Bali has been a truly lovely place to start my adventures. In just over one week the island has relaxed and charmed me, re-booted my brain after a frantic few weeks of hard work and preparations and given me a taste for more exploration.
I couldn’t have asked for a more easy-going start…. nine days on a chilled-out sun-kissed island… plus having the luxury of a great travel buddy (Anna) to set me off on my (soon-to-be-solo) way.
When I first arrived in Seminyak (just north of the mega-touristic Kuta) I managed to track down Anna, despite total lack of a phone connection. Straight away I dumped my bag, put on a bikini and was out floating in the pool with the blossoms, having my first ‘Bali Moment’. We used this place as a base for our time on the island… a peaceful, calm and pretty luxurious spot, right next to a long sandy beach. You can’t fail to relax here, but there’s also the feeling that the ‘real’ Bali is many miles outside of this very popular tourist spot. There’s plenty of surf to keep the Aussies happy, but pretty much a no-swim zone, so we stuck to long walks along the sand. At night thousands of little crabs scuttle around your toes at supersonic speed and the bats flap around overhead. We found plenty of nice little local places along the beach to get some lovely Indonesian grub at bargain prices. Fresh watermelon juice has become a firm favourite (along with the local ‘Bintang’ beer of course).
In town, we tracked down a spa place called ‘Chill’ (thanks to Farley for the recommendation) and had a blissed-out 90 minute massage treatment at criminally low prices. They even provided ipods with a relaxing soundtrack.
After a few days in Seminyak, we headed over to the east coast to a place called Amed, to stay in the delightful ‘Bayu Cottages’. This really was a little piece of heaven. After a three hour drive (through lush green rice fields – and with a stop at a great water palace) we landed at this utterly chilled-out guesthouse with great ocean views. Within minutes we were neck-deep in the little warm freshwater pool, resting our chins on the edge to get the best views over the beach.
We shared our room here with a few cute little lizards, who would pop in from time to time to keep the mozzies in check. The staff cooked up some great Indonesian dishes in the evening and yummy pancakes for breakfast. Much appreciated. Lots of gezeligheid from the other guests too.
The highlight of Amed for me was my first go at snorkelling. I was totally bowled-over by the fact that within seconds of dipping myself into the seawater opposite the hotel I was suddenly in an underwater world inhabited by a million coloured fish. I saw the most incredible sights down there; bright red and purple plants, beautiful coloured coral, stripy fish / rainbow fish / irridescent fish / shiny blue shoals and the weirdest / ugliest and most beautiful shapes and forms. I really can’t wait to start my diving course! We took a local fishing boat out to a shipwreck to explore further later that day. It’s official – I’m addicted.
We were sad to say goodby to Amed, but we had a trip to Ubud planned. Ubud is a relaxed, new-age, hippy kind of place. It is touristic, but in a much more fun and ‘real’ way than the Kuta area, and there are so many lovely things to do here. It has recently been made famous as the place where the author finds love in the bestselling book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (now a film with Julia Roberts). Coincidentally, Wayan and the Medicine Man featured in the book work next door to where we are staying!
We have been lodging at the ‘Maharati Cottages’ – a very eccentric, but charming group of straw and brick bungalows, each with its own theme. Ours is the ‘India Pasha’, complete with velvet curtains and purple and silver walls! Every afternoon they serve afternoon tea on the terrace, surrounded by the jungle foliage. It’s scones, cream, jam, English tea and cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off! It’s the ultimate 1920’s ‘on the Raj’ experience! The place is a bit dusty and damp, and in need of a bit of rennovation, but you can’t help but love it and the staff are super-smiley and lovely. I can imagine my grandmother sitting in every corner.
Yesterday we hired scooters. At first I was terrified – it’s not easy having your first driving lesson in the thick of the local traffic – but as the day progressed I relaxed and got hooked on the whole feeling of freedom it gave. We headed first to the ‘Monkey Forest’ to see the cute little monkey families (the babies were the best) before whizzing off down the windy roads through rice fields under tropical skies (a storm was brewing up nicely… Ubud is pretty damp and humid). I totally loved it!
Today we have been in cookery class, run by ‘Casa Luna’ (their food is a-maz-ing). Our Balinese teacher had the biggest and whitest smile I’ve ever seen (he must have a fantastic dentist, because every ounce of Indonesian food seems to be packed with sugar) and charmed us all. We learned how to make the classics… Nasi Goreng, Chicken Sate… and a super-indulgent fruit dessert with coconut milk. Lots of fun. I’m looking forward to trying this out back in Holland! They’re going to have to widen the doors to get me back in the gym….
We leave Ubud later today and head back to Seminyak for our last day before moving on. Next stop, Sulawesi and dive school. Will post more news soon. If I can work out a way of getting the photos off the camera I’ll try to post some of those too, but am planning on maximising pool-time in the next 48 hours 🙂