Finally I felt semi prepared for the great Asian adventure, feeling nervous about going alone and it really setting in that I am actually doing it. With a distant wondering whether I am being just completely stupid and should just get a plane home, combined with excitement of experiencing the unknown (well to me anyway). I have had so many mixed reviews of Bali, and I have to say most people in Australia don't have many good things to say about the place, so my expectations were pretty low. I am really leaving the safe haven of Australia, the big nanny state. But when it finally came to leaving, I was definitely ready to go. And its easy to leave Perth, and as previously expressed, I am not a fan and I don't feel any attachment for the place.
So I got on the shuttle bus, and chatted to the driver (from Thailand!), he was telling me where to go in Asia etc. Then the next stop and English girl called Nicola got onboard and we immediately realised we were both going to be on the same plane, and then met another girl who was going to Bali also, Daisy. Was so great because we had a really long wait for the plane so we got cocktails at the airport bar (last splurge!!) and chatted about what was to come. Daisy was so funny she was panicking about everything and had no clue what to do.
When entering Denpasar airport, we saw loads of signs about bringing drugs into the countrywould definitely lead to the death penalty and we were reminded of the girl 'schapelle' who is currently in prison at the moment and fighting the death penalty because there were drugs found in her bodyboard bag, and she claims they were put in there by some drug smugglers.
There were loads of Porters trying to take our bags to their taxis so we would have to use them, but luckily we had read the good old guide and knew better. I already had transport and it was a great feeling to walk out of the airport and see a little indo man holding a card with my name on it! I exchanged contacts with Nicola and took the taxi to the accom which was nice but a v pricey I later found out for a dorm.
Arrived at Echoland, Echo beach, Canggu- very nice pool etc, walked into 6 bed dorm and Canadians and English girls friendly. Next morning went for Indonesian breakfast (Nasi Goreng)by the ocean had an idea in my head of this amazing rice, and then it arrived it was a million times better than my idea! Fried rice, chicken, veggies and chillies, and a fried egg on top! Watched the surf for a while, black sand beach, very quiet and relaxing. All villagers call out hi! When you walk past. I was a little nervous about walking by myself to start with but soon realised it was safe, they were just being friendly.
I stayed in echoland villa for 3 nights and glad I did to adjust to the hot temperature and to get my bearings. Was nice to relax and let my throat get better.
Went on a day trip with Nicola, and another girl. We hired a driver which cost about $10 each for the whole day!! His name was Made (Mad- ey)- Balinese names are interesting, there are 5 different names and they are called them by the number they are in the family ie Made is 1st child (so that would be my name if I was Balinese) then Wayan is 2nd child and there are three other names but I cant remember. It get quite confusing as everyone is called the same names, but they all have a second name to distinguish. And once the 5 names have been used, they start again so there could be two Mades or Wayans in the same family!
So with our driver, we went to Tanah Lot, an amazing temple on an island just off the mainland, the scenery was awesome and a nice walk, but so many tourist taking photos etc it did slightly ruin it a little. Made took a pic of me on a bench pretending to fly or something, and later told me he had put it as his profile pic and put on his status that his client was trying to fly and all his friends 'liked' it.For such a poor country they all have facebook its crazy, you see them all living in little simple huts with no electricity and then they pull out an Iphone!
He was a really funny guide, singing all the songs he knew. We sang the chillis, aerosmith, greenday etc. We then went to see some beaches (which were- ok but still very touristy) and then head down to Ulu Watu (we had to wear sarongs), the huge temple with millions ofcheeky monkeys jumping around stealing peoples wallets and bags, and not giving them back until they got a banana! Then saw a Balinese dance in the sunset which was great. The costumes were just amazing, and the storyline was interesting.
That evening we just drove through Kuta (crazy city, manic traffic and very cheap shops) to drop Nicola and Flore off, and then Made took me out back to Echo beach, Canggu again we were singing all the way there, and he was telling me about his family and Balinese traditions. He was worried his English was not good enough but I told him it was, and I said you just need to be confident and believe in yourself and you can do it! He thought this was amazing and kept repeating it to himself, was so funny. He said I had made a big impression on him and he will remember for a long time, and NO he wasn't trying to pick me up.. he has a wife and kid and he said I am his friend.I was trying to decide whether to go to Ubud the next day, and he gave me a really good price because it was his day off, but he lives in Ubud so could just pick me up and come back to his family. So I accepted and went the next day
He was SO kind, driving me around anywhere and told me to go into all the homstays so I can get one with a really good price. He had shown me this really sweet little alleyway with lots of homestays and writings on the tiled floor. I was so lucky that he was being so generous because I would have had no idea where the 1st place to look was! All the homestays were amazing, all little entrances with Balinese gardens, beautifully made with temples and carvings etc. The attention to detail was just so precise, I had never seen anything like it! I went into one and it was 150Krupiah which is about the equivalent to $15pn or 10pounds and it was a huge double bed with flat screen tv, a pool etc! Couldn't believe it! But me being the super budget traveller needed to find something a bit cheaper (as I had heard you can get a lot cheaper and I wasn't too bothered what the room was like I just needed to sleep there). A few doors down, I found a place with my own room, fan, bathroom, and two beds and free breakfast (which may I add is outstanding Banana pancakes and loads of fresh fruit served to my room to eat on my own veranda!) for 80k rupiah which is about 5pounds pn (Lucuk Inn Homestay, nr to shanti homestay- lots along this road). I accepted and moved my stuff in. The guy (Made) was so nice he gave me lots of info of what there is to do in the town, and sometimes just comes and hangs out on my veranda with me having a chat about Balinese traditions etc. The people have been so kind and welcoming so far! He told me there was cremation on the following day, and I had read somewhere that if you get a chance to go you are very lucky.Cremations are a stark contrast here to British solemn private affairs. Here they are celebrated because the Hindus believe that the body is reincarnated and goes to a better place. Anyone is allowed to attend, and Made told me it was a street procession and I needed to wear a sarong. I got to the temples and met some Swedish girls who were also waiting for it. They had just done SE Asia so I got a chance to grill them for some info. The cremation procession was going to be late so we all went to lunch. Afterwards we were just in time for the beginning. It was this huge group of guys in sarongs and Balinese costumes holding up a huge black bull on wooden poles chanting really loudly and shouting. Dancing from left to right and all with big smiles on their faces. Then came some more people of all ages dancing and shouting with drums and tamborines. The noise was kindof eery, or maybe it was just because it was a cremation. Then there were more people holding up a hugegolden box/ temple thing on wooded poles. I didn't really realise for a couple of minutes that this was the actual corpse! They were swinging it around and then at the end of the road they spun it around. It also had a picture of the old man who had died who was linked to some royal family or something. The huge crowd then followed the corpse along the streets with everyone following in sarongs etc. There were probably us and couple other white people (who look like they work for the lonely planet types). Intrigued, we followed them all up this hill, into an opening in the trees, still chanting and playing instruments really loudly. They then pulled the corpse wrapped in thin white sheets, from the golden box shrine thing into the black bull! You could see the shape of the body and everything. They then put lots of different gifts into the bull, after they had taken the sheets off the body. It all seemed quite disorganised and it seemed they didn't really know what they were meant to be doing. So after this they shut the top of the bull, and set the whole thing on fire! The smell was awful and we watched the whole thing burn, by the end of it you could see the corpses feet and bulging stomach! It was so crazy to watch but I felt so lucky to be able to see it. One of the most shocking things I found about the whole thing was, that people were constantly trying to sell us sarongs, drinks, cigarettes etc the whole time! Cashing in on the cremation! And a couple of tourists were right up in the action taking photos. We took them too but we were further away. But it seems no one cares about this, it's not anything like home.The more I learnt about the Hindu tradition the more I realised how relaxed they are about everything. Just wear a sarong and you are sweet with all of them! And everything is just one big party, even the cremations! You can always be forgiven, just go to the temple and get cleansed. They also drink alcohol and they believe in Karma, if you are a good person, nothing bad will happen to you.Great way to live if you ask me!
That night I wanted to find a bar with some live music, and dinner so I found the XL lounge (highly recommended! live music thurs-Fri and Sun). I was sat by myself and was talking to one of the girls who worked there called Wayan, and she was really good fun and spoke excellent English. She then introduced me to Tomy, a lovely guy who also worked there from Java, another part of Indonesia. I then met an aussie lady in her 50s who funnily enough lived in Denmark which is very close to Northcliffe where I worked in the pub! So this was a coincidence so we chatted for a while, and then went inside to listen to the music and sat with an American guy called Troy and over the next few days this was our hangout although we never once arranged to meet up.
Ubud was an awesome place, I felt really at home here. I went shopping in the markets but was getting a bit fed up with being hassled every time I went near a stall, the desperation of the sellers was unbelievable. The shops in the rest of ubud were not so bad and I learnt some of the language. 'Abakabah' is how are you 'samma samma' is your welcome. Tidak is no and 'Baguss' is good. Mapaloo is drink, 'Sing Ken ken' is no worries.
I had become quite good friends with Wayan and Tomy, and I asked Wayan if she could tell me some places to go where there are no tourists and I could see the real Bali. So she told me the next day she had a day off so the three of us (and I later asked Troy) were going on an adventure to East Bali on the motorbikes.
It was pouring with rain and I nearly didn't go but made it down there just in time. Troy was equipped with a big blue poncho and I had a nice pink helmet and worn with my new bight purple glasses it was a great look. We were speeding through rice fields and all the locals just stare at me or smile or laugh, im not sure which most of the time. But they don't usually see a Balinese girl riding with an English girl on the back! They took us to this beautiful outdoor Temple with no tourists and a ceremony was going on. There were loads of bats near to the alter type place where Wayan told me they were not there before the temple, but the good spirits brought them there. We were cleansed by the priest type guy by him throwing water on us whilst nelt down, and then we had to eat rice and stick it to our forehead and chest. It may all sound a bit strange to us, but I felt really touched that they allow us to be apart of their beliefs and traditions. There are not many places churches would just let anyone in.
Then went to beach called 'White sand beach' and it was true to its name, dancing on beach bought them lunch grilled calamari and chicken. Snorkelling and playing in the surf, and Troy massage and practised some boxing on the beach (much to our and the locals surprise, one asked, why is he fighting with the ocean??).
So funny Wayan and Tomy, great personalities. Chilled on beach for a while, then went to Amed in east Bali where Wayans family live. Saw another temples and amazing lakes etc. Then bought fish from ladies on the side of road, then some leaves/veggies, then to her house. Live in simplest terms. Backyard with large table with roof, which is also our bed! Chickens everywhere and pigs/ dogs wandering around etc (If I was ever going to get Bali belly it was here, so I tucked in and enjoyed!).Had the most amazing dinner cooked on the fire outside mackerel and spicy sauce with vegetable soup and rice, with great crackers etc. then drank homemade Arak the local spririt and put with honey and lemon etc tasted great! Played very simple card game but learnt 'Mapaloo' which means drink! And this was repeated tirelessly throughout the game- playing a drinking game with the Balinese who don't really speak any English was so much fun! Learnt quite a few words.
It was too late to get home so we slept, 4 of us on a wooden table under a small roof with no sides. But the temp was warm, it was just hard to sleep with the hard surface and the symphony of snores all around me, and then when I finally got to sleep, I was awoken by 3 chickens jumping on me! I woke with a jolt and kicked my legs and arms and the chickens hit the roof with a squawk and loads of feathers going everywhere. The family thought it was so funny! The toilet aswell was literally three material sides next to a dirty river, and you do your business on the ground and then wash it into the river!!
Next morning, Wayan made us this black and white rice breakfast with this green jelly stuff which was a different kind of rice mashed up. It was pretty good!! We then went to see some rice fields, fun with wayan and tommy, climbed up an house under construction and views amazing, found a funny hat and made them laugh, pretending I was from Java and doing a silly accent 'I give you good price!'
Had another home cooked lunch- extremely spicy and not European standards spicy! Then we went back and I was so tired I could hardly hold onto the motorbike but managed to come for some drinks that night at XL lounge, to see them again, and we all played this game with wooden triangles, its pretty simple but fun to bring us all together without having to speak English the whole time. The next day Wayan offered to take me to the temple and I jumped at the chance. We got there and prayed with some of these little boxes with offerings and sacrifices in the form of flowers and money or little sweets etc then went into the temple and went into the changing room and she told me to take everything off (under a sarong!!) apart from knickers! And then tied the sarong around, and she did the same, and then feeling a little exposed we walked into the main temple area where there was this crystal clear water waist high with fountains and I followed her lead, she got in the water and had a little praying routine, where she took the flower from one of the boxes, put it over the incense then held it in her hand and prayed then she put the flower in here hair, splashed some water on her face, then plunged into the fountain. I did exactly the same, and some fountains are just for men, so made sure I didn't use these. It was already off putting having a million tourists taking pictures of us, but the Balinese don't seem to mind or notice! I thought I must have been doing it wrong, and was mental to be the only white person in the fountains. But I got through it, and I was really glad I did it. So lucky to do something that very few tourists have managed.
I bought some little bracelets and funny gifts for Tommy and Wayan to say thank you for such a great time and met them in XL for my last night to say goodbye. It was so sad, but also great, and we had a dance to the waku waku song again.
Then looking at one of the shops to get a shuttle to Nusa Lembongan a small island off the south of Bali, met dutch girl called Yvette who told me she was going to sanur (which we later coined 'snore sanur' with a French guy called Flo (Who she told me she was trying to get rid of) and going to sanur for a day, then onto nusa lembongan, and she asked if I would like to go. The shuttle (40kR) was on time (pretty much). The next day we hired bikes to go to Bukit Peninsular, but stopped twice by corrupt police trying to get money from us, the first asked for 50 pounds, and we said we had no money and after a lot of deliberating let us go, then the next two that stopped us a few metres down the road, asked for 100 pounds!! They were saying that we didn't have the right licenses etc but when we asked if we could have the fine and take it to the police station and the courts, they wouldn't allow it. After talking to them for ages, and trying to get Flos license back, Yvette and I were exhausted and we kindof just found it funny! He wanted Yvettes ID but she didn't have it, so he said how can I charge you without your ID.. we were like..yes.. and we joked with him about taking a picture with him which he chuckled at that and then I said, well if we buy you a Bintang (local beer) will you let us go? He thought this was really funny!! And he said he needed to confer with his superintendant, the old dude stood next to him who doesn't speak any English, and all we heard was 'Bintang, Bintang' and them laughing. They then just said we can go, and if we want to we can meet them for a beer later. We quickly got back on the bikes and headed off.
Found amazing beach called Balangan and another nice little spot with no tourists. But these little snippets of how you imagine Bali, are few and far between, the south has pretty much been ruined by tourism in a big bad way. You have to be really sneaky to find the nice spots. That night we stayed in 'Bintang Bungalows' nice with pool and cheap at 200 for three which wasn't too bad. They introduced me to a new concept of restaurant called 'Warung' which means restaurant, but generally warungs are little local food places which kindof look like they have food poisoning all over them, and they have the food all laid out infront of you (Nasi Campur) which could have been there for weeks, but you take a deep breath and order something, and once its on your plate generally its really good! Randung is my favourite, this spicy beef with rich cocunutty type sauce, and usually come with rice, vegetables and sometimes noodle things and any extra sauces you want. Prices vary from 10k-20k, so about $1-$2 for the whole meal so great value! Finally I could save lots of money!
Ferry to Nusa Lembongan
Took a really funny van taxi with no door for 5k each (worth it than doing the stupidly long walk) public ferry 7:45am 60k to Nusa, very nice journey relaxing, organised and on time. Met some other people on the boat and all found accommodation called 'Wahyu' (on the turn off to Puri Nusa from main road) the end together. Yvette and I shared a room for $5 pn with twin beds, own bathroom, and this AMAZING pool and fantastic food restaurant for dirt cheap right next to the beach!) The island itself is really relaxed, there is not much going on at night, but some really nice beach restaurants, and found an amazing thai restaurant called Ketuts warung behind the mainski resort (recommended by a friend). The first day we just relaxed by the pool, and had a walk around a bit with the other people we had met, English guy from Brighton, James and a couple from Hawaii and Germany (Morika and Marco) we spent the first day just chatting all day by the pool, and then had dinner as a big group. Following day we had a 'girls day' and the three of us went for massages and relaxing by the pool and one of the boys bought us vitamin yoghurts for a joke for 'girls day' we then met an aussie lady who came for dinner with us. And following day we rented bikes and cycled round the island which was great fun, saw all the beaches and had lunch at this cool warung overlooking this huge bay with loads of long boats and little guys with the triangle type hats rowing around, and ladies with huge seaweed baskets on their heads. There were very few tourists, if anyone on the roads and I felt like I was seeing the real bali on this island! We then took this little track through a big forest and found loads of huts with Balinese people huddled playing cards (I shouted 'mapaloo' = drink! And they all laugh and shout out at me or cooking etc, and little colonies of these huts with no electricity or anything, infact nothing really. This is just how they were living, it was cool to see but must be also very hard to live in. The people in general are all very friendly, and the guys are not trying it on with every girl in sight or anything, they are all very polite, and just interested in people with white skin, enjoying practicing their English (not all of them trying to sell you something). I was going to get my diving qualification and go to the Gilli islands but I kindof ran out of time, and just wanted to stay with the group of travellers as we were having lots of fun. Was a bit too much money to get over to the other islands, but had a really great time and definitely got the great Balinese experience.
Today we hired a water taxi at 6.30am for bargain price of 100k IR pp ($10) for 6 hours 5 people (me, Joel Aussie we met, Yvette, and a couple from Germany). Didn't really expect to see the mantas but were praying. As soon as we got there, we saw their huge fins out the water, looked a little like sharks and huge shadows of where they are. All a bit shocked we rushed to put our fins and masks on and jumped in but as soon as I saw one it just came straight towards me and it was HUGE. We were the only ones here so was really scarey I kicked away and didn't really know what to do. But quickly got used to them, they were just really curious and wanted to know what we were, even the boys admitted they were scared to start with. It was hard to believe these beautiful bird like aliens were harmless, but they are. And we all started to relax and they came near to us and one of them came close enough to let me stroke its wing. It didn't even flinch. There were about 4 huge ones to start with and by the end there were just two, the sometimes went to the bottom to feed (I think) and we dived down with them. Very glad I had a waterproof case for my camera and got some great pics! I was on a high from this for the rest of the day!
We spend 5 days on Nusa in total and then headed back to Bali On the boat met a British guy from Southampton and ended up sharing a cab with him, Yvette and another girl. Then found a cheap room on poppies lane 150 for the three of us. Kuta is like what I imagine as a mini Bangkok. There are a million people trying to hassle you so there is just no fun even trying to shop. You cant even go for a walk without people touching you or trying to sell you something. So that was annoying, and its just full of really chavvy Australians, like the Australian version of Magaluf and all of them wear the Bintang singlets (vest tops) and always have a beer in hand no matter what time of day. It really makes aussies look bad. The only good thing we found was the free cocktails from 10-11 at skygarden and free food oh and also the 7pence mr whippy icecreams in mcdonalds! But 3 nights was far too long and I wished I had just gone back to Ubud. I was glad to leave and go to Singapore in the end.
Sum up of Bali is generally great, but you have to really search to find your piece of paradise away from all the tourists.. but it is there and the people are lovely!
Check out Bali and Manta ray photos on these two links: