The day Bali made me cry

This post is about our last day and night in Pemuteran – a village in the North West of Bali. 


I woke up to knowing this is our last day in the North, the second place in Bali I fell utterly in love with. I remember hating the thought of leaving Ubud as much as I hated the thought of having to leave Pemuteran.

Leaving all this: taking a shower under the stars, sitting on the porch while looking at coconut palm trees and Frangipani flowers, eating breakfast that Kadek prepared for us every morning, watching the incredible beauty of sea-life, being among the kindest people I’ve ever met.

So, this morning is no different. Kadek cooks us some eggs and toast for breakfast, makes us Balinese coffee and a fresh pineapple juice. He’s set the bar so high I am wondering whether I’ll ever again enjoy my breakfast.

We spend the day on the beach. We just lie around, swim, drink fresh coconut water, you know… tough life. Just like the day before, I went collecting the trash the sea washed up on the beach. I was picking one piece of litter after another and bringing it to my little pile close to where we were sitting.

I was just thinking how awesome it would be if I had a plastic bag so I don’t have to do it one by one. Then – magic happened. The sea just washed a plastic bag up the beach. Thank you sea.

You know what they say: If life gives you lemons, make a lemonade. I created my own saying: If you want to collect trash from the sea, the sea will provide you with a plastic bag.

I felt it all falling into place: For almost every piece of plastic I picked up from the sand, there was a reward – a beautiful sea shell or stone I wouldn’t notice otherwise. Thank you beach.

The beach and the sea of Pemuteran recharged me with so much energy it still keeps me high-spirited up until now – more than two weeks after.

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Later that afternoon, Kadek leads us up to the main Hindu temple on a nearby hill. Wulan, a little 10-year-old daughter of our host Juli comes along with us, too.

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Every once in a while, a little temple crosses our path. Kadek kneels before it, burns a scented stick, puts little presents inside a little box – offerings to gods – and recites a short prayer. Seeing him fills me with peace.

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We’re absolutely exhausted, the path is quite steep and the air is hot and humid. We’re almost out of breath. Every temple Kadek stops at is like a redemption for us – we have an excuse to rest for a bit, drink water and look at the view over Pemuteran bay. With our tongues sticking out like dogs, of course.

When we get to the temple, Kadek takes out three sets of sarongs – traditional clothes that people wear to temples – and ties it around our waists for us. In the meantime, he talks about the temple we’re about to go to. It’s a sacred place for them, it’s called a “chair rock” in Indonesian because it’s built on a chair-shaped rock.

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To be brutally honest, the temple was… well… nothing much. It was basically a cheap construction built on a rock, iron pipes and wooden planks randomly assembled and nailed together so they create a steady construction. There was practically nothing inside. On the edge, there was a small altar with a statue. Still, it was probably the most amazing temple I’ve ever been to. It was beautiful in its ugliness. It was an amazing representation of what religion and faith should be all about. About spiritual moments. Humble altars that bring out the beauties of the mind, not the material riches.

When Kadek is finished with his prayers, we go a bit further to the edge of the hill to watch the sunset. Kadek takes off his shoes and walks barefoot, just like he always does in the homestay. I smile and think about it either as a nice statement of shoe aversion or declaration of freedom and love for nature at the same time. When we get to the hill, we sit on a rock and wait. In the meantime, we ask Kadek whether he’s ever thought about going abroad, trying out luck somewhere outside Bali. Apparently, he’s never been to any other place than Bali and I think it’s only good he hasn’t. I’m afraid the outer world would spoil him.

Kadek is a pure soul. He always wears a smile on his face. His smile is sincere and spontaneous. He doesn’t have much, but he smiles. He’s got his life. Nature. Good job. Family. Friends. Isn’t that enough? (Why don’t we smile more, then?)

He’s kind, helping, genuine, grateful. He’s an ambitious and hardworking person in a place where hard work does not really support the ambition. He hates shoes. He likes to just sit and think. Simple things. Simple life.

The sun is setting over the Pemuteran bay. We don’t talk much. We’re just sitting on the rock, serene and harmonious, watching the sun going down. Just like it goes down every single day but it will be a different sun for us tomorrow.

I notice a tear running down my cheek. Happiness. Pure happiness.

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We go down the hill feeling tired, happy and … hungry! Down in the village, we choose a random, nice looking restaurant and settle in. They tell us there’s going to be live music later on that evening. Nice one!

The waiters bring us food. It’s delicious (no surprise). We drink beer (it’s delicious). The waiters are super nice to us (no surprise again). For some reason, we’re very silent. We’re breathing in the atmosphere, breathing out satisfaction.

Then the musicians start playing. The band is six young and hot Balinese guys playing with such energy and joy it just makes you smile. After about the third song, my emotions start spilling out in a form of a second tear. Bali made me cry out of happiness twice in one day. Thank you Bali.


The night ended up in a bash. There was a woman – Amanda – who in about half an hour made everyone in the bar dance. I was feeling a bit self-conscious at first, me not being really that keen on dancing. But hell, that night the whole bar danced like no one was watching. Barefoot, sweaty and happy.

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The guys were amazing, making up lyrics on the go, forgetting the playlist, playing whatever songs their hearts and our hearts craved at that moment. Beauty. Love. Perfection.

Thank you so much Pemuteran. Terima Kasih Bali for all.

I don’t care if I’m being too sentimental. I needed to get it out of my heart. ❤

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Budapest in a hurry

My house in Budapest, my hidden treasure chest… for you, oooh, I’d leave it all…

Last weekend in Budapest I kept humming this tune all the time. It’s from the song “Budapest” by George Ezra by the way. Speaking of George Ezra, seems like this year I’m only traveling to places he’s made a song about: In February I’ve been to Barcelona, which is the title of one of his songs, too (plus I actually followed George Ezra to Barcelona – I went to his gig). So, I’m wondering what city he’s going to write the next song about – so I know where to book my ticket to 😉

OR another theory of my 2015 travels is that I only visit cities starting with B. Barcelona, Budapest, I live in Bratislava, in november I’m visiting Berlin…. interesting.

Well, never mind. I’m definitely coming back to Budapest soon because this visit was only cause of Sziget festival, which wasn’t enough for this city. We only had like a couple of hours to walk around, during which I took some nice pictures. They have no coherent theme, they’re not the classic sight-seeing pictures, you can’t even tell they were taken in Budapest. But they carry an essence of Budapest, or at least of how I felt about it 🙂

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And yeah, sorry for the quality. They were all taken with my phone.

Sziget festival pt. 2

Sziget is one of the biggest summer music festivals in Europe and unlike most of them, it is a 7-day festival, which is huge!

And it’s in Budapest, which makes it even more cool.

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Or Udapes 🙂

Today I read a couple of realities about Sziget on Wikipedia and this made me giggle: “Being located on an island, some festival goers have tried to enter by swimming across the Danube [river] or by paddling across in an inflatable raft.” Well I wouldn’t exactly call them “festival goers” but something like “festival intruders”. But the thought of somebody actually trying to get in by swimming across the river is hilarious. I can also imagine someone slightly intoxicated trying to swim from the island to enjoy himself a little Budapest trip in the middle of the night.

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Sziget is also known as the island of freedom. Some people took it too literally if I may be honest, but all in all I was surprised how lovely and nice everyone was. Many times I got in a conversation with someone – like on a toilet, at the bar, in the crowd – and that someone turned out to be a really nice and positive person. I guess it’s the reality thing. Everyone’s literally left the reality behind and enjoyed oneself.

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All around the island were these little surprises like decorated trees, passage of umbrellas, flowers installed on bars and stalls, art pieces… Sziget was just a full audio-visual pleasure.

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Even some bins got to be decorated!

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Speaking about the audio pleasure. The main highlight of the Saturday evening – Kings of Leon – was a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, they were good and everything but definitely not a highlight. For me, Major Lazer was the best. They stole the whole evening!

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So thanks Sziget for a beautiful weekend. Thanks to my friends as well, of course! It’s not about where you are but who you are with!

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So what I learned this weekend:

  1. You’re never too to rock’n’roll.
  2. But you might be too old to go watch the show from the middle of the crowd of 20,000 people.
  3. Hungarian “palinka” (meaning spirit distilled from fruits such as cherries or plums) is the best! Especially the cherry one!
  4. Never wear a new dress to a festival.
  5. If something costs 1,500 it does not necessarily mean it’s expensive (that’s approx. 5 euros).

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See you next year Sziget!

Back in Southampton

Last week was special. It was my graduation at the Uni of Southampton. After almost 8 months I was back in my beloved Soton. You know how it is, you don’t know what you have until you lose it. And this was exactly the case.

I found it really weird booking a hotel in a place I once called home. I went from being a (temporary) Sotonian to a tourist.

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Despite knowing it so well, Southampton surprised me. Eight months is not a long period of time but many things changed. When we, me and my parents, were on the bus U1A going from the Central Station to Highfield I kept pointing at several places shouting: ” Whaaat this wasn’t here before”, “This must be something new”, or “Where has that pub gone?” See, eight months is enough for change to happen.

Other than that, Southampton was still the same. Businesses come and go but the important things stay. The town quay and the docks still looked and felt like they did before. It was still windy and a bit colder there than inside the city. The Red Funnel ferry operating between Southampton and Isle of Wight was full of tourists, sea gulls and pigeons flying above our heads, boys playing basketball in Mayflower park.

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Being back on campus was amazing. A year ago when I was writing my dissertation and learned that we’ll have our graduation in a year (!!!!) I couldn’t help laughing, it seemed like ages away. Now, obviously, writing dissertation feels like two weeks ago.

What I said at the beginning – the thing with not appreciating things until you lose them – I fully grasped here at the campus. I walked around and suddenly felt jealous of all the current students and especially the freshers, who still have many wonderful university years ahead of them. I was thinking how many wasted days and pointless hours I spent doing nothing. I was often at home, too lazy to go out. Stupid me. Anyway, I enjoyed it the way I wanted at that time, so I guess it’s okay.

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I’ve always loved the greenery of our campus. It’s like one huge garden. And the real one (we called it a secret garden) – Valley Gardens – leaves you speechless. When I took these photos, there were ceremonies happening at that very moment and there was not a soul inside (not that there ever were many people). I was walking around or sitting on a bench and the whole place was mine. It was bliss.

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Our house, number 17, was only a couple of meters away from campus. During my three day stay in Southampton I went there twice. To my surprise I found the house abandoned. The grass and the weeds in the front yard indicated nobody’s cut it for a long time. I tried to knock on the door hoping someone will answer so that I can have a quick look inside. But there was no sight nor feel of anyone living there. I knew it from the very beginning. What I found was a sad and empty house.

The second time I went there was an hour and a half before our train was departing from central station for London – I needed to see it again.

Standing in front of it, touching the door knob and peeping through windows was like saying goodbye to it all.  Before I had to go I stood motionless by the front gate for like 10 minutes, trying to capture the picture of it into a visual memory bank in my head. But it was more than that. If in the future I want to recall how the house looked like I can look at the photos. What I really wanted was to capture the moment, the feeling of standing in front of it. Who knows if I’m ever going to see it again.

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This time, even though it didn’t feel like it did before, I felt somehow connected to Southampton because I was a graduant – I still felt a part of the university. But from now on, whenever I make a visit, there’ll be nothing waiting for me there. I’m an alumni now, me and 200,000 other people. My old house is abandoned. Friends are gone, spread all around the globe. I’ll be staying in a hotel.

An official tourist in the second home. That’s right.

Barcelona: day 3 in pictures

What this Barcelona trip taught us is this: if you are visiting city that was worthy of its own separate guidebook meaning it is not described in a travel guide about the country it lies in only on just like two or three pages, a long weekend is never going to be enough. This is a pearl of wisdom I must remember for the future reference.

On the third day we went to see Park Güell – well known even to those who have never been to Barcelona. I don’t think there is a single person older 12 years of age who never saw the iconic panoramic picture of the city taken from the park with the two even more iconic buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí in the front. When it comes to this, we were not very lucky – one of them – the one on the right – was under construction, which to a great extent ruined an incredible number of pictures and mood of several keen photographers that day. The park itself is a very nice place so we took a long lovely walk around. You can feel Gaudí everywhere inside – the patterns and colours are amazing. The long curvy ergonomic stone bench is really impressive – it is decorated with shards of various different pots, plates, porcelain dishes and whatnot, that Gaudí collected and then used. Some parts of the park, especially the monumental zone and the houses, are just too crowded to bear. The people wanting to take a picture with everything slowly started to get on my nerves: especially when I tried to take a photo of the lizard statue and almost couldn’t get one proper pic because of all the people wanting to have a selfie right next to it. Wow, I thought: this must definitely be the most photographed reptile on Earth!

Leaving park Güell might leave in you a strong dislike of mankind, especially after visiting the main sights, which was later even strengthened thanks to two guys who tried to rob us in the bus. Well, more of this bitterly funny tale later.

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One of the most famous reptiles in the world.

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City panorama. Trying to avoid the next house covered in scaffolding.

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My collages from Park Güell. These are the patterns of the ceramic pieces on Gaudí’s famous bench.

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They say La Rambla is the place where most of the pickpockets and muggers are all ready and waiting for their prey. Well, as for us, we (almost) were the victims of crime way before we even got there. Being already set on alert mode, we arrived at this huge famous boulevard a bit suspicious and skeptical. But I couldn’t wait to see this street, the one every city guide is talking about how impressive it is. My impression of it was that unless you plan to shop souvenirs or have a bite I don’t see many reasons why go there. If anything, it will only deepen your aversion to crowds (if you happen to have such aversion) and, like us on account of this little incident with pickpockets, you won’t find La Rambla neither appealing, nor safe. But I must say the doors and balconies of the houses around are truly beautiful! And I also think it must have a different atmosphere in the summer, the February weather made it look a bit gloomy and uninteresting. That is why I didn’t even take many shots there – only of doors and balconies already mentioned.

After La Rambla we went to see the marina and the sea front. That was way way nicer 🙂

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Classic Katka on the Shore shot: birds. I simply have a thing for birds I suppose. Wherever I go I take pictures of them.

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Our favourite beer.

Let me sum up this trip with some stats: Number of photos taken: 511, out of which 27 were photobombed by a random person. Number of photos I photobombed: 342 (my sheer estimation). Selfie sticks counted: 16. Selfies counted: beyond my abilities. Annoying kissing couples: 1473. Number of prevented robberies: 1. Plus two uneasy stomachs after the turbulent flight home and two happy Katkas equals a very good and unforgettable trip. Regardless of my grumbling and sarcastic remarks Barcelona was great 🙂

Barcelona day 2

For someone who is single there’s nothing like being in a romantic city on Valentines day. Okay, I suppose Venice, Paris or Rome could be much worse, but even Barcelona was packed with cute couples, decorated shop windows with hearts, cupids, roses and everything and special Valentines offers in bars and restaurants.

Despite me not having many reasons to be fond of this little feast of love I too found something very much appealing in it: the smell of fresh flowers was everywhere, bakeries and patisseries strived to bring their shop displays to perfection and show off by baking the most amazing cakes, cupcakes, macaroons or any other pastries you could imagine. If one could get fat just by looking at them you could roll me like a ball now.

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As for the city, streets and little shops, I’ve run out of superlatives by midday and just stuck with “beautiful”. We did some sightseeing that day and saw two very famous sights Casa Batlló and Sagrada Família.

Casa Batlló is one of the two most famous “casas” in Barcelona (the other one is Casa Milá) and both are on the same street – Passeig de Grácia. Antoni Gaudí must have been on drugs while designing this house, but at least the builders clearly weren’t for despite the house’s uneven shapes and Gaudí’s evident aversion to straight lines the house still stands and endures millions of tourists every year. The visit was definitely worth it – the interior was beautiful – but you have to be a patient personality with the ability to put up with loads of people to truly enjoy it. Sometimes even, you might get the feeling like there’s some kind of a photo contest going on there. And yes, you’ll see many, many selfie sticks. Audio guide with the description of each room is included in the price of the ticket so it’s even funnier how people walk around with what looks like an old mobile phone, trying to listen carefully to what the woman in the speaker says while trying to look around and take pictures at the same time, struggling to get the best shots of the place with as little of them photobombed as possible.

The art nouveau of Gaudí is characteristic for the whole Barcelona and you can either love it or hate it. This casa is a good example of how even the most mundane and everyday things can play with your senses. I was especially blown away by the myriad of patterns and colours that literally jumped from behind each corner at you.

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Sagrada Família a.k.a. I too want to have a picture with a crane. Yes, those cranes are obviously never leaving. Couple of years back I told myself I will go to Barcelona once Sagrada Família is completed and there will be no cranes overshadowing its greatness. Turns out I would have to wait until I’m 37 so I decided to just put up with it. Gaudí was a proper genius and when he started to plan a project, he planned it big. He knew he would never see his masterpiece done, nor his children, nor grandchildren most likely (if he had any, I don’t know).

In a nutshell, Sagrada Família is a crowded construction site. You might find it harsh – but it is what it is. The inside of the cathedral is magnificent though: the ceiling, the columns, the stained glass windows. Even from outside it impresses you with its detailed ornamentations covering the whole surface – so typical for Gaudí. But looking up from the ground you see only cranes and looking down from one of the towers (I went to the Passion Tower) you see only scaffolding. And people. Queuing or taking pictures 🙂

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I always try to see beauty in everything and everywhere and there is a great massive load of beauty in Barcelona. Patterns everywhere. Colours everywhere. Lively atmosphere. Laid back locals. Good food…

If you are not overfond of crowds you most likely won’t find Barcelona appealing unless you picture it without them (or at least minus half of them). If you can do it, then it becomes enchanting and inspirational and you might eventually fall in love.

Much needed getaway: Barcelona day 1

It’s been almost two months since I packed my suitcase (okay 3 suitcases and 4 cardboard boxes) and headed for home. After 15 months of being a traveller – in a constant cycle of packing and unpacking – I so to speak settled down. But…I kinda got used to this lifestyle and I must say that shortly after my homecoming I started to miss it!

My wanderlust was satisfied last week on Friday the thirteenth: on my favourite day I set out for Barcelona. 

Unlike the usual stereotype about Friday the 13th, I can easily call this day a day of good luck. I can’t even remember if I ever had a journey this smooth and organised. Everything had gone without a single hitch – like clockwork – though there were so many things that might have gone wrong.

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Once in a lifetime I got a seat by the window ! (It rarely happens). On our way to Barcelona we flew over the Alps and the views were just amazing. Btw, all this time I was wondering whether we are not flying too low – I felt like I could nearly touch the snowy peaks.

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We were on an incredibly tight schedule having to make it to a concert in central Barcelona starting just over an hour after our expected arrival. We were only hoping for no delays, which certainly wouldn’t be the best kickoff to the long weekend. Thankfully, the Irish airlines together with Barcelona public transport service proved reliable and gave us a warm welcome to this great city.

We stayed at a small and cozy B&B called “Forget me not” with a really great central location, clean and lovely rooms and a very friendly staff. We were literally just round the corner from the famous Casa Batlló. I highly recommend this place and will definitely not forget it.

The highlight of the first evening definitely was George Ezra. You don’t know him? Okay – it’s the guy that sings Budapest. BUT, apart from Budapest and many other songs he has, one of his ballads is called Barcelona. So it really was nice to listen to it whilst in this city (which at the time felt surreal given we just arrived and haven’t seen much of it, or nothing, yet). Our luck continued on the gig – despite the long queues at the front gate we were lucky enough to catch a good spot in the venue – I wasn’t even hoping for such a good place to stand. I was so close I could even see the scar on his forehead and even had a few eye contacts with him. Well… I might have just made that up 🙂

Here are the only two pictures from the concert I took. They are a terrible quality – I didn’t have my camera with me (obviously) and I haven’t updated my phone for couple of years now so with that poor old fellow one couldn’t take much of a pro stuff 🙂

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Excited from George’s too short performance (we could have spent hours listening to him and yes, watching him) we walked around the city for a while before jumping straight to bed. It had been a lovely first day.

More photos from Barcelona coming soon – as soon as I go through about 500 pics and sort them 🙂