. When I got into the room it had to be close to 100 degrees F. It was insanely hot as it is hot and humid on the islands. I came to soon discover the air-conditioning was broken. I talked with the guy in charge of the place and he had someone come out to fix it, thank goodness. It was fixed by the evening. That evening after exploring the island a bit I came back to my now cool room to take a hot shower and wash all the sweat off me after a long hot, humid day. As I waited and waited for the shower to get hot I realize there just in no hot water. Cold showers for the next couple of nights it is. Late one night as my friend and I were returning from a late night out I put the key in the gate to enter into our cottage area. “The locks are changed.” I look at her and say. She didn’t believe me and thought I was just having trouble with the door. I explained to her again “No, you don’t understand it’s a different lock. This is not the lock for this key.” She tried the key as well but still wasn’t comprehending the someone really did change the locks on us. A neighbor came over and tried. She came to the same conclusion. We walked around the perimeter of the building, calling with no good way in, calling out our property managers name. Finally, his wife came to the gate and let us in. I said to her someone changed the locks. She giggled and confirmed her husband did in fact change the locks while we were out. Like I said, drugs on these islands are legal and shrooms are the drug of choice. Needless to say, we stayed at a different place just a block down the road for the rest of our trip. These experiences make for unforgettable memorable moments.

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The Gili islands are nice but a short stay will suffice. Gili Trawongan is by far the most crowded and touristy of the three. It is small enough that you can go for an easy bike ride around the whole island. There is a small part you do have to walk your bike through sand. Gili Meno and Gili Air are smaller and much less populated but also go to them very aware that there are going to be limited things to do there. There are a few places to eat and mostly just fun more secluded places to relax, enjoy a beach and snorkel or swim. You can also take a boat between these islands which is what I did. After 5 days in the Gili islands we were ready to move on… to Nusa Lembongan.

Only a few short days on Nusa Lembongan was just not enough. This island is more known for its surf breaks, it is a bit less touristy and a bit more outdoorsy. With the help from a newly made friend in Uluwatu I got a beachfront room with a hot shower. My first hot shower in a while and I was over the moon. We had a great view from our balcony of the popular surf breaks and were steps away from the beach. It was paradise and I wish I would’ve planned to stay on this island longer. The breaks a pretty far out so it’s perfect for stand-up paddling which I did. And we also took a canoe down a quiet very still river which was relaxing and picturesque. However, my favorite moment on my entire journey thus far was taking a boat from Nusa Lembongan to the coast of Nusa Penida and swimming in the deep sea with giant manta rays. I have never had an underwater experience so exhilarating. The boat captain didn’t make us wear life jackets or hold onto a raft and stay on top of the water and just look, he let us loose. I put on my fins and mask and dove in. It was at first terrifying to see such huge creatures gliding by doing circles around me. There were dozens of these creatures in the water and they ranged from 10 to 16ft wide. They were huge! As soon as I got used to seeing the size of them I was able to enjoy the magic of what was happening. Every time I turn around I would see another one gracefully glide by. I was sure not to touch them because though they are docile animals they are still wild animals and I would not want one to think it had to protect itself in any way.

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After swimming with the mantas, we took the boat to Crystal Bay and Mangrove Bay, other areas off the coast of the Nusa islands. I have been snorkeling in and all over Hawaii for 7 years now and I have never seen the untouched variety of coral and fish that I saw in Crystal Bay. It is still so alive and flourishing. I saw fish in colors I have never seen on fish before and the coral was like something I had only before seen in pictures and on the discovery channel. Beautiful doesn’t justice to how immensely invigorating and exotic this small piece of God’s great creation really is. I want to come back to the Nusa islands and do this all again. I have a feeling it would be a new a different experience every time.

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The Sacrifice of Warm Showers and Clean Sheets: On the way to Amed, Bali

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Yes, you read that right. I had little idea of what I was getting myself into and no idea it was going to be a camping adventure until I got there, but it was worth its weight in gold for the life experience. My friend joined me in Uluwatu and we made the trek to Amed to experience a different side of Bali. But first we had a good size list of things we wanted to do while on the way there. The drive was several hours so we made sure to enjoy the treasures Bali had along the way.

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Bali is known for a few things, one of them being silver. Some of their silver is high quality, at a good price, and the craftsmanship to make their Balinese style jewelry is unmatched. There is so much silver being sold in Bali that it is worth your while to take the time and ask around to verify that where you are planning on buying yours is high quality. A lot of the not so high quality silver has a higher mix of iron in it and much of it is sold at higher prices in the areas with higher tourist traffic. We asked around a bit and decided to stop at a silver shop outside of any main city where we were able watch the silversmith make the jewelry. I don’t normally purchase jewelry for myself but on this occasion, I did a little splurging.

Another art and craft Bali is known for is Batik. Batik is a technique of wax resistant painting. And this of course was another must on our stop and see list. To watch these women painting intricate patterns with such ease and grace on usually silk and cotton fabric was astounding. It is truly a talent and an art. Many of the pieces they are painting on are worn for special occasions in Balinese culture and a good quality batik silk dresses or saris are a bit expensive. It does make for a beautiful dress or long skirt.

Onto temples and the prettiest most intriguing water palace I’ve seen to date. There are so many temples in Bali; it really does seem that there is a temple on every corner the way there is a Starbucks on every corner of Seattle. Through talking with a few newly made local friends in Bali I was told there are three temples in each village. This makes for over a thousand temples on the island of Bali alone. Each temple has its own meaning; one is to represent creation, one is for daily maintenance of health, luck, life, etc., and the third is for destruction or “the destroyer”. The village cemetery is also always by the temple that represents destruction. Disclaimer: I do not claim fully understand Balinese Hindu; I am merely just regurgitating for you what I was told. I may in the near future write a blog on all I learned about Balinese Hindu which is different from Indian Hindu and why Bali is the only island left in Indonesia that is predominantly Hindu. That being said I have seen so many temples. The water temple is one worth taking the time to visit.

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We didn’t arrive to Amed until well after dark and the street, if you can call it that was windy, narrow, and very broken. When our taxi stopped at our stay I thought “Is he sure this is the right place?” We were escorted back to these cabins on stilts. I couldn’t see much because it was so dark outside and there weren’t any lights along the path. There was just a faint glimmer of lights coming from other cabins. “Oh, good there is electricity!” I thought. We walked up ladder like steps into a cabin. The man escorting us turned on a light. There was one light, I think one electrical socket, with a mattress on the ground and a ladder to a loft with another mattress on the ground of the loft floor. I’m thankful for the mosquito nets provided over the beds. The man left and my friend looked at me and asked, “Are you okay?” I could tell she was wondering if she was okay as well. We both just looked at each other realizing we both smelled the not so good aroma coming from the mattresses and whatever was under our cabin. We opened the back door of the cabin that put us back outside and there was another small light. We flipped the switch and saw the hose fastened to a concrete wall that was our shower and a toilet that was less than clean looking. I looked at my friend and just said “We’re camping.” She replied, “that’s what I was telling myself too.” “We just have to tell ourselves we are camping and then it’s not so bad.” I said back to her. We both smiled and laughed.

 

In Amed I slept in and wore the same clothes with a swim suit for 3 days because I refused to let anything else I owned touch the mattress. I just couldn’t pinpoint what was in or on the mattress that was creating that smell and I wanted to subject as little as I could to it. And I got fairly clean feeling under the cold-water hose of a shower. I still however enjoyed the rustic and serenely beautiful landscape of this area. When we awoke the next morning, walking down the ladder-like steps, we were greeted by the calm ocean waters just feet from our doorstep. The few days we spent there were a good switch from where we were. We walked up and down roads and small paths that led to fresh spring water and rice fields along with other crops to be harvested. We snorkeled and saw a completely different ocean than the one I am used to in Hawaii. And my most memorable moment was capturing the small glimpses of an entire community coming together to prepare and build for a Balinese wedding that was soon coming. If you follow my Instagram you may have seen these stories. There were men building archways and women and children all helping. I thought they were building homes until I asked and was told the whole village comes together to prepare for these extravagant celebrations. Amed was worth the trek, just choose you accommodations carefully.

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International Travel Beginnings in Airports and the Uluwatu area of Bali Indonesia

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Arriving to Bali was a thirty-seven-hour event full of learnings and experiences that made me quickly realize how covered in grace I was. I’ve done limited international travel and never attempted the budget travel airlines until now. For anyone traveling internationally, if the airline has an option to purchase baggage allowance as you are booking, purchase it! And purchase enough. I thought that like the major none budget airlines I would just pay for my baggage at the airports but soon found out that the fees at the airport for those who don’t prepay are astronomical. My large checked bag would’ve been almost $500 just for the first flight. I had 2 more flights to go! Long story short the woman at the service desk pulled a few strings and let me check my baggage for $160 then at the next airport grace and mercy flooded down again and I only had to pay $70 instead of almost $400. There was a moment I wasn’t sure I was going to be getting on even the first flight, and in hindsight the experience allowed for me to not have any other option but to receive grace and multiple huge favors from complete strangers. There are people who want to help and want to see you succeed whether in large or small feats.

As I got off the plane with just about everything I own in my two suitcases, I saw a couple wave me down, I assumed they were the couple there to pick me up and take me to my first place to stay in the Uluwatu area of Bali. I suddenly realized I had no clue who these people were; I am completely unfamiliar with where I am, and here I am, standing with everything I own, needing a ride, and forced to trust them enough to get in the back of their truck. Yes, I was on edge, and yes, I prayed for safety. Talk about stepping outside of my comfort zone. I am naturally pretty weary of people until I get to know them and see them as trustworthy. My first experiences were filled with huge language barriers, not knowing much about where I am and despite all that compete strangers showing me an abundance of patience and a sincere desire to help.

One of the major hurdles in Bali is transportation. Yes, in comparison to the United States things are much much cheaper. However, even what seems to be small expenses add up quickly. By far the most affordable way to travel is by a motor bike or scooter. The traffic and just the way people drive in Bali terrifies me. The rules of the road are there are very few rules of the road. People on various types of transportation honk endlessly and enter oncoming traffic as they zoom passed each other. I will say there seems to be very few accidents however for the most part, so far, I’m more comfortable paying for rides to where I need to get. I’ve also walked miles every day.

I’ve walked and gotten rides to several beaches around Uluwatu and they are just breathtaking. My favorite is probably Nyang Nyang. It’s more local and much less crowded then the more popular surf beaches which are filled with travelers in search of amazing, thrilling waves. While in Indonesia one of the moments I really take pleasure in is drinking their fresh fruit juices. I cannot emphasize enough how delicious a tall glass of local papaya juice, or watermelon juice is. The local cuisine is phenomenal and for the most part pretty healthy which just adds to the flavor of paradise I’ve experienced near Uluwatu and South Kuta.

Next I am trading in my first world amenities (air conditioning, and warm showers) and leaving the more popular touristy area to head into a much more secluded and local area rich in Balinese culture and tradition.

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