our first stay in bali was in the town they consider to be the cultural center, ubud. we stayed one week in the smallest villa among 5 other villas on a privately owned property. although we were in the smallest one it fit our needs quite nicely given that it wasn’t a car. we arrived late at night so we didn’t meet the staff until breakfast the next day, which was served on our little porch. after spending 2+ months living in a van and sleeping in different campsites every night, to have a consistent home base was a true luxury. we used our 2nd day in ubud to get a quick lay of the land and run some basic errands. we also wanted to find which yoga studio we were going to practice in, we chose yoga barn which was awesome and highly recommend. since the town and the majority of its amenities is centered around about 4 streets our day quickly came to an end so we headed to the monkey forrest. yes, this is exactly what it sounds like, a forrest full of monkeys. they roam wild and rampant and, at the low cost of a banana but the high risk of rabies, will climb on you if you let them. we decided watching aussies and asians get mounted was more fun than actually risking it ourselves (note: we went back to the monkey forrest before we left). that night we went to the ubud palace and saw a legong and barong dance (link is not our video) then had dinner and burrs for about $10USD at Biah Biah. thus far, this place does not suck at all.
on our 3rd day we rented a scooter. this is, by far, the best and only means one should travel in indonesia. we spent the next few days doing lots of yoga, eating delicious food and driving around without any real agenda to speak of. we stumbled across naughty nuri’s and made it a point to eat there. this place was featured in “eat, pray, love” and was delicious and recommend you go if you find yourself in ubud. post celebrity their restaurant motto is now “eat, pay, leave” which i was fond of bc julia roberts annoys me. other eats id recommend – fair warung – good food and good cause, taco casa – solid mexican in indonesia, and the expat pub, melting pot – flags and booze. this paragraph is really just to break up some images before i talk about our hired day tour…
on our 5th day we hired the husband of our house manager, made (pronounced mad-dee), to show us around ubud and surrounding. in short, we hit all the highlights in the area:
- Goa Gajah (elephant cave temple) – do not pay extra to take the trek, it’s unmarked and leads to a pointless waterfall and lots of mosquito bites.
- Gunung Kawi is another temple and some funeral monuments that are remarkable for having been carved into a hillside over a thousand years ago. it’s quite the walk to get to it but worth the exercise as it’s breathtaking.
- Tirta Empul (holy springs temple) is exactly what it sounds like. people bathing and praying in what they believe to be holy water…and yes it does look disgusting and no neither of us got in.
- on the way to lunch we stopped by a coffee plantation and tried luwak coffee. not to sugar coat it (pun intended) the coffee is roasted from beans pulled from the feces of what they refer to as a cat but looks more like the would be offspring of a raccoon and possum – which is especially weird since they have real cats (and lots of them) all over bali.
- after drinking said highly caffeinated poop water we arrived at our buffet lunch overlooking Mt. Batur which is also an active volcano. pretty site but the flies were out of control.
- last stop of our day tour was the Tegalalang rice terrace. #riceonriceonrice
our 6th and 7th day included more yoga and meditation and we found an awesome coffee shop – Seniman Coffee – and completed their coffee 101 class with the owner Rodney Glick. we also managed to do a little “local art” shopping after a solid solicitation by a guy on a scooter next to us yelling “i love america, follow me”, so naturally we did. we ended up in some “studio” and buying a few pieces of art. we found out later the art scene of ubud is a little sketchy, there’s a few original artists and then tons of shops that more or less pay less talented artists to “connect the dots” and recreate popular pieces. that said, two of the pieces we bought seemed original as we never saw them again, however, the third we later noticed it on every wall, desk, store front or pop up tent selling anything.
the next day we left ubud at the start of Galungan Festival which is the biggest hindu festival of the year. every local we met talked like it was going to be the macy’s thanksgiving day parade when in fact it ended up being more or less like new year’s day – no one is out, no one really works and nothing happens.
our next stop in bali was in the town candidasa. i would recommend no one under the age of dead ever go to candidasa. don’t get me wrong, it’s on the water and has pretty sunsets and there is a beach conveniently located 30 min away, but it’s WAY too quiet. more or less a strip of resorts. we ended up hanging out with the owner of a nearby hostel, ari….for breakfast and lunch. we also had the lovely experience of constantly having to dodge the girl who ran the “deli” in our resort bc we used her to rent a scooter and it turned out she uses the deli to run her own little black market tourism shop: “my brother give you good price. you don’t tell hotel and make trouble”.
after 4 days of nothing we decided to head over to Gili Trawangan for 2 nights. GiliT has a reputation for being a crazy party island, which it does have that atmosphere if you look for it, but i would say it’s very much fine for visitors of all ages. there may be no police and no cars, seriously only horse or bicycle, but the community exists as any beach community does. things like room and board be a bit expensive, especially for bali, but it’s worth it for the experience. the island is full of restaurants and bars and a wide-range of tropical activities including some of the best diving in the world. we more or less just enjoyed the fresh eats and drinks and tried to avoide any of the club type venues for the more laid back scene. our first night we took shots of some locally sourced vegetables, met some friends and giggled for a really long time, then ended up at the most laid back bar I’ve ever seen. i believe at one point caroline referred to the patrons as “a bunch of bob marley wannabes”, which was fairly accurate. out late and heavily consumed, we spent our second day sitting on the beach sweating it out.
indonesia, bali to be more specific, was a nice way to recharge our batteries from 2 months of van living and hiking….or was it? (to be continued in Singapore)