New Year, New Adventures

New Year, New Adventures

“You have no idea what the future holds so experience it all now. That was the whole point of you going there.” Wise words from a wise friend who reminded me of this as I was pondering to go to Thailand or not (during my post-contract vacay trip). It is so true. I do NOT know what the future holds. I have ideas and options-and that is great-but nothing is set. I might come teach in Asia again, but what if I don’t? I might have some amazing corporate job land in my lap. I might move and teach somewhere else. I might win the lotto 😉 I might…who knows?! So-live it up, right?

Well, the New Year started out with a bang. I woke up and frantically was trying to post my ‘last post of 2014’ before my taxi picked me up for the airport. I wanted the holidays accounted for and then this post could focus on my winter vacay. Now that it is halfway through February I am getting around to it. Wow-where has time gone?! I have been in Asia for a year! A YEAR!! This will be a short blog (I am sure my sister is relieved) because I will be posting another one soon (really!). Just like the last vacay here are the bullet points of the highlights for each day…those of you that want the real quick version can read these and then go to the pics 😉 However you might want to read the first paragraph about me being detained in customs in China for 2 hours…

Day 1: Amazing dinner and speakeasy in Shanghai (& an unforgettable experience in customs!)
Day 2: Eat Pray Love was on-such a coincidence since I wanted to see it again before I headed to Bali! Enjoyed a chill day at Julie’s flat-the couch was AMAZING. It has been a LONG time since I have been on a couch! {I told them I was going to take up real estate on their couch haha} *Oh and for the record-China does beds/mattresses much better than Korea! (meaning it was actually comfortable!)
Day 3: Bus tour of Shanghai-saw so much of this massive city!
Day 4: First day in Bali-fun times at Potato Head Beach Club with new friends (amazing cocktails-the Kookaburra was insanely delish-and the sunsets were amazing!). Also, it was like walking into a pool party in Vegas LOL That night I enjoyed a yummy dinner at Sarong.
Day 5: Potato Head again-I got a bed (lounge) this time! Ended the night with a gorg sunset (round 2) and a delicious dinner at Hotel Mexicola.
Day 6: Peaceful day at the pool at my hotel and then headed to Uluwatu Padang Padang Beach (Eat Pray Love filmed there!)
Day 7: Sicker than a dogggggggg but did force myself to walk to the beach to see the sunset-it wasn’t great at that beach-I did see some very aggressive monkeys though (the first of many I would later find out!).
Day 8: Enjoyed the pool at my hotel & went to the Uluwatu temple for the sunset. I also rode a scooter for the FIRST time (Made was my ‘taxi’ driver coming back…I also did not wear a helmet).
Day 9: Traveled to Ubud and stopped in Taro at the Elephant Safari AMAZING time!!! I got to be in an elephant talent show (I knew I should’ve joined the circus!), rode an elephant around this gorgeous forest, fed my elephant-Boris (& after he showed me a trick!) and then saw a baby elephant! After I went to the rice terraces in Tegalalang which were beautiful (and had 2 adorable girls be my ‘guides’).
Day 10: Spa Day. For 6 hours. Ahhhhmazing!!! & so relaxing 🙂 Flower bath too (first time!) and after met some cool Euros while at (another) yummy dinner!
Day 11: Walked around Ubud Village and checked out shops and just explored (Samantha had some great recs-thanks!). Went to the cutest coffee shop!
Day 12: Relaxed to rest up/prep for hiking the volcano for sunrise the next morning. I also went to the Monkey Forest before dinner. Did a little shopping on the way back to my hotel and found the cutest shops!
Day 13: Saw the sunrise from the top of a volcano (Kintamani Volcano-Mount Batur)! It was one of the hardest hikes I have ever done-but was so worth it! I also loved Bali so much I extended my trip!
Day 14: Traveled to Kuala Lumpur…kinda a bummer b/c flight was delayed so was in airport wayyyyy too long (& just made for a super long day!). I was VERY happy I had extended my Bali stay. Bali is much more my style (lesson learned!).
Day 15: Flew back to South Korea-nice 14 hour travel day door to door 😉
Had SUCH a great trip! I have done a lot of traveling and hands down Bali is one of my favorite places in the world!!!

So, the vacay started out very interesting…me being detained in customs in China to be exact. So yeah…I got to Shanghai (and for those of you that do not now the China visa is super expensive for Americans, but they offer this ‘transit’ visa…well let me tell ya the transit visa rules are shady and not clear. I had checked blogs, called the airline-thought I was good to go. Well, I wasn’t!). So I am at customs and have my info for them-showing that I am not staying in China for more than 72 hours AND showing my flight leaving China to ANOTHER country (you canNOT come back to the country you came from with the 72 hour transit visa). Well, guess what, you also canNOT have a layover IN China when leaving China. This is probably going to be confusing…so you can feel free to email me on the side if you really want to get into the deets here. But, let’s just say, I spent a fabulous 2 hours in China customs…I wasn’t scared-I was getting frustrated. However, I kept my smile and was super friendly b/c one probably shouldn’t pull a ‘tude with the customs dudes (I had 4 on me, don’t worry!)…the thought of China prison was NOT on my winter vacay places to hit up (haha I am joking here-clearly I wouldn’t go to prison for this!). So the long story short was this-I was first sitting for 30 minutes while they all were discussing my situation. 3 of the 4 guys were very nice to me-the 1 was a jerk. He actually was lecturing me about how I came into their country illegally…I was trying to point out that I did have a flight TO another country but since China is so massive that most of the flights do stop IN China (and don’t worry-that was all in my head…I just kept smiling at him forcing myself not to scream). Soooo I finally ventured the 10 feet to the SIM card place and bought one so I could try to contact Rachel’s Aunt Julie who was meeting me at the airport…wellllll for those of you that don’t know China blocks a lot of social media sites and google-I knew this prior to coming in (and it still shocked me-how can you live without google?!) BUT they also had JUST blocked gmail…like that day hahaha sooooo my email to Julie couldn’t be accessed. So, then I started looking for flights (since one of the agents had been gone for like 40 minutes at this point trying to find me a flight that would be approved by customs dude). Another hour goes by-at this point I was starting to slightly panic that Julie would leave me. I did have their address, and her husband works for Disney so figured if I could just get toward that area I would be able to figure it out. I did ask one of the customs dudes if they could somehow let my friend’s aunt know I was ok, just stuck in customs, and he gave a lovely snarky reply that I wasn’t ‘legally in their country so he didn’t have to’ THANKS DUDE. So at this point I am started to get cranky-you all can imagine. I now was heading to their office to purchase a new flight-that also made me cranky. What a way to start the vacay, right? haha I mean first let’s get stuck in customs and then can I please pay $550 for a new flight outta here?! So-this is where it gets even better. The nice agent (customs dude #4) was with me in the office. He and his co-worker were finding me an approved flight and then he showed it to me and directed me to a desk to purchase it. So, I am entering all the necessary info and I asked him before I hit ‘purchase’ if we were good to go. He said yes. I then printed out the flight and hand it to him. As we are walking back to the main customs area (I like to call it headquarters) he looks down at the paper and says ‘oh no, you can’t have this flight.’ I almost screamed. I did look at him and said ‘what do you mean? I just paid for this and you said it was okay!’ I probably was a tad annoyed (and obvious) at that point. The problem was this-the flight he had said ‘ok’ to had a layover IN Korea…and with the 72 hour transit visa you cannot go back to where you came (even for a layover!) LOL sooo back to the customs office we went. I was slightly freaking out thinking I just dropped that much cash on nothing BUT luckily Priceline is amazing and has a policy (maybe?) that when you call back within 5 minutes of purchasing your flight (and I did NOT have the insurance on it) they refund you 100%. Thank heavens! So, I purchased another flight-DIRECT this time. I didn’t even bother with anything else-and went back to the customs HQ. The flight I ended up booking was really only getting me out 12 hours earlier…and got me to warmth/beach/good cocktails a lot quicker since I was direct now!
Okay so I finally get the stamp to get the heck out of customs and be allowed into China. I grab my luggage and then walked to the exit. I was PRAYING Julie was waiting for me still. She was. SWEET. I started to cry-tears of JOY! And then I was like ‘please can we get a cocktail?!’ haha
There was a restaurant right next to the int’l area and we got margarita martinis and some dumplings. Welcome to China 😉
From there things really calmed down haha we both chatted-I had seen her in April when she and Rachel came to visit me in Daegu. Then we got on the Maglev (speed train in Shanghai). It was really nice-we went 301 km/hour and got to the stop for their neighborhood (Pudong). Got into a taxi-which are super shady in China…I wouldn’t have thought that actually. Makes me realize how lucky I am in Korea with the super honest taxi drivers. Just don’t talk loud-that the do NOT like. I got to their flat and was so impressed-I have been to a few Korean homes and this was so different! These buildings from the outside were all different (which in Korea they all look like a big dorm building) and the walls and interior design was just gorgeous! I met Andy, Rachel’s uncle (who works for Disney) oh and Julie pointed out the future location of Disney when we were on the train! So cool 🙂 We chatted for a bit-I talked about Disney of course 🙂 Then we went to an AMAZING dinner. Hands down the best meal I have probably had in Asia. Andy did an AMAZING job ordering off the menu and we all ate family style, so got to try soooo many different dishes. I met some of their friends and we all just had a great time! After dinner we went to a speakeasy-it was a true speakeasy too! From the front you would have had NO idea. You had to have the magic word and then there were 3 levels. We went to 2 of them. Good cocktails and good company! What more could you ask for on the first day of the new year in a new country with new friends?! From there we went to Shanghai Brewery and I had a delish beer-Korea doesn’t specialize in wheat beers so this was a true treat. This bar was definitely expat owned and there were expats everywhere. Good music+good drinks+good bar food=a good time! After that we (finally) went home. I was laughing so hard b/c I was soooo tired and we just kept going-it was great! A great way to start the trip-that is for sure 🙂
The next morning I got to sleep in-and had such a comfortable bed. Such a treat! I got to then lazily wake up and enjoy the ENORMOUS couch. Another treat! It was a super lazy day and I enjoyed every minute of it! That night we ordered pizza and Julie and I watched Eat, Pray, Love. I was in heaven! Also had a delish wine that reminded me of one from home!
The next day I was a hardcore tourist all day-I went on the bus tour with Julie. Shanghai is HUGE for those of you that aren’t aware. It is one of the top 5 largest cities in the WORLD with over 23 million people (yes-23!!!). It also has a ‘Tomorrowland’ feel to it (my Disney touch haha) and they call themselves the Paris of the East. The bus tour was really good-highly recommend it. There were 3 different routes and you got a good lay of the land/city. We went on all the tours, made a stop at the Tianzifang marketplace to wander around and ended the day trying to see the sunset from the top of the Financial Tower. There wasn’t much of a sunset due to the air quality of course haha
I said my goodbyes to the fam, was overwhelmed that they had gotten me a little present filled with fun Disney Imagineers presents (that aren’t available to the general public). Truly amazing people and I am so glad that they made me feel at home!
Julie and I left for the airport and said our goodbyes (I also found subway-sandwich place-and got super excited-haven’t had a ‘real’ sandwich in so long! And for those of you that know me, I wouldn’t usually get this excited over subway…)

Bali
So I am not a fan of red-eye flights. Never have been (you can ask my father!). The benefit was it was direct to Bali AND I was going to have a full extra day for laying out. The downfall was I got in at like 3 am AND was wearing my peacoat, uggs, layers still from cold China and let’s just say Bali was NOT cold (even at 3 am). I got a taxi and got to my hotel-thanks to Samantha for arranging it! Checking in at 4 am just feels weird LOL but I got to my room and passed out. Sunday I woke up, had brekky and headed straight to the ‘beach’ which wasn’t as easy to find as I thought it would be. I did find 2 Aussies and we went to the Potato Head Beach Club (which like I said above felt like a pool party in Vegas). I got a delicious cocktail and felt like I was truly on vacation. To explain the lay of this land is a little hard-the beach was in the distance, yet close. People were laying on bed/lounges and there were a few pools and then this grassy area. So, I found myself a spot on the grass and called it a day! I met these cool chicks (also from Australia) Chris & Alysha, and we all enjoyed the most delish cocktail ever (or maybe b/c I haven’t had a decent one in nearly a year!) the Kookaburra. We made friends with some Italian guys and just had a great day-it was a super fun first day in Bali that is for sure. The sunset that night was also incredible. I left and headed to dinner at Sarong, another Samantha recommendation, and the food was sooooo good!
So I stayed in Seminyak for 3 days-enjoyed the Beach Club atmosphere for a few days and then enjoyed my private pool at the hotel. I left Seminyak and was originally going to head to Bingin Beach from another friend’s rec but decided to meet up with Chris & Alysha in Uluwatu near Padang Padang Beach (where Eat, Pray, Love was filmed!). I stayed at the cutest villa-Pink Coco Bali. The bathroom was amazing-it had an enclosed garden!!! The bed was HUGE and had the mosquito net over it. I am very glad I had such a great place b/c I got super SUPER sick the next 3 days. The comforts of AC and a comfy bed were definitely appreciated. Oh, and saltine crackers and Pocari Sweat (their version of gatorade). Needless to say I spent most of my time in Uluwatu in my hotel. I did venture out and saw the sunset from the beach down the street (which had the most aggressive monkeys-they were so creepy!) and then also checked out the sunset from the temple about 15 minutes away-which wasn’t as good as the sunsets I had seen in Seminyak. I did take my first scooter ride-that was exciting! I left Uluwatu and had gotten a private driver for the day (again, thanks Samantha!) and headed to Ubud. On the way my driver took me to the Elephant Safari Park in Taro. This was such an awesome experience. Samantha had told me all of these things to do and she definitely didn’t send me in the wrong direction (btw I went to high school with Samantha and she has been living in Jakarta for the last 6 years). I was able to be a part of the elephant talent show (yep, you read that right), went on a ride through the forest there on Boris (my elephant!), fed Boris and then he showed me a magic trick! The incredible thing about this place was it was not croweded! I feel like this would’ve had a million people if we were in the states, or even other places in the world! This could be why the experience was so great too-it was quiet and peaceful. The elephants are here and protected too-which is so great. There are other places that I have heard the elephants aren’t treated as well which makes me sad 🙁 After I hung out with Boris I walked around and saw the baby elephant-soooo cute! The ‘baby’ is 21 months old and is still quite big 😉 Her name was Pagir. I left the elephant rescue park and headed straight to the rice terraces in Tegalalang. These were breathtaking-so green and just so different than anything I have ever seen. I met 2 adorable girls, Kadek & Putu, who were my ‘guides’ for a price. I promised I would buy their postcards from them after. They were so adorable-and I loved hearing them speak English. After teaching here for a year it is crazy how impressive it is to the ear when you hear a foreigner not only trying to speak English, but actually SPEAKING it and you are able to understand! They were both just so much fun and the older one (they were 13 & 11) kept holding out her hand for me to hold as we were climbing down and up the ravine (I felt like I was an old lady the way she put her hand out but it was so sweet!). They also were my photographers LOL and took lots of pics for me. 
Having a driver for the day was the best decision-I was able to not only have someone that I could trust, but able to see so much of the area too! 
My hotel in Ubud was great (again)-I felt at home and didn’t want to leave my room. Amazing what a comfy bed can do for you! While in Ubud I relaxed, strolled around the village, enjoyed a 6 hour spa session (amazing), made friends with some cool Europeans, visited the Monkey Forest (the monkeys are seriously creepy tho!) and did some shopping. 
I had some friends that had hiked the volcano (Kintamani Mount Batur) for sunrise and was hellbent on doing it. I was slightly concerned b/c I was still not feeling ‘great’ and just knew getting up at 2:30 in the morning to go hiking could really NOT be a good thing when under the weather. Well, you know me, I had my mind set on doing this so of course I did it. My last morning in Bali I got up at 2 am for a 2:30 pickup to drive towards the volcano. The drive was about an hour away. It was still dark out of course. We got to the ‘base’ and there were a lot of other people there to do the hike as well. Our group had our guides and we all had a ‘light’ breakfast and then set out. Let me tell you-this hike was rough. We had flashlights but we weren’t on level ground most the time and then we were on lava rock. AND I was so sick. My body was too weak probably to have done this, but I am stubborn LOL (again, ask my father!). So, up we went. It was about 2 hours to the top I think. We started at about 1000 meters and the top was 1717 meters (for those of my friends that don’t use metric LOL we went up about 2,500 feet from where we started to the top). The trip was about 6 miles. The thing is, after an hour we just went UP and it was all of the uneven rock. I remember looking up, because there was slight light at this point, and just being like ‘I can do this’ and just kept going. We got to the ‘top’ and really it wasn’t the ‘top’ haha (of course!), it was an area where most stop but of course we had another 20 minutes to the very top. This was all black sand and so tricky to hike up. The 2 Brits that I had made friends with and had been hiking up with (plus our guide) were so awesome. The girl was like ‘don’t force yourself’ and the guy was like ‘you have to make it to the top now-you are so close.’ I mean, he was right (of course). So, I started slowly making the last trek. At this point at least the sun was starting to peak out for the sunrise so you could kinda see and didn’t need the flashlights! I remember getting about halfway up and thinking ‘okay, I am done’ because really, the view was spectacular. But, I also knew that I would my own arse if I didn’t just suck it up and go the extra 10 minutes UP. So I did it. Obviously. Once I got to the top I was greeted by SUPER aggressive, creepy monkeys. They actually were stealing the breakfast that we were given from your hand! I saw the sunrise-it was so gorgeous! Just thinking that a new day has started and watching that happen is a cool feeling. Took tons of pictures (of course) and then observed some monkeys fighting over a hard boiled egg! The hike down was also intense-but at least we could see now! Our guide was so awesome-I truly could not have done it without him. He told me he learned English so he could be a guide! After this intense exercise I let myself be lazyyyyy at the pool the rest of the day and extended my trip by a day and changed my flights around to leave Bali the next day.
My last day was really long-I left Ubud for the airport and then had my flight delayed a few hours. By the time I got to Kuala Lumpur it was nearly dark and I explored a little around my hotel but have to admit that I wasn’t impressed. I have to say that it would be hard for any place to compete after being in Bali though 🙂 It is truly paradise and I know I will go back-perhaps to write that book I have always wanted to write~

I saw a quote recently and absolutely loved it (there are so many I love, I know!). So, I am leaving you all with this:
What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications, It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: You can always change your mind.

See ya Korea Winter!

Speakeasy!

John captured this one

Bus selfie

Julie and me

Shanghai skyline-gorgeous!

California is always representing 🙂

Friends at Potato Head Beach Club

Sunset night 1

Sunset night 2

I still can’t believe nobody else wanted to be in the talent show!

Boris getting cooled off 🙂

Boris showing me his tricks after I fed him

Elephant selfie!

Rice Terraces

Putu putting a flower in my hair and my photographer captured the moment 😉
Oh I failed to mention that I had to change hotels and they don’t have taxis in Ubud…so the scooter took me AND my luggage on it hahaha (totally normal there btw!) AND my 2nd scooter ride!

Friends in Ubud

This sign is no joke!

My last morning in Bali watching the sunrise and a new day starting

On the way down



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