Published: June 5th 2012June 5th 2012
Bali - Crazy, smelly, beautiful Bali.
After studying tourism and gaining all the qualifictions but no travel experience, where else is a young girl with a modest savings account meant to begin her traveling adventure? So there I was, 19 and jetting off on my first overseas trip with one other friend for two weeks. First things first - two weeks is definitely enough time to see what Bali has to offer, in my opinion. This is if you plan your trip properly. At the end of this entry I'll include some recommendations but first here's my story. The trip I imagined I was about to experience consisted on elephant rides, surfing, eating authentic food and not getting sucked into the markets I'd heard so much about. Of course this is what I got when I arrived, but the ride was a bumpy one needless to say.
After getting through the six hour flight from brisbane where I was lucky enough to have not only three screaming children sitting in the row infront of me, but two children who shared the same interests in the row behind me, I stepped off onto the dusty tarmac quite pleased with the weather greeting us (I'd been freaking out it would be unbearably hot). Customs was suprisingly a breeze and we were out of the airport within 20 minutes of hopping off the plane. We spotted our transfer quickly and chatted with the guy who seemed friendly enough (or so we thought) while we made our way to Ubud, an hour and a halfs drive from the airport. If you've never been to bali, or neighbouring areas before, then you can't quite understand how scary this first transfer was to us. Road rules and any kind of decent infrastructure in general is almost unheard of. And when someone beeps at you, it's not because they're pissed off like we assumed, it's a warning to let you know they're passing you. Roads wide enough for three lanes somehow made room for many more, and the traffic was a maze of scooters and transfer cars which appeared to be driving on whatever side of the road they desired. Walkways crumbled away and open drains were common. Now I don't have a weak stomach and motion sickness has never been a problem for me but by the time we made it to Ubud both of us were car sick, dizzy and feeling like we had dodged death a dozen times per minute. Ubud was a breathe of fresh..well Bali air though. We stayed at a resort called Tjiampuhan Resort and Spa. We were given cool wet towels and a 'cocktail' when we arrived - for those interested, rice wine isn't pleasant, but give it a go.
For the first time that day we were able to actually stop, breathe and see what was before us, and this is what we saw. Lush rainforests surrounded us and pebbled pathways led off in several directions - up, down and around, all with beautiful moss covered monkey carvings into the rocks that made walls around the gardens of the resort. We made our way to Puri 4 which would be our home for the next three nights, passing dozens of ponds and waterfalls. After exploring our stunning resort a little more and learning we had quite a large red spider already occupying our room, we ventured out onto the street. The next few days were lovely. There are quite a few authentic indonesian restaurants, especially along Monkey Forest Rd, where we had 3 course dinners every night and only one bad experience on the walk home where Caitlin cut her ankle on a drain which was a little worrying haha. We did a couple of tours, one of my favourites of the entire two weeks was a tour we booked over in Bali at the hotel. It was a bike tour, which we agreed to thinking it was just a short bike ride starting a few minutes around the corner from the hotel. Oh how we were wrong!
The tour started an hour far away up high at the peak of one of the mountains where we had some strange yummy banana-like fruit in pastry and some tea with condensed milk while watching the view overlooking another huge mountain I can't remember the name of. Anyway, we mounted our dodgy bikes and began our SIX HOUR ride down and up steep hills, struggling to conquer the roads that were riddled with potholes. We stopped at a coffee plantation on the way, passed the Balinese Government House and were welcomed into some traditional homes. By the end of the day we had a great lunch, cool towels again, aching bodies, a new outlook on how lucky we live at home and over all an amazing experience of Northern Ubud. We met some lovely people, not a lot of young tourists, but some great people to share stories with. Now onto KUTA! :)
The COMPLETE oposite of Ubud, where the locals appologised for nothing and were very helpful and kind, Kuta's locals were mostly seedy men. Some of the women were quite rude to us, expecially if you didn't want to buy from there shop. Constantly they would say - "Are you crazy?!?", I even got hosed down by a lady that didn't like my 'attitude' lol, it was quite full on at times and a little frustrating. Unfortunately we were staying at The Bounty Hotel, where you had to walk past three streets of markets just to get to the beach, but by the end of it we learnt to play along with there silly games and have a laugh about it all. The Bounty had a lot of young aussies staying there, mostly from Adelaide and Perth, and we met a few groups of guys who were a lot of fun to go out drinking with, one group in particular reminded us exactly of The Inbetweeners. I've never met a group of people who've made me laugh as much as them. They became like brothers to me and we had fun playing drinking games in our rooms before going out to party at the nearby clubs (Bounty, M Bar, Engine Room was my favourite!). There was however one time that I did laugh - A LOT! Caitlin and I decided to take a risky little plunge and sample some of Bali's...goods. Blended with Red Bull, we necked it trying to not freak out and settled into lounge chairs by the pool. 15 minutes later, with tears streaming down our faces, we laughed hysterically at nothing and rolled around like idiots. This went on for another 5 hours, in which we chilled, stared at the ceiling and watched some star wars with the boys. A GREAT experience I'll never forget.
Moving on, we did some fun surfing classes, I recomend you don't do it at Kuta beach though, catch a taxi 10 minutes north where the beaches are beautiful and slightly less crowded. We met up with some friends in Legion that night and had our first non-traditonal meal - Burger King:) After both of us suffering from Bali Belly earlier, we decided to play it safe. Then we all went to a Balinese Burlesque show, which was amazingly fun, funny and quite strange now I think about it. Running out of days, we realised we booked way to many temple tours and regretted this a lot as we felt like we didnt have much time relax during the day and do whatever we pleased.
So on our last couple of days we lazed on the beach at kuta, got our nails painted with pretty flowers, lots of massages and a few foot scrubs. Only downside to lying on the beach - the unbelievably persistent locals harrassing you! We made up fake names - Sue and Sal haha. But some understood we didn't want to buy anything more and just sat in a circle around us and talked. We met one lady selling bracelets, and noticed like almost all the other local women, she covered herself head to toe. She told us it was because she thought her skin was ugly and wanted to be beautiful and white like the Austalians, she was basically hiding from the sun. This made us quite sad and changed our outlook slightly on the locals. By the end of our 2 weeks, we'd had some crazy fun and met some awesome people. Some recommendations I'll give are :
- Taxi's are CHEAP. Don't make my first taxi ride mistake of thinking three aus dollars is reasonable for a 5 minute ride, it costs about 70 cents! (approx 7000 rupiah). Only get into Blue Bird Taxis and be aware of the imitation blue birds.
- Scooters are fun, but they are insane drivers over there. I only went on the back of one, I never drove myself. But my friends did and they survived! Just don't do it drunk.
- Don't book too many tours that visit temples - they are all the same!
- Go to Nusa Dua, I unfortuantely didn't make it there, but am told that its like what they show in the brochures, so don't be turned off by the rest of what bali is like as it is still beautiful you just have to go looking:)
- If your'e being super conscious of what you eat because of Bali Belly, remember not to have any ice or things washed in there water eg. lettuce.
- Don't waste money on exotic sounding cocktails. Or at least don't be stupid like me and order something with literally a layer of caster suger in the bottom of the glass :/
- Try and visit areas that are different. Eg, Ubud and Kuta like I did so you get a variety of experiences.
- I went in February right at the end of Monsoon Season and the weather was lovely, there were one or two days that were verrrry hot, so I can't even imagine what July would be like in there dry season :0!
Most importantly remember when you go to Bali to be as OPEN MINDED AS POSSIBLE! I ate whatever I wanted, which only got me in trouble once lol, but don't be too cautious or you'll limit yourself to some of the amazing experiences Bali has to offer. Great place to go, of course there are better places to spend your money on but it is cheap and good for first time travelers. Next time I blog it will be about my amazing adventures in EUROPE weeeeee!!! 7 more weeks ;)