Indonesia : Meet the Lovely Little Village of Balebo in South Sulawesi

Indonesia – a country I keep going back to. Yes I have only been to Bali and the Gili Islands before but still there is something about this country that pulls me every time. Now that I have the luxury of time by my side, I spent almost the entire month of April as a volunteer in Balebo village, South Sulawesi. Thanks to the wonderful folks of “I am from here”, I got to live and experience the place like a local. There is something about spending days in a rural setting as it brings back memories of my own childhood and my native home in India.

Living a life entirely different from what I was used to over the last eight years has taught me a few lessons. Funny, tough, soothing, realistic and pleasing at the same time, these few things that I have learnt after living for almost a month in Indonesia.

The virtue of Patience

This is something I have not technically learnt on this trip because I already am a quite patient guy. But what these 20 days made me realize is that I need to be even more patient when I am at an entirely new place, surrounded by new people and different cultures. For obvious reasons, English is not widely spoken or understood in the local communities, homes, shops, travel agents etc. That is where the need arises to be more patient when interacting with the people. I used to go to the local shop near my accommodation and it did take me some time to get across my points on what I wanted to buy and asking for the prices. After a while, continuous calls of “Hello Mr” from the kids while I was buying stuff at the shop felt like sweet music. Every place in the world and the people of those places work at a different pace which we might not be used to. With patience and a friendly smile, communicating with people becomes easy. The turnaround time of getting things done might not change but having more patience does allow us to slow down ourselves for good and actually be a part of this different life.

Playing with the village kids in the river

The doorways are not built for tall people  

Well this so true in the rural areas as much as I have seen. I’ve lost count of the number of times I hit my head when entering/exiting some of the sheds and houses. By the end of this trip, the top of my head resembled the landscape of Bali with two big bumps the size of Mt. Batur and Mt. Agung.

Masamba - Indonesia
A hut made from recycled stuff in Masamba village
House made from recycled stuff

Landscapes can be simple yet perfect

Oh the natural beauty of South Sulawesi!! Perfect nature does not always have to be about snow-capped peaks or white sand beaches. Something as simple as an open ground dotted with palm trees, thick green forests and steady flowing rivers. For me it was more of the river and a couple of visits to the nearby waterfall that made me fall for the scenic beauty of this place. Lying down on the grass banks or on the huge boulders by the river and listening to Sam Garret’s “The River” (thank you Emmiina). I could not help but realize that perfection is defined by our own perception of it. Sometimes you can find perfection during a stroll on a windy cloudy evening and sometimes you find it on the beaches of Bali. For me, the beautiful landscape of South Sulawesi will make me explore other parts of rural Indonesia.



Community is family and vice versa

Understanding the people and the community of Balebo village was an real eye-opener for me. When I left my corporate job, I was searching for an environment where respect for somebody would not be determined by the amount of wealth he/she has. I was looking for a place where people would not discriminate each other based on one’s financial abilities. More importantly, I was looking for a place where there would be smiles in abundance rather than faces filled with arrogance and ego. I found that place in this village, to a large extent. Here, the concept of family is not limited to just blood relatives or confined within the four walls of a house. 

A close-knit community where people actually know each other and the doors of homes are open to all. This is a place where people do not hesitate to talk to strangers because there are virtually no strangers in this village. Even foreigners like me were no more strangers after a few hours on our first day. There were days when after I woke up in the morning I took a stroll along the small road just to hear chants of “Hello Mr.” from all the neighbors and the kids. Ironic, because during my 6 years of stay in Singapore, I never knew who my neighbors were.


Playing cards  

Yeah I know I am thirty years old and I never learnt to play cards. That changed when one fine day as we were taking a break after some work at the garden, Katharina said “Do you wanna play cards?”. I wasn’t embarrassed but it did feel weird to say that I don’t know any card games but I would want to learn though. That’s when she taught me a game – which later became quite popular among others during our stay – and it was funnily named “Shithead” (according to her)!!! And spending the evenings with the local guys there led to me learning a couple more of these card games. So now I can at least say that I know how to play cards – although I am still an infant in the world of cards.


You don’t just run an adventure marathon, you train for it and then run it!!

My mind still goes back to that moment when I decided to postpone my departure from Masamba by a couple of days after I heard there was an adventure marathon happening on the 23rd of April. I just knew I wanted to be a part of this marathon because of two reasons – 1. This would be my first ever marathon.  2. If not now then who knows when I would get a next opportunity. But I overestimated the strength in my legs when I decided to just run this marathon. After starting steadily for the first 90 minutes on flat terrain, over the next 3 hours, my legs went through and endured what seemed like an advanced version of an army training exercise. All we had to do was walk fast, climb up, descend down, cross the river and repeat. It was purely due to my excitement (of my first marathon and anticipation of the finish line), some willpower and Alex egging me on, that I could reach the finish line. That entire evening and the next morning, I was just thinking of that episode from How I met your mother when Barney runs a marathon. I realized, you don’t just run a marathon without training for it. Would I run that marathon again? Hell yeah!! Even though my legs hurt and the sun was brutal, I loved it.


The world is huge but people are closer than we assume

Yes, the world is a big big place and somehow I feel that had led us to believe that people are far away from each other too. But I have realized that people are or could be much closer than what we assume. People living in different places have more in common that we can even think of. During my stay, I watched an Indian TV serial(dubbed in Bahasa of course) for far more times than I have watched it when I was in India. I listened to and sang “Tum Hi ho” with the folks there countless times, far more than I did before. While teaching English to the kids, I understood the importance of communication, real communication and not the Facebook/Watsapp stuff.

English Classes

Few friendships that were made during my stay, did not need months to grow. Exchanging cultural notes with Matewai, learning a few Spanish words from Marta, trying to pronounce German words from Katharina without choking myself or learning about an unknown place in India from Alex and Helen and finally calling the elderly couple – who’s family I was staying with – Mama and Papa, makes me believe that times have changed and people are open to us, now more than ever.


For all the memories, the work at the garden, carrying logs with the guys, sitting on top of a loaded truck holding onto a rope while the vehicles trudges through sharp curves on muddy roads with a steep fall into the river on one side, the caring smiles of Mama and Papa, my friends and my lovely students – everyone and everything has taught me something. Big or small – a lesson is always a lesson. Beautiful and near-perfect, Indonesia already feels like home to me.

Rural Indo Pin                   three-weeks-in


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Indonesia : Meet the Lovely Little Village of Balebo in South Sulawesi

Six Unique Types of Flyers You Will Meet

Airports and Aircrafts are the two things you cannot avoid as a regular or long term traveler. Over the last couple of years, I have been on more flights than the number of years I have lived till now. During those countless hours at different airports – mostly across Southeast Asia – I’ve come across folks from almost all over the world and I’ve met people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds. From being Amusing to outright annoying, here are some of the unique types of flyers I have come across during my travels.

I am Terrified of Flying
Let me introduce my former self. I am Tamshuk and I am absolutely terrified of flying. Yes, I would be the first one of the few (or many) people who clutch on to the hand-rests during the entire duration of the flight. Honestly, I myself have given my co-passengers a good laugh on several occasions with my scared facial expressions. Although I am yet to meet a co-passenger who is equally scared of flying, I am sure there are quite a few of them. I did meet a traveler from France when I was waiting around at Bali airport and she was one of those few people terrified of setting foot inside an aircraft.

“The Whole Place Belongs to Me” Guy
Hands down one of the most annoying types, the folks who have a general sense of owning the entire place. These are the people who demand every second of attention from each of the flight attendants for simplest of matters. More often than not, therse are the same folks who end up being rude to their co-passengers too. I once heard a guy on a flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur actually utter the words “I am an Investment Banker and I deserve better privileges than you normal guys do”. Arrogance and ego are the two traits these people exude all the time.

Photo Credit @ Flickr

One more drink please
International Flight or an Open Bar?? Some people find it hard to differentiate between the two. One drink leads to the request for a second. A second drink leads to demanding a third one. And sometimes, a refusal to serve further drinks results in a drunk passenger losing his brain nuts, turning into Hulk mode. Instances of passengers getting unruly with the flight attendants on being refused alcohol after a certain limit, is not that rare. Annoying is not the word to describe them. I am looking for a seven letter word that also starts with ‘A’.

Mr.Flirty Flirtkinson
There is always this cheeky guy who uses his flirting skills on female co-passengers and flight attendants alike. This guy plays with the odds and not being embarrassed of rejection is probably one positive takeaway from his flirtations. Annoying, Amusing, Irritating or Pleasant?? Ladies, your call this one!!

Photo Credit @ Flickr

The Kids
My personal favorite because I love kids. Kids are not just cute but they are just simply too funny, in an innocent way of course.I have read so many articles and hear so many people complaining about being surrounded by hyperactive (read noisy) kids. For me, being around kids inside a vessel flying at 35000 feet is nothing less than a stress buster. They make for some of the most amusing and funny moments ever. No matter how bad a day you are having, how can you avoid having a chuckle or two when you hear innocent voices uttering “Mommy, tell the pilot to fly us to the moon” or “Daddy, I wanna fly the aeroplane”.

The Helper
These are the most pleasant flyers you will come across. Right from helping you place that heavy suitcase on the weighing scale at the check-in counter to assisting an elderly get on the airport escalator or stowing the carry on in the overhead bin, they are always around to extend a helping hand. Few days back there was a video on the internet of a man offering his pregnant co-passenger to comfort her crying baby. People like them really make your journey worthwhile and memorable.

I will probably be never able to make a list of the best or the worst kind of passengers on a flight. I can only list out the few unique ones whether good, bad or ugly. Maybe I will come up with six more in a Part II of this post. For now, what are the kinds you’ve come across?


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Six Unique Types of Flyers You Will Meet

When Travels Go Wrong!! Three Travelers Share Their Worst Travel Moments

Oh Travel, how much we love that word. Many of us live our lives around Travel and the many adventures that unfold during our journeys. However, like two sides of a coin, there are bound to be certain misadventures too that end up as unwanted blips and sometimes even ruin the experience for travelers. Recently, I had more than a couple of these mishaps that halted my travel plans (for now). In this post, three bloggersBernard Tan, Anne Slater-Brooks and yours truly – collaborate to share individual experiences of the time when our travels went wrong.

Bernard Tan @ Bernard The Traveller : The infamous Thai gem scam

Photo credit @

I was approached by a ‘friendly’ Thai guy claiming to have worked as a teacher in Singapore, while navigating myself in Bangkok. He had mentioned that there is a temple that is opened today only and we should visit it. He stopped a tuk-tuk by the road and negotiated the price to 20 Baht. The tuk-tuk brought us to the lucky Buddha temple, at the temple we met some Thais that initiated a chat with us and ask us to head to the Thai export center.

While at the Thai export center, we purchased some small blue sapphire, and it cost us about SGD 70 after discount. The gems that we bought were worthless. We also gave the tuk-tuk more than the 20 baht that was expected from us! We were considered lucky, as others have been scammed thousands of dollars.

Read more stories and travel tips from Bernard on his blog BernardTheTraveller. Follow Bernard’s travels on Facebook and Twitter.

Anne Slater-Brooks @ TravelTheGlobe4LessNarrowly avoiding a riot in Tunis

Tunisia Beach
Photo credit

The beachfront killings just a few days earlier seem to have angered the police as they systematically chase down pop up stalls, unleashing ferocious blows on those in their way, with no regard for age, sex or circumstance. We see elderly ladies thrown to the ground and trampled in the melee, pregnant women pushed aside and the growing panic of the more vulnerable.

I’m oblivious to my husband’s unease so intent am I on taking everything in, unfamiliar stores, scents of incense, street food and garbage, the occasional glimpse of a whitewashed architectural gem beckoning to me, until suddenly he grabs me and urges me to run. ‘What?’ ‘Why?’ I shriek to no avail as he drags me away from an oncoming surge of people suddenly heading furiously in our direction. We dash around a corner, flip flops slapping the floor, adrenaline pumping as we fend off bodies jostling us. The panic is electric, as though a stray spark could ignite some unthinkable violence like a scene from Lord of the Rings.

We come to a stop in an oasis of calm where my ashen husband fills me in on events which I completely failed to witness. It seems we narrowly managed to avoid becoming embroiled in a Tunisian riot, gangs throwing bricks at a police cavalcade ahead, and locals of all age and race trying desperately to get away. Shaken we leave to return to the sanctuary of our hotel unharmed but a little more aware of how quickly things can get out of hand!

Read more Anne’s journey and read her precious travel tips at TravelTheGlobe4LessFollow her travels on Facebook and Twitter

Tamshuk @ Tamz Explores : Debit card cloned, Snakebite and Severe sickness in Thailand

Photo credit @ Tamz Explores

I had set off for my travels in mid-June with a concrete plans and finances for the next 5 months. But today, I am back home in India as I write this post thinking about the mishaps I had in Thailand, especially Bangkok. On my first three days in Bangkok, my debit card got cloned and I lost more than 90% of my money  to an anonymous cash withdrawal with my card details. This I realized on the day I was leaving for Chiang Mai. Till today I am struggling to get any portion of that lost money back from any of the two banks.

Chiang Mai was really nice to me though with some great food at the night markets, lovely friends and those beautiful temples. Oh, I got bit by a snake right when I jumped into the river after a white-water rafting session. The availability of a snakebite kit saved any further “burns” for me. But the final blow came when I made another four day run to Bangkok to get myself a social visa for Indonesia – this, after I had spent a month in Indonesia using the Visa exemption facility. Already having an on and off cold, I landed in Bangkok with plans to fly off to Jakarta after four days. But, as destiny had other plans, I got sick real bad and at the end of day four when I was at the airport to fly off, I was declared “Not fit to fly” by the airport medical team. So, there ended my travel plans for now and I flew back to India!!

The purpose of this post is to highlight the fact that not all goes well when we are traveling. Long-term or even usual vacations always have the possibilities of being bitten by unfortunate incidents. With the joy of traveling and visiting different places, comes the risk of getting unintentionally involved in bad situations. Having said that, will we change the way we travel? No! Will I go back to Bangkok? Absolutely!

Collaboration Post

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When Travels Go Wrong!! Three Travelers Share Their Worst Travel Moments

Of All The Cities In Australia, It Has To Be Melbourne

Australia is one of those places that people from all over the globe dream of visiting. When you think of Australia, you might imagine the enormity of Uluru or the majesty of the Sydney Opera House. But Australia is a very big place. And there are many more cities and towns to see beyond Sydney. Are you looking for an opportunity to indulge in the culture, vibrancy, and history of Australia? You should consider visiting Melbourne.

Melbourne has a marvelous mix of architecture that will wow anyone who visits. For a country that simply isn’t that old, and isn’t very populated, Melbourne offers some surprising insights. Like many countries in the world, Australia too has had its share of dark moments in history. But there’s something about Melbourne that seems to project a positivity about this country. Here, more than most of the other places, there is a real feeling of community and multiculturalism.

Night Noodles Market image at Flickr

Melbourne is by no means boring. Perhaps the biggest part of its appeal is the sheer number of events, exhibitions, and activities that happen here. It’s easy to get to the city. Use a website like to find transport from the airport. It’s not that far, and you can be in a gorgeous city center hotel in under an hour door to door. Once you’re in the city, you will find lots of options for public transport. Alternatively, why not walk around some of the most popular areas?

Australia has some of the most strict entry requirements in the world. Make sure you pop online and check out your visa needs. Stays can be quite lengthy depending on your eligibility. This means you can soak up all that Melbourne, and Victoria has to offer. There are some good beaches, and the weather can be particularly pleasant at the beginning of the year. Getting soaked in the water could also be a fun way for you to spend your time here.

The wildlife in Australia is quite unique and is famous all over the world for its diversity. In Melbourne, there is a highly rated zoo that is easily accessible. But it’s the native wildlife that is easy to spot in any of Melbourne’s beautiful gardens. The Melbourne Aquarium actively protects many species found in the Southern Ocean too. It’s easy to see why Australia is world-renowned for their conservation. Trees and plants native to the region form some of the most beautiful areas of this part of the country.

Image from Flickr

Spectator sports are a huge part of Australian culture. Melbourne is home to many different kinds of global sports. From motorsports and football to the iconic cricket rivalry series between England and Australia -The Ashes,there are many events to enjoy. When it comes to arts and culture, Melbourne again trumps some of the other major cities worldwide. The Melbourne Festival in October is one of those events that draws crowds from all over the globe. Have a look at the official website for more on this popular event. Victoria is home to some of the best cultural centers for exploring Aboriginal communities in the area. Any one of them is sure to give you a wonderful experience. Melbourne is also home to some wonderful street art across the city so if you are into similar interests, this is the place for you.

Australia is a long way to travel and many folks across the world have aptly (and lovingly) named this country as “The Final Frontier”, but places like Melbourne make every kilometer traveled across the oceans worth it. If you’re looking for a taste of what makes this huge country great, then make Melbourne your preferred destination.


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Of All The Cities In Australia, It Has To Be Melbourne

Smart Ways to Truly Understand a Culture When You Travel

Whenever you travel, you always experience new aspects of different cultures. Even when you travel within your home country, you will come across various cultural quirks. You might discover a popular local dish or learn a word from local dialect. If you love culture, one of your goals when you’re traveling might be to experience it as authentically as possible. However, whether a traveler can ever truly understand another culture is an age-old question. You may never see a culture through the eyes of a local, but you can still make an effort to understand it. Here are some of the things you can do.

See as Much as You Can

Image from Pexels
Image from Pexels

The first thing you should do is try to see as much as possible. That doesn’t mean you have to go all over the country, although that is one option. If you want to explore how the culture differs in various regions, consider planning a journey that spans across a considerable area. You can easily find famous, well-trodden paths such as the Char Dham in India. However, you can also plan to stay at one place for all the days of your trip. If you do, make sure you don’t still to just the city center or one small neighborhood. Try to visit different parts of the locale and experience different things, from the nightlife to local festivals and foods.

Go Where the Locals Go

One of the worst things you can do when you’re traveling is to stick to the tourist areas. It might be fine if you’re just “on vacation”, but if you’re traveling, you need to get out there. The tourist traps are expensive, overcrowded, and don’t show you the real local culture. If you want to see an authentic side to your destination, you need to wander and follow the locals. Take Venice for example, one of the most popular places for tourists. The busy parts of the city aren’t for everyone. If you start to wander the streets, you might get lost, but you could also find some great secrets. Similarly in Hong Kong, if you head out of the maze of skyscrapers or skip the obviously popular Disneyland, you will find a lot of hiking/trekking trails amid beautiful mountain ranges and waterfalls.

Image from Pexels

Don’t Be Afraid to Participate

Joining in is a great way to get to know a culture. You should be willing to experience it yourself so you can understand it. Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to have boundaries. You don’t have to compromise your morals to join in. However, you should keep an open mind about trying new foods or experiencing activities. If you’re offered an opportunity, consider it carefully before you turn it down. Even if your immediate instinct is not to do it, make sure you won’t regret it later. For example, I participated in an adventure marathon at a remote village in Indonesia while I was there on a volunteering stint.

Image from Pexels

Stay for a While

If you’re only on a flying visit, it will be hard to get to know the local culture. Similarly, staying in a hotel means you’re disconnected from your destination. If you want a more in-depth experience, you could consider living like a local for a while. Rent an apartment for a longer period or perhaps even look for a homestay/couch-surf. Alternatively, you can get involved in some volunteering activities during your travel which is a wonderful way to understand the local communities.

You might not ever be a local when you travel somewhere, but you can still try to understand the people who are. Not only you get to experience something new but understanding different cultures opens up your mind in a lot of ways. You start appreciating the importance and existence of diversity all around the world. You go home a more enriched person if you make the effort to absorb the various shades of a new culture.


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Smart Ways to Truly Understand a Culture When You Travel