So many places got lost on my undedicated will to write a blog. Nevertheless I still have quite vivid impressions of every country we have been.
A country which I didn’t even know existed until a couple years ago, but quite famous amongst Australian tourists and tasty for its French colonial past. The capital, Port Vila, is often referred to as the most beautiful city of the South Pacific and we found no reasons to contradict the statement.
The main reason for which we visited Vanuatu was to go to the island of Espiritu Santo to dive the wreck of the SS President Coolidge which was a luxury liner which was converted to a war carrier during WWII. Being 675ft and only a few hundred feet offshore, the Coolidge is one of the most attractive dive sites within the underwater community.
After our WWII history detour in the wreck, we flew into the island Tanna, where a volcano with the same name is still active and attracting visitors from all over. Tanna was a whole cultural shocking experience on itself, we booked a reservation with a local run hotel which consists of huts. Our hut was ok, but its quality wasn’t up to its price (60 USD) considering that it didn’t have a bathroom.
Our first night in Tanna was a nightmare, as I was getting ready to go to bed, David said “uh uh” looking at the ceiling, when I raised my head to look up I found a 10 inch hairy grey spider. Unfortunately our ugly friend wasn’t alone and trying not to scream I left the hut in a hurry and went to ask the receptionist to help us deal with it.
The lady in charge was laughing at us saying “spiders no problem, they good with you”, I asked her if she had them at her place and she answered yes, still we couldn’t deal with it and as we explained that we were not used to that kind of company she grabbed a broom and a can of insecticide. She successfully murdered one of them, the other one ran away out of sight, she left with us the insecticide which I grabbed on to strongly. After that we were continuously looking up and more spiders started coming out of their hide high under the effect of the spray, I freaked out and started spraying the poison all over the ceiling, more spiders came out along with many cockroaches.
We couldn’t handle it, we went to the reception and explained that even if we accepted company, we couldn’t be in the hut anymore due to the strong smell of the insecticide. The lady talked to somebody who talked to somebody else and finally gave us a key for a bigger hut with a bathroom and mosquito net over the bed, smiling she told us how some other tourists have preferred to sleep on the floor of the dining room under similar situations. We did not find it funny, we were been lodge on a stick hut for as much money that it would cost us to sleep on a motel in the US.
Carefully, we searched the new room to make sure we wouldn’t be attacked during the night. Finally asleep, the sound of a plastic bag being moved woke me up, the place was in complete darkness, the energy generator was shut every night at 11 pm, David used his flash light to discover a big rat trying to get to a bag of cookies next to our backpacks. After thinking about it carefully, we guessed that the rats eat insects and as long as we were covered by the net and hide the cookies we would be safe. Safe we were, but our guest was loud enough throughout the night going back and forth to her nest located in one of the palm tree walls where could hear her little cubs.
At least the volcano was amazing, we were so close to it that we could see the whole from where the lava was being constantly expulsed. A few kilometers around it, the landscape consisted of several mounts of ash.
As in the rest of the countries of the South Pacific, the Solomon Islands is populated by jobless starers. Literally, people sit around all day doing nothing just staring at everything and eating beetle nut.
The capital, Honiara was quite a shocking place, dirty, smelly, ugly, and hot weren’t the problem. As we were walking trying to find any charm to it, we observed several red blood colored stains on the streets, suddenly a bright red spit crosses from above us and we see a man sitting on a high up chair chewing something that looked bright red. More disgusted by it than anything we returned to our overpriced shit hotel where we hid for the whole day.
The next day we flew into Ghizo, the most famous diving destination in the Solomons. Eventhough Ghizo isn’t remarkably nice, it looked like a paradise after being in Honiara. There we were lodged in a not so bad hotel and booked a couple of days of diving. Sadly, we discovered that a year ago a tsunami had hit the area killing 90% of the coral, leaving a horrifying marine landscape of death coral structures everywhere we looked. Fortunately, we were told that most of the coral species were growing back. We were taken to a wreck called “Toa Maru” a Japanese destroyer from WWII, this ship still had all the coral growth making it look like a normal coral reef that happened to have an amazing wreck underneath.
Papua New Guinea
More people sitting around not doing anything. The problem here is that even if they get a job, everyone has the duty to give money to their relatives ending up with nothing anyway, plus their food grows everywhere and the land is plenty, why would they work?
Beetle nut is widely chewed here. This weird nut in combination with mustard sticks and lime (pulverized burnt sea shells) is chewed to obtain a red color substance that you must spit right away to avoid getting the runs. The outcome of this is a 10 min head rush that makes you sweaty, gives you red stained teeth, your mouths gets watery and in a long run it causes mouth cancer.
PNG is a beautiful country in terms of nature, still the prices for tourism are terribly high given the fact that the infrastructure for the same purpose is not even well developed like in other way cheaper and nicer destinations like in South East Asia.
In Madang, we dove some pretty amazing sites and visited villages where people still leave isolated from the advantages that our times have to offer. We found these places amazing, locals are expert gardeners and their villages are like huge beautiful gardens with cute houses here and there, they eat off the ground and are very good hearted.
PNG in a country characterized by mountains and valleys, it wasn’t until the 70’s when people discovered villages in the highlands that had never seen foreigners and didn’t know of the existence of other countries. In the highlands there are still village wars and in 1997 a rare disease caused by cannibalism killed a woman and her child.
The people here are quite proud of their cultural heritage and in attempt to draw tourism they organize festivals and “sing sings” where they dressed up in elaborated outfits and make up to sing and dance with the sound of their drums.
Food and shopping. If you are into one or both of these things, you’ll love this place.
Just imagine a gigantic mall with outdoor areas and housing in it and you have Singapore. The perfection of the place gives you a feeling of being in the future, everything works, everything is clean, and everything is new.
The souvenir shops are occupied by shirts making fun of their strict system, you are not allowed to chew gum, dance on the street and J cross, drugdealers or drugholders could be sentenced to death if the government considers it a pertinent punishment.
Singapore is the most affluent country in South East Asia, being the most important port in the world, it has available for sale any sort of merchandise you could ever dream of. Singaporeans also love food, and they know very well how to cater it, there are food courts and restaurants everywhere you look with all sorts of flavors and cuisines from all over the world.
Bali has been our Indonesian experience. Of course we visited areas more to the west, but found ourselves yearning the laid back character of Bali.
After being in Jogyakarta for a few days, exploring the amazing temples of Borobudur and Pranganan, we headed back to Bali.
Tulamben was my personal favorite, with one of the best sites to do muck diving, we spent about 7 days total.
We also spent 8 days in a liveaboard in Komodo National Marine Park, one of the most popular diving areas in the world. Here we would dive 4 times a day in strong currents and eating delicious food that our chef would prepare 3 times a day to keep us strong to face the challenges of diving here.
Kuta is a tourists’ mekka, almost every girl, thin or fat hangs out on the streets on tiney bikinis. Shirtless surfers carry their boards everywhere, scooters get in your way, locals harass you to buy stuff. Still, it is cheap, pretty, fun, and good. It was in Kuta where we both began to learn how to surf.
Beautiful and tasty, Thailand has very well earned its reputation as one of the nicest tourist destinations. Most of the south East Asian countries made us wander why the hell did we stayed in the overpriced Pacific Islands.
Our stay here was too short to truly enjoy its charm, but we are planning on going back in a couple of months.