Not for the faint of heart or flimsy of shoe, a visit to the idyllic Gunung Kawi temple in Tampaksiring requires descending nearly 400 steps, which is fine until you realize there’s no way out but back up. As Balinese never miss a merchandising opportunity, the steps down to the temple are lined with fierce hawkers (watch out for the women) of sarongs, jewelry, and all the standard Balinese bric-a-brac. Whatever you do, don’t buy until you’re almost out of the place.
Nature & Wildlife
Just being near the mountain was invigorating for me. Without going all Crouching Tiger, I truly felt a sort of energy from it, and at the same time, a peaceful tranquility. We couldn’t have had a better view, a refreshing breeze wafting through open-air balcony of Grand Puncak Sari Restaurant where we lunched. This is a good time to tell you just how fresh, spicy, and flavorful Indonesian food is. For someone who subsists on veggies, tofu, and seafood, I was in heaven.
Kayaking through Palau’s Rock Islands by default feels like being a castaway in an undiscovered paradise. This was my second time to take this day trip and it was no less exhilarating than nearly two years ago.
Here you see the beaming face of a person just minutes away from zip lining over a waterfall in the remote Pacific island of Palau. Thrilling, gorgeous, awe-inspiring, yes. What you don’t see is this person falling flat on her butt just inches away from the waterfall! What a bruise, but fortunately the Canon was saved. So, yes, this was my first zip lining experience and there are no pictures of me doing said adventure only because I am a control freak of a photographer, so I wanted to shoot the view as I zipped! Those photos actually were not that interesting — just the tops of trees quite blurry. So, you see the hubs zip lining and looking like he’s hanging on for dear life, which he was (although I don’t know why).
Palau is really a magical place. Once the setting for a season of Survivor, this tiny Micronesian island chain is home to a gazillion kinds of coral, sea life, and breathtaking rock islands. This was my second visit and working vacation. Read my full travel story.
The island of Pohnpei is the largest and tallest in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). An abundance of rain falls on its rugged mountain peaks, streaming into more than 40 rivers that feed the upper rain forest. Its waterfalls range from pleasant to spectacular, some with large swimming ponds. Although mangrove swamps surround most of Pohnpei’s coastline, nearby reef islands boast beautiful sandy beaches.
A day trip with Sam’s Tours (samtours.com) is an alternately thrilling and relaxing water adventure. Rise early to depart on a speedboat, whizzing through the majestic Rock Islands with their plumes of grass sprouting from limestone mushroom heads. Stop to snorkel and you may catch a glimpse of an elusive sea turtle or a family of black-tipped sharks, two- to three-feet long and as curiously cautious as you.
Babeldaob is Palau’s largest island — about three-quarters the size of Guam and Fish ‘n Fins (fishnfins.com) offers the only off-road eco tour of the island. Rise early for a wild ride off-road in a military-usage Polaris, which is a great way to see the island.
Palau is a destination like no other in Micronesia. The chain of islands is small and remote, but developed for comfortable, western style tourism. Palauans are strict guardians of the island’s pristine and delicate terrestrial and aquatic ecology. What has coalesced at 07°20 north of the Equator is nothing short of phenomenal. Locals are quick to boast about the island’s ecological charms, often rhapsodizing about its unique beauty.
People say that the best time to visit Saipan is when the flame trees are blooming—April through August. We somehow missed that memo. And while that sounds breathtaking, we are of the working class and found it far more convenient to go during the holidays. With that said, we were delighted with our four-day excursion.