Exploring this wondrous planet…

So I’m going to Thailand…

Tomorrow, I will be heading to the ‘Land of Smiles’!

I’ll be doing one month’s missionary work in schools, with two weeks on either side to explore the place. There’s a separate blog if you’d like to keep up with my adventure, here:

If anyone has any tips for Thailand travel, e.g. getting around, where to visit, how best to communicate with locals etc., feel free to share!

But for now,


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My motorbike is older than me!

A decade older! Still, not bad for a first bike eh?

As suggested by my buddy Nina, I’ve named him after the stealth Jungle Book cat… ‘Bagheera’.

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Just when I thought I was seeing cats…

I was on the train last week, happily listening to music when something stealthily brushed past the corner of my eye. I turned to see a grey cat roaming past my seat.

I blinked.

Then I leaned over and looked down the aisle to check… Sure enough, a cat was prowling, or more like patrolling through the train. ‘Tickets please!’- No, not the cat, that was the driver.

Anyway, before I could question my eyesight, the owner came dashing to pick her up!

I followed the women back to her source, and guess what I found…

A bunch of kittens!

Made my day.

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Indonesia pt. 2 – Goin’ solo!

Hola people! If you’re still interested, here’s a few tales of my second month in Indonesia…

Look at that root system!

Frightened of a month solo in Asia? Hmm I’d say more excited, with a twinge of nervousness perhaps… I had some time to prepare, what with my ‘wedding ring’ and photo of my so-called ‘husband on the next island’. But after a month in Indonesia already, I’d gotten over the ‘I’m not gonna make it back alive’ mindset. Anyway, what’s the worst that could happen? A ‘Home Alone, Lost in New York’ scenario? Suits me.

Home alone... Lost in Indonesia

Seeing as I was planning on island hopping and what not, I thought it would be easiest to pack my life into one carry-on sized bag. I’d recommend the MEI Voyager to those interested; it’s amazing how much you can squeeze in to this handy sized backpack.

Baby we were born to ruuuun

There were a few others from Labundo carrying on to travel too and although I had no set itinerary, I knew that we ultimately had different plans for our travels. So saying goodbye to any last familiar faces, I set off into the depths of Bali!

What a liberating feeling! Traipsing around Bali as free as a bird, or so it seemed…

I first headed to the most touristy place- Kuta. It was late and I had no where booked so I presumed there would be somewhere to stay in such a popular backpackers hotspot.

Although not pregnant, I couldn’t help identify with Mary… At every hostel I received an Indonesian ‘no room at the inn’. Perhaps I would have to opt for the beach??

To the gate of Kuta beach and beyond...

What was that I heard? ‘ROOM!’ – a guy standing in the street, selling a room for the night… Should I trust him? He was about my age, why not? (Don’t try this at home) After we agreed on a decent price, he shipped me off on his motorbike through the narrow, bustling streets (more like alleys) of Kuta to the place where he was commissioned for.

Would you believe it? Yet another ‘no room at the inn‘. Oh dear. Fair play to the guy though- he never left me stranded. He took me to his 2nd option but again, ‘no room‘, so on to his 3rd choice… Why is this town so popular tonight?? His desperate looking face persevered onto the 4th home-stay, but ‘no room‘, and finally the 5th. Phew! Low and behold a room was found!

I was half tempted to stay in the same room for the month, judging by the difficulties of finding it. However I quickly realised pretty much everywhere has a room providing you arrive early on.

If you search hard enough, even in the most Westernised area of Bali (Kuta) you can find local foods

In the evening Brama, a motorbike guy, offered me a taxi to somewhere interesting to eat. He picked me up afterwards too…. And refused to let me pay him! That was typical of my experience in Indonesia- the locals were amazed that I could speak their language. And through that connection, many friendships were formed.

I should add at this point, I’m no language guru; the Indonesian language doesn’t contain any masculines, feminines, tenses or plurals. It’s more of a cave-man language, so for example, ‘yesterday I went to the beach’ would literally be ‘me go beach yesterday’. So all you need to know is the word… And sure enough, it works!

How many can you fit on a motorbike?

St. Fransiskus Xaverius

Brama and his friends were amused at the way I sat on the bike. I sat sideways, with my two legs dangling to one side (side-saddle?). He dropped me off the next evening at a Catholic church where I thought I’d experience an Indonesian mass for the craic. If I went back, I’d certainly have an eye-out for some sort of evangelical Christian church!

Although I never tried out a surfing lesson, I did meet a surfer instructor, Borju… What a dude! He took me to Ubud on his bike and gave me a tour of some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve laid eyes on. There was one place he took me that looked amazing but I didn’t know much about… That is until I came across this blog which gives more information.

It's Borju yo

I rarely met any people from England. Actually no, cancel that, I did spend a day in Ubud with a couple of English guys; it was great to speak with my native tongue for a change!

Ubud market... With ghost dancers!

I couldn’t forget the massage parlour near where my home-stay was… It was cheap- around £3 for a full body massage, or ‘massaze’ as they pronounce it. This wasn’t quite the relaxing experience I expected, it felt more like a pilates lesson!

Oh, and I couldn’t fail to mention the monkey forest:

If you have bananas, watch your back!

Salt water damage to my 6 month old dslr... Not good. Here's it's last photo!

Here comes the worst part of the whole trip… At the blue lagoon in Pandangbai I went for a swim. Rather than leave my camera on the beach, I thought I’d make use of my Aquapac and take it in with me. Of course, being the clutz that I am, I didn’t seal the Aquapac properly… I heard a bubble… ‘Uh-oh‘… And I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

Sometimes I got my awkward phone camera out, but other than that the memories are in my head. That reminds me of something similar that Rose said in the film ‘Titanic’. Speaking of which, dolphins swam alongside the ferry to Lombok- it felt a bit like the scene from Titanic.
I found a family run home-stay in Senggigi. The son Azis, showed me around; his English was great as his father was originally from Australia. His father (I’ll call him ‘crazy Australian guy’ because I can’t remember his name) was one of a kind. A white haired, dishevelled looking chap with a constant mumbling chatter under his breath. They invited me to eat with them for dinner to which I happily accepted.

The crazy Australian guy showed me his little light bulb experiment, as well as his campaign booklet for cleaning up the beaches of Senggigi. He was very interested in Europe, and couldn’t believe how we still weighed in stones, pounds and ounces! He had many contacts too, so managed to find me a hostel on a Gili Island in advance. YAY.

To cut a long story short when I went back to the home-stay after visiting the Gilis, I didn’t see Azis or crazy guy at all and the woman said she would’t be able to make any breakfast.. I could sense something was wrong.

A day after leaving I received a text from Aziz… It was an invite to the crazy guys funeral! He died 😦

Ridin' through the paddy fields

I traced most of the Senggigi beach coastline, running away from tourist central, out until I saw a long line of people who looked as though they were playing tug-of-war with the sea! It was actually a bunch of fishermen and women reeling in a net for their daily catch. I ran over and they were pleasantly surprised for the help. They even offered me a free fish in return!
A real treat of the home-stay was that it shared a back garden with the beach! So I sat down to watch the sunset. It wasn’t long until Rasid, bracelet seller, sat down next to me. He was obsessed with trying to sell me one until I told him I wasn’t interested… He was rather taken aback by my use of the language, so we chatted for the evening. When I happened to go back to the same spot a few days later, Rasid offered me a bracelet as a present from him. Get in.

The boat ride to the Gilis was so cool. Me and Nula, an Indonesian guy lay at the front. He was very pleased to be talking to me and even offered me a room at the hotel he works at. That was one thing about Indonesia- white people had a sort of celebrity status. Even on a boat to what was probably the most densely populated islands of white people in Indo!

Indo sunset

The Gilis lived up to my expectations. I managed to find the hostel easy enough. One thing that was unusual about the islands is that there was no motorised transport; only cidomos (horse and cart), bicycles or legs.

After walking around the whole island I settled on a decent spot to watch the orange ball fall from the sky. While sitting there, a couple of local lads offered me an even cheaper room! And the Gilis were meant to be full?!

Judging by how surprisingly easy it was to find a home-stay on Gili Air, I thought it would be easy enough on Meno. So on arrival in Meno I set off to find somewhere within budget. I quickly came across a man who had a room, but he laughed at me as though I’d never find somewhere for such a price.
Well, I did find some cheaper places but rather than stick with them I thought I’d go into the depths of the island and see what I could really find. I found a few local families and introduced myself. The language barrier was a struggle but they were very friendly and offered to take me in for a low price. What an experience that was! Here I was on a honeymooners island, furthest away from the beach with a local family and their chicken coop!

Gili Trawangan was larger and busier, even claiming to be the smallest island in the world with an irish bar! So I had to make a stop there. I even ate a desert dedicated especially to me! Well a Sarah Dougherty (minus the ‘ug’ it’s me).

Playful monkeys, myy desert, plus a nice view (with a meerkat?)

One night as I was eating by the beach on Gili Meno and I was hassled by a guy. He was a cheeky chap with a big curly mop-head. He offered me drugs, asked some very personal (and strange) questions and even grabbed my hand saying:

Mop-head: ‘Is that ring real silver?’
Me: ‘No it’s just a cheap fake one’
Mop-head: ‘Hmm I’m not sure, I think it’s real silver’

Funnily enough, it was as cheap as chips; I don’t know about metal, the ring was maybe even painted plastic! I only got it to pretend I was married. Funnily enough, he owned a silver shop– you would think he had an eye for the stuff now wouldn’t you??

Shipwreck on Gili Trawangan!

In the season of Ramadan, most eateries were closed, and those that were open looked closed from the outside so I usually had to ask locals where I could eat.

I’ll mention Rose, a woman I met… She was amazed that I could speak Indonesian, but I certainly couldn’t as well as she thought! She thought I said ‘my mum is Indonesian’ (when actually I (thought I) said ‘my mum is coming to Indonesia’!), so she started speaking to me fluently and enthusiastically with her hands squeezing mine. I seemed to smile and nod in the right places and I did get the general jist of what she was on about, but the more she spoke to me the more I was digging myself a hole by not telling her I couldn’t really understand her!

So as she was introducing me to all of her family as having ‘an Indonesian mother’, I decided to break the news to her. She was very puzzled at what a young female from England was doing on her own in Indonesia! As were many locals. And people back home too I suppose. I’m just weird.

Funky Hindu statue

I remember there was a home-stay where I left without paying! I left to catch some kind of transport but realised and quickly went back… Nice to see Gods moral imprint alive and kicking within me!

Borju gave me a lift to the airport where I flew to Jakarta, the big city… I headed to the JakartaFM7 hotel where I had my first hot shower since, I don’t know when 🙂

My mum arrived in Jakarta! I had organised to take her to Labundo, to the rainforest village where I spent the first month… So we flew to Sulawesi! All the ‘white people’ had left, so it was now a very different, quiet village. My mum enjoyed the week there, where she was immersed in a completely different culture. Fifin was our tour guide- he took us fishing, macaque watching, bat caving, not to mention visiting the AMAZING waterfall!

Just chillin' in the canoe

I’m convinced that if the waterfall was more accessible it would be a popular tourist site. To get to it we had to trawl up and down through the forest, in and out of rivers. My mum was close to a collapse! But the scene when we got there it was totally worth it. It was breath-taking! At the bottom there was a plunge pool where me and Fifin jumped in from a large rock at the side.

The video is on my previous laptop so I can’t up load it. But actually there’s a link to the video here…

As we were driving through the various villages we had a flood of kids running up to the car. I opened the windows and stuck my hand out to them saying ‘SAK’ … Which is basically an Indonesian ‘high five!’

We went back to Java and did a some more exploring, even going to Bandung to meet some staff workers that I’d previously met in Labundo, which was awesome.

Mutha and Fifin, teaching, chillin'...

If I could sum up the whole experience in three words, I’d go for… Culture, Beauty, and Friendship. What wonderful God-given gifts we have!

…And why not milk the seven hour stop off in Dubai?

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Indonesia pt.1- Jungle


16 months after the trip- you’d think this blog would be written to perfection. Actually, a wild notion just came into my head to write about it and I thought, why not? Well I know why not, I have a report to do… But that’s probably why so.

Spectacular scenery

A Two month trip is a fairly long time to log up, so I thought I pick out a brief outline of my journey, with a few stories along the way that would epitomise the experience… enjoy!

(fyi!)To those reading who know me now in my walk with Christ, this trip was less than a year before I became a Christian. Also, the camera used for these pictures was taken using Sony alpha 330.

There are Man Utd fans in the depths of the rainforest!!

And so the long-awaited travels to Indonesia arrived. One month of ‘research’ in the Sulawesian Rainforests, followed by a flight to Bali with only a returning home flight booked a month later. What to do in between? The worlds my oyster, as the saying goes.

L: Use your head! TR: Our band wagon BR: praying mantis modelling

First impression of Indonesia? Small people! One of the Western students that I met up with at the airport was about 6 foot 3, and a group of Indo men were surrounding him, pointing and laughing at how tall this ‘giant’ was.

L: Nina with a cat; R: a coupla cats

One thing I quickly learnt was that there was an abundance of cats in Indonesia. The Islamic prophet Mohammed was fond of them, and being a predominantly Muslim country no one is allowed to kill them (it doesn’t stop them being abandoned though!). This one struck me in particular- I named him Hitler. Or is that offensive?

L: Hitler; TR: mini bananas! BR: a growing pineapple!

We stayed in Labundo-bundo! A very small village with rustic houses planted on either side. I was adopted into a family with a balcony- not too shabby after all!

That is, until I saw the (outdoor) bathroom… A hole in the floor, plus a ‘mandi’ – a tank of water that you scoop water out of to wash, well everything (using left hands only please). It was one of the best in the neighbour hood though, and they did feature some toilet roll for us westerners! But if they survive without it, why should I need it?

Our house! Our family! Our mandi!

My host family, and most of Labundo couldn’t speak English – what a great incentive to learn the language! Each villages has its own dialect, although they all speak the one universal, or Indonesiersal language- Bahasa Indonesia.

Why are Indo kids so adorable?

The first week was spent in Jungle training… One of the best weeks of my life! Made some great friendships and life-lasting memories.

Elliot in awe at jungle fire

The second week I was planning on doing the advanced jungle training course! But after learning that no previous group has ever survived the week without gout, or some sort of foot disease, I decided to embark upon a ‘culture week’… So much for the research!

Fish market yo!

No regrets though- that week I had the best time with my friend Nina… We made quite a pair- the gila gila girls they called us… ‘Gila’ is indonesian for, er, ‘crazy’.

I must mention Fifin- one of the english speaking local staff. He was an awesome guy!…he would even climb 20-odd metre coconut trees on demand!

I often got called ‘putih banyak’ by the locals…putih = white, banyak= very. I find it strange how people in the UK paint themselves darker/orange, whereas in Asia they have whitening kits. Why is it that people find it hard to be content with what they have?

L: The gila gila girls! TR: Me and Fifin, BR: 3 legged race with the locals

That week I soaked up the Indonesian language, in preparation for the travels ahead.

Bats! Climbing coconut trees! Rice drying! Canopy access! Face wash!

We cooked some traditional foods, explored the medicinal plants, went fishing in the next village, visited the rice makers, not to mention teaching English at the local school!

Bottom left: showing local kid the western gaming technology!

I’ll always remember lying on a wall with Nina while watching the night sky. So many stars! I’d never seen a shooting star before- but to see a few all in one viewing certainly made up for it! … How can we humans, so called ‘meaningless pieces of protoplasm’ be struck with such awe?

Then Nina left…

The next two weeks were a bit more higgledy piggledy… I got a great taster of the different research projects going out there. I helped out with maquaque behaviour, fig wasps, bats, tarsiers, herpetofauna and civet projects.

Spying on macaques in the forest!

Young coconut milk/water is one thing I often crave since Indonesia. It was the most refreshing, thirst quenching drink I’ve ever experienced… Haven’t managed to to find a similar coconut drink like it anywhere else thus far.

'...Nobody suspects, the butterflyyyys mwahahaha' (Bart Simpson)

My time in the rainforest was soon over, but I was glad I didn’t book a flight straight back to the UK. I hoped to return again, but until then, on to Bali it was!

Can I take one home?

Stay tuned for the island hopping!


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