Bali - Kuta and Ubud

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October 15th 2016
Published: October 16th 2016
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David here...

The 4.5 hour flight from Bangkok was fine. The usual inconsiderate people sat in front of us who had to throw their seats back as soon as the seat belt light was turned out, as my poor knees can atest to. We breezed through the passport control and picked up our bags, to find my bag had a green tie-wrap on it. Fearing the worst we made our way to the customs declaration point expecting to be whisked away, however had no issue at all. It may have helped that it was chaos, but we were pleased not to have any issues. We made our way through arrivals to the official airport taxi desk as we knew there was no public transport from DPS airport. We had done some research in advance and expected a fee of around 70,000 Rupiah (about £4.40) but were charged Rp110,000 (around £6.40) however as this was the only way for us to get to our hotel in Kuta we had no choice, though we were only talking a couple of pounds difference. We ended up in the taxi for about 45 minutes as we wound our way through twisting and turning alleys and busy streets, always having to avoid the scooters that are everywhere, there is no way either of us would want to drive here, absolute chaos. We pulled up at our guesthouse, checked in, and were shown to a clean, basic room that would do us for the one night we were staying in Kuta.

It was not long before we were out wandering the streets looking for somewhere to grab some food. Well, Kuta is like Benidorm (at least our expectation of Benidorm seeing as we've never been). It is full of Euro backpackers, Australian holiday makers and Aussie 'bogans', or chavs in English speak, all completely oblivious to everyone else, all looking to get wasted. You are constantly pestered to buy drugs, massages or taxi rides every step you take and it can knock you a bit if you are not expecting it (we were). We wandered around looking for an Indonesian restaurant that was a bit quieter and that was not was not playing god awful music. We finally settled on The Smiling Frog and it's upstairs terrace that was playing a strange mix of 70's disco and 80's British charts hits. We got free drinks and bruscetta as we settled down before buying happy hour Margaritas. The atmosphere was nice and relaxed and being upstairs meant you were away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds. We ordered a meal of standard Indonesian fare, which was all very nice, before deciding to stay longer with an extra beer each. We then went back to the hotel to settle down to sleep.

During the night, Suzanne was sick a couple of times meaning she didn't get much sleep and was left feeling tender. We have no clue what caused this as we had shared the whole meal and I had no adverse affects at all. This meant that as Suzanne was not in the mood for breakfast, I got both of them, which was nice for me. We were slightly worried about our onward travel to Ubud as we had not booked anything and Suzanne wasn't up to trailing around in the heat. I popped out on my own and managed to get 2 tickets for the 12:00 bus to Ubud with Perama travel without issue and at 11:15 we were both packed and on our way to the travel office for our journey. We had an airconditioned mini-van with a further 6 people for the journey and had plenty of room. The van turned up on time and we were swiftly on our way to Ubud, pleased to be leaving Kuta for something that was supposed to be a little more peaceful and tranquil.

The journey to Ubud was uneventful, we were just pleased not to be driving ourselves as the roads are chaotic at all times. Our first impressions of Ubud were that it was not dissimilar to Kuta really. Lots of people on the streets touting for business; taxis, tours or massages. We only had a short walk to our guesthouse, the Angga Homestay which we hoped would be a peaceful, relaxing stop. We arrived to find a building site with lots of noise from machines and red brick dust everywhere, not what we were hoping for at all. We were shown to our room, which would've been lovely if not for the noise and dust covering everything, it was also the room closest to the building work going on, a 3 storey structure giving the homestay more rooms, more like a guesthouse.

Feeling a bit down, we went out to explore Ubud, our first stop was to change some Sterling into Rupiah. £200 got us Rp3.16m - we were multi millionnaires! To celebrate we stopped for a drink at Monkey cafe, a mistake. It felt like the place had just opened and not trained their staff. My ice cappuccino was O.K. but Suzanne's mango juice appeared to have had all the flavour taken out of it. Moving on we explored the 2 main streets to get our bearings, before heading back to the room. Once back at the room we met the principal owner of the guest house, Putu, who apologised for the building work and offered to move us to a room further back in the morning away from the dust. We accepted this gratefully and headed out for something to eat. As Suzanne was still a bit fragile from the previous days sickness, we decided to go Western, well Mexican, at Casa Taco. We timed it well as the place was busy however a table became free as we arrived, unlike the group of 10 who turned up after us without a booking. I really enjoyed my Wet Burrito however Suzanne didn't think her Burrito matched up to Barburrito at home. After a drink at a quiet bar on the way back to our room we headed to bed. Suzanne slept pretty well however I was kept awake for a lot of the night by geckos, monkeys on the roof and dogs barking at monkeys, it was quite an experience.

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast and a plate of fruit on our patio before moving rooms. Once settled in the new room, we set off for the NEKA Art Museum, a good hour walk from our homestay. It was hot going and up hill for the majority of it, but we felt good once we arrived, knowing that we had earned any food and drink we had later that evening. The museum was actually very interesting with beautiful gardens, sculptures and wonderful paintings, well worth the walk. It is also not very busy, being out of town, which is a shame, but good for us. We decided to walk back, stopping off at a mini-mart for a water and yogurt to keep us refreshed. We took our time heading back to the room to allow time for the builders to finish and disperse at 17:00. We did see a Hindu cremation procession on the way, with a huge model of a black bull and high tower, and a fire engine to cool off the people and tend to the final pyre. It was causing traffic hell but was really interesting to see. Before going back to our room to freshen up we went into almost every silver shop in Ubud looking for replacement wedding rings (we'd left our proper ones at home for safe keeping) without success. That evening we had pizza at Mamas Pizza due to really good reviews and also knowing that our next stop in Bali was much more local than Ubud. I enjoyed my ham and mushroom pizza very much however Suzanne was again disappointed by Western fare in the East as her Salami pizza was lacking in cooking, ingredients and taste. A couple of small beers followed at a random bar that did play Alice Cooper for us before it was time for bed and more monkey business... i.e the monkeys on the roof and the dogs scaring them away.

The next day began with omelette, toast and fruit before we set off for a walk among the paddy fields above the town. We walked for about 4 hours and it was beautiful, as the pictures show. We walked in a loop and ended up back at Cafe Pomegranate which we had passed at the start of the walk. The cafe overlooked the valley of fields and was lovely so we had a couple of beers and a light lunch. It was so relaxed sat under canvas with beautiful scenery and a beer, it felt like what we had been looking for. Suzanne loved the place and we would've stayed longer if we had more money with us. I really enjoyed the sitting doing nothing as the walk had really got me sweating, long trousers in case of snakes were a good idea but kept me warm in baking heat so I was drenched in sweat when we sat down but better when leaving the cafe. I really found the heat to be almost too much but the walk was well worth it, a real highlight so far.

Once back in town we had a bit of time on our hands so changed some more money before Suzanne decided that she was going for a pedicure and colour seeing as it was so cheap (£4 for a pedicure, £6 with colour). As this trip is all about new experiences I decided to also have a pedicure as my toenails really needed it. Apart from a few tickilish moments it was a fun experience that I would do again. While Suzanne was having her pedicure and colour she confessed to having the following thoughts:

* Does the person doing the pedicure ever get kicked in the face, e.g. if a fly lands on someones leg or they are particulary ticklish, followed by "Oh God, I'm going to kick her in the face" when a fly landed on her leg.

* (In response to a sign that could be seen through the window) what on earth is "dip a granny"?

* In Asian countries where feet are considered unclean and offensive, do they hope the next customer is coming for a foo-foo wax rather than a pedicure?

* (while having 2 fans pointed at her feet) "its like my feet are in a 1980's Whitesnake video" ...if only we could've found a sports car!

Suzanne's random thoughts may well become a regular feature of this blog (if she shares them again!), along with the strange Pringle flavour pictures.

We finished the day with a lovely Balinese meal at Warung Laba Laba and a couple of beers on our patio before another restless night with the monkeys, dogs and geckos.

After a shaky start, Ubud turned out alright. We filled 3 days with good experiences and enjoyed our time very much. The room was not as relaxing as expected with the building work and the family always there (it was a home stay after all), there always seemed to be kids and animals running around. However Putu was a lovely host and the room was really nice. One thing that has become apparent is that the Balinese people respond to a smile like no other nation we've ever seen before. If you smile you are guaranteed a smile and hello back, which is actually very heart warming. Onwards and upwards next as we head into the highlands of Bali and the small village of Munduk.

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