I should also mention beautiful, brilliant and bloomin’ lovely. Bali had so much to offer us, and six days in this wonderful place was just not enough time. It has been on the list of places in the world to go since the days of university and it did not disappoint. Take us back soon please, Air Asia.
Air Asia and the Harts have become very good friends over the last year and we are cranking up those air miles with our ‘Big loyalty’ membership. We must have traveled with Air Asia at least eight times by now and I am becoming braver the more I travel with them. It’s Asia’s version of Easy Jet. The flights are always bumpy, the seats packed in, but it’s cheap, cheerful and I love the ginger tea! Our Air Asia flight to Bali was a bit different though. Firstly, it introduced us to the hour of 4am when, after bumping into some party-goers stumbling in from a night out, we caught a taxi from our flooded street. Bangkok’s rainy season hit October pretty hard this year and the rain continued as our taxi raced us to the airport for our flight at 6am. The taxi driver overcharged us for this ride, but I was in no position to argue at this crazy hour as I slumped in the backseat wearing my over worn market tie-dye leggings (they now have a hole in the crotch… that’s how much I LOVE them) and a crumpled morning pig-face. The second reason why this Air Asia flight was different was because I was cool, calm and collected. You may think I am exaggerating, but I even slept on the flight and pigged out on pain aux chocolat croissants bought from Starbacks!
The first stop on our list was Canggu. We wanted to get away from Seminyak and Kuta as over the years they have become quite built up. Well, that’s what we have read and heard from word of mouth. Canggu used to be a sleepy beach town. Like Seminyak and Kuta, it has developed too but still retains that laid-back beachy charm. Our stay was a little out of town, but Will’s obsession with riding scooters/mopeds and being a ‘mod’ in general continues, so this was a perfect excuse to rent one, wear our helmets and look part of the Canggu crowd. We were chuffed with our red scooter, parked up ready for us on arrival at our villa.
Bali is a treasure trove of amazing villas, bed and breakfasts and ‘homestays’. These are rooms in local houses, usually advertised on AirBnb. We found our villa on Airbnb for a steal. Finding it was hard because there are so many stunning places for next to nothing! Our villa was four little Balinese-styles houses centered around a gorgeous pool, each with their own private outdoor bathroom. This was so fun and something that Will requested; to feel ‘at one’ with nature I am guessing. We stayed at another villa in Canggu too. This was just as stunning and huge!
We had breakfast on our terrace each morning, joined by the owner’s dogs who were just too cute. As a devoted ‘cat person’ I am surprised to write this, but they were just so lovable and cheeky. As my cat no longer loves me and lives the life of Riley in England, I guess I need to move on one way or another…
Speaking of breakfast, this is huge thing in Canggu. As a true lover of food and breakfast in particular this is why Canggu, within hours, became my new best friend. “Oh my god, oh my god, this is amazing” was Will’s driving anthem as he wheeled us down the main road towards Batu Balong beach. As a guide book junkie, I instructed Will to park up at the highly raved about cafe, ‘Crate’. We gorged on healthy and filling breakfasts (eggs, spinach, sour dough, grilled tomatoes etc), and washed them down with smoothies and super strong coffee- our favourite! I nearly choked on my bamboo straw, yes BAMBOO, when the tiny bill came. We left a generous tip.
Other food and drink merits in Canggu: Old Man’s (fresh fruit frozen cocktails), Koi (coffee) local Indonesian warungs and Ji rooftop bar (sunset views and sushi).
Koi (above) Ji (below)
So, a warung took me a long time to figure out. Essentially, it is a very cheap Indonesian restaurant where you order what you see and it gets plated up and you take it to a free table. You can choose from delicious vegetable dishes, curries, fish, meat and my favourite… sweetcorn fritters! All swigged down with the local beer, Bintang. We ate at warungs quite a lot in the end as the food was just too good. We paid about three pounds for both of us to fill our boots, and did we fill? Of course! So much so that I actually injured my tummy one night and had to go to the local pharmacy to buy tummy tablets to stop the pain of my five month looking food baby. Quite embarrassing, really. Here I am with my friend Hollie clutching my sweetcorn fritters- and I did share. Thank you for meeting us, Hols.
Batu Balong is a long, wide stretch of sand and sea that is very popular for surfing. It is a sad that we didn’t surf, but the waves just felt too strong for our wobbly wannabe legs. Instead, we drank more beer and had fun in the waves. Well, I screamed at the waves when I felt that they were just too much. Oh and Will lost his sunglasses…
Other beaches we visited were Echo beach, which had even bigger waves, and Berawa. Berawa houses the infamous Finn’s beach club and we spent time here eating expensive lunches and drinking cocktails at midday and into the sunset. Ah, what a treat! Cheers!
Enough of the sand in annoying places, let’s move on to Ubud. Ubud recently became famous from the film ‘Eat Pray Love’ with Julia Roberts, but it is so, so much more than that. We decided to go rustic and stay in an ‘eco nature hut’, also reserved through AirBnb. We hired a taxi from Canggu to Ubud for about £10. It took us an hour to travel North, and the trip became greener as we whizzed cut through the centre of the island. Arriving at Ubud, we were dropped off in a rice field and picked up by two mopeds. With our bags in tow, our drivers rolled us through the rice fields on the narrowest track I have ever seen, swamps of water either side. Closing my eyes, I prayed that my driver would take the next corner at snail pace, so that the back wheel would not veer off and land me in the rice plants with the snakes. We actually arrived at our eco nature hut safely, so there’s need to keep going on about it.
The Balinese gentleman that made this hut was a local architect, and he has bigger fish to fry. After showing us around our new abode, outside toilet and all, he took us to his latest project around the corner, a tree house! Watch this space everyone, these huts are about to take off. Here are the gorgeous surroundings, we stayed here for three very rustic and very hot nights:
After a little practise Will became confident at biking up and down these narrow roads and venturing into Ubud became like a mere trip into Leek town. After stopping by Yoga barn to chill out, we came across a lovely road with cafes, restaurants and the odd souvenir shop. We thought we had found Ubud but as the days passed by we found a whole other Ubud world, including a organic restaurant only accessible on foot through a rice field. Our thoughts about Ubud? You need at least a week here. I couldn’t take my eyes off everything, especially the ‘all natural’ gelato.
The picture above is at Sari Organik Restaurant in the middle of a rice field. The food was out of the world wonderful, and recommended by a French man, so I tell the truth. The organic wine made on site however…
The Monkey Forest frightened Will and we held hands throughout. We had heard that these cheeky monkey’s take your most prized possessions, so we were on high alert. The rules are do not look at them in the eyes or try to touch them, so we spent the whole time looking down. Money well spent.
An early morning walk along Campuhun was well worth it because there was a giant swing and two SNAKES! These slithery friends were about two metres long and put me on snake watch. Obviously the scenery was breathtaking too, and we could see Sari Organik from across the jungle valley.
Two challenging adventures outside of Ubud included water and walking. The first was a half an hour moped trip to a temple called ‘Tirta Empul Tampak Siring’. This translates as ‘Holy Spring Water Temple’. At the entrance sarongs were wrapped around our legs, shrouding the awful, ‘casual’ outfit I had decided to wear, including those all time favourite leggings. It was not long until we had to change though, as you must only enter the water covered in the bigger sarongs that can be rented from outside the changing rooms.
The damp sarong was like being cuddled by a wet dog, but the fashionable red sash made up for it. This was the first challenge. The second was not really knowing what we were doing and the third was actually getting into the water because it was freezing, and there were gigantic fish patrolling the pools.
We wish that we had paid for a tour guide, but being an expat we just say ‘no’ to most things now which, as I am typing this, sounds really awful. Only yesterday we were asked if we wanted a tour to the floating markets in Bangkok and replied ‘mai, kah’ (no thanks) before the man had even finished. At the Holy Springs we heard snippets from other tour guides and found out some key information this way. Each fountain represents important aspects of our lives like family, good fortune, health etc. By drenching yourself in the water you are blessed with these. Detective Will managed to figure out that you must start at the furthest left fountain and work your way down one at a time. The locals wash their mouth with the water three times before showering. I think this is Balinese culture of washing away evil spirits and purifying the body and soul. Here are some more pictures of the surroundings.
The picture above is after Will got told off for wearing his sarong upside down, dangling the golden bit on the ground. This is meant to go at the top, marking the fourth and final challenge of this particular trip.
But there was one trip that topped all these challenges… the hike up Mount Batur. “Are we crazy?” I said as we set our alarms for 2am. Brushing our teeth in the middle of a rice field then clambering into the taxi at 2:30 made us think ‘yes we are’. We met our private guide at the bottom of Batur. So, the three of us climbed the beast together, starting at the base with jumpers, jackets and special hiking sticks. We climbed in the pitch black, except from the odd string of torches we could see from group tours below or above. This was quite magical, coupled with the strong scent of Eucalyptus as we ventured up the grainy track. At times we would stop for a rest and gaze up at the stars, witnessing the beautiful Venus spinning as we approached the top. By this point, all layers were off as we sweated for the final few metres of the 1700 climb at a totally unsociable hour. The time of day and lack of sleep quickly fizzled away though as we huddled on a bench at the top, watching the golden sun rise over Mount Agung and Lombok. If you look closely you can see the steam rising from the top of Agung, as it is said to be close to erupting.
Our guide brought us a big mug of coffee to warm us up and we ate banana sandwiches, eggs boiled in volcanic steam and other treats like chocolate biscuits to give us a big good morning boost. A few more pictures at the top and then we were ready for the hike down, and the sun had already started to beat down as early as 7am. This was an unforgettable experience and we feel blessed to be able to share these experiences.
Will just spotted me typing and said “this one has taken you a while hasn’t it?” He has a point. I am still here typing away about Bali a week later and need to draw the line somewhere. Beautiful, brilliant and bloomin’ lovely is how I described Bali at the beginning of this very lengthy blog. You only have to look at the photographs to realise what I mean. Please imagine the sounds and the smells, as these are equally as special. We are already planning a trip back in the Summer, as we have only scratched the surface of this wonderful island that lets you in, keeps you in and reminds you of the beauty in the little things. Or in the case of Mount Batur, the big things!