Selamat Pagi from Indonesia
So we left off last time with me crashing in Taiwan. Had a good nights sleep but had to get up early for the taxi back to the airport.
The flight was uneventful, as usual and still the way I would like to keep it.
Arrived in Bali late afternoon, grabbed a taxi to the hotel which was more like a cheap, rundown guesthouse. Still the rooms were £6 a night so what do you expect!
I set about sourcing essentials from a minimart, shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste and water mainly.
Diana, my Sri Lankan pal, arrived at 8pm, so I grabbed an uber and headed back to the airport to find her. My uber driver was a brilliant old man who used his son’s car as a taxi during the evening and weekend. Monday to Friday 9-5 he worked for the government and evenings and weekends a taxi driver! He cranked up the music, skrillex! Hilarious!
So I am hairing through Kuta with an old government employee, skrillex booming from the speakers! He then informs me he can’t pick up from the airport as uber taxis are banned to try and help the local taxi drivers. So he would park in the short stay car park, I was to say he was a friend of mine and not mention he was a taxi…I was to ring him upon locating Diana and he would come pick us up. All very covert and I am sure a regular occurrence!
Found Diana, located the taxi and headed back to the £6 dive!
When I say dive, it reminded me of places I had stayed when backpacking round India…I will try and paint a picture for those who have not embarked on a tour of India’s finest £3 a night dives!
The windows didn’t shut properly, the mosquito netting was all slashed so rendered itself useless, the tv was straight out of 1975, the curtains had cigarette burn holes all over them and in the patches devoid of burns they had mildew, the room had what I can only describe as a mildew-esque eggshell effect going on, beds basic, sheets as clean as they were gonna be without a long stint in boiling water and a load of bleach, the bathroom….well it just about had running water and a shower head so a step up from some places I have frequented in India but not by much!
Diana was very positive about the whole thing, which as handy as wasn’t sure if she would demand to move hotels at 10pm!
We headed out for a bite to eat before crashing out.
The next morning we tried the breakfast at the dive, omelette, toast and fruit juice…surely you can’t go far wrong with that???? The omelette was so salty it was a challenge to eat it, the fruit juice was extraordinarily strong tang (a powdered squash), the toast was about the only thing we were able to consume!
We then headed down to the beach for a wander before heading to a shopping centre…Diana is a total shopping fiend (she could probably out shop my dear friend Mental Sally) so we then spent inordinate amounts of hours looking at sunglasses! I reckon we went to 3 opticians and tried on every pair for sale at least once, some twice!
We left that shopping centre, had an Indonesian lunch and then hit another shopping centre for more sunglasses shopping…hurrah!!!!
Afterwards we found a cool little restaurant/bar on the roof of the shopping centre which had stunning views of the sea and planes coming in to land. We sat for a good few hours on sofas under an umbrella just chilling and having a few drinks.
Eventually we peeled ourselves from the sofas and headed back to the dive to freshen up and get changed for dinner.
Diana has decided she wanted to hit the party street for dinner and cocktails, I had said to her as its her holiday we will do what she wants, I am purely there to chill out, have a fun girlie holiday and escort her round Indonesia! Hence why I found myself hitting the party strip…we plumped for a loud restaurant/bar called Vi Ai Pi for dinner. We sat upstairs on the balcony listening to live music, playing UNO, drinking BOGOF cocktails and watching the goings on below and taking in the memorial to the Bali bombings.
We stayed out for a bit and wandered back well after midnight! Check us out party animals! Probably the latest night I had in ages!
The following day we spent the morning on the beach, lounging around….me in the sun and Diana under the parasol! We had a fair few games of UNO too!
Late afternoon we headed back to the shopping centre rooftop restaurant and commandeered our sofas from yesterday and had a snack and a cold drink and chilled out for a few hours again.
That evening we hit the spa and had a pedicure and paint.
Two of Diana’s favourite things…shopping and spas! She would get on well with Sally for sure!!!
That evening we grabbed some local food in a small local place, nasi goreng and chicken satay. Yum!
We then sat playing cards until the early hours of the morning around our green swimming pool at the dive. Didn’t venture in the pool due to the unnatural green colour of the water and the observed lack of cleaning regime or chemicals!
The next morning, we had breakfast on the beach and then….yep you guessed it….shopping for sunglasses and a swimsuit for Diana! She didn’t bring one with her as she wanted to shop for one from Bali and we had agreed I was going to give her swimming lessons at future hotels.
After shopping we headed back to the dive and thankfully checked out and grabbed an uber to Ubud.
The journey was about an hour and cost all of a tenner.
Arrived at our hotel, proper hotel this time! Thank god…I have become more accustomed to slightly more luxurious surroundings now…I have done my time in £3 a night dives when backpacking…getting old and although I can still bed down in dives or on floors of boats if required, I am growing to like flashpacking!
We had a quick orientation walk around Ubud, amazing how much it has changed in the 7 months since I was last there! Grabbed some dinner and bedded down in the most comfortable bed I have encountered on my trip so far! It’s by far my favourite bed so far.
The next morning we took a stroll to the Monkey Forest, Diana’s idea…I am scared of monkeys…I think it’s since watching Planet of The Apes, they all have that look in their eyes, like they are playing dumb and pretending to enjoy taking that banana from you when in fact they are secretly plotting the downfall of humankind! Plus there are warnings everywhere stating that there are known rabies issues! Oh good!
Anyway rabies threat aside, we wandered around the monkey forest, which was stunning, whilst trying to avoid getting leapt upon and mugged by a monkey! The slight smell of food from your bag, the faint rustling of a plastic bag or the momentarily abandoned water bottle are all fair play!
There were 1000s of monkeys looking menacing around the forest, some of the bigger males swaggering around with monkey mugging intent on their faces! They had a ploy, I noticed, to prey on people posing for photos…who weren’t paying attention to the furry mugger sloping along the railing towards them! One jumped on a french woman posing for a photo and had the audacity to cling on whilst undoing all the zips of her bag and having a good rummage inside!
We came across a guy posing for pictures with a monkey clearly attacking him and biting his arm! This was scaring 2 girls posing close to him, especially when more monkeys appeared and started their mugging ploy! The guy was saying ‘hey its ok, look they are friendly’, to which the girls replied ‘but its biting you’, to which his reply was ‘yeah but its ok it doesn’t hurt’! Hmmm it will do later buddy when you are dying of rabies! Bellend!
Nerves in tatters from the constant fret of monkey attack, I was pleased when we got to the temple and the final part of the route! However, this is the part you can buy bananas and have the monkeys claw their way up you to viciously snatch it from your hand whilst someone tries to take a photo of you looking cool! Diana, however, was loving the cute monkeys (she can’t see what I can see in their eyes clearly!) and wanted to buy some bananas and feed them! So I had to play photographer whilst she did so, difficult job whilst also watching your back for the monkeys sneaking up behind intent on checking to see if you have any bananas and then stealing your (well Diana’s phone!).
Ordeal over we left the forest by the furthest exit, not planned but wasn’t going to retrace my steps all the way back through the monkey gauntlet to get to the right exit! This brought us out in a village on the outskirts of Ubud, which was quiet and peaceful. We strolled back towards our hotel, stopping at a fruit stall on the way back for dragon fruit, passionfruit and snakefruit.
We briefly popped to the hotel before heading back out into town and going to the market for a shop and booking a day trip for tomorrow.
That evening we headed to a Japanese restaurant for dinner and sat listening to live music and playing UNO! The UNO game went on longer than planned but we were trying to outplay the rain which makes an appearance late at night now, but is usually gone by the morning leaving a bright and sunny day!
The rain continued and continued and was so intense all you could hear was a loud hissing sound of the torrential downpour coming from the sky! The surface of the road had gone, replaced by a river at least 20cm deep. We tried using uber to get a cab back, as didn’t fancy the 10 minute walk back, but no one would come and get us. Everyone had left and the restaurant was closing! Just as I was coming to terms with the fact we were going to have to walk and get saturated (although seeing this as an opportunity to wash all the clothes I was wearing in one swift 10 minute stint), a lovely waitress asked us if we wanted a taxi and one of the employees became our saviour and ran us home for a small fee! I would have paid double not to get soaked!
The following morning was day trip day, and we awoke to see the rain was still around, made for a weird experience showering as our shower was open air, so you stand outside under the hot shower whilst also getting wet from the cold rain! Odd!
Thankfully just as we were leaving for the day trip the skies cleared and the rain vanished.
Today’s day trip saw us go to mainly places I had seen last year, but it was nice to revisit them again and try to remember information about them to pass onto Diana.
We visited Goa Gajah (elephant cave temple),
Gunung Kawi (rocky temple),
Tampak Siring (holy spring temple), a coffee garden & spice plantation,
Penelokan (view of mount batur and rice paddies), lunch at a restaurant with wonderful views of the Volcano Kintamani and Tegalalang rice fields.
As it turns out I hadn’t been to Goa Gajah previously so that was nice to be able to explore a new temple and I did some long overdue shopping at Gunung Kawi! When I was there last year I saw a beautiful black and silver wooden buddha head which I entered into negotiations for, however I thought the price was a bit high and the lady wouldn’t come down and upon my threat to walk away she didn’t come after me…I assumed I could buy this particular one elsewhere but never saw one the same again!
This time upon returning to Gunung Kawi, I left Diana to explore the temple and I headed off in search of my buddha. Lo and behold I found him, so again entered negotiations with the same woman for it and this time met her at her lowest price, which happened to be the same as last time! So bagged my buddha! Now just got to carry the thing for the next 6 weeks!
The next day also saw us take another day trip this time we headed to Mengwi (Royal Family tomb, the only temple on today’s itinerary I have already seen), Perean (another coffee garden and spice plantation….one can never have enough free samples of coffee and tea), Bedugal (Ulundanu Beratan temple and the one temple I didn’t see last time that I was dying to see), Jati Luwih rice terraces, Tanah Lot temple complex and Sangeh (another bloody monkey forest! Jesus!)
The day started off at the monkey forest, probably a good idea to get the worst over first! This monkey forest was smaller and totally devoid of other tourists, we basically had the place to ourselves which in one way was lovely but in another it meant we were the only targets for the monkeys! Staff assured us that these monkeys are less vicious than the ones in Ubud and they don’t jump on you and you can’t feed them! Still not convinced!
Thankfully made it around the forest without being victim to monkey mugging, although one hairy moment when Diana wandered into an area full of monkeys (like hundreds of them) and wanted her photo taken, I edged towards the monkey army to take some pictures for her which happened to coincide with the monkey feeding time (forest wardens scatter sweet potatoes and fruit twice daily for the monkeys to find as natural food sources are diminishing), this then led to all the monkeys running in my direction! Diana was unaware of this as she had her back to the monkey army…she was all like ‘can you take some pictures’, my reply was simply ‘errrr monkeys’ as I am backing away! She thought it was hilarious as she was swallowed in a sea of hungry monkeys fighting over potatoes, I was already gone on route to the car park!
Thankfully monkey forests well and truly done we moved onto the temples after popping by a coffee garden for some free refreshments.
We had some long drives on this trip to get to the temples further away from Ubud, the scenery was stunning. So verdant and green, rice terraces, tree-clad mountains, the odd volcano, palm trees, steep sweeping bending mountain roads and small brick temples! Amazing.
For me the 2 stand out temples were Bedugal, mainly because I have always wanted to go and its stunning and Tanah Lot.
Bedugal is a stacked temple complex on the water, the temple is on a small island and is absolutely stunning. We spent a good 45 minutes wandering around taking pictures and conversing with young muslim college girls who were out in force asking to speak with tourists in English. They were absolutely lovely girls, great English and so keen to learn. I think we spent most of our time answering the same questions posed by different groups of friends but I love it. Having learned 4 languages at school myself and knowing what it takes to learn 1 and seeing the girls enthusiasm and excitement over being able to practice and talk to us, I would have happily given them all afternoon.
Some of the questions were ‘can you speak any Indonesian’? To which I pull out my 4 or 5 phrases which they loved, ‘do you like indonesian food’?….err hello, yes its amazing (more excitement), ‘what is your favourite’?…..nasi goreng of course (fried rice, I cannot face eating much more rice on this trip but know this answer will get them worked up into an excitable frenzy!) They jump up and down, screech and giggle when I said Nasi Goreng, one girl proudly tells me she can make it herself! I then turn the tables and ask them some questions…’what is YOUR favourite food’? They all scream in unison…nasi goreng! Then I asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, one girl was brave enough to step forward alone and answer that she wanted to be an airline stewardess! Good for her!
These are muslim girls with the ability to go to school, college and dream of being anything they want. They are learning english to give themselves the best chance at life so as responsible english speaking tourists it is our duty to give our time.
After Bedugal we headed to Tanah Lot, which again is a temple complex on the water. It has various temples perched overlooking the water and is a great place to come for sunset.
Wednesday saw us leave Bali for Lombok on the slow (very slow) ferry. It was by far the cheapest option, three times cheaper in fact so it had to be done.
Initially we were picked up at our hotel by a shuttle minibus that took us to the harbour back down the south of the island. We had a few stops, one the driver couldn’t find so after heated phone conversations and a u turn we located the passenger and then headed off, late! The drive was even more chaotic than normal Indonesian driving…we pelted along overtaking everything in sight, running red lights…the driver just continued at his breakneck speed and stuck his hand on the horn on approach to traffic lights and crossroads! Actually seemed to work.
The ferry was a rusty old affair with a partially covered rooftop seating area, the seats were like wooden church pews but at least they were actually bolted to the floor this time, unlike the dodgy ferry I got in Mozambique once!
The crew had clearly been doing some washing as their personal effects were hanging all over the place drying! The life ring clearly fair game for drying Y-fronts!
So with 7 hours ahead of us and not much else to do we cracked open the UNO cards. This drew some attention from our fellow passengers and before long we had been joined by Oliver (a bronzed 25-year-old dutch surf dude with long sun bleached tresses), Georgia (a lovely, pasty girl from Northern Ireland), Ester (a turkish, bohemian hippie chick) and a bearded weirdo from Germany whose name we promptly forgot, sorry beaded dude.
We played UNO for about an hour before calling it a day, everyone split off to sleep so Diana and I carried on alone for a while before swapping to play Gin Rummy. Eventually we got bored with cards and listened to music until docking in Lombok.
We finally got shuttled to our hotel and hit Senggigi for dinner.
Thursday was a total lazy day…we mooched up to the art market so Diana could do some more shopping, then wandered along the beach before lunching and spa-ing the afternoon away.
Diana then spotted an emporium of locally produced goods, which to be honest was much like the pound shop, albeit probably more like the 20p shop! I think we must have spent an hour in there browsing the wares! Diana even purchased a large holdall to put all her shopping in.
That night we jumped in the swimming pool for some night-time swimming lessons under the stars! Pretty much involved Diana clinging onto the side for dear life kicking her legs and we swimming up and down offering words of encouragement!
Friday we did a day trip around Lombok, taking in sights and places I didn’t go to before which, again, was nice.
We did a morning trek to a couple of waterfalls, popped to a traditional weaving village where Diana had a go at weaving…apparently women can’t get married until they can weave in the traditional way. They were pleased with Diana, so apparently she is now able to get married! I didn’t bother as I told them being able to weave wasn’t going to help me now, much to their amusement!
We then visited a local sasak village, the sasak people make up 85% of the population of Lombok and are the orignal settlers. We visited the village of Sade which is home to hundred of villagers, all related! They marry cousins or uncles marry nieces (aunts can’t marry nephews!) very bizarre to our western mindset! They have no birth certificates, birthdays or calendar so no clue to as to their age. They can approximate by counting the rice harvests, there are usually 2 a year and our guide has seen 80 or so in his lifetime so that makes him 40 odd! Very weird!
They follow a religion that is a mix of Islam, Hinduism and Animism and have a village healer although a western doctor visits once a month with western medicines and contraceptives!
If this all wasn’t bizarre enough they legally practice kidnapping women! When a man wants to marry one of his female cousins or nieces he organises an elaborate kidnap and takes her from her home into the woods for a couple of weeks, initially the family are angry but over the sustained kidnap period they cool off and when the couple return they accept the mans proposal and let them marry!
Thankfully the woman does have a say in this and if she doesn’t want to marry the man after the sustained kidnap period she can say so and that decision is final!
You can read all about the sasak people and their traditions online, there are slightly differing ways for kidnapping women, one is that the guy takes the girl to his parents house and the village chief is involved in the negotiations…either way very interesting!
After the cultural morning we headed to a couple of stunning beaches to finish the day before getting takeaway satay for tea.
Saturday we headed out on a Gili Island trip, jumped in a tiny wooden boat and sailed to Gili Air, we spend an hour and a half swimming and playing UNO on the beach before jumping back in the boat and sailing to Gili Meno for lunch by the beautiful sea, after lunch we sailed to Gili T where we disembarked and walked along the sandy, horse cart full tracks to our hotel.
Now again, as it was Diana’s holiday I let her choose which island we stayed on. I would have plumped for the quiet, chilled out Air or Meno but no Diana wanted the noisy, loud, drug-fuelled party island! Lol
So we headed out amongst the stoned backpackers to watch the sunset and have dinner, I think in the space of 10 minutes I had been offered magic mushrooms about 30 times! Personally I would rather be in control of my faculties than believe I can fly before plunging off a hotel balcony and face planting myself on the concrete below! Diana, however, had never seen people stoned so thought the whole thing was hilarious! Especially when we encountered a guy in the minimart who was totally mindblown by cans of coke zero that were in the fridge upside down due to the fact the underneath of the can had blown out like a ball! He was like ‘oh my god, look at this, can you see this, woah thats some serious shit right there’…I told him they had been left out in the sun and had got too hot, hence the blowout! He wouldn’t have it, told the cashier he was going to report him for damaged good to the government! It would have sounded like a genuine threat if he didn’t have stoners slur going on and kept adding ‘man’ to the end of every sentence! Jesus!
Gili T is a weird old place, restaurants with fine cuisine mixed with ones selling pizza to dredlocked dudes with the munchies. The mosque blares out its call to prayer when outside it people are wandering around scantily clad, some cycling in just bikinis, swigging alcohol and consuming magical mushrooms and narcotics! Seems a bit contradictory if you ask me! How they balance maintaining their culture and religion in the face of this kind of tourism is beyond me.
Anyway, had a lovely lazy day on the beach the next day. Found a quiet spot out-of-the-way with a couple of giant bean bags and sat reading, sunbathing and listening to music. Very chilled.
We then had a late lunch or early dinner (4pm) on the beach, played some UNO and I booked a holiday for next year! I can’t help it….companies email me saying ‘hey Claire, look at our new destinations and trip for next year, why don’t you book one’!
The next morning saw us bid farewell to the Gili Islands as we jumped on the high-speed boat back to Bali. No slow ferries this time! The captain of the fast boat spent half the journey getting up out of his seat, stretching, laughing and joking with the crew, looking at photos on his phone and generally doing anything but steer the boat. Christ knows if he had put it into autopilot!
Somehow we made it back unscathed and to the right destination and got herded into a minibus to take us back to Kuta. We got dropped off at our hotel which was a 5 star wonder. Decided to treat ourselves on the last night to a lovely hotel as I got it free through hotels.com (being a gold member and rapidly building up loyalty nights is always good!)
We hit the rooftop pool where Diana carried on her swimming lessons and then we had drinks and dinner on the roof before popping out for a stroll around where we caught the end of gig outside a shopping centre.
We threw a few last games of UNO in, not sure what Diana the UNO addict is going to do now, then bed.
The following morning I was up early for my flight to Kuala Lumpur and then India. The flight to KL was hilarious as full of Indian holiday makers wearing ‘I love Bali’ hats and t-shirts. Bless them!
Found myself to be the only non-Indian on the flight and again when my Kochi flight was finally called to board, I was the only non-Indian on the flight from KL to Kochi! The airline staff even looked a tad confused and asked me to confirm I was going to Kochi in India, do I have a visa, have I got an outbound flight from India, why was I going there, how long for, why am I simply not going back to the UK??! The genuinely seemed bemused by my behaviour…clearly what has now become normal in my life (jetting around, being the only westerner and moving from random countries to another) others get confused by! Good, I love that! God knows what the Home Office think when big brother pulls up my file and looks at all the movements and passport swiping in and out!
Anyway, it’s here I shall leave you for now and commence writing my Indian blog, thankfully I am only there for a week and half of that will be me by myself chilling out as my friends will be at work!
So to summarise:-
Number of steps done – 179,000
Number of times eaten rice – 9
Favourite Dish – Chicken Satay
Number of times I had to take photographs of Diana – 2450 hahaha, that girl loves a photo!