Contrast the fury with which Balinese drive to the languid charm of terraced rice fields, blackened temples, and impromptu gardens. After our sojourn up the enchanting mountain, I was irresistibly draw down. A steep descent through charcoaled lava fields was rewarded with this stunning lake view and a spontaneous dip in hot springs, eh hem, sans swim suit (no photographic evidence below). Hey, that’s why I always bring a scarf when I travel.
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.
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.
Our Bali discovery started at the quiet and somewhat spartan Ubud Sari Health Resort, which caters to vegans, vegetarians, cleansers, detoxers, and well, us regular American pudge folk. We were just on vacation, but a room sans phone, WIFI, and TV was just what we needed to unplug and download for a bit. We didn’t mind not eating meat or gluten for a few days either. Even though we couldn’t be classified as serious health nuts, we enjoyed all the fresh, natural foods available in Bali.
Music by Imogen Heap & Blur
With its iconic skyline, I was very much looking forward to seeing Hong Kong. It mattered not that the fog rolled in and didn’t roll out. The weather was cooler than Guam and that’s all that mattered to us! For a panoramic view of one of the world’s most famous skylines, we hopped aboard the Star Ferry. Transversing the Victoria Harbour in 15 minutes, it’s the best way to take in both the dramatic mountains and the skyscrapers lining the Kowloon and Hong Kong islands. And for only $2.50, we rode the Ferry a couple times to give our aching feet a respite from all the pavement pounding.
One of the highlights of our Hong Kong visit was a leisurely ride through the mountains in a glass gondola. It was a relief after navigating the über crowded Victoria Harbour area. Whether your destination is the Big Buddha or you just want to take in the fog-laden scenery, riding in a glass gondola is a spectacular visual treat. The cable car links rural Ngong Ping with urban Tung Chung.
Hong Kong is not the kind of city you visit without an agenda. Even if that agenda is as simple as sightseeing and shopping, you need a reference point to navigate the bustling city streets and crowded alleys. Fortunately, Hong Kong’s metro (MRT) is one of the best and cheapest in the world. Just purchase an Octopus card for multi-rides and map out your destination before you get packed like sardines into a subway car in this cosmopolitan city of 7 million.
Our travels this month took us first to Hong Kong before jetting off to Indonesia. A big city is always a welcome experience for this island-dweller. Hong Kong has an easy, cheap, and efficient metro that allowed us to do a ton of exploring in just three days.
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.