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Ultimate Guide To Visiting Kensington Palace

I’ve always been fascinated by the history of British Royalty, I mean princesses, ball gowns and far-fetched tales – Whats not to like?

Thus, during a trip to Notting Hill (London) late this summer, I decided to make time to visit the nearby Kensington Palace, and I totally fell in love! For one, no place is more steeped in royal history…. Ok, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Balmoral also lay a pretty good claim to the aforementioned statement. However, my point is, Kensington Palace has a strange sense of celebrity around it. For example, it’s where William and Kate have opted to bring up their children. More than this, it was also the childhood home of Queen Victoria and countless other historic royals.

Ultimate Guide to Visiting Kensington Palace - Front Lawns at Kensington palace

In this way, I feel that Kensington Palace should be on everyone’s to do list when visiting London! Need more convincing? Below I’ve compiled an ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Place. So keep reading for all the information, tips and advice you could possibly need for this very elegant and charming Palace.

SIDE NOTE: for those who have been following my Bali Island Hopping Adventure. Fear not, I have not forgotten my Ubud instalment! It’s on the way. 😉

One of the top things to do when travelling to London is to take a trip to the beautiful Kensington Palace! A visit should be on everyone's to do list... So, check out this ultimate guide to its stunning interior, exhibits, gardens, the orangery, and so much more!!

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Key information – 

The first question that needs to be addressed is: can the public visit Kensington Palace? The obvious answer here is yes, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post ;). Here’s some more information you may find handy:

Kensington Palace Opening Hours –

Unlike the more famous Buckingham Palace, Kensington is open all year round! However visiting hours vary according to whether its Summer (01 March – 31 October) whereby the grounds are open 10am-6pm, or Winter (01 November – 28 February) whereby it shuts at the earlier time of 4pm.

Palace tickets –

Tickets to visit Kensington Palace can be bought via the official website for £15.50 (entry is free for children under 15). This said, during peak periods tickets normally sell out ahead of time. So, be prepared and book early!

However, if like me, you leave everything to the last minute (shame on you) then you can also buy tickets from lastminute.com. From here they’re a little more expensive – around £17, but the website can be a lifesaver when dates are seemingly sold out on the palace’s website.

Ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Palace - view of Kensington Palace

Failing this, there is one final way to get your Kensington Palace tickets: on the day. It is possible to turn up at the palace and buy your tickets ‘on the door’. Having said this, I would try and avoid this third option as there can be a long wait. ‘Walk up’ entrance is totally dependant on the number of people already waiting in line with pre-bought tickets.

TOP TIP: Even with tickets, there can be a queue to get into the palace. For example, I had to wait around 20 minutes. Therefore, if you have a busy day planned I suggest arriving just as the doors open to avoid the crowds. 🙂

Getting To Kensington Palace –

Based in the center of London, the easiest way to get to Kenginston Palace is by tube. The closest station is Queensway, which is only a two minute walk away, through the very scenic grounds of Hyde Park.

For more Kensington Palace visitor information, check out their website.


Permanent Exhibitions at Kensington Palace – 

Now all the boring information is out of the way, we can move onto the interesting part of my Ultimate Guide To Visiting Kensington Palace: what you can expect to find.

The palace has several permanent exhibits that are both fascinating and beautiful:

King’s State Apartment –

The first exhibit you’ll come across once you’ve passed through security, and had your ticket scanned, is the King’s State Apartment. Here you’ll find Kensington Palace’s most opulent rooms, which to be honest, were my favourite… I am after all a girl of fine tastes. 😉

The grandeur and history of these historic rooms begin’s in the stair-well. All you have to do is look up to be amazed by intricate ceiling paintings and gold leafed trims:

Ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Palace - Kensington apartments, the kings staterooms

Next, glide up the King’s Staircase where a vivid reaction of George I’s court (by William Kent) throws you into 18th century court life. The artwork comes alive with the characters depicted. Meanwhile, the whole room is elegant, somewhat feminine, but altogether beautiful – the perfect introduction to Kensington Palace.

Ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Palace - Kensington apartments, the kings staircase

Moving through the apartment you’ll encounter many more interesting rooms such as the Presence Chamber and the Privy Chamber, which grants fabulous views over the front lawns. However, what blew me away the most was the Kings Gallery. 

Here, the rich red walls scream royalty and wealth. More than this though, the artwork that adorns the walls is simply stunning. I was pleased to recognise one famous piece, by Anthony van Dyck, of Charles I on horseback,  which sits perfectly between the most beautiful golden edged doors.

However, art has never been my strong point, so I was clueless about the other masterpieces in the room. Luckily, at Kensington Palace, each room comes equipped with written room guides. These detailed books contain everything you could possibly need to know! Thus, I was able to look up the painting’s and gain a much better idea of what was depicted.

Queen’s State Apartment –

A slight walk through the palace’s hallways brings you to the second permanent exhibit at Kensington Palace, the Queen’s State Apartment. Substantially less grand than the king’s apartment, the staterooms here are somewhat more homely. This is not surprising since they were where Queen Mary II and later royal consorts lived.

Ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Palace - Kensington apartments, the Queens Staterooms

Despite being less lavish, for me, these rooms were super interesting! They help to create an image of how the palace would have looked when William III and Mary II brought Kensington and decided to turn this ordinary mansion into a home fit for royalty in 1689.

What’s more, although relatively plain and dark, the rooms are still impressive! Especially the oak staircase that remains little changed since its construction in 1690. Another highlight for me was the Queen’s bedroom where the bed displayed is said to be the birthplace of James Edward Stuart, son of King James II.


Queen Victoria Revealed –

There are currently a few further exhibits at Kensington Palace that are open for a limited time. The first of which explores the life of the palace’s most famous resident: Queen Victoria.

Named Queen Victoria revealed, this exhibit is open until the 12th of November 2017 and features many of the Queen’s personal objects such as the dolls she made as a little girl and her beautiful coronation gown. Meanwhile, the exhibit also explores her life, children, and beloved husband, Prince Albert.

Ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Palace - Kensington palace exhibition, Queen Victoria Revealed

As a fan of the ITV show: Victoria, it was captivating to learn more about the real-life monarch, while walking the same halls she did as a child.

TOP TIP – There is a lot of information to read and absorb in this exhibit so I would recommend touring it first while you’re still fresh to get the best out of your visit!

Enlightened Princesses –

An extension of ‘Queen Victoria Revealed’, this mini-exhibit tells the lives of three German princesses: Caroline, Augusta, and Charlotte. All of whom married into the British royal family and consequently had a huge impact on developments within 18th century Britain.

(the exhibit is also open until the 12th of November 2017)


Diana’s Fashion Story –

One final exhibit was opened this summer as a touching tribute to Princess Diana. Marking 20 years since her untimely death, the exhibit follows her ‘fashion story’ from a shy aristocrat to the most photographed women in the world.

In high contrast to the dark and historic rooms in the rest of the palace, the exhibit is bright and modern, almost as if to reflect Diana’s character! The collection on display is extraordinary and will delight fashion nuts and those simply interested in Diana a-like. Even more captivating than the dresses themselves are original fashion sketches and comments from Diana’s favourite designers. These add a personal touch to the exhibit, and I couldn’t help but be moved by the kind words spoken about the ill-fated princess.

However, I do have to say that I felt a little rushed touring the exhibit. Due to the amount of people in the room, I was naturally pushed forward onto the next dress without having time to read the description. This took away from the experience somewhat, and to be honest made me feel a tad claustrophobic.

None the less, as the exhibit is open till 2019, I assume the crowds will be less intense once the initial excitement has died down a little!

Ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Palace - kensington palace exhibition, Diana's fashion story

TOP TIP: following on from my above point, as the palace’s most popular exhibit, you have to queue to enter ‘Diana’s Fashion Story’. If this queue appears long, head upstairs to see the Queen’s State Apartment first – when you return the queue should be a lot shorter thanks to the flow of visitors through the palace.


Palace’s Sunken Garden –

One thing you shouldn’t miss when visiting Kensington Palace, especially in spring and summer, is the beautiful Sunken Garden. Located just to the right of the palace, this small yet stunning garden is terraced, paved and decorated with ornamental flower beds and subtle fountains.

Disappointingly, you can’t actually go into the garden. However, its bordered by a natural tunnel that provides shady and magical viewpoints. These viewpoints are the perfect spot for a picnic, as you can sit on the wall overlooking the garden, taking in the hundreds of different plants, while also getting a break from the chaotic pace of London thanks to the tranquil setting.

During my visit to the palace, the Sunken Garden was remodelled into the ‘white garden’ as a further tribute to Princess Diana. Having the Garden in solely one colour was breath-taking. However, come next spring it’ll be returned to an equally as beautiful rainbow of colour.

TOP TIP: you don’t need a ticket to visit the gardens at Kensington Palace! Thus, you can take in their beauty even if touring exhibits isn’t your thing.

Ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Palace - kensington palace gardens


Eating at Kensington Palace –

After all that walking and exploring, you’ll probably find yourself a little peckish. Thankfully there are two places to catch a bite within the Palace grounds:

The Palace Cafe –

Adjacent to the palace’s gift shop, your first dining option at Kensington is a simple cafe. Open to everyone, not just visitor’s to the palace, this little cafe always appears busy. Thus, I opted not to eat here during my visit as it was packed and has more of a family vibe.

This said, the food looked good and has largely positive ratings on TripAdvisor. In this way, the Palace Cafe is the perfect spot to refuel if you’re looking for a cuppa and/or slice of cake.

Ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Palace - kensington palace cafe

The Orangery Restaurant – 

If you’re looking for something more substantial than a snack, and a more upmarket vibe – the palace’s Orangery Restaurant hit’s the nail on the head!

Possibly one of the most beautifully decorated restaurants in London, the Orangery’s massive windows bring an abundance of light into the dining room. Meanwhile, a modern clean finish provides the perfect balance between old and new.

Famed for its afternoon tea, there’s nothing more ‘quintessentially British’ than tucking into Jam and Scones after touring one of the countries most famous palaces! More than this, the restaurant also has a pretty good lunch menu, which is surprisingly not too expensive, with main’s averaging around £15.

Ultimate guide to visiting Kensington Palace - kensington palace afternoon tea

This said you’ll have to pre-book if you plan on eating here. I tried to get a table for one after my visit to Kensington Palace and was gutted when they couldn’t even squeeze little old me in – thus Book your table for the Orangery now through Open Table.

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So there you have it, my Ultimate Guide To Visiting Kensington Palace. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have an amazing time at the palace and enjoy your visit as much as I did!

Got any questions? Or have your own tips about Kensington palace to share? Get in touch in the comment section below 🙂 

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One of the top things to do when travelling to London is to take a trip to the beautiful Kensington Palace! A visit should be on everyone's to do list... So, check out this ultimate guide to its stunning interior, exhibits, gardens, the orangery, and so much more!!

 

Travel Itinerary for a day trip to Lombok

Before heading to the final destination of my Bali Island Hopping Adventure, Ubud, I decided to take a detour to the island of Lombok. This volcanic and certainly ‘magical place’, caught my imagination during my time on the Gili Islands.

You can read what up got up to on the Gilis HERE :).

However, with my remaining time in Indonesia limited, I could only squeeze in a quick day trip. In a bid to see as much as possible in this short time I did some a lot of research for ‘the best things to do in Lombok’. In this way, I soon compiled an envy inspiring one day travel Itinerary:

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How to Get to Lombok – 

It was only because I was already staying on Gili Trawangan that I was able to visit Lombok on a day trip! Situated just off the islands North West coast, the Gili’s are a quick 20-minute boat ride away. Thus, leaving early in the morning, I arrived in Lombok with plenty of time left for exploring.

Travel Itinerary for a day trip to Lombok - Looking out onto Lombok from Gili Trawangan

I organised my ‘transfer’ to Lombok from my hotel on Gili T: Villa Ombak. However, there are many different companies and locals on the Gilis that offer fares to the island’s ‘big brother’. In this way, if you’re thinking of planning a day trip to Lombok yourself, just ask around. 🙂

SIDE NOTE: It would be near impossible to travel to Lombok, for a day trip, from anywhere other than the Gili Islands (damn our meagre 24 hour days). However, there are plenty of other ways to get to Lombok if you’re planning on spending more time on the island. For example, you can take a ferry directly from Bali, or fly into the islands very own international airport. 


First Impressions – 

Before touching down in Indonesia I had never even heard of Lombok. If you live in Asia, or are amazing at Geography, you may think me naive. However, I think the islands lack of ‘Instagram stardom’ simply adds to its appeal. Some even say that Lombok is Bali’s: ‘unspoilt counterpart’. Less populated than the tourist hotspot, but around the same size, I would have to agree with this statement on first impression:

As soon as I arrived on the island I was blown away by its traditional beauty. From the harbour I watched fisherman hauling in their morning catches on picture perfect beaches, meanwhile (after hopping in a car) the islands landscape quickly changed to that of endless green rice fields and towering peaks. What’s more, there wasn’t another tourist in sight!

Travel Itinerary for a day trip to Lombok - Just some of Lombok's magically beautiful rice fieldsIn those first few minutes alone, I knew that my day trip to Lombok was not going to be anywhere near enough time to fulfil my wanderlust for this truly magical place…


Top Things to Do in Lombok (on a day trip) – 

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for one day! Onto the good stuff: what I managed to squeeze into my day trip to Lombok.

SIDE NOTE: I hired a driver/guide to take me around the island, I’d suggest you do the same. My guide was super passionate, and had so much information to share about Lombok. There’s really no better way to get a sense of a destination than by talking to its locals 🙂

1) Traditional Market –

The first port of call on my Lombok day trip itinerary was Ampenan Marketa traditional Asian market selling: fresh veggies, spices, fish and so much more. The market wasn’t actually on my original list, but my guide (Nurul) suggested a visit to get a taste of the islands culture… And I’m so glad he did!

Travel Itinerary for a day trip to Lombok - a local women choosing produce at Ampenan Market

Walking round the packed market stalls, I truly felt as though I was ‘living like a local’. I listened as Nurul told me about all the alien foods and spices laid out in front of me. Meanwhile, I ducked and weaved between the stands, feeling like a true adventurer in a foreign land. This was helped by the fact that the market clearly didn’t get many western visitors. In other words, I did get a few odd looks from the locals and stall owners. None the less, I felt very safe, although Nurul did warn me to watch out for pick-pockets.

This said, I would definitely suggest a visit to this little market! It’s just a short drive from Lombok’s main tourist centre of Senggigi so there’s really no excuse not to. 😉

Travel Itinerary for a day trip to Lombok - a food stall at Ampenan Market, a visit was part of my Lombok trip itinerary

Trek to Tiu Kelep Waterfall –

Without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in Lombok is the Tiu Kelep Waterfall. Located near the small village of Senaru, the waterfall is quite a drive from the islands main towns and accommodation hubs. However, you can’t really complain about a journey through Lombok’s beautiful landscape!

SIDE NOTE: There’s a 10,000 IDR entrance fee to the lush scenic area surrounding the waterfall, but as this is equivalent to less than £1, the trip won’t exactly break the bank. 😉

There’s actually a second smaller waterfall on the way to Tui Kelep. I was unaware of this fact so got super excited when the path forked and Nurul asked if I wanted to see the Sendang Gile waterfall as well – obviously the answer was yes!

Sendang Gile is located about a 15-minute walk from the sites entrance. All down hill the going is pretty easy, and I was soon feeling like a kid on Christmas morning as I caught a glimpse of this masterpiece by mother nature. Rounding a corner, the full waterfall came into view, it was simply stunning! 1000s of tons of water dropped cleanly and elegantly down a cliff face, so perfectly that it almost appeared man made.

Travel Itinerary for a day trip to Lombok - a view of the amazing Sendang Gile waterfall

Seeing this waterfall alone would have been enough! But rather than take a break on one of the few tables dotted around its base, I decided to head on-wards to the main sceptical: Tiu Kelep.

This second waterfall is another 30 minute walk and is a bit trickier to reach as stone steps give way to a dirt path. There’s also several bridges and rivers to cross, as well as a bit of ambling over rocks. This said, I wouldn’t let this put you off! I don’t believe the hike is something an averagely fit person would struggle to do.

SIDE NOTE: there’s no signage to Tiu Kelep and there are a few different junctions. I was lucky enough to have Nurul with me who knew the way. You can however, hire a guide from the site’s entrance. They usually charge 500,000 IDR. Personally, I think this is a little steep and you’d be better of following the crowds or asking others for directions!

Travel Itinerary for a day trip to Lombok - one of the best things to do in lombok is to visit Tiu Kelep waterfall

It therefore wasn’t long before I reached Tiu Kelep. It Turn’s out I wasn’t ready for its beauty. Colossal, yet seemingly gentle and all together breath-taking, the waterfall is certainly worth the hike! Whats more, a dip in its freezing clear waters are the perfect way to cool down.

The walk back to civilisation is mainly up hill so a bit of a killer. However I personally loved the walk through the jungle as I was accompanied by the songs of tropical birds and even spotted a monkey or two. 🙂

I spent the majority of my precious time in Lombok (around 3 hours) exploring these two waterfalls. Although I could have seen more of the island if I’d given the hike a miss, I have no regrets as seeing Tiu Kelep was something I’ll never forget.

Senaru Traditional Village –

After a mind exploding time at Tiu Kelep waterfall, I didn’t have long left of my day trip to Lombok. I did however have time to visit one last place: Senaru Traditional Village, which was only a short drive from the waterfall.

Situated next to the Rinjani Trek Centre, the villages inhabitant’s are decedents of the islands indigenous Sasak people (who still make up about 85% of Lombok’s population). For hundreds of years these villagers have been seen as the cultural guardians of Mount Rinjani and its surrounding forest.

Only connected to electricity 5 years ago, this Sasak village has maintained an ancient structure with the inhabitants still living in traditional thatched houses. In recent years however they realised that they can capitalise on their rich cultural background. In this way, on entering the village you can step inside the villager’s homes, watch them prepare meals even learn ancient crafts such as weaving.

The Sasak culture is fascinating and as a visitor I definitely appreciated learning more about the people of Lombok.

SIDE NOTE: There’s no fee to enter the village, although the villagers do ask for a donation when you leave (up to you how much you pay).

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So there you have it, my ‘Travel Itinerary for a day trip to Lombok’. Although I had a truly magical day (and one I’m not likely to forget) Lombok was the one place I visited during my Bali Island hopping adventure whereby I felt cheated of time.

Amongst other things, I would have loved to have joined a three day (two nights) trek up the second highest volcano in Indonesia: Mount Rinjani. There’s said to be Panoramic views the whole way up, along with hot springs, an exquisite crater lake and the best sunrises in the world.

Lombok also has countless beach’s to explore: such as island’s famous pink beach, and many more waterfalls…

So basically I only scratched the surface of this magical island on my day trip… Another destination that I will have to return too (the list is never ending).

If you’re looking for more information on the top things to do in Lombok check out these articles:

  1. Discover your Indonesia – 21 Fun and Unusual Things To Do In Lombok
  2. Nomad4Ever – Around Lombok In Four Days
  3. Home is where your bag is – 15 Things You Should See In Lombok

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Travel Itinerary for a day trip to Lombok - A detailed post all about the best things to do on the Island of Lombok Indonesia on a day trip. From pink beaches and volcano's to waterfalls and jungle hikes. A list off the best things Balis counterpart can offer you

 

 

 

 

 

Cidomo Horses Suffering – The Price Of Tourism On The Gili Islands

If you read my previous post: 2 Days In Paradise On Gili Trawangan, you’ll understand that I completely fell in love with the Gili Islands during my short stay. Their rustic charm, golden sands and turquoise waters captivated my heart, and helped ease the worries of modern life!

However, there was one thing on the Gili Islands that instead of lifting my spirits, broke my heart: the suffering of  Cidomo Horses.

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When I arrived at Gili Trawangan’s port, the first thing I saw was rows of small horses attached to bright yellow carts (locally know as Cidomo’s). As a horse lover/owner I immediately went over to say hello. It was at this point that an owner offered me an overpriced ride to my hotel…

Not understanding how close my hotel was to the port, I accepted and climbed aboard. It was a decision I immediately regretted as the driver whipped the horse into a fast paced trot, despite the stifling mid day heat. I felt like telling him to let the poor fellow walk, but chickened out, something I’ve felt guilty about ever since!

HINT: if you visit Gili T don’t be as naive as me! The island is pretty small, most hotels and guesthouses are less than 1km from the port – WALK!

Suffering of Cidomo Horse on the Gili Islands - riding on the back of a cidomo

This was only the first time I felt as though the Cidomo Horses were suffering! During the remainder of my time on the Gili Islands, I witnessed several of the horses buckling under the weight of literally bulging carts. Further, many were underweight and emaciated, appeared to have little social interaction with other horses and were constantly uncomfortable due to ill fitting harnesses.

However, what was worse were the hours I noticed some of the horses working… I recognised one horse I’d seen in the morning still working at 11pm (probably without a break).

The suffering of these beautiful horses was quite clear to see! By the end of my stay, it made me angry to see tourists loading their heavy cases onto the back of the carts, couldn’t they tell the horses were exhausted – perhaps its harder for non horse owners to recognise? This said, I couldn’t help but feel a hypocrite, after all I myself took a Cidomo ride when I arrived on the island.

Suffering of Cidomo Horse on the Gili Islands - one Cidomo Horse that was clearly underweight

In this way, I think its one of those things were if people understood what was going on (before visiting the islands) the majority would not continue to endorse the horses suffering by paying for ‘fares’.  This is why I felt it important to share my experience, especially since most articles I’ve read seem to praise the Cidomos, stating that they add to the Gilis ‘tranquil vibes’.

Moreover, I wanted to make sure this post was backed up by accurate information, because often what you see on the surface is not the full story. Thus following my trip, I did some research on the suffering of the Cidomo Horses on the Gili Islands and below you’ll see what I found.


What are Cidomo Horses? –  

Before I delve into the information I came across, I thought I’d first explain where the Cidomo Horses of the Gili’s actually come from. For starters, they’re are in fact small ponies as they stand under 14.2 hands. Largely imported to the islands from Lombok, their ancestors have been pulling ‘Cidomos’ for thousands of years as they were captured and tamed by the ancient Sasak people.


The extent of the Cidomo Horse’s suffering?  – 

What I witnessed on the island is only the tip of the iceberg. According to several charities websites, the Cidomo Horses receive no veterinary care, are given only salt water to drink and insufficient food. On top of this, many have no shelter. Those that do are tied so tightly that they can’t even lie down.

If this isn’t bad enough, some activists state that the owners ensure tourists mainly see the healthier animals. This means the horses in the worse condition are kept out of tourists eyes and instead work pulling massively overloaded carts full of building material and supplies to the islands hotels and guesthouses.

Suffering of Cidomo Horse on the Gili Islands - one Cidomo Horse reined in too tightly

Whipped and beaten, to keep them moving, the Cidomo Horses on the Gili islands are literally worked till death. Its estimated that they live a mere 1-3 years – in comparison you’d expect a healthy horse to live to at least 20.

Although this is terrible, I want to clarify that by no means every horse on the island is suffering. Of course they’ll be owners who care for their horses with the utmost love. I for one witnessed a man (who obviously cared for his horse) washing his pony down in the ocean after a days work.


Whats Being Done about the Cidomo Horses Suffering –

I struggle to believe that the owners of the Cidomo Horses are cruel. Every single person I met on the islands, was kind and honest.  In many cases, its simply a matter of lack of education. It may seem absurd to us that owners don’t understand that their animals need fresh food and water, but this is often the case!

Thankfully over recent years, several organisations, such as the Gili Carriage Horse Support Network  have been working tirelessly to re-educate horse owners on the islands, offering free clinics twice a month, and stressing the importance of fresh water.

Suffering of Cidomo Horse on the Gili Islands - one kind owner bathing his horse

Further measures have been brought in to improve the situation such as weight restrictions (although they are not yet properly enforced) and ensuring horses harness’s fitted correctly.

However, the situation is still no-where near good. Some even say its getting worse as more and more tourists flock to the islands. For me, the best answer would be to get rid of the Cidomos. Although its not likely cars would be introduced, increasing the number of  bicycles and  introducing pedicarts (like the ones you see in India) could help ease the strain.

This said, I’m not an expert and the above idea is unlikely to be plausible in the real world.  The situation is heartbreaking and complicated, but not unlike that of 1000’s of working horses, mules and donkeys around the globe.

Suffering of Cidomo Horse on the Gili Islands - beautiful horse on the beach

For now, the best we can do as visitors to the Gili Islands is to help decrease the demand for Cidomos by walking or cycling until the situation improves. Other than this, its best to leave it to the experts! Here are the links to the three main organisations working together to make a difference:

1) Gili Carriage Horse Support Network

2) Gili Eco Trust 

3) Animal Aid Abroad 

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DISCLAIMER:  There are some activists that propose a boycott of the Gili Islands. However this was not my purpose for writing this post. As I said at the beginning, I overall think the Gilis are a fantastic place. My time on the island brought many happy memories! I simply wanted to share the plight of the horses, so travellers will think twice before stepping into a Cidomo.

For me, it’s my mission to explore ‘Earth’s Magical Places’, and while I always try and be positive on this blog, I believe its important to tell the full story, not just the nice parts about golden beaches and tropical getaways!

As always, thanks for reading! If you were affected by this post, support and donate to the linked charities to help 🙂 

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Cidomo Horses Suffering - The Price Of Tourism On The Gili Island: the Gili Islands of Indonesia are located off the coast of Lombok, near to Bali. Known as a paradise for snorkelling, beaches and famous swings, the islands (made up of Gili Air, Meno and Trawangan) have a dark secret. The suffering of the beautiful Cidomo Horses.

 

Travel Itinerary: 2 Days In Paradise On Gili Trawangan

After falling in love with Nusa Lembongan, the next stop on my Bali Island Hopping Adventure was none other than the Instagram Famous Gili Trawangan, which is just one of a small trio of islands that sit off Lombok’s North West coast.

Unfortunately, I only had two days to explore this tourist hot spot. Nonetheless, I planned a jammed packed itinerary to make the most of my short time on the island:

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Arriving Gili Trawangan –

My journey to ‘Gili T’ was, how do I put this politely? Awful An experience. Spending 50 minutes on a hot and sticky fast boat, powered by 6 dodgy looking engines, is not something I’d like to relive in a hurry! Still, by taking refuge from seasickness on the boats roof, I was blessed with the most magical first look at the Gili Islands.

SIDE NOTE: there’s 100’s of different boat companies that offer transfer from Bali’s mainland and surrounding islands to the Gili’s! Thus, make sure you have a look around for the best deals/service.

From my vantage point, the trio appeared to rise up from the turquoise ocean like a sparkling green oasis. Meanwhile, the mountains of Lombok dominated the skyline, watching over the Gili’s like a protective big brother. As pristine white beach’s drew closer, there was no doubt in my mind that I was about to spend a few days in paradise!

Gili Trawangan Itinerary view of Lombok

However, this image was brought into question when the boat made it to shore. Arriving on the busy West side of the island, I was instantly overwhelmed by the chaos that greeted me. The main ‘drag’ was heaving with tourists trying to negative their way through an onslaught of bikes and horses. Meanwhile, the street itself is lined with bars, restaurants and over-priced convince stores.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew Gili T is known for its nightlife, yet I was naively unprepared for how much the bars and clubs would stick out against the back drop of palm tress. Lets just say the atmosphere was not the tranquil island vibes that I’d been hoping for.

Still, I joined a growing crowd waiting for a ‘Cidomo’ (horse and cart) to take me to my hotel because:

A) There are no motor vehicles on the island (hence the mass of bikes) and,

B) my backpack was far to heavy to haul along the stressful street.


Adventure on foot –

Once I reached my hotel I realised that I actually could have walked all along, because thanks to Gili T’s small size, the journey literally took two minutes! Ah well, you live and learn. 😉

Gili Trawangan Itinerary Cidomo

Still, making it to my hotel after the very long ‘Codomo’ ride (please sense my sarcasm) I was once again brimming with excitement… The hotel I’d chosen: Villa Ombak was just the little bit of heaven I was after! It’s traditional bamboo bungalows, hammocks and pool bar made me never want to leave.

But alas, arriving at just after 11am, I had two hours to kill before I could actually check in. Thus, I left my bags with the very helpful man at reception, and with a map in hand decided to brave the chaos of the main drag.

Walking back along the main road, the hustle and bustle actually become enjoyable. Sure I had to keep my wits about me, so I didn’t get mowed down by a bike, but the mass of happy, content people just rubbed off on me. Further, things like the repetition of Cidomo drivers squeaking their horns slowly began to make me smile as the charm of Gili T shone through!

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that despite my first impressions, the more I walked, the more clear it became to me that despite the westernised restaurants, bars and banks, the bohemian character of the island stills remains – my faith in paradise was restored.


Laze by the pool – 

Humbled by my outing, I swiftly returned to the hotel, changed into my bikini and caught the late evening sun by the pool… Yes, I know I started this post by stating my itinerary was jam packed, but you’ve got to leave some time for a freshly cut coconut!! 😉

Gili Trawangan Itinerary coconuts


Night market – 

Per suggestion of a local guide, when my stomach starting rumbling in the evening, I made my way down to the islands ‘night market’: a bubbling hive of open air food stalls, located right next to my hotel.

The majority of the stalls serve freshly caught fish including: Snapper, Clams, King Prawns, and Barracuda – fisherman certainly bring in a diverse catch in the tropical waters of the Gilis. This means the night market is honoured for its seafood! However, stalls also serve other Indonesian favourites…

I for one wasn’t in the mood for seafood. So, after quick wander around to get my mouth watering, compiled a seafood free feast fit for a king. Ordering Asi Goreng Fried Rice, Bakso Meatball Soup and every other side dish under the sun from one stall; while also opting for a selection of satays from another… All of this cost me a mere few pennies and was simply delicious!

Gili Trawangan Itinerary night market

One things for certain, you won’t be limited on choice! However, my favourite part of the market was the atmosphere. Seating is laid out right in the centre in sort of a canteen style. This means locals and travellers alike all sit together eating, talking and enjoying life.

Summed up, the Night Market is a wonderful place that’s certainly worth a visit! More than this though, its location enabled me to satisfy my urge for local delights without having to venture (on my own) to the quieter southern side of the island – where the majority of local Warungs are found.

SIDE NOTE: I believe the night market opens every evening, just after sunset, but check out TripAdvisor for more information .


The nightlife –

My first night on the island took a slightly wilder turn as I stopped off at Jiggy Jig bar on my way back to the hotel. I couldn’t stay on Gili T and not get a taste of its famous night life now could I? 😉

Revered for its beer-pong tournaments, the rustic bar proved to be the perfect spot to ‘let my hair down’ in… I thoroughly enjoyed belting out tunes such as Black Eyed Pea’s: Where Is The Love with my fellow travellers while sipping on a free drink!

Gili Trawangan Itinerary nightlife

This said, I’m not a huge partier and Jiggy’s was the only bar I ventured into. So, if you want more information on Gili Nightlife check out this article.

SIDE NOTE: Despite being hyped over, I found that the nightlife on Gili T is actually pretty low key. In my opinion the islands struck the perfect balance. There’s several good clubs/bars but nearby hotels are not haunted by pumping music and drunken Aussies.


A snorkelling trip  to remember (Day Two) –

With the oceans surrounding Gili Trawangan teaming with tropical fish and sea-life, it would be absurd not to spend some time exploring the beautiful turquoise waters! In this way, my second day on the island was to be spent underwater…

Through my hotel, I organised a day trip to three different snorkelling spots for just 120,000 IDR. As there’s many dive schools (including the famous Blue Marlinand locals with glass bottom boats, I probably could have found an even cheap tour! But, the convenience of rolling out of bed and just having to walk down to the hotels jetty came up trumps on this occasion. 🙂

The first snorkelling spot I stopped at is just off Gili T’s coast: the very aptly named ‘blue coral’Here the ocean floor was filled with (yep you guessed) blue coral. Although this alone is incredibly beautiful, the coral also provides the perfect habitat for many species of fish. I’m not a expect on marina life; to be honest my knowledge stretches as far as recognising fish from Finding Nemo. Still, you’ll be happy to learn I spotted several dory’s, loads of clown fish and even a Gil or two.

 

As if this wasn’t enough to explode my tiny little mind, the snorkelling spot also held a man made secret in the form of a massive underwater statue. Fascinated by this haunted looking sculpture, I returned to the surface, keen to ask my guide about the supposedly rich history behind it…. Turns out a hotel placed it under the water a few years ago to give tourists ‘something to look at’. Disappointed doesn’t cut it! Still I think they’re missing a trick by not making up some elaborate back story… I was thinking something along the lines of a shipwreck. 😉

Two further snorkelling spots brought yet more fish and tropical coral. The highlight of my trip however was visiting the feeding grounds of Sea Turtle’s, near to Gili Meno. Here I was lucky enough to see several different species of these gorgeous giants. Despite their size, their gracefulness was profound! They’re simply beautiful creatures and possible my new favourite animal.

Gili Trawangan Itinerary Gili Meno View

SIDE NOTE: the Gili islands are also fantastic for diving. Several shipwrecks and the ability to go further out will bring even more marine life included: Manta Rays and Black Tipped Sharks. Learning to dive is on my to do list, and once I have, I shall for sure return to these magical waters.


Lunch on Gili Air –

The snorkelling trip allowed me to stop off at Gili Air for lunch and a little wander. The closest of the Three Gili’s to Lombok, the island provided a new perspective over the landscape I’d grown to love.

The island itself however, is the most overlooked Gili in terms of development. Thus a ‘grass route’ atmosphere holds rank. Furthermore, more locals than tourists establishes a small community vibe. As I chatted to local stall owners, and tucked into delicious seafood at a beachfront Warung, I couldn’t help but feel a part of the for-mentioned community. I suppose that’s the magic of Gili Air. 

 

The slow, quieter pace of life, was endearing! It provided a true escape from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Looking back, I very much wish that I’d opted to stay a night in one of its beach front guest houses!

Find you perfect retreat on Gili Air Here 


Bike Ride Round The Island –

Inspired by the remote beauty of Gili Air, I returned from my underwater adventure with an ambition to see more of Gili Trawangan than the tourist filled west coast. As there’s no motor vehicles on the island, the best way to do so was by hiring a bike from my hotel…

Having only been set back 35,000 IDR for my set of wheels, I placed my belongings in the adorable front facing basket and set out to tour the perimeter of the island.

Gili Trawangan Itinerary cycling

 

At first, my excursion was very much a dice with death thanks to the crowds along the main drag, I certainly had a few near misses with pedestrians and horses alike. Thus, I thoroughly suggest hiring a bike with a bell, as I put mine into good use! Another tip I learnt is to tag along behind fellow riders as travelling in pack formation seemed to finally convince some people to move out of the way. 😉

Before long however, the crowds thinned and the bars and shops were replaced with fields of palm trees, cattle, and locals going about their day. Further, this serenity was not restricted to the northern side of the island! Following the enticing sandy lanes off the main drag, I found that Gili T’s interior is also charmingly untouched, my only companions being several wild chickens.

Gili Trawangan Itinerary cycling 2

As for the ride itself, there were some sections of ‘road’ that were topped with thick sand, which was hard to cycle through. I simply got off pushed my bike through these small stretches. Other than this (and one cliff edge) to navigate, the majority of the ride is easy going and flat, which is mercy in the humidity! Even with the heat, I found it hard to complain as I passed isolated beaches and smiling locals.

Without stopping, cycling round the perimeter should take about half an hour. However, I took a welcomed break at Ombak Sunset Beach


Instagram Heaven: Ombak Sunset –

When most people think of Gili Trawangan the first image that springs to mind is the stunning wooden swings in the middle of the ocean. As a sucker for finding the perfect Instagram shot, when I cycled past said swings during my bike ride I couldn’t help but pull over.

Gili Trawangan Itinerary ombak sunset

Arriving just before sunset, I pretty much had the beach to myself, and was able to pose on the swings till my heart was content. The beach did however fill up later on in the evening. I sat back and watched (cocktail in hand) as people queued to get their shot. Thus, I highly suggest arriving early.

Even if your not obsessed with Instagram like most of us shameful Millennials, the beach is still worth a visit, simply because it was the stage for one of the most beautiful Sunsets I’ve ever seen. Watching the amazing red and orange tones reflect off the shallow waters as a local man washed down his horse, was the perfect end to my time on the Gilis!

 

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Despite my first impressions, Gili Trawangan captured my heart. Its and island that (so far) has struck the perfect balance between development and serenity! From the views, to the people and the amazing food, its not hard to see why people rave about this little island, and I for one will be joining the encore of voices! 🙂

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Gili Trawangan (2 day travel itinerary) - within this article you'll find the perfect itinerary of things to do on Gili Trawangan including: the best beaches, sunsets, nightlife, snorkelling spots and so much more

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5 Ways To Meet People When Travelling Alone

I recently set off on my first solo trip around the globe, and while travelling alone is empowering and invigorating, it sure as hell can get lonely! But fear not, as long as you keep your ears piqued and your mind open, opportunities to meet new and like minded people will often fall right on your doorstep.

Following my 5 tips below, on how to meet people when solo travelling, will leave you with friends scattered around the globe, and whats better than that?

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1) Put Yourself Out There – 

One of the most important things to do when solo travelling is to put yourself out there! If you’re sat next to someone on a long journey, why not try to strike up a conversation? You never know, that fellow passenger could well become your new BFF.

This said, I understand, that saying ‘hi’ to a total stranger can be daunting. Heck, I myself would rather sink into a hole than try and make polite chit-chat! But, isn’t travel all about stepping out of your comfort zone? Further, you certainly won’t meet any new and exciting people by keeping to yourself all day…

Moral of the story: be brave be happy, and just a little bit chatty 🙂


2) Group Tours – 

If you’ve been travelling alone for a while, you may want to consider joining a group tour for a few weeks. Not only will the experience give you some rest bite from itinerary planning, but also introduce you to a whole new group of people.

There’s hundreds of different tour companies around, each offering a different experience. For example, Contiki and Topdeck, offer large group tours to a younger audience, while companies such as Classic Journeys provide more authentic tours in bite-size groups. Thus, there’s something for everyone!

How to Meet People While Solo Travelling - Gruop

I recently joined a Topdeck tour island hopping around Indonesia. I have to say it was an amazing experience. The tour only lasted 7 days, but this was long enough to make some really great friends, whom I’m still in contact with. 🙂


3) Hostels – 

The only downside of group-tours is that they can be expensive! However, another way to meet people when travelling alone is renowned for being cheap and cheerful. Yep, you guessed it: Hostels.

This may seem an obvious tip because doesn’t every solo traveller hit the hay in hostels? Well no. They’re not everyone’s style. Personally, I could think of nothing worse than sleeping in a small room with 10 stinky strangers!

How to Meet People While Solo Travelling - Hostels

But, I’ll let you into a secret, you don’t actually need to stay at a hostel to reap the rewards of friendship… Many large city hostels host tours, dinners, classes and pub crawls that you can join without actually staying with them.

Simply check out the event calendars of several different hostels and attend an activity that takes your fancy. Chances are you’ll meet someone who shares the same interests, after all, they’ve picked the same activity as you!

4) Be Flexible With Your Plans –

So you meet someone at a hostel who you really click with. The only problem is your leaving for a new destination the next day and will have to part ways. 🙁 This is where it pays not to schedule your trip to within an inch of its life!

If you’ve left some breathing room within you itinerary, you can throw caution to the wind and join your new found friend on a little adventure. This can lead to some amazing experiences, such as visiting places you’d never thought of travelling to on your own!


5) Take Advantage of the World Wide Web –

In this day and age your, mum, sister and her dog are all on social media! So, its a good idea to post a message on sites like Facebook stating where you’re travelling to. Chances are someone will know someone whom you can get in contact with! You might be surprised by the incredible people to which you’re connected.

How to Meet People While Solo Travelling - Social Media

If you’re a little hesitant to do this, because lets be honest, we’re all slightly worried we’ll agree to meet up with a psycho, the technical age has blessed us with websites such a Meetup.com. This site allows you to safely get together with people in the local area, while partaking in an activity you’ll enjoy.

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There you have it, my Top 5 Ways to Meet People While Solo Travelling. However, this small list is, of course, not exhausted and there’s plenty more ways to make connections around the world! If you’re looking for more information, check out these articles that I love:

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How to Meet People While Solo Travelling - Tips for Female and Male travellers a like how to meet people while solo travelling to every destination. From Europe and Australia to Thailand and India!

 

If you have any tips of your own to share, let me know in the comments below 🙂

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