Just a day in Bali Paradise…

Just a day in Bali Paradise…

I checked out of the swanky Sanur hotel and I heard a voice shout my name. It was Made (pronounced Mah-day). He was sitting in the lobby and stubbed out his cigarette and smiled at me. Something about his smile was so comforting. He was the kind of character that within minutes of his company I felt like I had known him my whole life, very familiar with kind eyes. He dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans but still had an air of being presentable. He appeared to be in his 40s but I later learned he is only in his early 30s – perhaps life had trodden him down a little. I had met him prior to today as he is the Nephew of an old Balinese friend and he offered reliable transport. Today was different; today Made’s eyes were full of concern. It turned out his Father had a stroke and he needed to get him to the hospital urgently. I asked him why he didn’t cancel picking me up as I would have been happy to get a taxi. He looked stunned and quickly responded, “Nooo!” I also asked him why his father could not get an ambulance. Made told me that ambulances are not sent for ‘trivial’ things like strokes! Being an ambulance clinician myself in England, this really stunned me. A stroke is serious and is treated as a time critical incident in England, yet here in this Balinese paradise, over-swarmed by western tourists to the point that you could be in Sydney, an ambulance was saved for something more serious!! This highlighted even more how the healthcare service in England is abused by so many!! But also, how in the developing world, the idea of turning down paid work to take your urgently sick parent to hospital is impossible. My heart broke a little for Made.

I arrived back to the cosy hotel in Kuta that I have stayed in many times before over the past 7 years. The local shop owners recognise me. One in particular, a young lady called Putu always recognised me, even when I return pasty and white some years later. “Lou!” She shouts as I walk past her shop. Putu was always smiling, come rain or shine. She invited me into the back of her shop where a small child was screaming on a small dirty mattress. I joined Putu on the mattress and she explained to me that Olivia (her daughter; one of four!) was upset because their family friend had left to return to Australia. Putu went on to tell me how blessed and happy she was. I looked around the small cramped room that she lived in with a small mattress to share with four small children and I felt a pang of guilt. Putu was grateful and happy to have her shop and a roof over their heads. I couldn’t help but retrace the thoughts I have had over the past 2 years and all the difficulties I have faced which one would consider ‘first world problems’ and yet here was Putu who had next to nothing but she was so happy and always smiling. It really put things into perspective for me.

Soon after, I left Putu’s shop feeling a little dazed and strolled through the humid heat around the buzzing lanes of Kuta. I found a tailor shop filled with hard working local men working on sewing machines. I am a keen sewist and asked if I could watch them for a while. Within no time they had me working on a machine, for fun of course. However, the thick humid heat swelled in the room with a small dusty fan which may as well have not been there. Whilst I struggled to concentrate and work in that heat with sweat pouring from my entire body, the employees mostly had their shirts off and a cigarette hanging loosely from their lips, casually working away, cutting fabric, ironing, overlocking. I admired them so much. Naturally being a western white woman, lots of tourists walked past and giggled at the sight of me working in this shop filled with Indonesian men, but I didn’t mind. I actually got a glimpse of an insight into what life is like working in poverty-stricken Asia and I noticed that they don’t take ‘days off’, they will work 80 hours a week without a complaint if it pays the bills. This again gave me perspective on my life. Yes, my job is challenging, but I DO have days off and down time to put my feet up. I doubt very many do in Indonesia and similar countries. I stayed in the shop for several hours and found a new sympathy for the local businesses “harassing” tourists for business. Seeing things from the other side softened my heart.

I had been reading a book about he Bali bombings (The Paradise Guesthouse, Ellen Sussman – highly recommended) and felt an overpowering need to visit the memorial site. The book had made the incident feel so real to me, all those who lost their lives. I was pulled to the location of the bombings and stood for a while, staring at the plaque listing the full names of all those who lost their lives on that tragic day. For some reason, I couldn’t walk away until I had read the full names of all 202 people who passed away and tried to imagine a little something about their lives, be it local Indonesians or Portuguese solo travellers.

The rain started beating down, harsher than a power shower and I slinked off into the shelter of a local pub for a beer. What a day it had been! A real eye opener. It’s days like these that keep my desire to travel burning forever.

I later found out that Made’s father was treated for his stroke and is on the road to recovery, much to my happiness and relief!

Cuddle Your Globe

Jan 2017

Strangers and People are the Highlight of Travel

Strangers and People are the Highlight of Travel

Picture this – a world without people in it. Travelling to other countries without anybody to see or talk to. Sure there would still be art and beautiful beaches. But if there were either no people there, or everybody was the same, travel would simply be dull.

Culture or language would not exist without people. Some of my favourite experiences while travelling have only been brought to life because of the people that surrounded me, even if they were just…. strangers.

I love photographing strangers while I’m travelling. If I see people talking in a photograph, I imagine what they are talking about, or where they are walking to. Watching people celebrate festivals or even funerals in a different way than I have only known in my own, “normal” life, is magnificent.

Here are my favourite photographs of strangers that I have taken during my travels over the world.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
   

I feel that photographing strangers is the best way to reflect on your travels and really discover the culture of the places you visit. You can learn so much from people you don’t know.

Ten Destinations for the Solo Female Traveller

Ten Destinations for the Solo Female Traveller

I have travelled solo on several occasions. It is different to travelling with companions because you connect more with your surroundings and the culture and really find yourself.

In developed or the western world, being female isn’t an issue. However, in some countries travelling alone as a woman can be a problem. I’ve lost count of the times locals asked me where my husband was when I was travelling alone. This doesn’t overly concern me but there are some destinations I would think twice about venturing to with just my backpack. 

I have compiled a list of the top ten destinations recommended for solo female travellers, based on culture, shock factor, variety, personal experience and recommendations. These are also fantastic destinations for chaps too!

1. Seattle

  

the spire, seattle

 In fact all of the west coast of America including San Francisco, LA and Vegas. Seattle is popular with solo travellers because of the many tourist attractions which include the infamous space needle, Pike Place market, Ballard lochs, the great wheel and the many, many beautiful parks. It’s a fabulous city nestled next to incredibly beautiful forests, parks and ferry boats to take in the views.
2. New York City 

chrystler building and manhattan skyline

New York, New York. What can I say? With Times Square, radio city hall, Madison square garden, shopping, theatres, sightseeing and architecture, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty, the city is your best friend when you are travelling there. You don’t need actual friends too.

3. Great Britan.

 

raglan castle, wales
 
With places like London, the New Forest, Cornwall, Wales, the Peak and Lake districts, Scotland and Ireland, you don’t need travel companions, just a lot of time to see it all. Castles and countryside, cities and lakes.. We are a lovely welcoming bunch over here anyway, come and say hi! 

4. Barcelona

view of Barcelona beach from spire restaurant

Barcelona is one of my favourite European cities and I would travel months here by myself in a heartbeat. It’s got everything anybody could want in a city; charm, culture, impossibly beautiful buildings, a stunning beach, great nightlife, history and museums and a huge selection of music and food options. 

5. Sri Lanka

 

sri lanka rice paddies
 
A friend of mine lived in Sri Lanka for many months, volunteering in a turtle sanctuary. She loved it, felt very safe and made heaps of friends. Sri Lanka is beautiful, has loads of gorgeous beaches and bustling towns and the people are very welcoming.

6. Thailand

 

thailand islands
 
Anyone who has been will know that Thailand is one of the friendliest and most welcoming countries in the world, not to mention luminous. It attracts backpackers from all over the world so you are sure to make friends to travel with. It’s vast landscape means much time can be spent city surfing or island hopping.

7. South America

 

rio carnival
 
This is very broad, I admit. But the countries recommended would be Peru (for Machu Picchu), Argentina and cross the border into Chile, Buenos Aires and Rio for the yearly famous carnival.

8. Bali

 

snorkelling in Bali
 
I had the most incredible experience of my life travelling Bali solo. It’s a magical place with beautiful people and indescribable landscapes. There is so much to see and do from white water rafting to cooking classes, riding a bike through Ubud, visiting markets or surfing.

9. Australia

sydney harbour bridge at sunset

Many Brits head over to Oz on a working visa and never return home. I can’t imagine why, with all of that sunshine, beer and beaches on offer.

10. New Zealand

tunnel beach, New Zealand

National parks, waterfalls, movie sets. It’s one of the most ‘liveable’ places in the world and attracts backpackers worldwide.

Thomas Cook it to Cape Town

Thomas Cook it to Cape Town

Charter airline, Thomas Cook has just announced a fabulous new route to add to their collection of long haul destinations including the likes of Cuba, Mexico and Goa.

As of December 2016, they will now be operating a direct flight from London Gatwick to Cape Town 3 days a week with economy and premium cabins available. Ticket prices will start at just £699 which is definitely at least comparable with its schedule airline rivals. They are using a brand new Airbus A330 and have invested millions into their new fleet.

This is fantastic news for South African tourism. Cape Town is stunning and has much to offer the most discerning of travellers including table mountain and the Victoria and Alfred waterfront. The garden route nearby offers stunning and tasty wine regions, too.

Malta and Gozo – the good, the bad and the ugly

Malta and Gozo – the good, the bad and the ugly

I was fortunate enough to be sent on an educational visit from the Malta Tourist board some time ago.

It is quite an outstanding country with a brilliant history and many, many tourist attractions to excite the most discerning of travellers.

We will start with the good;

History. (very interesting but if history bores you then skip this bit)

The history of Malta dates back to the start of civilisation and is very intricate. It seems Malta was the object of desire for many countries and has been invaded and ruled by many. Malta had a Neolithic period and the remains of temples, dedicated to the goddess of fertility can be found today. Traces of the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines can also be found. Christianity was brought to Malta in 60AD when st.Paul’s boat was shipwrecked there. Some 800 years later, Malta was invaded by the Arabs who injected an influence of their language on the Maltese. It then joined Sicily and was also ruled by the Normans and the Aragonese among others. The Knights ruled over Malta from 1530 to 1798 and then the French had just two years to reign. This was not welcomed by the Maltese who actually requested the British to assist them and the Brits ruled Malta from 1800 until 1964. At this point, Malta finally gained independence. Ten years later, Malta became a republic and finally joined the EU in 2004.

Azure Window

 

This stunning natural landmark is probably the most photographed place in the Maltese islands. It is a natural limestone archway and is on the island of Gozo (I will discuss this more later).

The Beaches


I wouldn’t say that Malta is a beach paradise as there aren’t many at all, but they prove its not quantity, it’s quality!

Temperature

Malta is about as far south as you can get in Europe and nestled in the Mediterranean. They have long summers with a good chance of a scorcher from May until September and the winter months are usually a nice milder temperature.

The Medina

The historical fort remains pretty much untouched and offers breathtaking views over the surrounding countryside.

Valletta

 

Valletta is the capital of Malta and is insanely beautiful. They say it was built by gentlemen, for the gentlemen. Personally I think it is more beautiful, as if it’s had a woman’s touch. It can be quite touristy and is very vibrant. There are often events and festivals going on here.
Film Sets

Malta, for obvious reasons, is the setting for many films, most of the sets you can visit today. The most well known films shot on the islands of Malta include Gladiator, Troy, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Popeye (the Popeye village is a popular tourist attraction for families) and loads more.

The Beautiful Sea


The sea in Malta is famous for being so clear. This attracts divers from all over the world as there are some sublime dive spots for beginners or advanced. If you’re not a fan of diving you can head out on an amazing boat trip through the azure window, the caves and the famous blue lagoon which is water that is inexplainably, bright blue.

Chill Out Towns

 

If you hire a car, you can drive around and stop in almost any town for lunch and expect a view like this.

The Ferry

There is a public ferry service that operates regularly between Malta and Gozo and is very cheap.

Weddings

Malta is a popular wedding destination. The country embraces foreign weddings and it is far more simple than other countries to arrange, not to mention the incredible photo opportunities that are available 360.

The size

Malta is not huge, yet the vast amount of countryside, filled with towns and tourist attraction makes it feel so. You can easily drive the entire circumference of Malta in less than a day.

Now let’s roll onto the bad;

Tragedy

 

‘The pub’ is the famous spot where actor Oliver Reed died whilst having a beer filled break from filming Gladiator. Theories state he died from a heart attack. My sources in Malta told me that the real reason that Oliver Reed died was that he had ‘one too many’, fell backwards off his bar stool and hit his head, causing death. It is still a popular tourist attraction but in my opinion, a tragic loss.

The ugly…;

Beige

 

Literally, the only negative thing I can stay about this magnificent country is that Malta can be too beige. The buildings (despite being beautifully designed), the roads… Everything is beige and dusty. But even this has a silver lining. If you hop over to Gozo, it is a lot greener and prettier there.

Summary

It is a destination I would recommend to almost anybody and somewhere I would definitely return to.

To find out more, please visit http://www.visitmalta.com

Thanks for reading my blog peeps.

Cuddle Your Globe

xxx

Look Up More…

Look Up More…

I realised recently that most of us look within our line of vision to appreciate the beauty of a town or landscape. It occurred to me that this is cutting out maybe 60% of the actual view on offer and if we ‘look up’ more, there is so much more to be seen. It’s like you are seeing beneath the facade of what that particular location wants you to see and can appreciate the reality of this space.

I have taken some photos of a different perspective of towns and places and I feel that by seeing these, I have really seen the place.

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Homes and flats above the shops in the city centre, Hanoi, Vietnam.
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A stunningly unusual tree in Kerala, India.
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Flats and homes above businesses in central London, England.
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Beautiful art work for sale in Ubud, Bali.
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The white blob on the top balcony is actually a cat balancing on the edge, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
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The detail in the upstairs / terrace of this old house, Malta.
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The actual insane beauty of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain.
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Rooftops and flowers taken in beautiful Bali, Indonesia.