RTW Part One - Bali

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Year 2015 has been one of the most important years in my life for many reasons. That was the year that I got to travel more than ever. I was travelling for six months, then returned home, bought a new apartment, renovated it and in the end of the year gave birth to my child. After that a lot has changed. I have learnt to focus on the most important things again, my family, home and Finland’s beautiful clean nature. I have taught myself to enjoy the little things such as daily routines, which you have to do, but which are nicer when you think you get to do them. It is easy to practise mindfulness while travelling, because you enjoy (mainly) everything you do as you do the things you have chosen to, but when it comes to everyday life your mind is so full of responsibilities and tasks that sometimes you just go forward and try to cope.

It all started when we decided to apply for a job alternation leave, which you could apply for after having ten years’ work experience (since that the law and its conditions have changed). My husband got a permission from his employer but I didn’t from mine, because the work situation was so difficult. Instead of that my employer suggested me that I could work part-time and do different projects remotely. I had had quite severe health issues and that autumn I had been fed up with the situation that nothing had helped. I was constantly ill and that was the reason why I applied for the job alternation leave in the first place. I wanted to try more than just a strong medication to get myself better, so I was more than happy to take that deal and work and travel at the same time. I’ll write a separate post about teleworking later.

At first we wanted to go to Bali. We had been there years ago and we loved its laid back and spiritual feeling not to mention its green nature. We bought airline tickets to Denpasar. Some weeks after that we found very cheap tickets from San Francisco to Helsinki and bought those too. So, before the trip we only knew that we were going to Bali and after four months we should find our way to California. We had thought to come back to Finland for just a week and then continue our trip in Europe. Those plans changed a bit along the way, you will later learn why.

We got our apartment rented and left just after New Year’s. We first stayed in a sweet homestay place Puri Clinton in Tanjung Benoa near to Nusa Dua. That was a cosy place, reasonably priced and the internet connection was fast so that I could join the video meetings easily. That was one of the main things I looked for the accommodation places as I knew I would need a proper connection to be able to run the company programmes. After the first week of working I knew it suited me well. I was extremely productive and as everyone who has worked at a hoffice, coffice or wherever remotely, knows that the efficiency of working is so much better when you have no interrupts at all. I was working three days a week and relaxing the rest of the four days. I went running by the beach before sunrise as it was too hot to do it later. I have never been much of a jogger but I really enjoyed it there. I saw people opening their shops, carrying fruits, sweeping trash, having a chat with a neighbour and all of them greeted me with a smile. What could be a better start for a day! I loved all the fresh juices and smoothies and all kinds of healthy mocktails with loads of ginger in them. Wayan and Iluh, who owned the homestay took us to early morning market and taught us to cook Balinese food. The market was some experience as I saw rats running on the vegetables and cats just washing themselves under the tables. I tried not to think about it and told myself like a mantra that the food will be boiled anyway. In the end, the meal we did was absolutely delicious, mackerel in banana leaves, a spicy fish soup and some vegetable side dish.

We were travelling on a small budget so we needed to consider where to eat and stay. But there was one place that we wanted to visit as we had dreamed about it ever since we ate there on our previous Bali holiday. It was a Japanese fusion restaurant in Kuta Beach. And good that we did, because there we met two Australian couples who invited us to visit them in Perth. That night we said thank you but that we couldn’t come, as we already had bought the tickets to Melbourne to visit my cousin. After a week or so, we got a message from the airline that our flight was cancelled. They suggested that we could either fly via Singapore, or buy whole new flights but they would have been a lot more expensive. So we wrote an email to this couple and asked if the invitation was still open. It was and we booked the flights to Perth. This story continues when I tell you more about Australia. Once again, I noticed that sometimes you just need to be in a right place in a right time to meet the right people and that may lead to a whole different adventure.

After couple of weeks we went to countryside near Ubud. There we stayed in a little hotel called Bhanuswari. It had cottage-like villas in the middle of rice fields and jungle. When it got dark you really didn’t know where to step as I was so scared of the snakes. And for a reason, as we saw quite a big python on the road leading to the hotel.  Because the hotel was in the middle of nowhere they had a free transportation to Ubud centre. That was useful as I attended yoga lessons there. Yoga Barn is a known place in Ubud and I could see why. The teachers were so good and the whole atmosphere there was friendly. One of the best restaurants in Ubud is there too, they have their own vegan restaurant, which I highly recommend! My husband attended yoga lessons too and enjoyed it. Now thinking about it afterwards, maybe we should do it together in Finland too. Another thing we used to do every day was cycling between the rice fields and go swimming in the waterfall nearby.

One of my ex colleagues had studied in Bali and volunteered in the children’s home in Northern Bali. I had made a little donation as she collected money at work when she was going back to visit them. I remembered the place and wanted to go and see them, so we went there for one night. The experience was eye-opening in many ways. The owner was big-hearted, she had given up her career in Java and moved to Bali just to help the children who had nothing. She also taught the children yoga and meditation and we had a privilege to join their evening meditation. While in North we also went to see the huge waterfalls and on the way back we saw the most famous temple Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Kintamani.

Two months in Bali were just what I had hoped. Total relaxation and healthy food. I felt myself healthier and had so much more energy. Besides all the places mentioned above I recommend visiting Southern beaches such as Padang Padang and Pandawa and also Lovina Beach in North. The temple of Uluwatu is worth visiting and at least one coffee tasting place is a must. Not sure if it still exists but if it does, you should eat in Naughty Nuri’s in Ubud. We went there after seeing it in Anthony Bourdain’s and the food and the drinks were amazing!

The story of this trip continues later with parts of Gili Islands, Australia, New Zealand, U.S. and Europe, so stay tuned!

Colourful Corfu

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

This June we visited Croatia, Montenegro (post here), Albania and Greece. We went to Corfu by boat from Albania’s Sarande. Before this trip Greece represented me certain sun, teen parties and great beaches. My husband had never visited Greece before and it was sixteen years since my last time. I knew that this time I could see it from a very different perspective than me and my best friends all those years ago.

We booked a hotel from Benitses which was about 30 minutes from Corfu town. It was a tiny village, many restaurants compared to its size and a convenient beach. One thing worth mentioning is all the souvenir shops that actually sold some nice stuff, hamam towels and cute handmade bowls without any touristic text on them. So of course I needed to buy bowls for our bath room and they were a lot easier to carry than the carpet I had bought earlier in Montenegro 😊.

We have done many roadtrips over the years for example in Hawaii, California and Nevada, many countries in Europe, New Zealand and Australia and Greece was by far the cheapest place to rent a car. We couldn’t believe it was only 20 euros/day and it covered all the necessities, insurances and a child seat. Navigators they didn’t however have but there aren’t that many roads anyway on the whole island so it was nice to have a proper map to look at. We thought to rent a car just for a day but ended up having it for the whole time as we calculated that the bus from Benitses to Corfu town would cost about the same from three of us and it was so much easier just to drive there.

Corfu town was so lovely! I couldn’t focus on much more than to take photos of all the cute details, flowers, food, turquoise Mediterranean, charming elder people, colourful alleyways and laundry hanging from the windows. I totally fell in love with the old town the minute I saw it. And you know why it’s not a wonder though? It was built under the Venetian rule and I guess that was the familiarity with it. We have been to Italy every year for about eight years and this was the first summer for a long time not heading there. I was kind of missing all the things that I love about Italy and I couldn’t find the same vibes on the Balkans so I was very satisfied to finally get to see this stunning town and feel the Sicily spirit in it.

Then about fooooood! Oh my goodness how good the food was! We didn’t eat anything but the traditional Greek dishes and we really loved them all. All the stifados, gyros, souvlakis, moussakas, keftethes and dolmadakias. They were just too delicious. Even our daughter who is sort of selective loved all the food she had. I guess it was also the attention she got in the restaurants that she enjoyed. There were two places that really got our hearts. One was in old town of Corfu called Bellissimo. Food was really tasty and it had a nice little quad and traditional decoration. Another one was totally different, Angela’s Tavern in the middle of nowhere, which we found as we were driving around the island. It was a family-run place in Pentati. They didn’t have any menus, the owner just took you to the kitchen to look at the oven and decide from there what to have. We decided to try them all and let me tell you, it was as yummy as it gets! After the lunch they gave us oranges to take with.

Besides the beautiful beaches and gorges there are many quite interesting places to visit as well. One of them is Achilleion Palace, which was built by Empress of Austria, Elisabeth who’s also known as Sisi. I love the story of Sisi and the fact that she used to love Corfu made me like the island even more. Another place worth to visit was Kaisers Throne in Pelekas just for the lookout point from which you can see almost the whole island. No wonder the German Emperor Keiser Vilhelm II used to come there to watch the sunset.

Corfu is the place where you can have a city getaway and a beach vacation on a same trip. Corfu town is just so astonishing! I’m sure you would enjoy it no matter who you’re travelling with, there are everything you need whether you’re going with the family, friends or as a couple. And if you’re not already coming from Albania, go there as well at least for a day. I’ll tell you later why.