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May 30, 2011

The Balinese calendar

The Balinese calendar is a complex, 210 day calendar, but it’s not that interesting.
What is interesting, that according to their belief, every activity should be performed on some designated “lucky days” each month. Let’s take a close look what the recommendation was for February!

May 24, 2011


Have to admit, the marketing team of Bali (if such team exists) did an excellent job. Most of us when we hear about Bali, we imagine something like this (photo by sektordua):

However the reality that we experienced was something more like this:

According to the locals, during rainy season (we were there in March), all the rubbish is washed into the the sea from the mountains and from the other islands. No doubt about it, Jimbaran had the dirtiest beach we have seen in our entire trip! Kuta and Legian is not any better. Despite the rumors that the dirty water can even be dangerous and cause skin problems, hordes of Australian surfers reside here. There are so many tourists and so many locals trying to sell their stuff with an aggression that we probably haven't seen since Mexico, that the image of Bali, the paradisiacal island vanishes right away. Add to the mix that the city of Kuta and its surroundings have grown so rapidly in the past years, that the roads are not capable of taking up all the traffic. In peak times it could take an hour to pass a few kilometers inside the city. Your best bet is a motorcycle taxi, which will take you anywhere, slaloming between the jammed cars. Reportedly, due to the rapid development, fresh water supply, sewage treatment and electricity are not always available.
Taking all this into account, we rapidly left Kuta-region behind and headed to the center of the island, Ubud. The good news is, that Ubud is a little bit less crowded, yet you see handicraft sellers (wood and stone carvers, potteries, etc.) on every five meters. Thinking about the general rule of economy about supply and demand, we can’t help wondering: who the hell buys all this stuff? Surrounding Ubud there are a number of temples and holy places one can visit. The general scam applies to most of them: they try to sell you a sarong (basically a long apron) before you enter the place, for religious reasons, but you will soon learn that most places offer you a free sarong and it is included in the entrance ticket. Similarly a self-appointed guide often tries to stick to you and ask for money later. If you are not in the mood, just tell him/her, you have no money. At most places you can avoid these people quite easily, but be prepared when going to the temple of Besakih, scammers are more aggressive here than usually.

Getting around the island is best with a scooter, which you can rent for around 6USD. At the beginning, the traffic can be intimidating, although as soon as you leave the cities behind, you are often the only one cruising on the roads. After a few days you get used to use your horn like the locals do, and can even outperform them in slaloming between cars and heavy trucks. The quality of the roads are generally good, but the tires on the bikes can be worn. Paul did well in some challenging situations when he had 2 punctures on the same day and had to explain the locals the history of both of them. Strangely enough the facial masks are far less popular here than in Jakarta, we were kind of pioneers in using them:)

Apart from the temples and handicrafts, Ubud region is known for its monkey forest, Balinese dance performances, rice paddies and the majestic Mt Batur.
Generally Bali has great food and drinks, but stay away from the local strong drink, called Arak and the self service buffets which can be quite low quality. During our stay in Ubud, Meme’s and its friendly manager, Nyoman treated us with delicious plates and yummie fruit juices.

After all Bali is worth a visit for its rich cultural heritage and its unique religion, but I would not recommend it for honeymoons or relaxing holidays. For sure Bali offers a number of great hotels and resorts for great prices, not only near the beach, but also inside the island, but as soon as you step outside, the peace is gone. You will not find answers here for your mid-life crisis, like Julia Roberts did in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”, and there are definitely better places to enjoy beach time.

May 22, 2011


IMG_7634Although Paul is still roaming around somewhere in Asia, our round-the-world trip as we know it has came to its end. A lot of interesting stuff is still about to come on this blog, so make sure you keep coming back, but in this post I would like to thank all of you who helped us throughout our journey.

Firstly I would like to thank my travel mate, Paul, for putting up with me for so long. We have spent nearly 9 months together 24/7, and against all odds, we are still very good friends:)

Second, I am grateful for my mum, my family, Yure, Zsolt and all my friends back home. No matter which time zone we were travelling in, they were always there to help us or cheer us up.

Special thanks to those friends, who shared their homes with us. They not only helped us reduce our costs, but gave a precious insight of the life of the locals. Fruzsi and Jonathan in Montreal, Detti, Raza, Mehmet and Oliver in Toronto, Val and Theron in Chicago, Kim in Las Vegas, Kahlier in Los Angeles, Alma in Cancun, Karina and Talina in Merida, Carolyn and her family in Lima, Vanessa, Alme and their family in Lima, Ricardo in Ica, Verica and Simone in Sao Paulo, Julius in Salvador, Belen in Cordoba, Sonia in Buenos Aires, Andras and Agi in Gisborne, Andrew and his family near Auckland, Hans in Sydney, Sharon in Puerto Princesa, Boris and his family in Jakarta, Arendt, Ankit and Thomas in Singapore, Mimmi in Bangkok, Rudi in Qingdao. Thank you all for your amazing hospitality, don't forget to visit us one day!

Thanks to all the friends and fellow travelers we met on the road. We have shared a lot of adventures and smiles and we have received a number of priceless tips and recommendations from you. I hope to see all of you somewhere around this Globe!

Special thanks for all of you, who have donated money either to get a postcard from us, buy us a beer, or for our T-shirt game with Aldea Yanapay. My brother, Tamas, Katalin, Arnaud, Vincent, Michael, Katie, Zoltan, Karina, Joao. Thank you all for your support and generosity!

Thanks to all the readers who were following and commenting our blog.

Thank you for the volunteering organizations of Mariposas Amarillas and Aldea Yanapay. Oscar, Yuri and the fellow volunteers over there showed us how little it can take to make a difference in the life of children less fortunate than most of us. We hope we can help them again in the future.

Thanks for the technology that made our trip feasible. Internet, wi-fi, cell phones, google, couchsurfing, wikitravel, etc. Imagine, only 15 years ago this trip would have been much more difficult to organize and carry out!

Last but not least I would like to thank Mother Nature for taking a good care of us and keeping us healthy. Despite the incidents that happened around us, we circled around this beautiful Globe in one piece and good humor…just to see how many things we actually haven’t seen yet…

May 14, 2011

Back home

“Who says you can't go home
There's only one place they call me one of their own
Just a hometown boy, born a rolling stone, who says you can't go home
Who says you can't go back, been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There's only one place left I want to go, who says you can't go home”

Well said, Jonbo!

May 12, 2011

Tips: packing your backpack

No matter how well you've packed your backpack for the first time, in a couple of days it will be all messed up and will not resemble to the original arrangement at all. But this is good. You will learn on the way how to organize your backpack that fits best your needs. You might find some items important enough to move to a side pocket that you buried deep inside in the beginning. You might even have different configurations in different countries: a mosquito net for example is completely unimportant in North America, but might be an everyday need in Cambodia.

Some things that worked well for us:

  • Organize your shirts in horizontal layers and compress them top to bottom. If your pack has a front/middle access, you can just open it up and browse your shirts like you would browse CDs in a store.
  • Group similar color shirts together.
  • Group things that you will most likely use at the same time. Examples: beach towel and swimsuit, gloves and scarf, pullovers and coats, etc.
  • Place your heaviest item in the center of your backpack, nearest to your spine. This is what most tutorials will tell you and for a good reason. In my case the heaviest item is my hiking boots.
  • Create a system to separate clean and worn clothes. My trick is to store clean clothes turned inside out. Since you wash your clothes inside out anyway, you simply leave them that way when packing. This helps to protect their actual outside from soiling and also offers clear differentiation. Once worn, put them back in a normal way.
  • Use some kind of bag or pouch to store all your chargers and cables. Nothing is worse than digging up all your backpack looking for that damn USB cable.
  • When taking a flight, be prepared that your check-in luggage might never arrive. Don't put anything valuable in it, and keep warm clothes with you in your carry-on luggage. Even if you are going to a warm location, you might end up waiting for a delayed flight in an overly air-conditioned waiting lounge.

Any tips from you? Don't hesitate to share!

May 10, 2011

Jammin’ in Jakarta

Landing in Jakarta, the first thing that struck us was how big and modern the city was. I expected something like Manila, but despite Manila being one of the cities with the highest population density, Jakarta feels much more crowded and populous. In fact, it seems like that the 10 million people who live in the city, are constantly heading somewhere. There is simply no time of the day when there is no traffic jam. Even on Sundays you have to think twice before hailing down a taxi to go as far as a few blocks: you are better off walking. Among the lengthy lines of jammed cars, expect to fight for the pavement with a small army of motorbikes and scooters. They respect no pedestrians in the ever-present struggle to get to their destination in time.


Jakarta has the WORST traffic we have experienced in our trip, and until they don't build a metro, the situation will only get worse. In fact, some districts can only be accessed by car at peak times, if the car has at least 3 passengers. What does the crafty Indonesian do then? Rent a passenger! Or two at once. See the report of BBC about the Unusual ways to avoid Jakarta's traffic.

Due to the constant traffic jams, people are used to wear protective anti-smog masks. When in Rome do as the Romans do, here is our contribution to the masquerade.


The other striking feature of Jakarta is the number and quality of shopping malls. We have gotten lost and ended up spending hours in one of them, which probably was the most grandiose and well-decorated shopping mall we have ever been to. It is worth to notice that being a blond foreigner brings a number of benefits, that I just started to discover: in the mall we got free cookies, free yogurt, free fish massage, free massage seats, etc. I never want to be brown again:P


Architecture-wise the city has a number of old buildings, left here from the era when it was called Batavia and was the capital of the Dutch East Indies. Unfortunately this part of the city is quite dirty and unpleasant to look at.


As we only spent 2 days in Jakarta, we didn't explore the culinary side to the fullest, but met some oddities in the local A&W fried-chicken chain: the fried chicken comes with a rice ball, but no cutlery. While it poses no problem for eating the chicken, good luck with munching the rice-ball with your fingers! Even more weird is the pint of coke-like drink with a slap of whipped-cream on the top. You have been warned, it's not good!:)