Well, I think it’s safe to say we have officially recovered from the trek. After a week and a half of sun, surf, sea and delicious Indonesian food, our time in the mountains seems like a distant dream.
Bali was a bit of a last minute decision based on Skyscanner’s handy ‘Flights to Everywhere’ tool. We’d been thinking about heading to Thailand, Malaysia or Cambodia, but the rainy season has already started and it turned out it was the same price to fly here, so we thought we’d give it a go!
We treated ourselves to three nights in a gorgeous hotel in a quiet town called Umalas. It’s close to the trendy beach resorts of Canggu and Seminyak but secluded enough that we didn’t feel remotely guilty for spending three entire days lounging by the pool, making the most of the incredible breakfasts and finally catching up on some sleep in the most comfortable bed we’ve slept in in months. All for just £30 a night!
After Umalas, we headed just down the road to a guesthouse which was slightly more within our budget, in the up and coming town of Canggu. Canggu is the most ridiculously hipster place I’ve ever been (including Shoreditch). Everything is raw, vegan and organic, and comes with a topping of chia seeds and quinoa. I can get on board with the vegan and organic stuff, but why on earth does everything have to be raw?! It reminds us both a lot of Dubai and, judging from the stunning villas popping up everywhere, there’s an equally vibrant expat scene here.
The beaches in Canggu are black sand, although still a lovely place to spend a few hours on a bean bag sipping a fresh coconut, and everything here revolves around surfing and yoga. Luckily, we enjoy both of those things!
We took the scooter down to Kuta one afternoon for some surfboard shopping and Jamie has picked himself up a nice second-hand board so he’s been making the most of getting out for a few hours every day. The board was previously owned by a Japanese team rider and comes with slots for four different GoPros. Stay tuned for multi-angle, 3D footage of Jamie landing on his face… (His words, not mine, I actually think he’s pretty good!)
We’ve got a very undemanding routine going on where we head off to our respective activities in the morning (surf and yoga), before meeting up at midday for a plate of nasi goreng (Nana – I think of you every time we eat this!), some afternoon beers with the sunset and an early night ready to start it all over again the next day.
We’d been so excited to get down from the mountain and indulge in some much needed refuelling, but thanks to a nasty bout of food poisoning in Kathmandu we were still feeling pretty undernourished by the time we arrived in Bali. Thankfully, the food here is incredibly tasty, great value and so much healthier than anywhere else we’ve been on this trip. We’ve made the most of eating local every day and trying as many different dishes as we possibly can. As well as the obvious nasi goreng, mie goreng and chicken sate, we’re also loving the coconut curries, beef rendang, fried rice noodle dishes, jackfruit curry and soto ayam (Indonesian chicken soup). Each local Warung also serves their own concoction of rice and side dishes, called Nasi Campur.
In fact, as I write this I’m tucking in to an iced coffee and a plate of nasi liwet (rice with shredded chicken and coconut).
The only problem is that Indonesians seem to have rather small appetites, particularly in comparison to Indians, Sri Lankans and Nepalis! It’s fine for me and actually a bit of a relief after five months of being served humongous portions, but Jamie’s having to order several dishes to fill himself up. He’s already lost nearly 7kg since we left in the UK so we’re trying to cook for ourselves whenever we can to make sure that we can feed him up enough. Last night he inhaled enough pasta to feed an entire Indonesian family so I think we’re well on the way to success…
After Canggu, we took a taxi an hour inland to Ubud, Bali’s cultural centre.
Compared to everywhere else we’ve been in Asia, the quality of budget accommodation in Bali is significantly higher. For just £6 a night, we’re staying in a spotlessly clean, lovely little cottage style room in the jungle, with a terrace, delicious homemade breakfasts and scooter hire for £2 a day. Such a nice contrast to some of the dingy places we stayed in India.
We’re reaching that part of the trip where we’re starting to find it hard to motivate ourselves to set off on sightseeing expeditions, which isn’t helped by either the humidity or the laziness that’s come from a week of lounging on the beach. But we’re not feeling guilty about it just yet, we figure we deserve a bit of a chill time after a gruelling trek and five months of the Indian subcontinent so we’re on a bit of a ‘holiday’ from travelling at the moment (yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds).
As well as the rice fields, temples and traditional dances, Ubud is famous for shopping, spas and yoga and there’s definitely an abundance of all three. We spent our first afternoon here mooching around the boutique shops and stocking up on some essentials – we’re on our third pair of travelling flip flops now (pretty impressive considering we’ve worn them everyday for eight months) and Jamie’s embracing the Aussie surfer vibe with some new tank tops.
Yesterday we headed down to the monkey forest in the morning. The forest was beautiful and full of 14th century temples, but the monkeys themselves were cheeky little buggers. There are over 700 macaques living in the park, and visitors have been encouraged to feed and interact with them as much as possible. As a result, the rather rotund monkeys are now very greedy and will jump at you out of nowhere and try to seize your bag or water bottle. We saw several people walking around with monkeys on their heads and one girl in town yesterday had a nasty looking bite.
We took the scooter around some of the back roads through the rice fields and, after refuelling on nasi goreng, set off to explore the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, one of the strangest places we’ve been so far.
There are a series of cafes set up around the rice terrace, catering to the masses of tourists who visit on a daily basis, each of which seems to advertise a swing with views of the fields in the background. I’ve seen the classic Bali Instagram pics and had always assumed there was just one famous swing, but it turns out they are everywhere! Obviously no-one was just swinging for fun – each of them come with their own tacky ‘I Love Bali’ or ‘Wish You Were Here’ sign in the background and this place gives a new meaning to #BoyfriendsofInstagram. We were stuck in a backlog of people trying to get past many a swing photoshoot, and genuinely saw people with their own photographers. This is something we’ve seen everywhere in Bali so far – I’ve never seen so many ridiculous selfies (even more than in Dubai) and the tourist attractions we’ve been to so far are completely obsessed with making everything as Instagrammable as possible.
The terraces themselves were obviously beautiful, but with the concrete paths set up between them, the strange photo opportunities and bintang bars at every corner, it didn’t really feel like a very authentic or interesting experience. Although, at least we weren’t worried about wild Keralan elephants this time which is a bonus.
We enjoyed our final stop of the afternoon more – the serene water temple, Gunung Kawi Sebatu.
We love the architecture in all the temples here and, having spent the last five months in three predominantly Hindu countries, have been fascinated by how different Balinese Hinduism is. There are little offerings laid out everywhere in the streets and houses and the images in the temples are completely different. We still haven’t learnt much about it but we’re looking forward to finding out more when we get back to Bali in a few weeks.
For now, it’s time for a change of pace and we’re off to meet our friend Josh at the airport this afternoon ready to head to Lombok. Next post coming to you in a week or so!