Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Say Hello!

Want to meet up along the way for coffee? Have questions about any of the locations we've visited? Drop us a line! We'd love to meet you.

Name *

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789


You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.


A travelogue chronicling the adventures of Shane & Julie - a husband and wife seeking to travel out of the country every year of their marriage

Filtering by Tag: Airbnb

seminyak & dealing with bali corruption // indonesia

Julie Murphy

Seminyak City Guide and Bali Corruption

Having survived the monsoon crossing from Nusa Lembongan, we were back on the firm (albeit filthy) ground of Sanur's beaches. The complementary driver that came with our Scoot boat tickets braved the hour of gridlock traffic to make it the 10 miles to our next Airbnb, Villa Emma in Seminyak. We could not have asked for a more perfect oasis from the craziness that the Kuta/Seminyak region of Bali is now defined by. Dirt-cheap prices, endless beach bars, and seemingly few legal restraints has transformed these once-quaint towns into a party mecca for vacationing Aussie youth and international backpackers. 

When we were finally ready to leave the palm-enclosed pool, the incredible staff of Villa Emma recommended the traditional Baliese cuisine of Kendi Kuning on Jalan Drupadi. They could not have been more right as the grilled mahi-mahi, curry, and cocktails brought us back 3 more times during our stay. Make sure to spark up a convo with the incredibly hospitable owner, Anne Marie or her Balinese husband for some of the best local tips you could ask for. 

If you're looking for something a little more casual, KZU Drupadi is just around the corner with a smorgasbord of uber cheap, Chipotle-style Balinese. Or, if you're anything like us and the beach is incomplete without fish tacos,  Taco Beach Grill is just a couple blocks away off the incredibly popular Jalan Raya Basangkasa. After a few months of travel, it cannot be described how appreciated some surprisingly accurate Mexican flavors can be. 

The over-packed and dirty beaches of Kuta/Semiyak aren't much to write home about so we relied on another $5/day scooter to take us the 10km north to Echo beach in Canggu for decent surf and relaxing nap spots. Old Man's serves as the beach's most popular hangout with huge portioned surf food, drinks, and live music.  Another 10km further up the road takes you to the highly touted Tanah Lot temple and its infamous sunsets. This ancient Buddhist worship ground can only be accessed at low tide as it's perched atop rock outcroppings. Despite the site's theme park feel (complete with Billabong/Ralph Lauren shops, snake charmers, and monks to pose with), the temple is still operational with optional Eat, Pray, Love style blessings - for a fee, of course. Just be prepared to face a battlefield of selfie sticks and endless tour groups around dusk as people-free pictures turn into pipe dreams.

CORRUPTION WARNING: While we had no problem scootering around most parts of Bali, the tourist-based environment of Kuta and Seminyak has become a hotbed of police corruption.  It's only wise to prepare for being pulled over by groups of police who will give you a well-rehearsed shakedown for bribe money. After having gone through this gun-flashing, prison-threatening, interrogation process a half-dozen times in a couple weeks, here are a few tips for anyone that looks anything other than Balinese: 

  • Stay calm and respectful: while these police are anything but honest, they are still police and have resorted to this due to their socioeconomic situations
  • Don't give them a reason: remember that it's the law to wear a helmet, carry the bike registration and have your international drivers license. The police will certainly make up a false cause for pulling you over regardless - don't give them a valid violation to stand on.
  • Interact in public: if possible, aim for an obvious and public setting when getting pulled over. While 99% of these interactions are just a way for police to quickly supplement their pay, there are stories of more serious extortions that involve the planting of drugs or prostitutes on unsuspecting tourists. Just be aware of your surroundings and don't open yourself up to an extreme situation.
  • Never show your cards (money): this is where having a fake wallet really pays off. It's always a good idea when traveling to spread out your money in multiple places but we found success in keeping no more than $5-10 (and no debit/credit cards) in our wallet exclusively for when dealing with police and bartering salesmen.
  • Ignore the sticker price: the cops will likely start with an outrageous fee for the imaginary red light you ran through at upwards of 5 or 10 MILLION rupiah ($350-700). To put that in perspective, Bali's minimum wage is $115 PER MONTH! However, these guys are really just looking for a quick payoff to pocket before moving on to their next target.
  • Play dumb like a fox: it's important the police know you are aware that you didn't violate any laws of the road.  So it doesn't hurt to calmly express your confusion and frustration for having been pulled over. I would typically start with asking as many questions as possibly to drag out the interaction as long as I could...and increase their fear of a legitimate police officer (there are some!) seeing what they are doing. They may "casually" play with their gun holster, threaten prison, or claim to take your scooter as some of their intimidation tactics but just show them your cash-poor and debit card free wallet as an effort to show that you are willing to work with them.
  • Offer the alternative: it's bad form to offer a bribe right away but if the interaction has gone this far then it may be your only option. There is no doubt that I feel serious moral conflict when paying any sort of bribe but it's important to consider that even the money for a "formal ticket" goes into the pocket of the police. Casually let the officer know that you are willing to monetarily ease the situation with a question like: "is there another way we can handle this?" It's then up to your creativity to make the exchange.  Other than the traditional "money handshake", you may have the opportunity to slip in a few bills when passing registration documents or setting some cash in your helmet hanging from the handlebars. You should be able to get by with 50,000 rupiah ($3.50) but some may let you slide with 20,000 depending on how much you showed them in your fake wallet. 
  • Forgive and forget: don't let your bruised pride keep the rest of the interaction from being civil. It never hurts to finish with a smile or a friendly conversation as some of these officers can be pretty nice guys. Who knows, it might even payoff next time they pull you over for running that invisible stop sign. 

Have you ever had to deal with police corruption in Indonesia, or other countries? 

the coromandel & auckland // new zealand

Julie Murphy

Guide to the Coromandel & Auckland // New Zealand - The Murphy Atlas

After a long day of thermal pools, hobbits, and weary roads, we arrived in the small town of Thames at the western base of the Coromandel Peninsula. We first settled into our charming Airbnb that was once a garden shed turned guest house (way cooler than it sounds) and met our equally charming hosts. They highly recommended Nakontong Thai Restaurant but unfortunately the owners were out of town. Thankfully, all of Thames' restaurants and stores are on one primary street so it was easy to find the delicious Kebab Express for massive portions of turkish delicatessen. Our meal finished just in time to enjoy one of the gorgeous sunsets that the Coromandel is known for. Definitely make sure you plan accordingly.

Unfortunately, our plans for exploring the rest of the peninsula were thwarted thanks to an indignant MacBook that died overnight. While the small-town nature of Thames added to its charm, it also meant that we needed to travel to Auckland earlier than expected to get the computer fixed at an Apple dealer before heading to SE Asia. However, there is plenty to explore here when we return as the Coromandel is renowned for its rugged mountains that come crashing into idyllic beaches. A few of the spots we hope to hit next time (yes, there will be a next time) are the magnificent Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach to dig our own hot spring, and catch some surf at Whangamata Beach.  

Once we had our MacBook brought back to life by the miraculous hands of a Kiwi Apple technician, we went for a celebratory lunch at The White Rabbit in downtown Auckland. This super hip bistro came by recommendation from friends Caitlin Kellagher & Natalie Franke Hayes (who we had met up with in Queenstown) and we're so glad they shared this gem! The meals were edgy and creative with fine dining flavors but served in a casual, warehouse-chic setting. We loved every single bite! 

Our Auckland Airbnb was a just outside of the city center in a quiet little neighborhood. The home was perched on one of the many hills that surround downtown and gave incredible perspective of the sprawling suburbs. For an even better view, our hosts recommended the nearby Mt Eden - an extinct volcano with a stunning overlook of the city that can be driven to the peak. Make sure to grab some tasty woodfired pizza to-go from Al Volo at the base of the hill to take advantage of this ideal picnic spot.  

Our host had also confirmed that we were lucky enough to still be within the ideal season for a visit to Muriwai Beach's gannet colony just 40 minutes west of the city. From August to March, these beautiful sea birds mate and nest on the angular outcroppings of Muriwai's cliffed shores. We were mesmerized as we sat on the edge of the rocks for hours watching swarms of gannets dart to and from the water to feed their little ones. The birds were pretty generous with their spot choice as the sun sets directly behind their acrobatics and makes for some pretty epic picture taking. 

We also made this itty bitty video of the amazing bird colony. Such a sweet sunset experience!!

Note: we were lucky enough (sarcasm) to experience our first NZ police check-point on the way back to the city from Muriwai. The country has taken very serious steps to curb the amount of drunk driving accidents and strictly uphold their 0.05 BAC limit. Thankfully we are overly cautious about this sort of thing as they were giving compulsory breathalyzer tests to everyone that drove by. Apparently, this is a pretty common deal.

We were definitely sad to be leaving the beautiful land of the Kiwis as we caught our early morning flight out of Auckland but were ready to take on the chaos of SE Asia. Peace out, NZ! It's been grand. Next up, Bali!

taupo & HOBBITON! // new zealand

Julie Murphy

Guide to Hobbiton! New Zealand // The Murphy Atlas

We were reluctant to leave the delicious food of Wellington but fueled up for a long haul to our next destination in Taupo. The route we had chosen was slightly out of the way as we looped around the western side of Tongariro National Park in hopes of seeing the fiery peak of Mt. Doom! Note: the peak is neither fiery nor is it called Mt. Doom. However, the iconic Mount Ngauruhoe is an active volcano with blood red sediment and can be explored Frodo & Samwise style on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing trek.

Unfortunately, the mists of Mordor (again not actually real) completely covered our view from the base but everyone we talked to about the 19.4 km trek over the crossing said it to be one of the most epic hikes in NZ...bold words there. 

After 6 gorgeous driving hours and more than a few kilometers of gas concerns (fuel up well before Tongariro National Park), we arrived in the quaint, lakeside town of Taupo. Our incredibly hospitable Airbnb hosts insisted that the best food in town came from the hole-in-the-wall spot, @Siam. The pad see ew and penang curry were spot on with awesome prices but there is a whole collection of restaurants and pubs in the town center where this is shop is located if Thai isn't your thing. 

Our hosts also let us in on a locals spot to help ease the tense muscles from the long drive. A little over 30 minutes up the road is a bumpy turnoff that leads to the utterly relaxing Kerosene Creek swimming hole (detailed directions here). Fed by hot springs, this pool is a natural hot tub perfect after a long day of exploring. Two things to keep in mind if you do make the trip: hide or protect any valuables as there have been reports of break-ins in the parking lot and don't dunk your head underwater as hot springs can be a natural haven for less than savory bacteria. However, those definitely shouldn't deter a visit! 

We got an early start the next morning as the plans were to make a few stops on the way to our next Airbnb all the way up in the Coromandel Penninusla. On our way out of town, we pulled off the road to see the roaring Huka Falls - these couldn't be more easily accessible and the water is wildly blue!

From there, we continued up the same road towards Kerosene Creek to the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. The price was a little steeper than we expected at $32 NZD/pp but it did offer some crazy colored hot springs...that overwhelmingly reeked of egg farts. Don't get us wrong, the springs were SUPER cool & definitely a unique sight, but the smell was not for the faint of stench. Overall, worth it!

Our next destination is still one of our very favorite memories of the trip. Yes, we're talking about HOBBITON! We understand that this makes us total nerds to those LOTR haters out there but we don't even slightly care. The set was developed on a gorgeous, working 1250 acre farm that genuinely feels like you are entering the Shire! A large groundskeeping staff takes care of the real flower & vegetable gardens (that are full of butterflies - it's magical!) and the hundreds of sheep and cattle that wander the perimeter of the set. 

The guides are incredibly knowledgable and give an in-depth background to what you're seeing but also provide the freedom to explore around Hobbiton. Peter Jackson was a stickler about the details when the set was created, even to the point of specifically hiring crews of people to walk around the paths all day long (all summer!) to ensure the wearing in the grass looked natural. This focus on the details has been incredibly maintained as you wander around the 44 hobbit holes, each decorated with with gardens, tools, or laundry. 

Of course, none are more elaborate than Bilbo's house, Bag End, at the crest of the hills overlooking the pond. Complete with a "no admittance except on party business" sign (perhaps our new home motto), this hobbit hole is one of the largest in the bunch and overlooks the rest of Hobbiton under the shade of an amazingly believable fake tree.  

To appropriately cap the visit, the tour ended at the Green Dragon - a real onsite pub where we were served real (FREE) Hobbit beer in ceramic steins!

There are no details missed in this amazing watering hole from the hand-carved dragon over the bar to the working fireplaces. And let's not forget about the beer itself - one of the local breweries creates these delicious stouts, ales, and ciders exclusively for the Green Dragon and, regretfully, only makes it available at Hobbiton.

Only ONE more NZ post and then we're on to Bali! (We will catch up eventually, we promise!) What are some of your other favorite spots in New Zealand? We didn't even get to see the East Coast of the South Island, aka excuse to go back, ammiright?!