After saying goodbye to our fantastic hosts Jack & Megan, we jumped on a couple of trains to Sydney airport. We checked in our bags and went in search of a full English breakfast / hangover cure!
Six and a half hours of air time later we arrived as scheduled to Denpasar’s brand new airport. Yet again stepping off the cool air conditioned plane and walking into a wall of intense heat and humidity!
Once we’d bought our visas then queued for over an hour through security, we made our way through the sea of scam taxi drivers begging us to go with them. We eventually found an ‘official’ one willing to use the meter and jumped in. For the half an hour journey it cost 35000 Indonesian Rupiah, which in real money is about £2.10! This currency was going to take some getting used to!
We pulled up to our first hotel; The bounty. As our taxi was checked underneath with mirrors on sticks, the reality of the westerner targeted Bali bombings in recent(ish) years hit home.
We checked in while the music was blasting out in this large lively resort. All the clientele looked our age group (& younger!) and ready for a rave up. We walked to our top floor room passing the two large swim up bar equipped pools on the way. The staff advised us of the big ‘party party’ tonight as they carried our bags through the resort .
It had just started to rain so we threw all our stuff on the bed and sat out on the balcony watching the tropical rain fall. When we wanted to retreat inside to the aircon I realised the keys were on the bed too, behind the locked door! Nightmare. One trek back to reception for me.
It was about 4pm by now and the lack of sleep had caught up with us. We decided on a nap if we were going to be in any mood to “party party” later on…
…We woke up from said nap at 7 o’clock the next morning! Ooops.
Check out was at 12 so we got up to make the most of the breakfast buffet then had a walk in to the local area, Kuta.
As we wondered the busy streets we were constantly pestered by the local market stall workers, wanting us to buy their snide stuff. Each shop selling more or less exactly the same; ray bans, watches & beer brand vests. One little guy even put his arm around me and tried to drag me into his shop!
We escaped the shop lined streets and walked back along the pretty average beach.
Back to the hotel to book a taxi out of Kuta to our next stop Sanur.
We pulled up to what looked worryingly like a building site, but after walking through the front building we were relieved to find a very well presented hotel; Sri Phala. The friendly staff welcomed us with a drink and as we were a bit too early to check in they showed us around the well kept gardens to the restaurant & pool area.
We relaxed by the pool soaking up the sun and enjoying a chilled ‘Bintang’ beer – Balis’s local.
We then had a walk along the much nicer Sanur beach and enjoyed a few cocktails in the sun before spending the rest of the day by the pool back at our hotel.
The next morning was Jens 25th birthday…I tried to sing happy birthday to her at 6am but was immediately told to shut up as she wanted more sleep!
Once sleeping beauty had emerged we had breakfast and then had a few hours by the pool.
We checked out and booked a taxi north to our next resort and Jens birthday treat – Nandini jungle resort & spa.
The taxi journey took a while through some pretty stunning scenery and steep winding roads, out in to the middle of the island.
We arrived at reception to another welcome cocktail and were shown to our hillside bungalow. We were in number 2, right at the top of the hill providing amazing views across the jungle valley.
We chilled on the balcony before venturing out to find the pool. The amazing swimming pool was located near the bottom of the resort down a hell of a lot of steps or via the more easy going gondola!
The gondola picked you up outside your room and calmly lowered you down the steep hillside to the pool or spa area! And more importantly, takes you back up!
After a while at the pool we hopped back on the gondola to head down further to the spa. I jumped in the hot pool while Jen scanned the spa menu. She eventually picked a treatment and roped me in too for a couples massage!
The next thing I knew we were having our feet washed in a bowl of flowers, changing in to some skimpy netted pants & a robe, and making our way to the massage room. This was all new to me!
With my face down into a hole, the masseuse asked if I wanted “strong” massage, “of course” I replied, I mean how strong can this little Indonesian woman be? Turns out very!
After over an hour of full body massage and exfoliation we were left to relax in a bath, again full of flowers and given a steaming cup of ginger tea. I felt very manly at this point!
Back up to the room before dinner. The only option is to eat on site being in the middle of nowhere but we had a lovely meal at the restaurant to finish a great day for Jens birthday.
The next morning we were awoken by classic jungle animal noises and the sunlight shimmering through the blinds. I set the camera up to record this awesome time-lapse of the sunrise from our balcony…
We walked up to the restaurant for breakfast. Fresh fruit, omelette and funny potato things with fruit juice and a cup of Yorkshire tea!
After we spent the day relaxing by the pool. For a while we were the only ones there, until we were joined by a few wild monkeys, and 3 Canadian girls who had come up from the nearest town Ubud for the day to pay to just use the pool (it was that good!). We spent the day chatting to them with a few beers then had a walk down the steep steps to see the river in the bottom of the jungle valley.
The next morning we had our final breakfast at this fantastic resort before getting the free hotel taxi to Ubud. They kindly dropped us off at our next hotel, Villa Mandi. We checked in and rushed into the town centre to catch the celebrations, it was the day of cremation for a member of Ubud’s royal family. Along with thousands of others that had come to see, we followed the procession up the main high street to the temple.
Around 200 men carried the coffin. I realise that may sound like overkill, but the coffin was mid way up this…
Followed by a band playing loud music on local instruments. The tower was so tall, all the power cables along the street had to be taken down before hand! One we’d reached the temple they then took the coffin from the tower and unloaded his body into a full size paper mache bull. They covered it with robes and offerings to take to the gods. They then set the bull alight using gas pipes to fuel the fire! It all looked like an accident waiting to happen.
After it had been burning intensely for around half an hour the body had still not completely set on fire, we know this because something gave way in the structure, causing the corpses feet to pop out of the bottom! What a sight…..
After that excitement we walked back into town to have some lunch. A restaurant called Nomads provided some decent tapas with another Bintang. Jen also decided to try out a cocktail, Arak attack. Arak is a local traditionally brewed liquor made from rice and coconut palm flowers. We later learned it can contain up to 50% alcohol AND if it is not brewed correctly it can contain methanol, making the drink potentially fatal. Great! The good news was it tasted too strong for Jen who didn’t finish it and it still knocked her for 6! Needless to say we stuck to the Bintang after this.
From central Ubud we walked along to the monkey forest where funnily enough we found hundreds of monkeys, chilling out, eating, playing and fighting with each other.
This one didn’t like my camera that close to the little one…
We survived the monkey forest and enjoyed another cold beer as we waited for the sun to set before we watched a Kecak fire dance performance at a local temple. This is an impressive traditional Balinese style of dancing where the girls dance around the fire and the guys sit around in a circle chanting. It was an interesting watch like nothing we’d ever seen! It ended with a guy dressed as a horse kicking the fire embers towards the crowd with his bare feet. Something nobody was expecting! But luckily apart from a few broken plastic chairs, nobody got hurt!
The next day we had breakfast in our room then headed to the pool where we met a south african couple; Dillon and Leah. They had met a local guy earlier on today who offered to take them on a private trek around the most impressive rice paddy fields in Bali tomorrow. We intended seeing the terraces at some point so it was a no brainer when they invited us along!
Burnt and wrinkly me & Jen left the pool and headed into Ubud for the evening, arranging to meet Dillon & Leah in the morning.
We tried out a restaurant called Melting wok where we had one of the best meals so far, followed by a crepe from a small corner shop. We then, of course, finished the night with a couple of beers!
On our return to Villa Mandi we rented a scooter ready for the morning, and set our alarms for an early start to try and beat the bulk of the crazy no rules traffic!
Up & at em we set off to the paddy fields. After half an hour on the scooters, we safely arrived to the viewpoint we would be setting off from. Already very impressed, we didn’t think it could get much better…
…however after a few hours trekking/climbing through the more remote fields it did! We were amazed at some of the sights. Along the way we met locals who lived in the small villages we passed through, and some who worked on the paddies, one of them climbed a tree and got us a lovely bunch of coconuts (couldn’t resist) for us to try.
After a few hours we returned to the start point to cool down with a beer overlooking the rice fields before hopping back on the scooters to go home for a quick refresh to then head back out to another local restaurant.
Back home for the rest of the evening in the pool.
Scooter ride home…
While chatting in the pool the four of us arranged to go over to the Gili Islands together for the next two nights. We (eventually) decided on a place to stay and booked a couple of rooms on Gili Air. Me & Dillon then went back in to town to book the boat to get us there.
Once that was sorted me & Jen boarded our trusty scooter and went in to town for a meal.
The morning of our travel to Gili we were picked up at 7am in a minibus and taken to the Padang Bai harbour. Once the rest of the passengers for our particular boat service arrived and we’d tagged our luggage (to make sure they threw it off at the right island!), we made our way through the stalls to board the vessel. One woman was trying to sell us Bintang all the way down the harbour walk way, and even persisted when we were onboard through the boats window! I eventually gave in and bought two. Fair play to her.
After an hour and a half bumpy boat ride, alongside 2 schools of dolphins we arrived at our destination, Gili air. This is the closest to Lombok of the three gili Islands. From the boat we got one of the three available methods of transport on the island, a horse & cart (known locally as a Ferrari!) the other options were bicycle or walk. We crossed the island straight through the middle arriving at our pad for the next three nights Salili Bungalows.
We tested out the ginormous swimming pool (also known as The Lombok Strait!) then chilled on our raised beach platform with a beer.
We had a walk up the island discovering huge spiders, snakes… and a cow.
Later on we hired bicycles to go back to the more built up side of the island to check out the shop and bars.
Upon our return we arranged to pay a local lad, Maddy, to use his boat for the day with him as our tour guide to explore all three islands coast lines and hopefully find the native turtles!
9:30am our new friend Maddy picked us up on his boat right outside our bungalow, he kitted us out with the gear and we made our way to the first snorkel spot, Turtle point.
It lived up to its name! We had an incredible experience swimming with the turtles!
After a while the turtles got fed up of us fussing around them and swam off! We jumped back on the boat and went to another few snorkel spots to see lots of fish & coral!
We had a scary incident where a sea snake came a bit too close for comfort! Even Maddy swam away from it at speed! We’d been warned about these in Australia, and even though the chances of it biting you are very slim, if it does you’re a goner! So we jumped back on the boat shortly after.
After sailing around all three of the islands we pulled up to Gili meno (the middle island of the three) and had a Bintang on the beach, taking a few with us for the road.
Back to our spot on Gili Air for our last night and Bintangs with Dillon & Leah in our beach hut. After Jen had scrubbed the coral from Dillons cut on his back we went to our trusty beach hut and picked out tonights fish…
The morning after we waved goodbye to our new friends from the back of our ‘ferrari’ to the ferry landing point.
We waited at the harbour with one of the staff from our bungalow and our new friend, Ludira – looking out at this…
we asked ourselves why we were leaving!?
The fast boat eventually arrived and skimmed us back to Bali in around an hour and a half. On arrival there was a sense of urgency to get all customers out of the harbour in to taxis as soon as possible as the roads would soon close for the Nyepi day eve celebrations! Nyepi day is the Balinese new year and from 6am until 6 am the next day nobody is allowed out! Everyone has to stay inside and even the international airport closes for the day!
Today however was Nyepi eve, the night before the island shuts down everyone comes out to celebrate in a traditional way of parading through the streets with Ogoh Ogohs before burning them in huge ceremony. This occurs all over the island in every little village and township.
Luckily we had enough time to get to our new home for the week on the east coast of the island; Rama Candidasa.
It was the welcome we’d become accustomed to here, with flowers draped around our neck’s & a welcome drink before being shown to out huge room and told about the resort & free activities.
We dropped our bags and ventured in to town to get amongst the locals and experience the pre Nyepi day celebrations…
After a few hours of watching the celebrations we headed back to our pad and enjoyed the first of many nice meals in the resorts restaurant.
Nyepi day arrived and sure enough it was a lot quieter on the island. We had to stay inside the resort but luckily that meant we could spend all day around the pool racking up a Bintang & Cocktail based bar bill!
We quite enjoyed doing nothing all day for Nyepi day so decided to do the same again the day after having another day messing about in the pool before going into candidasa town for a meal at Vincent’s restaurant.
After a few days chilling we were ready to explore a bit more. Jen had been in touch with one of her old school teachers; Miss Walker, who now lived in Shanghai, somewhere we would be visiting towards the end of our travels, but as it happened was in Bali on holiday with her family this week too. We arranged a car & driver for the day to travel up to the north of the island to meet at Lake Batur.
After dinner and a catch up we had a walk around the local area before going our separate ways. Arranging to meet up if possible when we get to Shanghai.
Me & Jen went on to find the largest temple in Bali, The Mother Temple of Besakih.
Once we were all templed out we jumped back in our drivers car and set off back home.
We spent the last day in Bali chilling out in this luxurious resort before going back to the hustle and bustle of city life. Next stop Singapore…