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Magical moments among Nicaraguas volcanoes

Nicaragua is the land of volcanoes and lakes so while we enjoyed not doing many touristy things during our stay here, some things are simply unmissable.

Swimming in Laguna de Apoyo – the crater lake

In the centre of the Pacific strip of Nicaraguan territory, along the long volcanic chain that crosses the country from north to south, is a large and extinct crater. In the centre is one of the most beautiful lagoons in Nicaragua, Laguna de Apoyo.

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Ingrid loves swimming and Scott has found a stick as usual

We went to one of a handful of hostels located here for a day pass to their “beach club”. The entrance fee to spend the day is 6.00 dollars per person and 3.00 dollars for children from 6 to 12 years old. We spent the day relaxing in a sun bed overlooking the lake on one of the spacious terraces. We went kayaking, swimming played ping pong and petanque, all which is included in the entrance fee. Getting here is easy from Granada by chicken bus and taxi or shuttle service that takes you all they way there.

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Ingrid paddle boarding
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Me paddle boarding and Ingrid hitching a ride
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Playing games at the Laguna Beach club

Watching bubbling lava at the awesome Masaya volcano

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You can see the lava churning in the crater

We went with Erick tours out of Granada for a night viewing of the volcano. We spent a few hours exploring Massaya town before heading up the actual volcano just before sunset. There is a bit of a wait to get up to the volcano as they only allow 50 people at a time, but our guide, Alberto, was excellent. He spent the waiting time giving us information on  Nicaragua volcanoes & Masaya and the general history of Nicaragua.

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Lava!! at Masaya Volcano

Once at the top, the lava lights up the whole sky in a magical orange glow! Amazing view of the bubbling lava but strong sulphur fumes means you can only stay 15 min at the top. We were all seriously coughing by then and glad to get off the top of the volcano.

Rooftop ride to swim in the cool waters of Aguas Agrias

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Cool mammas on the roof on our way to the lagoon

In the rural community of Aguas Agrias, located south of the Mombacho Volcano , is a stunning natural lagoon where the locals go to cool off.  Together with friends we took a pick up truck there and enjoyed an epic ride on the roof. We spent a few hours swimming in the cool waters watching the monkeys overhead. Simply wonderful!

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Beautiful natural lagoon in the jungle
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Howler monkeys in the canopy while we were swimming
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The locals come here too
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Scott and Gekko having fun
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Me and Scott enjoying the sunshine

Sunset at the Treehouse

On the way from Aguas Argias we went to the Treehouse for an amazing dinner at sunset. The Treehouse is located half an hours drive from Granada, 200m up in the jungle. 

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Canopy bridge with treehouse on the right

Its is a wonderful place to bring he kids, although some  might think its perhaps a bit dangerous for little ones. The actual house is built into the side of volcano Mombacho, surrounded by howler monkeys, complete with a  fire mans pole, some swings and a 60 metre canopy bridge connecting the main house where you eat to a smaller house where you can sleep in hammocks. The kids have never climbed up 200m so fast before in their life. We stayed for drinks, a communal meal and a truly beautiful sunset.

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Sunset at the Treehouse outside Granada
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Sunset from the Treehouse

Other things we enjoyed in Granada

Pottery practice

Pottery class making our own eggcups out of red clay from are area of san Juan de Oriente. We all had a go under the instruction of the watchful eye of the master, Carlos. We were not very successful, but persuaded him to sell us the little creations we made. Eggcups!

Watching the annual parade at the global poetry festival

The International Poetry Festival celebrates poets from around the world (and is also the largest poetry festival in the world).  We didn’t go to any of the poetry readings but enjoyed the many events that took place in Granada’s open plazas, parks, churches, and markets. The highlight for us was the Carneval which made its way trough the centre of Granada stopping at every street corner for a poetry reading.

Our favourite things in Granada

A more local view on Granada

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Granada market

While living in Nicaragua for a month we have enjoyed getting into a more normal routine and not doing a lot of touristy things. In our day to day life here and during the weekends there are many simple things we enjoy doing. We have even made a map of the city centre with all our favourite things on it!

Monkeying around by lake Nicaragua

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Monkey on the monkey bars

Late afternoon play in the park down by lake Nicaragua. The music is loud, the ground is littered with plastic bags and cups and by the shore are starving horses and cows grazing. We enjoy coming here to climb on the many climbing frames & monkey bars with the local kids.

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Playground by lake Nicaragua where horses and cows also like to hang out
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Lots and lots of colourful swings in the park

Sunday lunch delicacies in the park with the locals

The local have Sundays off and come in busloads and in overfull cars to enjoy a day by the lakeside. Families chill out in hammocks in the shade and eat Vigoron with Chicharron, a delicious plate of food with Yucca, plantain chips and pork crackling, sold at one of the may simple stalls here.

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Vigaron – One of Pauls favourite foods in Nicaragua
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The locals swim in the lake, most other people don’t. Only lake in the world with sharks!
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Trying to negotiate the price

Wander up and down the Calzada to Parque central

Even though this is the tourist bit of Granada its still a nice walk. There are restaurants, shops, hotels and cafes lining the streets. The street is closed from traffic, only horses and bikes are allowed to come down the street.

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Morning walk with view of Mombacho volcano, one of 19 active volcanos in Nicaragua
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The Calzada

Going to school learning Spanish

The only difference to the local kids school is that their school day starts at 7 and ours starts at 8.

Arts, crafts and playing at home in Casa Ranita

Its nice to have enough the space to play without all of us having to do the same thing and just like the locals, we spend much of the day inside avoiding the blazing heat.

Buying fruit, vegetables & meat at the local market

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My favourite fruit stall on the left

Early morning is the best time to go to the market. There is lots of produce to choose from and lots of stalls selling the same things. Different areas in the market typically sell different kinds of things, e.g. meet section, fruit section, clothes, school supplies. I have a few favourite stalls that go to every day.

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This is where I buy vegetables
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Scott looking for the best bananas
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This is where I buy our meet
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Rice and beans
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Paul looking everywhere for a 2nd hand bike.
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You can buy almost anything at the market here

Cooking our own food – and clearing up too!

Eating every meal out, ordering an waiting for your food gets a bit tedious when you are on the road. Ingrid and Scott especially, love eating in and to help with mealtimes.

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Ingrid making pancakes and Scott cutting up fresh pinapple
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Ingrids amazing pancakes
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Scott usually does the washing up, Paul dries and Ingrid puts it away
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Making Swedish meatballs

Watching the many horses wander around in town

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One of many working horses in Granada

Horses play an important role as working animals and transportation here. In the mornings there and many horses out wandering the streets eating out of the bins or grazing down by the lake.

Walks around among the beautiful coloured houses

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Love walking up this street

Pictures that speak a thousand words. Imagine if all these houses were plain grey concrete, life would not be the same. I just love the colours in this town just walking around town puts a smile on your face !

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My favourite colour in all of Granada
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The more contrast the better
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Little coffee shop round the corner
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Another colour I just love

Watching the sunset and sunrise over the mountains

Early morning sunrise or evening sunset it is all so beautiful and we just cant get enough of the crips blue skies and the beautiful colours of the sun.

A ride on the local chicken bus

Everyone packs in and no matter how full, someone will always try to make space for you if you are travelling with a child. Latin music is blaring out of the speakers, the wind is blowing in through the open windows as we slowly make our way towards Masaya. Its great fun, cheap at 10$c per person and very easy to get around.

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Chicken bus to Laguna de Apoyo

All these things makes Granada a great place to stay! I will share our favourite touristy things here in my next post!

 

Feeling at home in Nicaragua

…and now we have to pack up Casa Ranita & leave

Our time in Granada, Nicaragua is soon coming to an end. Right now we are all really settled in and not looking forward to leaving our little house and all our new friends. Its been amazing to see how quickly Ingrid and Scott both got into their new school life and the normality and familiarity of it all. In many ways it feels just like home.

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Our lovely little 2 bed house in Granada Nicaragua, Casa Ranita

Our Typical day in Granada, Nicaragua

A typical weekday here is not that dissimilar to a day back in the UK.

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Early morning run up to Laguna de Apoyo

Paul and I typically wake up at sunrise around 5.30-6 am. I have a coffee while reading emails and do some travel research while Paul goes for a run before the sun is up and it gets too hot. At 6.30 I wake the kids then we all have breakfast and leave the house about 7.30 for the 2km walk to school which starts at 8.

At this time of day the sun is still low in the sky and the streets are pretty empty. We all really enjoy the the walk along the Calzada and across the main square to get there.

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Our house is at the end of the Calzada in Granada so this is where our walk to school starts
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The Parque central is quiet at this time in the morinng
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We love walking past all the colourful houses on the way to school
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Scott and Ingrids schools are right next to Iglesia Xalteva

Usually I part with Paul and the kids halfway there to head off for a quick coffee before I go to Casa Nica for my 2hr Spanish class.

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Cafe Bristol makes the cheapest and best hot of iced latte in Granada
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Catching up on homework before class
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This is my Spanish school

A lovely school experience in Nicaragua

Already on day one Scott was excited about going to school and making new friends and he has enjoyed going there every day since. The school is bilingual and half the class is made up of Nica children and the other half expat kids who mainly speak English. Its been wonderful for all of us to have the school experience for a month and to meet and get to know the teachers, children and and parents who have been travelling like us and those live here. It was hard to find a school that would accept us for 1 months only, which I wrote about in a previous post, but it one of the best things we have done on this trip so far.

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Sancuanjoche International School – Pre-school

Scotts typical school day in Nicaragua

Scotts school day starts with circle time and Spanish, followed by motor skills, snack & play in the park. After a play outside they focus on social development in Spanish then maths. School lunch is served at 11.30 and Scott loves it!  At the end of the day they do science and play.

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Typical daily schedule for Scott

Scott really enjoys school here and have made so many new friends both with Nica and English speaking children. There are 12 to a class and they all mix  the Spanish & English speakers during breaks to encourage them to practice the other language. His best friends are 2 girls, Brissa a local Nica girl and Gekko, an American girl from Texas.

They hang out every day playing mums and dads, zombies, tag and lots of other crazy games. Last week he went to his first Nica birthday party complete with piñata, clowns, cakes, ice cream and the best party bags ever!

Ingrid also loves school in Nicaragua

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Ingrid happily heading intoschool

Ingrid has made some great friends too, but I think she enjoys access to the school library more than anything else. Every day she gets through 2-3 new books which she reads at home and in reading class and any other free moment at school.

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Ingrids schedule

She is doing great it both English and Maths and is studying both of these with the older children in year 4-5. Spanish is the hard one as she is far behind the rest of the class. However, they have a great system where the other children in her class takes turns helping her translate, read and write in Spanish class so although its a bit more difficult, she is picking it up slowly and its still something she enjoys.

Science is taught with much debate and discussion here, right up Ingrid street. She comes home everyday with new ideas, telling us about all the fun discussions they have had in science class that day. Best of all, she got to see all other kids present their science projects at the school science fair, which she loved. We usually see Ingrids class head back from the park after lunch when we pick Scotty up at 1.

My typical day and Nicaraguan routine

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While the kids are in school, I am in school too enjoying 1-1 lesson with a young Nica girl called Rebecca. The lessons are a mix of slow conversations, grammar run throughs, quiz games and picture cards to practice vocabulary and conversation.

I am by no means fluent yet but have come a long way with a wider vocabulary and the basic grammar and conversations with Rebecca. On the way home I get fresh fruit, vegetables and chiceron from the market.

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Pauls typical day

Meanwhile Paul is deep into catching up on all our admin, planning our next stage of travel and our return to the UK in July. He also goes to the big supermarket at the edge of town to buy the basic groceries.

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Sometimes we have some lunch in one of our favourite spots before picking up Scott at 1. Most of the time though we cook lunch at home after collecting Scott from school. Our favourite food to cook for lunch here is plantain with cheese, nachos and guacamole.

The 2km walk home from school with Scott usually takes up to 1 hour and I love it. There is no stress no reason to hurry him along, we just wander together take in the sights and chat about the day.

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Walking home from school with Scott

After school…lazy afternoons avoiding the heat

After picking Ingrid up at 3, we spend the afternoons in a similar way to what we would do at home. Ingrid typically gets a book out and chills on the bed while Scott plays with his toys or helps me prepare dinner.

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LEGO!
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We  cook all the food from scratch and get the ingredients from the local market

One of his favourite past time these days is helping round he house, either cooking, mopping the floors or doing the washing up. At mealtimes we all help out either setting up and cooking or washing up and tidying up. After some initial resistance, now it all happens without complaints at every meal time.

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Washing up after dinner, Scott loves it and Ingrid hates it

Occasionally we have a playdate after school either at our house or at friends and sometimes later in the afternoon once the temperature starts to drop we go for a walk on the Calzada or head down to the park for a play.

One of the things we love about staying here is all the friends we have made. After 8 months of mostly playing with each other Scott & Ingrid both enjoy the break from each other.In fact we all do!

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Scott and Geco playing lego after school
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Evening stroll

In addition to helping with meals, Scott has to read a book everyday and Ingrid does touch typing and updates her diary. Once all of that it done, the kids watch something on the laptop or play mine craft with Paul, while I do some work on the iPad. Early bed for an early start.

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Ingrid and Scott playing minecraft

After sunset all the locals sit in the cooler air on the street outside their houses enjoying the free light (electricity is very expensive here) and animated conversation. Our neighbour Freddy often invites me to sit down and join them for a chat. A great way to practice my newly acquires Spanish and to get to know the people and the community a bit better. Its a lovely way to spend the evening.

Weekends in Granada, volcanoes and play

The weekends are also very much like our weekends at home. Paul goes out at 5am with a running group while the kids and I have a lazy morning. Ingrid makes pancakes then we do bits and bobs round the house, lego, a creative project, some mine craft.

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Ingrids delicious pancakes

In the afternoon we go exploring, head to the park down by the lake or go for an ice cream.

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There are lots of climbing frames down by the lake, this one has the best monkey bars

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Sunday lunchtime down by lake Nicaragua is full of music and local families hanging out

Sundays are our typical day trip days with visits to volcanoes, museums etc. Our favourite spot so far is Laguna de Apoyo, the volcano crater lake, we you can go swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding in lovely clean and fresh water.

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Paddle boarding with Ingrid at Laguna de Apoyo
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Sunset at the Treehouse outside Granada
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Amazing lava at Masaya Volcano!! So close you can feel the heat!
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Fresh water swimming pool, by Mombacho volcano

Just like home….enjoying the simple things

So, with the exception of adapting the time of our activities to the hot climate here, our days are very similar to many days back home in London. After 8 months of being together 24/7 it is nice to have some time without the kids where we can get on with our plans and think about our return to the UK. Usually this is something we can only really do before the kids wake up or after they go to bed.  When travelling is quite hard to find enough time to get it all done.

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Sunset over Catedral de Granada
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Evening at Iglesia Guadalupe, right next to our house.

We would all be happy to stay here longer, in fact we have talked about it. The town, the country and people are very easy to get on with and to enjoy. Its been nice having the space to be able to do separate things. So far on our travels we have spent most nights together in 1 little room all going to bed and waking up at the same time. The simple pleasure of being able to go to bed and get up at different times, cook if and whenever we want to and even do separate things during the day is not to be take for granted.

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Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the world where horse and cart is most often used for transport and work.

There is a great local and expat community with plenty of opportunity to make a real impact in Nicaragua together with the locals. In the end, we have decided to continue to the coast for a few days of surfing before a quick stop with friends in Miami then onwards and upwards to Peru.

We’re thinking that we could always come back to Nicaragua sometime after our round the world trip!

Disappointing Bali – time to plan our 3months in South East Asia

Change of plans in Bali

Afternoon visit to Ubud temple, Bali.
Afternoon visit to Ubud temple, Bali.

We are 5 days into our stay in Bali and our time here has not quite worked out as we thought, but I think it will serve us well in the end. We spent 2 days in Sanur at the Gazebo Beach Hotel.

1 of 2 pools at the Gazebo Beach Hotel, Sanur Bali
1 of 2 pools at the Gazebo Beach Hotel, Sanur Bali

The room and pool here were ok but quite expensive for what it was (£70 per night) and breakfast was  really poor. We had been looking forward to spending a few days on the beach here but in the end we did not go in the water as the beach and the water were both very dirty!

Time out in Ubud

To escape the intense tourism and hustle on the coast we changed plans and went inland to Ubud for 2 days then planned to head onto Gili Air, one of the small island a couple of hours off the coast. As we arrived in  Ubud, we found it just as crowded and full of overpriced tourist shops and restaurants as in Sanur.

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Semanggi cottage Ubud

We stayed in  lovely little guesthouse , Semanggi Cottage, just outside Ubud where we all enjoyed the peaceful surroundings and lack of tourism.

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Inside the Semanggi cottage

The best part was hanging out with the animals and people who lived here, especially Tico the puppy who Ingrid & Scott totally fell in love with.

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Ingrid and Tico
Tico the puppy
Tico the puppy

Fish for lunch in Jimbaran bay

Due to an unexpected high cost and a lot of hassle getting to our next planned stop Gili Air, we decided to cut our losses in the end and find a place by the beach on Bali for our last 5 days. We are now in Jimbaran Happy Villa, where the villas are ok but again the beach is dirty and not very inviting.

Breakfast at Jimbaran Happy villas
Breakfast at Jimbaran Happy villas

As we strolled down on the beach yesterday we found a dead dog in the middle of the beach….no need to say we did not feel like going in the water.

The day was saved when we found the fishing harbour and little fish BBQ hangout by the beach. At least we know we will eat well during our stay here.

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Picking out our lunch at the Jimbaran bay fish market
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Fresh seabass, hammerhead shark, prawns and squid – 2.5 kg for £6
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This place, next to the market charge £4 to cook and serve our fish with rice and vegetables – happy days

Good times in Bali

Don’t get me wrong there are lots of things in Bali we have enjoyed as well such as delicious, cheap food in the local little eateries, beautiful buildings and temples, cute and aggressive monkeys in the monkey forest, amazing flower displays and colourful gardens all surrounded by kind and helpful Balinese people.

Typical statue guarding a house in Bali
Typical statue guarding a house in Bali
Great little Taco bar with 8 seats in Sanur
Great little Taco bar with 8 seats in Sanur
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One of the cheeky monkeys we met in the Sacred Monkey forest in Ubud

Time to reflect and plan our time in South East Asia

Reflecting on my disappointment in Bali I realise that we are now at a stage in our travels where we really want to go beyond the obvious tourism and into a different sort of travel where we can have more genuine experiences.

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In China, we felt more like the exploring travellers we want to be and less like the usual high season weekly tourist we feel like in Bali. There were many Chinese tourists in most places in China as well but it still felt like an adventure for us as the tourism there was not set up especially for us. Perhaps our expectations were also too high after our time in the amazing Perhentian islands, Malaysia and the gorgeous clean beaches of Australia. If we were here to party and chill Im sure our experience would be very different….

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Ingrid updating her diary

Our last 5 days in Bali we will use to get on with schoolwork and to plan our time in South East Asia to find those little hidden gems that will take our breath away and stay with us for a long time. Im thinking a farm stay in Thailand, cruising up the Mekong river in Laos and a family home stay in Vietnam…As I said, the disappointment in Bali will serve us well in planning out our next stage of our trip better…