Bali - Bikes, Beaches and Bintang

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February 27th 2014
Published: February 26th 2014
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The Bali Breeze BungalowsThe Bali Breeze BungalowsThe Bali Breeze Bungalows

They made a perfect location to explore Ubud and for a swim overlooking the paddy fields.
We left Sanur and headed off to our next destination of Ubud, a town regarded as the cultural capital of Bali. An hour long taxi journey took us inland, climbing steadily all the way as it set at a high altitude (Ubud was the location of the book “Eat Pray Love”, later turned into a film starring Julia Roberts). As we made the gradual ascent, it was wonderful to look out over the endless green paddy fields rolling on and on between the steep jungle ravines.

With a little trepidation, we opened the imposing gates into the grounds of our next accommodation, the Bali Breeze bungalows ( They are located just off the noisy main road, opposite a busy petrol station and it didn’t seem like the same location we had carefully researched and selected beforehand. We should have just trusted its high Tripadvisor rating though as it proved to be a fabulous base to explore from.

The Balinese equivalent of Laurel and Hardy clumsily carried our cases through manicured grounds which contained several bungalows, each with their own private gardens. I think ours was the best of the lot though as it was on the very edge of
Duck Satay Anyone?Duck Satay Anyone?Duck Satay Anyone?

Food being prepared for a religious ceremony and probably provided by our good humoured driver.
the complex and had fabulous views out across miles and miles of paddy fields. The only noise you could hear was from the wide range of local wildlife and the bungalow itself was great, having everything you could possibly need for a comfortable stay. We didn’t spend much time inside it though as there was a huge, sunny terrace with a private pool to cool off in every so often. Tough gig!!

A few days ago we went on a cycling exploring tour which proved to be fantastic. We were collected by a minibus already full of others joining the trip, meaning I got the last remaining seat - up front with the driver. Although he didn’t speak much English at all, he proved to have a great sense of humour and laughed at nearly everything. We were driven at hair raising speeds through the tiny villages and, every time we hurtled past a stray dog (which was often as there’s lots of them out here) he would shout “dog satay!!”, look at me and laugh uncontrollably. I chuckled along for the first five or six times but, by the time we’d got to our first stop off point
Mount Batur and BeyondMount Batur and BeyondMount Batur and Beyond

The start point of our cycle ride with the still active volcano behind. Ubud is the setting for "Eat, Pray, Love" - the book and Julia Roberts film.
an hour later, it had got a bit draining. To be fair, he did vary it; if we saw a cat, he shouted “cat satay!!”, ducks “duck satay”, chickens……………..oh, you can guess the rest.

Said first stop off point was a plantation which specialised in a unique (and very expensive) coffee called Kopi Luwak. The unusual feature of this coffee is that the beans are first fed to an unusual looking racoon type animal (the Asian Palm Civet) who are said to only select and eat the very best of them. Once nature has taken its course, they are then harvested from its waste and processed in the normal way. Not only is this method slightly off putting, we thought it cruel too as these are wild animals who are kept in small cages and looked really miserable. Talk about crap coffee…………..

We used a company called Bali Bike Baik for the trip and they did an excellent job. The ride itself was 24Km but they very thoughtfully made sure around 23.8Km was downhill by driving you to the highest point first. It was here we got amazing views down onto the rolling green valleys below and across
Bali By BikeBali By BikeBali By Bike

Fantastic fun from the volcano down through the villages. Thick jungle on one side, endless rice paddies on the other.
onto the still active Batur volcano (it last erupted in 1963 and, even now, the scorched earth weaves a black trail down its side).

The cycling itself was marvelous fun with the six of us (we were with two young Aussie couples) riding single file behind our excellent guide, Gusti. We mainly coasted down the gentle slopes, often with thick jungles on one side and lush, verdant rice paddies on the other. Every so often, we freewheeled through a fabulously decorated village lined with the most beautiful houses, each containing their own small Hindu temple. Excited kids dashed out to shout hello and wave and it was in one of these small villages I’m afraid I may have scarred a small child for life.

A tiny girl, probably around five, stood at the roadside looking impossibly cute in her smart school uniform and carrying several books. The road was steep here so I’d built up quite a bit of speed and was growing in confidence in my riding ability. I’ve not been on a bike for years so, with hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have tried to wave at her as I passed. Obviously, waving involved me taking one
The Children Are Always HappyThe Children Are Always HappyThe Children Are Always Happy

Except one little girl who had a near death experience and may well still be traumatised.
hand off the handle bars and, as I did this, I got into a hell of a wobble. It’s not clear which of the two of us was the most scared as I hurtled towards her at high speed. I will never forget the poor little things face etched in terror as this big, out of control goon on a bike nearly wiped her out. Thankfully, more by luck than judgement, the bike righted itself at the very last moment and I just missed her.

When we next stopped, Angela (who was riding 30 yards behind me) asked if this manouevre had been deliberate………it had not!

Observing the roads in general is a fascinating sideshow in Bali and there's a very definite vehicle pecking order which goes, from top to bottom; buses, then beemos (very cheap hop on, hop off ancient public mini buses), cars, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles and last (and by a long way least) pedestrians. As if the condition of the treacherous, decaying pavements isn't bad enough, most motorists see them as mere extensions of the road to be used as they see fit. This maybe for driving on, reversing over, extra parking, whatever......people are just
The Houses Are WonderfulThe Houses Are WonderfulThe Houses Are Wonderful

This was taken at the entrance to the home of our bike tour host, Wayan (means first son). Most of the houses have their own small temples in the gardens.
a nuisance who get in their way.

There is the occasional pedestrian crossing but I've genuinely no idea why and the same applies to absolutely any other road markings. The phrase "give way" simple hasn’t been invented over here yet and carving others up appears to be Bali’s national sport. Nobody ever waits for a gap in the traffic, they just pull out blindly and get on with it.

The roads are always crammed with all types of vehicle mayhem but it's weird as, somehow, it seems to work. Just like cats use the width of their whiskers to establish whether they can fit through a gap or not, Balinese motorists use their wing mirrors the same way, speeding through openings you'd never think possible. I found it best not to look forwards when a passenger; partly because there's always something to see out of the sides of the vehicle but mainly because I'd have been screaming like a little girl every thirty seconds otherwise as somehow another prang was narrowly averted.

The saddle soreness from the bike ride had now worn off and it was time to leave Ubud. For our final few days in Bali
Bintangs At SunsetBintangs At SunsetBintangs At Sunset

Going down to the beach at 6pm for a couple of cold ones became a nightly ritual. It was amazing to just sit and watch the sun go down over the Laut Bali Sea.
we headed back down to the beach and to the relaxed resort of Legian. Although it was officially still the rainy season we benefited from pretty much unbroken sunshine and our hotel, the Ramada Camakila (, made a great place to soak it up. Set right on the beach, we were able to chill out and take in stunning sea views whilst watching more energetic folk surf, boogie board, para sail etc.

In our time here the Balinese have proved just about the friendliest, most genuine and happy people we’ve ever met. A huge smile is never far from their face and this often turns into a belly laugh when I try my below rudimentary Indonesian on them. We always learn please, thank you, hello, cold beer etc in the local language of whatever country we are in and this seems to be appreciated. It inevitably leads to blank looks, mix ups and laughter but it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

They also very commercially astute and always looking for innovative ways to make a rupiah or two. Men squat on their haunches at the side of the streets enquiring “taxi?”. It doesn’t matter if you decide
Been Boogie Boarding Bro.........Been Boogie Boarding Bro.........Been Boogie Boarding Bro.........

Exhausting, great fun but don't laugh while you're doing it - the Bali Sea is very salty!!
that, actually we do want one, as there’s a driver at least every 15 yards who’s happy to accommodate you. In between these 15 yards, the women try to entice you into their small shops (“are those real Rolex’s?” ;-) and, if you decline that, they offer you a foot massage, fresh fruit, t shirts, umbrella – anything! You get the impression that if you said “do you know what, I could do with a taxi” they’d trample over the nearest man on haunches and give you a lift in his vehicle.

This spirit of capitalism is demonstrated really well on the beach at around 6pm every night. We’re are on the east of the island now where the sunsets are breath taking and draw down lots of people at this time. The moment your toes touch the sand you are approached by local young entrepreneurs clad only in surf shorts and trying to sell ice cold Bintangs. If you accept their offer (and it’s difficult not to after working up a thirst in the sun and only being a quid a bottle) they scuttle off to their cool box; these are located in the shade of a palm
A Fond FarewellA Fond FarewellA Fond Farewell

Bali proved to be a fabulous first leg to our trip and we will definitely be returning in the future.
tree and are stuffed full of ice and beer. Want to sit down? No problem, two rickety chairs are positioned wherever you fancy on the beach and an equally rickety table plonked in front of you. In the UK I guess this would be called a pop up pub and it makes a wonderful setting to watch the sun go down whilst chugging a couple of cold ones.

A few days ago, Angela came up with the crazy idea that we can't just keep overindulging and that we need to exercise too. Painful as this is, I think she's probably right so, each morning, we've been power walking along the beach in the hot sunshine. Well, she's been power walking at least; I've been dawdling behind then running every so often to catch her up whilst cursing under my breath.

I do have to say today's exercise was great as we went boogie boarding for the first time ever (like surfing but lying down - more my style ;-) . This, although exhausting, was amazing and we did nothing but laugh. Laughing whilst boogie boarding proved not to be a great idea as it is possible to swallow fair amounts of the Bali Sea. After "busting loads of gnarly moves, bro" (absolutely none of them on purpose) for about an hour we slumped back onto the beach looking like we'd been through three cycles of a washing machine - great fun though!

Anyway, the time has now come for us to leave Bali and head off to Singapore for a few days. This Indonesian island has given us a great start to our tour and we leave with very fond memories – we will certainly be back!


27th February 2014

There are certain things in life that are simply wrong..........
David Cotton on a bicycle is one of them (especially when dressed like Tom sellek). David Cotton 'boogie boarding' is another. This list is by no means exhaustive. But beaches with palm trees, pop-up bars and cold beer........ things in life that are simply right By the way I think your minicab driver used to be the delivery man at my local chinese takeaway..... fortunately I think satay goes well with anything

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