October 5 to 11 – Bali and Ubud
Months ago when we first bought the tickets to Indonesia, Johnny insisted on staying at a nice hotel our last days in Bali. I’m so glad. Like I’ve said before, I’m too old to rough it now. Haha. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Sunset from Jimbaran beach.
October 3 to 5 – Mount Bromo and Ijen
Months ago when we started thinking about this trip we were looking at photos trying to figure out what we wanted to do. Volcano hikes sounded really cool, the photos of Mount Bromo and Ijen looked awesome, and the hikes agreed with our tight timeline so that was that. Johnny and I were agonizing over the details and best options for getting from Yogyakarta back to Bali with stopping at Mount Bromo and Ijen along the way. It was getting kind of overwhelming so when we found we could book a tour that covered all the things we wanted to do then that made it all so easy. Direct train from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo, then private car to Mount Bromo, on to Ijen and then to the ferry to Bali. Awesome!
Left the hotel at about 6AM to catch the train from Yogyakarta to Probolinggo. It wasn’t the most comfortable train but it was way better than a bus. In Java it seems you can look in any direction and see a volcano so it was fun to see some along the train. Oh and lots of rice fields. Of course from our last trip in Asia you all know how much I like rice fields.
September 28 to October 2 – Yogyakarta
After the Komodo Dragons, fish, and beaches of Labuan Bajo, we made our way to Java for some temples and volcanoes. We started in Yogyakarta which is known as the art capital of Indonesia. That would should be enough of a reason to keep me away but I wanted to go to see Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, possibly the whole universe.
Travel half way around the world and we find our doppelgangers.
September 24 to 25 – Bali
September 25 to 28 – Labuan Bajo / Komodo Dragon National Park
Three years later and Johnny and I are back on the road. Almost everyone we tell that we’re going to Indonesia ask if we’re taking our bikes. No, we are not taking our bikes. We have less than three weeks and there’s a lot of ground to cover. And truthfully after writing this post after spending nearly three weeks in Indonesia, I can confidently say that we were very glad not to bring our bikes. Traffic where we were in Indonesia was way too crazy and man was it hot! Anyway, on with the pictures!
Leaving home was hard. When we left on our last trip my mom had a puppy Rafa. After the last trip and spending a couple years living at my mom’s saving money for a house we came to think as Rafa as our puppy. We also adopted Cisco shortly after arriving home. Leaving those two at home was pretty sad.
Seeing as it’s been six months since we left India we figured it was about time to write a little bit about our overall experience in India. But first, lets watch our video as a good primer.
India is a country of contrasts. You either love it or you hate it, often times only minutes apart. But the good news is that India is a big country with lots to offer. You don’t like the grime and bustle of Varanasi? Take a short train to Khajuraho. You can’t stomach the scams and the persistent requests for money? Go to Ladakh or southern India.
I could go on and on about the experience that is India but that could take another six months so point form will have to do.
- Northern India (north of Mumbai but south of Ladakh) was dirty and poor with a new scam around every corner. After adjusting to the culture shock it was great… until it wasn’t. Lots of interesting things were here to be seen and experienced. Other travellers we talked to said the same thing. The grime, scams, and crowds were very difficult but every one of us went in expecting it to be bad so we’d be disappointed if it wasn’t… it’s just the extent of it that caught everyone off guard.
- Southern India (south of Mumbai) was waaaaaay more relaxed, clean, and scam free. There are lots of neat natural sites to see and outdoor adventures to be had but it seemed to be lacking on the cool cultural stuff (eg. Bodhgaya, Khajuraho, Agra, etc.).
- Ladakh. What’s not to love. Johnny and I would go back there in a heartbeat.
- The food all over India is amazing! By far the yummiest and most flavorful of any country we’ve been to. And it is so cheap! The only problem is a lot of the food was very heavy and sometimes you want to give your tastebuds a break from the strong spices even if it is wonderfully delicious. For this reason Vietnam still reigns supreme for overall best food.
- Street food looked on the dicey side so we didn’t have any of that like we did throughout Southeast Asia.
- Compared to Southeast Asia, the value of hotels are pretty bad. In India it was easy to find very cheap hotels and 5 years ago I’d be delighted by the selection. Now I’m a little more high maintenance and I want clean sheets, air conditioning, TV and internet. For that you have to pay a premium.
- That said it appears the selection of high end hotels in India was also great. India would be fabulous on a high budget!
- I loved travelling by train! They were comfortable, you could travel a good distance by the time you woke up, and there was always something interesting happening in the train station.
- If you want to be in the nicer cars you need to book your tickets early. No joking on this one. It takes some of the spontaneity out of the trip but it’s also kind of nice to have an itinerary.
- India is a difficult country to travel on a budget. You can see and eat lots for cheap but India can be exhausting! If you want a comfortable hotel and train you’re going to be paying a premium… it’s worth it though.
- Rickshaws were a hassle but also an adventure! You never know where you’ll end up or how much they’ll try to increase the price after its already been agreed upon.
- A lot of people speak English in India… and a lot don’t. In some instances speaking English increases the difficulty because it makes the scammers much more effective and persuasive. Being in a country where a lot of people speak English also means a lot of people just want to chat. It’s important to remember not everyone is after your rupees.
- It’s worth it!!! As difficult as India is it’s a great place to visit. So many cool and interesting things to see and do and so many flavors to eat.
View India in a larger map
August 8 to 12
San Francisco wasn't what we expected it to be. For weeks Johnny and I have been planning what we'd do in San Francisco, or more specifically what'd we eat. In Kuala Lumpur after going out for more delicious satay and shaved ice dessert, we got back to the hotel and I told Johnny that I think I'm going to be sick. Like Dalat sick. A minute later I was throwing up. Food poisoning is bad enough but it was made all the worst knowing the next day I was going to be trapped on a plane flying across the Pacific Ocean.
Evil cold buffet that should be hot. This isn't the buffet I'm blaming for making us sick but this is an example of a cold, day old buffet that Johnny and I constantly came across in Malaysia. It looks yummy but they're best to be avoided. What was I thinking having salad from one of these places
August 12 to 17 & 24 to 26 – Independence, Missouri
August 18 to 23 – Marshall and Port Austin, Michigan
Back in Agra, India when we decided to cut the trip short of China we thought it’d be fun to add on a trip to visit my family in Missouri and Michigan. You wouldn’t imagine most people would be excited to visit Missouri but Johnny was just as excited to visit Missouri as he was any place else. I think he was excited to have some BBQ. I was excited because of BBQ and because I haven’t been to Missouri for years and have never been to Michigan. Also I always have lots of fun with my uncle, aunt and cousins who live there.
Johnny and my cousin Joy battle it out with a game of checkers. This one ended in a draw
August 4 & 5 – Trichy
August 6 to 8 – Kuala Lumpur
It felt kind of surreal to arrive in Trichy. This would be the place where Johnny and I fly out of India. I can't lie and say I wasn't excited. India has so much to offer but it can be very difficult to travel. It was early morning as we stepped off the train at the small unfrequented station in Trichy. Surprisingly no rickshaw drivers were fighting over us and the roads were nearly deserted the short walk to the hotel. It felt completely unlike India. That would change later in the day when Johnny and I walked around town. The place was PACKED! Like Kolkata night bazaar or Old Town New Delhi packed. We were in the market area of Trichy and with it being Sunday everyone was walking the streets looking for a good deal as cars and motos squeezed through the narrow road forcing everyone to squish together. In Trichy we checked out a church or two and made our way to a large complex of temples in India, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. It was kind of like a living working version of Angkor Wat with shops lining the lanes inside the complex with several temples in the centre of the complex. There was even an elephant!
After leaving India we won't be seeing any more holy cows. That's kind of sad, actually
July 28 to August 3
After Lovely Leh, Kochi and Munnar rank as our favorite places in India. The farther south we get in India the nicer it is to be a tourist. We were told things got easier in the south but it was hard to believe after the constant scamming we endured in the north. When we arrived in Kochi we were surprised to find the city relatively clean with almost no signs of cow poo or the accompanying odor, there was very little garbage, the traffic was light, and hardly anyone pestered us to buy something from them. In so many ways it reminded me of Lovely Leh.
One of the reasons we decided to come to Kochi was because it was close to Munnar which is where you'll find tea fields (after China, India is the world's largest exporter of tea). We took an overnight tour up to Munnar which included a great driver in a fancy SUV for the 5 hour drive, meals and a home stay. We made lots of stops along the way to see elephants, waterfalls, spice plantations, museums and more. We were very happy we decided to go with the tour instead of taking the public bus which was our original plan. Munnar sits at 1500m and even in the cloudy midsts and rain it was a beautiful little place with tea plants covering the mountain sides. It would have been easy to spend several days up in Munnar sitting on the terrace looking across the tea fields in the mountains. Next time.
Fog hiding the misty mountains of Munnar
July 23 to July 27
As we approach further south, it is getting much greener. The first thing I noticed once we arrived in Panaji were the clean and open streets. It was much more humid and tropical in this region with a lot more palm trees. On the down side we are in the middle of monsoon season and it pretty well rained non stop for 3 days. The last time we encountered this much rain in our travels were the first couple days of cycling in Malaysia. Actually the scenery reminded me a lot of Malaysia with how green it was along with the nice hills.
It rained a lot everyday we were in Panaji, the streets were starting to flood here.