One of the key tourist destinations in Bali, Kuta was an attack on the senses after clean, calm Singapore. Our arrival at Denpasar (after our Air Asia flight – the Ryanair of the east) was manic in comparison to previous airports… harangued by ‘taxi drivers’, crazy traffic, constant beeping of horns, street sellers, smoke, food stalls… We didn’t quite know what had hit us.
What did we do?
- Chilled with a Bintang on Kuta beach, watching the surfers.
- Got hassled by sellers on the beach, desperate to massage our backs, sell us anklets, sell us sarongs, sell us their very souls…
- Ate SUPER SPICY satay out of the back of a local’s house. It took us approximately two hours and five bottles of water to make it through the meal (vague estimations).
- Caught a Bluebird taxi (the main, and regularly imitated, taxi firm in Bali).
Uluwatu is a well-known surfing Mecca with a super laid back vibe. We definitely didn’t get the memo about the uniform: think shaggy-haired, dream-catcher wearing Aussie ‘dude’ (beads and dreadlocks optional) with a surfboard hanging off one side of his 50cc moped and a tanned, bikini-clad babe hanging off the other and you won’t go far wrong. We tried our best – James even bought a sleeveless top – but we weren’t fooling anyone…
What did we do?
- Zipped about in a moped and filled it with fuel from vodka bottles.
- Drank Luwak coffee direct from a mongoose’s butt.
- Climbed about a million steps down to Blue Point Beach, only to find it was a surfing-only beach (no sunbathing).
- Drank Bintangs (I’m sensing a theme here) at Single Fin Bar whilst watching the waves.
- Ate the local dish – Nasi Goreng – a vegetable, rice, egg and crackers affair. (Bucket list item completed: try the native food)
- Visited Uluwatu Temple, wandered around without much understanding of where we were or what was going on. Things got more interesting when we saw a monkey steal a lady’s sunglasses, and then watched a ‘traditional’ fire dance as the sun went down (Bucket list item completed: watch a sunset).
Supposedly the island that provides a happy medium between the ‘party island’ Gili Trawangan, and the very quiet and far less developed Gili Meno, Gili Air could be the most beautiful island idyll, if it were just cleaned up and treated with a little bit of love.
What did we do?
- Got hot and stressed, squashed in a ferry port surrounded by tanked-up Aussie teenagers, as we waited for our ferry which was two hours late (Wahana Gili Ocean – book at your peril).
- Swam in the pool (woo!) at our guesthouse.
- Ate loads of banana pancakes for breakfast.
- Wandered into what seemed to be a shack in a local’s front garden for a hair (and beard) cut. Whose beard? I hear you ask. I’ll leave that to your imagination.
- Sat in raised bamboo beds looking out to sea – very romantic.
- Pitied the poor ponies dragging tourists around on their carts as they foamed at the mouth.
- Went for a slightly underwhelming snorkelling trip (we were spoilt in the Maldives) but did see turtles and some beautiful fish.
- Marvelled at how such a beautiful island could be turned into such a rubbish dump, with black bin bags floating out to sea and heaps of stinking waste piled at roadsides.
- Got food poisoning an hour before a boat trip by making the mistake of eating ‘seafood curry spaghetti’ for lunch. Not a particularly pleasant crossing.
A less crowded, less frantic and beachless version of Kuta, Ubud is still a popular tourist destination but with an arty edge. The street sellers still hassle you, and every five steps you will be greeted with ‘Taxi? You need taxi?’, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time here; it turned out to be our favourite stop on the Bali/Gilis leg of our Indonesia journey.
What did we do?
- Stayed in a magical, tropical, jungly guesthouse, surrounded by artwork.
- Satisfied our carby cravings at an incredible shop called ‘Bread Life’. We became absolute regulars and visited every day for our ‘sausage katsu’ and chocolate roll.
- Went to the Ubud Monkey Sanctuary (temple complex) and learnt something about ourselves – that we are really quite on edge around hungry monkeys who have a tendency to jump on you from above.
- Found peace outside the hubbub of Ubud Centre by walking around the beautiful rice paddies and along Campuhan Ridge.
- Zoomed around on a moped in the sunshine, taking bumpy little back roads that ran through the rice paddies.
- Swam in Tegenungan Waterfall.
- Woke up at 1.30am to climb an active volcano (Mount Batur). (Bucket list item completed: mountain climbing)
- Watched the sunrise from the top of an active volcano. (Bucket list item completed: watch the sunrise)
- Fell down an active volcano (more on that another time).
- Drank and ate out of coconuts (spoiler: they taste gross). (Bucket list item completed: eat a coconut)