BALI – To dengue or not to dengue

Did you ever have the feeling that your life has turned into a black comedy and you are watching from the sidelines? I think its a coen brothers movie as they always confuse me. The script go’s something like this.
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It starts of as this typical midlife crisis thing. Woman wonders or this is it in life? Is there anything more to life again then being a mum and a waiting wife. So she go’s out and seeks out people from her past, and digs up lots of sweet memories. But after all the memory diging decides to returns to her life with the intent to make it work.
When due to lots of different factors the woman’s  life appears to fall apart she decides to go on one last adventure with her daughter before school starts. Hoping that during this quest she will find her adventurous self and independence again and upon return see things in perspective.
It starts out great.. Her daughter was an absolute trained pro travelkid on the plane and they got to see their future house from the airplane. Although she gets a warning at the airport for leaving her card in the ATM machine while her daughter ran away. But thanks to the backpacker kindness the card gets returned and she has faith. This is what it’s all about. Stranger kindness.
 Its humid and the smell and feel of asia make her feel alive and at home again. It brings back so many fantastic memories and she feels like a weight has been lifted from her shoulders.  She can do this, She is ready for this and it will be the trip of their lives.
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She starts the trip with taking surfing lessons as that was on the top of her bucket list for years.. She’s loving it!! But soon enough realises she might have needed a little bit more physical preparation. She feels free and alive as she is riding down the waves. But she feels half dead and like an old lady when she try’s to paddle back up.  After 3 days her beaten by board and waves body call it a day. But she is determined to finish what she started. It might just take a little longer.
After goodbyes thank you’s and paying at the surfclub she realises her bankcard is gone. Panick! Looks at the room – Looks at the surfclub – Checks again and again and again.. No Luck. Time to think and count and see if she can make it with the back up card. No Stress. Thats why she has a back up for things like this. So no stress.
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Out of nowhere her daughter gets sick she has a fever that is going through the roof. Is it just a fever? Is it just a flu? Is she being over worried? 2 nights go by as she didn’t want to be the worry sick mum.  But there was no sign of improvement and fever was around 40 degrees.
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Counting on the kindness of locals she finds a dr,  and the nurse came to the guesthouse. The nurse drew blood in the room, the fan is turning while her child is burning up and screaming like it is being slaughtered. The nurse gets nervous. The woman is not sure at this point what kind of nurse this is. For all she knows she could be a vet. And where is this dr?? After the nurse leaves the childs temperature rises to 40 again and the woman is unable to get it down. Still no idea or the people around her are trustable. She contacts anything and everyone she knows while trying in all sorts of ways to get the fever down. She panics she wants to shout and cry but knows it won’t help her daughter so she does what she can and try’s to keep it together.
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Later that evening the dr stands at the door with the lab results accompanied by the nurse who still seems pale from the screaming of her child. The dr go’s over everything and examens the child. The dr seems kind and knowlagable. He gives lots of information and will not leave before all questions are answered. The lab results are inconclusive. It could be dengue it could also be an infection the values are right on the edge so he can’t be sure. To be sure the child has to be treated for both and she has to be monitored. The mother would have to check for signs of dengue hemmorage and the bag for hospital needed to be ready. If any symptoms like a rash would show up she would need to be rushed as then it would be life threatening. Medication and fluids needed to be given every four hours also through the night. But the mother checked every half hour just to be sure. Days now that she didn’t sleep. All else there was to do was wait and hope for her to get better.
Even with the meds the fever is still above 39 except for that one time. As the fever dropped. She took the child into the stroller and runs to the ATM to get money for the dr and to buy more water and juice to make sure she got her fluids.
She runs back as even in those 5 minutes outside the childs seemed to do worse again and was crying. She was crying louder when the mother tried to leave her in the care of someone from the hotel. So there was not much choice and the woman was telling herself she did the right thing.
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Back in the room fully loaded with money to pay the dr. She gives the child, fluids and medicine and the child go’s to sleep. The woman lays next to her watching the fan turning and feeling the burned up child next to her. Same scenario for days now.
 Outside is a thunderstorm,  the hot loud and humid kind one. As the thunder blasts through the room she jumps up and realises something. She shouts nooooo and starts to cry. But child doesn’t react. She searches and searches only to confirm her fear. She has the money for the dr,  but the the card. Where is the card?. …….
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She had already lost one she could not have lost the back up. She runs down and asks the person behind the desk if he could watch her daughter for 5 minutes. It’s raining again, she runs through the puddles as fast as she can but there was nothing. No card at the ATM. She runs back up to check for the child to find her still asleep.  She runs again to the ATM to get the number from the bank maybe they can save her. She also try’s her normal bankcards but they don’t work in Bali only the credit cards seem to.
Back at the guesthouse she asks the desk to help her phoning the banks number as her phone doesn’t work in indonesia. The guy calls the number for her. She begs the person on the other side of the telephone line to help her, but the only reply she gets is the  words no english. After many transfers and what seemed hours later she gets hold of someone speaking English. Sorry mam procedure not card from this bank then the staff has to destroy. She begs the person on the other line and explains there is a sick child involved but finally has to hang up gutted and dissapointed. She breaks down and cries in the rain at the check in counter of the guesthouse. Ashamed She quickly thanks the guy at the desk for trying to help her and runs up. Her daughter is still sleeping. She looks up the fan its still turning and her head is spinning at the same speed. She cries and cries and cries. Feeling like her brain had left her and worried sick about the little girl she had no idea what to do anymore.
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She contacts her husband for help. The husband gets in contact with his bank and they promise to do what they couldn’t do before. Up the limit of the card for groceries. It will take 2 days or so, for those two days she can’t do anything and she needs to keep her fingers crossed that her daughter won’t need to go to hospital within those two days. But after that at least there is a solution to her stupidity.
Its the middle of the night the childs fever starts going down from 40 to 39 and the woman can breathe again for the first time in days. She checks the fever every few hours and by the morning she is sure that she is better. She is relieved. There is a knock on the door and its the dr and the nurse. Proudly the woman shows them how the fever has finally gone down sure that they are off the hook now.
The dr explains that dengue can still not be ruled out and that she should stay around and have another blood test before leaving to anywhere. As dengue haemorrhage could still happen. The woman agrees but the child doesn’t. Neither does the nurse as it seems that as well the nurse as the child are traumatised from the last experience. They leave and the woman agrees that she will call them for another bloodtest if the fever go’s up again.
The woman has hope and so does the child and the child runs and sings for the first time in days. There is a knock on the door. Its the guesthouse staff. They want to make sure the child is ok and ask if she is sure she doesn’t want to go to a hospital. The woman reasures them that the child is in good hands with the dr and that she is better now. The child runs and sings and confirms the woman words. For the first time in days they go down to have breakfast and all the guesthouse staff are happy to see her better. The owner comes to the room again and tells them that they shouldn’t leave the next day until the child has been ok for a few days. They say they will make a special price and they are welcome to stay as long as they need.
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The woman is relieved and sees beauty in all the kindness around her. After breakfast she and the child go up again as the child still needs rest. On the freshly made bed she finds a credit card. She can’t believe her eyes, It’s the first credit card that she lost. She squeals from joy and contacts her husband but can’t reach him as its the middle of the night in europe. She hopes and prays that they can undo the block. When she phoned for the other card there was such an option in the menu so it has to be possible.
She has hope again, could things be going in the right direction? Could she still get something positive out of this trip? Is the world just teaching her to be happy with what she has which is above all a beautiful daughter? She promises the turning fan above her as if it was god, that she gets it and that she will do everything in her power to be happy with what she has from now on. Just please let things go in the right direction from now on. And let her daughter be healthy.
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 To be sure she takes her daughters temperature about an hour after the dr left. Fever Again!  A few moments later she gets a text that the credit card can’t be activated again. She stares at the fan while thinking of ways how to ask the staff to stay longer but pay later. She also needs to call the dr for another bloodwork. The fan spins and so is her head… again….
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 After thinking about this from every angle she decides to try and get into contact with her dr back in Belgium. The dr also works at the tropical institute and specialises in things like this. So maybe she will have another say about the whole story instead of putting her daughter through this whole ordeal again. She looks for the email contacts but they are not advertised but thankfully she remembers receiving an email once from the reception. She finds the contact details and sends an email with the fever chart and the bloodwork attached. Only problem is that local time in Belgium is still only 6 am. So she waits it out.
After getting no response she tries to phone, in the meantime her husband credited her sim card and it should be working now. They pick up and tell her they received the email but that they can’t open the attachment as its too small and so unreadable. She tries to send a larger file and awaits response. As nothing happens she phones again. They didn’t receive anything. She has one last chance to get the blood work over there before the dr leaves her on call room.  She tries to send it from everywhere and in every format possible.
Ten minutes later she phones again, the credit on her phone now almost finished. They just received her email and are printing the bloodwork as they speak. They read it… And as result they tell her exactly the same as the local dr did. The result can’t rule out dengue so she needs another bloodwork if the child still had a fever, and she did. By the time she got an answer it was too late to have the bloodwork done that day.
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After having dinner together and receiving lots of support from the staff of the guesthouse. Who didn’t make a point of the fact that she would be staying longer and paying later. The woman tried to talk to the child and prepare her for what would happen the next day. Soon she found herself in a situation where she would need to promise the child a dog. Crying about wanting a dog and not wanting injections the child fell asleep. The woman held her and cried with her child softly while she stared at the turning fan on the ceiling. Begging it to make it all stop.  After about 20 fan turns she got herself together and made the appointment for the bloodwork in the morning and asked if they could bring someone extra as she herself would be useless.
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 The next morning the dr and the nurse came first thing for the blood work. The woman was a mess. A week of not sleeping and checking for symptoms every so often. But most of all she felt helpless and worried and scared. And now she would have to break her daughters trust and pin her to the bed so they could get more blood. She was in a state but she did what she had to do. Together with the Dr she pinned her screaming begging child to the bed for the nurse to be able to draw blood. Mummy please stop!! Those words were the hardest words she ever had to hear. Arm one was pinned. Milla managed to turn her arm and bent the needle inside her arm. Causing lots of pain. Straight to the second arm, don’t know what went wrong there. But no blood came out. Her daughter traumatised by needles for life the nurse had to give up. And they both left. Still no blood, still no result. The child was hysterical for another half hour after they left. The mother held her and cried. Cried out of guilt, disappointment, worry all sorts of emotions a mother doesn’t do well.
It took a few days more and slowly the fever went down. 11 days they had spent looking and praying to the turning fan above them. But after 11 days things were over. She wasn’t allowed to travel not far from hospital but they ware allowed to go. Things should be ok now.
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Normally we would avoid zoo’s but since I decided that the rest of the holiday should be all about Milla we stayed overnight at a safari park with mixed feelings. But for once i forgave myself. Milla was happy and I still explained her what was good and bad about the things we saw but she was happy and thats all I cared about at that point.

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The next stop after the zoo was Ubud. Originally I was going there to do yoga and babysit was sorted. But after what happened I chanced those plans. We would take it easy and it would be all about Milla. So we rented a motorbike and went on child friendly exploring in and around the rice fields and stopped to have a chat with almost every local on our path. We also did a bike trail with ecotours. Me cycling and Milla on the back in a kids seat. We started at mount Batur where we had breakfast with the most amazing view and then cycled down in the rain through local villages and rice fields. Ubud although very busy now still has this friendly relaxing bus around it and the people are so incredibly friendly. And then Im not even mentioning the food. Yummy!
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After Ubud we took a taxi up North to Amed. I fell in love instantly. We stayed in a hut that had no lock. But felt safe none the less. Amed for me was perfect. Small enough so that when driving around the village after one day everyone knew your name. Or at least they knew Millas name. But big enough to find what you need in the supermarkets,  a good choice of seaside restaurant to eat from and the right kind of travellers around that you like to meet.  The beach is perfect for snorkelling? You just walk in and there is an abundance of fish and they put a little temple underwater that attracts the fish. Milla loved snorkelling there and even for me as a dive instructor there was plenty to see. Some reef had been damaged by dynamite fishing but there were artificial reefs trying to make up for that. The local ladies on the beach took their responsibility and shouted to tourists standing on the reef. They cared they know this is their income. Fish and tourism and that is the fish and diving are not there tourists won’t come so plenty.
One day while sitting at the beach there was a pod of dolphins just before us. It was my first time seeing dolphins from land. In my instructor days I’ve seen plenty but I still got excited as a little kid. Well honestly I got more excited then the little kids.
I wish we had more time to explore the lush green surroundings but we only had a few days. One unforgettable experience we had is that we got invited to a local ceremony. A cleansing ceremony before the big festival the next day. aaaah I forgot the name now.
Milla, our neighbour and I got invited by our guesthouse host. When we arrived we were greeted as friends and were introduced to the family. Everyone came to share food while our host explained the rituals. His toddler son was along and was learning from is father how to pray. All dressed up this was an adorable sight. I could have stayed in Amed forever. Its one of those places I could live. Driving our motorbike after dark there is this scent that the jungle only makes at night. It took me back to the beginning days when I was living on Koh Chang. Sweet memories those vivid memories that only smell can bring back. I felt home.
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From Amed we took the speedboat to Gili Trawangan together with a wonderful family we had met a few nights before. I was going to Trawangan to meet some friends. Trawangan always makes me feel old. I think the average age is 18. Especially the one night I went out was very bizarre. After that I was happy just to be a mum. The end of our stay did take another weird turn though.
One night while having dinner with our Canadian friends I had fish. I had been eating fish all the trip which I normally don’t do. But after having a severe headache for a while my face turned bright red. I then started getting a rash on my torso. Also bright red. Then I started to feel sick. My heart was racing but weak and I felt myself fainting. Just in time I managed to contact a friend  to stay with milla and the dr on the island and they put me on a drip with everything they had. Apparently I went into an allergic shock. ooh the joy. It scared the life out of me. And I was out for another day or so but after that I was fine. When I contacted my dr in Belgium to tell her what happened and if or there was anything else I should do she sort of laughed. This could only happen to you couldn’t it. Two medical dramas on one trip. Ha! I guess its catching up with me. As except for motorbike crashed I never had anything wrong with me living abroad.
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From Gili we went back to the place we started. Legian. Same guesthouse same everything. Only this time healthy and happy. We thanked everyone again for their help again in the beginning of the trip and we got treated like family.
When it was time to leave Bali I didn’t want to leave yet. I wasn’t ready to leave all the kindness and smiles around me. Even with the medical drama’s it gave me the energy and the insight that I needed. Be happy with what you have and  now go fight for your marriage to work.
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PS. A year later Milla needed blood work in Belgium. And I asked if they could check for dengue. And it got confirmed that she did have dengue. So now when we travel we need to be extra careful. She is now immune to one strain. But if she would get another strain the chanced for complications have doubled.

10 things you should know before you start traveling.

  • Be ready to accept that nothing will ever be as awesome as the things you experience while traveling. The older you get and the more you do, the harder it will be to top your previous experiences.
  • Traveling changes you a lot. The longer you travel the more you change. You grow as a person at a faster pace, because life gets so intense out there. As well the good and the bad experiences will mark you for life.  The people you left behind stay exactly the same. There is a big chance you will grow apart and things will never be the same.
  • Get used to having to say.”I guess you sort of had to be there to understand”ALOT.  While  trying to find the words to describe the intensity of your travel experiences to someone from back home. They will never get it! I guess well they had to be there 😉
  • It will be more difficult for you to find people that you take interest in. You might catch yourself nodding off dreaming of exotic places every time people around you make small talk. Or well to you it sounds like smalltalk, but to them the fact that their favourite Tv show is playing an hour later probably is a life threatening situation. You will try over and over again to fit in. When that doesn’t work you will try anything to meet kindred spirits back home. But the truth it while not traveling you will probably feel alone a lot of the time.
  • Because of all the above. Home might never be or feel like home again.
  • Once you have left once. It will be difficult to grow root anywhere. Your wanderlust will always take controle and your feet will never stop itching ready for a new adventure.
  • You will always miss someone somewhere as your close friends will be spread around the world and you are lucky if one of them lives in the same country as you do.
  • If you wear flip flops for a significant amount of time it will be hard to fit into shoes again. If you don’t wear shoes for several years your feet might actually get wider and it might even be physical impossible to get into those shiny tiny shoes. Shoes are not friends!
  • If your native language is not English then there is a good chance that if you stay away long enough you might need to take a language course if you would ever return. (actually happened to me)

If you are ok with all of the above.. Then be ready to HAVE THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE!!! 🙂

Please let me know how this applies to you or continue with your own points below.

My diary from A season on a boat called Fraser in the middle of the Red Sea…The time of my life!!

The Time of my life started after having a bad break up with my long term boyfriend who was also my coworker on safaris. While still contemplating what to do with my life,  I was sent on a safari on Frazer. Coming from the largest newest en prettiest boat Frazer was supposed to be a downgrade because now I wasn’t a couple anymore and wouldn’t be able to provide the same service, it was even against company policy to hire singles long term. Anyway here is the moment it all started.

I was sitting or laying at the bow of the boat (my office) on the bit sticking out over the water. I had my I pod in my ears listening to emotional break up music. It was my first safari on my own an I had no idea if I could and wanted to do this job by myself. Would I be able to handle the all men Egyptian crew? Would I be able to handle the 18 guests? Would I physically be able to do all the current checks and everything that came with it. Was I good enough? I had no plan B for my life in case we would break up so my head was full of questions. Not knowing the answer to any of these questions I decided to let faith decide. As I layed back I told myself that if dolphins came today I would stay and give it a go. If no dolphins would come I would go back to Belgium and leave the life I  once loved so much behind.

Soon after while still having my eyes closed I jumped up as soon as my guest and crew started shouting like maniacs. I opened my eyes and as far as I could see there were dolphins. In front, on the sides and on the back all the way to the horizon. It was so intense that I burst out in tears. Because I was supposed to be the cool diving instructor I did my best to hide it until someone shouted. It’s ok to cry even the guide is crying. I looked up and half of the boat was in tears. I couldn’t believe it!! This was the most intense thing I have ever witnessed and it even got a bit weird. However this was the start to a great safari and to a life on Frazer.

19th August 2007

I Just got back from Marsa Ghalib.. Did a safari with all Spanish guests to the brothers and also ended up in Deadalus. Deadalus wasn’t on the planning to start of with but it was an adventurous week. The diving in Deadalus like always was fantastic!!! Hammerheads on every dive, to an extend that I had to push myself to finally look at the beauty of the wall. For me however the best part of the trip was that I finally got to see a manta!!!!!! And not just one but two!!!  They passed by on the east wall, one at first then the other.. The second one decided to turn back and put up a little display for us, so beautiful and so graceful. I couldn’t have been happier. Sadly enough I didn’t take the camera with me so there is no photographic proof. I was guiding quit a few people so than its better to leave it on the surface. You never know when you need those two hands.. After Deadalus we made our way to Brothers a bit different then usual as we were traveling in the opposite direction.  It turned out that even f for most of my crew it was the first time to make the travel that way (south to north). Soon enough we all understood why this was never done.. The travel was mad as we were continuously crashing into waves for 12 hours straight. On top it took as over and hour to get the boat moored up upon arrival as the currents and wind were going crazy down at the Brothers. The boat was moving so badly that even some of the crew got seasick. God knows how but I managed to stay fine..I mad a sport of trying to catch coke cans that continuously roled over the sundeck as they kept falling out of the fridges.

The diving itself at Brothers was mad.. The currents where way too strong to be fun.. but we all handeled it in the end. Didn’t see anything spectacular except for a pretty reef that was flying by. After two sleepless days at Brothers we made our way to Elphinstone to finish our last day there. The travel to Elphinstone was the first night for many of us without hanging overboard.. And so the crew and the guest celebrated. A good party it was. While the boat was moving the crew sang their arabic songs with me joining in for the odd tune.. The spanish eagerly demonstrated their singing skills.  We ended up dancing until we moored up at Nabaa Reef to sleep there for the night. Tensions released after a strenuous adventurous week. After diving Elphinstone the guest left the boat and I stayed with the crew in Port Ghalib.. This week we all got quite close since my arabic is much better then my Spanish wich is zero so I ended up spending quit a bit of time with my crew speaking and learning even more Arabic.   I love my crew from Fraser!!! They hardly slept all week and didn’t complain once, unlike me who didn’t sleep either but they sure got to hear it. We always seem to think that crew are uneducated. But now that I’m finally starting to actually understand them. They might not have a clue about some things. But they know the sea better then anyone and I am learning a lot from them on a daily base. I thank them for taking good care of us this week in hard conditions.. I am not religious but I thanked god a few times this week for giving me such a trustworthy crew. The moment before sending up my SMB I would get nervous but the second it reached the surface there would always be a zodiac beside it and I would feel safe.  Without that and them this week wouldn’t have had a happy ending.

After the guest left we stayed a night in Ghalib to leave in the morning. Normally the boat and crew travel back alone. But this week I travelled with them to Hurghada. We left at 10 in the morning and we had 12 hours of traveling in front of us.. At first I wasn’t completely sure It was a good idea. But in the end it was probably the best part of the trip. We had dolphins around the boat 3 times and the last time was picture perfect as dolphins where leaping out of the water in the sunset rays. As usual I was to late to get the camera so you have to take my word for it. About two hours in to our travels we had a whale shark swimming next to the boat. Yes a whales shark!!  Again no pictures as I was to busy being over excited. Also it was the crew driving the boat and not the captain who gave them shit when he woke up for not turning back. Im sure that I will regret not having jumped in while I had the boat to myself.  But at the time everything was perfect!  Me on the bow of my favorite boat, I pod playing,  enjoying the wind and waves. It was the perfect way of unwinding after a strenuous week. I fell asleep on the deck where I now have my own space. Forget about beds, they are completely overrated. There is nothing more perfect then to sleep outside underneath the stars. Around midnight the captain woke me up to say that we had arrived in Safaga. Sleepy me fell for his old mans jokes only to realise shortly after that we were in Hurghada. I did think those other boats looked a lot like our fleet..mmmm.  We had some dinner and went to bed again to be woken up by the sunrays on my face a only a few hours later.

I might have stayed in work environment a few days longer but it beats staying at home and watching telly any day !!! Many great fishy memories and no pictures to show for it.. But who cares I had it and will probably have it again soon!! That’s why I love this job! I might have no personal life and I probably wont spend the rest of my life out at sea but at the moment I love it so much. So until my biological clock starts ticking and until I will ever feel the need to settle down I will just keep filling my head with these fantastic experiences and memories.

I now just got home in Hurghada and will be here for a week or longer. No clue what I will do yet. Except maybe going to the camp in Marsa Alam, and to Wadi Gemal to practice my camel riding skills.. For the rest I will let you know… Our home for the next three months. Fraser…

22nd august 2007

My last day at home.. Like a manic person im trying to prepare for the next few months. I will be out at sea for a while. And I’m wondering or at the end of it all im going to be turned into “bush woman”. Every week I look less and less like a girl and every week more and more I lose my manners. What does this shiny thing in my hand do again, whats it called f… ? What do you mean no feet on the table.? Being the only single girl in the company now has been quite an adventure over last few months.. The line to draw is very thin. How am I friendly but keep a distance and keep respect all at the same time? That is probably to most difficult and the most important one.  Somehow I’ve managed so far but I have to admit that I am very happy to hear that im getting reinforcement soon.. I will be part of the only all girls diving team on a live aboard in the Red Sea.. It’s still all in the making but hopefully from next week on Ania and I will show those macho men that two girls can do the job.. We might not have the physical power but we have our smiles that makes our crew use their physical powers for us. Last week I asked some of my crew who they would want on the boat together with me if they had a choice. Their answer another girl and yes Ania. When I told them yesterday that there is a good chance that this is what is going to happen. They got out the tablers and started dancing and cheering that they were going to work on the only girly boat in the Red Sea. After all that they did look a little bit concerned. You saw it in their eyes, they couldn’t hide it. They are probably thinking cool,  but will we be able to handle it? And they are probably also wondering how they should explain that back home. Bless them in the end they are so sweet and innocent. Anyhow more than ever I’m looking forward to the next season. Just need to get things organised and need to make sure im not forgetting anything this time. I will keep you all posted on our fishies sightings because yes for 5 euros for half an hour I can use the internet from the hotel in Ghalib.

Wish us luck and see you soon!!!

29th september 2007

A quick hello from the very expensive internet in Ghalib.. The A team or the girly team have happily survived the first month together. Life is no more than: sea, wind, waves and diving. I’m still in love with my boat and we did have some interesting trips in the meantime. Some better than others of course. Sadly enough the shark sightings have gone down as to almost zero. But the wind is blowing and the water is getting colder so who knows.. Hopefully soon we will be posting sharky pictures again.. I wish I could write more but you have to forgive me as the sea is calling.

3rd October 2007

Halfway trough my high season.. Sort of lost count on how many weeks I have been out at sea. Ania has joined me about 5 weeks ago. And we had some interesting safaris. Some of the groups we had are as always difficult to let go, but then we had some very strange ones as well. For the first time and hopefully last time I couldn’t wait for a group to get off the boat. Up until last week we had lots of wind. One week almost continuously 20 knots. This made diving and traveling quite an adventure. But thanks to our fantastic captain and great crew we were 1 of the 3 boats out of 11 boats that were ment to travel south that actually made it. The sad thing is that the guest didn’t realise what a big deal it was to travel and dive in those conditions. And no matter how hard the crew, captain and us worked to make it happen, we just weren’t able to please them.

We had spent our first 4 weeks down in the south mostly St johns Rocky and Zabargad. The diving was nice as always but no special sightings except for humphead parrotfish at Marsa Mubarak. Last week things did change again. We had a trip to Brothers and Deadalus and I think the shark season has kicked off again. Thank god!! At the Brothers the oceanics are circling the boats again. Not entirely sure or the next story has anything to do with it as other boats are still so careless and keep throwing stuff in the water. On our first night I was talking to one of my crew about why the sharks are disappearing. It seemed like mr oceanic at that moment was trying to prove a point.  He came up and took a big bite in a black garbadge bag dumped by another boat. We can only hope that this mr oceanic has a good digestive system. To continue… At Small Brother the Grey Reefs were circling underneath the boats and joined us for our safety stops and  for some reason these where also more curious than usual. The diving on Deadalus (still my absolute favorite reef ) was amazing like always. Hammerheads in the north, Oceanic’s underneath the boats in the south and a beautiful wall to finish of your dives. Honestly what more do you need?

During the nights however the oceanic’s where displaying quite an aggressive behavior. There where about 4 of them and one (the biggest) had black markings on its back, he was very aggressive and kept bumping our zodiac for no reason. We had a hard time on this trip to convince the guest that snorkeling with these oceanic’s is not such a great idea. When I forbid them to do so they looked at me like a was being an overprotective mum. I tried to explain that they have tasted snorkelers here before but that still didn’t do the trick. They stayed out the water but they sobbed. As soon we came in to mobile connection range we got the news that someone had been attacked just the day before we arrived at Deadalus.  And so the guest did thank me in the end. These animals are not aggressive towards us naturally but because certain boats keep throwing bait in the water things get unpredictable.

We did do one little rescue on this trip, a pigeon ended up on Fraser at Deadalus , being completely overexerted. One of my crew took her in his care, we fed her and gave her water. For two days she traveled with us and slept in the bridge . When we arrived back to shore she spread her wings and flew away in full strength. oooooooh!!

8th October 2007

Another week is coming to an end. This week we did Rocky, Zabargad and St Johns. Again the wind has not been in our favor but the water is still 28 down there so that makes up for a lot . The downside to the hot water is that there were no sharks yet. My sighting for this week was a Sea Hare on a night dive in Umm Aruk. Lots of Nudibranchs everywhere, I might even say that they seem to prefer the little bit colder water as well. The strangest thing is going on with moray eals all over the Red Sea though. My colluege Helen has some video footage of 4 morays up north going for a large parrotfish at the same time and this week we had a moray nibbling the fins of one of our guest. On top we had one missing half of its face and banging a rock during a night dive and also a napoleon and a group of bluefin trevallys hunting down a moray. They look a lot more restless and very odd indeed.

You definatly feel its change of season. Lots of fishies mating and lots of changes to be seen. This week I worked with Helen while Ania has been fixing stuff for us back in Hurghada. So we kept the girly boat going. The physical power is getting a little bit less as we are waking up every morning at 4 o clock to be in the water at the break of dawn. But we are also going to bed late in the evenings as we still have a night dive to do and guests to entertain. Sometimes we do overnight traveling and we hardly get sleep at all. I think its safe to say that there is no other job in the world that could make me do this and still have me waking up with a smile.  I do have my moments especially when really tired but I still love it so much.  There is nothing that beats the feeling of freedom when you are sitting on the bow with the seabreeze and the sun on your face. When you are really lucky some dolphins join in. My only reality at the moment is the sea, the fish my boat and my crew. And as they would say over here only god knows what will happen after I am finished with my next 2 upcoming months of work. It makes me sad to think of it as the basic life that I’m living now is very addictive. I haven’t watched the news for almost six months now and don’t have a clue what’s going on in the rest of the world and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest bit.  The only politics I have to worry about is the one on the boat and to be honest here on Fraser there is no such thing. I have worked on this boat and with this crew for more than 4 months now. Every day more and more they become like family. The whole no respect for female’s thing is just blabla. If you respect them they will respect you. Give and take that’s what it’s all about. Ania is coming back from Hurghada the day after tomorrow with my new regs and new hard drive. Both my regulator and my laptop have not been handling the sea as well as I have.  Will let you know how the rest of my on sea journeys will go, it could be that by then I will have gills.

15th October 2007

Another week spent in St Johns. This week we had Belgians. That for me was a very interesting trip as it was the first time to do briefings in my mother language.  This sounds a lot easier then it actually was as  I’m not sure how Belgian I still am after all this time. I still like frietjes met stoofvlees but I don’t know how much that makes you Belgian. Anyhow it was nice to have a week full of nostalgia of a former life. It did make me miss my family and friends a bit more then I usually do but however much I miss people Im still not ready and don’t think I ever will to leave this life behind. The diving this week in st johns has been nice again. The grey reefs are back from the depths at Habili Ali and after a week of break the strong south east currents are back as well. It has been for almost 2 months now that it has been this crazy. (normaly currents come from the north) I cant remember it being like this last year and have no idea what is causing it. The nightdives have been very entertaining both in Dangerous and in Shaab Marsa Alam. Baitballs constisting of tiny little fish underneath the boats being attacked by fuseliers and trevallys Next week we got Belgians again so who knows maybe by the the end of that week I will master the Dutch language again.

19th October 2007

Halfway through the week with my new group of Belgians. It was A pleasant surprise to find out that my new guest are from my home village Kapellen. For some reason the first days were more relaxing and went smoother then ever. The first overnight travel was very entertaining. For the first time since my stay in Egypt I saw lightning causing both me and Ania to act like storm chasers upon the flydeck and enjoying the spectacle with a glass of sakarra. To our surprise the storm followed us and water came falling down from the sky. I think this might be what they call rain?! Waking up early morning at Deadalus was very exciting as the Oceanics were surounding the boat as usual but to make it more dramatic they were lit up by the lightning.  As soon as the sun came up everything changed back to normal and Deadalus showed it’s natural and tranquil beauty. The hammerheads were still waiting for us up in the North on the first dive. On the second dive of the day we did the south plateau weedier we where greeted by 4 oceanics upon entering the water. They were as curious as ever if not more. My pictures of them would have come out better if I actually pressed the shutter but I think I was in Awe.  Luckely enough my guest did press the shutter and I now have a cracking shot of me and my new friend.

anneke met haai

23rd October 2007

The Belgian week has come to an end and what a week it turned out to be again. The rest of the week the wind picked up a little bit. Not realy anything more then usual but enough to make half of the boat sick. You could say that we ran a hospital ship. Lots of tears throughout the week as well, good and bad. When we came in to phone connection it was time for us diveguides to have tears rolling as we got the news that I had to move to another boat.  It could be only for a week but it could be longer meaning this would be the end of my time on Frazer. It must be hard to understand for a landperson but when you have been living out at sea for months and when you have been sharing every second of the day with the same people, it is a really big deal. Let me try and explain to you what it is like for us.

You leave your home and friends for high season and you know your going to be away for a while. You know you will have poor or no phone reception most of the time and an internet connection can only happen once a week if you are lucky enough that it works. The first few weeks you look at it like its just a job and you know that your real life is somewhere else. Without realizing it a big change happens and suddenly life out at sea becomes your only reality.  Slowly everything away from the sea starts turning in to a distant memory. You call family and friends on a weekly base but you find less and less to talk about. The outside world starts to fade away. You forget about things like war and money and whatever else that go’s on in the world. You stop combing your hair, you start sleeping on engines and on ropes or whatever else is empty and you come to a point where you can predict wind and currents by the smell of the ocean. You are happy tired an You are looking forward to a week off and at the same time you are scared because you don’t have a clue what you have to do with yourself on land. The boat becomes your home and the crew becomes your  family. Because you rely on both with your life during times when nature shows you who is boss I think you get even closer then with anyone else. At the end this is all what matter and it is all you have..

Now this is sort of what happened to us. I have been on Fraser for 5 months now and the last 3 months in one go. On those last few months Ania has joined me and as humans have a tendency to do: We are never happy with what you have as you always want what you dont. For us that struggle was with time off. We knew high season was going to last another one and a half month and we sort of avoided the subject what will we do when it all stops?  Where will we go what the hell will we do next in our lives? We decided to only think about that and making any big life decisions when the time came and that was supposed to be almost two months from now and thats where you find comfort in. The suddenly out of nowhere you get a phone call saying it is all over. Without preparation without proper goodbyes the thing that is your reality will stop now the people you call family will no longer be there and the boat that keeps you safe won’t be your home anymore.. Neither of us were ready for this.. Not me not Ania and not the crew.. We were ready to keep living in our perfect little exhausting bubble for another two months.. It can’t be over.. What now????All these realisations and emotions turned into tears.. We cried the crew cried and even our experienced captain Salah was upset. We weren’t ready for this.. We weren’t ready to stop being safe and loved and to stop doing what we do with such passion. In our simple world this was about as bad as it would get even the music that we had danced and sang to over the last months couldn’t give us comfort.

The next day we got another phone call stating that  I didn’t have to leave. We can stay in our little Fraser world for another month or so after all. We know that soon our dreamlife will stop but at least not now. And at least we can sort our heads out before we have to go back to land. At the moment I really cant imagine being without Ania and my boys. Some moments I hate them but if Im honest I love them like family. After some tears of joy everything has gone back to normal and we are all pretending that our little emotional thing didn’t happen. We have an image to keep up as strong seawoman and seaman. However much time we all have left together I will enjoy it double and no matter what happens I will always carry these few months with me in my heart As the best time of my life so far.

written by Ania: And so as mine,,, and I can not write on this strangest computer of yours-soooo! Get yourself a new one!!! It took me ages to write this… so I lost my all emotional speech now and stop smelling your t-shirts! Wash them

28th October 2007

On our way to Deadalus again. We just spent two days in Brothers and we were not the only ones. We arrived in brothers after dark and as usual were greeted by our friends the oceanics. One of them was particulary big. Our first night sleep went quite smooth and the days diving that followed was great. We dived the south plateau as a first dive and where accompanied thoughout the dive by a few threshers. The first Thresher was on the plateau itself and then we were greeted head on by another two at the east wall. These normally shy creatures were more curious then I have ever seen them and I got to get a really good look into their big eyes. Ofcourse those eyes told me they love me.

1st November 2007

Between Safaris again and as you see I finally managed to get on the internet. More will follow later…miss me!

Upon arriving at  Deadalus we were greeted by our friends the oceanics who were waiting for us underneath the boats. For two mornings we tried to find the Hammerheads but those one have gone down in the depths to about 50 – 60 meters. When diving on the south plateau we had an exiting dive again with the oceanics. One of them came up to my divers looked like it was going to grab the fin and then twitched away. They are really not scared of us in the slightest. Again a very nice week on my boat..

8th November 2007

Our trip started of with Brothers, over the 2 days the currents at brothers have been as crazy as ever and changing directions in just minutes. To start of on Big Brother they weren’t that strong and coming from the west. The surface conditions were great so we got to dive the Numidia and while drifting back on the west we had a manta on the Aida. The Manta was far away but it was definitely there, no argue.  Same like last week we were one of many boats,  I think about 15 or so spread out over both Islands. Fraser was again one of the only two boats who managed to keep the mooring throughout both nights on Big Brother. All other boats were on engines the whole nights so yay for Captain Salah.  Our last day in Brothers we spent on small brother. The currents decided to mix everything up even more and we ended up with currents from the East on our first dive. We jump in at the current split on the east wall drifted with the current around the north plateau and finished our dive halfway on the west wall. It was definitely a first timer for me to Dive the Brothers this way but no regrets.  The usual residents passed by. One of them a  Hammerhead (not sure or it was a great on or scalloped however it was very big) . Halfway through the dive one grey reef in particular who was very big, came to say hello on the north tip. On the second dive the current had slightly changed to a more SE direction. So on this dive we drifted north on the west wall. By this time the guest had covered every inch of reef under water and we thank the weird currents for that. However unpredictable currents isn’t all good of course. While the guest were in the water the current decided to have and abrupt change again. Lucky for them, they didn’t feel to much of it as it was on the end of their dive.  The boats did feel the change and they felt it big! It was absolute madness and chaos.  Several boats almost crashing in to each other while divers were getting on to them. Crew and captains shouting and running in different directions and lots and lots of ropes getting entangled. Only Fraser managed to stay on its original mooring while all the other boats had to go on standby so there was no stress on our boat. Thank you again for my captain and crew!!!  On the last dive of the day I went to check the current for a third time to witness things I have never seen before on a current check. Absolute madness down there, fishies were swimming in circles every few meters meaning at those spots the currents came from everywhere (washing machines) On top of it the main current was going from south to north  and it was as strong as I’ve ever seen it.  This made it quite tricky for our dive plan but in currents like this the only way to dive it is with the current and get out somewhere sheltered. I checked the current at all possible entry and exit points and there was no way to swim to the split point at the south of the reef even when it was only 5 meters away from the boat but the current was just to strong. To drop them by boat with a negative entry wasn’t a plan either as we would have to do different groups and they would be spat out at different times at the end of the reef. We needed one group of divers that we could follow during the complete dive with a zodiac above them because the currents could take them away for Miles in minutes at the end of the dive on the North.To start the dive the divers pulled themselves to the split point only 5 meters away from the boat. Still getting there was tricky and some got out again an aborted the dive as soon as they felt the current pulling them. I had told them in the briefing that this dive should only be done by people that are absolutely sure they could handle it. The less experienced used their brain and stayed out as  it wasn’t a competition.. Once they got down we stayed above the divers with our zodiac following their bubbles. They drifted north in less then 15 minutes, to give you an idea how fast that is. We had to crack the engine up to keep up with them.  As briefed they send there SMB’s up as soon as they came close to the north tip. There was to way going around it as the current was to strong pushing north on the east wall as well. The only thing to do was stay close and try to make the drifting north to a minimum. Far away from the reef they came up with us next to them. Every body excited about what they saw in their 20 mins dive sharks and more sharks. Thank god we had experienced divers this week and only ten. With more people this dive would have been impossible to make. It was an adrenaline rush for them as well as for me watching them from the surface. After this we left Brothers ready for the security of Deadalus. On Deadalus we still had another 8 boats joining us. As usual we did the first dive on the North Tip where I had been checking the currents at 5.15 waiting in the zodiac for the fish to wake up and the sun to come out so I could see something. Back on the boat as soon as I had the board in my hand to do the briefing one of the heaven boats already started going out without current check ofcourse. Half of the time it is not needed in the north. But I don’t want to be that diveguide who didn’t check the current just on the one day that things go mad. I rather play sure and look stupid but know what Im briefing my guest on. In the end it was just us and two other boats who decided to go for it so it wasn’t that crowded. As we jumed we were greeted by a very curious oceanic at about ten meters. The oceanic went down with my divers or the divers went down with the oceanic im not sure. I just know that at 35m they were all one big bunch oceanic cirlcling one by one over and over again and he was very close. I started swimming back towards the reef trying to get them with me. But everyone probably knows how hard it is to get divers away from shark even when he is to close. Anyhow it was my first time to see one at such depth. Any other time I have only seen him in the shallows. Toward the end of the dive we still had single hammerhead but I was already hanging on my SMB. The second and 3rd dive we did from the boat oceanics all around.

In the evening we had our BBQ. We heard some splashing next to the boat to our amazement there were Dolphins they were hunting soon they were joined by 4 oceanics they were all going for the kill. I don’t know who was looking more scary from up here the dolphins or the oceanics. It looked like they were all working together circling the fish and then the dolphins went for them with a speed that is indescribable. I think its one of the most amazing things I have seen so far out at sea. Beats national geographic any day. It lasted until a zodiac came from the lighthouse to scare a fishing boat away. What were they thinking throwing their nets out to catch something big. Its so sad Deadfalls is supposed to be a marine park but still people try to fish if its not a fishing boat then it is crew from another boat driving around on the zodiacs in the dark. And then there is the shark feeding every night every week we are here some has been feeding. And still people go snorkeling. Is it really necessary that someone has to get bitten again before they will realize that it’s not a good idea. The last one is only a month ago but still the point doesn’t get taken. Sharks have teeth respect them and leave them alone to continue their own natural behavior.

At the end of this week Ania left after spending almost 3 months with us on Fraser . A part of our Fraser family is missing now and we miss her dearly. The season is running to an end. So the leaving of Ania is the first step in a lot of changes to come. The idea off leaving my Fraser really makes me sad but who knows what the future brings.

15th November

Only 7 guest from those 7 only six are diving this means only one zodiac. This week Ahmed joined me. The weather was not very accommodating and we were limited to our diving. Winter has realy come its time for soks gloves and wooly hats in the red sea. But even though on the surface it was madness and even though we had limits, we still saw loads of sharkys on little brother, 7 at a time. Because of the weather conditions we could not leave for deadalus. The chance of not making it back was too big. We dived the onshore reefs of Marsa Alam instead. Like Habili Marsa Alam that I have not dived since I am working on safari. Another week closer to the end of the season.

25th November 2007

Back home, just finished my last week on Fraser and with emperor for now with Helen and 18 norwegians.. The weither was beatifull the diving was great… But the only thing I could think of that this is it.. In total I have spent 5 months on Fraser over the last year and it became my home out at sea.. I have had one of the most beautifull times of my life on this boat.. The simple life the way it should be.. Thinking back and trying to figure out what was the nicest about this season… To be honest I dont know. Every week has been great in its own way. So many people that came on our boat. That shared a week of their lives with us. So many different nationalitys and personalitys, everybody bringing with them their own story. Alot of people arrived as guests and left as friends its nice to know that we didnt only make a difference on diving but also for some people to be reloaded to deal with whatever life is bringing them back home. Thank you everyone for the wonderfull memories..

Love anneke

17 December 2009

Dear Fraser…You once owned the sea.. Now the sea owns you..

I heard the news last night.. While you were still sinking beneath the ocean.

It felt like losing one of my dearest friends.

You gave me the time of my life, you gave me family, you gave me love, you gave me hope.

I am now moving on with my life in Belgium trying to forget, but secretly always hoping to experience it all again.

That dream is lost with you.

You guided me on the ocean and beyond.

You were home!!!

RIP

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MY FRAZER
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DEADALUS

Thailand 2013-2014 with a toddler, it’s a new kind of travelling for us

Thailand 2013-2014 with a toddler, it’s a new kind of travelling for us.

What to do for Christmas? After a few “normal” Christmases,we decided to run away.   Pursuing the memories from my Christmases abroad. No tree, no presents, no shenanigans but most of all no commitments. Not having to be somewhere and knowing you are letting other people down. That’s not what Christmas should be about but that’s what it for some reason turned in to when we spend it in Belgium. So we booked our tickets and hoped for the best. We knew we would like it, but would Milla?

We tried to prep her as much as we could.  We took her on short flights to start with.Then we took her on an overnight road trip to Switzerland. It took us 9 hours to get there. And Milla absolutely hated it. She was taken out of her comfort zone and because of this she wouldn’t eat, she wouldn’t sleep, didn’t like walking around and turned it to an unmanageable baby from hell. We held our breath for Thailand but kept trying other things. I let her sleep in the big bed the last two weeks, tried to have her sleep on my lap now and then, and cooked Thai food as much as the family could handle. Most of my prepping plans didn’t really work out though.

When we finally did get on the plane we didn’t think much of the holiday that was to come. But at least we would be away for the holidays and that was enough for us.

I have to be honest. I don’t remember much of the first few days because there is no fun in being sleep deprived and jet lagged with a toddler who is going through the same. I don’t think anyone is a big fan of long haul flights. But as an adult over the years you find ways to deal with them and make them as less painful as possible, as most of the time there is something really good at the end of them. We made sure we had a direct flight so it was only 10 hours of flying. Where I normally manage to sleep at least a few hours I now slept none. Even though Milla was pretty good during the flight. Having 11 kilo on you for 10 hours is just is not comfortable.  But it’s a choice we made. It’s such a big difference money wise and our last chance for a “cheap” Thai holiday.  I knew it would be a gamble as she has outgrown the baby beds on board. But we went for it anyway. It was doable but even the airplane staff wasn’t convinced as they eagerly tried to move the guy next to us to make a free seat for Milla. No one blames him for not moving though cause that would mean giving up the leg space of the bulkhead seats.  At the end of the flight we did get a little heads up nod from the Thai Airways staff for giving the other passengers a quiet flight. Even the ones that kept reminding us that 10 hours was a very long time gave some appreciation in the end.

Arriving in BKK 6am local time. After getting hit by the tropics we took a taxi to our usual Guesthouse near Khao San called New Siam 2. I’ts about an hours drive from the airport and near to where they where demonstrating at that time. But that day all was quiet. The room cost us around850 baht in high season, has aircon and a small swimming pool to cool off. It’s close enough to everything you need but far enough not to have the noise. They had our room ready for us so we tried to sleep, had a quick look around and got organized for the next day.  During our short time there Milla was introduced to her first Katoy and learned the ropes of winding the Thai woman around her little finger. We had to wake up at 4 that night to take a taxi to Don Muang airport for our flight to Hat Yai. Milla loved the hustle and bustle of Bkk and the room and the pool but didn’t think much of sleeping. So with around 4 hours sleep in 2 nights we left for the airport. Thinking back it would probably have been better to stay another night o get used to the Thai clock .The Airasia flight we had booked only cost us 90euros including seat selection for extra leg room, extra luggage and that for the 3 of us. After a little bit less than 2 hours we arrived in Hat Yai where coming out of the airport we grabbed a taxi to Pakbarra straight away.  Milla and Daddy slept most of the 2 hours taxi drive. Still having Milla on my lap I slept nothing but enjoyed the view instead. Stepping out of the Taxi in Pakbarra the heat of the south hit us like a brick. Maybe that’s why we ended up dropping our camera and damaging our lens. Anyway, we bought our speedboat tickets and were told to wait another hour for the boat at the pier. We were waiting and waiting and not really seeing a lot of people around us. We were wondering why it was still so quiet this time of year but not really making much of it. I had been here 5 years before and waited on the exact same spot so I had faith. Luckey Daddy didn’t. He went for a walk around only to come back and get us ready for a 500 meter sprint with a full bag packs and baby in 34 degrees. We ran as fast as we could to only just make the speedboat soaked in sweat and with by now bags under our eyes that could be folded. It turned out that in the last 5 years they had updated things just a little bit. They had built a whole new pier with entrance fee and everything. This is where now the hundreds of tourists where leaving from to their tropical island destinations. Time doesn’t stand still,even not in the South of Thailand. Only two people didn’t realize this, the taxi driver that dropped us off and me. Thinking back I really should have known asI was told by friends last year. But as it shows I am absolutely useless when Ididn’t get enough sleep. I don’t remember the exact name of the speedboat company PLOY something but it cost us 650baht each and Milla went for free.It’s a set price that all of the company’s seem to use. The ride took us around2,5 to 3 hours in flat seas with a stop at Turatau Island. We sat at the back not to have too much movement from the speedboat for Milla and secretly also cause mummy the cool dive instructor gets seasick. For Milla we didn’t have to mind because she loved every minute of it and was throwing her little arms up in the air with every wave. The boat was filled with Thai people picking up supplies from the mainland. And they were spoiling Milla with fruits and lots of attention. So far it seemed that she loved Thailand and she was turning sleeping on mummies lap into an art form. I couldn’t be more proud of our travel baby.

As the speedboat entered the bay of Pataya Beach on Koh Lipe we could see that it still had the beauty from 5 years ago. Even though at the same time a lot had changed. Finally!!! Just a little bit more and our holiday could begin. They dropped us of on one of the main platforms in the bay. This is where you cross over on a long tail boat to take you up to shore. You do this together with many other tourists and they charge you 70 Euros to go to the island and for support. I tried to get us a longtail to the hotel but that partdidn’t really work. So we were up for a little walk down the beach with all our bags and Milla but in the end that part wasn’t so bad. Yes it was hot and sticky and sweaty and we were dead tired but it was sooo pretty and the beach turned out to be stroller friendly. On our walk down to Z touch resort I tried to recognize things from before. But it seemed like most bamboo huts had made way for middle-class resorts. Like on every other beach in Thailand there is not much you can do about it. The good thing is that they don’t build higher then the palm trees so the view is still ok. I’ve learned since visiting Thailand for the first time in 1999 not to compare too much. So I try to look at it like a new destination with a few familiar things. When going to Koh Lipe or anywhere else in Thailand during peak season the chances are that all accommodation is full. So we prebooked our accommodation through sawasdee.com. They had the lower prices than agoda.com orbooking.com.  Arriving on Koh Lipe it was still a gamble or the bookings actually went through to the hotels as we had never used them before. We arrived at Z Touch Resort quicker then I expected and after a welcome drink we were shown to our bungalow. We had booked a garden sea view cottage and that’s what we got. It was a bungalow in stone with our own little terrace at the front that was closed of so Milla couldn’t run away.The size was perfect for me the only downside was the cleanliness of the bathroom. The friendliness of the Thai staff did make up for that. From day 1 Milla  got all the attention she could handle by the woman, the katoys, the men and the dogs. The resort itself wasn’tbig only 3 huts and a restaurant wide. It was placed in between 2 new resorts,which were still being built. It gave a bit of building noise but that couldn’treally bother us. Maybe it’s because by now we are used to building noise or maybe it’s because the view is so stunning that the noise just fades away.

On the first few days we didn’t do much except for relaxing, trying to catch up on sleep, finding out where to get diapers and good food. The first two nights we ate at Daya at the end of the beach. This is where I stayed 5 years ago. The food was still great, they gave you big portions and not pricey for Koh Lipe. A rice or noodle dish around 90 Baht and curries around 120 not including the Steamed rice. They also serve up a Seafood BBQ like most places but because of my dive instructor principals we try not to eat fish in places where there is overfishing. (Sadly that’s almost all over the world) The First night we ordered separate khoa pad kai for Milla but she never saw it. She happily slept on my lap while I was eating. As the days went by she started to sleep better at night and managed to stay up for dinners. All of us happily settled in to an island routine and loved it. We woke up and went for breakfast, went for a wonder or went straight to the beach until about 1. Then Milla and I went for a shower and she went for her nap while daddy got us cheaptakeaway food. When she woke up we went to the beach again until it was time to shower and go for dinner at sunset. Except for Daya our top pick restaurants are Pancake Lady in the beginning of walking street and Papaya Mum a little bit further on in walking street on the left if you are coming from Pattaya Beach.Our absolute favorite being Papaya Mum. As the name says the papaya salad is todie for but all the other food was really tasty and fresh and cheap. On top of all that, they where extremely child friendly. Even though none of the restaurants have baby chairs they go out of their way to make sure that the little ones are happy. Just to be clear we only eat Thai food when we are in Thailand so I can’t say anything about European food on the island. It was clear soon enough that Milla wasn’t a fan of pad taior khoa pad kai (fried rice) but loved massaman curry and all other tasty not so baby friendly food. She had her own plate that we filled with rice and whatever topping we were having if it was not too spicy. One day she would eat a lot the other not so much but she ate.  We did have to cave in on one European thing for her. We ended up buying a pot ofNutella for emergencies and it worked perfectly.

She did have more snacks during the day like the tiniest mandarins I’ve ever seen. The Thai woman in our resort also constantly gave her treats. She started drinking plenty of water and asked for it when she needed it. She was never drinking enough in Belgium so I was pretty happy about this even when she was asking water several times at night.

When we went for our little wonders it was never really that far as the island is only a few kilometers wide and one kilometer across.There are not really any paved roads and there are no cars except for a few resort pick up trucks who don’t have roads to drive on. There are more motorbikes then there used to be on walking street and they even have a motorbike tuk tuk service. This is in case you are for some reason not able to walk the km on walking street. Not sure who uses them but I guess some people do cause otherwise they wouldn’t be there. For us it was easy enough to get around with the stroller. Pattaya Beach being the easiest for stroller use.

Koh Lipe isn’t the cheapest place in Thailand and you will get better accommodation for the same price somewhere else. But it is one of the most beautiful islands I have seen. We stayed there for a week and could easily stay longer. It has bars and nightly entertainment but it’s not a party island. There are plenty of snorkel and diving trips to keep you busy. Also if you would ever get bored of the beach you are staying on there are still twoother main beaches to spend your day. It is hotter and more humid than in the rest of Thailand as it is the most southern Island before Malaysia and itdoesn’t cool of so much at night. So with a baby it is probably a good idea toget AC. Even with AC Milla still developed a heat rash but she didn’t seem bothered by it. You find most things you need on the islands but supplies are limited, they do have a pharmacy if you would need one.

After a week of relaxation and slowly becoming one with nature again we had to get ready to leave the Island. We were planning to go to Koh Lanta so we needed a speedboat ticket. There was Bundaya Speedboat leaving from the other side of the beach and there was Turin Pakbarra Speedboat leaving from 100 meter from our resort. Both of them where leaving at 9 and claimed to arrive at 12.30 and they were both 1900 Baht a person so we took the one closest to us. We said our goodbyes at the resort and headed up the beach. We waited together with quite a few people and the boat ended up leaving an hour late.They also seemed to have overbooked the speedboat as all benches were taken and people had to sit on the luggage in the middle of the boat. The first hour itwas funny but we were all happy when we arrived at Koh Bulone cause that meant people would get off  and we would  have some place to breathe. What we didn’t think of and neither did the company is that 2 people went off but 12 people got on. They somehow managed to packthemselves on top of the luggage and like before we sat at the back. By this time I really had to use the Toilet and gave Milla to daddy because I couldn’thandle both. And then it started…. The sea had been a bit choppy to start with, but now we had to take the waves in a way that every wave went on the boat. Fort he next 5 hours we got wetter and wetter as every wave came onboard. Thanks to another couple we got a big plastic bag to put over Milla that kept her mostly dry. Even in 30 degrees being soaked for 5 hours means you are freezing. Luckilywith every stop we made more people got off and by the last stop I discovered that there was a toilet on board. From then on I could smile again. Milla smiled most of the ride anyway, if she was not riding waves she was sleeping.Even though the boat was so crowded and probably not safe at all everyone stayed kind en helpful and that is one of the things that makes travelling worthwhile. It’s the way people should act around one another but for some reason we don’tat home. But with bag pack tourists it seems that it comes out as soon as they land on Thai ground and that’s one of the things that makes me come back over and over again.

Koh Lanta!! The last bit of speedboat was in between kohLanta yai and koh Lanta Noi. The area is full of mangroves so this bit was pretty relaxed and we got to dry up and get excited about what was to come. The only question was will we have accommodation or not? We had phoned HolidayVilla before we left that morning to pick us up from the pier. But they didn’thave our booking. They would however pick us up anyway and we would see from there. The problem was that we arrived 3 hours late so of course there was no one to pick us up. We phoned them again and 15 mins later they arrived and in the meantime also found our booking. The first thing you see when you are on the island is of course the Thai smiles that you get everywhere but more special for me was the female veiled taxi drivers. As in most of the south of Thailand there is a big Muslim population. For some reason I always find it strange to see Asian woman wearing veils,especially if you think of the contrast with BKK. But to me it was even stranger seeing these women driving tuk tuks around. The hotel turned out to be only a few minutes drive away from the pier and while driving we got a short explanation what was where. We checked in and our luggage got carried to our room. Yes it was that kind of hotel… We entered our room and were amazed by the size of it. Only the bathroom was almost the same size as the whole bungalow onKoh Lipe. There was even a bathtub that for me was a first in Thailand. We dropped our bags and went to have a look at the rest Koh Lanta had to offer.The hotel grounds were beautiful. But we were a bit disappointed once we thit the beach. After Koh Lipe it’s almost impossible to find anything prettier and Iguess once you find it it’s difficult to let go.  The beach we were staying at, Klong Dao was probably even longer and bigger then the whole island of Koh Lipe. Because of this you did get a sense of freedom. This beach had mainly midrange resorts and was stroller friendly. Most resorts had a beach restaurant but the prices for food on the beach were up in the air. Because we were travelling on a budget we spent our next few days trying out different roadside restaurants. It did take some time before we got used to the traffic. We found some great value places for the evenings and some 50 baht takeaways for lunch. Laab Royet in Klong Daowas really tasty and most things under 100 Baht. Kantiang is where we ate at Christmas eve and was really good as well for around the same price. Mr Greenin Long beach served bigger portions for the same price if not cheaper. Wetried one of the Fish Restaurants at Baan Saladan Baan Saladan is the town atthe pier where you can find babystuff if you don’t find it anywhere near you.It also has the main tourist shopping area and plenty of footstalls. The fishrestaurant  we ate at was very touristylike most of them but it was nice for a change and the food wasn’t bad at all. For our last night we went all out and had dinner at Time For Lime together with a Swedish couple we met at the resort. It was located on the beach right next to our hotel and was always really busy. We were advised to book ahead and so we did. They also do the main cooking courses on the island and they foundedanimal welfare. That is also where the profits go. So when we decided to go there at least our big spending money would go somewhere good. For the 490 bahtyou got a six course-tasting menu. And tasty it was!!! I’m not sure if it was real Thai or Thai inspired fusion but it was one of the best things I’ve evertasted. Well worth every baht we spent. When your travelling on a budget youwouldn’t be able to eat there every day but you should eat there at least once.Except for eating we spent most of our days by the pool, which was getting abit crowded towards the end of our stay with package tourists. During our time on Koh Lanta you we did feel the difference of travelling with a toddler, even though this is probably the most child friendly place that I’ve ever seen. All the beach places have toys outside and European kids menus and baby high chairs. But we managed just fine without those.

If we would be travelling by ourselves we would have rented a motorbike to travel around the island and that would cost us around 200 baht a day. With a toddler it took us a bit more planning and a bit more money.  But we did manage to get away from the hotel and have a little bit of a feel what the rest of the island is all about. We had a white pick up and driver to get us to old Town and from there to the rest of the Beaches. Milla enjoyed the drive up to old down most of all as there was lots to see and new things to name. Old Town itself consists of a street with wooden houses built on the beach so the backend was on stilts. There is also a long pier that has some of the longtails leaving forthe islands. We were there early so there wasn’t much happening but it was niceto see. After that we drove across the island again to a beach called KlongNin. We first thought of staying here but then didn’t cause there is a road dividing most resorts. Since Milla always try’s to run away we prefer to have no road nearby. Saying this it did have the nicest beach on the island that we saw.White sand, clear blue water, was stroller friendly and had really cute beach bars and restaurants. The prices at the beach again were pretty high for Thailand but at the part of the main road that tur ns away from the beach there areplenty of budget options. After waking up our driver we went on to Klong DongBeach. The main Road was set back from the beach so the resorts had plenty ofspace to build their huts. This place seemed very laid back and there were not many stone buildings. It seemed like the prices on the beach were lower and like it was aimed more at backpackers. The beach itself was pretty although itwasn’t a swimming beach cause the sea was full of rocks. This is however probably what made it beautiful and gave it a wild feel. Milla didn’t see thisbeach and only a bit from the one before as she was fast asleep in her stroller. On the way to the last stop Long Beach she woke up. We only had a quick look cause by now she was a bit grumpy. As the name says it’s a very longbeach. The water is not as clear as the beaches further south and it is not stroller friendly. But I did like it. It was in between Klong Dao and Klong Kong as wel as on the maps as in feel. It was more lively then Klong Kong but it wasmore laid back then Klong Dao.

All together we had a really good time in Koh Lanta and Iwish we could have seen more of it. So advise if you go in peak season withkids book ahead to rent a car for a day or more. Now all cars were taken and wedidn’t dare to go Thai for real and take Milla on the motorbike. After a weekit was time to say goodbye to Koh Lanta and take our boat to Ao Nang.

Princess Ao Nang was the name of the boat and it leaves every day at 1pm. It’s a fast ferry and takes about 2 hours or more to get there. Milla liked this boatride least of all maybe because it didn’t moveenough and maybe cause she had a bit of a fever from her last molars breaking through. On the way we stopped at Railey to drop people off. With pain in ourhearts we left them and Railay behind, it was so pretty. We wouldn’t be able togo there this time. We were staying in Ao Nang just to break up the Travel abit for Milla. Looking back there was really no need to do this as leaving from Lanta to the airport is really straightforward and it wouldn’t take up asmuch time as we thought. We had a free hotel transfer that was included in ourferry ticket so they dropped us of at the Holiday inn Resort we thought, we deserved a treat for new year. The rooms and the grounds where really nice andwell looked after. Some of the rooms had balcony’s from where you could enter the swimmingpool. Our room was located at the back with a jungle view and the soothing sound of crickets 😉 I begged for them all the holiday but forgot how noisy they can be in Thailand.  The hotel was not located on the main beach of Ao Nang but on the one next to it called Noporathara.First we were disappointed but when we visited Ao Nang the first night in search of food we were actually really happy. It was just too busy with people and cars and resorts. Not a stretch of land was not built on and there were shops and shops and fast food restaurants more than we could handle. The next day we went for a walk to the other side and found out that this is where theThais and the backpackers stay and eat and we felt more at home. When wethought of relaxing by the pool that afternoon we did not take one thing in account and that is towel tourists. Every bed was taken by towels and books but not by people. It did have a large kids pool with lots of slides and we had funon them with Milla. That evening we went to eat at blue bay you restaurant and bungalows on Nophorathana beach road. The food was really tasty and cheap.Milla still wasn’t herself due to her fever so we headed back to the hotelearly. The next morning we got up at 6 because daddy went for a run. This would be our last day in the sun as we would leave for BKK the next day. We went forbreakfast at Blue bay you and returned for the pool. Again we forgot about thetowel tourist and got a bit grumpy about it. There was no one at the pool but again all beds were taken. When we left the pool for Millas nap a few hourslater still some of the beds were empty. It was such a high contrast with what we are used to or what we had seen before. We treated ourselves with niceaccommodation but paid for it by being put together with narrow-minded touristswho’s main goal of the holiday is lie flat for as long as they can and if theycant, make sure that no one else can. We didn’t understand why people would travel as far as Thailand when they could do the same closer to home. What is the point of going somewhere when you don’t taste or touch or feel what the country is about?  Anyway it was NewYears Eve and we left the Holliday Inn to have their mandatory Gala dinner,which we luckily got out of. Daddy got his tattoo in Ao Nang and after we had aBeach Dinner across the road. It turned out to be the cheapest beachsiderestaurant we had come across so far. I believe it was called Luna. Milla stillwasn’t feeling well so she didn’t eat much but did find the energy to racekiddiecars around the restaurant with a Thai boy. Because of her fever we choseto have an early night again and got woken up by the biggest fireworks I haveever heard. Sadly enough we couldn’t see it as Milla was sleeping and our terrace was at the wrong side of the hotel.  But Happy New Year in Thailand!!! We went back to sleep and woke up early to pack and get our transfer to Krabi Airport.

The Thai Air Smile flight was quick and painless and we arrived in our guesthouse in the late afternoon. We got settled in and went fora walk down to Khoa San and Rambuttri. It had only been 3 weeks since we were here last but it was so much busier. It was still full of garbage from the night before and it smelled of puke and rubbish. The next day we took a taxi tothe shopping malls and went for a walk in Lumpini Park. We ended the day with dinner at one of the food stalls at Rambuttri across from one of the cheapdrinkingplaces. The food was cheap and tasted great but we were interrupted by someone puking only a few meters away. Welcome to the hustle and bustle ofBKK!!! The next day we tried to relax and went for a final look to find theThai clothes I had been buying there for the last 10 years. But no luck. Thingschange, also  in the Khao San area. It had always been busy on Khao San. This is why we stayed in a Soi at the end of Rambuttri. But it seems like the craziness has moved also there now. Maybe itis only during peak season. I don’t know. But I did get the feeling that we’veoutgrown the area a little bit. Since we need to go somewhere else to do our shoppinganyway. I am actually thinking to say goodbye to the Banglampoo area after 10years of great memories.

We took a Taxi to the airport around 9pm and once you getto the airport you know that it’s really over. The only thing between you andhome is a 12 hour flight. The flight was delayed for half an hour. We had putMilla asleep before we left and she slept in the taxi to the Airport.  As soon as the plane took off she fell asleep again. I did sleep a little bit this time but found out that a sleeping baby ismore uncomfortable then an awake one. You cant move so you really start hurting all over. Because it was a nightflight it did seem a lot shorter and before weknew it we were back home. Home with the knowledge that travelling across the globe with Milla is possible and we even had a great time. The only regret we have is that we didn’t stay longer and see more.

Time To Start Planning Our Next Trip!!!!

Sandflies:

When we went to Thailand in 2011 I found out I had areally bad allergy to Sandflies. Not sure or I had always had this but when Iwas living on Koh Chang I never had a problem.  Anyway when we visited Koh Kood and after KohMak I was getting bitten like mad. I had bites all over my body. The bites wouldswell a lot and would itch like mad for another 3 weeks. It wasn’t a prettysight and we had to leave the islands and stay in the aircon because of it. Sothis time I took my precautions and had had plenty of creams and pills with mein case we came across them again. There is not a lot of info on the net aboutsandflies. So I didn’t know for sure if we would meet my little friends again.On Pataya Beach Koh Lipe we didn’t have them, but when we went for a walk tothe other side my feet were full of bites that started swelling again. So I hada bit of a scare. They did however go away after a week and they were not sobad as last time. I’m not sure what it was. And I will probably never know. All  I Lipeknow is that I didn’t see one sandflies on any of the islands or places we visited this time. So for me until now the only place you are sure to meetsandflies is koh Mak.

The end…

Top Travel stories and memories

Some of these are funny, others are scary, some just beautiful. But these are the moments that have stuck with me over the years. Mostly the reasons why I would do it all over again.

  • Being Kidnapped by Shirley the elephant and meeting that same elephant again pregnant with Milla many years later. Footage to back it up.. Here
  • Given a scorpion as a pet by the Nubian crew in the south of Egypt. We named her baby Jane and fed her fly wings but she died. Photo
  • Waking up to a sandviper at the end of your bed, thinking its plastic and trying to play with it.
  • Swimming in Crystal clear seas. Photo
  • Secretly keeping dessert mise as pets.
  • Listening to music while riding the waves at the bow of the boat. Photo
  • Being dropped of by camels in the desert and being left there for the night.
  • Sleeping under the starts for months.
  • Ending up in a remote village with stories about in breeding and child abuse and wanting to get away as quickly as possible.
  • Being woken up by monkeys throwing coconuts on your roof on a nightly base.
  • Having meals with the locals preferably without utensils.
  • Laying in a hammock on a beautiful beach as a paying job.
  • Counting satellites and shooting stars in the middle of the red sea.
  • Motorbike accidents happening faster than the wounds could heal.
  • Naked nightly swims in the ocean.
  • Jumping of a large boats roof while afraid of heights. Photo
  • Making a big bonfire with palm leaves on a deserted beach instead of a X mas tree on X mas eve. Photo
  • Diving with playful schooling hammerheads for 45 mins.
  • Seeing dolphins around you as far as the eye can see. Start crying – Try to hide it – And realise almost all your guests are sobbing because its the most beautiful thing ever.
  • Getting eaten by sandflies
  • Howling at thunderstorms in the middle of the ocean.
  • Having this picture taken. Photo
  • Sleeping in between hundreds of flying cockroaches because you have been robbed and its that or the street.
  • Swimming in waterfalls. Photo
  • Watching the most beautiful sunsets day after day after day. Photo
  • Being able to say that your home sank and mourn it like it was a person.
  • Making friends for life!

#7 UBUD ——- Lombok – Gili – Bali

Ubud

The drive from Pedang Bai to Ubud gave me a glimpse of what was to come. And yes everyone is right.. Bali is very beautiful. The main difference between Bali and any other lush tropical paradise is the temples and the grand entrances of the houses. There is no other place like it!!!

By the time we arrived at our hotel it was already dark but even in the dark we were very impressed. Our own specious jungle treehouse, complete with four post bed and bathtub looking over the jungle, was going to be our home for the next few days.

Waking up with a jungle view through the massive windows of a giant hut just  has to make you smile. And if that didn’t then the tiny monkey you spot from your bed would. The few days we had in Ubud sadly enough were rainy but we tried to make the best of it.

First on the list was to explore Ubud itself. Mark had been there about 7 years earlier and as expected couldn’t recognise much as the place had a boom of tourism since eat-pray-love came out in 2010. Even more crowded Ubud centre still has his charm especially if you get off the main road. After getting disoriented in the Market we went to rent a motorbike to help us with the rest of the exploring. In-between the rain we explored the village around our hotel that was set just a few miles outside of Ubud. Breathtaking sceneries to say the least. The green is greener and lusher then anywhere else. The roads are windy and tiny and everything you see is pretty beyond believe. I’m not into finding yourself and all the other floaty things that happen in Ubud. But if there was a place to find yourself I understand why people would try to do it in this place.

On day 2 we set off early by motorbike to visit Gunung Kawi. We were hoping to get there before the package tourists would arrive hence leaving early morning. It turned out to be a little bit further then we and my bum had hoped,  but by the time we finally got there we were still ahead of the large troops. Upon arrival you first have to descent down hundreds of stairs and  Milla did a fabulous job on climbing down. On either side of the stairs you have view over the rice terraces surrounding the temple. After we had finished looking around the temples we were up for a stroll in one of the rice paddies.  Inevitably we all took turns in sliding down the muddy walkways and getting stuck while pulling out the toe bit from our flip flips. Resulting in trying to balance hopping on one foot while trying to avoid sliding down a floor. Somehow I did picture it more romantic in my head. On our way back my walk through Idyllic rice paddies fields  experience took a turn for the worse. I will now never look upon them se same and I’m afraid the perfect picture is ruined forever. Close to the entrance of the rice field there was a pile of runny human poo and toilet paper that we only missed by a few cm. Every person I saw from then on for me was the creator of that pile and in my mind I thanked each one for making sure my careless rice field strolls have only lived a very short history.

I still tried to tell myself that this is nature and you have to take this with it if you want purity and real travel. But at the end there is no way I could learn to like human feces.

Time to take my feces phobia out on the stairs back up. Milla made it to the top on her own while we sang the Diego tune but instead of Diego it was Milla of course. Hup Milla go Milla.. Hup Milla go Milla.. Lalalalalalalala.

Just as we got to the top of the million steps (maybe I’m over exaggerating) floodgates were opened again and we were stuck in a café for a while but that wasn’t a bad thing. The café on top of the hill has the most awesome views over the hills and the rice fields with the volcano in the background. Especially after the rained the view was stunning. The landscape was letting off steam and the colours were amazing. I could have stood there and watched this forever. Instead of standing there we got on the bike to another temple and on the way there it seemed like every new view was trying to top the one before. Breathtaking!!! So my lesson here is the rain sucks big time but it makes things even more pretty when it stops. So be patient when it rains and go out as soon as it stops you won’t regret it.

The other temple we visited was called Puri Gunung Kawi Sebato. Almost the same name but completely different thing entirely. This one was situated around the water coming from the holy springs. The water was caught in a main secret pool and from there on it divided into different pools. On each side of the temple there were public areas. One people used to come and do their dishes or fill cans with drinking water and the other side was used for bathing. The Large pool was divided into two sections. One for woman and one for men. Milla and I went into the one for woman of course and to my surprise bathing actually meant bathing and not swimming. My husband took a picture over the wall before actually realising what was there. And after everyone left I took a few pictures of Milla to remember the crystal clear water. On our way home we passed hundreds and hundreds of traditional and art shops, a container wouldn’t be big enough to fill with everything we want.

The next few days it rained and rained and sadly enough didn’t stop anymore. So with pain in our heart we decided to leave in search of sunshine. Ubud and I however are far from done. I hope to continue exploring in and around Ubud soon.

#6 GILI T —- * LOMBOK – GILI – BALI*

All About Bluedolph aka Sven

Our last days in Gili T.. Took a bit of a weird turn as Milla fell in love with a plastic reindeer called bluedolf. She quickly renamed him to Sven (Frozen reindeer). Sven had been travelling with a couple to over 5 different countries. They were given Sven as a present and were dragging him with them for a while now and in a very weird way had become part of the family by doing so. The time that they had left in Gili T Sven would be temporarily relocated as Sven soon ended up in our bed.

On St Georges day (first time i even heard about such a day) the English tried to be English and had beach games and English food. We missed the food and games part because I was having my first Lobster ever at Scallywags. When we came back the goodies weren’t finished yet and we joined the crowd at Chappies (the bar in front of Manta) The betting was on… how many ‘ would it take to sink Bluedolf Aka Sven?  Some of us should at least have an idea because of our diving physics but anything went and there where bets between 5 and 80 kilos or so. Milla wasn’t all to keen on what was happening but she soon joined in for the fun as long as I promised I would rescue Sven if something went wrong. It took 3 people making it happen and after a bit of fighting back Sven Sank with 36 kilos. Soon after the excitement we took Sven to bed to get his well deserved rest and  the others partied on. It is after all a diving/party islandDSCF1590Indomanta2015©AnnekePeeters

Except for dealing with Sven we didn’t do so much in Gili T. We let of steam and after a few days we were relaxed and fine with doing everything at a slower pace. Letting go always is a bit of a struggle for us but Gili T forced us into Zenn mode and we thank Gili T for it. We did refresh our diving skills in the pool and Mark finally went diving while Milla and I got seasick on the boat like a proper hardcore dive instructor. Diving together did get postponed again. But at least one of us got wet so there is improvement.

I had been told over and over again by Nick (my ex boyfriend) what a great community of wonderful people Gili T had. Even though it was a weird way for us to meet them. It turned out that he was more than right. When the time came to leave we where far from ready, goodbyes where of a sad kind and we promised to return soon. The typical saying that some places use as a sales pitch came to mind several times. Come as strangers, leave as friends…… was certainly truth here!!!

The Day we left Gili T it was raining. Not the normal daily shower but the heavens had really opened their gates and it seemed like they weren’t going to close them anytime soon. By the time we got on the boat we were already soaked. The boat was a speedboat, a bus type as they call them here. I think it’s because the inside looks a bit like a bus? Now for this little girl this is a bit of a problem. No matter how many years I have spent out at sea, I still get seasick like a boss. As long as I sit outside and watch the waves I’m sort of fine. I’m sure you hear me coming.. yes outside and thunderstorms aren’t a great match, especially the roof isn’t a great plan because of the swell. So that left me a tiny bench on the back of the boat next to the 7 outboard engines. Milla fell asleep on my lap within the first half hour.  The wind, waves, thunder and lightning picked up fast and before we knew it we were getting soaking wet. I wasn’t feellng very safe as when we arrived on the boat we realised that we forgot Milla’s  life jacket in our bag that was now in storage. We asked for a life jacket from the boat. The answer we got was very unexpected. I wasn’t allowed a life Jacket for my 3 year old daughter because it would cause a panic with the rest of the guests. After trying to explain and even begging I still didn’t get a life jacket for Milla. They did allow Mark in to the luggage area and get our own. Not sure where the logic was in all of this but the fact that I wasn’t allowed a life jacket and the fact that he kept telling me forcefully that everything was fine made me believe the opposite. With every wave and thunder the conversation kept repeating itself in my head. I presume being worried beyond controle is sort of a mum thing,  but maybe not so handy for the type of mum who wants to be adventurous and cool.

Anyway after a while Mark took Milla inside and I stayed outside together with two people who seemed off their faces and kept howling at the wind. I honestly thought they were mad until I remembered that Ania and I used to howl at the wind back in the days when we lived on Frazer. After 3 soaking hours we arrived in Pedang Bai – Bali and I met for the first time and I could officially say that I was cold for the first time since we arrived in Indonesia.

#4 LOMBOK —- * LOMBOK – GILI – BALI*

Day 4

Kuta Drive – Lombok

After breakfast we packed the rental car and without a proper roadmap or GPS we started our adventure to the south of Lombok. In this quick visit to Lombok we try to have a little bit of an overall idea of what the Island is about. In 4 days this is hardly possible, that’s why I say try. At least whatever we see is more than what people to who just stay in the boundaries of their hotel, town or Resort. Now, I’ve driven in many places and Mark in even more but Lombok could be added to the list of adventurous place to drive. I’m pretty sure I even saw Mark closing his eyes and praying on several occasions while he was overtaking, but for sure he will never admit that. After a short drive through local towns we ended up driving though the islands capital and to our surprise even on Lombok there was a Mc Donalds, KFC and Pizza hut. Is there anywhere left on this earth that has not been taken over by fast-food chains? Soon the big city turned into towns again but the traffic never got any less. At one point there was police everywhere and we were asked to stop at the side of the road. For a second I was wondering what we had done wrong and I was incredibly relieved when the loud sirens raced past us. It turned out to be a really long convoy probably holding someone important. It was clear they were heading to the airport but until now I have no Idea who it was.

Near to the airport the traffic got less and instead of the exhaust smells we could finally  breath and take in the smell of the tropics again. There where rice fields as far as you could see. Local farmers were working their land dressed in traditional clothing and lots of kids playing on the sides of the road.. As we were getting closer to Kuta (not to be confused with Kuta in Bali, they are two entirely different things) the scenery started to change. We went from flat to hills and maybe even mountains. The rice fields gave way for jungle and here and there we saw signs of Traditional sasak villages. Even though I’m very curious to look into the local culture the fact that there were big tourist busses at those villages put us off. To tell the truth I have no Idea where the busses came from and where they would fill them. Maybe as a day trip from Bali? Senggigi where we stay is supposed to be the most touristic spot in Lombok. But there are only a handful of people there at the moment.

Finally we arrived in Kuta. We drove straight on direction beach. But we had to turn back because of the smell of toilet waste and garbage. This couldn’t be right? Luckily it wasn’t we took another turn down to the beach and this sort of looked more than what we had imagined. The big bay with white sand and shallow water where you can keep going. Sadly there had been storms so the water was murky and brought in all the sea grass. But you could defiantly see its potential. As soon as we got out of the care we were greeted by boys that sell bracelets. Even though we had made a pact not to buy anything on the beaches anymore as they ask way too much these boys were sweet and cute. At least the first 3 and then the next three and then the local sasak woman with piles of sarongs on their heads and and and.. We were the only white people walking on the beach and so the only one they could come to. It’s the one think about Lombok that we don’t like. And its the not giving up trying to sell things to you that you don’t need. They are everywhere all the time, and a no thank you isn’t enough. They try to hand Milla things, and then of course she would cry if we didn’t buy it. But together with us Milla is being trained and now learned to say; no thank you, nest time. I know these people are only making a living and we would never shout and or be aggressive especially not with the kids. But I do hope in years to come they will be les persistent, its more begging then selling and we can’t buy something from everyone. Cause when you do things happen like today. After giving in to those first 3 boys on the beach (when we thought that would be it) it ruined out that we had spent all our money and also our cash limit on the credit card had been reached.

There we where in Kuta but without money. After the walk on Kuta beach we drove down to the next beach hoping that it would be less murky for some reason so Milla could snorkel. On the way their way past the local monkey forest on top of a hill at the end of Kuta beach. This time we didn’t get out though. At the next roundabout near the Sofitel Hotel (strangely enough the only real resort until now) there was a lake. We had to stop there because lots of cows were being herded across the road to go for a swim. It was such an amazing and unreal sight and one of the reasons I love taking these drives. It was one of those you had to be there to understand it moments, and I was there.

We arrived at the next bay and it was as beautiful as the one before. The green hills going into the sea at each end and mushroom rocks coming out of the turquoise water. We put down our Sarongs and soon panick got the best of me. Nooooooooooooo SANDFLIES!! I sat there and Mark was ready to pack up and go. (He had seen me react to them once before) These just jumped but didn’t seem to bite perse so I got into the water knee-deep. So Milla could snorkel but our little princess didn’t like all the loose seagrass floating about so we got out anyway. We took another boiling drive into Kuta town again and stopped at the Warung with the cheapest advertised food. Nasi or Bami Goreng for 10.000 rupiah this we could definitely still afford. While sitting there we took in what was going by( in-between people trying to sell us things) Lots of backpackers on their bike with a surfboard just following the waves. I looked at them and I saw myself again a few years ago and then I looked at me now. And again I was in this twilight zone.. My head and heart is still back there, but my body is somewhere else. As much as I enjoy still being part of the bag packing scene for short periods and as much as I don’t mind sweating or teaching my 3-year-old how to use a hole in the ground toilet. Or how much I love figuring our where you can get the tastiest cheapest food, or how much I love spending us much time as possible with locals. I can’t say I didn’t really enjoy the refreshing swimming pool after a long sweaty drive back with a sleeping sweaty toddler on my lap back to our hotel.

#2 Lombok —- * LOMBOK – GILI – BALI*

Day 2

The day Milla learned to snorkel.

We woke up and had a relaxing breakfast after which we chose to get ripped off by some beach punters. I needed a sarong and was feeling soft-hearted. My old backpacking self was nagging in the back again but I felt like pretending I didn’t care for once. So we paid way to much for a sarong and some bracelets. Lets just hope they are doing something good with the money, like give their kids something extra. After getting ripped off we took a Taksi to Senggigi town to reload at the ATM.

We quickly returned to the pool because we had promised Milla to go swimming. We got the masks and snorkels out and placed ourselves on the sunbeds with a view. Milla was eager to get in the water and after a while she asked for her mask (until now she liked the idea of snorkelling but as soon as she got the mask on her head she bailed) this time however she seemed really keen. She has been obsessed by fish and maybe she now understands that without the mask she won’t be able to see any when we get to Gili T. Whatever it was that went through her brain it worked. For sure it wasn’t us pushing her. As much as I secretly wanted her to snorkel this trip I didn’t keep high hopes for success. (She only is three after all)

We were in the water with her and there was minor success but definitely a lot of improvement so I was already happy. Mark and I got out of the water, and this is when the magic happened. She asked for her mask and snorkel and jumped in. I wasn’t keen on giving it to her at the start, resulting in me being ready at the edge of my seat to jump in if I needed to. But something went click and she put her face in the water and kicked her little feet to the stairs of the pool. She got out, jumped in halfway the pool en repeated what she had done before, and again, and again, and again. I don’t think I have ever been so proud in my life. I actually cried! My little girl is a mermaid just like her mummy. She is even a better one!

The rest of the day we hung around and then rented a motorbike to go for food and a look around into town. Milla in the middle just like the locals, with the main difference that I brought a helmet from back home for her. She loves it!

My mermaid, expat and travelling girl. Im so proud!