An Unconventional Christmas

By Jude Wiggins, Geography, University of Queensland, Australia.

 

Last week I arrived back in Brisbane after 2 months of travelling around Indonesia and the Philippines. All my friends and family have been asking me why I’m not at University at the moment. Well, as I’m in the Southern Hemisphere all the seasons are opposite to the Northern Hemisphere so I am currently on my long summer holiday (November – Feburary). The end of last semester got pretty intense with lots of deadlines and exams so I was relieved to finally be able to start some travelling! First stop – Bali.

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Balinese sunset!

Left: Pura Bratan Temple. Right: Ubud Rice Terraces

I was lucky enough to spend my 21st birthday in Bali which was absolutely amazing! Me and my friends were in a part of the island called Seminyak for my birthday. Although Seminyak can be quite touristy the beaches and the sunsets are spectacular. You can get cheap massages, facials etc. here too. One thing I will say about the beach is that you should only try surfing if you’re experienced. Bali waves are crazy! Me and my friend hired surf boards – a MASSIVE mistake which ended up with my friend getting hit on the head with the fin of the surf board. Kind of funny to look back on, but definitely scary at the time.

From Seminyak we headed inland to a small, tranquil yoga village called Ubud. Pictured above are the rice terraces which are probably the area’s main attraction. There’s heaps of things to do in Ubud.. Monkey temples, Traditional Balinese Dancing lessons, Coffee Plantations, Waterfalls, Yoga lesssons.. We even climbed a Volcano to watch the sunrise! (which FYI is higher than Ben Nevis).

Left: Watching the sunrise from Batur Volcano. Right: Victory photo from the summit.

After Ubud we traveled to a tiny island called Gili Trawangan. It’s so small that there is no need for cars or motorbikes, in fact the only way you can get around the island is either on foot, by bike or horse and cart! If anyone reading this finds them self in Gili T I strongly recommend taking the traditional Indonesian cooking class at Sweet and Spicy. It’s located on the main road and is honestly so much fun- plus they send you all the recipes afterwards as well! Gili T is also a great place so see loads of cool coral formations, turtles and colourful fish.

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 Gili T high street! 

We spent just over 2 weeks in Indonesia and I could honestly write essays on the things we did and saw. If you ever have the opportunity to go – GO! From Indonesia we moved onto the Philippines which is where we spent Christmas. The Philippines is made up of over 7000 islands which means the best way to get around is either by boat or plane. UK Gov actually advises you not to travel by boat in certain areas of the Philippines as it can be quite unsafe so we mainly stuck to flying. I’d definitely recommend signing up for updates from UK Gov when you’re travelling in any foreign country. Whilst we were in the Philippines there was a typhoon which flooded certain areas of the country and lots of people had to be evacuated. We made sure to keep checking UK Gov so that we could avoid the affected areas – so simple to do and it kept us safe.

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The entrance to Puerto Princesa Underwater Caves.

Our first stop in the Philippines was to the island of Palawan. One of the first things we did was tour the Underwater Caves which have been named as one of the ‘Natural Seven Wonders of the World’. The caves are only navigable by boat and stretch 8km. It was hard to get pictures inside the caves but the formations are so spectacular – crazy to think that they’re formed from different types of erosion. Also on the island of Palawan is the small town of El Nido. We spent about four nights in the town and visited some truly beautiful places. Pictured below is Little Lagoon which is about a 40 minute boat ride from the town. The water was crystal clear and great for snorkeling with tropical fish. I think that was maybe the most beautiful place we visited in 2 months of travelling – the pictures just don’t do it justice.

9 Little Lagoon – El Nido. 

Again, I could write essays on all the adventures we had in the Philippines. Some of my highlights include swimming with whale sharks, paddle boarding at night down a river that was lit up by fire flies, staying on a coconut farm in the middle of the Philippine countryside, swimming with the world’s largest natural gathering of sardines and visiting a real life witch who lived in a cottage in the hills of Siquijor which is a small tropical island.

Our last stop before flying back to Australia was the island of Boracay. Here we met up with lots of friends we’d made at UQ during Semester 1 which was really lovely. Also, as this was my first Christmas away from home it was nice to spend it around lots of people who were in the same situation as me. It was also a big distraction being surrounded by so many people in general! On Christmas day we hired a boat and sailed around to a hidden beach on the northern part of the island. It didn’t really feel like Christmas without my family, the presents, the turkey etc. It was still a really lovely day though! 10

Merry Christmas from the Philippines! 

The whole travelling experience was amazing. I met people from all over the world and visited some amazing places. I’d definitely recommend going to Indonesia and the Philippines. If anyone has any questions about either feel free to ask!

Peace and love from Oz x

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