Sunday, April 13, 2014

Riga (Catch up from August 2013)

Well...I completely fell out of my blog writing since our Greece trip.  I am just about to finish Indonesia and I thought I should do a quick catch up story of Riga, Latvia: We actually had a lot of fun there. We caught a little bit of grief for going from some of our friends because it is mainly known as nothing but a Bachelor/Bachelorette destination. But hey...when has a party ever stopped us before? It turned out to be a very interesting trip. The city was occupied by Russia all the way until the early 90's. With such a short period of time to come into their own as a culture, they have done a great job remembering the past while trying to move on in their own direction. The history of the area was incredible. Oh yeah...and pretty blonde women as far as the eye can see. That pretty much sums Riga up.




 



 
There were many people taking what appeared to be "profile" pictures throughout the city....which we found hilarious.
One of our personal favorites...at one point she was crawling around the fountain.

We couldn't resist trying our own.

Tiger roar!








We had the absolute worst glass of wine here!


 

Indonesia.....wait, why don't we live there again?


Well, it has been a while since my last post but I will try and get back on track.  This year we decided to meet Alicia and our friends Thomas and Michela in Indonesia for a sun and surf holiday vacation. We spent 16 nights in four different places and I can't think of anything I would rather do. Indonesia was a dream for me, and the first time I have ever been to Asia or even the southern hemisphere for that matter.  We began our trip in Canggu on the island of Bali.  Canggu is a small beach town with a few restaurants and some good beginner waves to get the girls started surfing. It ended up being the perfect combination of relaxing, surfing, and hanging out. I'll run through a normal day (I am wishing I was there as I write this): We would wake up around 6:30 every morning, pile on the scoot, and head 3 minutes down the road to the beach for a couple of hours out in the water.  Afterward we would head back to the villa where breakfast was being made, lay around and read books or chat until it was time for some lunch and Bintangs (the Indonesian beer of choice) at one of our two favorite places, the Local or Betelnut Café. This time of day was often referred to as "Bintang Time"...first by the locals, but we caught on quick as we are fast learners when it comes to drinking etiquette ;) After lunch?....you guessed it....more chillin. Then at about 4 or 5 we would get another hour or two out on the water.  I couldn't have been happier. Everything was very cheap, the people were super friendly, and there were many daydreams about what it would take to move there. Whenever we are in a warm paradise I always wonder why anyone would choose to live in.... say Minnesota.... when there are so many perfect islands to live on!
From Canggu we travelled up to Ubud for two nights and met up with Thomas and Michela. Definitely more of a city atmosphere and Canggu seemed like a distant memory within minutes of being there. It was hot, crowded, and covered with tourists and mosquitoes. Basically not my favorite part of the trip. There were, however, Monkeys! Wow, the Monkey Forest Temple was as advertised. I bought bananas at the front thinking I would just stroll around the forest giving a monkey a banana every now and then. Wrong. As soon as I entered, without warning, this giant chick monkey snuck up behind me and jacked the whole bunch right out of my hand! DAMN!!! I actually went again the next day with the sole purpose of hanging on to my bananas a little longer with only slightly more success. Maybe I am giving Ubud a bad name, it really isn't just tourists, monkeys, and mosquitoes. We did get to see a local ceremonial fire dance in a temple that was very interesting and definitely recommended. We also managed to get out of the city for a little while and see some amazing rice fields and a temple that had a fresh water healing spring that was a really beautiful site. I think two nights was plenty though and we were all ready to get to the beach and the island paradise that was waiting.
From there we went to the tiny island of Gili Trawangan by boat.  No cars, no scooters, but lots of rain.  The island was so small we were able to ride our bikes around the whole thing in less than an hour. Unfortunately, the night before we left Ubud, I got Bali Belly (Indonesia's version of Montezuma's Revenge) and spent the next few nights laid up in bed until Nicole managed to procure some antibiotics to get me right. To be honest, it was the perfect place to be sick.  We had a beautiful villa and it pretty much rained non-stop so there was not a lot I missed out on. I knew it was the rainy season, so that was a risk, but overall we only had about five or six days of rain the whole trip so it didn't bother me that much. It would have been nice to have a little more sunshine on Gili though since the major reason to go there is for the beautiful white sand beaches. Because I was still sick, I missed most of the NYE celebration but met up with everyone just after midnight. And let me tell you that quiet island went off! With mostly Indonesian tourists on what we are assuming are lots and lots of drugs, coupled with lots and lots of Techno, the entire main drag felt like a giant rave minus the glow sticks. With big plans of staying out till dawn, we only managed about 2:30.  When you are in your thirties, weird shots and beer can only keep you dancing to Techno for so long. It didn't turn out to be the crazy most epic NYE celebration we had planned, but it was a very memorable experience and we all ended up having a great night.  A couple days later, we said goodbye to Alicia and left the island ready for some sun, as well as a change of scenery.
Getting to Gerupuk, a tiny fishing village on the southern coast of Lombok was not what one would call glamorous. The trip started on an extremely overcrowded fishing boat sitting on top of a motor with the overall feeling that we were goods being smuggled across some unseen border. Luckily it was only about 30 minutes and aside from not being able to walk right for a few minutes because my feet fell asleep, the trip was ended up being fine. Upon reaching shore, we were herded off the back like cattle to jump into knee deep water. Right before we jumped off, guys were telling us we had to hand them our bags...we did...and then had to immediately pay to get them back. Right off the bat, Lombok did not have the same laid back feel or vibe as Bali or Gili had. It is one of the poorer islands in the country and people are doing whatever it takes to get by.  The harbor itself felt like a hustle waiting to happen. We paid ahead for our transport, being told we would take a private van to Gerupuk. If by private they meant 12 people in a 8 passenger hippie van, then they were correct. Three and a half hours, some very sore asses, and the use of Thomas' negotiation skills later, we eventually arrived at our bungalow for the next four nights.  Ahhh.....Back to the perfect island life. Surfing, scooting around, Bintang time, playing Phase 10 in bean bag chairs looking out over the bay.... Awesome. The village was tiny but had a couple of cafe's to eat and lounge and another larger village was only a fifteen minute scooter ride away. Gerupuk bay had five breaks for surfing that were only accessible by boat.... we were only able to surf two of them and they were both very tide dependent. We found plenty to occupy ourselves when we weren't surfing though. We took our scooters to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen a couple of times, but after all the surfing I was not ready to be in the sun any longer so we didn't enjoy it as much as I would have liked. I feel like I could go on and on. This was one of the few trips that I just wasn't ready to come home from. 27 hours later, we were back home and we have been missing Indonesia every since.  Next stop: Brussels, Bruges, and Amsterdam with Mason and Mel! Enjoy the pics....I wish we would have taken more.



Sisters and their peace signs at Echo beach.
Only one way to properly get around bali...a small scooter with two beautiful women on the back!




Our villa for the week in Canggu
 
The mosquitos weren't as bad as I was expecting but the nets definitely helped at night.



 


 



Proving the Mary Poppinsness of my backpack for a last minute scooter provisions run!






Little known fact about Nicole: She will NEVER pass up the opportunity to put her head through a cutout for a photo.

 



Paris and the girls (he rented us our surfboards everyday)



I'm just so hot...

Lemongrass and Ginger Cocktail
 
Entrance to the Temple for the Fire Dance
 
video
There were no instruments, all the sounds were made by the people in the ceremony.
 





That's about as close as Nicole was willing to get

Monkey kisses

Damn monkeys always trying to steal my bananas!

Part 1 of Nicole's Nat Geo monkey montage:
 
 

 






 

The only picture with the whole crew!



These girls ran up to me and Thomas screaming like we were Bieber or something!


Thomas' fan club



Perfect Angels



 
 
 




 
I barely made it out for NYE, but I rallied.

NYE!
This was the main drag on Gili Trawangan

Tourist Smuggling Operation


 
Trying to hide from the paparazzi.... or the sun....whichever you prefer.


Local soccer match....Gerupuk won 2 nil (our surf guide scored both goals)




Warmest pool we have been in since leaving Arizona!
 

One of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.



The boat that took us out to the waves every day.
 

There is a pretty obvious skill gap between Thomas and myself.


 




Surfscape