13 Weeks of Wandering: Charleston

Bangkok | Cambodia | Vietnam | Laos
New York >> Miami | Portland >> Vancouver


Where To? Charleston, South Carolina
How long? 3 days
Mode of Transport? Car


13WoW – Charleston

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“Looking good!” I hear you say. Thanks – I try my best. Oh, you were talking about the car? Okay yeah, fair enough, it is pretty sexy. So I picked this beauty up at the Airport after booking online with a pick up from Atlanta and a drop off in Miami. Unlimited mileage. Full tank. Two weeks. Now the road trip really begins.

A word of warning in case you were thinking of doing the same, if you are given a price online, expect the price to double when you go to pick it up. I had not anticipated this when I stretched my already-thin budget to hire the car, and it wasn’t soon until the additional extras that were adding up had me crying over the counter… quite literally.

Yes, head was on the counter, tear puddles building up and a salesman’s hand reaching over to pat me on the head… “Please don’t cry?” I think he may have been begging rather than asking.

You see, if you get insurance, it covers you for if you hit someone else but not damage to your own car, and so you have to buy another insurance to cover any damages to the hire car (which I’m glad I did because I’d soon have to replace the car). Plus they try to sell you these toll passes, fuel agreements, add VAT and all sorts of other extras that just cost so much more. I left with a heavier heart and a  lighter wallet.

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But all that was soon forgotten, the next challenge was picking my car. They pointed to a row, “choose a car” they told me. They didn’t tell me that once I’d chosen a car, I could pretty much just drive off with it. The keys were already in the ignition, I spent 15 minutes getting used to the steering wheel on the other side, the clutch pedal missing and the gear box condensed into D,R,L. Thankfully my uber driver had given me a crash course on driving automatics before dropping me at the airport; basically D for Drive and R for Reverse, not really sure what L was for….
Eventually I knew I’d just have to go and figure the rest out on the roads. Confidence was key, and I was scared AF!
Spotting another car driving out, I decided to follow it – surely at least they knew what side of the road to be on. At the barriers, I showed my license and paperwork fully expecting them to take one look and refuse to let me drive out with their car but the barrier was lifted and I was let loose on the roads. My first journey? The four hour drive to Charleston!

 

Charleston Grand Hotel

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When I arrived in Charleston, I hadn’t booked a hotel/hostel or anything, still staying true to my free-spirit. So I had to book the cheapest hotel available and that landed me in the Charleston Grand Hotel in North Charleston. My review on North Charleston? Don’t go there. Just stick to Charleston. The staff were friendly and the room was comfortable, in fact the bed was very comfortable. Generally, there appeared to be a good vibe in the hotel and I liked the lobby area, but on the other hand I found a pillow riddled with ants stuffed down the side of the armchair in my room and the chair itself seemed pretty dirty so didn’t want to sit on it.

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So , basically found out pretty quickly that the area is pretty sketchy; thought I was going to get stabbed just going across the road to the petrol station. It was dinnertime, but there were no restaurants open nearby and I couldn’t have afforded it even if there was so when the “Gas Station” across the road came into view, I decided that was my best option for dinner.
The decision was immediately regrettable when stepping foot on the other side of the road, as I suddenly became aware of the kind of people that surrounded the gas station. They were the type of people that nearly definitely had a weapon on their person, drank alcohol out of brown paper bags and hung out territorially by the gas station. I looked left, I looked right, and I looked down… at my ripped jeans… and that’s when the plan came together. Realising that I could probably pass for one of them with my thoroughly shredded jeans, flat cap and trainers, I mustered up as much swagger as I could pull together and strolled confidently into the shop.

The cashier was well protected behind one of those bullet-proof glass screens that you only see in movies, and I hid in the back of the shop to get out the exact change for my pot noodles – taking no risks. At the counter, I slapped down my change, the cashier nodded and I walked back to the hotel as fast as I could!

 

Charleston

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Charleston, situated by a harbour, is the oldest city in South Carolina, founded in 1670 as Charles Town, named after King Charles II. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was the epitome of deep south, bible belting, rich patriots judging by the feel of the area around White Point Garden (the fact that the film “The Patriot” was filmed here had no bearings on my judgement). But not too far beneath the surface of the prosperous, clean cut, not-a-petal-out-of-place exterior, there is a dark history.  Historians estimate that approximately half of all African slaves brought to America arrived in Charleston. At that time, Charleston grew from a small seaport to a very wealthy city, it’s economy prospering due to its well positioned harbour and the growing of cotton, rice, and indigo (most certainly undertaken by the slaves). Charleston was the only major city to have a majority-enslaved population with white planters and merchants in control, mostly English colonists.

Do make sure you visit the Battery Park and White Point Garden if you go, it’s worth seeing the large historic houses, stunning low branched trees and the beautiful ocean harbour. You can still get a feel for the rice fields as you walk by the harbour, and you can visit one of the most well-known plantations; Boone Hall.

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Another place of interest is the Charleston City Market. Full of history, this market is always buzzing with people; an array of tempting stalls to choose from. Many merchants sold hand crafted goods, some sold spices and seasonings claiming to be so good “you’ll want to slap yo mama”. And I’ll let a couple of my favourites speak for themselves.

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Finally, I also enjoyed a visit to the Waterfront Park. A famous pineapple water fountain signifies that you are welcome as you approach the park. Heading to the edge of the bay at sunset, I took in stunning views and listened as one of my favourite songs from “A Cinderella Story” was played- “Angels”. A shower broke out and I ran for shelter nearby. A young man decided to chat me up whilst we waited, except he assumed that I was 14 years old and when asking how old he was, he replied “legal”. I told him my age, he told me his; he was 21. “Stop approaching 14 year old girls,” I warned him.

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Later on, after a few cheeky drinks with some new friends, I was taken to a late night pizza place, Pizzeria Di Giovanni ,where the staff had just as much fun as the customers… at least whilst I was there! We ordered the largest slice of pizza I’ve ever seen, and then this…

I returned to the Waterfront and found a pair of glasses by the pineapple fountain. A group of friends were sitting by the fountain giggling, so I approached them with the glasses. No-one else was in sight. What was funny was that one of the women had lost her glasses over a year ago that looked identical to these, and when she tried them on, they were the exact specifications as those she wears. Even stranger, she had lost another pair of glasses a few days ago and needed a new pair. So it seemed like it was meant to be!

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As we parted ways, her partner urged me to visit Edisto before heading to Savannah, and so, that’s where I was headed next.

 

 

 

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Touring Bali

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I hope you enjoyed my last blog post where I showed you the work I was doing as a volunteer, but perhaps meeting with prisoners and playing football with street children isn’t on your travel agenda (though it really should be). So I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite spots in Bali that I got to visit on my days off.

I was really lucky to meet some amazing friends who were either volunteers like myself or full-time staff. Many were from Indonesia or had learned Bahasa Indonesia (the language of Indonesia) and had been in Bali a lot longer than I, so they knew all the local spots where the “cool kids” hang out… so to speak.

 

Transport

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Getting around was never going to be easy, or so I thought! Here’s the thing, getting around in a car tends to cut a chunk out of most of your day as you sit in traffic and bake (or freeze if your driver has the aircon on like mine did at times). So how else are you supposed to get around? Yeah, you guessed, scooter!

The scooter! Also known as a motorbike, bike, moped, or whatever. It has two wheels and it weaves in and out of traffic like magic. Everyone has one and everyone uses this method of transport unless you are like foreign and don’t know about Go-Jek.

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I’m going to tell you about Go-Jek, and Grab. These are apps you must download before you go to Bali. Must. This is your Asian version of Uber and it is suuuper cheap. Seriously. An hour’s journey cost me £0.45p. Although you can select the car option, I’m going to tell you to choose the motorbike option because your journey time will cut at least in half. You have to be prepared to wear their helmets which have been worn by who-knows-how-many but it’s a small price to pay for a cheap, fast ride.

 

Temples

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Bali has many notable temples, and being a majority Hindu country, you will see many people bringing their offerings and incense thrice daily and laying them all around their houses, businesses and the temples. These colourful offerings are supposed to give back to the gods and bring health and prosperity to their families.

There are many beautiful temples in Bali, but I only had time to visit one. Maybe I’m biased but I would definitely put the Uluwatu temple on your list of places to visit.

You are given a purple and orange sarong to wear around your waist before you enter and then you are nearly immediately faced with breath-taking cliff-top views. It doesn’t take long before you spot a monkey or two in the trees, and next thing you know you are surrounded by these cheeky creatures as you clutch tightly to your bags. And you should, these monkeys are well known for stealing sunglasses off your face and purses out of your hands so be careful!

 

Street Food

Having local Indonesian friends meant never being far from tasty treats from the streets (see what I did there?). I’ll try my best to describe some of these Balinese treats but you have to promise not to knock it ’til you’ve tried it!

Fried Banana

So this is literally bananas that are dipped in some kind of batter, deep fried and topped with chocolate and cheese. And… it just works… somehow!

Martabak Manis

I also heard this referred to as a different name, but whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious. It’s a mix between an English crumpet and a pancake (so maybe call it a crumpcake?!) and this thick pancake is doubled up with a layer of chocolate and crushed peanuts sandwiched in between.

Deep Fried Pancakes with Egg & Leek

I don’t actually know the official name for this but it is a savoury snack you will definitely get an appetite for. Pastry is thinned out to a large circle and then placed in hot oil to start frying, then the egg/leek mix is added to the middle and encased within the pastry. This parcel is deep fried on both sides until it is ready, then sliced into squares for your consumption.

Satay

It’s just basically chicken (or other) kebab sticks marinated in a peanut sauce and cooked over a fire/grill.

Tempeh

Tempeh is a traditional soy product originating from Indonesia.It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form (source: wikipedia, cheers bro!). They love this stuff here, and it is often marinated in a sweet sauce and served with rice.

Nasi Goreng

Don’t get me started on how much Indonesians love their rice! They just love it! So it should come as no surprise to find the most famous Balinese meal is Nasi Goreng, or basically, fried rice. Now, it is good, and you can get it everywhere and it is cheap, so you can’t really not love it! #nasigorengforever

 

Cafés

Okay, so Bali is basically café heaven! Everywhere you go, you will find a gorgeous café selling really flipping tasty food and equally stunning smoothie bowls! For the vegan, the Canggu area is bliss! Here is a list of my top 12 cafés.

  1. NOOK, Denpasar |Rice Fields|Smoothie Bowls|Avocado Toast on point|Fresh
  2. Smoothie Shop, Uluwatu |Vegetarian|Organic|Takeaway smoothies in glass bottles
  3. Café Organic, Canggu |Organic|Fresh|Locally Sourced|Vegetarian
  4. Crumb & Coaster, Kuta |Fresh|Locally Sourced|Smoothie Bowls|Paper Straws|Coffee on point
  5. Revolver Espresso, Seminyak |Quirky|Good Coffee|Buy Coffee Beans|Locally Sourced
    Revolver Espresso
  6. Zeus Café & Secret Garden, Jimbaran |Bean Bags|Fresh Juices|Smoothies|Glass Straws|Relaxing Vibe
    Zeus Cafe & Secret Garden
  7. Mac Eleven Café & Roastery, Jimbaran |Good Coffee|Buy Coffee Beans|Relaxing Vibe
  8. Peekaboo, Canggu |Quirky|Good Vibes|Good Food|Totes Instagrammable
  9. Betelnut Cafe, Canggu |Airy Upstairs Seating|Healthy|Amazing Food
  10. Locas Waroeng, Keramas Beach |Beanbags|Smoothies|Great Ocean Views
    Locas Waroeng
  11. Kitchenette, Beachwalk, Kuta |Best Avocado Toast Ever|Beach|Shops
  12. J.Co, Bali |Best Doughnuts Ever|Free Doughnut with every Drink|Chill Vibe

 

Shopping

The Balinese Rupiah is not a strong currency which makes for dirt-cheap shopping and with the haggling culture, prices are rarely set. That in mind, please remember that what you earn in a year is probably more than some earn in a lifetime, so be generous- you can afford to be!

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One of my favourite shopping spots was Kuta, I didn’t really bother with the Beachwalk mall but in the streets surrounding the mall there are several unique shops and stalls all selling anything you could imagine from very large paintings (guilty) to super cute clothes. The other favourite spot was in Ubud, there is a huge outdoor market in Ubud with each stall packed closely to the next making a sea of merchandise before your eyes. It’s hard to know where to look, but the stunning silver jewellery may just catch your eye. Indonesia is famous for it’s silver so be sure you will find some great quality pieces, and with a set of earrings and two rings for 100 rupiah, it’s a steal.

A little more pricey but worth a visit was the Mal Bali Galleria in Kuta where you can find your typical high street shops but also some quirky and cute stalls. Lastly, and most expensively, is the Love Anchor in Canggu which has some of the most beautiful and unique jewellery I have seen but also gorgeous bags, clothes, shoes or souvenirs. Make sure you pay a visit to the shops upstairs too!

 

Beaches

The volunteer base just happened to be opposite the beach most famous for it’s sunsets and seafood restaurants. Jimbaran Beach has one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen and if you head there after hours, you can enjoy a seafood BBQ on the beachfront with the waves lapping at your toes (or in my case swallowing my ankles).

If you enjoy surfing then you will love Keramas Beach in Kuta, this black sand beach hosted a surf competition which I enjoyed under the shade of an umbrella (you definitely need one in the Bali heat). You get to see the surfers right up close and many photographers gather to get “the shot”, which my lovely friend Guia was lucky enough to get with the winning surfer!

Also great for beginner surfers is Echo Beach in Canggu, a great time to go is just before sunset as you can watch the surfers surfing and the sun setting at the same time, then head into Canggu for drinks in one of the quirky bars, or dinner at one of the vegetarian cafés.

A more touristic area is Nusa Dua with some stunning views and the famous Water Blow where the waves smash against the jagged rocks with their alien-like appearance. But a local gem was known as the “Secret Point” only ten minutes from Jimbaran where you have insane sunset views and you can cliff jump (permitting the tide is high enough)! To make it extra special, bring marshmallows and make a small fire to roast them whilst you watch the sun go down.

 

Waterfalls

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You can’t visit Bali without visiting a waterfall, there are so many beautiful falls hidden away in the center of Bali. I can recommend a visit to Kantolampo Waterfall but I can’t recommend the route that I took to get there.

You see, a friend who I trusted, took me to visit this waterfall. Except, when we arrived, it wasn’t immediately obvious exactly where this waterfall was. But my friend insisted that he knew where it was and it wasn’t far, so I followed him into the jungle (never follow anyone into the jungle).

Several traumatic slips and slides later (including one where we both slipped and landed in decomposing fruit turning into mud – eeeek!) we found the water fall. But needless to say, on the other side of the river, there was a clean cut staircase that lead from the road directly to the waterfall.

So don’t go through the jungle kids, just don’t.

 

Night Life

There’s plenty to do in Bali during the day, but it’s worth staying up because you don’t want to miss some of these magical places.

Sunset Seafood BBQ @ Jimbaran Beach

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If you are looking for the perfect romantic setting, you will be hard pressed to find one that competes with this beautiful beach. This is the perfect spot for dinner before you head to the next destination.

Nav Karaoke

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So you’ve had a few drinks and you’re feeling like you’re meant to be famous, don’t just keep that thought to yourself; get your own private Karaoke booth! This colourful Karaoke “bar” allows you to rent a booth for a period of time with your friends so you can explore your inner Beyonce. You can order drinks, choose from a very large library of songs and artists and of course, sing your heart out!

Old Man’s Beachfront Bar

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Maybe you are feeling super chill and you want to sit with some friends simply chatting and sipping on some Bintang (local beer), take a seat in the open outside area. If you can tolerate bumping into the occasional celeb, and you can shake a leg with some stag and hen parties, you might also find yourself enjoying the more enclosed area near the bar.

La Laguna

La Laguna

You haven’t seen magic until you’ve seen this place. Seriously. La Laguna had me at “wow” from the start. I stared at the magical lighting and medieval style wagons that lead down to the main restaurant. I crossed the stunning bridge, dimly lit, with vines drooping from above, wondering where it would end. I delightfully ran through the sand as I realised the bridge lead me to the sea, and played with photos around the teepee.
But, I couldn’t stay on the beach long because I had a date with my friends at the outdoor cinema where beanbags were lined up and blankets laid on the ground beneath us.

This. Was. Magic.

 

So I hope you have enjoyed following me on a short trip through Bali, keep following (and subscribe) for my future adventures.

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“Thank You Bali!” – Secret Point. Photo Credit: @totosamurai

Volunteering in Bali

Wow, 3 weeks have flown by and already I am sat in the Ngurah Rai airport eating a grilled falafel panini and waiting for my plane to Kuala Lumpur. It’s been a crazy, unique and unexpected few weeks and while I wait, I’ll take this opportunity to share with you some of the experiences I had as a volunteer here in Bali.

So after I arrived and settled in, I was given an orientation to let me know how things worked and where I could help. I also found out that there were several significant holidays happening for the people of Bali, which is fantastic for the Balinese, but for me it meant that several of the volunteering opportunities were not on for the weeks that I would be staying. That left me with limited options, but I was keen to be involved in any way that I could. I ended up getting involved with the following activities.

 

Cleaning and Meal Preparations

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For any voluntary organisation to operate, you need hands on deck to run it in every way. There are people who staff “full time” but they do not get paid to be there, actually they need to pay staff fees (and I volunteer fees) to be able to stay and these cover the cost of keeping the Bali base going.

We are provided with accommodation and three meals a day, so as you can imagine, somebody needs to maintain it and prepare it. So every volunteer is rota’d into cleaning and food preparations which would normally be around 3 times a week. It was a good opportunity to get to know the other volunteers/staff here at the base but also felt good to be able to contribute to keeping this amazing organisation running.

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In addition to this we would help with any other tasks needed for the voluntary work such as wrapping the gifts to be given out to the girls stuck in prostitution.

 

“Soccer” with Street Children

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Okay, yeah so maybe I was ill-equipped to facilitate the actual training in “soccer” (which is actually football, guys), but I really wanted a chance to meet and interact with these local children.

There were many children of various ages and they were split into groups according to age. Some children wore kit so big for them that they were pretty much being held up by the string that runs through the waistline. I helped one child tie the laces of his shoes that were falling apart, at the same time I peeled of part of his rubber sole that was flapping off to avoid him tripping and falling.

One girl in particular took my interest, she was the only girl who came to soccer but she didn’t let that fact put her off. She smiled and took my hand, then lifted it to her forehead as is the Balinese custom for showing respect to your elders and I was charmed! Though a very little girl, no more than 7 years old, she easily competed with the boys around her.

As we asked a very lighthearted question about a time when these little 7 year olds had made their parents annoyed, some of the children opened up to us about the abuse they suffer at home where some are beaten so badly that they have scars. They laughed about it, because for them it’s just normal life. But it really touched our hearts as we realised for these children, soccer may be the only escape from their tough situations at home and the only place they can really let loose and express themselves.

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At the end of soccer, they all sit down and we tell them a story which always has a life lesson for them to learn about how to behave or to deal with difficult situations. I watched as they got so involved in the story, laughing and shouting and my heart went out.

 

Prison

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Photo Credit: @guiagogogo

Unsure what to expect but eager to get stuck in, I desperately convinced one of the base staff to swap my cleaning day so I could visit the prisons of Bali.

I visited 3 prisons on different days and each had their own impact on my heart.

The first time I went, we visited two women and a man in one of the Bangli prisons. Not long before one of the inmates had committed suicide there. The two women particularly were so happy to see us and speak with us. We were able to share words of encouragement with these women, and one of them couldn’t stop crying- the other on the verge of tears also. One due to be free in 1 month and the other with a life sentence, the girls shared their struggles but also the times they were thankful for. The man, however, didn’t stay long to chat. We gave them gifts of food and toiletries and left feeling so thankful for the opportunity to get to know these women.

The second time I visited was a male-only drug prison also in Bangli. A very different prison with much tighter security, a larger group of us went to visit the prisoners. The organisation I went with had actually been invited to come to this prison because one of the inmates had transferred from another prison that they visited and told the officers of the work we do.

There was around 15 of us who went, including a 3 year old boy (who they absolutely love seeing), and we each brought the skills that we had to invest in the people here. The main purpose is to build relationships and support the inmates here in the hopes that they will turn their lives around and when released, leave the life of drugs behind. We also teach English, and train in football (or “soccer’). I initially planned to help with teaching English, but when one of the inmates stepped out of the team I was invited to fill in for football. You have no idea how excited the inmates were to see me playing soccer, I soon had a fan base who cheered loudly if I so much as tapped the ball.

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One thing that really stuck out to me here was how polite these men were, treating the women visiting with respect and generally behaving well. I can only imagine the type of behaviour that would take place in a British prison (having a friend who is a Prison officer in the UK, I have heard enough awful stories). The other thing was how accepting they were of the mistakes they had made and how keen they were to change when they eventually got out. I spoke to one man who desperately wanted to ensure he never went back to drugs, even asking me for advice on how to stay off when he’s free.

The prison sentences in Bali can be quite harsh; particularly for drugs. This may be because it’s one of the biggest drug trafficking routes. One man I spoke to had 6 years for possession of marijuana. The other sad thing to note is that due to corruption, those with money can often pay their way out of harsh sentences.

Kerobokan

The last prison I visited was the most secure and this was the Kerobokan prison in Denpasar. This time I visited a specific woman who told me she had a 16 year sentence and had had to leave a son behind. This woman amazed me with the positivity and hope that she had despite losing all that she had, believing even that maybe she was there for a reason; to help others in this place. I could barely keep my jaw from dropping as she passionately talked with me about the hope that she had and the faith she had in God to look after her little boy, and her.

Her face lit up when I showed her a selection of nail polishes that I had nearly not been allowed to take in, she looked at her battered nails and smiled at me saying “God knows what your heart desires”. Again, jaw dropped as I saw the pure gratitude of such a simple thing.

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Not the same woman who I met in Kerobokan but another very thankful woman after I did her nails. Photo Credit: @guiagogogo

In the end, I thought I was coming here to give to the people of Bali, but I didn’t realise how much they would give to me instead. My heart goes out to the amazing people that I’ve met, normal human beings who have just fallen on hard times. People who deserve to be loved and not forgotten. People who despite the odds still hold so much hope in their hearts.

I reflected on this one night with my sandals half on, vision blurred, riding in the dark on the back of a motorbike with no idea where I was going. My heart was full, and I only wanted to give more.

Maybe it’s not about the four walls that surround us, it’s about the souls within.

 

In my next post, I would love to also show you the sights of beautiful Bali that you shouldn’t miss!

Bali on a Mission

Selamat malam! I’m excited to say that I am writing this blog post from Bali having been here a week already, but what am I doing in Bali?!

Bali is the ultimate holiday destination for loved-up couples looking to honeymoon, or for yoga enthusiasts on a spiritual retreat. It has mountains, it has beaches, it has rice fields and temples, it’s famous for surfing and cheeky monkeys, for culture and beauty; Bali seems to be paradise! That is, for the tourists…

Okay so you may have guessed, I’m not here for a holiday, this isn’t just another solo travel episode; I’m here on a mission to serve the Balinese people!

 

Why Bali?

Watching the Waves roll in
Photo Credit: @guiagogogo

As you may know, last year I spent a month and a half in South East Asia and in that time I really came to know and love the culture and the people. Now, having been given the opportunity to volunteer abroad by my church, I really wanted to give something back to South East Asian community.

So here I am in Bali, volunteering with a group of people from all over the world; Japan, Brazil, Argentina, America, Germany and many other countries. A good number of the volunteers here are Indonesian from Bali and other islands nearby. Some have been here volunteering for more than 10 years, others are here on a short term trip like myself.

 

The Other Side of Bali

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So what is the need of the Balinese? Where tourists may benefit from the extremely low cost of living compared to the western world, the local people don’t always benefit from it. Here are some of the main issues the Balinese face.

Poverty

The average person here will earn less than $2 per day, but those are the lucky ones who have jobs. Many are unemployed and therefore struggle to make enough to live on, so it isn’t uncommon to see street children who are unable to go to school and get an education.

There are also many animals that wander the streets in the gutters, or in large piles of litter. Amongst poverty there tends to be outbreaks of diseases due to an inability to obtain medical care. A recent outbreak of rabies was reported across Indonesia which makes it dangerous with the stray animals that seem to be everywhere.

Prostitution

As a result of poverty, many young girls (and in some areas boys) are coerced and forced into a life of prostitution which they feel they can’t escape. It may have started as what they thought to be a job at the bar, but they rank up debts to the owner when they don’t hit certain “targets” and are forced to go with men to make enough money to pay back their debts. Those who resist are usually broken down until they comply. They don’t have anywhere to run, many don’t have family to go to. The majority of these girls are not educated and so do not have a full understanding of the consequences of unprotected sex and therefore catch HIV/AIDS or get pregnant and are not in a position to look after their children.

These girls rely on drugs and alcohol to get them through the nights, they have no sense of self worth and have become hardened to the world. Some at very young ages.

Education

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Poverty also means that getting an education is near enough impossible, causing a destructive circle that people don’t feel they can escape. Education would mean that opportunities would open up for the people and this means a chance to break the cycle of poverty. One of the main ways to make money is through tourism, so learning English is an essential skill that can become a way to make money.

Pollution

The beautiful shores of Bali are no exception to the hideous plastic problem that the world faces. Every January the stunning shorelines turn into dumpsters as tons and tons of litter pollutes the shores. But it isn’t just a problem on the shores, you don’t have to look far to see the pollution. In the gutters, by the sides of the road, across fields and even next to temples.

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The problem really hit home when I saw a tiny kitten lying amongst a pile of rubbish with flies on it’s back. I was so sad that I couldn’t do anything for the little guy as he mewed gently at me, but even a couple of steps past this kitten was a hen and her chicks in the gutter pecking at a plastic bag, and a couple of steps beyond that were some skinny cows in a bare field grazing amongst plastic bottles.

Plastic is a real problem, and I’m thankful many of us are starting to do something about it but let’s not stop until the problem is solved!

 

Volunteering

I’m here in Bali with a fantastic organisation that does some great work for the people here. One of the things they really like you to do is to know and respect the culture. That means dressing in a way that is respectful to the Balinese, behaving in a way that is becoming to their culture and even learning the language! We have some Indonesians here working with us who help us to connect to the culture and teach us the language and it’s been so great to see most of the people already here speaking in Bahasa with the locals!

The work that they do for the locals include: Teaching English, Teaching Maths and Science, Teaching Football with the street kids, visiting those in Prison, visiting local families, reaching out to the girls in prostitution and bringing them to a safe-house but there isn’t a limit to what you can do. Each person brings their skills and helps in whatever way they can.

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Whilst I am here I will be joining in with as many of these as I can, although some of these are limited at the moment due to the Hindu holidays.
Last night, the girls from my room were out until 2am giving gifts to the girls in prostitution and speaking with them, being my first week I was not allowed to join (due to the dangerous nature of this work) but I hope to join the next time they go.

I expect to go and visit some people in prison on Tuesday and possibly teach football to some of the street children later in the week (although I admit, I don’t have much to teach them)! In addition to the hands-on volunteering, people are needed to run the base by cooking, cleaning and other jobs which I have been involved with so far, as well as putting together the gifts for the girls in prostitution.

 

Exploring Bali

 

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I do get the weekends off and sometimes even a day in the week off (depending on what volunteer outreaches are happening that week) so I will be taking the opportunity to see as much of  Bali as I can.

Getting around in Bali is difficult if you can’t ride a motorbike, so I am relying on my lovely new friends to take me out and about on the back of their scooters!

So far the majority of my adventures have been in starbucks (volunteers love their coffee!) and in an amazing doughnut shop called J.Co! I also have the beautiful Jimberan beach right next to our base where we can sometimes play football with the street kids. And I’ve been to see a stunning temple full of monkeys, but more of that in my next post!

I look forward to being able to show you some of the sights on the amazing Island that is Bali, so keep an eye out for the upcoming blog posts.

 

 

Italy Bound; Venice

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It all started with Kim, my amazing Montana raised, country and state-hopping friend who, thanks to her new job, was back in England for four months whilst she toured Europe. Sounds glam right? I thought so too, but you can talk to her about that! It didn’t take long before I realised I could turn envy into fun by tagging along with her on one or two of her adventures. She listed her locations, I picked Venice and Florence.

At the last minute, Kim’s job had to cancel the rest of her Europe trip and keep her London based, so thus began my next solo adventure…

My weekend started Friday with a relaxing Church retreat in Denham Grove, set in the quiet and peaceful English countryside. By Saturday I had joined a barbershop club that happened to also be staying in Denham Grove and by Sunday evening I was in Venice.

 

The Hostel
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It was past 10pm when I landed, with no idea how to get to my Hostel, I used the airport wifi to get directions. You could book a water taxi from the airport but I opted for a cheaper bus which took me to Piazzale Roma. From there, I got the equivalent of the tube (underground trains in London for those from other parts of the world) in the form of a boat called the Vaporetti which pulls up into different docks around Venice. Similarly to the tube, they have different colours and numbers to represent each route they take and there are maps for you to see where they stop.

Zitelle was my stop, on the Giudecca Island, the Vaporetti driver threw his rope around the metal stubs on the dock and waited for the boat to settle beside it then lifted the bars as passengers flocked off.

It was so dark, I couldn’t see where I was supposed to go. With no directions and no signal, I would have been wandering with my backpack for ages had I not been found by three Spanish-speaking girls who directed me to the hostel.

At the hostel on the way to my room, a large, hairy and sweaty man sat in his underpants passed out on a stool leaning against a wall. I edged past him cautiously and entered my 16-bed dorm, my bed was the last at the other end of the room. Whilst I was bent down unpacking, I heard a voice behind me saying “hello” and I jumped nearly out of my skin with a scream. I didn’t have to turn around, I knew exactly who it would be; the sweaty fat man in his see-through Y fronts. “What do you want?” I snapped, my heart still racing from the scare. “I’m in the bunk above you”, he said.

So, that was my bunk buddy for the next 4 nights. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well the first night.

 

Exploring Venice

I didn’t know where to start with exploring Venice, but luckily a colleague lent me a guide book of Venice, and Kim had given me a number of suggestions herself. The first thing I got for myself was a 3 day pass that gives you unlimited boat, bus, train and tram access for €40. I had to buy this from a tobacco/bits and bobs shop which was next to the Zitelle dock.

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First stop was San Marco, there was so much to explore just in this little area, but not before I got breakfast in a local cafe.

Some of the highlights of Venice:

Piazza San Marco
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This square has so much going on. By day, you can enter the Basilica, view the Palazzo Ducale, or Torre dell’Orologio and you can go up the Campanile di San Marco for fantastic views over Venice.


Libreria Acqua Alta

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A little unassuming shop which just so happens to be a library built around a gondola overflowing with books with a staircase made out of old books out back. Climb the book staircase to see a view of the canals.


Farini
Farini

A fantastic pizza bar near the square, they also have sockets for you to re-charge if you need to. 

Rialto Bridge

Rialto
This is the most famous bridge in Venice, built of marble it crosses the grand canal and it has three paths: one wide central walkway which has shops on its either sides and two along the railings of the bridge for the perfect photo op.


Bacareto da Lele

 


I stumbled across this little pub by mistake whilst exploring the Dorsoduro area, but overflowing with local students, I couldn’t ignore it. And it was easy to see why it was so busy; you could buy an Aperol spritz for a puny €1.50 or a Chardonnay for as little as €0.60. Students then sat along the canal or on the steps of the cathedral to drink, chat and chill out.


Lido Beach
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Who knew Venice had a beach?! I didn’t, until I found out that the Lido had a beach that stretched along one side of the island. Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to relax on the beach.


Burano Island
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This island is an essential part of your visit to Venice, nothing can quite describe the feel of this island. With every building a different colour, it’s full of life and not like anything you’ve seen before.

 

Making Friends

So aside from ‘Y-fronts’, aka my bunkie, I met a whole bunch of people and made a few friends on this trip.

In my hostel, I met Matt and Dave; also from the UK, and we spent the day in Burano together witnessing a pretty crazy argument between an old woman on a zimmerframe and her equally old and frail husband. We also shared a romantic dinner for three in VinoVino, a gorgeous little restaurant that Kim recommended, and we played ball on the Lido beach together whilst Matt’s neck likened to a lobster more and more as the day went. Suzannah, a California girl I met in my hostel room, joined us for some cheap Aperol spritz’s in Dorsoduro and a late game of cards before Matt and Dave returned home to the UK.

 


Relaxing with an Aperol spritz in Piazza San Marco, I met a couple from Holland and we exchanged stories of our motherlands. Promising to meet them up the Campanile di San Marco, I queued to pay the €8 fee to get in and that’s where I met Pablo and Rachelle. This couple on their honeymoon from the US had just landed in Venice, Rachelle had lost her case and the hotel they were staying in was out in the mainland, far from the Islands but they didn’t let it stop them from making the most of their time here. Wandering around in San Marco, they queued behind me and asked me what I was queuing for… I admit I didn’t have much info to offer them but we made friends near on instantly.

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By the time we got up the bell tower, we’d already decided I’d third wheel with them on a gondola ride seeing as it was a whopping €80 for the gondola; the more the merrier. And by the end of the gondola ride, I’d invited them to join me in my two bed apartment I had booked in Florence… and they said yes!

You’re going to have to read about how that went in my next blog post!