Flying High

Flying High

In exactly two weeks time I will be flying high above earth as I make my way to the UK for a three-week visit. I’m a little nervous about the flight – not because I have a fear of flying (shouldn’t it be a fear of crashing?) but because I hope I can keep myself together and not embarrass myself like last time. It was after my week in the UK two years ago, when I made a special visit to attend Buckingham Palace with my Dad. I was just one hour away from Brisbane after a long, long flight plus four hours stopover in Singapore. The cabin crew were trying to stuff another meal down us just in case we’d worked up an appetite from doing absolutely nothing for the last couple of hours. I wasn’t feeling too flash so I disturbed my seat buddy so I could get to the toilets. The next moment I was teetering on the edge of the abyss of horizontal sleep; it was a glorious sensation and I just wanted to stay there. The only problem was, it wasn’t sleep – I’d passed out as I made my way down the aisle – in front of a row of Japanese schoolboys. Oh! the embarrassment! I came to with my legs up on a hostie’s lap and realised my head was cradled in the lap of another one. A male passenger was striding over me as he tried to pass. I must have held up the queue! Couldn’t I just please stay there for the rest of the flight? My head was on a comfy pillow and I was finally horizontal – it was bliss! The hostesses knew my name by this stage and were helping me to sit up. They helped me into a jump seat which meant I was facing the passengers – Beam me up Scotty!

An orange juice put me right and although the lovely crew offered me a wheelchair exit, I decided I was well enough to disembark with the other passengers.

So, that was me, and then there was Dad who was taken ill on their flight home from Australia last October. Following a three week stint in a Dubai hospital and three stents later, he was well enough to fly home.

Flying is a risky business and this time I will do all in my power to remain healthy – and conscious; flight socks, no alcohol (do you think?), and not being tempted to eat every meal going. I can’t help the sleep situation as I’ll be travelling cattle-class but I’ll have a travel pillow and might investigate some natural sleep remedies to help out.

What do you swear by to stay healthy on a longhaul flight? Do you take knock-out drugs? Drink yourself into a stuper? Are you one of these annoying people who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and sleep for 12 hours straight? I’d love to know your tips.

Not the Weekly Photo Challenge

Not the Weekly Photo Challenge

Sadly the WPC is no longer and I  miss the community of like-minded bloggers sharing their take on the weekly photography challenge.

Nevertheless, I can still share photos with you and here are the final Bali ones. I have broken all the photography rules in the book – such as the rule of thirds, – but we all know rules are to be broken – right?

man on jetty_resized

local huddle

man and bike_resized

surfboard colour_resized
propped in colour

surfboard mono_resized
propped in monogram

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night lights



The Other Side of Bali

The Other Side of Bali

Following a few days in Seminyak, we transferred to a hotel in Nusa Dua about half an hour to the south east. It was one of a cluster of resort hotels and was located right on the beach in a beautiful, peaceful spot.

So imagine my disappointment,  when strolling to the beach, I was confronted by plastic waste dotted along the shoreline; plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic straws, food sachets, shoes, beer bottles – you name it, it was there.

Two hotel staff were raking up dead coral and seaweed which they buried into pre-dug holes. The plastic rubbish was collected in large plastic sacks, I’m not sure of its destination beyond the hotel’s waste management system. I realised then, that this was a daily ritual for the hotel staff – how distressing for them to have to do this – every day.

On researching for this post, I now realise that the washed up rubbish I witnessed was only a tiny fraction compared to the ‘Garbage Emergency’ declared in late 2017. During the monsoon season (December to March) seasonal winds had forced thousands of tonnes of plastic onto the beaches – not only from Bali but other islands in the archipelago, such as Java and Sumatra.

Bali sits in one of the world’s most polluted areas of sea and Indonesia is one of the world’s major contributors of ocean waste, being the source of around 10 percent of it. With a lack of awareness, limited rubbish bins and hardly any waste separation, it is not surprising.

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50 governments have signed up to the UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, which aims to clean up the world’s oceans. As part of its commitment, the Indonesian government has pledged to reduce marine plastic waste by 70 per cent by 2025. It has been well over a year since Indonesia signed up to the campaign and there was little evidence of change – there is clearly a lot of work to be done.

I blinked away the tears which had unexpectedly surfaced and wandered on. I came across a gas cylinder which had clearly been in the sea for a long time given the state of it. I picked it up and moved it to the top of the beach where I hoped one of the beach sweepers would notice it.

gas cylinder

Gas cylinder-resized
monochrome doesn’t make it look any better

Some distance from the shoreline the locals were fishing. There was a highway of jet-skis speeding passed them and I wondered how this disturbance affected their plastic polluted catch.



By now, you probably have a grim view of Bali as a holiday destination but I have merely highlighted a sad fact which is the result of mass tourism on a poor country, whose people have little regard and a lack of awareness of the damage their love of plastic is having on the world.

Nevertheless, Bali is a beautiful island and although we only experienced one tiny little pocket there are still plenty of off-the-beaten track areas still to explore – until next time.

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beach resized


A Little Piece of Bali

A Little Piece of Bali

The Indonesian island of Bali has a long and rich history dating back to prehistoric times. Apparently Dutch seafarers were the first Europeans to set foot on the island in 1597. The island has seen plenty of conflict over the years with bloody rebellions, Japanese occupation during WWII and a violent anti-communist purge in the mid-60s which saw approximately 5% of the island’s population killed. In 1963 the island’s huge volcano, Mount Agung erupted killing thousands of people and creating economic havoc.


Also in the early ’60s, the first hotels were built and following the opening of Ngurah Rai International Airport in 1970, tourism was well and truly stamped on the Bali map. Today it’s a popular destination for Australians – it’s cheap, and moderately close, taking under four hours from Perth and over six from Sydney. “It’s really touristy and you’ll probably come home with Bali-belly, but you’ll love it” came the advice. So it was with some hesitation that we booked a ten day break taking in Seminyak and Nusa Dua.

bali header

We arrived on a Monday evening. It was dark and chaotic and while our priority luggage lacked meaning, we were through customs and out into the hoard of drivers all touting for business, within a relatively short time. Our transport had been pre-arranged – Chief is good at making arrangements. Although it was late, the roads were busy with swarms of scooters and mopeds weaving through the stationary traffic. Our hotel was away from the main drag of Seminyak. We were greeted by the lovely hotel staff with cool towels and refreshing drinks. Tired from our journey we turned in for the night.

The next morning we decided to explore on foot which wasn’t as plain sailing as it would seem; the footpaths were single-file width with the occasional steep step and a missing paver. There was also the odd hole or two to watch out for.

Seminyak has a lot of shops and I mean a lot! Clothes, homewares, surf gear, swimwear, local crafts and souvenirs.  Spas and Massage are big business in Bali too. We arrived at the beach; it was early and apart from a few surfers and walkers, there weren’t many people about yet. The sand was coarse and dark  due to the volcanic nature of the island. There were also plenty of cigarette butts, sunbeds, bean bags and umbrellas – it made us appreciate how lucky we are with our beaches in Australia.

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One of our strategies for avoiding this so-called Bali-belly was to avoid eating salads and uncooked food, so our first meal was a magnificent green papaya (paw paw) salad; shredded green papaya, cherry tomatoes, snake beans topped with fried shallots and a dressing to die for – one of the bests we’ve had. Had we just ignited the taper to our guts? Only time would tell.

Known as the cultural heart of Bali and Elizabeth Gilbert’s destination for self-discovery, Ubud is a little over an hour into the hills from our hotel. So when Chief said that he’d booked a table at a dessert restaurant, I was expecting a day of tranquillity, peace and calm. A couple of days earlier, Chief had negotiated a price with a driver who’d touted for our business. He’d produced a well-worn laminated map. On the reverse were pictures of all the tourist destinations within easy reach for a day’s excursion. Without consultation Chief pointed out that no, he didn’t want to visit the place where mongooses poop out coffee beans and no, he didn’t want to visit Monkey Forest either. “I hate monkeys” he told the man. The man pointed to the picture of a waterfall and a rice terrace. “Yes, that would be great.” The fare was agreed upon and so too the collection time.

Friday morning arrived and Katut (yes really!) was waiting for us in the hotel lobby along with his huge grin. Chief took the seat up front, so that they could talk about the World Cup and all the things they had in common, which I didn’t think would be very much. Katut’s vehicle was an Indonesian people carrier; it was clean and roadworthy. My seat belt didn’t do up so I moved along to the middle seat and then across to the right side – none of them did. I didn’t want to make a fuss; I’d already demonstrated my unease after experiencing several near-misses (in my opinion) when really it was just the Bali drivers doing what they do to travel from A to B.

Katut explained that he needed to pick up his phone charger on the way and ten minutes later we pulled over to the side of a busy road. There seemed to be about four lanes of traffic swarming with scooters and mopeds weaving through the traffic – it was chaotic. Katut’s wife appeared on a scooter on the opposite side which meant she would have to navigate her way across the traffic to reach us – I couldn’t watch and hoped my feeling of doubt wasn’t showing on my face. She made it across with ease – I’m sure it’s something she practices on a regular basis. Chief opened his window to greet her; she had a beautiful smile. We exchanged pleasantries and took possession of the charger before resuming our drive into the hills.

We do not make good tourists and prefer to sightsee in our own time and at our own pace so we were slightly uneasy to be dropped off with a million other people at the Tegenungan Waterfalls. After purchasing entry tickets we were greeted by local stall holders selling local craft and souvenirs, ice-creams, snacks and cold drinks and if we wanted to use a clean toilet it would set us back $3. I noticed a sign by a bar – ‘G’day Mate, Bloody Cold Beer’ – I was convinced a Bintang-singlet-clad male Australian had assisted the bar owner with the signage. I could only imagine the reputation the Balinese people have of us Australians. We left the huddle of stalls and cafes and made our way down a steep path. We could see the waterfall below us, surrounded by lush vegetation (and tourists). At the base of the fall was a wide shallow pool and several people were enjoying the water. It only took us a few minutes to reach the path along the riverbank which brought us to the base of the falls. There was a viewing platform and I wanted to take some photos so I made my way through the pack of tourists, who all had the same intention. I fought my way through clashing selfie-sticks in order to have a clear shot of the falls. I didn’t loiter; I could see Chief was having a dose of the fidgets so we made our way back, stopping for ice-creams before locating Katut and his car.

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From the waterfalls we drove passed miles and miles of shops; local craft, furniture, artwork, and souvenir shops lining the route to our next destination, the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. We left Katut in the busy car park and strolled back down to the village. The main street was again lined with cafes and souvenir shops. We could have stayed up on high ground and admired the view along with the many bus-loads of tourists but we decided to take the track through the terraces. The entrance was via a little archway in the wall – we nearly missed it. There before us were the steep rice terraces arching round in a 180 degrees vista. They looked green, lush and tranquil. It was peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle of the main street.

We made our way down the steep track and began to climb up the other side. At a couple of points along the route, there were locals collecting donations. We didn’t mind, these people were only trying to make a meagre living after all. It felt good to be away from the masses at last. Chief guided us off the beaten track where we found ourselves by some workers dwellings; we kept on and soon were following signs to exit. The path down became very steep and we had to negotiate concrete steps with no handrails – I went down sideways – if there’s one person who would have gone base over apex, it was me!

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We were pleased to have made this stop at the rice terraces and would recommend you do it too if you ever find yourself in the vicinity but go early or later in the day.

And so to Ubud! I was expecting a quaint and peaceful village nestled in the tranquil hills of Bali. My expectations were dashed when we hit a traffic jam on the outskirts of the town. We crawled and crawled to the point where I wanted to yell “just let us out here!” That would have been a challenge as Katut had already been given the address of the restaurant and as his English was limited and our Indonesian was non-existent, we decided to sit tight rather than trying to negotiate new plans. Even the mopeds and scooters were at a standstill; there was nowhere for them to go. Back home drivers would have been yelling profanities and leaning on their car horns but Katut didn’t seem to even emit a sigh. The scooter rider next to me pulled out his e-cigarette from his jacket pocket and took a heavy drag. The vapour fanned under his visor and his eyes disappeared for a couple of seconds – his way of keeping his cool I imagine.

I noticed an increase in the number of people with yoga mats slung over their shoulders. They were scurrying along the pavement, late for their class, probably because of the traffic no doubt, and in a hurry to downward-dog and happy baby. It took us about an hour to drive a 15 minute journey to the other side of Ubud. We had finally arrived at our destination – Room 4 Dessert.


Chief had seen this place on the Netflix series Chef’s Table – so was keen to give it a go. I headed straight to the little girls room to tidy myself up after the journey and when I came back, Chief said that he had ordered ‘Nine-Ways to Die.’ A nine course tasting menu for two which was paired with cocktails – nine of them in fact! For someone who doesn’t eat much sugar these days, this was going to take me out of my comfort zone.

We sat at the counter and were able to watch the cocktails being made and the desserts assembled. Each element of each dessert had been expertly prepared. It was a pleasure to watch the chefs assembling the dishes in front of us. Even Chef  Will Goldfarb mucked in and was happy to chat with us and other customers. I was not able to finish seven cocktails I can tell you but fortunately Chief lent a hand. The desserts were light and not overly sweet. I’m not here to review the restaurant but I will say we were eating the type of desserts you find in high-end Michelin starred restaurants – they were good! If you ever find yourself in Ubud, check it out!

Room 4 Dessert
Room 4 Dessert – not the shot you were expecting!

We were well-oiled by the time we reunited with Katut; I felt rather embarrassed that we had kept him away from his lovely wife and family well into the evening but he was doing his job after all and Chief tipped him too. I hope we didn’t smell too alcoholic in his car! I didn’t fall asleep (I think) on the journey back. We were all smiles when Katut dropped us off. Chief had arranged with him to take us on to our next hotel so we would be seeing him in a couple of days.

So that was our one day of sightseeing in Bali and a peek into our holiday. We had a relaxing time and were able to switch off from the world for a little while (well I did!) And the Bali-belly? Not so much as a grumble!

WPC – Focus

WPC – Focus

Focus I had only been using my ‘proper’ camera for a few weeks and was totally experimenting with this shot. Chief and I were in Singapore and this was at Cheek by Jowl a modern Australian restaurant which is definitely worth a visit.  The food was sensational but unfortunately my photography wasn’t.  This was a play with shutter speed (I think!) which gave the blur to anything moving and lack of focus. I quite liked the effect.

Chef Rishi
Chef Rishi working his culinary magic


Armchair Tourist – Part 1

Armchair Tourist – Part 1

Over the last few weeks I have had the good fortune of being an armchair tourist. With several groups of friends currently overseas they have kept me, as indeed all of their social media followers, up to date with their adventures – not just a feed-full of selfies in front of famous tourist attractions – far more than that, I’ve had a guided tour too.

So while they have endured the long-haul flights, the lost luggage (yes really!), the expense and the many risks involved in travelling the globe in these unstable times, I have been comfortable and safe in my own armchair.

Bruges in Belgium was my first destination on the armchair tour and although I visited there some years ago now, it was good to see the bell tower and medieval square once again. This time however, I did get to see Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child at the Church of our Lady which I didn’t manage to see last time. I cycled along the canal path to the medieval town of Damme and walked through the tulips of Minnewaterpark.

My armchair tour took me on to Amsterdam and again a city I visited well over thirty years ago, I was reminded of Anne Frank’s incredible and sad story and visited the Van Gogh Museum as well as Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum. The Keukenhof garden; also known as the Garden of Europe, is one of the world’s largest flower gardens and was a mass of colour.

Photo with kind permission from J Baker
Amsterdam Canal – J Biggins

I continued east to the German city of Berlin – a new destination for me and a visit which was to be very much themed around World War 2. I visited the site of the first Nazi book burnings of 1933. Among the works thrown into the fire were the writings of the 19th century German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine who wrote in his 1820-1821 play Almansar the famous admonition “where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people.” Over twenty thousand books were thrown into the square to burn.

Library - J Baker
There is a memorial under the square that is seen through a window that is simply empty bookshelves for 20,000 books – J Biggins

From here, I went onto the Holocaust Memorial close to the Brandenburg Gate. Designed by New York based architect Peter Eisenmann it is an area of 19,000 square metres of 2,711 concrete pillars (or steles) of varying heights. I also viewed the WW2 headquarters of the Luftwaffe, one of the few remaining intact buildings of that era.

holocaust memorial
Holocaust Memorial – J Biggins

I walked past the Guard Tower over the Berlin Wall ‘death-strip’ and on to Check Point Charlie. Would you believe there is a McDonalds there now! Then on to the Brandenburg Gates, the victory column and Berlin Cathedral; the present building was inaugurated in 1905 and the oldest surviving building in Berlin, despite having an unexploded bomb land on it during WW2.

I took a sombre trip north of Berlin to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Built in 1936, it was one of the most notorious death camps of the Nazi empire. More than 200,000 people were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen between 1936 and 1945; tens of thousands died of starvation, disease, forced labour and mistreatment, or were victims of the systematic extermination operations of the SS. The Camp was liberated by Allied troops in 1945.

I visited the Berlin Wall memorial – 136 people died trying to escape over the wall, two as late as 1989 – the year Chief and I were married. I stopped off at the Berlin Jewish Museum which opened in 2001. Here I viewed the installation Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) in the Memory Void, one of the symbolic spaces. The floor of the void is covered by more than ten thousand faces with open mouths, cut from heavy round iron plates.

My armchair tour of Berlin coincided with Anzac Day commemorations and I visited the Berlin 1939–1945 Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery. There are over 3,500 war graves here, mainly men of the Royal Air Force and British soldiers plus over 200 Australian and New Zealand soldiers.

commonwealth war graves
Berlin 1939–1945 Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery – J Biggins

My final tourist destination in Berlin was one of three Soviet Memorials, this one at Tiergarten. About 2000 Soviet soldiers are buried around this monument which ended up in West Germany when Berlin was split. It required British protection and a Soviet guard till 1990. 50 million people died in WW2. 25 million were from the Russian states.

soviet monument
Soviet Memorial – Tiergarten – J Biggins

I could travel on further as an armchair tourist but I need to stop and reflect on what I have seen and learned in Berlin; it’s been a somewhat sombre stopover but an important one for us all to make nevertheless. Ending part 1 of my virtual travels on a lighter note, I discovered that Berlin has the largest number of vegan restaurants in the world (who knew!)

(Photographs and text reproduced with kind permission from J Biggins – thank you!)

Backyard Tourist

Backyard Tourist

Today I was a tourist in my own backyard and it was fabulous. Chief had gone to earn a good honest crust as he so often does at the weekends and I’d been recommended a new place to explore which just happens to be on our doorstep.

I saw it as an opportunity to have some fun with my camera which I’m still learning how to use to its full potential. I have so much to learn so please bear with me.

Situated north-west of Brisbane is the D’Aguilar National Park; divided into north and south my destination was the Enoggera Reservoir. We’ve lived in Brisbane for 16 months and have never even heard of the place. We’ve been so busy concentrating on heading to the coast that inland hadn’t had a look in until now. The starting point for my walk was the Walkabout Creek Visitor Centre; yes I know, you’re thinking Crocodile Dundee, but that was a hotel.

My trusty sat-nav had me there in 20 minutes and I set off on a 5km loop walk around the reservoir. It was a glorious sunny day with no clouds and only a light breeze so it was lovely and peaceful. I was expecting to see koalas in their natural habitat as I would have done in South Australia but sadly the koala population is on the decline in Queensland; largely due to urbanisation of their habitats over the last few decades. Fortunately there are programs to reintroduce koalas to new areas. There were plenty of birds though and I was hoping to see a promised Kingfisher but I think I needed to get myself out of bed earlier for that!

I would have driven Chief nuts with the amount of stopping and photo taking I did and a 5km walk took me twice as long as it would have if it had been just a walk. But I didn’t mind – I was accountable to no one.

I decided to take a drive further into the National Park along Mount Nebo Road; the map indicated McAfees Lookout was not far so I meandered 10 minutes up the road, stopping to take in the stunning view to the north. The tourist information board tempted me to drive a further 10 minutes to Jollys Lookout where I would ‘experience a 180°C scenic view’. The road was full of twists and turns and spectacular views to my right. I really had to concentrate on not looking too much or else I would have come of the road! It was one of those roads where around every corner is a perfect take-your-breath-away view and you wanted to stop but there was nowhere to stop.

Sure enough, 10 minutes up the road and I was at Jollys Lookout; I was expecting to be the only one there as I had been at the previous stop but the contents of two coach-loads had been tipped out and was taking up every inch of ground, picnic table and grass – students lolloping everywhere! They were working on a project and needed lolloping space; the teachers had set up a refreshment station and I was tempted to mingle in the queue for a cuppa but a fifty year old can’t blend in as much as she used to these days! Needless to say, I didn’t hang around for too long – just long enough to grab a couple of shots and admire the ‘180°C scenic view’ across to Moreton Bay in the north and in the distance the Glasshouse Mountains. Of course my photos didn’t do it justice because the sun was in the wrong spot but you’ll get the gist of it.

By this time it was mid-afternoon and I decided to head for home. I’d had a super time and can’t wait to head out to discover more soon.


Wanderlust “a strong desire to travel.”
This week I can absolutely relate to David W’ and the surreal sensation of standing on the opposite side of the world to your usual abode. I experienced this 12 years ago when we arrived in Sydney en-route to our new home in Adelaide. After seeing the photos of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House we were finally standing in front of them; I had to pinch myself!

But you know what the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge look like so I shall leave you with my photographs of a very handsome ‘roo and of a koala snoozing high up in a gum tree.


WPC – Security

This week’s photo challenge is to share a photo that depicts your interpretation of “security.”

While there are several interpretations I could have posted for this, I chose the photograph I took when visiting Penang a couple of years ago; scores of lovers have secured their love for each other at Love Lock, Penang Hill. Chief and I didn’t feel the need to do this having been lovingly secured to each other since 1989.

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Penang Hill Lovelock

Above the World

I left Brisbane mid-afternoon last Friday, on time and with a twenty six hour journey ahead of me – The first leg to Singapore a mere 7 hours; a movie, a couple of episodes of Sex and the City, a feed and a fair portion of my book, we touched down in the early evening. I had allowed more transfer time than necessary as it turned out and ended up with a 4 hour stopover.Changi Airport is probably the best airport in the world to have a stopover; an abundance of shops and dining options including an authentic hawker market, a hotel, a health spa and shower facilities. There are gardens, butterflies, orchids, water features, playgrounds and an interactive art trail.


You can even personally recharge your electronic devices using your own pedal power –neat!

If you can’t find your flight details amongst all the code sharing mumbo-jumbo on the departure boards, you can scan your boarding pass at one of the special kiosks to find out your flight details quickly.

My next flight left Changi just after one in the morning and by this time I was in need of a pillow under my head. My flying buddy was Sam, a hipster with a beard (of course). I wondered what would be going on in its undergrowth after the long-haul flight but decided not to dwell on that for too long.

I think I must have slept for a few hour, watched a film, and then another one, and slept some more. The cabin came to life two hours from Heathrow as the cabin crew served up breakfast. I couldn’t help but wonder if Hipster Sam would rather be eating smashed avo on toasted sourdough although he did seem content to be eating the chicken noodles. Soon we started our descent into Heathrow – finally.