Korat, Thailand: “Teacha Ewwin”

As most of you know I am not a teacher by trade making this entire experience uncharted territory.

Three months have passed since I moved to Korat to teach. Although I requested a rural area, the city life is growing on me. Korat has everything you could possibly need; two state of the art malls, a Costco-like supermarket (Makro), along with bus and train stations making travel around Thailand very easy. Down the road from our accommodation is a grocery store, pharmacy, KFC & Swensons (famous Bangkok based ice-cream shop). We’ve even discovered a pizza company that delivers, although we often find a pile cheese in the corner of the box (the downside of delivering pizza on a motorbike).

XploreAsia placed the four of us at Anuban Korat Ratchasima School, a large government school, in central Korat. The school has 1,000 kindergarten (anuban) students and 4,000 primary (pratom) students.

unnamed-copy
Kindergarten army

The four of us have very different teaching roles at Anuban Korat Ratchasima School. Claire and Rachel, who both have teaching degrees from America, are homeroom kindergarten teachers. They spend all day with their 30+ students and have gotten to know them and their Thai co-teachers pretty well. Ella and I, who don’t have teaching degrees, are the “rotating” kindergarten teachers. We teach 30 classes a week (30 mins/class) and have over 400 students . Ella teaches K2 (ages 5-6) and I teach K1 (ages 4-5).

15037351_10209508836970548_1323295189713967034_n
The “falang” teaching squad
unnamed-1
Morning assembly

A day in the life 

  1. 6:00am: Roll out of bed. Put on all black (year-long mourning period for the King)
  2. 6:30: Say goodbye to Superman (our security guard) and start the 1.5 mile walk to school
  3. 6:45am: Grab a coffee at 7-11 or fried bananas from a food stall
  4. 7:00am: Say hello to the donut workers (who speak little English but are always excited to see us) and their pup Lil’ Lady
  5. 7:15am: Arrive at school
  6. 7:45am: Morning assembly
  7. 8:30am: First class
  8. 9:00am: Second class
  9. 9:30am: Third class
  10. 10:00am: Fourth class
  11. 10:30am-12:00pm: Relax before lunch (lesson plan if the wifi is working)
  12. 12:00pm-1:00pm: Free lunch at the school canteen
  13. 1:00pm-2:30pm: Relax, lesson plan, nap
  14. 2:30pm-3:00pm: Fifth class
  15. 3:00pm – 3:30pm: Sixth class
  16. 3:30pm: Walk the 1.5 miles home
  17. 4:00pm: Go for a run at the Rajamangala University of Technology Isan track / get stared at
  18. 6:00pm: Grab dinner at the nearby night market or food stall (mom & pops is our favorite)
  19. 7:00pm: Indulge in some Gilmore Girls or OSTNB. Thank you Netflix!
  20. 10:00pm: Zzzz
img_5164
Cooking @ mom and pop’s food stall
img_5075
Our Thai momma (Meme)

The days can be tiring, especially because my classrooms don’t have A/C, however, I will admit I love my job. The little ones have grown on me…much more than I expected.

img_5173
Favorite class (K1-10)
unnamed-2
K 1/8
15135785_10209616652905879_2615892196898158866_n
K 1/8

The Thai kindies

  1. They are nothing short of adorable.
  2. They love to pet, kiss, hug, and lick you. I’ll be mid-teaching and one kindie will be rubbing my leg while another will be petting my hair.
  3. Stickers are dangerous. Give one away and a stampede is eminent. Brace yourself.
  4. High-fives are just (if not more) dangerous than stickers. My favorite type of high-five is “the post nose pick high-five”.
  5. Speaking of boogers, they are everywhere. Hanging out of noses. Smeared on shirts. Covering hands. In Thailand, it is impolite to blow your nose in public thus making my job booger central.
  6. Little kids can be gross! Not only does the school not provide toilet paper (typical in Thailand-hello bum gun) but there isn’t any soap in the bathrooms -use your imagination on that one. This makes for a lot of mysterious brown stains.
img_4901
Lego showing off his muscles
img_4877
Three best friends
img_5115
K 1/10
img_5105
Children’s Day

The Thai classroom

  1. There are normally three teachers in each Kindergarten classroom: a head Thai teacher (who rarely teaches and is never in the room), the assistant teacher (who does most of the teaching but has no say in classroom decisions) and the assistant (who cleans up and disciplines the kids).
  2. Salaries for these 3 positions vary greatly. The head Thai teacher is employed by the government and gets a raise each year (~30,000+). The assistant teacher is employed by the school and makes significantly less even though they do most of the teaching (~15,000). The assistant is also employed by the school and makes even less (~6,000). For perspective, I make 34,000 (including the housing allowance), which equals ~ $900 USD / month.
14601102_1218187858241961_8511876877699695120_n
Coffee lunchtime break with Claire & Rachel’s assistant teachers
15380335_1257424320984981_7250031658162646298_n
Fellow teachers

The Thai school system

  1. Everything is extremely disorganized and inefficient. You are rarely told about school events and no one keeps you in the loop. Even the other falangs (foreign teachers) at our school are extremely distant. Half the time, I never know if I am supposed to teach or not.
  2. Hierarchy is extremely important. How you treat others is dependent on where you and they fall in the hierarchy. Age and position are the two greatest indicators of status. For example, I initiate the wai to my older head Thai teachers while the younger student assistants initiate the wai to me. The school director should receive a “deeper” wai than a head Thai teacher.
  3. Appearance is everything. How you dress is a huge reflection of your status and a popular conversation topic. Many of the Thai head teachers dress to the 9’s: silk skirt suits, perfect hair, high heels, and lipstick. Ella wore lipstick to school one day and she instantly became a celebrity- every Thai teacher wanted a picture with her.
  4. Thais are obsessed with weight. It is a topic of conversation on a daily basis. On our first day at the school we were given cake by the director and department head. When we offered them a slice they responded with a very matter-of-fact: “We don’t want to get fat.” Better yet, when we finished one of the teachers pointed at each of us and repeated  “fat, fat, fat, and fat.” Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
  5. Kids with “disabilities” are often ignored, pushed to the side, or labeled as “crazy.” Many kids who are difficult to control are automatically labeled as LD regardless of whether or not they have a true learning disability.
  6. Corporal punishment is the main form of discipline. Hitting, smacking, slapping, & public humiliation are commonly used. Often, the little ones are forced to tears.

 

Korat, Thailand: My New Home

Before arriving in Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) I knew very little about the city. I heard it was big but I had no idea how big. Korat (also known as the “gateway” to Isan) is home to over 500,000 people and is the third largest city in Thailand. The city is booming and has been growing drastically over the years.

What really caught me by surprise was the distinct economic inequality among Thais in Korat. The rich are extremely rich and the poor are incredibly poor. You see Thais with run down motorbikes driving alongside Thais with BMWs and luxury SUVs. The Korat Mall was another surprise. It is just as if not more luxurious than any mall in the States. Not only does it have designer stores (which I can’t afford even with a foreign teacher’s salary) but it has a 4D movie theatre, ice rink, and water park -quite the contrast to the dilapidated homes and businesses just outside.

After orientation in Bangkok, we took a 4 hour bus ride to Korat. Finding a place to live was a nightmare. The accommodation our teaching agency set up fell through 2 hours before our arrival. As a result, we booked a hotel for a couple of nights while the Thai teachers from our school drove us around to explore places to live. Without them, we never would have found an accomodation.

We opted for Ploy Place, a long-term “hotel style” accommodation (common in Thailand) just outside the city center. Ploy Place is by no means cozy (imagine white tile floors and white walls) but it is very clean and much newer than other housing in the city. It is also near two of Korat’s universities so we are surrounded by college students and bars (a nuisance on the weekdays when the music is blasting but a good time on the weekends). Speaking of music, that’s another thing I’ve noticed about Thailand – everything they do is exceptionally loud. The movie theatre is loud, the bar music is loud, and the singing is loud –  my ears are constantly ringing!

img_4400
Nearby college bar
img_4422
Our security guard (Superman) acting out Thai beers (Singha beer – lion)

What surprised me even more about Korat is that no one walks – using your two feet to go somewhere is a foreign concept. No one does it! Instead, Thais motorbike, tuk tuk, or songtaew around the city (songtaews cost 8 Baht / 22 cents). This has made us farangs (foreigners) quite the spectacle because we walk everywhere: to the night market, to the Rajamangala University of Technology track, to the restaurants and even to and from school (1.5 miles). It’s quite humorous; every time we tell a Thai we are walking their reaction is always the same: an appalled “NO! You’re going to walk?!”

fullsizerender
Our favorite tuk tuk driver
img_4407
Mr. Cookie’s pimped out tuk tuk
15193682_10155058602588812_2609310728998710394_n
Friendsgiving in Korat with Mr. Cookie

To make us even more peculiar, Ella and I have been befriending the guard dogs (oops) and strays on the way to and from school. We’ve already named 7 of them (embarrassing I know but for those who know me you know I can’t resist).

There’s: Limpus (he has an awkward limp and hated us at first but we quickly won him over), Spot, Lola, Blackey, Nugget (puppy), Tiny (5 day old sick puppy who passed away last week), Wolverine (he’s terrified of farangs – particularly me), and my favorite Lil’ Lady.

img_4438
Spot
img_4437
My main man Limpus
img_4386
Lola and Spot

So, not only are we farangs (there are very few in Korat), but we are farangs who walk everywhere and befriend the dogs. Say hello to your newest Korat freak show!

Bangkok, Thailand: Teacher Orientation & Sky Bar

From Chiang Mai, I took a bus (with other teachers from my TESOL course) to Bangkok where we had orientation with our teaching agency. Many incoming ESL teachers (who don’t know the process of teaching abroad) are hired by agents rather than directly by the school. Agents “streamline” the process and are supposed to act as a middle ground between the school and foreign teachers.

img_4128
Bus life is rough

To be 100% honest, I am not a fan of my agent…they are not helpful or knowledgeable. More often than not, I find myself taking the initiative to ask questions to clear up any confusion. They also take quite a large chunk of our salary for themselves. Rumor has it they take almost half of what the school pays them to have us. In no world do they do enough to deserve that kind of money…Sure, they help with the work permit but they don’t do much beyond that. At one point I had to remind them to take our bank account information so that we could get paid! Not to mention, we had to sign a contract stating that if we were to leave the agency we would have to leave our school (even if the school wanted us to stay). By contract, we would be banned from teaching at the school for 2 years.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-19-35-58
Fellow teachers at orientation

We spent 2 days in Bangkok for orientation with our agent. While there, we celebrated our friend Kate’s birthday in the city. It was quite the adventure. Getting a taxi was a nightmare as was the heavy traffic into the city center. It took us close to 2 hours to get to the city center and to make matters worse it was monsooning. I have never seen so much lightening and rain in my entire life.

Looking like wet dogs we arrived at Sky Bar, one of the famous rooftop bars in Bangkok. Sky Bar is 63 floors above the city. It was also where The Hangover 2 was filmed. At first, we weren’t allowed to go outside because of the storm but once the rain ceased they opened the outside bar.

You could feel the residual electricity from the storm. Our hair was standing straight up and every time lightening struck in the distance, an electric tingle shot down our bodies. Such an indescribable feeling: terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.

img_4119

img_4130
Sky Bar

img_4094-1

img_4104
Rooftop
img_4112
City views

img_4120-1

Chiang Mai, Thailand: TESOL & Exploring

So much catching up to do! My MacBook crashed, leaving me with a $600 repair bill so blogging has been a bit of a challenge…

It has been almost 2 months since I said goodbye to my family in the Bali airport. I spent the first month in Chiang Mai completing a TESOL course through XploreAsia. Afterwards, I moved to Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat for short), where I am currently a Kindergarten TESOL teacher. Korat is a large city 4 hours northeast of Bangkok and the 3rd largest city in Thailand. It’s no Chiang Mai (I loved CM), but it has everything you need and then some (the mall has a 4D movie theatre, ice rink, and water park out of all things).

I have nothing but great things to say about the month I spent in Chiang Mai. Nestled in northern Thailand and surrounded by jungle and mountains, Chiang Mai is a popular backpacker destination.  The city is home to over 400,000 people and is always welcoming tourists. Streets are congested with motorbikes, tuks tuks, and songtaews which can make crossing the road daunting at times, however, unlike other large Thai cities, Chiang Mai has managed to retain a semi-authentic Thai feel. CM is no Bangkok.

Not to mention, the food is phenomenal and the options are endless: American, Indian, Burmese, Mexican, and of course Thai street food (try the Khao Soi- a northern soup/noodle dish or roti (fried bread) with banana and nutella). Cafes are also popular. They line the streets and many offer wifi making them a popular spot to relax and work.

My biggest piece of advice when visiting Chiang Mai? Get lost! Roam the tiny alleyways. You’ll likely stumble across hidden temples and tasty mom and pop cafes. Stop and take a moment to examine the colorful and quirky graffiti decorating the city walls.  Some pieces are rather bizzare, making you wonder about the artist and the inspiration.

Apart from exploring, there are a number of different things to do in the city center. On top of the list is shopping. Stop at the Night Bazaar (every night market) and take a look at the charcoal drawings. I bought two beautiful pieces for ~$30/each from an artist named Tanakorn (his shop is hidden in the back of a warehouse). Eat some Thai ice cream. Watch a live band. Go to a ladyboy show (it’s an experience). Expand your culinary palate! (I fell in love with iced butterfly pea tea). Last but not least, on Sunday night, make sure to head to the Sunday Night Market. Get there early and bring with some patience because the streets are always packed!

img_3724
Sunday Night Market
img_3840
Live band at the Night Bazaar
img_3739
Charcoal drawing coming to life
img_3923
Charcoal drawing (Artist: Tanakorn)

Another popular spot in the city for tourists (especially on the weekends) is Yellow Bar or Zoe’s. On Friday and Saturday night the bar is flooded with farangs (foreigners) and expats blowing off steam. Imagine a college frat party and you’ve got Yellow Bar; fun for a night, but I wouldn’t make it an every weekend thing.

There are also a number of things to do outside the city. Explore Doi Inthanon (highest mountain in Thailand) or Doi Suthep (famous wat), learn about rice farming, meditate with a monk, visit the Bua Tong Sticky waterfalls (you can hike up them due to a rare mineral deposit that allows you to grip the rocks), hike through the jungle,  visit a traditional Karin village, or my all-time favorite: hangout with elephants!

img_3742
Rice planting
14716085_10154034847060875_2169945827076436906_n
Jungle trek with flower crowns from our guide
img_1360
Trekking
img_3864
One of the many waterfalls
img_3892
Ice water
img_3806
Bua Tong Sticky waterfalls

15894999_10212223851578320_5965775755303664612_n

img_3758
Wat Umong
img_3769
View from Doi Suthep
img_3771
Doi Suthep
img_3773
Doi Suthep
img_3776
View from Doi Suthep
img_1374
Doi Inthanon (tribute to the King Inthawichayonon, one of the last kings of Chiang Mai)
img_3904
Doi Inthanon
img_1372
Doi Inthanon
img_3886
View from Doi Inthanon (in the distance is Myanmar)

My favorite activity in Chiang Mai? Without a doubt the elephant tour I did with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. I chose the sanctuary for a number of reasons. Not only are they an ethical no-riding company but they offer a unique jungle trek option. If you have the time (and money), I highly recommend the full day trekking tour. The day includes feeding, mud bathing, and washing the elephants in a nearby river as well as trekking (with them) through the jungle.

That being said, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to toss away your bucket list dream of riding an elephant and instead booking a tour with a no-riding company. The reasons for doing so are endless. Elephants are (literally) not made to be ridden. Their backs cannot sustain the weight for long periods of time and howdah chairs are even worse than riding bare back.

img_1419
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

Even worse than riding the elephants is their treatment during the “pre-riding” or “training” phase. Elephants are highly intelligent creatures and can be very stubborn. As a result, trainers must break their spirit to force submission and make them “rideable”. They are often beaten with clubs, pierced with sharp bull-hooks, and simultaneously starved and sleep deprived. Many rescued elephants have battle scars as reminders of their tragic pasts.

My biggest piece of advice when looking for an elephant tour? Chose a company that does not offer riding even if you do not intend to ride them. Your money will still be funding a business that promotes elephant exploitation.

The most famous and respected company in Chiang Mai is the Elephant Nature Park which is home to dozens of rescued elephants. Many friends from my TESOL course chose the full day tour and absolutely loved it. Not only did they feed and bathe the elephants but they got to learn about each elephant’s rescue story.

The company I chose (Elephant Jungle Sanctuary) is another ethical elephant tourism company. It is newer, but it’s reputation is growing.

14725750_1372733339411009_6384714136313909208_n

img_1410
Kisses
fullsizerender-2
All this little guy wanted to do was play…and step on my feet
img_3985
Kids from a local Karin village

img_3988

14695391_1372734169410926_4452599158392448745_n
Teaching the little guy how to do a handstand

fullsizerender

img_4038
Mud bath!
img_4058
Rinsing off in the river

My time with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was more than I could have ever imagined, however, there are two things I would like to mention as I’m not sure how to perceive them. During the trek, the guides used a stick to hit the elephants to keep them moving and to redirect them. The strikes weren’t hard (or often) but nonetheless, I didn’t want to force them to walk if they didn’t want to!

img_1515

img_1496

img_1521

The other instance was at one of the camps where we met a two-week-old baby elephant and her mother. The mom was chained up and swaying back and forth (a clear sign of agitation or boredom) while the baby stuck to her side, hiding underneath her belly and in between her legs. When I asked the guide the reason for the chains his response was curt, “To protect the baby.” What I understood from our broken English conversation was that they feared for the baby’s health if mom were to roam freely. The chains ensure the baby will get fed and the plan was to keep her chained for 2 months. I am not an elephant expert but this reasoning didn’t make much sense to me (baby elephants in the wild do just fine – how is this any different?)

img_1578
2 weeks old

(That being said) Overall, I loved my experience at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary and would highly recommend booking a tour with them. While I would have liked to learn each elephant’s story (bonus if you book with Elephant Nature Park), the experience was a fantastic ethical alternative to elephant riding.

Ubud, Bali: Tegalalang Rice Terraces

The Tegalalang rice terraces are a must see if you visit Ubud. The entrance fee is a minuscule IR 10,000/person and the views are nothing short of amazing. I would, however, bring pocket change! The terraces are private property and “donation stands” are spread throughout (you are expected to pay).

img_3697

img_3696

img_1265

img_1268

img_1276

Ubud, Bali: Monkey Forest & Campuhan Ridge Walk

The Ubud Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and Hindu temple complex home to over 600 free-roaming macaque monkeys (also known as Balinese long tailed monkeys). The complex is a popular destination in Ubud, attracting hundreds of tourists every day.

img_1185

img_1175

Go early (it opens at 10am) to avoid the crowds and make sure you read the safety recommendations before entering. The monkeys are harmless as long as you don’t do anything stupid and keep your wits about you…Tourists have been bitten and scratched in the past!

img_1168

img_1174

img_1133

A couple of things to be mindful of:

  1. Don’t look the monkeys in the eyes (especially the large males as it is a sign of aggression)
  2. Never run- they will chase you
  3. Do not panic and stay calm
  4. Be mindful of your belongings (One particular monkey loved fiddling with my watch. Another expressed interesting me every time I opened my satchel)

img_1125

img_1130

img_1161
Trying to mate

Because the forest is not enclosed, you will notice the monkeys roaming nearby streets. Many shop owners use slingshots as defense when they get too close or start to bother people. We witnessed one monkey grab for a woman’s grocery bag. She squealed, dropping it on the ground. Within seconds, dozens of monkeys were sprinting towards the free buffet, while the woman watched in horror.

img_1191

The following day we did the Campuhan Ridge Walk. It is free! Before motorbikes, villagers used the ridge walk to transport their goods into central Ubud.

img_1237
Campuhan Ridge Walk
img_1224
Rice paddies

img_1214

Along Campuhan Ridge Walk we met I Wayan Surana, a miniature painter. Miniature painting emerged from a small farming village north of Ubud (Keliki) in the 1970s. Paintings range from as small as 2 x 3 inch to as large as 10 x 15 in. Surana’s paintings run anywhere from $75-$30,000 dollars.

img_1234

img_1231

img_1232

Ubud, Bali: Bhuwana Hotel & The Ubud Market

Ubud is Bali’s cultural center. Known for its traditional craft and dance, the town is a popular tourist spot. It was also a destination in the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love.

From Nusa Lembongan we took a ferry to Bali followed by a taxi to Bhuwana Ubud Hotel, our accommodation south of the Ubud city center. Bhuwana is a beautiful and quiet hotel located in the Pengosekan region of Ubud. Surrounded by tropical gardens and rice paddies, the hotel’s mission is to promote healthy living and a connection with nature. Bhuwana means “Earth”.

img_3633
Bhuwana Hotel lobby
img_4266
Tropical gardens around Bhuwana
img_1085
Walking through the garden

Every morning, Bhuwana offers a free sunrise tour through a neighboring rice field. We were surprised to discover ducks living in the paddies. Ducks are an effective farming technology used in many Asian countries. Not only do they eat harmful insects, but their movements aerate the soil and their feces fertilize the ground. Kites were also strategically placed throughout the fields to keep animals and birds away.

img_3652
Sunrise rice paddy walk

A short 15 minute drive from Bhuwana is the city center and the Ubud market. Regardless of whether or not you are a shopper, the Ubud market is a must. It is the perfect place to practice your bargaining skills and hopefully build some confidence!

img_1106
Entrance to Ubud market
img_1108
Ubud Market
img_3642
Ubud Market
img_3644
Ubud food market

That being said, the market can be overwhelming…here are some tips…

  1. The second you make eye contact or point is the second you’ll have a vendor nipping at your heels. Be prepared! At first I felt rude walking away mid-sentence but you have to…otherwise you might as well get ready to camp out
  2. Keep your cool and don’t let vendors take advantage of you. Explore other stands to compare prices (and practice your bargaining skills) before you decide to buy. It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure and cave-Don’t do it! Hold your ground!
  3. Vendors will say, “Cheap price for you” or “Sale price.” Take this with a grain of salt. They say this to everyone-you are not special. It is their way of reeling you in and they are very good at it. Bargaining is a game and they know it!
  4. That being said, do be somewhat realistic. Offering 10,000 IR for a painting that is clearly worth 10x that can be offensive (my brother got yelled at a couple times for low-balling).
  5. My rule of thumb when bargaining? Cut the price in half and increase. I’ve also found that saying “price too high” and simply walking away is your best bargaining tool. 99% of the time they will run after you with a lower price. With the hundreds of stands in the market (selling similar goods), they do not want to lose your business.

Directly across from the Ubud market is the Ubud Palace. The palace isn’t all that impressive but it’s worth a quick pit stop and it’s free!

img_1201
Ubud Palace

img_1202

Nusa Islands: Snorkeling

The Nusa Islands are an escape from the hassle and hectic pace of Bali. Rustic and quiet, these islands are best known for their diving, snorkeling, and surfing. What they lack in amenities, they make up for in experiences. The reefs are only accessible by boat and as a result are in much better condition than other reefs in Bali.

img_3617
Cliff jump
screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-7-52-50-pm
Crystal Bay (Nusa Penida)

We organized our snorkeling trip through Captain Newman, a very reputable guide on Nusa Lembongan ($12/person). He took us to 3 different spots around the islands: Crystal Bay, Mangrove Forest, and The Wall. Due to a strong current that morning we were unable to snorkel the 4th spot, Manta Ray Bay, which is a popular spot for the manta rays.

img_3613
Crystal Bay hidden beach (Nusa Penida)

The Wall was my favorite snorkeling spot out of the three. The reefs and underwater diversity were phenomenal– far better than anything I’ve seen in Hawaii or the Caribbean. The coral wall begins at the foot of massive sea cliffs, dropping down vertically to a depth of 180m. Beyond the coral wall is a steep drop off into the big blue. My biggest regret was not bringing an underwater camera!

Nusa Islands: Exploring

From Gili T. we took a 2 hour fast boat to Nusa Lembongan. Nusa Lembongan is one of 3 small islands (Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan) 30 minutes off of the southeast coast of Bali. Many tourists book day trips from Bali due to their proximity.

img_3602
Harbor

Rather than staying in Bali and booking day trips to the islands, we decided to book an Air Bnb on Nusa Lembongan (most developed island of the three). The whole process could not have gone more smoothly. Carla (the owner of Villa Mimpi Manis) was very helpful as was the staff who are responsible for the villa grounds and guests. Every morning we had fresh fruit delivered to our door and a large fresh water jug was always available. They also helped us organize a motorbike rental, return boat ride to Bali and snorkel trip (coincidentally we ended up accompaning Carla and her family/friends who were in town and staying next door at their other AirBnb).

The views from Villa Mimpi Manis were breathtaking… Settled on the hillside, the villa has a beautiful open view of the harbor. The upstairs room is completely open to the outside and cooled by the ocean winds: luxury camping!

img_1073
Villa Mimpi Manis
img_3618
View from the second level bedroom
img_4223
Villa staff (Komang’s team)
img_4236
Last day

Unlike Gili T.,  people get around the island by car or motorbike. Biking is impossible as the island is extremely hilly and the roads are narrow. As a result, we decided to take a stab at motorbiking (first time)! While an international drivers license is “technically” required, we were never asked to provide one. In fact, they didn’t even write down my name when I rented the motorbike…

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-7-52-26-pm

img_3592
Exploring the neighborhood
img_1064
Jackfruit

We explored Nusa Lembongan (~2 hours to circle the island) and made our way across the suspension bridge to the smaller and more rustic Nusa Island: Nusa Ceningan. Ceningan is known for its seaweed farming and dangerous (but popular) Devil’s Tears cliff jump.

img_3600
Suspension bridge connecting Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Ceningan
img_3598
Nusa Ceningan

Now it was on Nusa Ceningan that our “oh so exhilarating” motorbike adventure made a turn for the worst. We were making our way to Devil’s Point when I took a wrong turn (oops) and led us up an unpaved path. We were making our way up the hill when I heard a loud squeal behind me. I turned around just in time to see a disheveled pile of hair emerge from the bushes. My parents had hit a large pothole, wiped out, and fallen (motorbike and all) into a cacti bush. Dad walked away with minor abrasions but mom skinned her leg pretty badly. The fall had taken off a thick layer of skin. Needless to say, we never reached the cliff jump…

.

Gili Islands: The Night Market

Every night, Gili Trawangan has a busy night market with lots of local seafood. Located on the southeast end of the island in the downtown area, the market was a quick 20-30 minute walk from Alam Gili. On the way to the market we passed a bar selling psychedelic mushrooms. Ironically, another 20 meters beyond it was the police station. Drugs are highly illegal in Indonesia and the punishment is severe, however Gili T. (being the tourist party island), is a huge source of income…money > the law.

img_1055

The downtown was bustling: shisha lounges, discos, even a bar full of beer pong tables! A local tried to convince dad to play but he declined…party pooper…

fullsizerender-1
Shisha lounge
fullsizerender
Night market

To say dad loved the night market is an understatement. The market had everything from tuna, red snapper, grouper, lobster, prawns and crab to mahi mahi, egg rolls, fresh fruit juice, and Bintang (the only beer sold in Indonesia). Having grown up in Asia (Thailand, China, Vietnam, and Pakistan) the night market brought back a lot of childhood memories…he was a kid in a candy store!

img_3560
In his element
img_3553-3
Seafood
img_3554-3
Lobster
img_3558-3
Only beer in Indonesia