Dark blue waters fade into turquoise up to the white beaches of the Gilis of Lombok. Made up of Gili Trawangan (or just ‘Gili T’ for ease), Gili Meno and Gili Air, these islands are the perfect combination of the different styles of island life to be experienced in a short space of time. Or, as many do, for much longer than you intended (I have a fair few mates who rocked up for two days and never left).
With stunning sunsets, no cars and dive shops every five metres, the Gilis is not a destination to be missed. Gili T, the biggest of the three islands, leads the way with raucous nightlife (make sure you try a Vodka Joss) and this combined with the great diving and lazy way of life means that this is the one I have spent most of my time on. If you’re looking for a quieter time or want to island hop between them all, Meno and Air are a mere 10 and 20 minutes or so by boat respectively.
Plane. Bus. Taxi. Train. Coach. Mini Van. Speed boat. Slow boat. Longtail boat. Ferry. Car Ferry. Tuk Tuk. Songthaew. Bemo. Jeepney. Motorbike. Scooter. Tall ship. Cable car. Tram.
I’ve travelled on pretty much every type of transport going over the course of my backpacking trips. From short two hour journeys to overnight missions anywhere between twelve and thirty hours, overlanding is part and parcel of backpacking. And whether you like it or not, you will at some point get on a bus in one town and wake up in another – or perhaps even a different country.
I’m writing this on such a journey – 14 hours in, Koh Lanta – Bangkok. So far I’ve been on a mini van that, after the slow and leisurely ease of being delivered by car ferry over two causeways, spent the remaining two hours bombing down one of Thailand’s most dangerous roads and kissing the arse of the vehicle in front of us; then a songthaew (like a kind of truck/bus thing with no windows) that took us to another mini van crammed full of backpackers without air con; and now I’ve just got back on the ‘VIP’ bus (when there aren’t any seatbelts, can it really be VIP?) that I’ve spent the last 20 minutes watching three separate bus drivers crawling under whilst black smoke chugs out of the exhaust.
But really, this is nothing. This journey could go either way at this point, but this is nothing out of the ordinary when you’re overlanding in Asia. Here are some of my most memorable journeys to date.
This is the first in a series of interviews with some of the brave, interesting women I’ve met on my travels who do it solo. Rachael Wharton, 29, is a paediatrics nurse who I had the good fortune to meet in United Backpackers Hostel in Melbourne. Rach has lovely glossy hair, and some great ankle boots I’m not sure I ever told her how much I covet. She left home in December 2014 and is currently on her first year Australian working holiday visa. Continue reading
You have to take the time to get to know Melbourne. Melbourne is that guy you go on a date with where you drink beautiful cocktails and he enjoys a craft beer. You both like food and appreciate culture; you get on really well and have a lot in common. He’s kind and he’s well travelled, but you’re just not sure if you fancy him. But you go out with him again anyway. And he keeps surprising you. Suddenly you’re six dates in and in awe of just how great this guy is, falling for him seemingly out of the blue.
Melbourne isn’t in your face, it’s pretty laid back about all the things it has on offer: amazing food, cool bars, the best coffee in the world – probably, European laneways, chilled out beaches, cool hipster suburbs, art, music, comedy, festivals – Melbourne has everything going on, it just doesn’t shout about it much. Apart from the coffee. They are really keen for you to know about their elite coffee status. Take the time to get to know Melbourne properly and you will reap the awards and still have a huge list of things you want to do and places you want to eat as you board the plane home.
I’ve just left Australia after a short stint working there to earn some money to go back to Asia with. I didn’t want to go. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to tell you I was dreading it. I’d travelled Australia before, and while I think it is a great country with a huge amount on offer, I just didn’t want to go. I’m very happy and comfortable in South East Asia, I’ve spent a lot of time there and I know it well. I just wanted to stay there. But it was that or go home, and I wasn’t about to have left my job for a three month trip.
You will rarely sleep through the night…
Waking up at least once in the night during your first weeks away is to be expected: it’s too hot, the fan’s not doing its job; “sod it, we’ll get air con” – the air con is too low, then too high; the mattress may as well be a plank of wood covered in cotton; there’s a gecko in the room. Continue reading
A two hour drive out of Bangkok toward the Burma (or Myanmar) border lies Kanchanaburi, a quiet town on the River Kwai. These days, Kanchanaburi is one of the most peaceful places I’ve visited in Thailand, which seems fitting after its horrible history as the start of the Death Railway and surrounds of POW camps in WWII. Kanchanaburi has earnt its peace. Steeped in history, this is a town well worth a visit if you have enough time, even for two or three nights.