The first leg of Indonesia ....

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June 20th 2013
Published: October 13th 2013
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We arrive into Bali late and jump in our taxi to Padang Bai, which is a small fishing village on the east coast of Bali. First impressions are similar to that of all non-western cities, crazy traffic and a lot of beeping horns, it’s hot and humid and the taxi provides some welcome air conditioning. The hostel is up a big flight of stairs; James and I pretty much crash when we reach our fan cooled room.

In the morning we walk out onto the veranda to check out the view and it is stunning. Our first taste of Asian scenery and it does not disappoint the bluey green ocean on one side with rolling hills of tropical forest on the other.

We head out to explore and quickly get lost finding ourselves walking precariously on jagged rocks along the coast line attempting to find the “white sandy beach” this soon proves futile and locals are looking at us strange so we head back into wilderness to find another way.

The white sand beach is small, intimate and exactly what we’re looking for, there are various ‘warungs’ dotted along the edge serving food, coconuts and sarongs. We sit at the first one we see and order 2 Bingtangs for the equivalent of 2 pound 60, which makes a nice change from the $10 beers we were buying in Australia. We sit there for what feels like hours, soaking up the atmosphere and generally feeling relaxed, only being disturbed by the occasional tout trying to sell you jewellery or “maaasssaaagggee”.

We attend a 5th birthday party for one of the local bars and meet a group of backpackers from France and Germany, they quickly introduce us to Arak, the local brewed spirit. We have one in tequila style shot form and it is horrible. When I think back now my face still physically twitches at the thought of how rancid it is. We continue to do another 3. The live band that are playing surprisingly good and it isn’t long before we are all up dancing into the night. James and I don’t really remember getting home.

Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse the following days, I quickly develop a reaction to everything around me and my skin flips out in the most extraordinary fashion. I also burn my leg on a scooter and fall down a hill badly grazing my foot and leg. James develops stomach ache and keeps repeatedly hitting his head on a low beam in our room so is dealing with some kind of residual head ache. All in all this leaves us feeling rather blue and we hold up in our room for a few days and sulk.

With our introduction to PADI booked and our sulky faces still firmly planted we cancel our booking and seek refuge in Ubud. The city features in the popular book/film “Eat, Pray, Love” in which Julia Roberts finds herself and her love. We arrive at our homestay which is settled off the main road in a tropical garden. Considering the noise and hustle and bustle of Ubud the location is amazingly tranquil and you can barely hear the traffic.

Ubud is a wonderful city once you get used to it, on your first trip out you will find yourself hopping and dodging over missing slabs of pavements and leaping over gaping holes waiting to trap any unwitting passer-by. The locals line the streets selling all manner of different things but their favourite is transport. You will hear the words “taxi, yes, tomorrow maybe” at least 50 times on every trip outside. You learn to politely decline and they leave you alone. Ubud is full of temples you can’t walk anywhere without seeing intricate architecture in mark of the Hindu religion. I am generally speaking not a fan of any religion but to see anything inspire such beauty is a thing to behold. Every building is homage to their beliefs and it makes the entire town awe inspiring. There are Frangipani flowers everywhere, the Balinese men and women wear them in their hair and smell divine. You can walk down the street anywhere and find plenty to pick and draw in their heavenly scent.

The Balinese make amazing use of their natural resources, a lot of the houses and tools they use are made from Bamboo, they cook using the burnt out shells of coconut and wrap chicken and fish in banana leaves to keep in the wonderful flavours and spices. Every day they make offerings for luck, these consist of a small rectangle tray made from banana leaves and filled with flowers. They dot these around their homes and on the street with an incense stick and a sprinkle of water. The smell of incense fills the streets and gives off a wonderful aroma.

We have sampled as much Indonesian food in Bali as we could, chicken pepes, nasi goring, gado gado, sate. It is all delicious and comes very reasonably priced. I have tasted chicken satay back at home but it is nothing compared to the real thing.

I find a place for us to eat on the rice paddies in Ubud. A short walk through tranquil rice paddies with only locals working the fields and the occasional line of ducks crossing our path there is an amazing organic café where they use everything they grow on their farm in the cooking. I have a ginger and lemon juice, which is refreshing and tasty, James has a local beer. We munch down on salad and pizza and watch the day go buy for a little while.

We take a taxi to the country to some of the local temples, once out of the city you see the real Bali which is lovely and serene. The temples require us to wear sarongs and belts and give you them outside to use. James and I look rather silly but then so do all the other tourists so we go with it. He then takes us to some rice terraces (who charge you just to pass through the town if you are a tourist which seems a bit much) which take the usual shots and move on.

On the way back we stop at a coffee plantation and are given a quick tour of their herb garden which they use to make all the teas and coffees. There they make the most expensive coffee in the world called Lowak, they feed this cat the coffee beans and it then excretes little pellets which they then use to make the coffee. Sounds horrible but is really tasty and the little cat is really cute.

The other place we visit in Ubud is the monkey forest; it does exactly what it says on the tin. You walk in to a forest filled with monkeys. If you have any food on you they jump on your shoulders and take it from you. It is a great experience if you like monkeys which we do. Unfortunately James and I skimped out on our rabies shots which make us a little bit more nervous than we would be otherwise. The babies are especially cute and it’s heart-warming to see the parents interacting with the children, just like little people.

We do a sunrise tour to Mount Batur, an active volcano in Bali. So we get up at 3 am (why do we do this to ourselves I have no idea). The climb is about 2 hours and not particularly easy but I enjoy the exercise, James doesn’t, he looks like he is going to be sick. The last part of the climb is tricky as it is soft volcano sand so it is one step forward two steps back. James is silly and forgot his warm layers so the wait for the sun to rise is unpleasant as one of my layers is over James and he is of course still cold. The view is spectacular though and well worth the wait, along with the welcomed heat. The guides give us breakfast of boiled eggs and banana sandwiches (I have never tried them and I do not like). We see steam rising from parts of the volcano and monkeys playing around. Home then sleep!

This brings the end of our trip to Bali. We decide to head straight west as after much research everything else east of here is much of the same or too expensive (Komodo Island is one we are sorry to miss).

Next stop Java x


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