Jo was in fact a born and bred Taswegian as they are referred to in Australia or Tasmanian to the rest of the world. I had visited every mainland state in Australia by the time I was 19 years old but had never made the leap across Bass Strait to the Apple Isle.
These days rather than apples it is tourism and unspoilt natural beauty that is bringing more and more people to "Tassie". We had cause to travel to Tasmania as part of out Remote Nursing accreditation and had a 3 day course to attend just adjacent to the central highlands area in Campelltown.
Apart from the course Jo had family she had not seen in a while so we took the opportunity to knock of one of our necessary requirements for work, catch up with some people and for me to have my first exposure to the delights of the Tasmanian countryside.
We flew into the state capitol of Hobart and I was immediately taken with the cleanliness and walkability of the city. With a population of only just over the 200,000 mark it is by no means a large bustling metropolis but has a quiet, sedate air to it. The waterfront is particularly pleasant for a stroll around with some lovely old restored buildings being turned into quite chic accomodation/ bars/ restaurants.
The drive up the Central Highway was very reminiscent of some of the rolling hill countryside of Victoria. We were staying in a small Airbnb in Ross which is a lovely historic village just off the highway and has the second oldest still in use stone bridge in Australia that was constructed by convict labour back in the 1830's. The whole village was just out of a postcard with a number of similar aged churches and buildings to be visited and the surrounding hills in hues of brown and yellows particularly at sunset.
After fulfilling our obligations and passing our course we headed further North and slightly West to the town of Ulverstone for family catch-ups and to use as a base for day trips around the area. Our most enjoyable day trip was to Stanley, almost the furtherest North-West point on Tasmania and the site of what is called "The Nut". This is an old volcanic plug of hard rock that stands 143 metres above the surrounding land and is the most visible landmark for some distance.
The town of Stanley is very quaint with a lot of old weatherboard houses looking very well maintained and manicured. To access the top of The Nut there is a well marked walking trail or a open chairlift, we chose the chairlift. Once on the top there is again a well marked trail that runs around the perimeter affording some fantastic views to sea and along the coast. It is around a 2 kilometre walk around the top and be warned even on a sunny warm day the wind coming straight off the Southern Ocean can be freezing. While in the area keep a look out for signs advertising the local delicacy of "scallop pies". Australian’s claim the Lamington and jostle with New Zealand over the Pavlova, the Taswegians have been modestly concocting the scallop pie. I had never heard of, let alone tried these sumptuous seafood selections but was very taken with the one I did summon up the courage to sample and would recommend trying at least one while you have the opportunity.
See our day trip to "The Nut" -HERE
Our stay in Ross- HERE
Although we are both health professionals and part of that job is to promote healthy lifestyle choices, if the truth be known we have probably not practiced what we preached. Human nature being what it is, all too easily we blame everything else but our own choices for putting on weight, loss of fitness, declining health etc. We, being humans, blamed our remote living for less availability of fresh food and less choices for our poor diet and extreme weather for not maintaining outdoor exercise.
Earlier this year we decided enough was enough and it was time to take extreme measures. Our extreme measures meant taking 2 months off work, flying to Kuala Lumpur, renting a lovely apartment complete with rooftop pool and gym and eating healthily!
While we started of with the best intentions, the lure of the amazing variety of cheap food available in KL was irresistible. To offset our "straying from the straight and narrow" we decided to undertake a complete health check and set out to research what was available. Long story short, we discovered HealthScan Malaysia's web site where you can select from an exhaustive menu of tests and investigations depending on your familial history, lifestyle risk factors or what you actually want!
We made a booking for Jo first to see how it all went and although we had an idea that the business was close to our accomodation it wasn't until we set out on the morning of the appointment to discover it was actually right across the road from where we were staying. The pricing of the package plus any of the optional tests isn't hugely cheaper than Australia. However if you added the cost of a GP consult first then ifyou could convince the GP that the tests were necessary then maybe the specialist appointment before actually having the test done, it is much cheaper. Not just the price factor, but in Australia you may have to wait weeks before being able to have the tests completed and then wait to get the results through another consult with your GP. Here we had them all done in one morning, in the one place, and had the results after having our supplied sandwiches and coffee.
Without going into our personal results, we are still walking around, our experience with the private healthcare facilities in KL were pretty good really. I ended up with an overnight stay in hospital and although perhaps the infection control practices weren't up to our standards the medical staff were certainly qualified and experienced. One thing we noticed that stood out from our Australian system is that specialists in Malaysia are as plentiful as GP's and to get an appointment with one you don't have to wait weeks and the cost in very minimal.
Although we used a private hospital we noted that we were usually the only tourist types about and even though the facility was aimed at local patronage the admin staff as well as medical staff were very pleasant and helpful. There is a definite system used in hospitals here but although it may seem unusual at first it works extremely well.
So really, by accident, we ended up participating in our own form of medical tourism and found it very rewarding and educational. We would recommend it to anyone of a more mature age that wanted to have some more control over their own health management. It can give you a better idea of where your body may be planning to let you down long before any signs or symptoms make themselves known and hopefully before it is too late to do anything about it.
We would recommend HealthScan Malaysia only because we had a good experience with them and not because of any financial reward or discount.
UPDATE- Since this was written we have had a second visit just to follow-up on any changes and all was well. The service has moved to another location near KL Central Station but the service and professional approach is still the same. This time we were able to make a short video about the facility which I will post on our Youtube channel soon. Let us know on the "our story" page contact form if you would like any more details.
See their website ........here
Been planning that early retirement like I have for some time but are worried about the cost. Recently on our trip to Bali I filled in some time by the beach adding up all the non-avoidable costs of just existing in todays society and it was quite a shock. If you add up all your costs associated with owning a house, a car, a mobile phone plan etc then divide it by 52 weeks of the year it gives you a figure that you can factor into any costs of either living or travelling overseas.
OK, without going into details but things like-
Car registration and insurance, house insurance, electricity, internet and phone plans, gas bill, council rates, car maintenance and fuel........
Ours came out to $11,000 per year or $210 per week.
I may be looking at this with a bit of favouritism but $210 per week would pay for a very nice 1 bedroom apartment in Chiang-Mai, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok or most places in Asia if you took a month by month rental agreement. European and North American prices would of course be more expensive but the $210 per week would go a good way towards paying rent.
Also take into account that a lot of monthly rental places come with internet and electricity included in the rent. Don't forget this money is just what you have been spending probably without even realising it. It is not factoring in any of your savings you have accumulated to travel or any income you can generate while travelling.
No matter where you are living you have to eat and drink but in a lot of the more interesting places in the world the cost of food should be lower than what you are used to paying back home.
Although all this number crunching makes sense, to me at least, we still haven't taken our "leap of faith" thrown everything in and just done it. However, my calculations do give me some hope and comfort that there are alternative ways to live your life that may even make economical sense too.
As our time in Bali comes to an end, for now at least, we had a few more places to tick off on our list of accomodation places to revisit. First was the Anvaya which in a previous life had been the Santika Plaza. The old Santika had been completely demolished and over the last few years we had noticed the construction going on for the new Anvaya so wanted to see what they had done.
They have done very well actually, the Anvaya is right on Kuta beach so one side has beach views while along the long driveway you can immerse yourself in all that Kuta is famous for. Shops, bars, restaurants and traffic! To be fair to Kuta we don't find it that bad really and you never have to go far to find pretty much anything you might need. The resort still has a quite new feel to it and although not on a huge plot of land still manages to keep an open feel to it. The breakfast buffet was probably one of the best we've come across and the rooms and common areas were very clean and modern.
Just a sarong's toss down the beach we revisited a place we had stayed at years ago called the Sandi Phala. When we stayed there last time we thought it was just great, it was a more boutique style with just a handful of rooms in a very traditional Balinese style. The pool is small but I can't remember actually having to share it with anyone else. The first time there were sunlounges under the palm trees along the beachfront that were just lovely to spend time on. Management has chosen to move them waaaay back to where the pool is and so there are only a few chairs next to the only bar where you can spend time anywhere near the beach. Ma Joli is the restaurant attached to Sandhi Phala which again used to be top-notch but these days falls a little short of the mark. We had noticed that the tariff was quite cheap for what we remembered so that should have been a tipoff but...really for the money it was quite reasonable and as they say, you should never go back.
However we did go back to the Holiday Inn in Tuban which is very handy to the airport and so suited us for our last night in Bali. Of course Holiday Inn is a bit like the Macca's of hotels as one is pretty much the same as the next and the quality is usually very good. The main attraction at this one is the beachside restaurant called Envy Bar and this place is consistantly great. It has a wonderful position for sunsets, the food is really good and priced well and the staff somehow just manage to be very professional while keeping a friendly approach. The hotel rooms are varied from more traditional Balinese decor to very modern so take your pick. There is one large pool with plenty of sun-lounges to find a place to yourself. The only possible criticism might be that the air conditioned area for breakfast is quite limited, in fact the non A/C area is also a bit limited too but nothing's perfect is it?
See our reviews - HERE
We had not stayed at the Padma Resort in Legian for close on 5 years so decided it was time to renew an old friendship. The Padma is a beachside resort spread out over 17 acres of manicured gardens, lawns, pools and traditional style accomodation. If you have read the last blog about the Marriott then the Padma was just what the doctor ordered with 5 pools, each one completely separated from the next. There is the adults only pool with swim-up bar and sunlounges overlooking the beach at Legian. The Skai Beach Club has a small but sparkling infinity pool which was just wonderful to watch the Bali sunsets from. Coupled with the coldest beers, served in frozen mugs and the largest frozen Daiquiri's we have seen plus very reasonably priced food....what else could you want.
Legian Beach these days is really just an extension of Kuta, with a slightly less frenetic vibe but with all the choices of bars, restaurants, massage and nail treatment place etc. At the corner of Legian Beach road where it turns away from the beach there is a converted Kombi Van that sets up around 5PM in the carpark selling a wide variety of cocktails and the ubiquitous Bintang beers. They pump out some very chilled beach-style music to sit back and enjoy the sunset and the passing parade.
Our short stay at the Padma was unfortunately.....short...as we had a few other hotels we had on our list to revisit so it was on further slightly down the coast to the next place and the next review.
Our stay at the Padma was completely unsponsored so in our opinion very unbiased, if you'd like to see the video- Click below.
We've always tried to be objective as possible when reviewing hotels we've stayed at even if we've been able to get some sort of deal for a review. The Courtyard Marriott at Seminyak is a very nice hotel but....not what really appeals to us OR I would suspect the more mature traveller.
It is quite new, it's quite clean, the facilities are very good but the demographic would very much suit a younger age group.
I suppose the "courtyard" title is very accurate. The accomodation is 5 stories high on 3 sides surrounding the pool with reception on the fourth side which undoubtedly forms a courtyard. The pool is sparkling clean but has limited space around it for guests to enjoy lounging, so much so that the hotel proclaims a time-limit for unused lounges before towels etc will be removed to make way for other guests. Very fair and I agree, but it does say something about supply and demand if you are wanting to spend time by the pool you may have to wait or spread your towel on the plastic grass quite some distance from the water.
You should be offered a "Drinks Package" when checking in and although it might suit you the pressure is on as the offer is only open for the day of checking in. There are various levels to buy so much credit to receive extra value but during the process of checking in it is probably not the best time to make a decision of some $100's of dollars.
Anyway, a very good hotel with good facilities that just does not have the physical space for all to enjoy those facilities at certain times of the day. Coupled with loud music for a couple of hours every day around cocktail hour when you might like to enjoy a quiet drink it just didn't suit us, but each to their own. See our review on Youtube-
It has been a long time since we have stayed in Seminyak and were very interested to see any changes. Seminyak has developed a reputation of being slightly more upmarket than say....Kuta or Legian and this is probably true in most instances. There is any number of coffee shops and boutiques spread thickly amongst the interestingly decorated restaurants and plenty of choice from Vegetarian to Italian.
The prices here also reflect the quality you receive so be prepared to dig a little deeper than some of the other Bali locations but the old adage, "you get what you pay for" applies in most cases. It however does lack a little of what I would call the old Bali "flavour" which may suit you down to the ground. You are more likely to find stores with fixed prices so if haggling is not your scene then this is the place. You are also less likely to find the local Balinese shopkeepers that seem to have a sixth sense that enables them to pick a passer-by's nationality and imitate their accents impeccably. I never thought Australians had a particular look but who knows.
There is one Seminyak institution that we never miss paying a visit to and that is the Potato Head Beach Club. It has been in existence for nearly 10 years now and still presents as worthy of an afternoon's laze by the pool or enjoying a crisp cold one viewing the water from a comfy lounge.
We have booked six nights in the Marriot Courtyard Seminyak so will fill you in on our experiences there shortly.
View our Seminyak and Potato Head video on Youtube-
It is not often these days we stay at a hotel where we feel like all the staff are happy to have you stay with them and immediately feel welcome. However this was the case at the Novotel Ngurah Rai Bali airport. Now, I will be upfront here, we are Accor Plus members and I was lucky enough to win the Australian Ambassador competition for Novotel but this has not influenced our review of this hotel. Yes, it is quite a new facility being opened in 2015 which still has that "new" feel to it but it surely is the staff that make a stay there enjoyable.
Being an "airport" hotel one expects just a place to get a decent sleep then move on the next day but this one actually would be a place I would spend a day or so comfortably chilling by the pool which although has a nice view of the control tower is amazingly insulated from aircraft noise. There is a reasonable gym to exercise in and for any plane spotters there is a great view of the runway from the rooftop bar that is open only during the evenings though is accessible all day.
We were so impressed by the level of service and the quality of the facility I have even booked another night here in a few weeks when we bring Jo's Mother back to Bali for her 80th birthday and if someone has enough faith in a place to bring their Mother-in-law there I think it speaks volumes.
Want to see for yourself? then view our review at our Youtube channel-
We start with a lunch-time departure from Tennant Creek as we have a 500 klm drive to Alice Springs before our 5:00 PM flight to Darwin. This flight gets us into Darwin around 7:30 PM and a departure at 11:00 PM to Denpasar.
The drive goes smoothly and we leave our car in the long-term carpark at the airport with only time enough to grab a quick drink and snack at the Qantas Club. It is just over 2 hours flying time to Darwin and the flight is quite painless and we arrive on time. Our layover is long enough to be able to leisurely check-in, grab some Rupiah from the international ATM at the airport and even enjoy another snack and drink at the restaurant in the airport.
The only choice from Darwin to Bali is a Jetstar flight which isn't renown for excessive leg room but as its less than 3 hours I can manage it without doing any irreparable damage to my joints. Arriving just after midnight in Denpasar Airport we find very few people ahead of us at Immigration and sail through and as we have no checked luggage are out through arrivals in record time.
Tonight we have booked into the Novotel Ngurah Rai which is attached to the airport but as we have never been there before are a little hesitant of the best way to find it. There are some overhead signs pointing us in the right direction but after negotiating a few ramps we seem to be on the roof of the airport with very little lighting. We persevered and a little further on we spot the blue Novotel sign like a beacon in the night leading us onward. If you want to see the best route check out this video on our Youtube channel.
The check in was very smooth and being an Accor Plus member paves the way even further and very thankfully we let ourselves into a very clean, comfortable hotel room.
As with a lot of things when your looking forward to something it seems to take forever then all of a sudden it's down to days and you find yourself rushing to get ready. Jo is to finish up at the community she's been at since before Christmas and put forward the idea of a week in Bali just because we can! Well didn't have to twist my arm too far and before you could say Suksma we were booking flights to Denpasar.
As usual in Australia the domestic airfares end up costing more than the International ones. It is no more evident than airfares out of Alice Springs as there is very little choice for times and even less competition. The cost of the one-way fare from Alice Springs to Darwin was more than the return one to Bali!.
This time we have booked for 6 nights in Seminyak at a Marriott hotel named The Marriott Courtyard. We haven't stayed in Seminyak in years so are interested to see how we find it. This week we are hoping just to chill around the pool with maybe a few excursions out to see what has changed in Seminyak.
The only pressure now is that by the time we get back I will only have a few days before finishing up work so will have to try to be 90% sorted before we go. That includes getting our old caravan in a state that it is usable and towable down to Alice Springs where we can leave it at our house there. Again I take it as an opportunity to prune back any "stuff" I haven't used in the last 12 months.