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Diving in Australia – Great Barrier Reef

Diving in Australia – Great Barrier Reef
A dream come true! After a lot of research and last minute mails to dive centers in Townville we finally decided to stick with our original plan and fly up to Cairns. We booked a 3-day Live-Aboard tour with Prodive (same company we were diving with in Bali) – Target: 11 dives in 3 days! As usual I was a bit nervous about staying several days on a boat, getting  seasick and not enjoying one of experiences we rated at the very top of Must Do things during our trip.

The sea was not as calm as we thought, but the Australian seasickness pill worked perfectly for both of us. The first dive was still with an instructor but from dive 2 onwards we were on our own. This was completely knew for us and we found out that using the compass under water was not easy – we ended up more than once coming up to the surface in the big blue and swimming for some minutes to reach back to our boat. I have to admit, that even under water women lack a sense for orientation, w/o Henrik I would have been ‘lost in the reef’. Fortunately we always got back. It is actually really great to organise your own dive and turn where you want, stop wherever and explore on your own.

The Great Barrier Reef is amazing. It is full of life and each dive site had something different and new to explore. There were huge turtles, floating around looking at us and then completely ignoring us – very peaceful creatures. And  then of course the sharks… we had heard about the incidents in Egypt and the first whitetip shark we saw in Bali gave us lets say an “adrenaline kick”… but at the same time seeing a shark during a dive is actually just fascinating. At the reef there were lots of whitetip reef sharks and grey reef sharks. Doing the shark sign to tell each other there was another one close to us became quite normal. At the end I was attacked by a triggerfish who looked like a beautiful friendly colourful fish until I saw the teeth in his mouth … luckily he bit me in my foot and my finns blocked the teeth, anyhow you could see the marks of the teeths later. After the first shock, what I was worried about most was bleeding and attracting a shark, but Henrik checked and then “covered” me from behind to block new attacks :-).

Apart from turtles and sharks there were lots of manta ray, eagle ray, lionfish, angelfish, crabs, sweetlips, baracudas, nemos and the whole underwater “reef landscape” was fascinating. Almost all dives ended in shallow water between 5 to 7 meters where we could enjoy the colours of the reef and sometimes just stay close to the bommies and observe what was going on.

Another highlight and completely new experience where the night dives. In general, guys tend to like them more and Henrik enjoyed them a lot. I have to admit that moving your flash light and suddenly seeing the glowing eyes of a shark is a strong feeling. And the most challenging part was swimming back to the boat which attracted a lot of sharks and other huge fishes due to the lights – felt like a scary movie…

We met great people on the boat, the food was good and the dives very well organised and controlled by Oscar, our dive supervisor. During one dive we rented a camera and took some good pictures. One of the best ones w/o doubt the photo of Henrik with his Spanish abanico 😉

It almost felt like a dream that we really did it – diving the Great Barrier Reef – AMAZING!!!

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Bali – always expect the unexpected

We arrived in Bali 4 days before expected, so we had to change our route a little bit, and what a lucky shot it was.

We had heard that when coming to Bali the first thing you should do is turn right towards the east coast, and so we did. We got a small hotel in Batu Belah (between Amed and Tulamben) for the 4 first nights. A beautiful hotel owned by an English man and his family.
They took great care of us. I can also tell you if you want to relax this is the palce as there is almost nothing in the vicinity apart from local peoples homes. We hung out with the family, and the people of the hotel for the 4 days, going snorkeling just outside the hotel where there is a reef. This is also the place we met Ana y Godzon, a great spanish couple that works in Australia. With them we had our first dive of the journey.

Going from Batu Belah we headed north to the mountains of Munduk and into the coffee plantations. We stayed in Monduk Mooding plantation which is just incredible. You practically live in a mountain rainforest. Here we did some trekking and learned about the traditions of Hindu as Bali strangely is Hindu to 90 %. We say strangely as the rest of Indonesia is Muslim. (we know why)

From Munduk we headed south to the popular village of Ubud, which is known for being the real heart of Bali, with Balinese traditions and art. We disagree partly but if you’re tired of relaxing and want some more action and village feeling, with shops and resturants this you place. We stayed in Furama hotel 20min off Ubud, but with good shuttle service.

Most of the 4 days we spent here was in the village but we did 2 excursions. One mountainbike ride through the rice fields and local settings, which is a must do if you go there. And one white water rafting tour, its funny but its not a real thrill.

After the 4 days in Ubud we headed east again longing for some diving. Putu and the guys from ProDive picked us up from the Hotel and drove us to Padang Bai where we stayed in for 2 nights in Alila Manggis.
To those of you that wants to go to Padang Bai or Candidasa, I would consider other alternatives as really its justgood for diving.

Last 3 days of the trip in Bali we stayed again in Batu Belah as we had a great time there and its close to Tulamben which is the best diving site in Bali.

Worth to mention is we stayed in some very good hotels and they were affordable cause of the season. In October and November it is the rainseason, and yes we had some showers in between the 30 degrees sun.
East coast is generally dry and the mountains wet.

What is it about Bali that makes you feel happy? Our explanation is simply the people. People seems although
they´re not living in the greatest conditions more happy. They always have time for your questions and they always seems to have a genuine interest to get to know you a little bit. Very easy going and always a smile on
their face.

Bali is a paradise for sure. We wonder for how long, cause if you turn left when you come out of the airport I’m pretty sure you could have stayed in LLoret de Mar.

So remember TURN RIGHT!

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Diving in Bali

Diving in Bali

We did an Open Water Diver course in April in Spain in order to have the dive certificate ready for our trip. So one of the things we were definitely looking forward to was diving in water that was warmer than 15 degrees (that was the average temperature when we took the course!).

We tried to dive in Vietnam but the weather condition was too bad. So our first dives were in Bali, and they were amazing! The Spanish couple in our hotel had booked several dives with Prodive Bali and we joined them on the second day. After two
great dives we decided to book more dives with Prodive and enjoyed a total of six dives.

The dive sites we visited were Amed, Padang Bai and Tulamben. They are all on the east / south-east coast of Bali. The most impressive dive was the US Liberty shipwreck in Tulamben. You can actually reach it directly from the beach, it is just 40m from the shore and full of life. This dive was magic!

During these dives the most fascinating creature we saw was a whitetip shark! We just stared and stared at it until it majestically disappeared in the deep blue. Apart from this we saw a turtle, baracudas, lion fish, scorpion fish, bannerfish, anemonefish and so many more…

Diving in Bali is a very relaxed thing as the dive company prepares everything. The dive sites can be reached directly from the beach or within a short trip with one of the typical Balinese “barquitos”. There are always Balinese ladies around to carry your equipment on theirs heads (!) to wherever you need it. It was always just the two of us and one instructor. Our instructor Putu also explained us a lot about the Balinese Culture and humour…

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People we met…

Another great thing of a round-the-world trip is that you meet so many nice and interesting people from all over the world. In order not to forget all this great personalities we are meeting and spending a part of the trip with, shared experiences and laughters and that also enriched us with their different perspective of seeing the world – we thought to make a list so we could remember all these special shared moments:

Veronica Bai: We met Veronica at SE offices in Beijing. We attacked her with hundreds of questions about Chine and Chinese people and she patiently answered all of them. She also booked a great hotel for us and recomended so many restaurants (best Peking duck ever in the place she recommended!)

Mr. Wu: This nice guy drove us to the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall. We had one of the most impressive and unforgettable days with him.

Magnus and the Swedish crowd: Although Magnus is not really a “new person” I met, he was new to Henrik and we actually apart from the office met his wonderful family for dinner. We laughed so much, had great Japanese (!) food and I spoke Swedish the whole evening – uff

Javi: The Spanish pilot living since more than a year in Tokyo. We met several times and he showed us his favourite neighbourhoods and restaurants and advised us where to go in Japan. We also learned about Japanese colleagues and he explained some of the “strange” things we saw. Thanks to him we also had a great dinner with his Mexican colleagues!

“The Americans”: We met Hadas, Rob, Aaron and Kristen from NY on our Tu Long Bay / Halong Bay tour and we had so much fun together! They explained us the differences between “European and American dancing” and Henrik gave the “shopping cart” and “the sprinkler” a unique European touch. The tour would not have been the same without these 4!

Kemal: He was on the same tour with us. This great guy with Turkish roots made Susan feel a little less stupid because his Turkish was not much better than hers ;-). Let’s see who changes that first!

Kate and Adam: We met this couple from New Zealand on the motor bike ride in Hoi An and then again in Laos so we had dinner and a couple of beers together.

Norwegian couple: We bumped into these two in Saigon, found out that we had booked the same hotel in Phnom Phen, met them again in Siem Reap, Luang Prabang and the last time in Vientiane! Curiously we never exchanged names.

Maria and Stan: We met them on the tour to the Kung Si waterfalls and had dinner the same night. They both work for the US military in Japan and we exchanged experiences with the Japanese culture.

Marianne and Alice: Crazy Dutch women! They were in the same hotel in Luang Prabang and we went together to the
village and La Basi. We laughed so much and in the evenings we had so much red wine and the next night again… Two very interesting ladies that are so easy to talk to and simply make you laugh all the time.

Collin, Madi, Madi Boy & Co: British / Balinese couple that runs the Batu Belah hotel on the east coast of Bali. They made us feel like home in their beautiful villas, with the homemade food and thanks to them we learned about the Balinese culture.

Putu and the other instructors from Pro Dive: Funny outside but extremely responsible inside the water. Putu told us a lot about the history and religion of Bali.

Ana y Gotzon: A Spanish couple we met in Bali and did some dives with. They live and work on a yacht in Australia that
belongs to a rich couple. They cruise around the whole year and had just finished a one week detox treatment in Bali when we met them. Wonderful people!

Sean: We never met him, but he has been our greatest support during this trip. Sean works at Travelnation, the agency we
booked our tickets with and has been helping us to change tickets and saved us so much money and hassle!

We are meeting so many people during the trip who make this experience special and unforgettable but to mention all of them
would be impossible in one post!

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Vientiane – Laos

Vientiane – Laos

The capital of Laos is more like a big village than a city and has definitely a French touch from the colonists times. We only spent a 1.5 days there and this was enough for us to see the most important  things. The temples we saw were a little bit too “kitsch” for our taste and the river promenade was a big construction site.

The highlights were the georgeous sunset at the river, the kanelbulle at the Swedish bakery and not to forget Henriks visit to a hair dresser.

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Teaching English and La Basi ceremony – Laos

Teaching English and La Basi ceremony – Laos

We had actually read about the low literacy rate in Laos. Although education is slowly increasing, many children drop out by the time they reach secondary education because the family needs them to work on the fields. We had read about a home-grown initiative called “Big Brother Mouse” that trys to bring the delights of the written words to Laos infants. 80% of Laos
population lives in villages and their is a lack of material to teach and motivate the children. For us it was clear that we wanted to buy books for a village and if possible visit one of the schools.

At the end we were lucky because one of the staff in our hotel offered us to take us to the village where he teaches English in a small school. We went – and it was such a great experience!
The building was very basic and there were not many books in the class room. The kids were so sweet! They were between 6 and 11 years old and some of them spoke already quite good English while others just had started. We had a wonderful time with them and were laughing a lot whilst trying to communicate. We also bought books for the schools to support them.

After the school experience he took us to a village for a visit. After a stroll through the 20 family big village he told us that the community had prepared a “La Basi ceremony” for us – a buddhist tradition for good luck.

We got to meet the Chief of the Village in his home. There was no electricity and we were sitting on the ground with a small gas lamps. The atmosphere was magical. More and more people came to the Chiefs house to greet us and participate in the ceremony. They had prepared a chicken for us and put it on a small altar together with other offerings. We had to do different symbolic things and they were praying for us, saying a special prayer for this ceremony. Then each person in the room put a wrist band around our arms saying the prayer again, which we had to leave on for some days.

Then we got the chicken and other offerings in our bare hands. I can tell you that feeling a warm, juicy meat in your hand
without actually seeing if it is properly cooked…hmmm. They also made rice balls with their hands and gave them to us
– so we did not want to offend them, blended out thoughts about salmonella etc. and hugged in. The rest of the people only had rice and potato chips (!) because the chicken was reserved for us, the guests. Of course, we offered chicken to all of them 😉 and with this and lots of “rice wine”, the Chief encouraged us to drink, we survived without any stomach problems at all.

After the “offical” part they wanted us to sing songs for them, so we sang everything from the Beatles to Schlagermusik while
they were clapping their hands. One of the guys also sang a Lao song for us which was really beautiful.

This experience was one of the most special, touching and unforgettable ones we had during our trip! These people were so
nice to us, shared their food with us and let us get a glimpse of what the real Laos life looks like.

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