Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stepping into the world of Aladdin

When we arrived in India we spent a couple days in Delhi, first at the Hyatt to transition slowly (I still had some free nights from all my trips to LA when I was working at MySpace) and then with a friend, Arti, who very generously hosted us in her house.
We didn't really visit Delhi then as we mostly planned the first legs of our Indian trip, so I'll talk about Delhi in a later post.

Our first real stop was Udaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, land of the maharadjahs, big palaces, Aladdin and Ali Baba. Udaipur is known for its huge city palace situated on the border of the lake Pichola, and its romantic setting. It has been a great first stop for us, and even if we didn't do a lot each day, tired as we were by the heat, we really enjoyed our stay there.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On our way to India

After the Gili island, we slowly made our way to India, trying to transition ourselves from a peaceful island to the craziness we'd been told to expect. This path first took us to the heart of Bali in Seminyak, close to the international airport, where we re-encountered traffic and people.

Rolling in style
 Seminyak is supposed to be a slitghtly less crazy version of Kuta, with a little less tourists but still great big beaches perfect for surfing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fast times at superslow Gili Air

When we left Lovina early, we took a car to a small harbor town called Amed, then a boat to the Gili Islands, off of Lombok. Out of the three islands, We chose Gili Air due to the overwhelming number of friends who recommended it, and we were not disappointed. After settling down at out hotel by the ocean, we both had the same thought: "This is the paradise we were expecting in Lovina."

The island is very small (we walked around it in 1:10hr) and as far as we could tell there are no vehicles on it, save for small horse carts used to carry stuff and people around. As a consequence there is no road, but just a dirt path. It's impressive how the absence of vehicles just makes everything more peaceful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The route to forgettable Lovina

After Ubud our next step was to be Lovina, an area that had been recommended as a place to relax and not do anything. We picked a guide from Ubud to drive us all the way to Lovina with a couple stops along the way.

The first spot was a big temple area by the lake Beratan, up the mountain from Ubud, and almost halfway to our destination. The area is very pretty, with a couple of temples located on their mini islands only a few meters away from the side of the lake. These are dedicated to the dead and have usually 7 roofs to symbolize the 7 steps the dead have to go through before being completely let go. The process is supposed to take 5 years. As you'll notice, one of those even has 11 roofs. I asked if it took longer to go through that many steps, but it seems like it's 5 years all the same.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Strolling through rice paddies in lovely Ubud

Right after saying our good byes to Australia, we were ready to say Hello to Bali. Almost everybody had told us to avoid the south area of Kuta, as it's just a big touristy area so we did just that and went straight for our first destination, Ubud. It's a town situated inland, slighly up the mountains and surrounded by rice paddies.

Welcome to Ubud!

We could quickly tell that if the town's original economy was based on agriculture it is now very much centered around tourism. You can still find some paddies in the middle of town, but chatting with the locals we learned that they are becoming rarer over time while hotels, stores or restaurants are being erected.
No to worry though, if the main roads of the center feel very much tailored to us, westerners, Ubud is still very much a beautiful authentic town. There are no big buildings and a lot of the accomodations have you stay within a traditional family coumpound. One doesn't need to go far from the center to really be immersed in the country.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kakadu was wet - and random thoughts about Oz

From Cairns, our last stop was Darwin, at the extreme north of Australia, and more precisely the National park of Kakadu (awesome name for our french readers, I know)
The aboriginal Australians have inhabited this area for over 1000 years, and it's a place where you can see part of their culture. It seemed very promising if not for one problem: the wet season lasted a little longer that usual and 90% of the park was still flooded and inaccessible. The good news for us was that, since we only had one day to spend there anyway, the choice was easily made and we didn't have to worry about what to see.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Looking for Nemo at the Great Barrier Reef

From Tasmania and Melbourne, we took a plane up to Cairns, the main base to go explore the barrier reef. As we boarded the plane we realized that we probably wouldn't need any sweater anymore until the end of the summer in France, since most of the places we are scheduled to go to have temperatures that wil be 30C degrees at the minimum.

Our favorite underwater animal

We were not in Cairns for long and the core of our adventure there was the 2 days we spent aboard the Encounter boat. We chose this option because we didn't want to fly in for just a single day of snorkeling or diving. The problem is that the reef is out to sea and you need a boat to take you to the different places to be able to admire the underwater sea life. Denise chose to do one dive and snorkel the rest of the trip, which means that she'd have the opportunity to snorkel 6 times over the 2 days. I chose the full scuba diving introduction, which means that I went diving a total of 5 times, always with an instructor, but without really taking any class. Since we had only two days we couldn't do a certification course which takes 3 days minimum.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cute animals save the day in Tasmania

Tasmanian devil. It is actually yawning after waking up

It may surprise many people, but after 4 days spent in Tasmania, our main thought is that we could have skipped it and used the time for something else. Of course the fact that we got rained on 3 days out of 4 didn't help, but that's not the main reason.
Truth is, Tasmania is a very green, pretty, wild area, and if you're only visiting Australia it's different enough from the rest to justify the jaunt. I think our problem is that we had come from spending 3 weeks in New Zealand, which is renowned because it's very green, pretty and wild... So after that Tasmania didn't really phase us ("poor little rich kid" I know).
But all is not lost. As the title says, cute cuddly animals saved the day!