Three day quote challenge: Day 1

Mary has invited me to participate in a three day quote challenge, which I have accepted.

Participant requests: post an inspirational, uplifting quote for three consecutive days and invite three other bloggers to join you.

In turn, I invite:

Jewel Starlight – Astrologer

Travel Oops


There is no pressure to accept. Anyone else who would like to participate, please share your favorite quotes with us!

My quotes, in keeping with my blog, are all travel-related. Here’s the first one from J.R.R. Tolkien …

“Not all those who wander are lost”

Into the wild 24kb
‘Into the Wild’ by Liz Unwin (oil)



Medical tourism – getting a dental implant in Bali

Medical tourism is booming as increasing numbers of people are electing to have procedures done overseas, usually because of the prohibitive cost of treatment in their home country. Although the data is unreliable, an estimated 750,000 people in America alone travel overseas for medical care each year.  I recently became a medical tourist …

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My missing front tooth

When the root supporting an old front crown cracked while I was in the UK on holiday, I had to have it extracted. I got a temporary false tooth on a plate made in the UK and was told my options were to have an implant or a bridge. I decided on an implant but had to wait at least four months for the site to heal. As I was gradually heading back to Perth in Australia where a front implant costs around AU$6,000, I researched getting a dental implant overseas.

Implants involve two main stages with a stay of a couple of weeks for each stage, so I decided on Bali because it is close to Perth and cheap to stay there. Dental implants are also about a quarter of the price of those in Australia. After doing a lot of research online and emailing some of the reputable dentists, I narrowed it down to two dental surgeries in Kuta – Dr Syamsiar Adam at Kuta Dental, and Bali 9-11.

I eventually chose Dr Adam as I had a recommendation from a friend who had recently had implants done by her … and she’d had a recommendation from a friend of hers. I’d also read an article on Weekend Notes about an Australian who’d had her abscessed teeth treated by Dr Adam and raved about her. Dr Adam is very experienced, having graduated in dentistry in 1992, and is the dentist of choice for expats living in Bali.

My first appointment with her was in August 2015. I stayed at Hotel Neo, a short walk from Kuta Dental on the same street (Jalan Patih Jelantik). When I arrived at the dingy looking building I felt a little apprehensive, but my friend had told me not to be put off by appearances. As soon as I met Dr Adam I felt confident. She had a calm, professional manner and spoke good English so was able to answer all my questions and explain what she would do on each of my visits.

Four days later I was back at the dental surgery for the implant operation. I was given an antibiotic tablet and a pain killer before the operation plus a jab and mouth numbing lotion before they started drilling. Once, when I winced, I was instantly given another jab. Throughout the procedure Dr Adam was very calm and hummed along to music, which I found very soothing, and her dental assistant was also very gentle, attentive and proficient.

Drilling the hole for the implant seemed to happen quickly (I was still waiting for the pain!) and then Dr Adam sewed the implant into place and fashioned a temporary tooth, as it was a front tooth I was missing. Altogether, I was in the chair for nearly two hours. When I left, I was given a course of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and painkillers (for only $30), and a follow up appointment four days later to check the healing process.

On my next visit to Bali, four months later, the temporary tooth Dr Adam had glued in was still firmly in place. She removed it and opened up the implant so she could take an impression for the crown. I was in the chair for 1.5 hours this time. Instead of putting the temporary tooth back, she adjusted my plate (that I had been wearing before I started the procedure) so I could use that as there were only 13 days until my next appointment to fit the crown.

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My new implant

Fitting the crown went well and took only 45 minutes. The tooth was a perfect fit, although I felt the colour could have been a bit better matched. My gum had receded after having no tooth for a year so a small portion of the screw is exposed, but this is above my smile line so you don’t see it. I could have a skin graft to hide it if I felt the need.

All in all, I was happy with my implant experience overseas. We stayed in Bali for two weeks on each trip. The two holidays cost me and my partner a total of around AU$4,000 (including flights) and the implant cost AU$1,500 – so it was still cheaper to get my implant done in Bali than Australia.

If you are considering getting medical treatment done overseas, there are several sites that offer advice and information, such as this useful UK based one: If you do your research, it’s possible to get high quality procedures done overseas for a fraction of the price of developed world prices.

Feeling like a movie star in Madurai

2015-01-07 14.25.26The massive Meenakshi Amman Temple covers six hectares in the heart of the ancient city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Although the present structure was built in the 17th century, its origins go back 2,000 years. The temple has 14 gateway towers (gopurams), which are about 50 metres high and flamboyantly decorated with thousands of elaborate sculptures. The towers can be seen from all over the city, which was very useful as our hotel was located near the temple.

2015-01-07 14.44.52The temple is unusual because it is dedicated primarily to a female deity, Meenakshi. According to legend, she was born with three breasts and it was prophesized that her extra breast would disappear when she met her husband. That happened when she met Shiva (AKA Sundareswarar) and became his consort.

We visited the temple in the evening so we could see the nightly ceremony of putting the god and goddess to bed to consummate their union. Before closing the temple, a ritual procession, led by drummers and a brass ensemble, carries the image of Sundareswarar to Meenakshi’s bedroom. He is returned to his own shrine the next morning at dawn, having supposedly done the deed.

We entrusted our shoes to a shoe keeper outside the temple and joined the queue to enter the complex through one of the massive temple gates. When we got to the ticket box a guide called Johnny offered to take us around the main sights for 500RP (about £5). We were feeling a bit overwhelmed by the size of the temple complex – although many of the shrines are closed to non-Hindus, there’s still a lot to see – so we agreed to his offer.2015-01-07 20.45.53

2015-01-07 20.48.52The temple is adorned with colourful ceiling and wall paintings and there are some amazing sculptures that have been carved from a single block of granite (as Johnny kept proudly telling us). We finished our tour at about 8pm and sat in the meditation hall for a while as the bedtime ceremony wasn’t until 9pm. Then we found a possie outside Sundareswarar’s shrine where we would get a good view of the proceedings.

2015-01-07 21.15.20 While we were waiting, a big group of women came out of the inner sanctum and walked towards us. I didn’t take much notice of them at first, but as they passed they all held their hands out to shake mine. And then they wanted to have their photo taken with me. More people poured out of the temple, men also, and they all stopped to shake my hand and have a photo taken with me too. I felt like a movie star!

Eventually, the adoring crowd dispersed and my hand shaking duties finished. Although it was a flattering experience, it was also a little eerie. There were other Westerners there – why did they choose me to target?!

But I didn’t have time to contemplate this for long as just then, in a cloud of incense smoke and accompanied by loud, discordant music, the image of Sundareswarar emerged from his shrine in a hand held carriage. You can see a clip of the start of the journey here: 21.32.43

He was carried around the temple to Meenakshi’s bedroom where there was more ceremonial cacophony … but we left them there. I feel that deities – and movie stars, for that matter – should be allowed privacy in the bedroom.

Walking the Kungsleden – Part III

This is the third and last blog about my hike on the Kungsleden Trail in Swedish Lappland last August. I posted a blog about ‘Planning a hike on the Kungsleden’ on 3 March 2015, so if you’re after practical information that’s the one to read.

DAY 5: Singi to Kebnekaise – 8 miles

We set off about 9.45am to walk 8 miles to Kebnekaise Mountain Station. Ian had marked this as an easy day on the itinerary so I expected we’d be there in time for lunch … I later discovered he had marked the wrong day!

2014-08-19 14.05.17We walked across familiar terrain, through another valley with a river running through it and tall mountains either side, but for the first time we had to climb hills and cross rivers. The weather was cold, wet and windy and we could hardly see the mountains for mist. On top of that, I was feeling tired and hiking just seemed like hard work.2014-08-19 14.37.01

The weather cleared about three quarters of an hour before we arrived at Kebnakaise at 2.45pm. Kebnakaise is a massive place but gets very busy. As well as accommodating hikers on the 2014-08-19 17.26.37Kungsleden, nearby Mt Kebnakaise attracts climbers who often helicopter in. By the time we arrived all the smaller rooms were booked so we ended up in a 22 bed dormitory, which cost 460SEK (£40) a bed. We also booked dinner and breakfast, which altogether cost 986SEK (about £85) for two. This is definitely not a budget hike!

We had our first shower for five days then went down for dinner, which was a posh affair. The menu was almost entirely fish –rollmops, salmon and smoked salmon for starters and mackerel and potatoes for main course. We sat next to two Swedish guys who had come to climb Mt Kebnakaise but hadn’t managed it because of the weather. They told us that the Sami (the indigenous inhabitants of Sweden) own most of the land in the north and run the helicopter and boat businesses.

Later in the bar, we caught up with some of the UK hiking group. They had climbed Mt Kebnakaise today, but the visibility was very poor and only a couple of people had made it to the top. We saw photos, taken in the few minutes the weather had cleared, and it looked amazing.


DAY 6: Kebnakaise to Nikkaluokta – 12 miles

We got up at 7am for a massive buffet breakfast in readiness for our final day of hiking. Just before we set off at 8.30am we ran into George (the Scot). He was about to catch a helicopter to Nikkaluokta because of blisters … so maybe putting talc on your feet and wearing ‘1,000 mile’ socks is not a good recommendation!

We had 12 miles to walk to Nikkaluokta where we were catching the 4.20pm bus to Kiruna. The hiking on this section was not very scenic, mainly through scrubby bushland and along boardwalks, and the only wild life we saw was a lemming and a few small birds.2014-08-20 12.36.07

There is a boat service some of the way, but it drops passengers 5.6km from Nikkaluokta. A French couple we met at a Sami café near the boat terminal were very disappointed when they realised they still had to walk that distance. The café sold reindeer burgers but we had a salmon open sandwich instead.

2014-08-20 11.28.46As we neared Nikkaluokta we met Lee and Jonathon, the two British guys, walking in the other direction. They had reached the end of the trail, dropped off their packs and were hiking back to the Sami restaurant for a reindeer burger. Jonathon was still wearing his trusty moccasins and work socks and hadn’t developed any blisters.

We arrived at Nikkaluokta at 2pm so spent a couple of hours devouring tea and cake and looking at the art in a small Sami-run café / art gallery near the bus stop. Lee and Jonathon easily made it back in time for the bus despite walking an extra 11.2 km.

2014-08-20 13.57.45The bus dropped us off in Kiruna and we followed the big British group to the youth hostel. By the time they had checked in, all the hostel beds were taken, but it worked in our favour because we got ‘hotel beds’ which turned out to be much better value. A double room with our own ensuite and breakfast included cost 850SEK (£63), while the others were paying 300SEK (£22) each for a dorm and shared bathroom with no breakfast.

That night we went out for dinner at an Italian restaurant. A massive pizza and a big glass of wine seemed like a fitting way to celebrate the end of our hike on the Kungsleden.

Walking the Kungsleden – Part II

This is the second part of the blog about my hike on the Kungsleden Trail in Swedish Lappland last August. I posted a blog about ‘Planning a hike on the Kungsleden’ on 3 March 2015, so if you’re after practical information that’s the one to read.

DAY 3: Alesjaure to Salka – 15 miles

2014-08-17 08.34.23We left Alesjaure at 9am after watching a helicopter land and take off behind the reception hut. Our goal today was Salka hut 15 miles away, but we planned to stop for lunch at Tjaka hut after 8 miles.

The track to Tjaka was good and made for relatively easy walking. On the way, we saw several herds of reindeer, more lemmings and some seagulls, and we chatted to members from the big group of British hikers. One, a Scot called George, told us he prevents blisters by putting talc on his feet and only wearing quality ‘1,000 mile’ hiking socks. Another, told us about a great hike in Iceland he’d done. He rated it higher than the Kungsleden, and we both agreed that many hikes in the UK were more scenic than what we’d seen so far of the Kungsleden.2014-08-17 12.07.01

Just before we reached Tjaka about 12.30pm, we had to make a decision. There was a river between the trail and Tjaka with a bridge further up. We took the longer route via the bridge but most people took a short cut across the river. All but one person fell in and we later discovered that a doctor had fallen in the previous day, cut his head open and had to be airlifted to hospital.

Tjaka is a small hut with no store or sauna. There is a day fee to use the facilities so, as the weather was dry and even sunny for brief periods, we prepared and ate lunch outside. The warden was very friendly – I think she was pleased to have someone to talk to as the place seemed very quiet. She told us she was caretaking the hut during her holidays and had been there a month. She only had a week to go and seemed to be looking forward to the end of her assignment. “It’s a very windy place,” she told us.

2014-08-17 14.03.13Just after we left Tjaka, the track turned into a jumble of rocks and we had concentrate on negotiating them for the rest of the day. It was rockier than yesterday and, the seven miles to Salka took us nearly five hours (including a couple of breaks).

By the time we got to Salka at around 6pm we were exhausted. We shared a four-bed dorm with a Swedish couple, who were on a nine day hiking and camping trip but had decided to have a reprieve from the cold for a night and give their tent chance to dry out.


DAY 4: Salka to Singi – 7 miles2014-08-18 11.02.51

I woke early to a stunning morning and a herd of reindeer close to the hut. But, as we only had to walk seven miles today, I went back to bed until about 9.30am. By that time everyone except us and the couple in our room had left, so we ate our breakfast in peace.

2014-08-17 15.08.48When we left Salka at 11am it was quite bright, but the weather deteriorated as the day progressed. We stopped a little over half way and had lunch in a small ski hut which was packed with people doing the same as us. The scenery was much the same as yesterday – rivers and mountains, reindeer and rocks – though, thankfully, the trail wasn’t as rocky as yesterday.

We met a couple of Swedish bird watchers taking photos of an arctic tern. They told us that the seagulls come from Norway, which is apparently quite close. We also chatted to a couple of British guys, Lee and Jonathon, who we hadn’t met in the huts because they were camping to save money. I was fascinated with Jonathon’s footwear; he was walking in moccasins and ordinary socks as if he were going for a stroll in the park. The moccasins looked a little worse for wear but he hadn’t had a problem with blisters.2014-08-19 09.42.03

Singi is another small hut with no store or sauna. By the time we got there at 3pm it was cold and wet, and people kept arriving throughout the afternoon (many were campers escaping the weather). No one is ever turned away so, by evening, our ten-bed dorm was full plus there were a few extra mattresses on the floor. It was very cosy … until you had to go outside to the loo and battle the gale force winds and horizontal rain. Ahh, summer in Sweden!

Walking the Kungsleden – Part I

My next few blogs will be an account of my hike on the Kungsleden Trail in Swedish Lappland last August. I posted a blog about ‘Planning a hike on the Kungsleden’ on 3 March 2015, so if you’re after practical information that’s the one to read.

DAY 1: Abisko to Abiskojaure – 9 miles

??????????????By the time we reached the start of the Kungsleden it was 4.45pm, the sky was looking ominous and we had to walk nine miles to get to the first hut. Worried that we might not make it before it turned dark or started to rain, I set off at a cracking pace.

Our hike had started in a rather muddled fashion. We got off the bus from Kiruna at the store in Abisko, rather than at the tourist station about 2km further on, then tried to take a short cut across country to the start of the hike with the help of a German couple we met. However, there were no tracks and the terrain was too boggy so we ended up having to walk there by road anyway.

There was no missing the Kungsleden, it was an obvious rocky path or board walks where the trail crossed 2014-08-15 18.03.43boggy areas. We saw lots of other hikers, many were camped alongside the trail, which is understandable given the number of people hiking and the cost of the huts. Thankfully, we just missed a massive annual event with 2,000 hikers that finished the day we started.

That first evening, we walked beside water the whole way, first beside a river, then a stream and finally a lake. The only animals we saw were a herd of reindeer (wearing cow bells) and some little critters that looked like fat brown, orange and white mice scuttling around the boggy areas under the boardwalks. We later discovered that these were lemmings. We also saw a flock of grouse near the hut.

2014-08-16 09.43.17We got to Abiskojaure hut about 8.15pm and bought some supplies for dinner, which consisted of a can of fishballs (these were free from the on-site shop and, after trying them, I realised why they couldn’t sell them!), some crispbreads and two beers.

We retired to our 10-bed dorm about 10pm. The huts don’t have electricity or running water and the bed was just a wooden board with a thin mattress, pillow and duvet, but it was cosy and peaceful. It was difficult to believe we’d been in the bustling metropolis of Stockholm that morning.

DAY 2: Abiskojaure to Alesjaure – 12 miles

2014-08-15 19.27.05The next day we had a leisurely start and set off at 10am to walk the 12 miles to Alesjaure hut. The track was rocky, which made walking tiring as we needed to concentrate on where we put our feet, and there were more board walks in varying states of repair. I assume the board walks are all checked and fixed at the start of the season, but must soon suffer from wear and tear given the number of people walking over them. It was a very cold day and when we stopped for lunch after about three hours, we huddled among some rocks so we could light our stove and make a cup of soup to warm us up.

2014-08-16 12.53.30The terrain was spectacular but pretty bleak – mainly mountains with snow on the top and scrubby trees and lakes. There’s a ferry that cuts about 7km off the hike but it costs 300 SEK (about £22) and we weren’t feeling too tired at that stage so carried on. The last few miles to Alesjaure hut were muddy with a couple of small rivers to ford and a persistent drizzle, that later turned to heavy rain.2014-08-16 16.44.57

We reached the hut about 4.45pm and got a 4 bed dorm to ourselves in one of the huts. We didn’t stay there long though because a big group of rowdy kids arrived so we moved to another hut. Later we had our first Swedish sauna. This was busy as a large hiking group from the UK had just arrived. They’d hiked 21 miles from Abisko so had earnt their sauna!

The Empire of the Dead

2014-11-23 18.44.28Most days there is a big queue of people near Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris. They are waiting to see the Paris Catacombs, a network of old caves and tunnels, filled with human bones and skulls.

We joined the queue for this subterranean jaunt last November. You need to be able-bodied for this tourist attraction, as the trip involves negotiating 130 steps down into the catacombs, a 2 km walk underground and 83 steps back up to street level. The section open to the public is just a small fraction of the catacombs, which stretch for 300 km underneath Parisian streets.

The area was originally a network of quarries, which were formed when limestone was mined to build the city. The quarries weakened parts of the city’s foundations and in the late 18th century work was done to strengthen the roads above them. At around the same time there was an issue with the cemeteries in Paris. The number of people buried in the city was so great that it was causing health concerns.

The Cemetery of the Innocents, which was the largest and oldest of the Parisian cemeteries, was of particular concern. It had been in use for nearly 1,000 years so it was overcrowded and had become a source of infection and constant complaints from the public. In 1785, it was decided not only to ban burials in this cemetery but to remove the bodies already buried there and reintern them in the quarries.

In 1786, the quarry site was blessed and consecrated and transfer of the remains from Les Innocents began. The bones were loaded onto 2014-11-23 18.48.56carts and covered with a black veil for the journey, which was always undertaken at night following a ceremony where a procession of priests sang the service for the dead along the route. It took two years to empty Les Innocents. Over the following decades, human remains were removed from other cemeteries around Paris and taken to the catacombs. Some of the more recent bones date from the French Revolution, while the oldest may be more than 1,200 years old.

The catacombs provided a solution to overcrowding in the city’s cemeteries and became known as ‘The Empire of the Dead’. Today, the remains of six million people lie under Paris, nearly three times as many as the population living above in ‘The City of Light’. However, the disadvantage of the catacombs being directly under the city’s streets is that large foundations cannot be built. This is the reason there are few tall buildings in Paris.

The tunnels played a part in the Second World War. Parisian members of the French Resistance used the winding tunnels to hide in, and German soldiers set up an underground bunker in the catacombs, just below the 6th arrondissement. Although it was made illegal to enter other parts of the catacombs in 1955, Parisian urban explorers known as Cataphiles often breach this law.

2014-11-23 18.52.20I certainly wouldn’t be game to go exploring the catacombs on my own – I found even walking through the section open to the public an eerie experience. The walls of the tunnels are lined with bones and skulls. The remains are neatly arranged with plaques giving the name of the cemetery where they were taken from and when, and quotes about life and death. After a while, the sheer number of bones and skulls desensitises you to what you are seeing. It is difficult to believe that this number of people once walked the streets of Paris, and sobering to think that all are now anonymous and forgotten. At most their names might grace a branch of a family tree.

A visit to the Paris Catacombs reminds you of your own mortality … and for that it is worth a visit.

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