Travel Betty

Encouraging Fearless Independent Travel For Women

Travel Betty random header image

Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Returns Monday July 7th

July 3rd, 2008 · 1 Comment

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

Frequent readers of Travel Betty don’t need reminding how much I love No Reservations and its cantankerous host, Anthony Bourdain. Heck, even people who just read this post and the last one I posted will kind of get the gist. 

But why?

Well, Anthony isn’t your typical perky bland travel host pointing out obvious choices and trying to make foreign travel look sanitized for your protection.

He gets grouchy (Jamaican spelunking episode). He takes risks (Icelandic picnic, anyone?). And he will literally put any ol’ shit in his mouth (Namibian oh-so-slightly-fire-roasted pig sphincter).

That last one Travel Boyfriend and I STILL reference. Our most recent exchange during an exceptionally delicious tapas dinner in Spain three weeks ago:

Travel Betty: Mmmmm, life is good. To think there are people right now eating wild boar anus.

Travel Boyfriend: Or Denny’s.

But now it’s a whole new season! Bourdain is off to Travel Betty favorites like Egypt (exotic locale of my and TB’s engagement!), Spain, and slow-paced, soul-lifting Laos.

He’ll also be traveling to some Travel Betty dream-abouts like Tokyo and Uruguay (the latter hopefully included in our Buenos Aires honeymoon this fall).

Columbia and Saudi Arabia represent too. 

My only beef? Why still no San Francisco, Tony? C’mon, let me take you to Burma Superstar!

So, if you’re like me and need a quick hit of snark before the long holiday weekend, take a look at this sneak preview clip of the new season. Hopefully it’ll hold you over until Monday.

→ 1 CommentTags: Food and Drink · Pop Culture

Was Ibu Oka’s Babi Guling Worth The Flight To Bali?

June 29th, 2008 · 31 Comments

Yes, I am the wacko who flew all the way around the world to eat pork at Ibu Oka in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Like I said before, it wasn’t my only reason, but it was high up there. I’m a sucker for succulence.  

So, after many months leaving you hanging, I’m sure you’re wondering, was it worth it?

Well, yes and no.

You know how sometimes you spy a stone sexy fox from across the room and quickly create the perfect scenario in your head that he will be an expert lover, a thoughtful listener, a comedian, a high-wage earner, and have a knack for reducing the ever-present tension between you and your mother? All this before you’ve even been able to blurt out a hello? That was the pork.

Then you know how once you do muster the courage to say hello, he responds with a phlegm-filled throat that makes your eyes tear up and once he finally coughs up the sputum, he stutters something about how Republicans rule and then laments his recent impotency? That wasn’t exactly the pork, but you get the point I’m making.

You see, nothing can really ever live up to the idealized perfections we create in our heads. I knew that going in, but still I hoped. Thanks to Anthony Bourdain’s awesome Indonesia show on No Reservations, I had built up the idea of this babi guling so much so, that barring an instant tongue orgasm upon first bite, I had set myself up for disappointment.

But all was not lost. First, I had the months of anticipation to feel grateful for. Sometimes I think that’s better than experiencing the actual thing you’ve been anticipating. When someone at work is giving you a hard time, you can just think, “pork.” When your car breaks down on the highway and your cell phone battery is dead, “pork.” It’s a much better option than gun violence.

Second, to be fair, the babi guling actually was pretty fucking tasty. They give you a healthy heaping of pork parts as well as rice and veggies, and the best part…spicy sauce and crispy piggy skin! Chomp, chomp, yum! All for the ridiculously low price of $3ish. It wasn’t the best pork I’ve ever eaten (that distinction goes to the meal created by Travel Boyfriend’s best friend up in Seattle during one of his annual pig roast parties). But it was up there in the charts.

Would I fly back for a second helping? No. But would I go out of my way to eat it if I ever found myself again on the Isle of the Gods? You betcha. 

So, if you’re already planning a trip to Bali and are looking for the best babi guling on the island, look no further than Ibu Oka. As long as you don’t perfectionize it beforehand like I did, you won’t be disappointed one bit! And even if you do perfectionize it beforehand like I did, you’re still going to get a mouthful of tastiness.

Travel Betty Basics
Ibu Oka
Located just across from the Ubud Tourist Information Center. Go early because once they sell out for the day, they close.
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Download Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Season One
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations - Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Season 1

→ 31 CommentsTags: Bali · Food and Drink

Last Chance To Win The $50 Gift Card From SmartyPig

June 21st, 2008 · No Comments

Apparently (and thankfully), my dear Travel Betty blog readers are not suffering the negative effects of the prime mortgage meltdown or insane gas prices this year. They’re not fearing creditors’ harassing phone calls or worrying if they’ll have to settle for a depressing “staycation.’ Nope, they are sitting pretty as you please, thinking about wonderfully exotic new locales where they can fling wads of hundred dollar bills up in the air like parade confetti.

Or at least I’m led to believe.

Because after offering $50 in absolutely free, no-strings, no-blood money to my loyal and fabulous readers a few weeks back in exchange for entertaining me with a few lines jotted down as a faux postcard in the comments section, only 2 people took up the challenge.

Maybe I asked too much. I know I hate writing postcards when I’m on vacation. But if I knew that it might garner me 50 cold bones on the other side, I’d probably be a little more inspired.

Just in case there were some procrastinators out there who intended to write something witty or enlightening, but lost track of time, you’ve got one last chance.

Just click here and leave your postcard in the comments section. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be filled with meticulous description of the bougainvillea outside your hotel room balcony (unless you want it to). It just has to transport us ever so temporarily to a favorite place and time of yours. And really, even if you just said, “Lots of pork,” you know it’d get my attention.

So what are you waiting for? The butler to depress your fingers on the keyboard for you?

C’mon, let me give you $50. Pretty please? :)

→ No CommentsTags: Shopping

Bay Area Betties, Beth Whitman Wants To Help You Wander The World

May 28th, 2008 · No Comments

Not long ago, I posted my glowing review of Beth Whitman’s Wanderlust and Lipstick, The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo. And now, if you’re lucky to live in or around San Francisco, you’ll be happy to hear she’s coming to an REI near you. Armed with advice on how to simplify, save and dream big for your next wild adventure, you’ll walk away from her 2 1/2 hour workshop ready to say adios to coworkers, family and friends.

Speaking of adios, you’ll have to take good notes and report back to me about the event because I’ll be filling my belly with tapas and bull’s blood. Travel Boyfriend is speaking at a an engineering conference in Madrid next week and guess who’s tagging along? I’m bummed to be missing Beth’s insightful talk, but now I’ll have fresh new travel tips to pass along from the European continent just in time for summer, as a teaser I recommend you to use this sim card Europe provider to have the best service.

Workshop Schedule:

June 3, 2008 6-8:30 pm - REI Marina – Bay Area, California
Wandering the World: Essential Tips for Travelers

June 4, 2008 6-8:30 pm - REI Berkeley – Bay Area, California
Wandering the World: Essential Tips for Travelers

June 5, 2008 6-8:30 pm - REI Saratoga – Bay Area, California
Wandering the World: Essential Tips for Travelers

Pre-register through her website and get $3 off the twenty dollar admission charge.

→ No CommentsTags: Books · California · Northern California · Tips

A Storybook Luxury Villa In Bali, Indonesia

May 21st, 2008 · 10 Comments

I know I said in a past post that it was the pork that made me hop a plane to Bali, but that is only half-true. The other reason was Villa Naga Maya.

Your villa awaits

After the very intensive planning process that went into my Egypt adventure, I decided I wanted a trip that required nothing more from me than I land on the tarmac with a smile and a backpack. That I would actually land with a smile and a backpack and a wedding dress came later, but originally I just wanted a warm locale where I could write.

The South Pacific immediately came to mind. I hopped on Vacation Rental By Owner and started to snoop. There were surprisingly very few rentals available on the islands, so I expanded my search. And that’s when I saw the photos of the Villa Naga Maya property in Legian, Bali, Indonesia.

It looked Seussian, magical and high-end without being pretentious. It looked like everything I’d imagined Bali should be and so I inquired about availability. Two days later, I was at the bank wiring the first half of my deposit. (They thankfully now take credit card payment)

For the next few months, every time I got frustrated with the 9-5, I would log onto the website and click through the photo gallery and dream of my impending vacation. I did worry that the actual property would not live up to the professional photographs, but those fears were put aside as soon as I arrived.

Villa Naga Maya appears as a yummy chocolate Easter egg nestled in cellophane grass a few steps down a cobblestone alley (called a ‘gang’ in Bali). Arriving after sunset, my first thought was “Holy shit, I’m going to get mugged by a gang along a gang.” But about 5 seconds after being in the country, you realize it’s just too hot outside for such shenanigans.

I never once felt unsafe walking around my neighborhood even at night and being such a small community, people came to know me and watch out for me. Especially the Villa Naga Maya property owner, Merrick. When Travel Boyfriend came to town, he said, “Wow, it looks like you’ve got a nice group to rely on here. I don’t feel so nervous for you being alone.”

Over the course of the month, the staff of Villa Naga Maya took excellent care of me. My villa was always impeccably cleaned. My clothes were washed promptly and cheaply (although one time, Travel Boyfriend received a pair of mystery underwear by mistake). The grounds were lush and magnificent. The pool the perfect temperature thanks to Swimming Pool Repair Companies that gives the maintenance. The sun chairs contoured for maximum relaxation. It didn’t take long for me to imagine this was home and I was surrounded by friends. One day, Merrick even took me on a trip around Denpasar where I ate goat satay and bought bootlegged DVDs.

In hindsight, I might have chosen to hop around the island a bit more instead of staying at one place the whole time. Although I did do a few overnight trips to Ubud and Amed, that meant paying twice in essence since I booked the villa for the entire month.

But, I looked at it as rent money and the sidetrips as the typical weekend getaways I’d partake of in the States anyway. All in all, my stay was excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Villa Naga Maya to other Betties looking to visit Bali. It lived up to my expectations and then some and I hope that one day, in the not-too-distant future, I will return.

Travel Betty Basics

Villa Naga Maya
Jl. Werkudara Gg. Arjuna 7B
Legian, Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
Phone/Fax: +62 361 763387
Rates: $80-200 per 2-bedroom villa depending on season and length of stay

→ 10 CommentsTags: Bali · Lodging

Start Saving For That Next Trip: Win A $50 Gift Card To SmartyPig

May 6th, 2008 · 9 Comments

Every Travel Betty knows how much I love pork, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear about my fascination with SmartyPig.  Although inedible, SmartyPig is the tastiest new way to save money online and share your goals with family and friends (who just may be willing to contribute too, once they see how responsible you’re being).  And since last time I checked, it costs money to travel, I think SmartyPig is an excellent way to save up for your next big adventure. 

Gorge yourself on savings with SmartyPig

The Ultimate Money Blog actually has a good breakdown of the service:

The basic gist of it is this: you want a new ipod, a Hawaiian vacation, a new bike, etc. First you start a profile on the site, then you establish your savings account and goal, and figure out your monthly contribution. Then you have the option to share with friends and family your savings goal so they can track your progress and make donations if they would like. Start saving, and before long you’ll meet your goal! 

Being Frugal also has a good review and like me, is having a SmartyPig contest with monetary rewards: 

What I Like About Smarty Pig

  • You can’t beat the interest rate.
  • Their customer service is top notch. They have responded quickly to customer requests to lower fees. They had an issue about a week ago, where their system rejected transfers that were supposed to happen over a weekend, and notified members that their accounts would be charged $25 fees. On the following Monday, I received a personal email from SmartyPig’s CEO apologizing, telling me my account would not be charged, and that they were fixing the problem immediately. They also quickly put up a blog post explaining what had happened, so their customers weren’t in the dark.
  • Others can pitch in towards savings goals, which makes it an appealing choice to teach children to save.
  • If I know I want to buy something from a particular retailer, I can get an additional savings bonus by receiving my money as a store gift card.
  • Savings are automated, so I don’t miss the money.
  • The website and avatars are pretty cute!

What I Don’t Like About Smarty Pig

  • It’s another account to manage. I could achieve the same thing by opening an ING sub-account.
  • I can’t just transfer money back to my funding source. (yet)
So now for the fun part. You want to save up for your next adventure, but are having trouble finding the inspiration? How does $50 bones in your pork satchel sound?  All you have to do is indulge me and Travel Boyfriend a bit:

Pretend you’re kicking back at your favorite travel destination and use the comments section to write us a short lil’ postcard making us wish we were there too. The one that transports us in a way we find most pleasing will win! It’s that easy. (and hey, while you’re at it, you might also take this opportunity to sign up for my RSS feed too!)

I’ll keep the contest going until we have at least 50 postcard comments, so be sure to send this around to all the other Travel Betties you know. I can’t wait to read your adventures! Good luck.

→ 9 CommentsTags: Shopping

Travel Betty Featured On Alltop

April 28th, 2008 · 5 Comments

What the heck is and why should you care?

It’s a new website that basically functions as a simply designed RSS reader where some of the Intertubes most fascinating blogs are listed for your browsing enjoyment. They say they’ve “got all the top stories covered all the time.” And since Travel Betty is now one of their featured blogs, I’d have to say I agree with them!

You can see the last 5 post titles of each blog and a short into paragraph if you roll over them. If you want to read more, just click the link. Simple, but useful. If you’re like me and you feel like there’s lots of good info out there, but you don’t want to try too hard to find any of it, then is for you. And if you’d like to submit your own blog, or one of your favorites for consideration, you can find out how to do it here.

Happy surfing!

→ 5 CommentsTags: Accolades

Travel Betty Helps You Find A Driver You Can Trust In Bali, Indonesia

April 14th, 2008 · 8 Comments

When I arrived alone in Bali, Villa Naga Maya had arranged for a driver to pick me up from the airport. The young man was very personable and helpful so I decided I’d probably use him the entire time I was there. But in an “only in Bali” type situation, about a week later I’d come back from Ubud (having taken the Perth to Broome bus tourist to save money) only to find my driver’s office not only abandoned, but already being converted into an art gallery. And I’d only been gone two days!! I inquired what happened and a guy standing nearby the shop whispered “bankrupt.”

The problem was, that night I needed to go to the airport to pick up Travel Boyfriend and I was feeling panicky. Now I didn’t have anyone I could trust to get me there and do so for a fair price. I hate to haggle, but I knew it was going to be necessary. The ‘bankrupt’ guy said he had friends who could help, so I followed him to a building not too far away. I explained the situation and the owner told me 150,000 rupiah. No f$#@ing way, that’s like $15 and is about what I paid my first driver for a ½ day trip to Dreamland and Uluwatu. When I protested and tried to do my haggling thing the guy said, “okay, 250,000.” That made me so angry, I left in a huff (which you shouldn’t really do in Bali).

Over lunch I decided maybe I should just puss out and take a cab but then I discover a car rental and i will recommend you do the same in that situation, try to find a trusted place near you. A family outing is imminent and you don’t want to drive with more than one car? Then rent a bigger car for this occasion. For accommodating many people in a vehicle, 7 Seater Car Hire with MPVRentals are available. Having recently endured some negative transportation issues already in Ubud, I wasn’t feeling particularly keen to track down another driver. But on my way back to the villa, I decided to attempt to find a new driver just once more and if it didn’t work, at least I’d know I’d not given up so easily. And thank god I didn’t because that’s when I found Gusdek, a fantastic driver who ended up being someone I could always count on. And best of all, he was always fair with his pricing.

Gusdek Bali Driver

On the way to the airport and while waiting for Travel Boyfriend’s plane to arrive, we had a lot of time to talk. Like TB and I, he was 40 and his wife was in her early thirties. Also like us, they’d also been together for many years before just recently getting married. He had a really easy going personality, but also a seriousness that made you trust him quickly.

During my remaining 3 weeks, anytime I needed a driver I knew just where to look. He took TB and I up to Ubud, stopping so we could visit many of the craft villages along the way. He even took us to a stonemason friend of his so TB could buy a wicked cool Garuda. And the one time he wasn’t available due to a family emergency, he found two totally fun young guys to drive me and my Singapore friend around the island. I had him waking up early, driving far distances and stopping at any and every shop that caught my fancy and he was always happy to oblige.

It’s so nice when you’re far from home and feeling a little lost and vulnerable to find someone that you not only can count on, but that you can also consider a friend.

So, if you’re in need of a fantastic driver in Bali who speaks very good English and who is knowledgeable about the entire island, you can’t go wrong with Gus!

Travel Betty Basics

Ida Bagus Sumardika (aka. Gusdek)

Office: Kasturi Car & Motor Bike Rental with the wisper electric bikes offering a far more environmentally friendly and comfortable alternative to your daily commute & Tour Service

Pura Bagus Taruna St. No. 516X (near the Kusnadi Hotel)

Legian, Kuta, Bali

Hand Phone: 081 33876 1498

Email: gusdek_2005 [at] yahoo [dot] com

Nakula Boys Bali

If he’s booked, I’d also highly recommend Putu and Agus who were the drivers who filled in for Gusdek and took us all around the island. They’ll have you laughing your ass off! And Agus can teach you how to surf. They call themselves the Nakula Boys and you can get in touch with Putu by calling his hand phone: 081 91627 4722

→ 8 CommentsTags: Bali

Travel Betty Featured on Europe A La Carte

April 9th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Welcome Europe A La Carte readers!

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Karen Bryan to do a guest interview on her blog, Europe Ala Carte. It strives to be “the top Europe travel blog for authentic travel on a modest budget.” Definitely a worthy subject.

You can check out my interview here.

It’s been a while since I’ve spent any significant time in Europe, but I’ve got an unexpected summer trip in the works. It all depends on whether or not the people of Madrid are interested to hear Travel Boyfriend talk about underground pipe safety for energy-generation facilities. Maybe I shouldn’t start packing the ol’ bags just yet!

→ 1 CommentTags: Accolades

Spa Betty Series: A Balinese Masseuse That Makes Villa-Calls

April 7th, 2008 · 2 Comments

If you could have a nice young man travel to your luxurious private villa to perform his grandmother-taught reflexology skills on your fat lounging carcass, wouldn’t you? Me too.

It just so happened that the owner of Villa Naga Maya was having his friend Roy come over to give him a massage. Knowing how crazy I am about massages, he asked if I would like to get one too. Um, yes please, I went after my dentist appointment which I really recommend my dental care physician, you can see here more info.

Roy is serious about his reflex talents. Even though his main trade is exporting antiques (don’t ask). All you have to care about is that he really knows what he is doing.

I told him that my lower back had been hurting a lot and seriously for the next few days the pain is gone. In its place is the bruise-like soreness I feel due to the extreme pressure Roy used to treat me, but still. See he doesn’t speak much English, and tended to giggle when I said the pressure is too hard. After awhile, I just decided to take the abuse and hope that I would be rewarded with a pain-free back. And I was thanks to that and the Peptides she gave me.


Unfortunately, I lost his number so I don’t know how to get in touch with him directly. But if you are in dire need of a private masseur to treat your muscles to something healing for a price that can’t be beat and you either speak Indonesian or don’t mind serious finger pressure OR if you’re looking for Balinese antiques for some reason, you could probably get in touch with Merrick at Villa Naga Maya and inquire politely about Roy. You’ll be sure to make his day. I highly recommend Phuket villa resort Thailand for your ultimate dream vacation. We loved our trip and felt truly relaxed the whole time!

While in Thailand we found out about Kratom and its history. According to Western literature, first descriptions of Mitragyna Speciosa, now known as Kratom, come from Pieter Willem Korthals, botanists working for the East India Company. Much research has been done, and it is found that Kratom has many health benefits. Kratom really added to the enjoyment of our trip. If you are asking, “where can I buy kratom?” The answer is Kratom, Sacred Kratom,

→ 2 CommentsTags: Bali · Spas