I'd highly recommend any Aussie go to Bali. It is not at all what we thought it would be like. It's like another state of Australia, as in everything is so easy.
We paid $200 a night in Seminyak (beach, not horribly cheap and busy like Kuta though) at Bali Rich Villas for our pool villa (you can get much cheaper even with private pools but we did have a great service) but you get a fantastic breakfast included and all waters, toothbrushes etc and the villa was huge. Their drivers drives you around free if you're not going too far. The room service had mostly great food and it was so cheap. The cocktails were $4! We had a massage treatment that included a body scrub and a yogurt treatment which was fun - Daniel's first professional massage. Managed to fall asleep and he didn't like the yogurt! We did eat a fair bit at the resort as we were kicking back near the pool but we also got some nice Mexican and went to a cafe in Seminyak that's popular with the Aussies - The Corner Store. The downside of checking out of the resort was that the receptionist asked if I was pregnant. Um, no, the food was just really good. She then apologized to Daniel for offending his wife which he pointed out made it worse (well not really but she should have just shut up!)
Although the Balinese, particularly in the markets, can try very hard to persuade you, the majority were just so lovely and most of the time you were left alone. After some of the big tourist spots in South America, I was expecting a very different experience. As the Hindu nature is very gentle, the Balinese were (for the most part) amazing.
We bummed around a lot when we were in Seminyak but also did some walks, hung out on the beach with banana lounges and umbrellas while they brought beers. Neither of us liked haggling for things but we did a pretty good job of it. Got some nice dresses for about 15. Daniel did Jet skiing. I got a beach pedicure and they had all the normal tools which was a surprise!
We had been recommended to go to a seafood restaurant called JB's on the beach at Jimbaran Bay, so they picked us up and we drove an hour to there. Beautiful beachfront. You pick your food and they cook it up - we had whole red snapper and prawns in a beautiful Indonesian sauce that tasted like tandoori. It included drinks, rice, fruit and veges - and cost us about $70 including the transport each way. Bargain.
Daniel the whole trip woke up before 6am (a sleep in for him as WA time is the same as Bali, and he normally wakes at around 3.30am at work!). One night his alarm went off at 3.30am which was weird as it hadn't before, and then he decided to wake me that same day about 6.15am with a friendly shoved for no reason! So he was told politely that tomorrow he could get up and go somewhere while I slept. He managed to do about a days worth of stuff in two hours the next morning - swam in the ocean, got kicked by a stallholder who was annoyed that he didn't buy anything from him, got offered a 'sexy massage' and had a hilarious taxi trip with a sleazebag guy who was talking about 'jiggy jig'. He loved that everywhere he went he got called Boss, except for one time when he was called Gangsta.
Then we went into the mountains in Ubud. A big resort called Furama Villas and Spa. We paid $1160 a night but the food (while beautiful) and drinks were almost double the other one. It had the most beautiful pool in our villa but the room wasn't as nice - less towels, water etc and it had an outdoor shower which was fine but not ideal.
We went for a walk near our resort and there was a gigantic beautiful yellow and black spider that was as big as Daniel's hand. We still don't know what kind it was but it looked a lot nicer than ours!
We had a local animal outside our room which we heard a lot and couldn't place what it was. It conjured up the image of a toucan to me and then I started craving fruit loops. Daniel s*** himself about it, he gets a bit scared by lizards and stuff too. We could hear lots of frogs which was nice. And we had a weird butterfly in the room which had a tendency to fake death and have a lay down on it's side in different areas (like our sink or the middle of the floor) and then wake up again when it felt like it.
A great deal of the food involved coconut which is my favorite. There were these coconut pancakes that were amazing. Also coconut and banana bread. I ate my body weight in French cinnamon toast with maple syrup.
We got a local guide at our resort to take us on a two hour cycle ride through the rice fields and a village. I managed to fall off the bike in the first 300 metres and landed in the rice field which was so soft - and great because the rest of the ride was on the road so that was dangerous. We went past places that Eat, Pray, Love filmed and they're very proud about it.
We were staying about 15 minutes away from Ubud town and our resort had a shuttle bus so we spent the afternoon at the Ubud markets and looking around the town which was very cool. Daniel got angry when he thought we'd been received by a small local shop owner who had sold us a Bali CD and it was scratched - until we discovered she'd given us a brand new, sealed one and he'd taken her copy! We've had some fantastic food while here and no signs of upset stomachs but apart from the odd Gado Gado, we hadn't had much Indonesian food, so when the resort offered a buffet dinner, we were quick to sign up even though at $35 each, it was a lot more expensive than most of our meals. There was a Japanese couple who easily packed away about five couples' worth of food - value for money! Unfortunately, while we were hungry, we just couldn't do that. Daniel got his truly manly assistance out to kill a big huntsman (or something similar) which appeared in our bathroom. Nice work given he is more scared of spiders than I.
Our last full day in Bali was an action-packed one. Up early (as usual), we had our driver pick us up for a half day trip to Gunung Kawi temple, Katamani Volcano, Elephant Cave, coffee plantations, mineral springs and Tirta Empul. We had a buffet lunch in the mountains - the trip has certainly offered us more food than we could eat!
That night, we went to the Elephant Safari Park for a night safari and dinner. Our driver loved a chat! But we did learn stuff. 80% of Balinese people are MBA - married by accident. The other options are arranged marriage or 'run' which is like elope but involves a lot of paperwork and permission from the local major. We were wondering why we'd seen a few kites in the sky. Apparently its the symbol of happiness after harvesting rice. They're a bit early as June - August kites fill the sky. We'd seen a cockfight during the day and another one on the way to the park - but of course although they're illegal, people bribe police to get away with it. I asked a stupid question around how to people know which chickens are theres as there are so many roaming the streets. I didn't grow up around these things, and if I did then I certainly wasn't paying attention! So here's the Balinese way:
If a chicken comes and sleeps in your house, even if it's not yours, you can take it. You know your own chickens anyway, however. His wife Ketut came with us on the way back and visited Australia 6 years ago - and pointed out the differences like her facination with vending machines and machines for parking. They were both in wonder about why people were becoming unnecessary. There was a lot of drama about their
'run' marriage as she was a Hindu and he was a Muslim - and 2 years younger. Apparently their mortgage is $74US a month and for only 15 years. I have a feeling they might be better off than us if they get some good tips. Not that you have to tip but we often were told by taxi drivers and other service providers that they get tips and presents (hint hint!).
The Elephant Safari Park was nice - but for the first time on our trip, it rained. And then poured. We were wondering if we were going to see the show (elephants playing basketball and soccer, stupid but kind of admirable) and have our night safari ride - but we got big raincoats and umbrellas and the rain stopped shortly after. Another buffet dinner was the go and we were quite sick of them by then even though this one was probably the best. We had some conflicting stories about the rain - Ketut said that it is dry season and she was surprised that it was raining but then there was our Sumatran guide who took us on the safari and said it always rains up there.
I'll never get used to them saying 'how much you want to pay because the answer to that question (for me) is 'nothing, as little as possible' - not sure that would be appreciated.
The airport wasn't scary. In fact none of it was scary. We never felt that people were trying to rip us off (apart from the odd taxi driver trying to grab another 50 cents or so). Although the airport wasn't scary, it was a shambles to depart from. I have never (not even at Heathrow) been through so many security checks. Not complaining but it gets boring. We get to the gate and they were preparing to have us board when the royal wedding came on the tv. The commotion as hundreds of people scrambled to get a glimpse of Kate and Wills from a TV that is about half the size of an average Australian TV. The cabin crew from our flight even raced back out of the gate to catch a glimpse. We were eventually told to go down the stairs and prepare to board, so we did - only the right hand of the airport wasn't talking to the left hand and apparently this was the wrong thing to do. Anyway, too late, so we were all stuck half inside and half outside where the humidity was nuts. Eventually we were herded onto buses and on to our flight. We should have known by all the 'schmozzle' (Daniel's word) that we'd have a s*** flight home. We'd flown Strategic on the way and had a great flight with all meals included. I'd been a bit unsure at the time of them so I'd booked Pacific Blue for the way back, to hedge out bets. Well, bad move. Not only do you have to pay for everything, they didn't even have enough of the food that I wanted by the time the cart got around to me. There was a fair amount of turbulence and because Daniel had bought a hot chocolate but they hadn't provided him with a lid, him and his book ended up wearing it. We arrived in Perth and by the time we got through declaration at customs (hmm, not sure we really needed that wood stuff and coffee!) and got to the hotel and into bed, it was 12.30 - our wake up call was booked for 4.30. And so, we arrived at the airport just five hours after we last left to board our separate flights to Port Hedland and Melbourne.
I wouldn't say the trip was squabble free (we both can be painful) but at the end of it we were definitely stronger and it was a tough goodbye.
Might wait a day or two before planning the next trip - initial thoughts are either India, Thailand or Vietnam over Christmas.