Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Bird and Supertrees at the Gardens By The Bay.

No matter how many times you visit, Singapore always manages to impress. When one of my friends decided to have her 30th birthday party there, I was of course obliged to make the trip! No matter how many times I visit this city-state, I always seem to be able to find new things to do. On this particular visit, I had the chance to see some superheroes and supertrees in Singapore.

Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore – Superheroes?

Superheroes in Singapore? Yes! Well, a superhero exhibition. My visit had coincided with the Marvel Studios: Ten Years of Superheroes Exhibition at the ArtScience Museum in Downtown Singapore.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Marvel Exhibition at the ArtScience Museum

The museum itself could be considered an art piece, but the view from outside the museum was something else.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. View From the ArtScience Museum

As a bit of a geek and a huge fan of all superheroes, the exhibition made me happy.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Ironman at the ArtScience Museum K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Hulk Smash at the ArtScience Museum

Because of course, we are Groot!
K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Groot at the ArtScience Museum

Sculptures in the City

Singapore isn’t exactly a place that springs to mind when you think about art. You may be surprised to know that art is alive and well in the city, despite some legal restrictions. Artists cannot just paint walls or place sculptures anywhere they like, as it is illegal to do so. Unless of course it is done on private property with the permission of the owners.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Sculpture in the Street

Many landowners are more than willing to let local and international artists beautify their properties. That has given rise to a pretty decent street art scene which includes a plethora of murals and sculptures. These can be found in random places all around the city.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Corner Sculpture

Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore – Gardens By The Bay

On my previous trip to the city-state, I had seen the Supertrees under construction in an area near Marina Bay. The 100 plus hectare foreshore area that was reclaimed is now called Gardens By The Bay. These Gardens are nothing short of spectacular! You could easily keep yourself occupied there for many days. And that’s just walking around doing all the free stuff.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Fountains at the Gardens By The Bay

As a budget-conscious traveller, I tend to avoid going to places that have an entrance fee. I did make an exception for one attraction in the Gardens. I decided that I wanted to see the view from the top of one of the Supertrees, at the SuperTree by IndoChine rooftop terrace. The entrance fee was $S20 and included a drink. I’m still not sure if it was completely worth it, but the view was impressive none the less.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Storm Rolling In

Attractions at the Gardens

Some of my friends couldn’t stop raving about the Cloud Forest in the Gardens. The buildings containing the Cloud Forest are on the righthand side of the picture above. My friends assured me that the Cloud Forest was worth the $S28 they paid. I was happy to roam around checking out all the free stuff though. There was definitely enough of that to keep anyone occupied for a long time.

Sculptures
K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Gardens By The Bay Strange Sculpture

Tranquil paths
K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Gardens By The Bay Walk

Peaceful Lakes
K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Peaceful Lakes at the Gardens By The Bay

And of course the Supertrees
K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Supertrees at the Gardens By The Bay

Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore – Supertree Grove

There’s no doubt that the Supertrees are the most sought-after attraction at the Gardens. They are massive but also serene. They are quite a sight to behold during the daylight hours. You could gaze at them for hours from the grassed area below them. No matter what time of day you go there, it’s easy to find a nice quiet spot to relax.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Storm Rolling in at the Gardens By The Bay

There’s also a food court near the base of some of the trees that offers some reasonably priced food options. For me, it doubled as shelter when one of Singapore’s infamous 4pm storms started rolling in.

Supertree Grove at Night

As beautiful as the Grove is during the day, things get a lot more colourful at night. Hundreds of lights have been installed on the Supertrees. These lights are programmed to flash, flicker and change colour according to the beat of a musical soundtrack.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Gardens By The Bay Supertree Grove

The show is called Garden Rhapsody and runs twice a night for 15 minutes each time.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Gardens By The Bay Supertree Grove Blue and Purple Supertree

As far as light shows go, the Garden Rhapsody is a pretty good one. I’m not sure that I could even explain just how awesome it was, so maybe you can just see for yourself below.

For more information about things to do and see at the Gardens, you can check out their website.

Beer Fest at the Gardens

I was also lucky enough to be in Singapore while a huge beer festival, Beer Fest Asia, was taking place at the Gardens. As we were there for a party, most of the group decided that a festival with free beer was exactly what they needed. Who was I to argue?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Beer Festival at Gardens By The Bay

We weren’t just there for the beer though. There was some live music happening too.

Strange Clubs in Singapore

I have to admit that in all my visits to Singapore, I’d never really ventured out to any of the nightclubs. That all changed when my slightly drunk friends decided that they weren’t ready for the party to end after the pub closed. We ended up at a club called Bar Rouge on the 70th floor of the Swissotel Stamford Hotel. At $25 per person, it was not cheap to get in there. The fee came with a ‘free drink’ but of course, the choice of drinks was very restricted.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. Singapore-isms at Bar Rouge

Aside from the neon Singapore-isms, perhaps the most interesting thing about this club was the floor plan and colour scheme. Being a clearly classy joint, they had installed glass cages on the second floor. These cages had a never-ending parade of scantily clad women disinterestedly dancing on poles. The fact that they were so disinterested made it kind of interesting to watch. It was certainly a distraction from the crap DJing that was going on. I didn’t hear one complete song all night.

The Kindness and Honesty of Strangers in Singapore

With so much alcohol available, people from our group got drunk. Very drunk. One of them got so drunk in fact that they ended up passed out on a comfy patch of grass somewhere. They were woken up sometime early in the morning by a worried local, checking if they were okay.

What was probably most surprising was that their wallet and phone were on the ground next to them. With absolutely no recollection of what had happened after they left the group, this person presumed that they had put their belongings down on the grass before passing out. That means their belongings had been sitting out in the open for hours and no one had tried to pinch them. That really says something about Singaporeans!

Now that this Singaporean adventure is over, I’ll leave you with a Singapore Sunset.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Superheroes and Supertrees in Singapore. City Sunset

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Hospitality in Bangladesh

Time to Experience Some Hospitality in Bangladesh

I had a quick mid-term holiday so of course I was ready to fly away! This time to I’d snapped up a cheap direct flight to Dhaka in Bangladesh. All I knew before I started the trip was that both the traffic and the hospitality in Bangladesh were legendary. I was definitely looking forward to experiencing the hospitality in Bangladesh; the traffic, not so much.

The fun started before boarding my flight. I was in the front row for some pre-flight drama. The guy in front of me at the security check thought that it was cool to take firecrackers on a plane. Mr Security wasn’t having any of it. Just to level-up on the idiocy, the guy thought it’d also be cool to pretend to not understand Mr Security when he was advised of the rules.

As you could imagine, that did not sit well with Mr Security, who then proceeded to berate the guy and thoroughly search his bag. While watching the drama unfold, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself and think that this was the best pre-flight entertainment I’d seen in a while. I was also glad that because of the commotion, I was pretty much just waved through.

Visa on Arrival in Dhaka

Certain nationalities are able to get a visa on arrival at the Dhaka international airport. It was a surprisingly easy process, despite the fact that it was also a long one. Information online says that you need to show confirmation of a return ticket and proof of $500 in cash to be able to get the visa. I did not have to show either of these.

The visa processing desk is located on the righthand side as you enter the immigration area. I had to line up for a while to get to that desk to present a small white card to the officer. He checked the card was filled-in correctly, then sent me off to another desk to pay the visa fee. The fee was US$50 and could only be paid in cash. After paying, I headed back to the processing desk where the paperwork was completed and slotted into my passport.

I was then ushered to the immigration counter, where there was almost no line. My passport was stamped and dated by a very friendly officer. He asked me how long I was staying and seemed disappointed when I indicated that I’d be there for one week. “Only one week?”, he enquired. He then said, “I’ll give you ten days”, as he manually wrote the visa validity in my passport. His tone indicated that he believed I would want to stay longer.

Leaving the Airport

Despite it being an airport serving a large city, the international airport in Dhaka seemed fairly small. That made it was surprising to see an Armed Police Room upon exiting the arrivals area. I took up temporary residence on a cold metal seat across from that room while I waited for my host to come and pick me up.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Armed Airport Police

My host’s name was Tariq and he had informed me earlier that he lived near the airport. Apparently that doesn’t have too much of an effect on how long it takes to get to the airport when there’s a lot of traffic. Even though he was only a few kilometres away, it took him nearly 30 minutes to reach the airport. I’m pretty sure it would’ve been quicker to walk!

Incredible Hospitality in Bangladesh

Once at Tariq’s place, we sat down to have some tea. He kept apologising for the fact that he wouldn’t be able to spend much time with me, due to work commitments. This was not a problem for me, but Tariq felt that he wasn’t living up to responsibilities as a host because of it. It took at least 5 teas to convince him that all was good.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi House

I can honestly say that I did not want for anything while I stayed with Tariq. I think he spent more time checking if I was comfortable than actually chatting to me. That’s not to say that he wasn’t extremely interested in learning about my previous travels though. When I tried to tell him on several occasions that he didn’t need to fuss over me so much, he informed me that it was the Bangladeshi way. He believed that a guest in his house should never have to ask for anything.

Apparently your stomach should always be bursting from overeating when being hosted by some people in Bangladesh. I must’ve tried a plethora of Bangladeshi snacks upon Tariq’s insistence before heading to bed. In the morning, Tariq got up to make me breakfast before he headed off to work. He told me he could come home at lunchtime to cook me lunch as well, but I told him I’d be out exploring, so there was no need.

Moving Around Dhaka

I had planned on meeting some local Couchsurfers in what I was told was the biggest mall in Dhaka; Jamuna Future Park. As it was only 3km away from where I was staying in Baridhara, I decided to walk. At the start of my walk, things were quiet and peaceful. Buildings were quite spread out and there was even some greenery to be seen. It seemed that Dhaka was still a growing city, as a fair amount of housing construction could also be seen.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi Suburb K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi Suburb Under Construction

Once I hit the main road which marked the border between 2 suburbs, things got a whole lot noisier! It was obvious that I was getting closer to the city centre. Traffic was pretty hectic even though the rush hour had already passed. Luckily I had some earphones to mask the pesky traffic noises. Sort of.

Interesting Locals

Once I made it to the shopping centre, I found Mahi and Abdul, the two men I was there to meet. They were very interesting young men. Mahi had spent quite a few years living abroad in the USA, while Abdul had spent his whole life in Dhaka. Despite their very different backgrounds, these guys had some super interesting views on the world. We all chatted like we were old friends. They even indulged me while I searched for a geocache hidden in the city’s park.

We had all planned to head to a Couchsurfing meet in Gulshan together. Gulshan is apparently the hip, affluent part of the city. It was only 3 kilometres from where we were, so I voted to walk. I was defeated 2-1 and we ended up in a Tuk Tuk. Adbul and Mahi were telling me there would be a little bit of traffic, so it might take 30 minutes. Boy, were they wrong!

I could now see why Dhaka’s traffic is so infamous. It took us an hour and a half to ‘drive’ those 3 kilometres. There’s no way what we were doing could be considered driving. We would barely move centimetres before having to stop again for several minutes. I was still trying to convince the guys that it would be better to walk, but they were feeling lazy. So we sat in a mostly stationary tuk tuk for the best part of 2 hours when we could’ve walked that distance in less than an hour. Fun.

Getting Out of Dhaka

As Mahi had some time off, he had offered to accompany me to a place of my choice outside of Dhaka. After many days of research and deliberations, he had helped me come to a decision on a place to visit. That place was Birishiri, around 170 kilometres north of Dhaka, near the Indian Border. It was chosen because it was the closest place to Dhaka that had some cool natural stuff going on and wasn’t a complete hassle to get to. Many provinces in Bangladesh require foreigners to purchase permits to enter them. None are required for Birishiri.

Mahi had found the bus to Birishiri for us. It cost 250 Bangladeshi Taka (BDT) and ran overnight. But wait, it’s only 170 kilometres! How could it take all night, you may ask. Because the roads are absolute crap. They were so bumpy that the bus only averaged 20km/h for most of the trip. What was even more hilarious was that the fitness app on my phone actually registered a lot of the bumps as walking. I did 7000 steps that night!

Early Morning Adventures Getting into Birishiri

We were dropped off a little bit out of Birishiri, after a not-so-comfortable bus ride, at 12am. I was wondering how we were going to get into town at that time, but Mahi advised me not to worry. He had some friends who would help us out. He then added that his friends were like the ‘gangstas’ of the town. Well, this was certainly going to be interesting.

Mahi’s friends turned up a short while later on their motorbikes to take us to our accommodation. As we had bags, we needed to take a bike each. This part of the journey was more of an adventure than I thought it would be. We started on some perfectly nice roads in the middle of nowhere, then ended up on narrow risen concrete paths above small cultivation fields. After about half an hour of that, we made it to a river.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Day Version of Night Ferry
Day version of the night ferry
Night Ferry?

It was 1am by that point and everything was pitch black. No buildings or street lights in sight. I was wondering how on earth we were going to get across the river. The motorbike guys said we had to wait. Wait until when, I wondered. Were we sleeping there? Surely there was no ferry at that time of night? As luck would have it, a rickety old wooden ferry was running that night. I use the term ‘ferry’ in the loosest sense of the word. It was more like some wooden boards hastily thrown together. But it did the job.

After crossing the shallow river, we rode along more deserted roads to finally get to our accommodation around 2am. There was a lot of knocking and shouting before the lady running the guesthouse came out to let us in. Even though we’d just woken her up, she still offered us tea! I was more interested in sleeping after the night’s events.

Purple Rocks and Green Lakes

Mahi’s friend came to get us in the morning and took us to a village with a church on a hill that overlooked the Indian border.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Church on a Hill Near India

After walking around the cute little village for a while, then looking over into India, we were back on the road.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Looking into India

We made our way to an area where some locals had set up some makeshift shops. Once there, a young boy of no more than 8 years old took it upon himself to be our guide.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Guides

He showed us the best hiking route to see the purple rocks.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Purple Rocks By The Lake

And the best viewpoint for the green lakes.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Green Lake K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Green Lake and Fields

Back to Dhaka For More Hospitality in Bangladesh

Mahi wasn’t unable to host me back in Dhaka, but he had organised for me to stay with one of his friends, Taslima. There were 3 generations of the family living in Taslima’s house, including Taslima’s son, her sister and her mother. They were all absolutely amazing. Whether it was just chatting, or planning how to cater to my dietary needs, they made sure that I was always comfortable. I even had some interesting chats with Taslima’s mum, who didn’t speak any English at all!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. In a Sari
Going out in a Sari

Once I’d had a bit of a rest, Tasmina dressed me in a Sari, that she then gifted to me. We went for a walk to the local canal around sunset.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Canal Sunset

We then took a ferry across the canal to a small sitting out area where we were able to watch a light show. On the canal!

Another Kind of Hospitality in Bangladesh

A local by the name of Shahriar, who was very keen to meet people travelling through Dhaka, got in contact with Taslima. He offered to take us both on a tour of the old city.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Ruins in the Old City

He was so delighted to meet a traveller that he refused to take any money from either of us for transport costs or entrance fees. The old city was rather interesting, but I prefer to call it the city of colourful forts.

Like this orange fort.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Old City Orange Fort

This apparently purple fort.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Old City Purple Fort

And this pink fort.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Hospitality in Bangladesh. Old City Pink Fort

A Final Word on Hospitality in Bangladesh

The hospitality in Bangladesh was nothing short of amazing. Everyone I met was super kind. Everyone went out of their way to help me, whether it be with transport and planning, catering to my dietary needs, or hosting. While other stuff about Bangladesh can be overwhelming, the fact that people are so welcoming and helpful makes it a place that should be on everyone’s ‘to visit’ list!

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Travelling the Maldives on a Budget

Is Travelling the Maldives on Budget Possible?

The Maldives is a fascinating destination that captures people’s hearts. What’s not to be fascinated about? Hundreds of tiny islands in the middle of impossibly blue waters sounds incredibly inviting to me! But given the infamous resort-like set up of the place, most would think that travelling the Maldives on a budget could prove quite challenging. You’d be surprised how easy it actually is!

While I appreciate the idea of travelling to relax, that’s just not how I travel. Resorts really do not interest me, but I’m always interested to see how the locals live. So I got in touch with a wonderful local Maldivian named Muhamed. He agreed to host me in his family home on the island of Hulhumale. It’s just over the bridge from the Velana International airport.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Hulhumale Volleyball Beach

Getting to the Maldives

As the Maldives normally cater to high-end travellers, the airfares to get there tend to reflect that. But being the cheapskate that I am, I’d managed to find a flight for around US$160 return from my home in Hong Kong. With a stopover in Sri Lanka! This was great for me, as I have a friend in Colombo. It also meant that the last leg of the flight from Sri Lanka to the Maldives took only 1 hour.

Awesome Views

To say that the Maldives looks amazing from the air would be an understatement. You’re looking over an endless blue ocean for most of the flight. Then outta the blue, pun intended, you start to see random sand bars in the ocean. They look so tiny, yet so intriguing. It’s interesting to think that people live on some these tiny, little, unprotected sand strips in the middle of a vast ocean. It’s also absolutely amazing how immaculately blue the waters are between the atolls and sandbar islands. Possibly one of the best views on approach to a country ever.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Near the International Airport
Boats Near the Airport

Travelling the Maldives on a Budget – A Warm Welcome

I was impressed that we actually landed on time and I was off the plane and through immigration within 15 minutes. My host Muhamed had kindly organised for someone to meet me at the airport. It was his brother who works at the airport. He had typed up a very professional-looking sign with my name on it, so that I could find him. I can honestly say that’s the first time I’ve had my own sign upon arrival into a country. I felt super special!

He then showed me out to the bus stop, where I could get the bus across the bridge to Hulhumale. The bus only cost 15 Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR), which is under US$1. He let Muhamed know when I had left on the bus, so he could meet me on arrival in Hulhumale. As a bonus, the bus stop in Hulhumale was about a 2 minute walk from Muhamed’s flat. Nevertheless, Muhamed picked me up on his moped because he was worried about me having to carry my bag. How lovely!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Near the Airport Area
Looking over to Male from near the airport

Hulhumale

Muhamed lived in a 4 bedroom place on Hulhumale where 9 other members of his family also lived. They still ensured that I had a bedroom to myself, even though I told them I was fine with sleeping on the couch. Maldivians believe in treating their guests like royalty. I was so lucky to have a local family allow me to stay with them. The family was of course interested in finding out more about me. Muhamed was the only one in his family that really spoke any English though. That meant he had to do a lot of translating!

Hulhumale is an island in the Maldivian chain that is northwest of Male. It is joined to Male and Hulhule, where the international airport is, by the Sinamale Bridge. Construction on the bridge had just been completed not long before I had arrived. I was one of the first people to cross the bridge. Before the bridge, the only way to travel between those islands was by speedboat or ferry.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Hulhumale Boat

Reclaimed Land

Interestingly, Hulhumale was completely constructed on land reclaimed in 2004. The government had realised back then that the land available wasn’t going to cater to the needs of the growing Maldivian population in the future. So they made their own land. There were many construction sites around Hulhumale. Muhamed advised me that the government was reclaiming even more land. He also told me that a lot of the land had already been purchased by luxury hotel groups.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Hulhumale Colourful Building With Construction Behind
Colourful buildings with construction behind

Hulhumale was colourful and all the roads looked brand new. There also seemed to be a lot of newly constructed buildings housing foreign cafe chains, especially near the beach area.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Hulhumale Colourful Buildings

And it appears that someone in Hulhumale knew I was going to be there..
K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Hulhumale Kez Graffiti

Travelling the Maldives on a Budget – Getting Around

If people want to travel somewhere on the island they are currently on, they mostly use mopeds to get around. You’ll often see people on different mopeds riding side by side just having a chat. While there were always cars on the road, I didn’t get the feeling that traffic was a problem in the Maldives. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any traffic lights.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Hulhumale Intersection Without Traffic Lights
Intersection without traffic lights
Ferries Between Islands

If people want to travel between islands in the Maldives, they take a ferry or speedboat. There are regular ferry services between some of the 1000 plus islands in the Maldivian chain. Muhamed regularly travelled to an island called Villingili, which is south of Male. At a glance, this island has a very similar name to another small island, Viligili, that lies to the west of Male.

The reason for Muhamed’s constant trips to Villingili was that his wife and daughter lived there. While I was there, he needed to pick up his daughter from a class then take her back to Villingili. He asked if I would like to join him for the trip and of course I said yes! I wanted to see as many islands as I could during my short stay.

Villingili

While it was relatively easy to get to Villingili, the route wasn’t as direct as you would expect. We had to get a 50 MVR/US$3.20 ferry to Male first. Muhamed had an extra bike stashed there. He used it to take us from where the Hulhumale to Male ferry had arrived to where the Male to Villingili ferry would depart. That Ferry cost 25 MVR/US$1.60. The two ferries are run by different companies, Atoll Transfer for the Hulhumale to Male route and MTCC for the Male to Villingili route. That meant that the ports were on opposite sides of the island.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Male Ferry Port

It was night by the time we made it to Villingili. It was quite a small island and definitely didn’t have a tourist feel to it at all. Housing on the island seemed to consist of small, budget 1 bedroom flats on narrow streets. I wasn’t really looking that hard, but I didn’t see any cars there; only mopeds.

In the few hours since she had met me, Muhamed’s 6 year old daughter had taken a bit of a shine to me. The fact that we couldn’t speak the same language didn’t seem to worry her. She asked if I could stay at her place for that night, but I had to politely decline as I had already organised a trip to another island.

Travelling the Maldives on a Budget – Day Trip to Himmafushi Island

After some long chats with Muhamed about which island would be the best to go to on a budget with limited time, we came up with Himmafushi Island. It’s about 16km north of Male, which meant it was only a 20 minute boat ride. Muhamed had called ahead and found out that the speedboat from Male to Himmafushi was 100 MVR/US$6.50 per person. Muhamed was good enough to accompany me on the ferry to Male to make sure that I could find the right speed boat.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Male From The Water
Male from the water

When we got there, Mr boat guy advised that it was 150 MVR/US$10. The reason for the difference was that Muhamed had been quoted the local price. The tourist price was of course higher and Mr boat guy was adamant that was what I needed to pay. So I got myself a return ticket and jumped on the boat.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. On the Way to Himmafushi

Getting There

There weren’t many other people on the boat, so I could pretty much sit anywhere I wanted. I settled into a seat on the lefthand side of the boat, but then realised that all the good views seemed to be on the righthand side.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Bluer Water On the Way to Himmafushi

The trip out to the island was quite lovely. I was absolutely mesmerised by the water that just seemed to become bluer the further away we got from Male.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Blue Water and Islands On the Way to Himmafushi

Once Himmafushi came into view, it was obvious that it was a very small island. Only 1km long!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Entering the Himmafushi Port

I had always thought that bad parking was something you only saw on land. But when we were arriving at the Himmafushi port, I found out it happens in the ocean too.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Bad Parking at Himmafushi Port

Sand, Souvenir Shops and Street Art

When I finally got my feet back on land, I headed to the beach. As the island was so small, the beach was not hard to find!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Beach on Himmafushi

As I walked on the sand, I was amused as hundreds of little crabs scuttered around me. Some retreating into their shells because they perceived danger, while others made a break for the water. It was quite entertaining to watch.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Overdressed on Himmafushi

Whilst exploring the island, I was invited into a local souvenir shop, The Dolphin Shop. Inside the owner, Hussein gave me not one, but 2 gifts from his store. He also insisted that I stay for tea. Who was I to say no?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Dolphin Shop on Himmafushi

Speaking in Tongues

After chatting for a while, Hussein decided to utter a few words in Chinese. He wanted to check with me that what he was saying was correct. Then he invited me to visit again and proceeded to give me a Dhivehi lesson, for when I come back next year apparently.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Dolphin Shop Souvenir and Dhivehi Lesson on Himmafushi

Time to Go

Hussein had tried to convince me to stay a bit longer, but I eventually bid him farewell and took a short walk around the island before my ride back to Male arrived. I was very interested in the fact that an island with only 4 streets still managed to have some street art.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Street Art on Himmafushi

I’d had a wonderful day on the island and was treated to a lovely sunset on the way out.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Travelling the Maldives on a Budget. Himmafushi Sunset

In the 4 days I was in the Maldives, I made it to 5 islands and managed to meet some cool locals along the way. The best part is that I spent under US$20 for all transport and food. This is due in part to the awesome hospitality of my host who always wanted to cook for me or take me places on his bike. All up, that’s less than US$200 for the whole trip, including airfares. So it turns out that travelling the Maldives on a budget is surprisingly easy!

Want to see more island travels? Check out our
Oceania page!

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Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is a small Melanesian state about 3000km northeast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. The country is probably most famous for its main island’s pivotal role in World War II, as well as shipwreck diving. I wasn’t there for the diving though. I was about to gain some knowledge about surly spirits and storms on the Solomon Islands.

Where’s the WiFi?

Upon landing in the capital Honiara on a flight from Papua New Guinea, I had hoped to find some WiFi to reinitialise my phone after it had been wiped in Port Moresby. Unfortunately, there was no WiFi to be found so I figured I’d have to try my luck in town.

I was informed that I could catch a bus from the road outside the airport. What I realised when I got out to the road, was that there was no bus stop. The opposite side of the road was lined with many small stalls, selling various items. As I was about to cross the road to ask a seller about the bus, I noticed a group of people standing around like they were waiting for something. I joined the crowd and someone started chatting with me. The bus, which was actually a minivan, pulled up a short while later.

A young boy on board who collected fares from everyone. It was only 5 Solomon Island dollars, SB$5, which is roughly AU$0.90. Bargain! As an added bonus, the value of the currency was almost on par with my home currency, so I didn’t have to waste time calculating! Someone on the bus had suggested that I could get WiFi at the Tourist Centre in town, so that’s where I got dropped off.

Tourist Centre

Upon entering, I was greeted by a lovely gentleman named Nelson. I explained my predicament and need for internet to reinitialise my phone. He said I could stay and use the WiFi until the centre closed. How wonderful! Internet on the Solomon Islands is slow. It was 2 hours before I realised that closing time had come and gone. Nelson was working late and had decided to leave me to it for a while.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands
By the time I got outside..

Luckily I had almost everything I needed for the phone to function reinstalled by the time he was done. He then made some calls to find me the cheapest hotel, using his industry discount. His kindness didn’t stop there either. As the hotel wasn’t too far from the centre, he graciously offered to walk me over. Not only are the Solomon Islands lusciously green, but the people are pretty awesome too!

Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands – Walking Around Town

I realised after checking into my room that I hadn’t eaten for a while, so it was time to go hunting! It took me an hour to find food. Not because I got lost, but because almost everyone wanted to chat with me. After dinner, as I was trying to cross the road, a man named Manu started talking to me. He offered to walk me back to my hotel. Seems like that’s a thing in Honiara!

Manu then decided to stay and have a chat in the hotel bar. He inquired about my plans in Honiara, so of course, I told him that I wanted to go to the Tenaru Falls! I realised I was pretty tired by that point and as we parted ways, Manu said that he would get his friend to drive me to the waterfalls the next day. At this point, I was wondering if the whole town had received a memo telling them to look after me.

Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands – Adventures Beyond Honiara

Just as he said they would, Manu and his friends arrived to pick me up at around 8:30am. The drive was long, mainly because the road was terrible. It was still passable without a 4WD though. It seems Manu’s friend, Joei, was a taxi driver. I later found out that he’d had taken the day off work to use his taxi to drive me around. Wow.

I presumed the other person in the car, Joylee, was Joei’s friend. She told me later that she had never met Joei before. It turns out that he had picked her up on the way because he felt bad that I was going to be the only female in the car. Not that it’s something that would worry me, but it’s a nice thought, I guess.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. On the Way to Tenaru Falls
On the Way to Tenaru Falls
Surly Spirits and a Man of Mystery

We passed a gate that a local came out to open for us. Then a mysterious old man approached us and said that he could take us to the falls. As no one else in the car was exactly sure how to get to the falls, we indicated for him to get in the car. He directed us to the start point of the trail, which didn’t really look like much of a trail at all.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. On the way to Tenaru Falls
Tenaru River

We followed this man for about 20 minutes, by which time I’d started to get the feeling that he didn’t really know where he was going. He had us zig-zagging across a small river. It was at this point that he mumbled something about bad spirits and disappeared into the forest. We decided our best course of action was to head back to the car and try to find another way to the falls.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. Old Man Guiding Us to Tenaru Falls
Old man guiding us to the Tenaru Falls

We drove to Paringiju Lodge, which is run by Manu’s cousin Freida and her husband. By the time we got there, Joylee was passed out in the back of the car from drinking too much. So we left her there and went into the lodge. Freida gave us some cold water and offered to take me to the falls. She knew a more direct path.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. Trail to Tenaru Falls

Tenaru Falls – Take Two

I followed Freida down a trail which started off nicely enough. Until it started getting exponentially more difficult. This was partly because it got steep and partly because it was muddy and slippery. I was struggling with hiking shoes, but Freida, who’d left her flip flops at the beginning of the trail, was just flying along with bare feet. My feet slid out from underneath me on a few occasions, but I managed to grab hold of nearby trees before I ended up on the ground. Unfortunately, there were no trees around on my last slip and I landed flat on my back. I limped back, but I was glad that I’d somehow avoided getting a muddy butt in the process.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. View From The Lodg

To add insult to injury, my camera had decided to be temperamental while on the trail, so I wasn’t even able to take any pictures of the view I’d worked so hard to see. Back at the lodge, everyone except Joei seemed to have drunk themselves into oblivion. This made it a mission to get them to the car. We were finally loaded and ready to go about 30 minutes later.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. Back to Honiara
Palm trees rushing past on the way back to Honiara

I was a bit worried that Joei had been drinking while I was hiking, but his car was my only option for getting back to civilisation. He drove a little faster on the way down than he had on the way up, but then he drove like a maniac once we hit the sealed road again. All I could do was hope to get back to town in one piece.

Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands – Back In Honiara

Manu said that he’d organised a hotel room for me for free through his company. I was surprised, as I had not asked for that. I had made it clear that I was capable of getting my own room and I would not be ‘trading’ anything for it. He was still very insistent that I take it. Later, after we’d eaten, he professed his love for me. It may have been the alcohol he’d imbibed talking, but it was getting a little too awkward for me. So I swapped to another room.

Earlier that day, I had arranged to meet Nelson, the man from the Tourist Centre. Being the kind man that he is, he had offered to drive me around to show me some of the town. It really helps to get to know a place when the person driving you around works at the tourist centre! I’m sure I now know more about Honiara than most of the locals do. What a nice way to end a day.

Discovering Honiara’s Past

After all that had happened, I’d decided that I was just going to walk around by myself for a bit. The island of Guadalcanal had played a huge part in World War II, so of course there is a huge memorial in Honiara. It also happens to be on top of a hill and I do love walking up hills.

K in Motion Travel Blog, Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. Peace Park Memorial K in Motion Travel Blog, Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. Peace Park Memorial Name Plaque

Passionate Caretaker for the Solomon Islands Peace Park Memorial

The place was kept in perfect condition by the caretaker. He invited me into his little booth when I got stuck in the very open memorial area as a huge storm came in. Once I was inside, he told me that the storm would take a while to pass. I think it was actually over an hour. It seemed like only 10 minutes because of the great company.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. Storm Over Honiara
Storm over Honiara

He told me that he has been the caretaker there for over 20 years. In that time, he’d tended to the gardens and kept them looking beautiful and fresh. He’d also made sure that the grounds were always clean. Clearly he’s done a great job, because the place was immaculate. He’s done this for years because he believes that the people that lost their lives in the war deserve it. What a lovely man.

Once the storm finally passed, I headed back out onto the road to continue my walk. I ended up finding the Mataniku River, which essentially separates the city into 2 areas. The only access point between the two was a not-so-stable looking bridge. I can’t say it was the prettiest river I’d ever seen. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of rubbish in an around it. The part of the Tenaru River I’d seen a few days earlier was much nicer.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands. Mataniku River
Mataniku River

Time For a SolBrew After Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands

After all my adventures, I’d figured a quiet drink or two was in order. My first mistake was thinking that would be possible in Honiara! It seemed that everywhere I went, locals were insistent on buying me drinks. I mean, they would ask if they could buy me a drink, but the drink would be in front of me before I finished answering. The good thing was that the happily tipsy men and women in the pub were happy to tell me their fascinating stories about life on the islands.

I ended up back at the Tourist Centre later, where I met and chatted with Nelson and more of the crew that works there. One of them, I’m ashamed at this point that I can’t remember his name, told me that I must join them at the yacht club later. Who was I to refuse? I made my way there a little after the agreed time, because I was on island time. When I first arrived, I couldn’t find any of crew. A well-known local was worried that I had no one to talk to and insisted that I sit with him and his friends. I must’ve been talking to them for hours before I finally met the people that I’d originally gone there to meet!

We might’ve stayed there until near closing time, although I have no idea when that was. No one was ready to call it a night, so we all sat around chatting at the Tourist Centre. Clearly I got very little sleep, but it was probably the best way to spend my last night in the Solomon islands.

πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡§Solomon Islands SummaryπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡§

In a few words – beautiful people
Language – English and Solomon Pijin
Currency – Solomon Island Dollar (SBD)
WiFi availability – πŸ“ΆπŸ“Ά
Wifi was available at hotels and some cafes, but the cafes had very short opening hours. It wasn’t the fastest, but probably better than some other places
Transport – πŸš—πŸš—πŸš—πŸš—
🚐 Buses, or more accurately, minivans run regularly around town and cost SB$3 to go anywhere in town and about SB$8 to and from the airport
πŸš• Taxis are available from the airport to the town for around SB$100
Roads – πŸ›£πŸ›£πŸ›£
Main roads were mostly smooth and sealed, except for several kilometres where roadworks were taking place. Roads in more remote places weren’t sealed, but still drivable without a 4WD
Scenery – πŸŒ²β›°πŸ–οΈπŸžοΈπŸŒ²
The Solomons have a diverse range of scenery, with mountains, waterfalls, rivers, forests and beaches
Prices – πŸ’°πŸ’°
As seems to be the case in a few places where tourism isn’t a huge industry, accommodation is quite expensive. Everything else in the Solomons is quite cheap though
Border efficiency – πŸ›‚πŸ›‚πŸ›‚πŸ›‚
The international airport is tiny, which means entering and exiting can be pretty quick. There’s almost no chance of another plane arriving/departing at the same time as yours!
Overall – πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Check out all the South Pacific Adventures:
Friendliness and Festivities in Fiji
Tantalisingly Tropical Tonga
American Samoa
Surprising Samoa
The Captivating Cook Islands
New Caledonia
Discover the Real Vanuatu
Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands

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Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (Papua Niugini) isn’t a place you see on many people’s travel itineraries. You could say the country has had a troubled history. It was governed by Australia until 1975 and is still trying to find its feet as an independent realm in the Commonwealth of Nations. This makes it a mix of contradictions. I encountered both petty theft and pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. It can be a frustrating place for travellers, but I’d say the helpfulness of people there is enough of a reason to visit.

Upon arrival at the airport, I joined the long line for immigration clearance. That gave me time and to contemplate if my documentation in order. The immigration officer processing my entry was very friendly and wished me well. After that, I had to clear the customs area. I thought that would be a hassle, but the man at the desk just took my filled-in form, without even looking at it, and waved me through. I was finally there!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Welcome Sign

Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea – Welcome to Port Moresby

When exiting the airport, a lovely man named Harold stopped me to ask where I was staying. When told, he said it wasn’t safe and offered to find lodging in a safer area. He drove me around in his company’s vehicle, while I presume he should’ve been working. We found a few prohibitively guesthouses run by Christian missionaries. Even more so when you considered what was on offer; a single room with shared bathroom and no WiFi.

As I’d already booked and paid for my accommodation online, I hadn’t brought enough cash to pay the ridiculous prices they were asking. Harold took me to a few more places until we ended up at the Rehoboth Transit House. The owners of this guesthouse were lovely. After I explained the situation, they asked me how much I could pay. Then agreed that I could just pay that amount. I was glad to have that sorted. Now that Harold knew I would be safe, he headed back to work.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Guesthouse Cats
Guesthouse Cats

While Harold was driving me around, I had noticed that almost all private properties and some businesses had high perimeter fences topped with barbed wire. The owners of the guesthouse informed me that it wasn’t safe for me to go outside by myself. The explorer in me was devasted. A big part of the way I travel involves wandering around aimlessly until I stumble upon something awesome. The owners did say that either they themselves, or their security guard, were at my disposal whenever I wanted to go out, but still.

Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea – The Fun Begins

As I’d realised my options for getting around Port Moresby were limited, I had decided to go rural. My destination was the small town of Sogeri, where the Kokoda Trail begins. The security guard from the guesthouse, Sam, accompanied me. We headed to the bus stop across the road from the guesthouse to wait for the bus to Sogeri. As the bus was pulling up, I noticed a teenage boy running from the opposite side of the road. I figured he was just running for the bus. Nope, he was running towards me. Using the distraction of the bus to steal my phone!

Being the fight back kinda person that I am, I decided to chase this little shit as he ran back across the road with my phone. Sam also joined the chase but told me to wait at the road when the boy entered his community. He continued to chase the boy, while I waited. I hoped that he would come back with my phone, at the same time as thinking there was almost no chance of that happening. An elder from the community approached me from a crowd to tell me that he saw the whole thing. He knew the boy and he would get my phone back. At least that was something.

Pragmatic Police

Sam reappeared from the community a short while later, apologising for losing the offender. Would you believe, at that very moment, a police car was passing! We flagged it down. Sam and I relayed the details to the officers, but they said they couldn’t help. I was surprised, considering we were standing right outside the community. As I was about to begrudgingly give up, the elder from the community came over. He told the police that he wanted to help catch the boy. That completely changed the policemen’s demeanour from stoically unhelpful to mildly pleasant.

We were all loaded into the police car for a drive to the boy’s house in the community. Of course, the boy had not gone back there yet, but his brother was there and seemed really pissed off at his brother. Apparently, the boy has done this kinda stuff before and the family was getting sick of it. They felt bad and also wanted to help me get my property back. They asked if I would give them a day to find the boy and return the phone to me, before making an official report to the police. I agreed.

Continuing onto Sogeri

With that kind of sorted, I decided that I may as well continue with my plans. It’s not like there much else I could do at that point. I went back to the guesthouse to get my back-up camera. Every good traveller has one of those! After confirming a few times that I was indeed good to continue, Sam took me back to the bus stop. We were soon on our way to Sogeri. This whole time, Sam had stayed very close to me. That made it all the more surprising he said I could have a wander around by myself in Sogeri. The country areas of Papua New Guinea are deemed to be a lot safer than the capital.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Kokoda Trail K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Sogeri Lodge

Meeting the Locals

The bus had dropped us off near a lodge at the start of the Kokoda Trail, which was still a little bit outside of the town. It was there that we met Ranger Muxsie and his friend Robert. Ranger Muxsie then organised us a lift into town with the owners of the lodge. Once we got into town, there was a big volleyball game going on at a school. This school also doubled as the town’s sports ground. There were many makeshift stalls set up along the road outside, selling all kinds of locals foods and fresh juices. All of the stallholders were very friendly and many offered me free samples of their foods and drinks.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Monument K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Hiking Trail

Hiking With Locals

Across from the school was a memorial and behind that was a trail that we could hike along. Ranger Muxsie said he would like to guide us, but he had to do some work. He said his friend Robert would accompany us instead. To make sure that we didn’t get lost. As we were walking along, Robert commented about how ‘strong’ I was for being able to keep up a decent pace in the Papua New Guinean heat. I guess other visitors don’t handle it so well but I had the advantage of living in a hot place.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Memorial K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Resting with Robert

The trail actually ended up being a dirt road for most of the way. It meandered through memorials for people whose names I can’t pronounce, missionaries and local farming villages. We even had to do a small river crossing, over pipes! It looked like some of the people living in the villages survived by preparing materials for recycling.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Kokoda Inititave Sign .K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea Pipe Crossing

After our little adventure, we returned to the town. Robert left us there and we met back up with Ranger Muxsie. We had to walk a couple of kilometres uphill to get to the pickup point for the bus back to Port Moresby. Muxsie had decided to join us for the walk. While waiting for the bus, we all exchanged contact details. Muxsie said I should call him, so he could take care of me, if I’m ever back in the area.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Sam, Robert and I K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Local Recycling

Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea – Police and Black Market Supply Chains

Back in Port Moresby, the community elder had been unsuccessful in locating the boy or my phone, so we made our way to the police station to file a report. Then we waited. I was not holding out much hope by that point, as it had already been 2 days. That made it all the more surprising when the police contacted us the next day. They asked us to come into the station. Two of the three people involved in the black market supply chain were in custody!

My hosts had hilariously given them all nicknames; The Rasta, The Fatman and The Chinaman. Sounds like some kinda terrible detective show that I’d watch the hell out of! Anyways, The Rasta was still at large, but they believed him to be the one who took the phone from the thief. The Fatman was believed to be the middle man and the ‘Chinaman’, who was actually Filipino, was on the receiving end of the stolen goods.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Police Advice

Arrests and Returns

The best part of this whole saga was that the police had retrieved my phone and returned it to me! That was way more than I’d ever hoped for. Unfortunately, the phone had been wiped and the memory/SIM cards were gone. This presented a whole other problem. By this point, I’d had no phone or internet to contact the outside world for 4 days. After entering a ‘dangerous’ country. I needed to get online to let people know I was okay. I also needed internet to reinitialise my phone. My host suggested that we could have dinner at a restaurant with WiFi.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Uninitialised Phone

Luckily I had brought my laptop to the restaurant, so I was able to get online that way. The WiFi there required a web login instead of a direct network login. That meant I couldn’t connect my phone to reinitialise it. I must say that WiFi in Papua New Guinea turned out to be infinitely disappointing. I managed to get a few emails sent off, but would have to wait until the next country to have a working phone. Who needs an alarm to wake up for a flight anyway?

One Last Trip to the Police Station

The police contacted us again asking us to come to the station. When we got there, they informed us that they still hadn’t caught the thief. They wanted us to go to the community with them to talk to the family. The mother of the thief wanted to tell me herself that she was allowing the police to arrest her and keep her in custody to bring her son out of hiding. As she had limited mobility, this was a major thing for her to do. No one could convince her that she shouldn’t do it. The thief surrendered himself to the police shortly after.

Most of my trip was spent dealing with that one issue. Although it’s a crappy thing to have to deal with while travelling, the way that people came together to help a stranger tells me all I need to know about this country. Despite my ordeal, I’d highly recommend going there.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Petty Theft and Pragmatism in Papua New Guinea. Flying Away
Can you guess where I headed to next?

πŸ‡΅πŸ‡¬Papua New Guinea SummaryπŸ‡΅πŸ‡¬

In a few words – Intense, but friendly
Language – English and Pidjin
Currency – Papua New Guinean Kina (PGK)
WiFi availability – πŸ“ΆπŸ“Ά
Wifi doesn’t seem to be widely available and even when you can get some, it’s slow and disconnects you all the time
Transport – I’m not sure about transport in PNG as I got driven everywhere
Roads – πŸ›£πŸ›£πŸ›£πŸ›£
Most roads look like they’re well maintained
Scenery – πŸŒ²β›°πŸŒ²β›°πŸŒ²
Green everywhere!
Prices – πŸ’°πŸ’°πŸ’°
Accommodation is ridiculously expensive for something very basic. Food is quite cheap, even imported goods seem to be cheaper in PNG than they are in the country of origin
Border efficiency – πŸ›‚πŸ›‚πŸ›‚πŸ›‚
Both the entry to and exit from the international airport in Port Moresby were quite smooth.
Overall – πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Check out all the South Pacific Adventures:
Friendliness and Festivities in Fiji
Tantalisingly Tropical Tonga
American Samoa
Surprising Samoa
The Captivating Cook Islands
New Caledonia
Discover the Real Vanuatu
Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands

Palau

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Natural Wonders of West Timor

Exploring the Natural Wonders of West Timor – Mount Fatuleu/Gunung Fatuleu

It wasn’t long before I realised that West Timor had a lot of natural beauty. I then made it my mission to explore the natural wonders of West Timor. As the public transport timetable was quite restrictive, my friend Jeff was kind enough to let me borrow his bike to get myself up to Gunung Fatuleu, or Mount Fatuleu. It is situated in Oelbiteno, about 50km northeast of Kupang. The roads were good most of the way up, except for a 100m stretch. There it looked like the road had been attacked with jackhammers, leaving it in a very rocky and uneven state.

K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Road to Mount Fatuleu

What Road Rules?

Even with the mostly decent state of the roads, riding up there was indeed an adventure. It took every ounce of concentration I had to keep out of the way of cars, trucks, mopeds and dirt bikes driving on the wrong side of the road while overtaking. It seems that even solid lane markings are only suggestions that are to be ignored when you want to pass someone.

K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Deserted Mountain Road

The constant cat and mouse game was very tiring, which made it all the more lovely when I found myself on a deserted mountain road. Thankfully, that would be the road I’d be on for what was left of the journey to Mount Fatuleu. Even though I was following a map, the entrance to the mountain trail was not easy to find. I initially rode straight past it!

K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Mount Fateleu Map

Finding Mount Fatuleu

Luckily I realised quickly that I’d overshot the target and eventually found the entry. I should mention at this point that it had been misty for the entire trip up. I had been hoping that it would clear by the time I got to my destination. It was not my lucky day. I had stopped a few times enroute, when the mist had moved enough to see the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, the mist managed to return to its perch on the mountain top before I could get a picture of it. You’ll just have to imagine that it was there!

K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Misty Mount Fatuleu

Getting My Bearings

After a quick stop at the park map, I found my way to the start of the trail up the hill. My map was telling me that it was only 400m to the peak. I must admit, I was a little disappointed, as I was dressed for a proper hike, not a stroll! At the beginning, the trail seemed to consist of your average run-of-the-mill stairs, but that escalated quickly into a chunky uneven concrete nightmare, that had me wondering what the workers who constructed it were drinking when they did it. At least I was getting a workout!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Mount Fatuleu Easy Stairs K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Mount Fatuleu Hard Stairs

It seems the workers gave up when they hit a rock outcrop a little further up the trail and figured that if people made it that far, they were on their own for the last 200m. That left me literally in the middle of the mist with no trail to follow. You’d think I’d turn back at that point, right? Not a chance! I found my own way through the rocky forest! By the time I made it to what my map told me was the top, I was completely engulfed by the mist. I was quite glad when I’d made it back to the crosses at the rock outcrop, which indicated that the stairs were nearby and I’d be out of the mist momentarily.

K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Rock Crosses

Natural Wonders of West Timor – Goa Kristal/Crystal Cave

So onto another day and another adventure! My friend had generously allowed me to use his bike again. This time to head to Goa Kristal, or Crystal Cave in Bolok, 20km west of Kupang. On the way there, I ended up on a 4 lane highway that had a strip of land running through the middle of it, separating it into two 2 lane roads. I had figured that this was done to give both directions of traffic their own road. I found out I was wrong when the occasional truck going in the opposite direction ended up on the same road as me. So it’s really just another Indonesian ‘drive where you want’ deal.

K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Highway and Coast

Turn Left at the Coast

At the end of the highway, I found myself on a road that followed the coast for a while, before making its way into the town of Bolok. I had to ride through the town for a bit to reach the dirt road that led to the cave. I was lucky enough to see some local cows just hanging out, eating grass. The town also seemed very proud to be Christian. There were crosses on the side of the road throughout the town.

K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Cows K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Purple Crosses
Cows and crosses

After a short drive down the dirt road, my map was indicating that I was right near the cave, but I couldn’t see any signs to indicate exactly where it was. I did see a small trail that seemed to be going in the general direction I needed, so I followed it for a few minutes to a fence with a small gate that was locked from the other side. I was hoping that I hadn’t gone all that way to be stopped by a fence! While I was there, contemplating my next move, a young man appeared from nowhere inside the fenced area and began running toward the gate. My welcome wagon had arrived!

K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Goa Kristal Welcome Sign

Getting to the Cave

The young man, who introduced himself as Bo, enthusiastically welcomed me and beckoned for me to come in. Upon walking through the gate, I could see a cute handmade wooden sign, but still no cave. Thankfully Bo knew exactly where it was and had me at the cave entrance almost instantly. The opening was so small that it would definitely be difficult to find unless you knew exactly where it was.

K in motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Goa Kristal Cave Entrance From the Inside
The cave entrance from both the outside and the inside

Bo then asked myself and a family, that had gotten there just before I did, if we wanted to go inside. You can imagine what my response was, but only one of the people from the family was eager to have a look. I almost had a bat fly into my face on the way in, then heard some squeals behind me as the younger members of the family caught a glimpse of the bat.

Where’s the Lake?

After giving my eyes a second to adjust to the darkness, I realised that the lake was still a considerable distance below me and the ‘path’ down was full of slippery rocks. It was totally worth it to see the lake close up and dip my hand in though!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Goa Kristal Lake

Not long after I’d made it to the lake at the bottom of the cave and was letting the serenity of the place wash over me. Then I heard a huge splash. Bo had jumped in for a swim! As I hadn’t realised that swimming was allowed, I’d not brought a change of clothes. So sadly, I had to decline Bo’s invitation for a swim. At least he looked like he was enjoying himself though!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Goa Kristal Lake With Swimmer

Natural Wonders of West Timor – Air Terjun Oenesu/Oenesu Waterfalls

Anyone that knows me is aware of the fact that I’m in love with waterfalls. I try to find them in each new place that I go to. It was rather convenient that there was a small set of falls in Oenesu, about 20km southeast of Goa Kristal. Again, the road was good for most of the journey. Until I had to turn onto a bumpy dirt road about 5km before the falls.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Welcome to Oenesu

My map was trying to guide me to an area that didn’t look very accessible. I decided to just keep following the road and eventually found myself in an empty parking area. I swear there was no one around when I entered the area. As I got off the bike, there was all of a sudden a young man behind me asking for money to see the waterfall. I was a bit taken aback as all sources had told me that there was no entry fee. It was at that moment that another young local appeared from nowhere and told the first guy not to charge me.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Path to Oenesu Falls

Rocky Road to the Falls

My new friend, Raymond, decided that he would guide me to the falls and show me the secret viewing places. This involved a bit of rock climbing, but I’m always up for a bit of an adventure!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Oenesu Falls and Guide K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Oenesu Falls

The real fun started after seeing the falls. I saw a trail to the side of the falls and asked where it went. Raymond advised that it went around the back of the falls and indicated that we should take it.

A Slight Detour

While we were on that trail, I noticed some fallen coconuts and may have professed my love for them. That caused him to say, “I can get you coconut. Would you like?”. So he took me to his house, which was nestled in the middle of a forest, where he proudly introduced me to his family. It was only a short stop so he could pick up his coconut carving knife.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Searching For the Right Coconut

From there we took a short walk through the forest. As we walked along Raymond would point out things and tell me the Indonesian words for them. After just a few minutes, he had spotted the tree he was looking for. He wasted no time in climbing to the top to ‘shake down’ a coconut for me.

Shaking the Coconut Down

I had noticed that most of the coconut trees in the area had foot and hand holds carved into them at intervals. That’s what the locals used to climb up and down the trees and make it look like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Once back on the ground, Raymond used his knife to open the humongous coconut for me.

As he handed me the freshly opened coconut, Raymond said, “Kelapu Oenesu”, which means Oenesu Coconut. After drinking the water from it, the coconut was chopped in half so that I could enjoy the delicious flesh inside.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Kelapu Oenesu

Sunset Over Sea

How do you end a wonderful day? With dinner and sunset at a highly recommended cafe down the road from the falls! I’d actually planned to go to Cafe Tebing for lunch. I was disappointed to find it closed at 1pm. It didn’t open until 4pm, just in time for dinner. Indonesians are so easy going that they don’t even open their businesses at normal hours!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Cafe Tebing Sunset

As with many places in Timor, this cafe is open-air, with a super relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps a little bit too relaxed when it comes to bringing out food in a timely fashion, but who’s going to complain when you get this view while waiting?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Cafe Tebing Sunset With  Purple Sky

To say the sunset was stunning would be an understatement. I’d dare say this is possibly the best view in town. From almost anywhere in the cafe you have a panoramic view from port to coast.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Cafe Tebing Sunset to Night

All Good Things..

Unfortunately, my time in Timor had to end. On the day I left, Jeff cooked up a local delicacy, Pisang Goreng, or fried banana for breakfast. And it was AMAZING!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Pisang Goreng

I wasn’t the only one delighted with the meal! Apparently Matt also loves this dish. But Jeff only cooks it when people are visiting from overseas. I’d say it’s worth a trip to Kupang just to try it.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Natural Wonders of West Timor. Goodbye Picture

After an obligatory picture, to remind us just how happy Jeff’s food had made us, I headed off to the airport.

Next stop – Jakarta.

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Kupang

Welcome to Kupang

Of course, my first flight in three months departed more than an hour later than it was supposed to leave! Luckily my good friend Jeff, who I hadn’t seen in at least 12 years, was still willing to pick me up from the airport! The airport was tiny, so it took less than 5 minutes for me to step off the plane, clear customs and meet Jeff. Thankfully he recognised me straight away. Probably because I was the only redhead in the place! He whisked me away to a waiting car for the 10 minute journey to his business, which is located conveniently across the road from his flat.

Jeff and I settled in for a chat and he informed me that some of his friends would be joining us too. His friends arrived shortly after with some food and drinks for me. It turns out Jeff had figured that I might be hungry after the long trip. e told them to bring some food for me. What a sweety! Everyone was super friendly and very interested in my travels, especially my African travels. While we were talking, Jeff’s friends constantly checked if I needed more food, or drink, or anything within their power to provide. One could get used to this Timor hospitality!

When the morning came, I walked across the road to Jeff’s place and had a bit of a catch-up session with him and his partner. I had met them both many moons ago when we all worked in a small remote town in Central Australia. Right next to the world’s second largest monolith, Uluru. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? After reminiscing for a bit, the boys gave me some really useful information about places to see and things to do in the area in the coming days. So with that, I was off exploring.

First Impressions

Normally the first thing I notice when I’m in a new place is the height of the buildings. From the air and the ground, I could not see any buildings that we more than 4 storeys tall in Kupang. I think this is great, as it creates more of a homely, country kinda feel to it. What’s even nicer is that there seems to be a lot of greenery around and unlike other cities in the world, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of construction going on. They do seem to like putting structures on roundabouts though, including crocodiles and concrete trees!

Another thing that makes Timor different to other places, is that tourism isn’t a huge industry, so there are almost no tourists on the island. This means that locals are often caught off guard when there’s a foreigner in their vicinity. I definitely got the feeling that I was a bit of an oddity as I was walked along. There were of course, a lot of innocuous stares and exclamations of ‘hello’ as I walked around. Then there were the not so comfortable local versions of a wolf whistle, which was men calling out, “Woo woo”, or “Woah”. As if that wasn’t fun enough, guys on bikes would stop in front of me, or slow down and ride beside me, to try to get me on their bikes.

I must admit that this all seemed a bit creepy at first, but I soon realised that these reactions came from a genuine fascination with seeing a non-local walking around. There were no ulterior motives, as there often is when men act this way in other regions. It’s also possible that the lack of tourism in the area means that locals really have no idea how to conduct themselves around foreigners and therefore don’t realise how their actions could be construed by people from other cultures. Aside from this, I would say that locals are extremely friendly and helpful.

Rain

As Timor is located in the tropical equatorial region, it has 2 distinct seasons; the wet season runs from December to April and the dry season runs from May to November. I, of course, had found myself here during the wet season, which meant I got to see rain every day! Some days there would just be a small shower, that did a great job of cooling things down. Then the skies would clear by the afternoon. Some times there would be heavy overnight rains that caused low-level flooding.

I got the impression that locals tend to alter their plans according to the rain. The only time it was hard to get transport was when it was raining! The amount of traffic on roads decreased dramatically during a shower. Often, important works would be delayed if the rain was deemed to be too much of a nuisance. Locals are pretty laid back and don’t seem to worry too much about projects running over time.

Getting Around

For getting around town, most locals use mopeds or motorbikes as their main form of transport and sometimes their main form of income. That means there’s never a shortage of transport when you need it. Given the relatively small size of Kupang, it’s actually quite easy to walk around.

There are also local numbered bus services that take various routes around the town. These are known as Disco Buses due to their loud music and often flashing lights. But just in case you don’t hear them coming, the ticket boy hanging out the door will call out the destination several times as the vehicle approaches.

Disco Bus

There are also slightly bigger buses, that run on intercity routes. If booked in advance, these buses will actually offer a door to door service!

Laid Back Locals and Cheap Food

When I got back from one of my walks, my friends were busy installing a window in one of the flats in their complex. Someone else had originally been tasked with installing the window and a door, but once they installed the door, decided to leave without installing the window. This left my friends with a situation where they had to install the window as someone was ready to move into the flat the next day. Apparently this kind of situation isn’t all that uncommon in Indonesia, as people sometimes become disinterested in doing the work they’ve promised to do. Perhaps they’re a little bit too laid back!

After they were done, my friend took me for a ride around on his bike to show me a bit of the town, get some food for dinner and satiate his craving for cheese and crackers. That led us to one of the 2 malls in the area, Lippo Plaza. It qualifies as a mall in Timor because it has a huge supermarket inside that stocks a lot of imported food. I was amazed at how cheap most things were, when compared with prices back home. It’s easy to see how Indonesians that work for a few years in other nearby countries, come back home with enough money to start businesses and build apartment blocks.

It’s also surprising how cheap it can be to eat at fancy hotel restaurants. I generally stay away from hotels when I travel, but you can get a buffet brunch, with amazing views, for just 80,000IDR at various hotels in the city. That’s under US$6! They also don’t seem to have many patrons at any given time, so it’s almost like your own private dining experience.

A Sign of the Season

Being in a predominantly Christian country around Christmas meant that there weren’t many options for things to do, so while my friend went to spend time with his family, I ended up at the only place that was open; the mall. While having tea in a cafe there, I saw a disco train, with a very disinterested driver, taking kids, and some parents, around the centre.

Mall Disco Train

Outside the mall there were 3 Christmas trees, all made of different materials. In fact, on my many walks around the area, I saw Christmas trees made from whatever materials were available, like wire, plastic water bottles, paper, chairs, pipes and firewood. What a great way of personalising Christmas traditions. It certainly beats the idea of cutting down actual trees or using ugly fake trees.

Another interesting thing I spotted while walking around, was that many men had a thick strip of the hair on top of their head dyed a bright colour like red, green or yellow. I had originally thought that this was just a fashion trend, but my friend informed me that it only happened around Christmas time. I guess that explains why they all seemed to be festive kind of colours.

Colourful Kupang

Locals in Kupang aren’t afraid to add a splash of colour to their dwellings. In fact, many bright or pastel coloured houses and roofs can be spotted from both the air and the ground. Blue and green seem to be firm favourites, although there are also a lot of pinks and whites as well, with some red and yellow also thrown in for good measure.