We made it out of Korea! Our first stop was Bali, which was a little overwhelming. It's very touristy and being surrounded by so many foreigners was a bit of a shock coming from Korea. We spent the first couple days in seclusion at a beautiful villa in Seminyak (compliments of Kevin for Leah's birthday), venturing out only for food and a beautiful sunset view over the local beach.
Our third night we spent in Kuta, which is equally as touristy, if not more so. The area consists of row after row of boutiques and shops with locals constantly hoarding you to sell useless trinkets, and a beach lined with American corporate restaurants. Kuta is a good place to go if you feel like partying (which we didn't) with loads of bars and clubs that play dance music all night long. (We even saw one woman doing shots with her seven-year-old daughter, though we did hear her say that the daughter's shots were "virgin.")
Anxious to leave the madness of Bali behind, we negotiated a record deal of 1.1 million rupiah for two RT tickets to Gili Trawangan, a tiny island about 90 minutes by high-speed ferry NE of Bali. We are here now, and this island certainly lives up to its reputation for being beautiful and secluded (although the eastern beach is still packed with tourists). We found a cheap room (100,000 rupiah) that is guarded at the gate by a hand-sized spider for which this island is known. (Needless to say, Colin opens and closes the gate, and Leah had a night filled with terrors of spider attacks.) The island is Muslim and our room is close to the mosque, so we hear the daily prayers over the loud speakers. There is a shortage of fresh water on the island so we are forced to shower in salt water and buy bottled water instead of using our sterilization pen.
There are no motorized vehicles allowed on Gili Trawangan, which is awesome, so everyone travels by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage. We have enjoyed our own exploration on foot, encountering numerous friendly locals. Everyone speaks enough English to at least exchange pleasantries. One man invited us to camp on his property, so we're planning to do that from tomorrow night. We even encountered three children on a hammock in a remote village who said "hello" then immediately asked, "do you have money?"
We've seen quite a few animals, mostly goats and cows, one of whom jumped about three feet when Leah approached it (she subsequently jumped three feet in the opposite direction). We saw a hen attack a goat in an effort to protect her numerous chicks, which was really funny.
The island attracts a variety of tourists; thankfully, there aren't as many hippies as Leah feared (many local spots sell "magic mushrooms" that they promise will "take you to the moon and back"... A big attraction for hippies). Yesterday, a woman on a horse approached a European couple on the beach and asked if they would watch her mobile. They reluctantly agreed, and the woman then proceeded to turn her horse around and ride it into the sea. Woman and horse bathed neck deep in the warm water, frightening a nearby snorkeler. This is apparently an unusual occurrence since even the locals were mesmerized... We thought it was amusing.
Overall, we're really enjoying Gili. We've had a lot of amazing local food, and fresh fish and fruit (though our guesthouse keeper partied all night and slept through breakfast so we missed out on our free servings). We're finally starting to feel relaxed and shed ourselves of the 4+ years in Korea that have taken their toll. We're getting excited, however, to start some real travel and exploration, and will surely write with updates and anecdotes as our adventures continue. Thanks for reading.