University work is catching up on me and hence I’m a little behind with my blog, but I’ve finally found some time to give mention to my trip to the island of Bali, Indonesia! As seems to be the general theme with trips here, this was a rather last-minute decision as my German friend Magdalena approached me and asked if I would like to join her for a long weekend in Bali only a week or so before we left. My friend Ruby, also from Edinburgh Uni, joined us too and on Saturday the 4th we took the almost 3 hours flight to the island.
We arrived in the early evening and got a taxi to our hostel which was in Ubud on the west coast of the country. Despite being ripped off by the taxi driver who took full advantage of three white tourists who weren’t familiar with the local currency, we were in high spirits when we reached our hostel which turned out to be absolutely beautiful. We had deliberately chosen Ubud so as to avoid Kuta and the heavily tourist populated areas, so I had been very unsure of what to expect of our rooms, and they were so much better than my expectations. Everything seemed clean and we had a family suite to ourselves – two single beds in 1 room, and a four-poster double in the other with ensuite. Admittedly the bathroom was very basic and I was at one point held hostage by a manic cockroach that wouldn’t let me leave!
After a quick wander around our new place, we walked down into the town to find some food. It was immediately apparent to me how different the town was to anywhere else I’d ever been. The climate was really pleasant with still some warmth at night but none of the humidity of Singapore. The fresh smells in the air and the bustle of people walking along the dirty road reminded me a little of Jinja in Uganda as did the number of scooters/bikes whizzing past and weaving between the occasional car. But the presence of so many small shops, pharmacies, and clothes/tourist outlets brought an end to the similarities. We meandered down a side street to happen upon a small restaurant and decided to have dinner there (And a mango lassi, of course!).
After a pleasant evening, we decided to continue our chat back at the hostel and have an early-ish night. On Sunday we ventured out again and followed our ears to a local temple where a group of men were sitting on the floor playing music which consisted of drums, chimes, bells and some kind of xylophone. We then took another side street which led us further away from the road and on towards the rice terraces! A long, tree-lined walk through the fields – it was really peaceful and relaxing, with such vibrant colours of green.
We stopped for lunch at a beautiful little restaurant and had some good food. In particular, I recall that the coconut bread with palm syrup was delicious! In general I preferred the food I had in Indonesia over most of that I’ve tried in Singapore, but I’m also aware that we were on holiday and eating at restaurants everyday!
After eating we walked back into the town and wandered around the market, picking up a couple of things here and there. Suddenly, I came out of a shop to see a mass parade of people all dressed up walking down the road. Bali is well known for it’s numerous festivals, celebrations and rituals ceremonies and we had happened to arrive during another busy weekend of celebrating.
The following morning we were picked up at 7.45 for our cycling tour that we had booked. The tour guide, Katutt (Joe), was from Bali himself and provided us with amazing insight into the lives of the local people (away from tourist areas). Along with some girls from Alaska and four individuals from the Netherlands, we were first dropped off at the restaurant for complimentary breakfast which overlooked Batur volcano! It was a beautiful morning! (Made better by pancakes and fresh pineapple!)
We were then driven to a nearby coffee plantation. As part of our tour we learnt about the different beans, tried a raw bean (which is very sweet and tastes nothing like coffee) and got to see the special species of cats which eat the coffee beans, fermenting them with stomach enzymes. Apparently it is supposed to make an excellent (and expensive coffee) though I didn’t try it. We were sat at a long table and given samples of different local teas and coffees to try, most of which I enjoyed although all were rather sweet!
It was then time to get on the bikes and start our tour. We cycles through 14 different villages, far away from tourist areas, and were educated along the way as to the meaning of certain temples, or the reason for the location of a certain graveyard or doorway. It was all very interesting! We even visited a rice terrace and had a shot at harvesting some of the rice and I can say I will now appreciate rice that little bit more after seeing how much work goes in to collecting it all. After a couple of hours of cycling around, we had one last 20 minute cycle up the hill to the restaurant for a well-deserved lunch.
After the tour, Ruby, Magda and I decided to make the most of our afternoon and visited the Monkey Forest Sanctuary – an woodland area with many 14th century temples overrun with Balinese Macaques or long-tail macaques which, I am informed, are the most widespread and successful of all primates (apart from us). There were so many of them! And they were clearly accustomed to many ignorant tourists as they would try hard to steal items and break into backpacks and handbags in search of food. It was a nice place to spend the afternoon.
Our final day in Bali was beach day! We took a taxi in the morning across the southern half of the island to Kuta. As we walked along the beach it didn’t take long until a salesman approached us trying to get us to take surfing lessons from his team. I managed to haggle down to a good price (350,000 IDR = £18 for 2 people, for 2 hours each!) and Magdalena and I decided to give surfing a shot, whilst Ruby enjoyed some breakfast bintang on the beach! For the first hour we had an instructor each who showed us the basic principles and helped up to catch waves, and then the next hour we had the boards to ourselves and were free to try our luck. I started to get the hang of it towards the end and managed to stand up and control my movement a bit along the wavefront, but I could definitely do with more practice! Hopefully I’ll get the chance to try again someday (though I think a wetsuit might be necessary in Scotland…!).
After some Italian food for a late lunch, we took the taxi back to Ubud and enjoyed a relaxed final evening before preparing to get up at 2.30am for our ride to the airport! Before we new it we were back in Singapore – time to start planning the next adventure!
Until next time!