Back to Dubai

I never thought I’d be going back to Dubai so soon after my first visit, but here I was, six months later, I was trying to spot Burj Khalifa from the plane window again.

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Last time I visited it was September 2018 and all I can remember was how poorly I could handle the heat. This time it was a different story and I could finally wander around during the day and enjoy sitting outside at night.

Even though I did not crave the heat, one of the first things I did after arrival was….well you won’t believe this –  I agreed to try a hot yoga class there (40 degrees Celcius!!!). I nearly died during the class, but it sparked my love for hot yoga. Now, a year later, I can’t wait until the lockdown is finished and I can go back to my beloved hot yoga studio here in Edinburgh. Believe me, once you try it, it’s hard to go back to a regular yoga…

Anyway, I will stop talking about my love for yoga and write a bit about what I did in Dubai. I was actually quite excited to see more of the city since during my first visit I was all over UAE and didn’t really visit much of Dubai. Well, I can’t really say that I visited that much this time, because I ended up hanging out a lot with Craig’s friends all over the city.

First, we all went for a Friday brunch, which seems to be quite a big thing in Dubai. I had a hard time trying to find a place on google now (that’s what happens when you let people plan things for you), but I’m pretty sure it was at Meydan Hotel. The food was awesome, I could try so many different cuisines and there was plenty to drink. The time passed really quickly and soon I found myself in the taxi heading to one of the sailing clubs for more drinks. I wasn’t sure if I could handle more booze though, so ended up just enjoying being outside.

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The next day I was told there was more eating/drinking involved, which I wasn’t sure I could handle again, so I negotiated a quick visit to the old Dubai. It was nice to see the old buildings, with the wind towers (old natural air conditioning systems),  the Souk and to cross the Dubai creek in a traditional abra (boat). It was good to be a tourist for a bit and see some of the Dubai that wasn’t purely skyscrapers, even the very pushy sellers didn’t bother me too much at that point.

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the wind tower

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However, it was time to go back to the skyscraper land and see a few more of Craig’s friends. The next stop was Dubai Marina. I did quite like it if I’m honest, especially the walk at night after we again stuffed our bellies with tonnes of food. The views from the restaurant where we ate were pretty cool too.

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It turned out to be a very sociable trip and we spent more time relaxing with people rather than doing much in Dubai, but I still think the big picture of this place is kind of coming together. Just one thing to note for myself, if I ever go back to Dubai, I’m never doing it after staying in a super cheap place like Sri Lanka, it’s just a bit too much of a shock to the bank accounts… 🙂

 

 

Weligama & Hikkaduwa

After Craig and I left Ella, we had no real plan other than going surfing. We decided to head to Weligama where Craig stayed with a local family during his previous trips. It was a brilliant idea, since the family was extremely welcoming and they treated us to some amazing local food.

The atmosphere in Weligama was extremely relaxing and there was plenty of space on the beach for anyone who fancied doing some surfing. I loved the fact that people didn’t hassle me at all, unlike in Bali, where it was really hard to get rid of some local men. I really enjoyed my days there and I spent a lot of time playing in the water (that’s how my level of surfing can be described). I wonder if I’m ever going to be good at surfing, but it doesn’t matter if not, it’s just such a fun way to spend the time. Even the local cows agreed with me and jealously eyed all the surfers in the water.

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One of the evenings, when I was already finished for the day, I was chilling on the beach and waiting for Craig to get out. Suddenly a storm cloud came in out of nowhere and dumped an incredible amount of water on everyone. There was no time to run and hide somewhere. I was trying to hide in one of the beach shelters, but it could not handle the amount of rainfall. It felt like it lasted forever and even if I didn’t mind getting soaked, I had a few things with me that I didn’t want to be ruined. Then suddenly it all stopped, the sky cleared and life was beautiful again.

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After several days in Weligama, we decided to head to Hikkaduwa. I was hoping to do more surfing there, but the place wasn’t great for beginners, especially compared to Weligama.

I ended up spending a lot of time relaxing, watching more advanced surfers, dogs, sunsets and drinking beer. After nearly two weeks constant moving around it was nice just to chill.

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My kind of afternoon tea.

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After those very relaxing days we headed back to Colombo for the night and left Sri Lanka the next morning. I am already making plans to go back, there is so much left to enjoy in this beautiful country.

Ella

For me, Ella is one of those happy places that when you discover them you know you were meant to arrive there sooner or later. Perhaps the previous sentence sounds a bit vague, but I just felt so at peace and happy there that it’s hard to even describe the feeling.

I didn’t have too much time in Ella, but I really enjoyed all the hiking I did there and the town’s atmosphere. I think it will be the best if I show you a bunch of photos rather than try to put everything into words. Here are some from the hike up to Little Adam’s Peak.

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I was lucky to find a very peaceful accommodation just outside Ella. I loved chilling there in the evenings and watching fireflies at night.

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Another hike I did was up to Ella Rock. We set out early in the morning and had to walk along the train tracks for the first hour or so. I have to admit, there were couple of sections where I really didn’t want to meet the train, since it would had passed me a few centimeters away. Someone told me I would be able to hear the train coming from far away, but I have to say, it wasn’t he case.

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I loved the fact that there were so many friendly dogs everywhere, even on top of Ella Rock!

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As I said, I didn’t have a lot of time in Ella, but it was enough to fall in love with the place!

It was time to leave the mountain people, tea plantations and happy dogs and head to the coast. More about it next time 🙂

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Adam’s Peak

Feel almost bad saying this, but I couldn’t wait to leave Kandy. It’s not because I didn’t like Kandy, but I just couldn’t wait to get up Adam’s Peak. Whenever I’m going on holiday and have some hiking planned for the part of it, I have very itchy feet until all hiking is out of my system. I really can’t help it, I hove hiking!

We jumped into Kandy – Ella train, known for one of the most magnificent train journeys in the world.  We couldn’t get a seat since the train was packed, so ended up sitting on the floor near the door. It turned out to be an ideal spot since the train doors were always open and we could enjoy the views and the wind in the hair while hanging out of the train. It’s a shame because soon a lot of people decided they needed to get some photos with them hanging out of the train so all the photo shoots really became a nuisance.

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The train journey wasn’t too long since we jumped out in Hatton, where we got into an extremely packed bus to Dalhousie. That bus journey felt like it was never going to end. It was hot, sweaty and I was nearly getting motion sickness. I kept glancing at somebody’s watch and the time just didn’t seem to move! Then I realised why – the watch was broken…

When we finally arrived in Dalhousie we had all evening to relax, get some food supplies for the walk and enjoyed an incredible meal that our host cooked for all the guests staying in their guesthouse.

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The first view of Adam’s Peak

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Locals

Can’t remember when exactly we set off but it was roughly 1 or 2 in the morning. It was dark and relatively quiet when we left but soon started overtaking more and more people. I say “overtaking” not because I’m over confident in my fitness, but because there was such a variety of people going up that I couldn’t believe it was even possible. Anyone from really young to really old who couldn’t even walk (they were being carried by their relatives!) were making their way up. It was the full moon night celebrated by Buddhists and Adam’s Peak is a holy place, so the trail was absolutely packed with people. It got much worse just before the peak since the stairs got so narrow that it was impossible to overtake and there was a lot of standing and waiting involved.

When we finally got to the top, we went to ring the bell. It is part of the ritual and you have to ring the bell as many times as you visited Adam’s Peak. I was jealous of some doing it several times! Afterwards we managed to squeeze in with the crowd on the steps and waited for a sunrise. It was cold, but definitely worth the wait. It was such a magic atmosphere when we saw the first beams of the sun and shared that moment with so many strangers.

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Adam’s Peak is also famous for its shadow that you can see just after the sunrise. I’m sharing the photo below so you can see what I mean. Let me know if you can’t spot it 🙂

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The way down wasn’t extremely eventful, it was more like flowing with the crowd. It got really hot too and I was ready for the breakfast. But what a way to start the day!

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That magic sunrise is still in my heart today.

Kandy

I don’t know how, but I managed to book accommodation in Kandy almost four miles away from the town centre. It was probably one of the best mistakes I have ever made. The place had the best view and extremely peaceful surroundings, so I spent a lot of time in this beautiful balcony.

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Apart from lazying around in the balcony, we visited a tea factory and it was great to see the processes and the machines that the tea leaf has to go through to become tea as we know it. Doesn’t seem that I took many photos there, can only find one with me being excited about my tea and biscuits!

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We also stopped at a beautiful medicinal and herb garden (don’t ask me where it was). Anyway, it was a beautiful garden and the guy who gave us a tour kept us guessing what some of the things were. Can you guess what’s in the photo bellow?

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OK I will tell you. It’s black pepper!

And this is the obvious one – pineapple. I am still amused about how they grow 🙂

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I have also visited the botanical garden in Kandy, where my favourite were the giant fruit bats. The trees were almost black from the amount of bats hanging on the branches. Suddenly it seemed that something spooked them, so they all went flying around and it was an incredible thing to watch (they are huge!).

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I also visited the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, which was really nice and relaxed and had the lamp shades that looked like owls.

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And some really moody ducks… 🙂

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I thought Kandy was happy, colourful and a very chilled place before heading for some hill walking. But that’s for next time. Enjoy the wind in your hair in the meantime 🙂

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UAE and the World’s Longest Zipline

When I heard that UAE built the world’s longest zipline, I told Craig we had to go and try it out ourselves. He was keen to show me a bit of the country where he grew up so he agreed straight away. Sense of excitement replaced sadness of leaving Bali and I was ready for a new country and a different culture.

We stayed with Craig’s family while in Dubai and borrowed his mum’s car for getting around which made everything pretty easy. However, the traffic and the driving culture seemed to be so mental, I don’t think I would ever dare to get behind the wheel myself.

We didn’t spend too much time in Dubai. We had time for some of the things that Dubai is famous for such as Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall (just for the experience, I’m not really a shopper) and watching a sunset next to Burj Al Arab. I can say I was extremely excited to stand next to Burj Khalifa, I remember seeing a photo of it when I was young and it made a massive impression on me. Now, with the engineering degree in my bag, I can say it was even more spectacular in real life.

My favourite place in Dubai turned out to be La Mer, an extremely awesome beachfront with loads of cafes, art and a nice beach. It had such a chilled vibe and felt very different from the rest of Dubai.

One day we decided to head to Hatta to visit Hatta Fort Hotel, which was a small paradise in the middle of hot and mountainous area.

On the way back I wanted to check out the desert since I’ve never experienced it before. It was 40 degrees and the desert felt like a hot oven (surprise!), but I was really excited to step on the edge of it. And I saw loads of camels (don’t laugh, it’s a new thing for me) just wandering around the desert!

Anyway, I promised to tell about the world’s longest zipline. It’s 1.7mile zipline in the mountains of UAE, close to Ras Al-Khaimah. There is a newly built road leading to it and once you arrive there and spot the zipline, it’s looks quite scary, such a long way to go! Not going to lie, I was quite nervous.

You need to pre-book the experience and once you arrive at the car park they give you a lift up to the main office. You’ll then get your gear, introduction etc. and be dropped off near the zipline platform.

And then after a bit of queuing and seeing other people leaving the platform screaming, it’s time for your flight. You’ll leave the first platform in “superman” style (head down) and reach about 120km/h speed. Sounds a bit sick and, indeed, it does feel pretty fast at first, but soon you can start enjoying the views and the feeling of freedom. The reality (aka zipline breaks) are pretty harsh and will hit you before you reach the platform, but nothing to be scared of.

On that second platform they remove your superman costume and you get to do the last bit sitting down. It goes much slower and gives a chance to appreciate your surroundings and to recover (slightly) from the first part.

Despite all the initial nerves, it was a really enjoyable experience although it felt like it was over in no time. Would definitely recommend this to anyone, especially to people like me who are terrified of heights 🙂

UAE visit was short and sweet and I went back there a few months ago again, but I’ll tell you about it once I catch up on writing about my adventures (still about a year behind).

Last Days in Bali

I wrote a very long post last time so this one will be short. Not because it needs to be short, but sometimes the best things in life come from doing one thing you enjoy. For me it was a newly found love of surfing.

After we got back to Bali from Nusa Penida we collected our scooters and tried to decide what to do next.

We were keen to explore a bit more of Bali but at the same time the thought of going back to Kuta and spending a few last days surfing was also very tempting.

We chose the latter and it was probably the best decision we could make. It was nice to go back to Kuta and see the guys from the surf shop we previously spent time with.

We previously learned how hot the sun can get in Bali so this time stocked up on very waterproof zinc sticks with SPF 50+ and for the last few days our bright blue faces could be seen in between the waves.

On our last day we said bye to the guys who almost became our family. I was sad, but at the same time happy about the experience and all the memories I made there.

In the airport, it was so tempting to jump on a random flight and head to some place I’ve never been to. However, Dubai was waiting for us and we had more adventures planned there. But that’s for the next post!

Nusa Penida

This island is located just south east of Bali and it’s a small paradise that hasn’t yet been ruined with too many tourists.

We left Amed coast relatively early, meaning we could beat most of the traffic and get to Padangbai in time for the ferry to Nusa Penida. We wanted to take our scooters to Nusa Penida since we thought it would be cheaper and safer than leaving them in Bali. I have to say I really didn’t like Padangbai, various people were pestering us all the time and when we got to the ferry terminal the guard requested a bribe since we didn’t have an international driving licence (our own fault…). However, there something good happened as well -here is where we met our best friend for the next few days – Thorsten.

We then were told that the ferry wasn’t running and that we should take a fast boat. There were quite a few foreigners at the port trying to do the same thing, so we didn’t believe the ferry wasn’t coming anytime soon. We thought it was a scam and they were just trying to charge us more money. Various guys working at the port were pointing at the poster entirely in Balinese and trying to convince us we had no other option but to take a fast boat. Someone eventually managed to confirm that the main ferry, which was taking cars and scooters, was indeed broken down and we had to think what to do next.

We had to leave the scooters in Padangbai so we found a random hostel owner who agreed to look after them. He seemed quite trustworthy so we felt much more confident in leaving our vehicles with him instead of at the port. Craig, Thorsten and I jumped on the fast boat and I tried really hard not to get seasick since I forgot to take the tablets with me.

Once we got to Nusa Penida it turned out that all the scooters rentals were struggling for vehicles since there was a massive celebration on the island. People from all over Bali mostly dressed in white were making their way to Nusa Penida. I think the celebration was called Nyepi Laut and the island really felt busy. Loads of temples had long ceremonies every evening and there people in white everywhere.

We managed to get a car to our accommodation close to Crystal Bay and the owner found a scooter for us. Our accommodation was newly built – like the majority of places on this island. Nusa Penida is only just getting ready for tourists and therefore the infrastructure is still lacking. We were quite away from the ferry area and the majority of shops and restaurants, so had to do a long(ish) trip everyday. The poor quality roads scared me a bit, especially after seeing couple of accidents.

On our first evening we explored the Crystal Bay and walked to the Pandan beach which is next to it, you just need to hike over the big rock that’s inbetween. There was nobody there, apart from huge waves and loads of beautiful shells.

We agreed to go exploring with Thorsten the next day. The lack of infrastructure I mentioned earlier showed its face around the first corner. I ended up having to walk for a bit until the guys got the scooters out on the tarmac road. The photo explains more than I ever could.

The first place we visited was Peguyangan waterfall. You have to wear a sarong to enter (there are locals renting them out) and then it’s a steep hike down on blue metal stairs. It’s extremely beautiful but need to take care not to slip especially because it’s so easy to get distracted and you’ll want to take a lot of photos. Once you head down you will reach the sacred water temple, a pilgrimage site for locals, which was busy that day because of religious celebration on the island. The views, waves hitting the rocks and locals coming to pray really created a magic atmosphere.

We also visited a really beautiful beach Atuh, which felt relaxed and a bit hidden from the rest of the world. Spent some time chilling there and decided to head back.

The ride back was really scenic and we ended up spending our evening in a nice bar on the beach.

The next day Craig decided to go scuba diving and I booked a snorkeling trip. It turned out on the boat that the company didn’t have the correct size fins for me, but I thought I probably didn’t need them anyway since I’m a decent swimmer. Oh god, I was so wrong.

The waves at the first stop were so strong that it was hard to swim. I only spent a few minutes in the water since that was a manta ray stop, but they were nowhere to be seen. The second spot allowed to see a bit more variety, but because the waves were strong,they were pulling me from one side to the other and I ended up accidentally brushing my foot against the rock and making it to bleed. The third snorkeling site was pretty cool, we got into water and allowed to be carried by the current while exploring the amazing water life around. I really enjoyed it and it was definitely a highlight of the snorkeling trip.

The last spot made me promise to myself that I’ll never do snorkeling boat trips ever again. We stopped in deep water and there were quite a few different boats around. I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to jump in the water since I felt a bit tired, but the guide said there were loads of big fish around. I probably didn’t see a single fish because as soon as I got into water the current started carrying me away and I whatever effort I put in to swimming was useless. I started freaking out a bit since I was carried towards other ships and had no control. Really wished I had some sort of fins at that point, but I didn’t. Luckily the guide saw what was happening so he came and helped me to get back to the boat. Later when I told this to my boyfriend he said their ship picked up someone doing snorkeling since he got separated from his boat. My fear of water has always been around and this accident slightly worsened it…

The next day we went exploring with Thorsten again. The roads were quite pleasant and scenic and we got to Kelingking (also known as T-Rex) beach. It was quite crowded so after taking a few photos we decided to move on to the next place.

However, once we got back to the car park Thorsten’s scooter was missing. We were in denial for quite a while so searched the car park twice but had to admit the scooter was stollen. Thorsten then contacted his accommodation and scooter owner and explained the situation and arranged a ride back. We didn’t feel like exploring anymore so went back to our place. Later on, when we saw Thorsten, he said that the scooter was found sitting in the port. Since the main ferry wasn’t running nobody could get it out of the island.

Perhaps I’ll finish the post by saying that we got a bit paranoid about our scooters left in Bali so contacted the guest house owner to whom we left the scooters (and their keys). Obviously everything was fine and the scooters weren’t even touched when we came back from Nusa Penida. But I would probably be a bit more careful now, especially after knowing that thefts do happen.

Otherwise, Nusa Penida is an amazing island with some beautiful beaches, funky roads and sense of adventure. Go, enjoy!

Amed Coast, Bali

The ride from Mount Batur to Amed Coast was one of the most stressful I have ever done. We decided to take a shortcut instead of going on the main road and, of course, shortcuts always have their own challenges. We headed north east from Black Lava hostel near Mount Batur hoping to save some time compared to taking a longer route. At first, the road was really busy and not in a great condition, which should have been a sign we needed to turn around and go back. We carried on and soon arrived at one of the villages. As I was driving through, the local lady stepped in front of me when she decided to cross the road without looking around. I was moving relatively slow, but quick breaking resulted in an emergency stop with a skid, so I managed to scare her and to scare myself. I didn’t even touch her but she shouted at me for a bit and I shouted something back and I eventually drove off. When she was out of sight I had to stop to breathe and get myself together. My god, I was terrified.

I moved on again and I had to tackle the steepest hill ever – my (sort of) lack of confidence in driving a scooter really made me question what on earth I was doing there. The road was really winding, steep and narrow, so whenever I ran a bit wide on the corner I was hoping nobody would be coming from the other direction. I was really stressed out but had to keep moving. Craig was out of sight for a while so I knew I just had to rely on myself.

Eventually, I reached the top of the hill, which I’m guessing was about 1000m above sea level (hard to say where exactly I was even from looking at the map) and the road started turning into a sand and tarmac mix. Leftover patches of tarmac weren’t really helping and the road started getting busier, so loads of traffic was coming towards me. A complete total hell. It didn’t help that the bunch of locals on their scooters overtook me and told me to be careful. Not sure if I could be anymore careful than I was.

I finally caught up with Craig who decided to get some fuel. I have to say I was so stressed and almost shaking from thinking death might be waiting for me on every corner, although I knew it was probably not the right attitude! Anyway, when I stopped worrying for a few minutes, I looked around and I have to admit the views from the top were absolutely stunning. I have no photos from that road trip though, it was the last thing on my mind.

We then started descending. Same story – crappy, narrow and winding roads, but at least we were going down. At some point I nearly started enjoying it. And then we reached the main road… after what felt like hours of being really focused and after a sleepless night, I was exhausted and the main road was too much. There was loads of traffic and it was scorching. We had to stop to get some food and rest.

It was a good idea to get some rest and we managed to reach Amed coast. We stayed close to Jemeluk beach and it was such a relief to park a scooter and get up to our room with an amazing view and go for a swim in the pool.

The plan for the next few days was to chill and explore the ocean. Craig arranged some scuba diving and I decided to go for some snorkeling. The first day I just joined the scuba diving group but I soon realised it was much cheaper way to do it. I could just rent a snorkel from one of the many shops along the coast and take my time exploring.

I have to say snorkeling in Amed was an absolute treat. The variety of fish was overwhelming and I even managed to see a lionfish, enjoying its life a few meters below me. Jemeluk beach also had a small underwater temple and there were giant fish around it looking like they were guarding it. I don’t have any underwater photos but I have to say it was spectacular.

I also jumped on the scooter and traveled a bit further down the coast to see a small Japanese ship wreck. It looked pretty cool, but I preferred Jemeluk since you could observe the fish from so much closer. I also did a short ride further down the coast, which was really scenic. You could tell the tourists weren’t seen there very often and when I passed the villages the people there were keen to say hello. It was a beautiful coastal ride.

In the meantime, Craig did quite a few different dives with Amed Jepun Divers and he said it was one of the best companies he ever dived with (and he’s done a lot of diving in the past). Just a recommendation if you’re braver than me and looking to do some scuba diving.

The area we stayed in wasn’t exactly busy, only the bar with a viewpoint of Jemeluk beach was alive before sunset and the rest felt quiet after the sun was down. Perhaps, the combination of peace, colours, sense of freedom and variety of fish were the reasons why I really loved staying in Amed.

Next stop – Nusa Penida.

Mount Batur

When I heard about Mount Batur it wasn’t even a question whether we were going up there or not, I always wanted to have breakfast on an active volcano!

Let’s start from the beginning. We left Ubud in the morning and headed up north. The ride was absolutely fantastic – it wasn’t very long and mostly on quiet roads. We stopped in a random spot for a coffee with a view and met a very sweet host lady. Chatting to her was a pleasure that morning and I really wish I could remember where we found her!

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The journey was great and very scenic, so we were really disappointed to arrive at our destination so quick. We stayed in Black Lava hostel between Mount Batur and Lake Batur, which was a beautiful and relaxing spot.

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The hostel also arranged a guide for us for our hike next morning. You can’t do the sunrise hike without one and I wouldn’t recommend trying since you’ll be stopped on the way by one of the many locals hanging out on the hill at night (I know, sounds creepy!).

Anyway, we had some time to kill until our hike so decided to go to the village nearby to grab some food. We ordered a lot of fish and I had an unfortunate incident with the fish bone. I choked on one and it hurt my throat so bad that I could feel it for the next couple of days.

I was a bit traumatized so we decided to go back to Black Lava, which was a great decision.

The accommodation was superb – beautiful huts with hammocks and they also had an amazing hot spring pool. I have to say that sitting in the pool during the day was a bit too hot, but it was such a treat at night when the temperature dropped (and it dropped a lot!)’

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Oh and for the first time, I saw how pineapples grow! I spotted one on the path to our hut and I could not be more excited. All these first times!

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We tried to get a few hours of sleep before the 3am start. When the alarm rang I just wanted to stay in bed, but eventually managed to get out and I have to say it was worth it.

We met our guide (who turned out to be a good storyteller and an amazing photographer) and three of us set out in the dark. There were loads of people going up (judging from the amount of head torches) and it felt like everyone was quite excited about it. We soon were asked whether we wanted to take a hard or an easy path and of course we picked the easy one not realising that it was used by the motorbikes to get the lazy people up the hill. It was a bit of the shame that those motorbikes were allowed to go up and we later learned that the path was built for them a few months ago. Every time the bike went past, it would leave a cloud of dust for you to breathe. Not exactly an exciting experience, but the hike was over in no time and we arrived to the top just in time for a sunrise.

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It really was spectacular. The colours were changing fast and with the smoke coming out from the ground (hey it’s an active volcano!), it felt quite a surreal. It was freezing and I didn’t I have enough layers on me, so had to jump around to warm up. We then had a breakfast with a coffee while enjoying the views. Once the sun went a bit higher, it got hot pretty quick and I had start losing some layers. Loads of people started leaving and the magic was over.

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It was a nice and quick walk down and we got served some nice breakfast at Black Lava hostel. We couldn’t fall asleep after breakfast so decided to pack up and head to our next destination – Amed coast. We took a shortcut and I can say that it was the most stressful ride I ever did on the scooter and I nearly ran over a local lady! I’ll tell you more in the next post… 🙂